5th Grade -- Writing Conferences

One of my favorite things to do during the day is talk to my students. Whether it be during small group, in the mornings when they want to tell me what they did the night before, or out on the playground. My kids are so entertaining and teach me so much!

I also LOVE to teach writing. We've been writing since the first day of school! Some of my students could write all day long, others can't write more than two sentences without giving up. I knew I wanted to meet ALL of their needs within writing, so I decided to block off a day and sign them up for writing conferences with me.

We had just completed an expository essay that required a lot of research, drafts, and editing, so we were ALL busted. So, I figured this would be the best time to pull students to talk about their writing. 

As I began talking to my students I was amazing with how much I was learning. Each students' needs were different (DUH, MRS. MOORE) and each student told me how I could help them!

It doesn't get much easier than that!  

This is how my conferences were set up:

1. First we organized their writing portfolios. We checked to make sure their earliest writing was in the front and their most recent writing was in the back. I also explained how we want to be able to see the entire writing process throughout our portfolio, so we need to put our brainstorming sheets, whatever that may be, in the front, followed by drafts, and so on and so forth until we reach the published piece. 

2. Second, we looked at all their published pieces and my students were able to reflect and tell me what part of the writing process they struggled with most. 

3. After identifying their weakness, we talked about ways I could help them when our next big writing assignment started. (This is where I love 5th grade!) 

4. Finally, we made a plan of action as to what  I was going to do -- whether it be give them a transitional phrases sheet, allow for more peer editing sessions, or just allow more writing time. After we made our plan I had them sign and date it
-- from which I got funny looks! Our kids think it's so strange when we allow them to be equal partners in their learning! What a shame!

I learned SO much from these conferences. We are preparing to start Westward Expansion narratives and I just broke out all of our writing conferences to see what my kids asked for! I can't wait to see the progress! 

Here's a peak at one of my favorites! (I use the writing conference form from The Daily 5)

We were trying to think of ways to help him add more details to his writing and I said, "Does our feedback & critique sessions not help?" He said, "Yeah, I get lots of ideas, but I don't have any time to write them all down, and then I forget!" HAHA! I love when my kiddos straighten me out! 

I am CONSTANTLY making lists and writing things down so I can remember everything. Why would I not allow time for my kiddos to get to do the same?! So, our plan of action was for myself to write down all the great ideas and feedback given to the student who is in the share seat so they can focus on listening to their peers and I can have them a list to take back to their seat when work time starts back up! 

Like I said, I LOVE talking to my kiddos, they teach me something new everyday! 

What do you do in writing conferences? I'd love to hear your ideas!


5th Grade Fun

Well, the wedding has happened and now I am officially a MOORE! 

Now that things are finally settling in to a routine, I've found time to blog! 

At the beginning of every school year I have this idea that I'm going to be a super blogger teacher who posts weekly plans and creates all these awesome things to share ... and then life happens. 

However, we have been doing some pretty fun stuff in 5th grade that I would love to share and I've even managed to snap a few internet-legal pictures of my kiddos doing these things! 

I hope you enjoy and maybe even use these ideas in your classroom! If you do, please leave a comment and let me know how they went!

Yes, I was the crazy first year teacher who decided to start a student-ran newspaper with a class of 5th graders. However, this was one of the best things I have -- or probably will ever -- do with a group of kiddos! Maybe my insanity paid off in some way! 

In high school I was OBSESSED with journalism... either that, or I was obsessed with my journalism teacher. She made me love writing. I spent my first year and a half in college taking journalism classes, so when I got this 5th grade position I knew I wanted to try to start a paper! 

Journalism has SO many benefits at the elementary level! 

I'm able to integrate grammar, writing, speaking and listening, economics, and technology throughout this endeavor. Yes, it's a little extra work, but it's SO meaningful! Students are producing excellent work that is a benefit to their school/community. 

