Another Fabulous Day

Today’s post is less about how we did something and more about how things felt today.  And things felt really nice.

We are in a Social Studies unit on Native Americans right now (don’t worry–I’ll tell you all about it this weekend!) which has required my students to do a lot of digging into a piece of text and pulling out the important pieces.  They read a section alone or with a partner, and underline important points.  Then we discuss as a class what we marked; a project then follows related to each important point.
But like I said, this post is not about the project we’re working on, or how they know what’s important and what’s interesting, this one’s about what came after the discussion.  Towards the end of our discussion today, Aiden noticed that there was nothing on our list related to music or dancing with the Cahokians; his background knowledge of Native Americans had music/chants and dance as an important part.  I suggested that we could dig into that topic as homework tonight, searching for evidence elsewhere that may give ideas about how music and dance were included in the culture of the Cahokians.   After that, we moved on to adding things to our list about how chunkey stones were found in many burial sites, but we couldn’t find in the text why that was: it is a coincidence (like some proposed) or on purpose (related to status, as some predicted).  Again, the suggestion was made to dig a little with that idea at home.  Once more after that, Don made a suggestion plan part of their project at home in order to more effectively use their time during our project work time tomorrow.  It worked for him yesterday, and our class took notice.

Ok, so what?  I asked them questions and gave them homework.  Well not really.  I didn’t ever say anyone had to do any of that.  But because of the culture of curiousity and inquiry that I believe I am fostering in my classroom, I believe that many will do it anyway.  They will do it because they want to know the answer, not because I told them to.  They’ll plan their project because they want to, not because I told them to.  That feels pretty good.  There really is no better evidence of powerful learning than when a student investigates a topic that’s interesting to them with the knowledge as the “prize,” not a grade or gold star or sucker.

After that conversation, I had to leave to go to a district meeting for the afternoon.  The great thing about that?  I didn’t worry one bit about leaving my class with a sub, because I knew that they would have the same fabulous afternoon with her as they would if I was there.  They’ve proved to me over and over again during the last month that they know what to do, and do it!  They are definitely respectful and responsible learners and show that in their words and actions.  Believe me, having that peace of mind while I am away is priceless.

Here’s to another fabulous day tomorrow.  And the next day and the next.  🙂

Summer Homework?

Yes, I’m giving you homework.  What??  Summer homework?  You hardly gave during-the-school-year-homework, Mrs. Bearden!  I know, but now you have lots more time, right?  And don’t worry–it’s easy and fun.

Read.  Your homework is to read.  Read whatever you want–the sports page, the back of the cereal box, or…a Truman Award nominee.  Remember how we read some Mark Twain nominees this year?  Faith, Hope and Ivy June and The Secret of Zoom were nominated for this Missouri award, and I know several of you also read some of the others, like The Potato Chip Puzzles and Love, Aubrey.

Well, lucky you, now that you’re in 6th grade (well almost!), you get to vote for another MO award–the Truman Award.  This one is for 6th-8th graders, and the rules are the same: read at least 4 of them and you can be one of the many other MO middle schoolers who choose the lucky book to win this award! Find the list for 2012-2013 here. And I must be honest here: I was going to insert all of this information in this post for you, but the post I linked to is really well done, so I chose that one instead. 🙂

Now for my summer homework….it’s reading, too.  But not Truman Award nominees.  I’m reading new Mark Twain nominees to decide which to read to my new class of 5th graders coming this fall.  I think technically this award is chosen by 4th-6th graders, so maybe you’re just double lucky and can vote for both of them!  I’d also love to hear what you, my friends, think about what my new kiddos would like.  Read some of the new nominees and then tell me what you think!

This is my short list right now:

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea (thinking about this one for the beginning of the year)

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham (I love his writing as an adult, and I had another 5th grade friend who LOVED this series a couple of years ago.  This should be a good one. )

Ghost Dog Secrets by Peg Kehret (you know my thoughts on Peg Kehret’s books, but kids LOVE her, so I need to try this one, too.  Crossing my fingers…)

Half Upon a Time by James Riley (this is a crazy twist on familiar fairytales and looks pretty funny)

I am also going to try When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.  My friend Archie gave it to me as an end-of-the-year present, and Mr. Bearden recommends it, too.

But the best part about all of these reading plans is that I just got this big stack of books from Barnes and Noble, and it WAS ALL FREE!!  Ok, I think I may have spent $5 or something, but I bought the rest with a gift card (big thanks to Dr. Wheelehan!!).

Alright friends, you have your summer mission.  Let me know how it goes, and I will hopefully update you on how it’s going for me on here, too.  Happy Summer Reading!

What other suggestions do you have for summer reading or for 5th grade read alouds?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!





A Conversation about Homework

We had a great conversation in our class today.  I wasn’t surprised that it was great, because like I’ve told you before a hundred times, I have really amazing kids.  Here’s what happened:

In our classroom, Wednesday is homework day.  Today, however, instead of sending home the homework sheet, we had a conversation about a decision that our 5th grade team has made to not do that weekly homework sheet anymore.

What follows are some of the things my kids said in response to that announcement:

  • I think that’s great, but I’m not sure my parents will believe me when I tell them.
  • But what about next year?  I don’t think I’ll be ready for homework in middle school.
  • I think it’s a good idea because I’ll have time to play outside now.
  • Well, even if you don’t tell me to, I’ll still read and write at home anyway.
  • I think that even if you don’t send home homework to do, my parents will still give me things to work on anyway.
  • I don’t like that idea.  I’m just not sure about it.

I have to admit, I was a little surprised by some of them.  Maybe naively, I figured they would all think it was a great idea.  But I love that they were honest about what they were thinking, and that they were asking questions.  I have very thoughtful friends, and so several of them asked me about how long we’ve been thinking about it and how we had decided to do this.

I was happy to share with them what this announcement meant for them, and what it did not:

  • It does mean that they will not receive a weekly homework sheet of have-tos that they are to turn in on Tuesday.
  • It does not mean that they will never have homework, though.  Just not weekly, busy-work kind of homework.
  • It does mean that I expect them to use every minute we are in the classroom together wisely.  We cram a lot of learning into a day and I expect that they remember this and work hard.
  • It does mean that some days there will be things we will have time to start–but not finish–in class.  These things may have to go home for homework to be completed because we will need it for the next day.
  • It does mean that I want them to have more time to spend being a kid.  Doing things they want to do like play outside, ride their bike or spend time with their families.
  • It does not mean that I want them to stop reading and writing at home.  I am just not telling them they have to.  I want them to want to, and continue doing so.  (Many admitted that they would do this anyway, even if it wasn’t homework)
  • It does mean we will still have spelling tests each week.  We will find times to work on this practice during the school day.
  • It does not mean that I think my kiddos should go home and sit in front of the TV or video games all night long.  I hope that now they use their time to choose to do active things with their families or friends.
  • It does mean that I want them to continue to work had and love to learn.

I can’t wait to hear about how the conversation went when they went home tonight!  🙂

Homework Day!

Today was the first day of homework in 5th grade!  We had a really great conversation about how it would work and your kiddos were really excited.  No, really–they were!  The new format is around a menu, and there are many choices that they will be able to make as they practice what we’re doing in class.  Here’s the Homework Menu for this week: Homework Menu 8-31 to 9-1  Exciting times ahead!