Another (Writing) Celebration!

I’ve written before about how we use the Writing Cycle in our classroom, and how important celebrating our work is once we’re all finished.

Recently we had another one–this time with Expository Nonfiction Writing that we had done!

Our nonfiction pieces were all based on the structure of introduction, 3 paragraphs on specific topics, and conclusion.  They were written in many different forms, but all followed that same structure.

Our nonfiction pieces were all based on the structure of introduction, 3 paragraphs on specific topics, and conclusion. They were written in many different forms, but all followed that same structure.  Rebekah’s final piece was handwritten on paper.

Many students wrote their essays as feature articles using Pages templates.  All they had to do was replace what was there with their info and voila!

Many students wrote their essays as feature articles using Pages templates. All they had to do was replace what was there with their info and voila! I was impressed with the variety of topics: Sophia wrote about Artemis, Anna C. wrote a piece about tennis player Althea Gibson, ZB202 wrote about poodles and Natalie wrote about the evolution of the telephone.

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Some essays were made with a flier template, and Keelan wrote his as a brochure.

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Here’s a great picture of the different end products: Anna K. used Pages to write about Greek Mythology, Devan made a poster that was SHAPED like his topic of tops, and Sammy made a poster about mythology, too.

Some posters were small, like Jernandra's about lions...

Some posters were small, like Jernandra’s about lions, Don’s about bulldogs,

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and Aiden’s about diamonds…

...and some were big, like Seamus' about Paul Revere,

…and some were big, like Seamus’ about Paul Revere,

Owen's about Gravity Master Isaac Newton,

Owen’s about Gravity Master Isaac Newton,

and Fiona's about Queen Elizabeth II.

and Fiona’s about Queen Elizabeth II.

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And thee were even some Keynotes created about nonfiction topics, like Ames’ slide show about fossils,

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and Peter’s about Ray Lewis. What a great example of how we can all accomplish the same thing in whatever way makes sense to us!

What do you do to celebrate your writing?  How do you “send your writing out into the world?” Tell us what you think!

 

 

 

 

Middle School Visits

Another highlight from our crazy, busy week last week was a visit from some very important people from Nipher Middle School!  Mrs. Johnson (the counselor), Mr. Taylor and some current 6th graders came to share with us about what we should expect for next year.

Nipher friends answered some of our most pressing questions, and also shared information about what classes will be like, what they like best, how much time they have between classes, etc.  I was excited to have my old friends Joe and Molly there to share their knowledge.  What leaders they've become!

Nipher friends answered some of our most pressing questions, and also shared information about what classes will be like, what they like best, how much time they have between classes, etc. I was excited to have my old friends Joe and Molly there to share their knowledge. What leaders they’ve become!

After the Q & A, they got into groups for the next activity--match your colored strip with the others to find your new group!

After the Q & A, they got into groups for the next activity–match your colored strip with the others to find your new group!

These groups worked together to answer Nipher trivia--with prizes!

These groups worked together to answer Nipher trivia–with prizes!

What a great afternoon!  We’re excited to head to middle school!  This time they came to us, and we get to go there for a visit in May!  🙂

 

World Read Aloud Day!

Last week were AMAZED as Lisa Campbell Ernst came to share her writing life with us.  But on Wednesday we were DOUBLE AMAZED when she agreed to Skype with us to celebrate World Read-Aloud Day 2013.  We’re kind of spoiled around here. 🙂

As I mentioned in my original post, I was trying not to be a groupie, but was forward enough to ask her to help with us with our WRAD plans.  Surprisingly, she said yes, and so I began thinking about what we could do together.

I knew my friends were dying to ask her many more things about her writing life, and specifically to see more of what her writing studio looked like.  And because it was read aloud day, we hoped she would read to us, too!

When she was here, she had told us all about the process of writing The Gingerbread Girl.  She also told us about how she got the idea for the sequel to it: The Gingerbread Girl Goes Animal Crackers.  As I remembered this detail, I knew that was the book I wanted her to read!

