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Johnny Appleseed for Big Kids

Johnny Appleseed Day in an upper elementary classroom.

My second grade son recently brought home a note from his teacher asking him to bring in an apple so they could make applesauce in honor of Johnny Appleseed Day on September 26.   So, me being the history lover that I am, decided to do a little bit of research on Johnny Appleseed and discovered that there was a lot there for my fifth graders to work with too.  So this week, I teamed up with my partner teacher, Susie the Panicked Teacher, to have a little fun and learn a little bit about Johnny Appleseed at the same time.

We began the day reading two paired texted about the man who came to be known as Johnny Appleseed.  The first was a legend that was filled with lots and lots of legendary notes about him.  My students picked up on the fictional facts immediately.  As one of them said, "No one on earth can possibly walk across a whole state in one day!  Especially not if he is planting apple seeds.  That takes time!"  When we were done reading the text, we created an anchor chart of the facts and fictions that were presented in the legend.  


Then the students read and annotated a non-fiction piece about Johnny Chapman, underlining any facts presented and boxing any legendary aspects.  This article, which can be found here, was a great way to follow up on the legend with some research-based information.

Annotating a nonfiction article about Johnny Appleseed to look for legend vs facts about the man.

Using Google Slides to create a shared presentation about facts and legends of Johnny AppleseedAfter the reading was done, the students broke into groups of four and created a collaborative slide project in Google Slides.  One slide was to depict all of the legendary aspects of Johnny Appleseed and the other was to have the facts.   If the students needed more information on their slides, they were to do a simple google search using key terms (coincidentally our computer lab lesson for the week....funny how that works out like that ;)  lol) to gather more info.

These slide presentations were then presented to the class as a whole, making all of their learning accessible in a more public forum.

STEM activity where kids create a device to put on their heads that will hold an appleThe second half of the day found ourselves knee deep in a STEM investigation (that is, admittedly NOT about Johnny Appleseed, but we used apples so that keeps it thematic.)  Using this resource from Kerry Tracy, the students engineered some sort of hat that could hold an apple successfully AND be transferred to another hat during the course of a relay race.  My students had SO much fun doing this engineering challenge.  They tested their ideas, helped each other to create a better hat, scrapped those hats that just weren't working, and tweaked ones that were.  It was very interesting to see who shined during this process and who struggled.  I learned a lot about my students GRIT and PERSEVERANCE (or even the lack there of for some....) during this challenge as well.

Once the allotted time was up (only 35 minutes!) the students headed outside for a relay race.  While they were racing against each other, the primary goal of this challenge was to see what worked well while engineering the hats and what ideas weren't as good.  After a very fun race, the kids came back into the room to debrief about the successes and failures, detailing just what did make a good hat and why.  
The STEM relay race to test the apple holding structures they built.

All in all, this was a great way to get some rigorous learning in while still celebrating a fun little holiday in class.  The kid had a day that they will never forget and learned a little bit about an American legend to boot!

Want to read a few more ideas about how to Johnny Appleseed up your upper grade classroom?  Head on over to Susie's blog where she shares a great graphic organizer she used with her students!


Using Padlet in my Classroom

This summer I was introduced to a new form of technology called Padlet.  Basically, it is a bulletin board that the students can post on to record their thoughts on any matter of subject.   They can add pictures or website links as well.  After using this myself, with a group of teachers, I knew that my fifth graders would LOVE to us the forum as well.


So once a week, for a total of 15 minutes, I have been doing what I call "Book Brag Padlet".

A great way to have the students respond to the reading strategies and books is using Padlet bulletin boards.

I give my students the Padlet link and access password, and they are faced with a blank bulletin board.  At the top, I have a reading response prompt.  So far, I have done three with my class.  The first was a regular "brag".  The students had to tell me about their book and convince me to read it.  The second one asked the students to discuss the setting of their book (since we are using the Setting in 5 Days lessons right now, it fit perfectly)  and the last was to tell me an "Aha Moment" in their story as well (since all of my kids, coincidentally, are reading fiction books....AND we are using the Notice and Note strategies)

What I love about this is that the kids are so invested in using the platform.  They are just pulled in.  They really like seeing each other typing at the same time and reading about each other's books.  They are learning about not just their own setting, but the setting in 33 other books.  I also love that I can instantly tell if someone is reading or not.  They are writing "on the spot" and that is very hard to do if you have nothing to write about because you aren't reading anything.

