Sunday, May 24, 2015

Our Own Pageant of the Masters

About 15 year ago, I went to this awesome art show we have in my area called the Pageant of the Masters.  Basically, people come together, get all painted up, and transform themselves into actual famous paintings.  They stand still, altogether, and you literally can not tell that it is a bunch of people standing on the stage instead of the actual artwork itself.  It truly is amazing.
Thank you Ladybug's Teacher Files for this awesome button!
I have always wanted to do something like that in my own classroom and this year, I just went for it. I collaborated with Susie, The Panicked Teacher on this one we both did the same lesson, without our own little twists.  Here is how it turned out in my room. (then head over to her blog to see how hers turned out)

We have been focused a lot on historical artifacts and their accuracy as far as actual history goes (see our lesson on Paul Revere here.)  So for this lesson, I chose three paintings about the American Revolution that were very famous but had some iffy historical roots.  Crossing the Delaware, Spirit of '76, and Declaration of Independence were the three that stuck out to me.  Each of them is engrained in our culture as very patriotic and very much connected to the Revolutionary War.  But each of them has a bit of romanticism behind them.

I had the students choose which of the three they wanted to recreate.  Then, I took a picture of each student in the pose of one of the main characters of the painting.  Most chose Washington crossing the Delaware because, well, it is just kind of a fun pose to get into!

I printed out the pictures four to a page.  I didn't get them developed, as having them printed from my printer in matte form (4 x 6 still) was the best way to incorporate the students into the paintings.  They simply would not be able to draw on a developed picture.

Once the students cut their picture out, I had them place it on a 9 x 12 piece of construction paper.  From there, they drew the rest of the painting around them.  Their own picture decided the scale of the rest of the people in the picture.  Not all of the painting would fit on the construction paper, so the kids did the best they could to get most of it there.

Using crayons, the kids then colored themselves dressed exactly the same as the main character they were portraying.  The rest of the picture was drawn in.

I seriously LOVE how this turned out.  The kids did such a good job at recreating the paintings.  On many of them, you can't even tell there is a photograph in there (which was the ultimate goal...just like the Pageant of the Masters!)
I also had the students write a paragraph about the actual history that was taking place in the picture and why the artist made the choices he did when painting the actual piece.

Now head on over to Susie's blog to see how she adapted this same lesson.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Wonder Wall of Precepts

So this post has been a long time coming.  If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you know that we read Wonder by RJ Palacio as a read aloud this year.  My students were captivated by it...especially the Julian chapter.

In the book, a major storyline revolves around the precepts that Mr. Browne, a teacher, teaches the students each month. These are short quotes that become sort of "rules to live by".  At the end of the story, Mr. Browne asks each of the students to write their very own precept and send it to him on a postcard.  So that is what we did.

I first had each student create their own "Wonder picture".  You see, each of the chapters are broken up with a picture of the child telling the story.  The picture is drawn with very little facial features and only using black ink.  So that is what we did.  Here is mine I used as an example with the kids.

Then, I asked them to choose a precept that related to their own life.  This could be a famous saying (like the one on my Wonder picture) or something that they made up on their own.  Underneath their picture, I had them write their name and the precept.

Finally, I asked them to write a postcard in friendly letter style to Mr. Browne explaining their precept.  Since they were supposed to be on summer vacation, I had them take on that persona.  A kid, formerly in Mr. Browne's class, explaining the precept on vacation.  They then used the address in the book to complete the postcard.

The kids really had a great time doing this. They connected so deeply with the book, that making their own "chapter" was fun for them.  They loved trying to make their Wonder picture resemble themselves but still keep it within the style of the book.  And writing the precept really brought it all together (and added a more academic element as well).

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Paul Revere: Fact or Myth?

Let me preface this post by saying that what we did here in this lesson is HARD.  There is no way around it.  It was just hard.  But, that didn't stop the kids from not only learning the intended objectives, but really learning it well.  I am so ecstatically over the moon about the outcomes in this lesson, that I am practically bursting at the seams here!

So what is this hard lesson, you ask?  The midnight ride of Paul Revere.

Paul Revere is an American legend.  He is one of the first "super heroes" born out of our quest for independence and freedom from England.  But the inherent nature of being a legendary superhero is that much of the story we love and cherish are, in actuality, myths.

Myths?  Paul Revere?  WHAT???

As I approached this idea with the students, they honestly had no idea what I was talking about.  Paul Revere is the guy who rode in at midnight, alone, screaming "The British are coming!  The British are coming!"  I mean, that is what we saw on School House Rock (here is a school tube link to the song "Shot Heard Round the World"....which is a great intro to the beginning battles of the American Revolution)  I told them that, no, actually a lot of what we now accept as fact about Paul Revere is really from a romanticized poem called "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Listen my children, and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.

Super famous.  But super full of factual inaccuracies.

We began by reading the actual poem together, annotating as we went along.  Now, this poem was written in 1860, on the eve of the civil war (in an effort to drum up patriotic feelings amongst the union soldiers) and isn't exactly the easiest read.  So we did a choral read, stopping to summarize and "translate" after each stanza.  Once the kids got the hang of the language, even my English Learners were making some connections and understanding what was written.

