Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Caramel Apples

Tomorrow is Halloween! Yippee! Like I have said before, I love the holidays for all the fun activities you can do. Today we made caramel apples. They were absolutely delicious.

The students were asked to bring in their favorite kind of apple washed in a baggie I provided. I brought a crock-pot from home and placed the caramel to melt on low. The room smelled unbelievably scrumptious. When it was time, we all gathered around the crock-pot. I dipped the apple in the caramel one at a time. They then rolled their apples in crushed peanuts (make sure no one has any allergies to peanuts). The echoes of "yum-yum" made me very happy. I knew they were having a grand old time. I also found out that a couple of my students had never tried caramel apples before.

This is the reason I still believe in "fun" activities. I take so much for granted, and so many of my students do not have these experiences. So if it means I have to give up my lunch to provide them with these memories, let it be.

Tomorrow we will be making "boogie juice". I know my students are eager to experience that. I know, I know, sugar overload...but lots of fun! 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Frankenstein Pudding

Some of my fondest childhood memories were the cookery activities I would do with my family and at school during the holiday season. There is so much content that needs to be covered in the day, so much more being pushed in (mind you the school-day is not getting longer), and little to no time for activities that are plain fun.

My students usually come up to the room for lunch time. With Halloween just a few days away, we decided that we would make our Frankenstein Pudding faces during lunch. We used vanilla instant pudding, 1 package of Oreo cookies, and green food coloring.

Very EASY Steps:
  1. make the vanilla instant pudding in a large bowl
  2. add food coloring
  3. have students crush 2 Oreo cookies (without the filling) in a baggie
  4. students draw a face on their cups using a Sharpie
  5. fill up their cups with pudding
  6. finally they add their hair (Oreos)

 Sorry about the half eaten face, I forgot to take a picture before they began to chow down.

 The faces were so cute. The "hair" on top was too funny. They really got a kick out of that.

As you can see from the photos, they had lots of fun. Many times I tend to forget that being in 5th grade doesn't mean they no longer care for silly activities. They are young children with very high expectations on them. This activity was their "massage". We are now trying to figure out an easy, yet delicious, cookery activity for November. Any ideas?

Sunday, October 28, 2012


As a child, books were hard to come by. I always dreamed of having my own bookcase filled with my favorite books. I come from a working class family that had very limited resources for such "luxuries". My parents had very little formal education in their home countries, BUT they did understand the importance of a well-rounded education. Every Friday, one of my parents would take us to the library for read aloud time followed by some kind of art activity. I LOVED Fridays. The idea that I could "borrow" books, have time to read them, and be entrusted to take care of them was very bewildering to me. As I grew up, I began to purchase my own books. I have so many books now, both at school and at home, that I have a hard time finding space for them. I now have to rotate books by holidays, themes, and my favorites. I may not spend money on expensive purses, but I do buy every month from Scholastic (I try to follow the limit I have set for myself--some months I do better than others).

Why go down memory lane? Well, to sum it up, I LOVE books, reading, and more books. This is the reason for my post today.  I came across this website called We Give Books. This organization is dedicated to delivering award-winning books so you can read and share beautiful stories with children in your life both at home and at school. There are literally tons of FREE ebooks you can choose from and filter by author, genre, and age group (the highest age group is 10 y.o.). It is very easy to join and did I mention it is FREE!

Books opened up a whole new world to me. It was my escape many times. Above all, I have such wonderful memories of books that were read to me both at school and at my local library. This hunger for books that I still feel, is what I hope to instill in my students at school.

A great book to read to your students this October is Goodnight Goon by Michael Rex. It is a monsterized parody of Goodnight Moon by Margret Wise Brown. There are so many activities you can do with your students:
  • compare and constrast 
  • create a goon and describe it
  • write your own version of Goodnight ____?____
  • discuss the elements of a parody
 Simply click on the picture below and start reading.

Let me know what you think. How would you use it with your students?


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Class Dojo App

I recently came across this app called Class Dojo. It is a free behavior management app for your iPad or iPhone. It is supposed to be a very easy way to keep track of my students' behavior and engagement by awarding them points and immediate feedback. Individual student behavior forms are available to print or email to parents providing parents information about their child and allowing parents the opportunity to be involved and engaged in their child's progress. It is supposed to save you time--one click is that is needed to record behaviors and and participation right in class with one click. Students can even enter the site, see their own data, and change their avatar. It sounds great and I can't wait to try it out this week. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Student Introduction to ClassDojo

Check it out for yourself and let me know if it worked for you.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Monster Slime

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays--it's spooky, it's exciting, and you there is so much candy! This year more than ever, I am being very conscientious about doing as much science as possible, and Halloween is a perfect month for science galore! We are definitely going to cover all the state standards through our Foss curriculum, BUT I also believe in science for fun, motivation, and for the inquiry it brings to young minds. My kiddos love science, and so do I.