You can have the kids work in groups on Padlet.  They just get a different link to each different Padlet bulletin board.

I have also used Padlet as a sort of group brainstorm outlet.  When introducing my students to the idea of European exploration of the new world, I showed each group a painting that captures the moment when the Spanish met the Native Americans for the first time.  I wanted them to write down all of the things they saw going on in the painting....the emotion, the body language.....so I had them create a Padlet with only the members in their group.  Then, instead of just one person writing and everyone else sort of sitting back, each group member could be writing down their own ideas while still discussing with their group mates.  More people were actively involved than the traditional paper and pencil activity.

Assigning Padlets through Google Classroom is an easy way to get the kids connected to the document.To set up the group Padlets, I simply set up 6 individual Padlets through my account.  I then created 6 assignments, with the links to each individual Padlet, in Google Classroom.  I told each group their number, and that is the assignment they clicked on in Google Classroom.


All in all, I am so excited about this new form of technology I am using.  I know there are SO many more ways it can be used in class.  I have only hit the tip of the iceberg.

Have you used Padlet before?  How do you implement it with your students?

Currently Reading Book Cards

Great way to keep track of what the kids are reading in upper elementary school....Status of the Class
In my attempts to keep reading at the forefront of my classroom culture, and to keep the kids on track with what they are reading, I have started to implement "Currently Reading" Book Cards.


What are those?  I am glad you asked.

Reading cards to show what books the kids are actively reading
In my classroom library, I have a pocket chart with laminated cards for the students to write the title of the book they are currently reading.  They are simple, blank cards that have the student numbers on them.  Using a vis-a-vie marker, the students write the book (or books) that they are currently reading and display them on the pocket chart.

If they ever feel the need to talk to me about the book (by having a reading conference -- read more about that here), they can move their card to the "Let's talk about my book" section and I will immediately call a conference with the student (of course I will also talk about books in passing with the students but this is a bit more formal of a discussion....actual time set aside.)

Using the cards the students ask to conference with the teacher about the book they are currently reading.

Once the students have finished the book they are reading, they will erase the title from their card and fill in a book spine to add to our classroom "bookshelf" (which you can read about more in detail here.)  After they have chosen a new book to read, they will write that on their laminated card and the cycle continues.

What I am finding is also happening with this, besides just me knowing what the kids are reading, is that the other students in the class also can see what is being read.   They are using this as an opportunity to check out a new book they might have previously not looked at.  Since their classmate is reading it, it must be good, right?  Students are also seeing that the series' that they are reading are also being read by others.  It has sparked some nice conversation between my students about which books to read.

How do you keep track of the books students are currently reading during silent or at home reading time?

Quick Tip: End of the Day Routine




Nothing mindblowing today but I just wanted to share with you my end-of-the-day clean-up routine.  I know that sometimes this time of day can be completely chaotic, but I have tried my best to cut down on that and have us end with calm.  Here is what I do.

I start about 25 minutes before the dismissal bell rings.  I begin by announcing that I am "looking for people who are ready to go home."  This is students' cue to sit down, clear off their desk space, and look at me.  Then, we have our 60-second clean up (I wrote in detail about that here), our 15-second box clean and our 15-second furniture straighten.

This is an old picture.  Homework has changed a bit.
Then, I ask the kids to take out their planner and we go over the homework.  I have the assignment written on the board, and used to just have them copy it down, but I have found that if I *also* say it aloud, the kids have a higher rate of writing it in their planner and not missing any homework assignments.   So I orally go over the assignments.

End of the day routine

Next, while some students are still writing in their planners, I have the kids who have classroom jobs begin.  Now here is where it gets a *teeny* bit chaotic.  Librarians are straightening up the library, while custodians are sweeping the floors or wiping off the whiteboard.  Distributors and Table Captains are passing out homework, and President and VP are stamping the planners with the signature stamp.  Most are organizing their stuff to go home (putting names on new homework sheets, getting things in backpack, etc...)