The next day, we watched this video here, which is about 7 minutes, and really lays out the idea that the poem is full of many lasting myths about the Patriot.  What I really liked about this video (aside from the fact that it was short) was that it is "history channel style" with experts, lots of visuals, and connections back to the poem that we had just read.

So how do historians know that the poem isn't exactly accurate?  Paul Revere himself wrote a letter, revealing all of the major players and events of the night, in 1798.  I made a copy (the link above is an abridged version of the letter, as much of the beginning of the letter doesn't deal directly with this night) of this primary source for each student, and we began annotating it together.  Again, this letter was written in the standard English of the time...much different than we are used to today.  But again, after a little getting used to, my students rose to the occasion and really seemed to understand what was being said.  The kids annotated important information as we read.

I then asked the kids to create a T-Chart, labeled "Myth" on one side and "Fact" on the other.  The kids were to pull myths from the poem and then the corresponding fact from the letter.  For example, the poem makes it sound like Revere was the lone ranger in this entire operation, however we learn in the letter that he is just one of the THREE people who actually rode.  The kids wrote down all of the myths and facts they could find.  For some, there ended up being three pages of stuff!

Once they did that, I had them pick four of the most enduring myth (in their opinion) and write the exact quote from the text.  Then, they quoted the text and wrote the fact in their own words.

Finally, we looked at the letter and the kids tried to map out the route taken that night as best they could.  (the map is on the second page of the link.  I did white out the actual routes that were drawn before I copied it for the kids) There are a lot of details in the letter that mention landmarks and cities that were visited that night, so the kids tried to follow those.  This, again, was HARD, but working in pairs, they really seemed to get it!  Some even were able to tell where Dawes and Prescott (his two fellow riders) traveled based on the letter!

All in all, the kids learned a lot from this series of lessons.  They can now tell you just what happened that night, dispelling any and all myths surrounding this infamous night!  They also feel crazy successful and smart because even they realized that they tackled this hard hard task.

As a teacher, I found this website to be really helpful in easily helping me digest the history of it all.  I didn't show this to the kids, as I wanted them to come up with this based on the letter, but it did help ME.  

(click the links above to get all of the resources I used....I just found them all over the web.)

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Little Something for Teacher Appreciation

Teachers.  The group of people I hold most dear to my heart.  Not just because I myself am one, but because I know first hand the time and effort you put into educating young people.  I know it takes hours of preparation and constant reflection.  Teaching is not easy.

So, thank you.  Thank you for all  you do.

To show you how much I appreciate you, I am joining with a few of my blogging friends to bring you a care package filled with fun teacher treats and resources that will help to make your job a little brighter.

All you need to do is comment on my blog telling me what you LOVE about teaching.  What is it that gets you up in the morning and propels you through your day of instruction?   Then, fill in the Rafflecopter by May 5 at 9pm PST and you will be entered.  Once the Rafflecopter closes, a winner will be chosen and I will send the entire Teacher Appreciation pack to one teacher by mail!

What is awesome is that you will immediately get a $25 giftcode for TpT to use in the sale!  Here are the two hard copies of items you will get.  But if you don't win, click the links to add them to your cart!
Reading Log for Thinking and Responding

End of the Year POET-TREE!
So there you have it.  Easy peezy.  I just really wanted to show you how much I appreciate you....and this is one small way to do it.  Thank you for following me on my blogging journey.  I could not be here without you reading and commenting.  Thank you teachers.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Confessions of a Reformed "Anti-Task Card-er"

I am just going to say it.  I am not a big fan of task cards. {ducking from anything that may get thrown at me right now.}

I know that they are really hot right now.  I know that people love them.  I know that they are the greatest thing since sliced bread for some teachers.  But *I* have just never really fell head over heals for them.  

Until this year.

OK...that isn't exactly true.  I still am not a huge fan BUT my kids LOVE LOVE LOVE them.  Did I mention that they love them?  Because they do.  Task cards have revitalized plain old worksheets for the kids.  They have instant buy in and I find that the kids are completing their work faster if I present the work in task card format than if I simply type everything up on a worksheet page.

So, since we have this new found love for task cards in my room, I thought I would share some of the ways that task cards have been successful in my class this year.

First up is the "Task Card Dump".  Basically, the students get into groups of 4 or 5.  I make enough copies of the task cards I want to use for each of the groups.  The kids get a recording sheet, sit in their groups, and dump the task cards in the center.  Then, they take a card each and begin solving the problems.  There is no order to which card needs to be taken next, they just grab whichever one is there. 

The "Group Switch" is a popular strategy in my class as well.   Kids get into small groups of about 3 or 4.  I make enough task card sets for about 4 groups to share.  Then, I split those task card sets into groups of 3 or 4 cards.  Each small group of students get a little group of cards.  They solve  them.  Then, after a few minutes, I call time and everyone switches their group of cards for another group of cards.  After 4 switches, all of the kids have gone through all of the cards.

These task cards are from Teaching with a Mountain View :)
Finally, there is the "Individual Grab".  This works well when I use my Story Elements cards.  I set all of the cards up on the board and the kids walk up and grab whichever one they need at the time.  Then, when they are done, the kids put that one back and grab another one.  I always make sure to copy several sets of the cards so that all of the kids can be working at the same time.

So there you have it.  A few easy ways to get the kids involved with task cards in your classroom.  Do you use task cards?  What strategies have you used to get the kids more actively engaged with the cards?