Sunday, October 30, 2011

Linky Party for Veterans Day -- Patriotic Lesson Plans

I will admit to not being the most patriotic teacher in the nation.  In fact, I'm the kind of person who stands in respectful silence while the pledge is being recited, after coming to the realization that it didn't feel good to pledge allegiance to just one country.  I spend time working with my staff on activities that build conflict resolution skills, hoping that small steps will work towards having a more peaceful world.  

But the patriotic holiday that I embrace wholeheartedly is Veterans Day.  I have deep respect for and want to honor the men and women who have chosen to give their time and sometimes their lives for our country.  

I think that my school does a great job celebrating Veterans Day each year.  We put up stars in our halls celebrating the veterans in our lives as one massive "Wall of Honor," and I help one teacher put on an extended 30 minute television broadcast on our closed circuit television system.  You can hear a pin drop in the school when our program goes live. I know that it makes the students who's parents are in the armed forces feel very supported by the fact that we honor their family.

I've put a few free activities on my Teachers Pay Teachers store but I wanted to hear from other teachers about what they do to celebrate this day and other patriotic events.  Teaching about our country and how to be a good citizen in this nation IS very important but it is also important to find a way to do it that feels comfortable to the teacher.  I think that this a very difficult balance to create. 

So I'm creating my FIRST EVER LINKY PARTY to see what other people are doing in their classrooms to achieve this balance. Join me by putting a link to your citizenship or patriotic holiday lesson plan below!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Red Ribbon Week is October 22nd through 30th!

Red Ribbon Week is the oldest drug prevention campaign in the country and it honors DEA Officer Enrique "Kiki" Camerena, who died while doing his job.  For more information, you can check

My school is planning to celebrate this week with age appropriate activities for our 5th and 6th graders.  We are definitely going to be tying red ribbons on our chain link fence.   Here are two activities that I'm planning on doing with my character education teaching partner.  BOTH ARE FREE on Teachers Pay Teachers.

  • Circles of Support -- This lesson plan allows students to reflect upon the people who "have their back" in times of trouble. It's not very long but should have a strong impact. 
  • What is Peer Pressure? Notebook Slides -- This lesson plan is on SmartBoard Notebook and lets students identify the ways that peer pressure affects their lives and how they can work together with their classmates to reduce the peer pressure that they feel.  

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Google Earth Landforms

My fifth grade teachers have all hit the geography lesson that deals with learning the names and differences of landforms.  This can actually be somewhat challenging.  Can you tell the difference between a mesa, a plateau, and a butte? And did you know that there IS a difference between a marsh and a swamp? 

So for the last few weeks, we've been having some fun in the library with this learning target.  The challenge for me is that I get to try to help my teachers teach the content within their own teaching style.  One of my teachers is very into collaborative learning and is very good at it.  He runs screaming from any project that is too boilerplate.  Another one of my teachers is great at getting an amazing product from her kids that they can feel proud of.  

But they all were interested in using Google Earth to enhance their lesson. 

So I've created three different lessons that deal with landforms on Google Earth as well as some tech coaching on how to use it.  The lessons are available on my store at Teachers Pay Teachers.  I had fun creating original icons for each landform to go along with the landform's definition, some of which are above. 

My favorite part was attempting to help 5th graders through the multi-step process of sharing their own placemark on Google Earth.  I already know that kids do NOT read multi-step help manual sheets.  So I tried something creative. I chopped the steps up into separate cards and joined them together on a binder ring.  This way, the students could focus on one step at a time and not get lost in the full process. 

The collaborative lesson was really fun!  I started by giving each team of five a different placemark in the world.  I tried to make them fun places that they may not have seen before like Angel Falls in South America or Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa.  They then had to placemark all of the landforms they saw around that location.  They were excited enough about their findings to actually go through the six step process that they needed to go through in order to share their placemark.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Popular Clone by M.E. Castle

I just reviewed this for School Library Journal and liked it.  It has a "Diary of a Wimpy Kid/Alex Rider/Mysterious Benedict Society" vibe, if you can imagine that.  Our hero is Fisher Bas, son of Nobel prize winning scientists and no slouch when it comes to science experimentation of his own.  He would much rather hang around his house an conduct his own research accompanied by his sidekick, FP (a "flying pig" that his mom created on a dare).  He can also always count on the sage advice of his sentient toaster who happens to speak and dream in an English accent.  All of the appliances happen to be intelligent in the Bas household, by the way. But the toaster is very special.

So Fisher has decided to achieve this dream of not having to attend school where everything is ruled by thugs that he calls "The Viking" by using his mother's new growth hormone to grow his own clone.  This experiment succeeds but what he does not expect is that his clone will have a mind of his own and also has the skills to become wildly popular at school!  Can he rein in his own clone? And why is "Two" so socially successful when Fisher does not have the same skills?

While trying to manage his clone, he's also having to deal with the dangerous Dr. X, who has his own nefarious plans for Fisher's mother's growth hormone. 
This is a very fun book.  I wish that the cover were a little different.  I feel that it might keep more mature readers from picking it off the shelves.  I'll do some experimentation myself at school this week.  My hypothesis is that the cover will make it a tough sell even to its target demographic of intelligent boys from ages 9 to 13.  I think that the fact that it has a lethal popcorn gun might help sell it, however. 

I especially liked page 161 where 'Two" attempts to quote Napoleon: "Don't stomp a slug unless you want goo on your shoes." Fisher One protests that Napoleon never said that and "Two" says: "But Wikipedia!

 To see more about my "love/hate" relationship with Wikipedia and to download my FREE SIM GAME on how it is created, click here.

And at least one other blogger has reviewed it.  Click the icon below to find out out what Donna and her 5th grade son have to say about it.