When the kids finish getting ready and have a clear desk, they join me on the rug and wait for the majority of the class.  We then begin our read aloud.  We read the story until the bell rings.

What I LOVE about this is that there is a built-in incentive to get ready for the day quickly:  the read aloud.  My students can not wait to hear the story and they want as much time as possible to be able to listen.  So they clean up FAST!  And since we are reading, it is calm, cool, and collected in my room at the end of the day.

What is your end-of-the-day routine?  How do you combat the chaos? Looking for even more ideas for back to school time??  Some of my upper grade friends have some great ideas that I know you will just love!  Click on any of the links below to visit some amazing blogs :)

An InLinkz Link-up

And, just to make back to school a little easier for you, I am giving away a $25 gift card to TpT that you can use to buy all those great things that I know are on your wishlist right now :)  Just enter the rafflecopter below.  I will choose a winner Sunday night at 8pm EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Beginning with Growth Mindset

Using growth mindset in your upper elementary classroom.As more and more research comes out about the power of Growth Mindset and more and more people are leaning towards this line of thinking (heck, even my District is getting on board...they talked about it at a training I went to over the summer!), I figured that this would be as good a time as any to teach my students about their own brains and mindset.  So I began my first week of school with a few lessons that really set a great tone for my students.

This is a great hands-on lesson to set the stage for learning about growth mindset.
To begin, I wanted something tangible and hands-on for my students to experience.  So I searched online and found this lesson here.  In a nutshell, I folded some paper in a crazy figure (that didn't actually look all crazy...until I tried to make it...go to the blog for exact instructions) and told the students they needed to recreate it.  I had them get into groups of 7-8 students, put the figure in the middle and gave them each the exact same piece of paper I used.  There were only two rules:  They could not touch the folded paper and they could not have a second piece of paper.

Most of the students got right to it.  As they were working, I walked around with a clipboard and wrote down everything that I was hearing in the groups.  At the beginning, I heard things like:

This is easy.
Look, we just fold it this way and then that.
Let me get my scissors and we can all just cut it.
Hmmm....I wonder how she did that.
Can you just show me what you are doing?

Then, as time went on and recreating the folded paper wasn't as easy as they thought, the narrative started to change.  I started to hear:

Wait, what?
This isn't going to work.
I can't get this.  What did you do?
Seriously, she had to use tape.
How did she get that part?
Let's only do one paper at a time in case we make a mistake.

This was also the time when I started to see some kids just sit back and watch.  They stopped trying altogether and just let everyone else experiment.  I also noticed some kids taking charge completely and not letting others have opinions.

Then, towards the end, I heard:

This is impossible.
I give up.
I just can't do this.
What on earth did she do?
She used magic.

After about 10 minutes of working, I called them all together again (no one was able to fold it correctly), I showed the students what they said.  It was a bit eye-opening for them to see that some just quit so early on or that they declared the task impossible.  Clearly it wasn't, as I had just folded the paper.  They just wanted me to tell them the answer.  This then lead into a nice discussion about the basic principles of growth mindset.  That you have to keep going and trying.  That your brain was meant to learn.

Good way to get the students thinking about growth mindset, using a quiz!
So I passed out a quiz that I got from Angela Watson of the Cornerstone for Teachers.  (she has a whole Growth Mindset pack that is really useful)  They took the quiz, which asks questions about whether students think they can learn and grow or if they were just born that way.  Then, we watched a video that Angela links from the Khan Academy about the fact that our brains were born to learn.

We wrote down many ideas from the video, the biggest being that failure = growing.  That REALLY stuck with them.

I then asked the students to write down all of the words they could think of that pertained to their idea of what it means that "you were born to learn."  The more important words, in their opinion, were to be larger than the less important words.  Effectively, they were making a free form word cloud.

I then took their picture as if they were screwing in a lightbulb, glued it onto the word cloud they created, and using tissue paper, they formed a "lightbulb" above their hand.

All in all, this was a fabulous way to introduce the idea of growth mindset to my students.  This entire process took two days to complete, but it was well worth it.  The students continue to make connections to that first video from Khan Academy and refer to the idea of "failure = growing" still.  I am also finding that there is just a much more positive tone in class because of it.  I can't wait to continue on with future lessons.

Have you delved into growth mindset?  What are your experiences?

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