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Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Conundrum of Social Media and Teaching

The good and bad of social media has been debated relentlessly in the world of education. How can we use it as a teaching tool? Is grammar and penmanship being tossed out the window? Are kids too "wired"? Is the art of communication lost?

The good: Classroom websites and blogs are the norm. Students can navigate any wireless device faster (and sometimes more effectively) than we can. They have access to global classrooms and virtual field trips to places they would otherwise never see. Later this spring, they will even be required to take a high-stakes assessment completely online! I have an example, as I'm sure many of you do, of students using technology to communicate with one another with our book review blog.

The bad: Research has been done on whether or not the overuse of technology causes delays in language, shortened attention spans, and a society of immediate gratification.

But something that has come up recently in this wireless life is the ugly side of social media. A colleague of mine was recently bad-mouthed via an angry parent publicly on facebook. This parent disagreed with a comment her child received on a particular assignment, and instead of talking to the teacher, or even an administrator, she wrote a very slanderous post, describing in detail how horrible this teacher was for the comment. What's worse were the comments she received on her post. "Vicious" is too mild a term. These people were out for blood, not just from this particular teacher, but from teachers in general. in a small town, of course the post got around to the teacher in question. Knowing how difficult it is to have a torrent of negativity thrown at you, and knowing how much I love my own students and want nothing but the best for them, I can only imagine her heartbreak.

We teach our students about cyber bullying. It has been in the news. It has devastated so many lives. And it can happen to anyone, even teachers! These lessons have no effect when they see their parents, the most influential people in their young lives, participating in this disgusting behavior.

Teaching is already a profession ripe with controversy.  Whether we like it or not, we've always been a huge political puppet from all sides. A love of children and a strong desire to help them succeed is no longer enough. Now we are parents, parole officers, nutritionists, social workers, mediators, and so much more. But through all the change, for good or bad (or ugly), it all comes back to a passion for developing the human spirit. I wouldn't change my career choice for anything! It's not just a job, it is the essence of who I am. It is my mark on the world, small as that may be.

I know I have a few parents who follow my blog, so I'd like to tell you that I love your children, as I loved last year's class, and the year before. I will always strive to make them feel respected, successful, and safe within my classroom. I will respect your input as a parent. After all, who knows your child better than you? I have, and will continue to encourage you to be a partner in this educational journey. Thank you for sharing your beloved children with me!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Traits Vs. Feelings

I don't know about you, but my students have the hardest time differentiating between character traits and feelings. After scouring many (and more) blogs, Pinterest boards, TPT stores, and anywhere else I could think of, I left empty handed. Oh, I found plenty of great stuff, but none of it was exactly what I was looking for. So I combined a few great ideas I discovered with a little of my own to come up with a series of mini-lessons on character traits vs. feelings.

I started with an anchor chart...

I love anchor charts, and I am a believer that you have to make them with the students, otherwise they just become one more poster that is never really used. We started our lesson with the obvious--physical traits. After adding it to the chart, they shared the physical traits of a character in their literature circle books.

The bulk of the lesson, however, was spent on personality traits, a much more subtle and difficult concept. We listed traits, then antonyms to make our list even longer. I discovered that this was as much a vocabulary lesson as it was comprehension! They then had to go on a book hunt for characters with particular personality traits from any book they've already read or are currently reading.

Next, we listed feelings, and compared them to traits. It took quite a bit of discussion, but students came up with feelings as being temporary things based on situation, and traits being more permanent...who a character is as a person...while they may change gradually over time.

Finally, (my favorite part), prove it! If you claim a character to be brave, you need to cite evidence to prove your claim. Insert...opinion and persuasive writing!

Today we followed up with a character comparison Venn diagram as a literature circle response activity. We will be working on written responses (citing evidence of traits), and make character trading cards (similar to baseball cards).

I have a freebie of the primary version of these character trading cards at my TPT store:

Intermediate versions are all part of a literature unit. Here is one for a book one of my literature circles is reading right now:

The Mouse and the Motorcycle Literature Unit

Saturday, January 17, 2015

You Oughta Know About...Science Buddies

I'm linking up with Jasmine McClain once again for the monthly "You Oughta Know" blog hop.
 Our school science fair is coming up in just a few short weeks (Eek!) and since this is the first year I am officially a science teacher, I am so excited! My science students...not so much. So to make this rather daunting assignment a little more fun, we went exploring! For anyone preparing for the science fair, I highly recommend starting at

Go to the topic selection wizard and enter your assignment details (time allotted, grade level, and topic).

Take an interest survey. This was my 5th graders' favorite part! You answer questions about what part of the world you're curious about...everything from planting a garden to satellites. Let's just say our computer lab was a very chatty place this week!

After that, the program gives you an individualized list of project ideas. There are hundreds of projects from early childhood up through high school. Each one is leveled in 2 different ways so you're sure to find one that is accessible for any student. Many of the projects come with pages of background information and links for further research.

Once you're finished with your project you can go back online and share your experience.

I was thrilled to find this online gem...hope you enjoy it as well!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Freebie Friday Linkup

Happy New Year!
I love coming back to school after the holidays...the kids are excited to see each other (and all of their teachers), I feel refreshed and ready to start again, and I always have some new and great ideas to use for the new year.
This year, I wrote 2 literature units for my reading groups to start with as soon as we get back on Monday: Sideways Stories from Wayside School  and The Mouse and the Motorcycle. We're focusing on the fantasy genre and personification. Both are terrific and unique examples of the two skills. Right now, both units are on sale at my TPT store. Happy reading!

The Mouse and the Motorcycle Literature Unit                         Sideways Stories from Wayside School Literature Unit

I'm also joining "Learning and Teaching with Preschoolers" for her Freebie Friday Linkup. Click on the picture link below for some great freebies from Teachers Pay Teachers.