Monday, January 27, 2014

WWI and 1920s PowerPoint Biography Project

My class has been really working hard on learning about World War I and the 1920s since we came back from winter break.  I love trying to bring our Social Studies curriculum into our other content areas such as Reading and Writing so that my students aren't just memorizing facts for our state test.  I am also trying to integrate technology into our classroom as much as possible, so I came up with a fun project to create with my small group of students using PowerPoint.
First, I placed my students into groups of 2 (and one of 3) so that they would have a partner to work on the project with.  Next, I created a list of all of the important people in our Social Studies standards that my kids need to know and had them each choose their top 3 choices.

Here is the list:  Langston Hughes, Babe Ruth, Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Duke Ellington, Margaret Mitchell, and Jesse Owens.

From there I assigned each group a person and gave them a packet to help guide them through the project that they are going to create.

Their first step to the project was to research their important person and find out as much information as possible.  If your class is anything like mine always are, you can't just send them off into the mysterious world of the internet where they are going to hop on Wikipedia and look around for a lot of information that may be interesting, but isn't necessarily important.  I always try to give my students some sort of outline or organizer so that they know what types of information they are looking for.  I also make it very clear that Wikipedia is not allowed as a research tool.
Once my students fill out their organizers, I check to make sure they are really getting the most important information; when they have it, I let them begin their PowerPoint presentation.  I have also given them an outline as a guide for creating the slides for their PowerPoint.  They do not need to follow the slides exactly, but it's helpful for them to have an idea of what can be included.  It's also important to provide them with a grading rubric so that they know exactly how they will be graded BEFORE they finish.

An important point to stress to your kiddos - slides on a PowerPoint should not have full, long sentences or giant paragraphs.  A PowerPoint is meant to be bulleted and have short clips of information for the audience to glance at quickly.  An audience should never spend a lot of time reading a slide.  The "meat" of the presentation comes from what the presenter says.  As they make their slides, they must create notecards to go into further detail about the information on each slide.

Another component that I want my students to incorporate is multimedia.  In their slides, they can include pictures, and even video clips, of their famous person.  This is pretty easy once they get the hang of it.  They can either copy pictures or save them to a computer and insert them into the PowerPoint.

Below is an example of a PowerPoint that one of my groups is creating.  They are still working on it and have been inputting information as well as photos.  They've learned how to quickly "copy" and "paste" the images and have even begun to find some unique slide designs.
Once the PowerPoints are finished, they will present them to the rest of the group.  This allows each person to get to know one of the famous people in-depth, but also have the opportunity to learn about the other famous people from this time period from their classmates.  I can't wait to see their finished products!

I'd love to hear comments on how this project worked with you students if you decide to try it!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Making an Alphabook

When I first joined my 5th grade team a few years ago, one of my co-workers showed us a fantastic project idea that she would have her students create in Social Studies.  It's called an alphabook.  These can also be referred to as alphaboxes.  The goal of the project is for students to recall and summarize important people, events, etc. that happened in a specific time period.  Creating the alphabook is very easy.

First you need to get very large paper.  I learned the hard way that thinner paper actually works better because there is a lot of folding involved.  If the paper is too thick, it's difficult for the students to fold and make the creases neat.  You need to have 32 boxes.  I have my students turn the paper so that it is horizontal, then fold it over so it looks like a book.  I keep having them do this until they have 32 spaces.
Next, I encourage my students to use a ruler and create outlines of the boxes in Sharpie.  I know what you're thinking...there are 32 boxes, but only 26 letters of the alphabet!  Don't worry.  There is a reason for this.  The first two boxes are used as a title and the last two boxes are used for the student's name.  The two boxes before their name are used for a problem and solution.  In the problem box, students identify a problem that occurred in this time period and the solution box contains the solution to that problem.  (See photo)
With my current class, I am having my students create their alphabook around the time periods of World War I and the 1920s.  For each letter, they must brainstorm a person, event, etc. from this time period that begins with that letter.  For more difficult letters, they can just use a word that contains that letter and make the letter stand out.  They also include a short sentence explaining their word as well as a simple illustration.  To help them organize their ideas, I made a brainstorming page with each letter of the alphabet so that they could record ideas as we read through our unit.  Some examples of what they wrote down were Lusitania for "L", Woodrow Wilson for "W", U-boats for "U", trench warfare for "T" and so on.  

Here are two examples of a final product from students in previous classes.  These students' alphabooks were created for The Turn of the Century.  
This is a great idea to use for a summative assessment for any of your units to see how much your students have learned.  Have you ever used alphaboxes in your class?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Math Unit Binder Covers for 5th Grade

Today we had, what I would call, a "temperature day".  That means that school was canceled to do extremely low temperatures for Georgia.  Being from the north, I had never heard of such a thing since we often wouldn't have school canceled unless there was a significant amount of snow or ice.  As long as the roads were plowed and salted, we were going to school.

As I prepare to head back to school, I am working on planning for the beginning of our fractions unit.  In Georgia, we are provided with a curriculum map, which details seven math units with each Common Core Standard divided up among them.  This helps us to plan out which standards we will teach, and when.  In addition, we are given frameworks (a packet of activities along with detailed lesson plans) to accompany the unit.  I often use the frameworks for either introductory activities or projects throughout each unit.

