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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.


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.

Let's Play a Game

Math games in fifth gradeMy students have been knee deep in multi-step fraction word problems for the past few weeks and I wanted to give them a little break from all of the heavy thinking, so I decided to do a little "Game Rotation" session with them!  

What is this, you ask?  Well, let me tell you.

I went through my game stash at home and found some games I thought my kids would like AND that I could add a little educational twist to.  I will share those games below, and just what I did with each game too, but let me first run you through how I set the stations up.

On 7 different tables, I placed on game station.  I put the game out, placed any task cards there that were needed, and put any other materials that might be useful (like paper towels or wipes.)   I then dismissed the students one by one to sit at a table.  They could sit anywhere but only 4 students were allowed at any given table (only 28 of my students were participating, as the others were engaged in a separate activity.)  The students took their math notebooks and a pencil with them to the station.

I gave the groups 10 minutes to play whatever game was in front of them.  I had previously taken 15 minutes before recess to briefly explain each game.  They were super simple and familiar, so the kids were good with that short explanation.  I laid down some ground rules (i.e.: keep it fair, don't rush ahead, follow the rules, keep it semi clean, etc...) the kids were off.  

Here were the games we played.

**  Pie Face  **

I actually had 3 stations of this game, since at my house I had 3 game boxes (I know, that is excessive for one household....)  At each station, the game set up was there, a can of whipped cream, and a set of fraction task cards spanning all operations.  The students each chose a task card I created that purposefully only had answers from 1-6 (which were harder to create that I thought they would be!)  Once all 4 students had successfully solved the problem on their card, they took turns at the Pie Face wheel.  The students turned the levers as many times as their answer told them too.  If they were pied, I let them add more whipped cream so that the rest of the kids could have a turn.  Needless to say, they LOVED this station.  Since I had 3, I spaced them out so the kids would go through this station every other time we switched.

You can get the task cards I created here.  They are only fraction ones (the decimal one above snuck into the mix!) and span all 4 operations.  They also only have answers up to 10, so they are perfect to use for the games here!)

**  Mastermind  **

So, this technically isn't a math game, but it does involve lots of logical thinking and deducing.  If you haven't played this game before, one group of students create a pattern with 4 different colored beads.  The other group of students needs to figure out the pattern using colored beads and clues from the first group.  My kids were SUPER engaged with this one as it seems very easy but proves quite challenging once they actually play.

** Prodigy **

I set up a chromebook station and the students played Prodigy on their own log in.  They really enjoy this game, so it was quite relaxing for them to play.  They did have their math notebooks with them so they could work out the problems on there.

** Split Second **

This is a game I found in my cupboard that I knew would work PERFECTLY for this rotation.  I gave my kids a set of easy one step division problems (you could also use the fraction task cards from Pie Face to make things easier).  The entire group was to solve this one problem and then, when the individual student finished solving it, they let go of their paddle and it popped to the center.  The first kid with the right answer who was closest to the center won that round.

** Boggle **

Ok...this REALLY isn't a math game, but I had it at home and I needed another station, and the kids like it....so I used it.  :)  I set out the iPad so they could time each round for 2 minutes.  The kids shook up the Boggle board, set the timer, and started finding words.  You would be surprised how many kids had never played this game before!  But they really had a nice, challenging time finding words.

In total, the kids only spent about 60 minutes going through the rotations (so they didn't get to every single one) but they really had a fantastic time.  I loved that they were still engaged in math, but got to have a little fun while they were at it!

RACE to Respond (with tech too!)

Today, my lesson plan changed last minute (like, literally 10 minutes before the kids came in for the day) and it went pretty well, so I thought I would share what we did with you.

RACE in upper elementaryWe have been using the RACE strategy to respond to comprehension questions about our reading.  If you aren't familiar with the RACE strategy, here is a great post by Becky at Create.Teach.Share (she also has a wonderful freebie that I used to introduce this concept to my kids.)  I wanted the kids to practice the strategy, read the next chapter in our book, and use the computers this morning (since I had totally forgotten we had the cart, hence my lesson plan change.)  So, to do this, here is what we did.

I broke the kids up into groups.  Each group was to read the assigned chapter of the book in any way they wanted (silently, in pairs, as a group...it really was up to them) and discuss the chapter as they were reading.  I honestly was amazed that they actually did stop to discuss during the reading without any prompting from me!  But they did and it was awesome.

Answering text dependent questions on Padlet in 5th gradeThen, the students signed onto their Google Classroom feed where I had included a link to a Padlet that I set up for them.  Since GC now has an awesome new feature that allows you to assign things to groups of students instead of the entire class, I created 5 separate Padlets and 5 separate assignments on the feed.  When the kids opened their GC feed, only their assignment was there.  The kids went to the Padlet and used the RACE strategy on their own to answer one deep, text dependent question that I assigned them.  The beauty of Padlet is that all the kids can see each other's answers and adjust their own, while still working.  

Next, after all the students in the group felt like they answered the question well enough, pulling text evidence and restating the question in their own words, the students worked together to create ONE final answer to represent the group that really answered the question using the RACE strategy.  

I asked them to write those final answers on a chart paper, underlining each part of the RACE strategy in a specific color.  We then presented them to the class.

All in all, this lesson, while taking longer than I anticipated, was a good way to get buy in from all the kids and have them work collaboratively.  I think I did make my groups too large and would have cut them down to about 4 per group instead of the 6-8 that were actually in the groups (I only had 5 questions, so I needed 5 groups....I would double up on the questions next time to make the groups smaller.)  In addition to the group responses, I like how I have the Padlet so that I can go over each individual answer to see who understands the RACE strategy and who is still struggling.

What is one way you have the students show their understanding of the RACE strategy?

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