So we settled in for our Skype call with her, and has 40 or so kindergarteners join us for the experience!  I invited my son, Riley’s, class to come up and hear the story (partly because I knew they’d love the book, but selfishly because I knew HE would love it–we are always talking about books and authors at home!).  Then Ms. Weidinger shared it with Ms. Heifner and they came along, too!  WOW–what a great bunch of kiddos gathered to share such a great day!

Look at all those kiddos!

Look at all those kiddos!  It’s really cool that little kids and big kids alike can share an experience like this one!

First she read to us.  Here’s a little snippet (although now I’m a little sad I didn’t record the whole story!):

Man, it must be crazy cool (and a little bit weird) to be able to read a REAL book that YOU wrote to other people.  I’m a little jealous.

After we enjoyed her sharing her story with us (which is a MUST READ in our opinion!), our little friends left and we settled in to chat with our new best author friend!  We had some great questions left over from our time with her last week: Will you ever write an autobiography?  Do you like writing fiction or nonfiction better? Can we see more of your office?

Then Peter asked how she made up the little rhymes she used in her Gingerbread Girl books.  Her answer, which made sense, was that a lot of it was just trial and error.  But she also shared with us a handy-dandy tool that we now know no writer should be without:

What an amazing visit with an amazing lady!  I, for one, was inspired to get myself published, and I know my students were inspired as well!  What a treat!  THANK YOU LISA!

How did you celebrate World Read Aloud Day?  Who is your favorite author?  Have you every Skyped with an author?  If so, who? Tell us about it!

Math Warm-Ups March 4-8, 2013

I’m starting to feel like there’s not really such a thing as a “normal” week; every Friday I say something about how this past week hasn’t been.  So–this week was another “unnormal” week.  Here are our warm-ups:

Monday

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I was out Monday with a sick little girl, and somehow forgot to get a picture of that warm-up. This one is practice with both place value and decimals.

 

Tuesday

After reading the note from my Monday sub, I knew we needed to review what to do with the decimal point in this multiplication problem.  Then, as in a stroke of genius, we made a connection to our fraction unit where we used fraction bars to help us visualize what the numbers were doing.

After reading the note from my Monday sub, I knew we needed to review what to do with the decimal point in this multiplication problem. Then, as in a stroke of genius, we made a connection to our fraction unit where we used fraction bars to help us visualize what the numbers were doing.

 

Wednesday

After we stumbled upon fraction bars again Tuesday, I gave them a problem where I had them use that strategy again (on purpose!).  For many it was the visual they needed to help it click.  But, for some others it just made them more confused! :(  We had a great discussion about figuring out which strategy or model works for you and making sure you use that one well.

After we stumbled upon fraction bars again Tuesday, I gave them a problem where I had them use that strategy again (on purpose!). For many it was the visual they needed to help it click. But, for some others it just made them more confused! 😦 We had a great discussion about figuring out which strategy or model works for you and making sure you use that one well.

Close-up of the marking on the fraction bar: we took 1/4 out of each one of the 1/10, which made 6/24.  Eventually we were able to simplify our answer all the way back to something that we could turn back into a decimal (1.5/10 or .150).

Close-up of the marking on the fraction bar: we took 1/4 out of each one of the 1/10, which made 6/24. Eventually we were able to simplify our answer all the way back to something that we could turn back into a decimal (1.5/10 or .150).

 

Thursday and Friday

Remember that "unnormal" part of this week?  On Thursday we were only at school for about 20 minutes before we left to head to the middle school for the dress rehearsal of their Spring production of Guys and Dolls Jr. (which was FABULOUS, by the way!), so we didn't have math this day.  We had the discussion over this warm-up today.  Because many people got thrown off by both 1) the exponents in this problem and 2) the "backwards" nature of how I did expanded form, we did another example problem first (the number at the bottom).  This problem is a great example of how the warm-up is often a response of something that happens in our math rotations: as we were reading the rubric for reading and writing decimals, we realized that we needed more practice with expanded form and so that group requested we do more with it in our morning work.  Great idea, friends!

