Saturday, May 2, 2015

Mini-Unit Mania!

Blink your eyes, and almost two months have gone by!  It's so easy, isn't it?  I can't believe my last post was in March!?!?!  I guess just maybe I've been a tad bit busy preparing my students for the STAAR test.  It has been a whirlwind!  I swear, some days I don't think I even stopped to catch my breath.  Thankfully, testing is over (for the most part), and now we can get down and dirty with some educational FUN!!!

We have been doing so much hands-on in 5th grade, including my latest freebie!  The kiddos are super-excited to be getting a taste of 6th grade math.   We started with integers last week.  After teaching integers and realizing that there really wasn't anything out there that was exactly what I wanted (hence the integer mini-unit tickling the back of my mind - stay tuned!), I decided to create interactive materials for next week's mini-unit on percents.  If you haven't heard, I LOVE interactive notebooks.  Everything that goes in those bad boys can be used as a resource for tests, quizzes, and even review in the following school year.  I always encourage my kiddos to keep their notebooks from year to year.  Yes, I realize that it may just be a pipe dream, but I have lingering hope that these notebooks will NOT end up in the trash on the last day of school! 

So I'm in the middle of creating this mini-unit on changing fractions, decimals, and percents - just waiting to use it next week on my guinea pigs before I make it official.  But never fear!  I have this cute set of task cards available in my TPT store RIGHT NOW, and they are FREE for a limited time!
Click here to get your FREE Fractions, Decimals, & Percents Task Cards
The task cards range from easy... challenging!!!
I use task cards in a variety of ways.  My plan for the last two years has been to get a whole bunch of those $3 dish tubs from Wal-Mart and create a Task Card/Games Station for each math unit.  I have this vision of tubs lined up neatly on the floor with cute labels and children hovering over them excitedly, trying to decide which activity to do first.  Sigh. 

For the moment, I have two tubs that are filled with baggie upon baggie of task cards, games, challenges, and activities sitting on my classroom floor underneath my Math Wall.  With our new math curriculum and textbook adoption, I had ZERO time to organize this year.  I was just happy if I knew what and how I was teaching the next day's lesson!  Sometimes I use task cards after a lesson as reinforcement before I assess the skill.  They are a great resource to target specific areas where students struggle.  I always use them to review.  They are also available to my fast-finishers, though this year I had LOTS of bookworms who had their nose in a novel immediately after turning in an assignment!  I also use task cards in table groups.  I make multiple sets, and give them to groups to complete at the same time.  Then, I can take a grade because everyone completed them.  How do you use task cards in your classroom?

So what else are we doing as we begin to close out our 5th grade year?  STEM challenges!  My students ask every morning, "What's today's challenge?"  They are so super-excited about science and math, I can hardly stand it!  Be on the lookout for some exciting STEM challenges coming your way in the near future!  Until then, let the countdown to summer begin!!!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Spring Break Metamorphosis

It's spring break!  Well, technically, I only have about 3 days left, but I intend to use them wisely!  Hopefully I will be able to insert some fun into what has, so far, been a complete metamorphosis of my home.  What have I been doing this week?  Weeeeeell...

I cleaned out the toy box to make room for Barbies and doll clothes so the darn cats can't drag them downstairs anymore.  I sorted clothes into their proper drawers, because clearly my children did not inherit my stellar organizational skills.  I de-junked closets, drawers, a dozen Dollar Store buckets (never stick your hand to the bottom of a bucket, or you could wind up with a handful of lip gloss), AND under the kids' beds.  I picked up 42,000 random Lego pieces, tiny rubber bands for looming, and beads that were supposed to be on a homemade necklace.  I wiped dry erase marker off of mirrors and cleaned ink stains out of carpet (Nature's Miracle Stain & Odor Remover is the BOMB, y'all - it's made for pet stains, but it gets out EVERYTHING!).  I hung beautiful turquoise metal flowers on my bedroom wall, and created a reading nook with a chair that doesn't look comfortable at all, but is very cute.  I washed 7,458 loads of laundry, folded/hung, and put away said laundry, including four dog blankets that were very STINKY!!!  I bathed two dogs, and set up a grooming appointment for another.  I bleached everything I could get my hands on (except the animals and kids), pulled weeds, mowed & fertilized, vacuumed twice, cooked Zuppa Toscano, cleaned bathtubs and toilets, took out 7 bags of garbage, donated 3 bags of clothes and toys, went to the grocery store 3 times and Hobby Lobby twice, took back a bunch of stuff to Target, and made my bed every morning.  Today, I've left the house alone for a bit so that I can work on materials for my class's current novel study, blog, and update one of my favorite mini-units so that I can share it with YOU!  Keep reading to see pics of the transformation!

