Simple, Compound, and Complex Sentences!

Saturday, January 31, 2015
Earlier in the year, I took my students through a series of lessons that focused on simple, compound, and complex sentences. We went through lessons that focused on the elements of each sentence and developed examples of each.  We made the following references in our Grammar Notebooks and I thought they turned out pretty great. (See below) I thought, PERFECT! I can check this skill off my list and we can mooooove on! NEXT!
As great as they were, a few weeks past (maybe more) and with testing on the horizon it was time to QUICKLY revisit this concept!  I gave the students a topic to write simple, compound, and complex sentences for.  I definitely believed that the students could and WOULD reference their notebooks in order to assist themselves/remind themselves of the rules to this almost math formula-ish way of writing sentences.......  Easy!!! Right???? Wrong!!!

Initial ThinkingReview? No PROBLEM! 

If you are anything like me, at first I was a little frustrated.  But after that initial feeling wore off (like everything we had previously done was a waste of time) I decided to try a different approach. I decided to make a jigsaw puzzle with all of the different pieces that the students need to make sentences.  They needed to rearrange them correctly, write a short blurb about what the piece actually meant, check with a neighbor, and finally glue in place!  I really liked this activity because not only did it cater to those tactile and visual learners, the students were truly interacting with their grammar notebooks that they had previously recorded all of the information in that they needed to know! (Which proved that those lessons were valuable and NOT a waste, but a building block.) 

Initial ThinkingGrammar Notebooks EQUAL Student Interaction
RealityNot all students will access these Independently!
Below is a pic of the jigs arranged...I love that the students have a great GRAB and GO reference sheet that they can have at their finger tips in their writing folders.  It is a sturdy, durable reference sheet that they can pull out whenever necessary.  
Problem solved? Not yet...We still needed some extra practice actually applying the skill.  However, as a follow up to the jigsaw (even MORE review), we color coded the different "ingredients" of each sentence type so the students could digest this process even further! Following the initial color coding, I modeled writing each type of sentence, and then color coded the different parts so the students could see what it looked like!
 Next, the students took a crack at it.  They decided to write their sentences about our current read-aloud, "Wonder."  They did an AWESOME job...

With the progress that occurred, I did see a HUGE problem that needed to be addressed.  When the students want to use the coordinating conjunction FOR, they often mistakenly use it as a preposition.  To try and solve this problem, we did the following sheet where the students needed to differentiate between using "for" as a conjunction AND between using it as a preposition. 
We reviewed our Preposition song to "Yankee Doodle" (My 6th grade English teacher, Mr. Scarpino taught it to me and I still remember it! LOL) and we discussed how "for" is a preposition.  Next, we went through the following sheet to pinpoint when "for" is being used as a preposition and when it is being used as a conjunction.
I think this helped the students see the difference between the two! I also gave the students the following tool so that they had a reference for conjunctions.  Coordinating Conjunctions are rather easy for them because of FANBOYS BUT Subordinating Conjunctions are tricky to remember! If you would like these resources to help your students review, click on the picture below.  
Now, if you would like to purchase the other lessons referenced in the beginning of the post (they were great building blocks for these concepts) click on the icon below!

Do you have any tips/suggestions for teaching these skills in your classroom?  Do you feel like your students can apply these skills in their writing?  I will be touching on that in a future blog post! 
Best Wishes and Happy Teaching!

"SNOW" Much Fun Blog Hop!

Monday, January 26, 2015
I have recently been getting to know some fellow blog friends and am excited about a blog hop that we have decided to put on! Thanks so much to Alyssa, from Teaching in the Fast Lane for putting it together! 

Going along with our Winter theme, I wanted to try a little experiment. I was thinking to myself, would providing high-interest reading passages at the level of my struggling readers motivate students working at and above grade level to work with those struggling readers and guide them through the close reading process? I wanted to try something that would get all of my students working together in groups, no matter what their reading level was.  Sometimes, the articles or text that we are reading are far too difficult for my lower readers (although I try to use varied lexile levels, that doesn't always happen!!!) 

I thought that implementing heterogenous groups would encourage peer support and ENGAGE my students that need that extra push.  Unfortunately, when students are grouped homogeneously by the same level ALL the time, the students just know it.  It can really effect their self esteem.  AND, to top that off, many times when students are working together in heterogeneous groups, the text is unreachable for the strugglers.  

