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Book "Shelfies"

Today I am going to share a nice back to school project that I have done with my students the past two years that gets them thinking of our classroom as a safe space to share about books.  The students take book "shelfies", which is basically a selfie taken with a book in hand.  I am not sure what took me so long to write about this, but I figure even two years later is better than not writing at all ;)   So here we go.

Back to school idea to share a "shelfie" (book selfie)During the first week of school, I begin to emphasize just how much children's literature means to me.  I share my favorites with the kids, previewing books I *know* we will read and ones I hope to read.  I also share other books that have meant something special to me or have moved me in any way.  I bring these conversations up as naturally as possible, but most definitely during our read aloud time at the end of each day (this is sacred time in my class.   There is not a day that goes by that I don't make some time, any time, to read aloud to the kids.)   

During this time I also ask the kids to share their favorite books with me.  We engage in discussions throughout the week, and then I ask the kids to come to school the next day with the book in hand just to show me and talk to me about it it.  When they have their favorite books, the kids use my phone (or chromebook or whatever) to take a selfie with the book in it.  I gave them this template so that they could then import the picture to look like it is inside of a phone or iPad.  (if the template isn't opening for you, try using your personal drive, not your school drive.  Sometimes school drives block downloading)

Using "Shelfies" to show our favorite books and discuss our likes and dislikes as readers.

After the selfie is done, the students write a paragraph detailing themselves as readers.  Do they enjoy reading?  Why or why not?  What types of books peak their interest?  What genres would they like to explore?  What books do they not tend to pick up in the library?  I want them to write about themselves as a whole, not just one specific book.

Then, I display all of this on the board so that all can see the books that were brought in as well as get  to know their fellow readers.  More than one student has been turned onto a new book because of the shelfie that they noticed on the board!

Have you done something like this before?  Please share below!

Growth Mindset I Am Poems

5th graders wrote I Am poems about growth mindset.We have been working with the idea of growth mindset all year long so as a "final" recap project, I wanted the kids to do a little reflective writing.  Using an "I Am" Poem template, the kids wrote their own I Am poems with a growth mindset twist.

Now, there are hundreds of "I Am" Poem templates online to choose from.  I happened to use this one here, but you can use any of them.  I didn't make copies, rather, I did a sort of "guided writing" with the kids.  I wrote the sentence stem on the board and then did my own example.  Since I wanted them to write with a growth mindset twist, I modeled that for them.  

I am a hard worker who strives to learn all I can.
I try to keep in mind that if I don't get it the first time, I will if I try again.
I hope that I will never lose my ability to persevere.  

Using an I Am poem to write growth mindset poems.After I modeled, the kids were then able to write that particular line on their own.  We did this for the first half of the poem.  Then I wrote the rest of the sentence stems and they were off to write independently.  
To display the poems (which really did show a great deal of reflection and focus on a growth mindset), I gave the students an outline of a lightbulb.  Using a concrete poem style, the students wrote their entire "I Am" poem around the outline so that, when it was complete, the lightbulb shown through the words.  
Fifth graders using reflective writing to talk about how they exhibit growth mindset.

I took a pic of the kids "holding" the lightbulb and then they drew themselves somewhere, anywhere, where they would have to have a growth mindset to succeed.  
Fun way for 5th graders to be reflective and artistic at the same time using growth mindset.

All in all, this came out just as I was envisioning. It was reflective, academic, and a tad bit fun.  The kids enjoyed it and loved reading each others' work.  

Wonder and Kindness

As Spring Break approaches, I find that my fifth graders are in need of some reminders as to what it means to be kind to each other.   In general, they are sweet kids, but at times the words they use and actions they take, particularly on the playground, aren't the kindest.   

Our read aloud for the month is Wonder by RJ Palacio so the theme of kindness fit right into our room.  It just so happens that a new book, We're All Wonders by RJ Palacio, a picture book intended for younger readers to access the story, came out this week as well.  So the timing was perfect. (the two links above are my affiliate links and will take you to Amazon to buy the books.)

I began by asking the students what kindness is.  We brainstormed a list of ideas and created an anchor chart.  Then I read the picture book to the students.  Because we had just finished Wonder, they were so excited to read this new version.  When we finished, I asked the kids to think of all the ways, in both the picture book and the novel, that people were not very kind to Auggie (the main character).  The kids were able to fill our entire circle map in no time.  It was easy to recall how people would scream in his face, recoiling at the way he looked. They remembered the names Auggie was called and the no-touching game that was played.  The instantly told me about all the awful things that happened to him.

I then asked the kids to brainstorm ways that, if they were in the novel with Auggie, they could be kinder to him.  Again, they had no problem thinking of ways they could be kind to Auggie.

Next, I asked the students to think about their own real life.  I asked them to reflect upon how they personally treat others and how they personally could make better choices when speaking to others.  Here is where things got a little challenging.  You see, when students are talking about fictional characters, or reading news stories about OTHER kids they don't know being treated unfairly or unkindly, they know exactly what they would do if they were there.  Because they aren't there.  They know they never will be there.  But when confronted with their own lives, and real possibilities for what they would have to do to step in or change situations, it is a bit harder for them.  So I asked them to brainstorm 15 different ways they PERSONALLY could show kindness to our classmates.  (I drew a lot of inspiration for this next part from Study All Knight's FREE Kindness unit, which you can grab here.)