Yep, this has been my spring break while my kiddos are at their dad's, and I wouldn't have it any other way.  I love getting stuff done, especially things that have been on my "list" for months.  When the kids come home tomorrow, the fun begins!!!

To commemorate the metamorphosis of my home, I decided to update my metamorphosis mini-unit, and make it FREE for a limited time in my TPT store!  We just finished this unit in my classroom.  In fact, I'm hoping there will be a Painted Lady Butterfly gracing our classroom when we return on Monday.  I'm feeling some serious guilt right now, because one of our larva had not pupated before the break, so I don't think the poor lady will make it (this has seriously kept me up at night).  But I left a huge feeding bottle of sugar water in the butterfly cage, so fingers crossed that our one pupa makes it to adulthood!
Click here to get your copy for FREE!

My kids LOVED this unit, especially the update where I had them research specific insects and document their types of metamorphosis.  You should've heard the ones who got the tick and the lice and the termite!  Hilarious!!!  I can't wait to do the craftivity with them later this month during our science blitz.  It's always a big hit!  Make sure to visit my TPT store get your copy today!
Metamorphosis plates - head on over to my TPT store for instructions and more pics!
Here are few pics of my "vacation."  I'm feeling so accomplished right now!!!  Enjoy the rest of your spring break!

Roderick is trying to hide from his bath - he's not the smartest one of the bunch!

Found this priceless gem while cleaning out the toy box.  Prince Eric got a tat!  His love for Ariel is eternal!  Awww.......

My bedroom metamorphosis - I plan on painting the table with orange chalk paint at some point.
My little buddy, Tex, loves hanging out, a.k.a. snoozing, while I work.

This is it!  You can only get it at pet stores, and it's pricey, but well worth it!!!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

On the Fly

We are moving ahead in social studies this week, focusing on our first president...the one and only George Washington!  I was out two days last week with a SCREAMING case of mountain cedar sinuses, so on Friday when I returned, I was more than discombobulated.  I knew it was in my plans to study George Washington, and I remembered that I wanted to do something different than last year, but in my allergy haze, I hadn't figured out exactly what that "something different" was.

When does a teacher do his or her best thinking???  That's right!  On the fly!  What I came up with wasn't as pretty as this cute little bundle I put together over the weekend, but we didn't get that far in the activity, and I can't wait to introduce the rest of it tomorrow!
Available in my TPT store FREE for a limited time - click the picture to download your copy!
Included in the bundle is a reading passage on George Washington, a graphic organizer to chart his traits, and a cute craft to put it all together.  I will post pics of the final product when my kiddos finish up.  They are so artsy, I can't wait to see what they do with this!

I have to admit that I stole some of the idea for this activity from another one that I created a while back - my People Book Craftivity.  The concept is different, but you might recognize the body template in the craft.  Forgive me!  It's been a crrrrrrrrraaaaaaaazzzzzzzzy few weeks for me and the kiddos.  On top of our normal extra-curricular craziness, the girls and I are in a play.  Our church has a wonderfully growing theatre group, and opening night was last night.  We've been in rehearsal for the past two months, spending our nights and weekends singing and dancing and getting super silly!  The show is a revue of classics and crazies, with numbers from Spamalot, Mame, 42nd Street, Oliver, Gypsy, Sister Act, Hair, Miss Saigon, Hairspray, and lots of others.

That's me on the left, getting trashy for a bit of fun on Avenue Q!
I love these characters, including the other 61 people in the cast, the director, the musicians, the techies, and everyone in my theatre family who make this kind of kooky awesomeness possible!  Those who know me also know that I never showed the teeniest bit of interest in theater in my other life.  And then God took me on a roller-coaster of a ride, which included moving me to make an on-the-fly decision to audition for Steel MagnoliasIt's been four years and seven shows, and I will forever be grateful to Him, and these wonderful (and sometimes trashy) people who make my new life so much better.  I mean, seriously...tell me of another Lutheran church family whose pastor is willing to dress in drag so that we can have an Edna for Hairspray???

And I get to share the love!  Two of my students are in the show, too!  One of my little lovelies has been a part of the Zion Theatre Group for ages (her dad is in the picture above - what happens in the theater, stays in the theater).  But we recruited another lovely lady from our class to join us.  ZTG is changing lives, one show at a time!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Food Chains, Food Webs...and Kittens

So far, February has been just what I expected it to be...  Fast and furious!  State testing commences in less than two months, and the nightmares have begun.  You know the ones I'm talking about.  I'm not even gonna go there right now because the sun is going down and I don't want to feed the monster!!!