Remember that “unnormal” part of this week? On Thursday we were only at school for about 20 minutes before we left to head to the middle school for the dress rehearsal of their Spring production of Guys and Dolls Jr. (which was FABULOUS, by the way!), so we didn’t have math this day. We had the discussion over this warm-up today. Because many people got thrown off by both 1) the exponents in this problem and 2) the “backwards” nature of how I did expanded form, we did another example problem first (the number at the bottom). This problem is a great example of how the warm-up is often a response of something that happens in our math rotations–as we were studying the rubric for the standard of Reading and Writing Decimals, we realized that we needed more practice with expanded form.  So that group requested we do more with it in our morning work. Great idea, friends!

What are you thinking about our math warm-ups lately?  Do you have a suggestion for a decimal problem we could do?  Feel free to share it and we’ll try it, then leave you the answer!  We’re always ready to try something new!

 

Lisa Campbell Ernst Visits Robinson!

Remember how I told you that this last week was CRAZY BUSY and full of great opportunities?!  Here’s another: we had an amazing author (who is from MO, which we love!) visit us on Wednesday–Lisa Campbell Ernst!

This was extra exciting for me, because she was the featured author the first year I was at Robinson.  As a new teacher, I was unfamiliar with her work, but because of that visit (and since then), I’ve become a big fan! She’s had a special author box in our class library for years now, too.  She’s one of my favorites. 🙂

So when I heard she was coming, I was over the moon!  My kids hadn’t really heard of her yet, so Mrs. Meihaus (our FABULOUS librarian) helped us get to know her a little better with a short bio lesson, and by finding us piles and piles of her books to read (she’s published over 30!).  We particularly enjoyed:

We loved this twist on the original!

We loved this twist on the original!

This is the first L.C.E. book I ever heard and is now one of my all-time favorite books!  5th graders love it, too!

This is the first L.C.E. book I ever heard and is now one of my all-time favorite books! 5th graders love it, too!

Another twist on a beloved fairytale: what would happen if Goldilocks came back to the scene of the crime, 50 years later?

Another twist on a beloved fairytale: what would happen if Goldilocks came back to the scene of the crime, 50 years later?

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This one is nominated for the MO Show-Me Reader Award (which primary students vote for), but big kids love it, too! While they weren't intentional, we saw many connections to Disney's Up.

This one is nominated for the MO Show-Me Reader Award (which primary students vote for), but big kids love it, too! While they weren’t intentional, we saw many connections to Disney’s Up.

We were ready for her, and February 27th was the big day–the big day that almost didn’t happen because of a blizzard in Kansas City the day before.  Luckily she made it here and was ready to present to us!

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See that fox? It’s the villain from The Gingerbread Girl and she was showing us how to draw him! She even made one for our school to keep! It’s on display by the library now. 🙂

Some of the best parts were the stories she told about how she decides on the ideas for her books.

Some of the best parts were the stories she told about how she decides on the ideas for her books.

Pictures of actual candy to help with drawing the Gingerbread Girl's candy body

Pictures of actual candy to help with drawing the Gingerbread Girl’s candy body

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And drawing a Gingerbread Girl is harder than you think!

We really enjoyed listening to hear talk about her process as a writer.  She showed pictures of her studio, too, which was also loved (and wanted to actually see the inside of in person!).  There was a lot of time left at the end for questions, and many of ours were answered.  Most wanted to know where she gets her ideas, how long it takes to write a book and how she got started as an author (and answer is that she used to be a graphic designer, which led her to illustrations, which led her to writing–something she’d loved doing since she was a little girl!).

Once the presentation was over, and everyone else left, we found ourselves the last ones in the library and could not pass up a photo opportunity!

Say cheese!

Say cheese!

 

And I couldn’t either, when we ate lunch together later that day:

Gotta love being in the same room with a mentor author that you love! What great a conversation I got to share!  It's amazing how much you can learn in 20 minutes!

Gotta love being in the same room with a mentor author that you love! What great a conversation I got to share! It’s amazing how much you can learn in 20 minutes!

Oh, and one more thing I couldn’t pass up was asking Lisa if she’d be willing to Skype with us for World Read Aloud Day tomorrow–which she was willing to do!  We’re excited to continue our conversation tomorrow afternoon.  I’ll be sure to share soon!