Today we made monster slime.  I came across this idea while looking for slime. Kim, over at all things simple, has step by step directions on how to do it. It is sooooo easy and inexpensive. I bought the food coloring, bowls, and glitter at The Dollar Tree. The borax I got at my local market for about $6.00, and there is plenty left over to repeat it more than once.

By constantly doing experiments, my students are becoming very comfortable with the 7-Step Process to scientific investigations.  We talked about the reactants and the products. We discussed how we went from mostly liquid materials to a solid. One group did not get the consistency they desired and we inquired into the possible reasons why. They repeated the steps, were happy with their results, and wrote about it in their conclusions. The class even offered suggestions on what other ingredients we could add to the slime--scent, texture, degree of sliminess. We have therefore decided to do it again for November with a little twist. We'll keep you posted.


A Walk Down Spooky Ave

This month's writing project was all about haunted houses. It was a big hit! We have been working hard on the elements of persuasive writing and how it is all around us (they are beginning to dissect toy commercials and their intended audience-THEM!). Their project consisted of two parts: 1) build a haunted house using any materials they wished, but it could not be a prepackaged house. 2) Write a persuasive essay. Their goal was to find a roommate. They had to convince someone to come and rent a room from them.

 They wrote all kinds of super funny stuff. One student said they had a mummy living with them that would do all their chores for them including the laundry. Another student had a vampire for a chef that knows how to cook the most scrumptious hamburgers. Yet another student said that they had a "brainiac" bat that would do all their homework for them. I know they truly enjoyed this project, because even though it was not due until this week, they had been begging me to let them bring their projects. Yippee!-Mission accomplished-motivating them & writing with a purpose in mind. 

If you would like a copy of the forms, parent letters, graphic organizers, etc. (for FREE), simply click on the picture below. You may modify to fit your students' needs, but please do not sell it as your own.

Here are some pictures of what my kiddos did this year--totally awesome!

Monday, October 22, 2012

OREO Fun-tastic Day!

I have seen this activity all over Pinterest and thought what a FUN way to review Mean, Mode, Median, Range, and Outlier. I also loved the idea that they had to work in groups, hold each other accountable, and check each others' work. One student per team volunteered to bring in the OREO packages, for a total of 5.

I followed the steps as outlined on the OREO 2012 website.  I also checked out two of my favorite blog sites. The first is Stephanie's blog over at Teaching in Room 6 and the other is Jen over at Runde's Room. They both do the project and have great pictures to go along with their post. Stephanie has a link to the sheet she used with her kids---I "borrowed it of course!

Before we began the fun mania, we began by reviewing the concepts. They took notes in their math journals for reference during the group work.

Onto the fun!
First they started the stacking. They each took 2 turns and took their own mean. Of course this was soooo much fun for my kiddos.

Click to play this Smilebox collage

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This free photo collage made with Smilebox

They were discussing strategies and tips on how to build the tallest tower and what would work best. Talk about collaborating together.

After everyone had had their turn, it was time to desegregate the data in their groups. They were responsible for finding the mean, median, mode, range, and outlier. I liked the idea on Stephanie's site of having them build bar graphs.

You can grab Stephanie's PDF  by clicking here.

We then took the mean, median, mode, range, and outlier for the whole class. We worked it out together to make sure we came to the same results. There is just so much math practice-I love that!

Finally it was time for students to build a sculpture. I was a little worried about the potential mess and  a little intimidated by the awesome sculptures others had posted online. Oh well. We dived in. They loved this the most of all.

I will definitely be doing this activity every year from now on--Thanks to all the wonderful teachers that inspire students and teachers as well.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Pencil Toppers & T-shirt

Thanksgiving is around the corner, and my parent volunteer has been busy doing my students' pencils for November. We have been giving my kiddos pencils since 1st grade, and you would think that now that they are in 5th they would care less, but on the contrary, they are always asking what are we making for them. I have some who can't wait to add them to their collection of pencils, others can't wait to sharpen them...LOL!

I may have to start recycling some toppers, because I am running out of ideas.

