Thursday, December 18, 2014

Explorer Trading Cards

In social studies, we are currently studying about early European Exploration of the New World.  To get the students researching and learning about the time period, I thought I would combine our computer lab time with something related to our social studies topic.

I wanted something that my students could complete rather quickly (we only had a few sessions left in the computer lab) *and* would allow them to apply the lessons we have been learning about researching, parsing questions, and word processing skills such as changing the font and importing clip art.  When I went on an internet search and came across this fabulous {free} template for an Explorer Trading Card from Ginger Snaps

There are two different templates.  One is a static, prefilled topic one that you can use if you don't have computer access for the students.  The other one, however, is an editable power point that the students can actually type on! 

Once I found the template, I knew that this fit what I was looking for to a T!  The computer lab teacher put the template on each computer for the kids to access and then we all got to work.

For our first session, I gave the students an explorer and a graphic organizer to help them research the information that I wanted them to find.  Since they had already learned how to parse the question and effectively word a search on Google (in previous lessons in the lab), they were off and running rather quickly.  The entire 45 minute computer time was spent filling in the information on the explorer.

The next computer session, I showed the students how to create text boxes and input the researched information.  This actually took a bit longer than I had expected.  I really did have to go box by box with them.  Turns out text boxes are rather tricky for fifth graders to master. 

Once they got the basic idea, the students worked on their own with me troubleshooting.  Much of the time, they were ok and managed to work independently. 

This did take two computer lab sessions to really get good, thorough information on the card.  So, I would recommend planning at least 3 hours worth of computer time for the students to complete this project as fully as they can. 

Overall, I think this project came out just how I wanted it to.  The students were able to use their skills that were learned in the computer lab to create a product that evidenced those skills.  All in all, I am quite happy!

What is a computer project you do that doesn't take *too* much time, but allows the students to showcase their computer skills?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hour of Code

Sometimes you stumble upon things quite accidentally or unwittingly that make a huge impact in the classroom.  This past week, one of those such things became stumbled upon.  During our computer lab time (thanks to the aide who runs the computer lab) we have been participating in the Hour of Code, a fantastic introduction to computer coding, from

For a total of 45 minutes, my students sat mesmerized by the computer.  It was SILENT in the room as the students navigated the games on the screen, building code all the while.

Now, if you are anything like me, you probably are a bit confused right now.  How on earth can 5th graders write computer code?  I mean, I can barely handle the html tags that I need to know to write this blog post (did I lose anyone there? ;) )  But the the people at have actually made it really easy for the students to work with the code.  On the screen, there is a little maze with Angry Birds or Plants and Zombies.  The kids have to get the bird from one side of the screen to another.  There are then building blocks of code which say things like "move forward 1 space" or "turn right 90 degrees".  The kids then stack these on top of each other and cause the little bird to move.  Since it is set up like a game, the kids get it SUPER quickly and are sucked in to the logic of it all.

As the kids get better, the games get harder.  There are many different skill levels, many different grade levels, and many different themes to work with.  All of these are sprinkled with videos of real life tech gurus talking about how they use code and what coding in a computer actually means.  People like the creators of Instagram and Facebook all are speaking on the made for student videos.

My students really, really loved this.  Many of them went home and continued coding on the site.  You can sign your students up and give them a login, but you don't have to.  The kids can go to the site and get coding right away. 

I posted about this on my Facebook page last week and the response from others doing this was overwhelming.  So many of you have had success with the Hour of Code.  If you are thinking about it, I would highly recommend would many of our teaching colleagues out there (as evidenced from the thread!) 

Have you checked it out?   What is your experience?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Managing Our Class Supplies

In my class, the students have two sets of supplies -- individual and communal.  I find that having a set of shared items makes like easier for me and having some individual ones, makes like easier for them (which, in turn, makes life easier for me ;))

Each student has a pencil box with the essential items that they need.  Things like pencils, crayons, their Walking Classroom Walkit, the Classroom Procedure manual, and their reading book.  They also are allowed to keep scissors and a few other things that they may need, as long as the box doesn't overflow.

The communal cubby, which is housed on the center desk in the group, has rulers, a tissue box, glue bottles, and extra crayons.  This is stuff that the entire table shares.  It is also things that don't get used all that often, so don't need a space in the box, but still need to be available to the kids.

How do you manage your student supplies?  Do they have their own things or do they share everything? 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Pinecone Parent Holiday Gift

Creating holiday gifts for the parents of my 5th graders is probably the most stressful part of December for me.   I want them to have something that is really great and fun, but I also want it to take as little time as possible from the academics that we really do need to cover.  So this year, when a fantastic parent of mine volunteered to help with the project, I jumped on it!

She had a great idea to create little ornaments out of pinecones.  She walked her neighborhood, found pinecones, and brought in a few for each student.

The kids painted them either white or green, then decorated with sparkles, sequence, or other colors of paint.  They used tempra paint, so it was something we already had at school....and they came out AWESOME!

Here are a few. 

We then added a little ribbon hook and a sign that said "Happy Holidays 2014" or a more specific holiday greeting if they wished.  (I don't have pictures of that...sorry!)

These took about a day to complete.  We started in the morning, to paint the pinecones and let them dry.  Then, in the afternoon, we glued the sequins and glitter on.  I let those dry overnight before wrapping them up.

What holiday gift do you have planned for this year?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Save Yourself Some Merry Little Minutes

Thank You Ladybug's Teacher Files for the button!
If you are like me, you want to find a way to use every.single.minute you have in class to get the most out of the 6 hours you have with the students.  One thing that I do in my room is to get my students ready for the next activity before we leave class.

What I mean is we take a few minutes before we leave for recess to get the papers we need out of our desks and place them neatly in the corner, so that way when we come back from recess, the students don't waste any time looking for papers....they are already on the desks!

Before we leave for recess, we take out the math work we are doing for math rotations.  So half of the kids have out their problem solving page while the other half have out their math books and math journals.

Before we leave for lunch, the students have their writing page out so we can immediately move into Writer's Workshop.
This time saving tip, taking things out for the next activity before they leave for lunch or recess, helps to save precious minutes of instructional time.
You can see that there is work on the students' desk.  That way, when they come back in from where ever it is that they have been, the kids can immediately get to work!

If we go to an assembly, or to Computer Lab or something, I have them take out whatever it is that we are going to do when we come back.

Having the students take a few minutes BEFORE we leave the room, honest to goodness saves about 15 minutes of them dilly dallying and looking around for the paper AFTER.   The kids don't want to miss any of their recess or lunch time ;)