Focusing on the positive...  We've moved on to the life sciences, and this is by far my favorite unit.  I'm an animal lover (hence my SEVEN pets - four dogs, three cats), so I guess that explains why I love teaching about animal adaptations, food chains, ecosystems...  Last year, I bought several class pets to help teach the unit.  We had multiple goldfish (we tried to train them to come to the surface to feed, but they all died before we could get any hard data), a tadpole (sadly El Guapo died before he even lost his tail - not so guapo), and two hamsters (Petco really will take them back within seven days, especially when you arrive bawling with a mostly dead hamster in a shoebox - that's a whole other story).  This year, I strategically avoided class pets by rescuing three kittens over the Christmas holidays. 

Yeah, somehow I think last year wins.

Moving on... 
I wrote this mini-unit to supplement my curriculum on food chains and food webs.  It integrates reading with passages on several topics, research, as well as a cute craftivity to make it fun and meaningful.  It's absolutely FREE for a limited time, so get it while you can!  Click HERE to visit my TPT store and download your copy!

Craftivity to go with mini-unit 

In case you were wondering how I ended up with three kittens, it turns out that I am categorically unable to turn away homeless animals, or say no to my children when it comes to adopting homeless animals.  Even when they are cats.  Cats I swore I would never own.  Ever. 
My friends and family have decided to put my picture up in all pet stores, along with a Animals Anonymous hotline.  But seriously, how do you say no to these faces!?!? 

Emily and Tex

Tiger - grrrrrrrrrrrr!!!  Doesn't he look tough???

Monday, January 19, 2015

"Marvel"-ous Mixtures & Super Solutions

It's been a while, but I have a legitimate excuse!  Have you ever tried typing with a broken finger???  It's not at all fun.  QWERTY doesn't work as well when your down a digit.  However, I created a super cute and useful bundle on mixtures and solutions, so I just had to share!

Last week, we had a district benchmark in science, and we were a few days behind in the curriculum, so we did a cram session on mixtures and solutions.  The thing I love about science is how engaged the kiddos are!  They don't even realize they are learning as they mix substances and decide the best way to separate them.  Big words like "solute" and "solvent" aren't so scary when they realize it's really just salt and water.  (If you haven't noticed, science is my favorite subject to teach!)
Mixtures & Solutions Mini-Unit
The activities I use in my classroom to teach mixtures and solutions are available for FREE in my TPT store for the next 24 hours, so go get you a copy!  Click HERE to download the file.  Be sure to check out my Matter Mini-Unit, too!  It was featured recently on my blog, and has TONS of fun activities that would be a great stepping stone into mixtures and solutions!

If you're wondering how I broke my finger, it's a fairly dumb story.  I tried to grab a 40-pound dog by the collar while she was wet, and running at me full-speed.  The best part of the story is the X-ray.  Close your eyes if you are easily offended!  I swear it's legit.

Yes, it's TOTALLY the finger you think it is - which is why the X-ray is so awesome!
Have a great day tomorrow, friends!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Matter Matters

I don't know about you, but the first day back was a whirlwind of new units, review, new novels, and labs.  I'm exhausted!  BUT...I finally managed to finish the matter mini-unit that I began creating before the break, and I can't wait for you to see it!

I am a bit of a hoarder when it comes to teaching supplies.  I don't just mean pens and pencils.  I'm talking about craft materials, paper, folders, old ornaments, baggies, rocks, feathers, fabric...pretty much anything that I think I might be able to use Someday finds a home in my closet.  And I usually forget it's there until the inevitable occurs - I have to move grade levels and/or classrooms!  EEK!!!

I had a huge tub full of seeds that I used when I taught 2nd grade for a craftivity on parts of a plant.  Every year I collected more and more seeds...and then I got the news.  You're moving to 5th grade. 
But what to do with all of those leftover seeds???  My extremely frugal alter-ego just wouldn't let me throw them away.  Enter the Matter Mini-Unit!!!

Matter Mini-Unit

Craftivity to explore molecules in different states of matter
I LOVED teaching this mini-unit!  I especially loved finally being able to use my plethora of seeds!  And the root beer floats we made to explore chemical changes were so yummy!  I didn't limit the kiddos to root beer.  They had a choice of root beer, Big Red, and Coke.  Some of them were sooooooooooooo excited to try Big Red since I said that was my favorite.  They weren't disappointed!

I have to take a minute to say that I am so super-blessed to have wonderful parents who donated all of the supplies to complete this activity!  We wouldn't be able to do all the amazing things we do in our classroom without the parents.  Thank you!  Thank you!!  Thank you!!!

There are so many activities in this bundle of materials, AND it's free for a limited time in my TPT store.  Click HERE to check out the goodies in the bundle and download your free copy!  Have a great week back!

PS - Just in case you were wondering about the crafitivity we did with all of those seeds - here's a sneak peek!

You didn't really think I would throw it away, did you?