In order to provide the struggling readers with an experience where they could participate with the stronger readers (without the higher readers becoming bored and thinking the text was babyish), I actually wrote close reading passages that are at the level of some of my struggling readers on some HIGH-interest topics in my classroom, WINTER SPORTS! We are talking SNOW BOARDING, SNOW MOBILING, ICE SKATING, ICE HOCKEY, WINTER SLEDDING, BOB SLEDDING, AND DOG SLEDDING!  Many of my students have NEVER seen snow since we live in Southern CA.  (NOT complaining on my end, I grew up in Chicago and had MORE than enough time playing in the snow!) So, when I grouped my students heterogeneously into groups and told them the topics that they would be researching, they got SUPER excited! 

The students started their first close read by taking turns reading sentences.  I only gave each group 1 paper, so they literally had to pass the paper around with each student reading one sentence aloud.  They annotated on this round by focus on only 2 annotations.  First, they highlighted their sentence if they felt like it was important information and next, they circled vocabulary if it was new or complex.  It was fun to see some students debating wether or not to highlight a sentence AND good that some students can recognize that some details are extraneous.  
(There is always 1 or 2 that highlight every sentence!!!)  

On the 2nd read, the students chorally read together with the paper situated in the center of the group.  Their next task was to extract evidence from the text regarding the main idea.  One group really blew me away when I saw that they were taking turns writing bulleted points.  I was thrilled because all students were participating.  Sometimes, the students pick the student with the BEST handwriting or the student that can get the work done the quickest.  Of course I made a HUGE deal of the way this group was working and the method quickly spread to all of the other groups! 
See some of their amazing GROUP work below!

I felt extremely successful in that all of my students of different levels were working together! 
How do you incorporate heterogenous grouping into your day?
How do you incorporate homogenous grouping into your day? 

If you would like to try this out with your class click on the 
Winter Sledding passage below for the freebie!  
Hop on over to "Teaching in the Fast Lane" to hear some excellent strategies 
about indoor recess ideas (when it is tooooo cold or rainy to go out with your kiddos!) 

Tis the Season for Zentangle Hearts!!!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

My students have been BEGGING me to try zentangle again since we made the zentangle pumpkins and trees around the holidays.  Sooooo, we took a third crack at it!  Since Valentine's Day is fast approaching, we tried out this strategy with HEARTS.  I literally handed the students a blank piece of paper and told them to draw a heart as big as the page and that it did NOT matter which way the paper was facing.  I LOVE using this strategy instead of having the students use a pre drawn template because the heart shapes come out so unique and CUTE!!! Here is a pic of one of their rough drafts.
Zentangle Heart Rough Draft

I have continued to research different zentangle patterns and compiled different examples of designs to show my students.  You can download this tool here.  It really helped my students to expand their thinking and not just draw simple lines or circles.

Here are a few examples of the beginning stages of patterns and designs that the students chose to use.  It is exciting to see students of all abilities get excited and invested into this project.  Don't get me wrong though, this is definitely a 4-5 day process! Here is the timeline:
Day#1: 1st Draft-Draw the outline of the heart
Day #2: Begin inserting designs into different sections
(1 design per section!)
Day #3: Finish designs in 1st Draft
 Day #4: Students apply sharpie to Positive Space (Usually the black shaded areas)

 Day #5: Students use water colors to apply color.  If students have watercolor pencils, this can help with shading and adding lightness and darkness which is great for color contrast. BUT, simple watercolors work as well.  They can always add shading when dry with chalk or oil pastels.
Here are a few examples of how the zentagle hearts turned out.  I LOVE how they look!

Other than creative 
expression, zentangle benefits students by improving:
*eye/hand coordination
*problem solving
Have you tried Zentangle in your class yet? 