Here's a little overview of how I've set this up and produced it. 
  • Applying for jobs. -  The first week of school our spelling words/vocabulary words were all about journalism and the jobs that need to be filled in order to have a complete newspaper staff. The students had to take their job applications home (21st Century Learning) and fill them out as if they were applying for a real job. They had to tell me why they were qualified for that position. It's important to explain to students that to whom much is given much is expected. I.e. if you apply for the Editor-in-Chief yes, you will get a lot of praise, but you'll also have a lot more responsibility/work. 
  • Choose beats. This is a one time thing. The beat they choose at the beginning of the school year they will keep the entire school year.
  • Staff meeting. - I was very involved in our first staff meeting. It's important to model to students what a respectful staff meeting looks like, however, the goal is to get them to perform the meeting independently with the Editor-in-Chief and Assistant Editor leading the way. We just had our second staff meeting and I was only a small presence this time! During a staff meeting the class reads any news they received from their beats. "Newsworthy" ideas get put on the board as a story idea. If after the beats are read there aren't enough story ideas the staff then, collectively, brain storms ideas. Once enough stories are generated, the students get to pick what story they want! 
  •  Interviews. - Kids LOVE this! I downloaded a recorder app on a few iPads at our school and when it comes time to do interviews my kids loves snatching up an iPad and going to a student/teacher and interviewing them! Such an awesome, real-world, experience for them! 
  • News writing. - Here's where the writing comes in! Students have a hard time writing objectively! This is something we are still working on. My kids love to tell a good story instead of letting the quotes tell the story themselves. They love FLUFF! To respect keeping this a student-ran newspaper I am allowing a little biased writing to take place, but we will slowly, but surely, work on that! 
  • Pictures - Needless to say, there's always a battle over who is going to take the pictures. I was able to get a nice camera for our class through Donors Choose. The way I handle this is the Photo Editor OR the photographers are the ones who take pictures. If a student finishes his or her article in enough time, they can go take the picture for it. 
  • Design/Production - At this time my students are only doing the typesetting/headlines/captions for the newspaper. You know your kids. My kids are not comfortable enough with a computer for design yet. As soon as we master the writing portion I'm going to introduce InDesign and start letting students play around with layout, but again, they are only 10! 
  • Sales - We sell our newspaper for 50 cents to the school. My students are in charge of the selling and the accounting part of the paper. They work in pairs and distribute to their area only. They take money and give change. Everyone brings their money back and we all count the money and they fill out the deposit slip that goes to our secretary. All money earned goes towards our 5th grade trip. 
The most rewarding part of this student-led newspaper so far has been seeing their faces the first time they saw their printed out newspaper. They were SO proud and they had worked HARD for this! I love teaching the cycle of earning money... nothing in life is free. So few children realize that these days... but that's for another post! :)  

The finished project. 
 Working on our marketing skills.

The Great Debate!

This was a super successful project we did following a week of point of view fun! My students became interested in a Scholastic News article asking whether or not students should be allowed to play football because of injuries, so I decided to make it in to a fun-filled week of debate! (real world application) We researched several articles from each point of view, watched videos that displayed football in a positive light and a negative light, and chatted with lawyers on how to prepare our debate -- all of which students had to document in their debate journals. Students were able to develop their opinion and pick a side. By Friday, we had a live audience of students, parents, teachers, and staff and did these kiddos ever perform!!! The collaboration among these kids blew me away! 

 Deep in collaboration. 

Thinking of their closing statement!

Fractions: QR Codes & Differentiated Instruction
The past few weeks we've been focusing on fractions. I found this great pack of task cards on TPT that have QR codes on them! I downloaded a QR code reader on a couple iPads and showed my students how to work them. I've never seen my kids so engaged and DETERMINED to solve a math problem. The best part about them seeing the correct answer is that if they are wrong it makes them think critically about how they got that answer! This has been a great addition to our math rotations!
I am always thinking of ways to differentiate for my advanced students. When we were working with multiplying mixed numbers I saw on a worksheet online that they had a performance task in which students had to figure out the area of a room so they knew how much carpet to buy. I decided to take it off the worksheet and on to the floor. My kids had a fun flopping around on the floor trying to figure out all the answers.

 Westward Expansion Relay
Last week was a doozey! It was spirit week/trick-or-treat. Enough said. I started my Westward Expansion expedition last week, so I decided to do a culminating activity for my kiddos on Friday that would be fun, but a good refresher. 

I split my kiddos in to groups of three. Within their groups they had to determine who was going to be the 
1. Pioneer - blindfolded person who must go to and from each point (A, B, C, D) and bring the points back home.
2. Surveyor - person who had to count the steps from each point and then add them up for a final step count.
3. Navigator - person who had to verbally guide the pioneer safely to each point on their expedition.

These were 3 spelling/vocabulary words this week.

Their goal was to get to each of their points (which I had set up around the cafeteria) and bring them back home... similar to what Lewis & Clark did for the United States. When they got back to me at the end they were to get with their team and create a map that showed their route they took (also similar to what Lewis & Clark had to do) and a skill that we have previously learned about this year. 

After the relay was finished we were able to discuss the challenges my kiddos faced during their expedition and what challenges they thought Lewis & Clark as well as other pioneers might have faced during their expeditions. 

Love that teamwork!

It was a fun, meaningful activity at the end of a wild week! 

If you took the time to read all of this, God bless you! I hope that you want to use something, or that it sparked an idea of your own! Feel free to leave a comment and let me know your ideas or ways to make my ideas better!