Saturday, March 23, 2013

Infinity Ring Series...New Guilty Pleasure

I have found a new distraction from grading...the Infinity Ring Series. One of my students got me hooked on them when he realized that after reading book 2, we were learning a lot of the history they were covering in the books: medieval times, War of 1812, Revolutionary War, and the Underground Railroad. The series is very familiar to the 39 Clues books. It is a group kids that have to travel back in time to fix the "breaks" in history...basically history gone wrong. The breaks are history examples where something happens the opposite of what we know happened. For example, instead of Christopher Columbus discovering America, he is ambushed and some other sailors "discover" America.

They are extremely fast reads, being that they are young adult. What is fun about them, there is a computer game that bridges the gap in between books. I am learning a lot about history through the books, so I can only imagine kids reading them and the fact that they get to be a part of the adventure.

So for anybody looking for a fast fun easy read this spring break...I recommend this series!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Which Class Would You Be? Teaching Feudalism to Fourth Graders

These new standards have me going loopy!

My school is trying out some new units to practice using the new Common Core. I really like them so far, but it certainly has been a challenge to take complex texts and subjects and teach them to fourth graders that I feel have had the bar set way too low for them. They have struggled, but the topics we are tying it in with have kept them trying since their interest is up.

The unit we are going over now is a "Heroes Unit" - can you define a hero in words. We have looked at different kinds of heroes in stories and in non fiction, and collected traits that we see heroes having. One of the texts that we tackled was the poem of Robin Hood and Little John. It was in fancy old English and took more than a week to go through, but was a lot of fun. What really helped was going over the Middle Ages society at that time and it helped with the lingo and lifestyles mentioned in the poem. This meant I had to explain feudalism to fourth graders...a topic I didn't learn until Jr. High.

I did the age old M&M's activity to show the power each class had (the king, nobles, knights, peasants), and I also had them read a general article on how feudalism worked. What really made it click for them was the following reading/writing activity.

I found a simple reading on each of the classes and made copies proportionate to how many there possibly would be in each social class (just a few nobles, a few more knights, and a lot of peasants)

I randomly passed out the articles to the students...boy were they excited to see which class they were given...they were all begging to be knights, but quickly realized there was a lot to learn no matter what.

Their assignment was to read the article and then become that person and write an introduction, introducing themselves and teaching us a few things about their lives as a noble, knight or peasant. I showed them a model by being completing one as a king.

Students took about two days to complete the assignment.

I then posted some of the completed ones in the room (had to be neat), and put them in the feudal pyramid shape. Students loved reading each of their introductions and now have used the facts they learned in their reading and have connected the characters actions to their social class.

We moved on to discovering the real purposes of castles. Students were surprised to learn that they were not built just to be a crazy big house. I then had them complete a RAFT assignment...more on that later.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Author Visit...and Balancing New Life Priorities

Life has certainly changed since the last post. I have this little girl keeping me busy:
She turns 7 months tomorrow...boy has time flown by....and it is amazing how quickly life can change when your focus is not just on yourself.

I was always the teacher that was first in and last to leave. Now, I am first there, first to leave. Thanks to a fabulous friend and now baby sitter, we can bring in L at an early hour. I am a morning person and get a lot done in the morning, and it allows me to leave as soon as the kids do at the end of the day.

I was the teacher that always put the extra added touch to things. Now, I am lucky to get what is needed done. It has really made me reach out and get more inspiration and help from other teachers. I no longer see this as a negative, but has helped me diversify my teaching.

I was the teacher that parents thought was too young and inexperienced with understanding what it means to discipline and have a family. Now, it is amazing the difference talking with parents now with them knowing I have a baby at home...dramatic really. I also have a new found respect for them...and makes me worried about the type of parent I will be when L is in fourth grade.

I was the teacher that loved planning and coming up with creative ideas. Now, I am still that teacher, but I am finding my heart is leaning other directions related to teaching and being there for kids. We will see what this brings in the coming months.

For now, I am being inspired by current author visits. Barbara O'Connor visited our school this week and to the students it was like a celebrity came into town! They were wide eyed and attention grabbed as they listened to Barbara tell some of her tricks to writing...many of them we have learned in class. I reminded my students of the lessons we learned that matched what she was talking about....and made the comment, "how cool that we are already doing what Barbara mention!" ...but then I get, "but Mrs. Batta, it was cool hearing it from a real writer!"

Ouch...guess we need to go back to the lesson on how we are all real writers...but I know what he meant :) But, I will take Mrs. O'Connor's advice and show my students this...versus just telling them all the time.

Until next time!