Photosynthesis and Cellular Respiration

Sunday, January 18, 2015
So we jumped into photosynthesis over the past couple of weeks in my class.  A tricky topic when it comes down to it, but rather manageable for 5th graders with a few special tools!   The first thing we did was to incorporate Close Reading into science.  I was pretty excited to see if Close Reading strategies would really work during science, but they did!  See the following passage that  I wrote to teach my students the basic concepts about photosynthesis and how they effect cellular respiration.
I like the format of the passage since the students can write their annotations in the side columns and even add diagrams, etc... Next, we discussed what role do petals, stems, leaves, and roots play in photosynthesis.
In order for the students to gain the information that was needed for the foldable seen below, I gave the cloze sentence format (seen above) so that they could plug in the information inside the foldable.  To make the flower petals, students used pages of an old book that we had in the classroom and they just colored over that.  For the center of the flower and for the roots, I cut up some ribbon and gave those to the students (although they could have just as easily drawn it themselves!)  
 To make the connection between Cellular Respiration and Photosynthesis, I had the students make the foldable below.  They identified each and diagramed the Chloroplasts and Mitochondria (where both actually take place.)  On the inside, students recorded the scientific formula for photosynthesis AND cellular respiration.  This was a great reference!

If you would like to purchase these materials, click on the pic below.  
I also LOVE this freebie from Smith Science and Lit! It is a GREAT review of the the process of Photosynthesis and Cellular Respiration! Click on the pics to be taken to her free download!

How do you teach photosynthesis in your classroom?

Human Body Systems FREEBIE and NEW FLIP-UP Books!

Thursday, January 15, 2015
The last unit I tackled with my students in Science focused on the human body AND I had the same usual problem I have every year when this unit sneaks up on me....NOT ENOUGH INFORMATION!!! For the past 3 years, I have been telling myself I need to sit down, research, and write passages about the body systems...the way I like them....and I finally did just that!!! Now, I usually just cover the Digestive System, Respiratory System, and the Circulatory System but I had to add the Muscular and Skeletal System.

Digestive System Foldable Freebie
One thing my students are responsible for knowing is the Digestive System and the roles the different organs play in digestion.  In order to do the research that they needed to learn the information, I gave the students the close reading article that I wrote on the Digestive system.  After the students completed the research from their close reading passage, they completed the foldable below.  First, they diagramed the digestive system on the front of the foldable.  Next they wrote about the food's journey through the digestive system inside the foldable.  Click on the foldable below to be taken to this free download!
The above example is from one of my most amazing students.  She is such a perfectionist and wants to get everything JUST RIGHT.  I LOVE it!!! In the close reading passage, the students also wrote their reactions (annotations) to what they were reading.  Here is my teacher model... 
Now, don't get me wrong, I try to include ALL of the information that the students are curious about, but often times they still have MORE questions that they want to do further research about.  For these students, I give them the following form that they can use to access the technology we have in class.  This is a research strategy where students "PARSE" a question to get the best possible search results for their "Curiosity Question." Here is a sample of this page. (Click on the page to download)
After the students have learned all of the information, I have the students complete the CLOZE Sentence formatted paragraph with the different roles in that system.  
Here is a sample of the Digestive system!

If you are interested in learning about this unit, 
click on the picture below.
How do you teach the body systems in your classroom?

Martin Luther King Jr. Poem AND Close Read!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Martin Luther King, Jr. Close Reading, Martin Luther King, Jr. Poem, Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Activity
We have started talking about Martin Luther King Jr. in honor of Black History Month.  My 5th graders already have a wealth of knowledge about Martin Luther King, Jr. so completing the following map with them today was AMAZING!!! They knew far more details than I thought they would...and I was VERY impressed.
Brain Pop has a very nicely done video on Martin Luther King, Jr., so we actually plugged in information that the students knew prior to viewing and then again after viewing.  Even BETTER, it is FREE video. Click on the pic below to be taken to the link.
Next, came the poem.  To prepare my students for what we were actually going to focus on for our different reads, I gave them the following checklist to track what we were doing so they knew what was going to happen next.
Our 1st time through, we read chorally.  They went through and circled complex and new vocabulary and then discussed what these words could possibly mean. For the 2nd read, students read in partners and then we went through the stanzas together and paraphrased.  This was difficult at first, but once they got the hang of it, they went off on their own.  Here is an example of my teacher model!
After the third read, the students completed the text dependent questions...I LOVED to see how the students would emulate Martin Luther King, Jr in their own life.  The students read these to each other and we even had a few brave souls that read to the class!
If you would like to download this FREE unit, click on the pic below...
How do you teach your students about Martin Luther King, Jr.?

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