Mystery Skype–Ecuador Style!

This week we were busy with a whole LOAD of fabulous things, but maybe our favorite was when we did a Mystery Skype with Ms. Turken on Thursday!  She is a beloved teacher who used to work at our school, but who has taken a year away to teach English in Ecuador.  That’s pretty amazing, right?

Well, when we had an opportunity to chat with her, we were beyond excited!  The best part, though, in my mind, was that most kiddos in my class didn’t know that she was where she was, so we decided to do a Mystery Skype with her.

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It started in much the same way as the ones we’ve done previously this year–with us asking questions, using the computer and our big world map to figure out clues related to the answers, and then narrowing in on the location of our Mystery Skyper.

Sammy uses Google to help us figure out Ms. Turken's location.

Sammy uses Google to help us figure out Ms. Turken’s location.  I think at this point we’re even trying to zoom in as far as her town–Riobamba.

This map has been a very busy place in our classroom lately!

This map has been a very busy place in our classroom lately!

This was a special Mystery Skype, though, for a couple of reasons.  First of all, Mr. Kieschnick’s class came to sit in with us, so that they could learn how to do Mystery Skype, too.  That meant that we had 40 heads to help us figure out the clues instead of just our 20!  We kept talking, too, once we knew Ms. Turken’s location, since, of course, the real reason we called was to visit with our old friend.  She told us all about her life in Ecuador, including the food, her classroom where she teaches English, and she even gave us a little tour of the house where she’s living.  We learned many things about her (which I think I will leave for my students to tell you in the comments!), and had a great conversation.

So many kids in the room for this one!  That's Mr. Kieschnick in the corner of this picture.

So many kids in the room for this one! That’s Mr. Kieschnick in the corner of this picture.

And then, something very cool–and unexpected–happened.  Since Ms. Turken teaches English, but has to know how to both speak and understand Spanish to do that, someone asked that she speak to us in Spanish so we could hear what they sounds like.  Well, that’s a little bit weird unless you have a reason to be saying something, or someone to speak to in Spanish.  Remember how I told you that Mr. K’s class was there?  Well, a friend of his, Andres, piped up and offered to have a quick conversation with Ms. Turken in Spanish while we all watched and listened.  Perfect!

Ms. Turken began by asking him about school (escuela).  They went back and forth, and I know enough Spanish that I could figure out they were talking about math (mathematicas) and books (libras).  So while I couldn’t join in on the conversation, I could at least follow along.  Sophia, whose dad is from Peru, was also helpful in translating much of it to those sitting by her.  It was so cool to see the looks on everyone’s faces while Ms. Turken and Andres rattled away in another language–I know I heard “How do they do that?” several times and definitely saw big smiles and wide eyes on the faces of many.

Thank you, Ms. Turken, for a great morning, getting to know more about you and the adventures you are having in Ecuador!  We’re excited to learn more (she sent us questions to research) and to speak to you again soon!

Adios!

 

 

 

Math Warm-Ups February 25-March 1, 2013

Last week was a little crazy, so we only had three warm-ups that stretched all throughout the week.

Monday

IMG267We came back to division (again) this week, as it’s a skill that many kiddos still have trouble with, even at this point in the year.  We have another unit of it in a couple more weeks, but we need the practice nonetheless.  The difference, too, this time is that we’re working on using a different strategy.  In the past–like when we were first learning how to divide–we thought about the number as a whole, and worked to find groups inside of it, rather than using the traditional algorithm.  Our focus was on understanding what division means, and we incorporated what we knew about multiplication as much as we could, as well.  This time, we’re trying to use the traditional method–still connecting to multiplication–but just organizing our thinking and our numbers in a different way.  We have been talking about reasonableness of answers, too, and use estimation to help us determine if our answers make sense.

 

The Rest of the Week

IMG269The rest of the mornings during the week were busy, we we actually took a couple of days to work through these problems.  You’ll notice a second division problem and then a good ‘ole adding fractions problem because we’re still fuzzy on this concept.  But truly, this is what is perfect about Math Warm-Ups–being able to easily revisit concepts that we need more time with.