The students then used tempra paint and painted  15 (or so) rainbow sunshine rays.  They also drew their own Wonder-Inspired portrait.  (I have previously done this before, but had them focus on precepts and writing....if you would like to do that, click here.  It is one of my fav lessons too!)

The students then glued their Wonder portraits into the middle of the rays,  used Sharpie to outline and write the 15 ways they could show real kindness in their lives (one way per ray) and were done.  

They came out amazing.  
Kids brainstorm ways to show kindness in the 5th grade.

What is better though, is that the past two days, my students are actively trying to be kinder to each other.  They are watching their words.  I have seen people purposefully go up to those who tend to wander during group time and invite them into the group.  I have seen students smile at others just a bit more.  It truly has been a Wonder.

Right now, for a limited time, Amazon has the book available for $3.99!!!  Snag up to 4 copies at that price.   Use my affiliate link here to get your copy ASAP before they are all gone!!


Boston Tea Party: The British Point of View

We have been working a lot with bias and point of view when discussing historical events, so when it was time to teach about the Boston Tea Party, I kept with that same theme.  

I started with the students by reading a nonfiction passage from Readworks about the Tea Party.  As always, we began by noting the purpose of our reading (To find FACTUAL information about what happened during the Boston Tea Party) and then started underlining any evidence that fell under our purpose.  The students answered the open-ended response questions using the RACE strategy we have been working with.

We next watched the Liberty's Kids - The Complete Series pilot episode (this is my affiliate link) which happens to be about the night of the Boston Tea Party.  I asked the kids to take notes on the facts that they saw in the episode and the opinions that were presented, including any bias that was presented (we had previously learned about that here.)  On a side note, if you haven't watched the Liberty Kids before, you must.  The student LOVE it and it is so full of historical information.  They literally cheer when I put it on each time we watch. By I digress....

To continue with the learning, we read a graphic novel about the Boston Tea Party, The Boston Tea Party (Graphic History)(this is my affiliate link) again looking for evidence of fact and bias.  

What the kids did notice was that these resources were heavily biased towards the American point of view.  They seemed to present the British as "evil" and "greedy", out for the hard earned money of the poor colonists who just want to be left alone.   They did mention the historical context, but presented the colonists as "Protestors" and not "Rebels".  The colonists were "making a statement", not "vandalizing and destroying property."  So we talked about it as a class, and made note of both sides of the story.

The students then took all of their notes, the facts and the bias, and wrote a paragraph from the point of view of a BRITISH person (or loyalist colonist) describing what happened that night.  They wrote with much different language than the patriotic, pro-American views we had been reading about.  

Using point of view and perspective to teach about the Boston Tea Party to 5th gradersThe final piece of this was a fun project I saw on my friend Kristine's blog, Young Teacher Love.  The students created the outline of a big eye.  In the pupil portion, they drew what happened during the Boston Tea Party through the eyes of the British.   The students really enjoyed getting to be creative and a bit biased at the same time.

So far, using the ideas that there is always three sides to every story -- his side, her side, and the truth -- has been making a big impact on how my students are learning and internalizing the historical 
events we have been discussing.  And I am liking it!

Truth and Bias in the Boston Massacre

One thing I really love about teaching history is that I am able to get the students to look more critically and deeply into the events of our past and realize that there truly are many different sides to the same story.

We did that this past week with the Boston Massacre.  

Teaching 5th graders about bias and how it plays a role in the information we learn from newspapers and primary sources.We began with a discussion on what facts, opinion, and bias are.  We talked about how each of those things are different, yet present when we discuss historical events.  Focusing in on bias in particular, we examined how it can play a huge role in the way information is presented.

I gave the students two different articles about the night in question (matching our standard of looking at two viewpoints on the same event).  One was from the Boston Gazette  and the other from the London Chronicle.  In pairs and using three different colored pencils, the students read the articles, underlining evidence of fact, opinion, or bias (or, in some cases, adding multiple underlines on each piece of evidence.)  The students also wrote notes in the margins to further drive home why they believed the piece of evidence fell into each category.

Walking around the room, I was able to point out various sentences from the text to get the kids to really understand bias.  For example, in the London Gazette, the mention of several soldiers being hurt was front and center.  This wasn't the case in the Boston article.  Why is that?  What would the London article have to gain by putting that information first?  In the Boston article, the colonists were consistently mentioned as being young.  Why?  How does that change the perceptions of the person reading the article?

After about 20 minutes of reading, underlining, and discussing, I had the students glue the articles onto a piece of large paper.  They then created a Double Bubble (like a venn diagram) comparing and contrasting the two articles.  In the middle was to go information they both had in common.  On the sides the students put information that only appeared in that particular article.

What was interesting about this, is that they then circled that information using the colors from before.  They could see that the facts were pretty much evident in both, but the opinions and bias ran rampant in the differences side.  

They also were able to find facts that were missing in each article, and we had a discussion about why.  Does it benefit the Patriot's cause to make it seem like the colonists were at fault?   What would the English paper have to gain by making the Rebels seem like an innocent, peaceful group?

The students then tried their hardest to write their own non-biased account of what happened that night.  
This is one of my student's attempts at writing a non-biased account of the night.  It was not easy to do!

All in all, this lesson took about one hour to complete.  They did have previous knowledge looking at primary sources from the Boston Massacre (which I will write about soon) so that helped.  I found that it was very successful in teaching the standard at hand, as well as get the kids critically thinking about history.

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