For our T-shirt this month, we traced the kids hand and used it as the feathers on the turkey. They came out really cute...again! If you have 5th grade boys willing to wear them, you know they are cool too.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Memetales Website

I love to use technology in the classroom as much as possible that is relevant, educational, and reinforces what we are learning. One site that I really like is Memetales. Memetales provides great children's stories in a variety of genres and contents that are engaging, innovative, and even gamified e-book readers that your kiddos can use at home. You get free stories occasionally and others that are available for purchase.

Check it out and tell me what you think.

StickFiggy and the Painted Leaves
memetales logo
StickFiggy and the Painted Le...
See more at memetales

How would you use it in class?

"Vomiting" Pumpkins

This activity of "vomiting" pumpkins I first saw on Pinterest as "erupting" pumpkin.  We had already done erupting volcanoes last school year, and vomiting pumpkin just sounds so groos AND cool! It requires the two basic ingredients: baking soda (sodium bicarbonate-NaHCo3), vinegar (CH3COOH), and food coloring. We used 4 colors. They love to "see" things happen, I therefore decided this would be perfect activity for my classroom.

Before we made our pumpkins vomit, I formed 5 groups of four. They began the activity by measuring the circumference, figuring out the diameter, and the radius to the nearest inch and centimeter. They then had to give me an approximate weight for their pumpkin using a nonstandard unit. We decided to use our health books as the tool. (Excellent way to review math concepts from earlier years!)

They decided on a particular face, and my parent volunteer and I cut out the faces for them. They had to remove all the insides...yucky according to many, but they had a blast. They counted their seeds (which we will use later on as a way to review mean, median, range, outlier, etc.)

As a way to connect it to their "schema"-they LOVE that word--, we discussed how we had made our volcanoes erupt last year. This year we have been talking a lot about chemical reactions, so we decided to figure out what happens and why. We looked up the chemical formula for each reactant and did some research. We discovered that the reason vinegar and baking soda react is actually the result of two separate, but continuous reactions. The simple version is: the baking soda dissolves in the water, then reacts with the aceitic acid, which quickly reacts, to form carbon dioxide escaping from the solution as a gas--that is the bubbles/fizzing you "see".

NahCO3 + CH3COOH = H2O + Sodium acetate (CH3COONa) + C02

They  were amazed to find out that what we breathe out is what was causing the fizzing.

Here we are outside setting up the experiment. We measured out about 5 spoonfuls to 1/2 a cup of vinegar. We repeated the experiment with 3/4 cup of baking soda to 1 cup of vinegar--lots more fizzing.

 The faces with a larger mouth closer to the base of the pumpkin had the most "vomit" coming out.

My intent is not to teach them chemical formulas, BUT to excite them and get them very interested in science, and above all to have them asking a ton of questions =)

What other Halloween activities do you do to get your kiddos excited about learning?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Animal & Plant Cells

We have been devouring everything about living systems. We are know working on making, using, and testing sugars. (pix to follow)

For every unit of study and every major holiday, my students do a project at home that has both an art and writing component. Since we have been doing living systems, they decided they wanted to learn many more details about the cells than is required for our grade level (love that). They picked either a plant cell or an animal cell to learn more about. They could use any materials they wanted, had to be labeled and followed up with a short writing prompt. They had to tell me what is a cell, what does it contain and the function(s) of the cell. They truly like the monthly projects. It is a great time to have parents involved with their child in something that correlates to what we are learning in class.

This month they will be building a haunted house and because we are working on persuasive writing, they have to write a persuasive flyer. They are trying to find a roommate...lol. They got a kick out of that and many related to renting out rooms at home or older siblings renting a room in college. I can't wait to see what they come up with next.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Common Core Newbie

The Common Core is slowly but surely coming down the pipe-line in our district. You can also hear and read about everywhere. It is truly the new word in academia. It is being rolled out in specific grades this year in my district and district wide by next year. To tell you the truth, I am very excited about what I am already hearing: the emphasis on nonfiction, developing higher order thinking, integrating of multiple disciplines, etc. Many of these I already do, try to do, and strive to do. I like the commonality it is bringing across the states. 5th grade was not selected as a role out grade this year (bummer), I therefore brought it upon myself to do my own research and reading about the topic. I have bought books, read many blogs, many sites, etc. I love what I am learning. In the process I have found sites of awesome teachers out there that have districts that already rolled them out and have great resources to share.

One amazing blogger is Jen over at Hello Literacy. She knows her stuff.  She has this presentation on SlideShare that has a lot of information on the what is and what is not the Common Core. She presented to her teachers as well as to teachers at a different school. You can see the presentation below as well as download a copy for yourself at SlideShare.

She also has many free products on the topic, as well as some you can purchase from her TpT store.

I just purchased these =)
What other sites do you use that have Common Core resources and information?

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