Thursday, October 20, 2011

Weekly Favs: Vocabulit, a Mural, and Coffee

1. I love this mural that one of my student's made for me based off of our History Alive curriculum. He has some real artistic talent, and I wanted to put it to use this year! It was perfect for teaching about Early English settlements in North America! (Sorry for the iphone pic.)

2. I heard from a few older grade bloggers that "Blood on the River" was a great book for 5th grade, and they were right! We are loving the story, and it is full of history...

3. VOCABULIT! Oh wow! Have you used this before? Okay, so I do not use very many printables, worksheets, workbooks etc. But, these are the best workbooks I have ever seen. Each lesson takes a page from a real, authentic piece of literature and then pulls 10 vocabulary words from that excerpt. There are seven excellent activities for each set of words. Word puzzles, parts of speech, sorting, synonyms, context clues, hink pinks, and more. The words are heavily reinforced, which is GREAT for our ELLs. They don't learn word meanings from just 1 or 2 activities. These are new to me this year and I just love 'em! (And the best part is that the kids love them, too!)

4. Keurig Pumpkin Spice K-Cups that we have a Keurig to share at school!

Happy Friday Eve!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


For my own documentation, I want to take a moment to reflect on some of my experiences in the first seven weeks of school.

Fact 1: The first week two weeks of school I cried multiple times because I missed my sweet second grade class.

Opinion 1: Sometimes, I still feel like I'm a primary teacher stuck in a 5th grade classroom.

Fact 2: By the 4th week of school, I cried because I was overcome with emotion about how honored I am to be these kid's 5th grade teacher. I believe God put me here for a reason, and in my heart, that is a fact.

Opinion 2: 5th graders are big second graders. Their hearts are still sensitive, and they still want affirmation from their teacher. I love em.

With all honesty, I can say that I absolutely LOVE these kids. I am happier to be a 5th grade teacher than I ever thought I would be. While I miss teaching the little ones, I don't have time to look back. I owe it to my 50 precious students to keep looking forward and give it my full heart.

So, a couple weeks ago, I had a special moment that I want to lock in my memory:

Sometimes as teachers, things go on in our personal lives, and it is HARD to leave your feelings aside to teach the kids. But, you do it. You put that face on, forget yourself, and teach. A few weeks ago, I was there. I was a a wreck, and my kids had no clue. I'm not even sure if my aide knew. But one of my sweet little students knew I was feeling low. She is a very empathetic young lady, and I was her 3rd grade teacher, so we have an established relationship.

She was staying for our campus after-school program, and frequently they allow us to pull kids if we need help in our rooms. So, I see this little angel in the hall after school. She approached me and gently said, "Mrs. Orr, you need help today, don't you?" I told her she could come. She gave me this look that said "I know."

Without a word, she came in my room and started doing everything. She straightened every desk, filed every paper, organized book baskets, straightened up, sharpened pencils, etc. Everything. Exactly how I like it. Without me having to tell her. She knows how much I love a clean, organized room.

In that moment she knew I needed her help. Words cannot express the comfort I felt from her presence. We didn't even say too much to each other, and we didn't have to. She was supporting me and loving me at a time when I needed it.

And that, is one of about 56,000 reasons why I love fifth grade.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Favorite Teacher Shoes Linky Party

Originally, I wasn't going to make this a Linky Party, but since it has been requested, I think it is a fantastic idea! Plus, I would LOVE to see all of your shoes! :)

What does this have to do with teaching?

Comfortable Shoes = Happy Teacher = Better Mood, Better Instruction, More Patience!

Welcome to my closet!!! For the past few years, I have been on a quest to find shoes that are comfortable all day, but still look like I'm in my 20s...And after many trials, I have had some luck! So here they are--my seven go-to pairs...

So from left to right...

Pair 1 . Wedges from Target, really any wedges. I can't usually do heels all day, but wedges...I can do wedges!!!

Pair 2. Flats from Ann Taylor Loft---Had to wear bandaids on my feet for a week, and after that it has been smooth sailing :)

Pair 3. Tory Burch Revas...Now I've read some reviews about how these aren't comfortable enough, but I haven't had problems! Look at all the great colors they come in!!

Pair 4. Classic Sperry's... I wear them mostly on days we get to wear school shirts.