I wanted to share with you how I organize the 5th grade frameworks.  At the beginning of the school year, I bought seven small binders (one for each unit) and created a cover page to insert in the front so that they were clearly visible.
As we approach each unit, I print the frameworks from our district's website and put them into their respective binder.  I keep all the binders labeled and in order on a shelf behind my desk, which makes it very easy to share with my team.  They come in my room, grab the binder, make their copies, and bring it back.  It's become a pretty good system.

As you can see, today I've been keeping warm with some yummy hot chocolate while I work on my plans.  If you'd like to have these to help organize your units, you can get them HERE for free.  In the your organized binders, you can also include other activities, lesson plans, and assessments, including my 5th Grade Math Test Bundle.
Enjoy these and I hope you all stay warm in all of the other parts of the country that are affected by the polar vortex!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Using Microsoft Surfaces in the Classroom

In November I received a very generous donation for my classroom from a friend of mine who works at Microsoft....3 MICROSOFT SURFACES!
Up to that point, I had 6 desktop classroom computers and 2 iPads that we were using, so this just completely upped our technology to a whole new level, allowing essentially a 1:2 ratio of computers to students.  Now the difficult part - what is a Surface, and how do I use it effectively in my classroom so that I make the most of these amazing new devices?

The first thing that I did was have our school's technology rep come in to try and help me get them set up so that they were all connected with our network.  Then we established usernames/passwords and accounts so that my students could save files and access them from anywhere.

What are the advantages to having a Surface?

  • The greatest advantage I have found with using a Surface is having Microsoft products on them.  Each surface comes with all MS Office programs - Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote, etc.  As a 5th grade teacher, I want my students to start learning proper note-taking and become more familiar with word-processing as they approach middle school.  (See how my students use Microsoft in the classroom below).  


  • The Surface also has an app store that allows you to download a plethora of free educational apps from Kahn Academy to Brain Pop.  Check out the top education apps for Windows 8.
  • Dual capabilities - the Surfaces came with an attachable keyboard, which allows the device to be either a tablet (without the keyboard) or a PC, where students can actually type.  The back of the device has a stand that folds out so that it basically becomes a computer.  You can switch the screen mode to turn it into a desktop just like a regular PC.
  • A USB port!  This has allowed my students to either work on something in Microsoft at home and then bring it in on a jump drive or vice versa.  This also allowed us to connect the Surface to our classroom printer so that students can print the work they create.
  • SkyDrive!!!  This may be one of my favorite features!  SkyDrive is similar to Google Docs or iCloud, where you can save all of your files into thin air and access them from any device.  I set up a class SkyDrive account and added it to all of the surfaces so that my students could save their work on one Surface and access it on another.  It also allows me to be able to see their work - this can be used for students to digitally turn in notes or assignments.
How My Students Use Microsoft in the Classroom

1.  Note-taking - Each day I pull tickets (that students earn for good behavior or for 100% weekly homework) for students to use the Surfaces during a class in which we are taking notes.  Those students use Microsoft OneNote to type their notes using its easy note-taking layout.  
Students can actually choose different layouts depending on the type of notes they are taking.  Check out this OneNote demo for more information.  

Each student can open their individual folder to access any notes they have taken in the past on any device that has our class account on it.  These files are all stored in our class SkyDrive (see #5 below).  

2.  Internet Access - The Surface can be used for students to look up information, do research for a project, and access general websites within the classroom.
3.  Apps - My students can access BrainPop, Kindle (for reading books they may have on their Kindles at home), a dictionary and thesaurus, National Geographic, and more.

4.  Projects - I have had my students use the Surface to write scripts for ELA in Microsoft Word, create charts and graphs for a math project in Excel, and develop presentations in PowerPoint.
5.  Saving Files - In SkyDrive, I created a folder for each student in my class.  When they create a document, they "share" it to their file folder and it is then accessible to any device that is connected to our SkyDrive account.  This allows them to access their notes from home or from other computers within our classroom.

What if I Already Have iPads in My Classroom or My Students Want to Bring in Their Own iPads?

Fantastic!  Another amazing thing that I learned is that Apple has an app for OneNote as well as SkyDrive.  

Once I had a SkyDrive account for my class, I allowed my students to bring in their personal iPads, creating an even greater ratio of computers to students in my classroom and an opportunity for all students to have computer access in the classroom on a daily basis.  We downloaded OneNote and SkyDrive to their personal devices and I logged them into our class account so that their files would save to their own folders.  If students have Microsoft Office at home, this allows them to add information to their notes from home or study their notes at home that they took in class.


As we move further into this age of technology, I feel that computer use in the classroom is becoming more prevalent and important.  It's vital that with these technological opportunities, we find meaningful ways to use them in our teaching.  If you're fortunate to have access to devices such as Microsoft Surfaces or Apple iPads, look into how other teaches use them for classroom instruction and spend time exploring everything that they can be used for.  

I hope this information was helpful.  I'd love to hear how you all use these and other devices in your classroom and if/how the information above has/will help you.  Please feel free to leave comments below!