Pair 5. Naturalizers...This picture is not exactly the shoes I have, but mine are similar. These shoes didn't leave blisters even on the first day. Every pair of naturalizers I've had have been SO AMAZING! Now, some of the styles aren't me, but they've got some great stuff!

Pair 6. White Patent Leather Sperry's. I.LOVE.THESE.SHOES. I bought them four years ago, and they probably aren't even in style anymore, but I love em. They look great with a shirt dress and are always comfortable.

Pair 7. Nine West Heels...IF, and that's a big if...IF I decide to wear heals to work they have to be Nine West. For my feet, these heels just work.

Runner's Up-Clarks and occasionally I pull out the Cowboy Boots...Your turn...What are your favorites?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Teaching Themes

I am not sure if any Texas teachers are reading this! If so, did you see that TEA finally released samples of the new STAAR test?! I was very anxious to finally see it. It is different and rigorous, but it will definitely keep me on my toes! Bring it on.

In the past, "theme" and "tone" have not been concepts that they are questioned on. I had heard that now, they will be tested, so I had already planned them into some units. (I'm sort of excited, because these are fun concepts to teach!)Sure enough, this topic was on the sample STAAR.

So, I mixed theme in with my Native American Unit. We took the book chart I posted about on Tuesday, and connected it with themes. Literally, with string...

Sorry for the iphone pics, but you get the idea..."themes are ideas threaded through literature" is what is says on the far right...

Our discussions about the themes that run through different books have been great. We have a ways to go with this topic, but it's a start!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Legend of the Bluebonnet

The Legend of the Bluebonnet is such a great story of courage and sacrifice.

When I was planning this lesson, I was thinking of what vocabulary would be difficult for my English Learners. One of the foundations of the story is that the little girl has to sacrifice her most "valued possession" to save her people from a terrible drought. As I thought, many of my kids did not know the word "possession." So I showed them many of my own and we listed them--simple enough!

Then, we had a discussion about the word "value" and the term "valued possession." So, I told them the story about my engagement ring and how it belonged to my husband's grandmother. I bring in pictures and tell about her sweet personality. Then, the students discuss their personal "valued possessions" and the reason they have meaning. It may seem like a lot of effort for one term, but it really drives home the point when the little girl sacrifices her most valued possession.

After we read the story, it was a perfect opportunity to revisit our text connections. We quickly made the connection about valued possessions, but we also worked on making connections to the theme of sacrifice. Overall, I feel like this book gives a great opportunity for some deep discussions!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Favorite Native American Legends!

A Native American Unit is perfect for teaching about legends and folktales! These stories carry many of the same elements, so before I read any of them, I like to show my students this Smartboard Program...

Here are the books and the chart I use...Not my prettiest graphic organizer, but makes the point...

Elements of a Native American Legend...Nature/Setting means how is nature incorporated into the setting..

(I mention to my kids that "The Rough-Face Girl" is more of a folktale/fairytale, but it can still fit the pattern. Such a fantastic story!)

Some of my favorite Read-Alouds of the entire year!!

These are all beautiful stories, and they reinforce many concepts I try to cover about Native Americans.

Tomorrow, I will go into more detail about my lesson for The Legend of the Bluebonnet!

Monday, October 3, 2011

I ♥ Native Americans

Native Americans are one of my FAVORITE topics to teach about. When I was student teaching, I worked with a fantastic Kindergarten teacher. We did a Native American Unit that was a total blast! When I got our "History Alive" 5th grade curriculum, I was thrilled to see the focus on Native Americans. I used information from there, but added my own things to the topic.

Here are topics/vocabulary words I try to push:

survival, adaptations, culture, artifacts, shelter regions of the United States, analogies, Native American Legends, natural resources, harsh environments, nomadic, the impact of technology coming into the world, cause and effects: How the land effects the people, comparing and contrasting their lifestyles, Seriously I could go on...You can cover so much and do tons of critical thinking with this topic, and the kids eat it up because it is fascinating!

On Discovery Education (United Streaming Video) there are some wonderful videos for several Native American cultural regions. Just type in "Native Americans, People of the Desert" (and then people of the forest, plains, etc) I am working with my students on taking notes and organizing information, so we use these Cornell Notes as we watch the clips.

Cornell Notes Native Americans

We also added the information to a giant graphic organizer a little at a time. The labeling might seem a bit primary, but my ELLs still need the support.

For tomorrow, my favorite Native American Legends!