Friday, November 6, 2015

Pilgrims, the Wampanoag, and The First Thanksgiving {printables, resources, facts, interactive notebook}

November is the perfect time to teach students about the time in America’s history when the Pilgrims arrived from England and settled in Plimoth Colony. It’s important that all lessons and activities involving Thanksgiving be historically accurate. This post will provide teachers and homeschooling families with some tips for teaching about the culture of the Wampanoag people who lived in the area prior to the European colonization. It will clear up some misconceptions and provide you with ideas and resources for teaching in November.

It is helpful to open your unit by helping students think critically about stereotypes. Helping them understand what they are by listing false stereotypes about Native Americans. Discuss why stereotypes are harmful. I also found it to be important to talk about cultural sensitivity. They will encounter images of Wampanoag people dressed in traditional summer clothing. A proactive discussion goes a long way. These lessons can be taught during a class meeting or as part of your anti-bullying curriculum.

There are many great books, videos and websites for supporting your study of the topic. Unfortunately, many of them include some stereotypes and errors. This is a great opportunity for teaching your children to find those examples as well as contradictions in texts and discuss the historical inaccuracies. Some of the best learning moments in my 3rd grade classroom each year have come from the fact that different sources made different statements about the same topic. It helped them with research throughout the remainder of the school year.

  • You may see “Plimoth” spelled different ways. The area the Pilgrims first colonized is now a town called Plymouth, Massachusetts. However, the historical accounts from Governor William Bradford refer to it as Plimoth. When speaking historically it is best to use Plimoth. 
  • There were no teepees. The Native People associated with the arrival of the Pilgrims are the Wampanoag. They are part of the Eastern Woodland nations. They lived in homes made from branches and bark. In the summer they lived in smaller dwellings called wetus and in the winter they relocated to larger, shared homes called longhouses. 
  • The Wampanoag people did not have horses or wear elaborate feather headdresses. Explain to the children that there are many different nations and tribes and that each nation has its own name, language and culture. Avoid creating headbands with fake, colorful feathers as a class project.
  • Do not speak of the Wampanoag only in the past tense. While their way of life has changed, they are still a very culturally active group.
  • Avoid the word “squaw.” It was once an Algonquin word meaning “woman,” but the modern meaning is offensive.
  • The Pilgrims did not “land on Plymouth Rock.” The Mayflower arrived in the area of Massachusetts that is now known as Cape Cod. They spent several days exploring the area and ultimately settled in the town that is now Plymouth. There is no historical record of Plymouth Rock.
  • The purpose of coming to America was not for religious freedom. The Pilgrims first left England and went to Holland where that desire was met. Although they had religious freedom in Holland, they found there were still obstacles. It was hard to make a living and they struggled to maintain their English identity. For those reasons they chose to sail to the New World.  
  • The Pilgrims did not leave England to “come to Plimoth.” They were actually sailing to the area of Jamestown, Virginia that had already been colonized. Bad weather and the onset of winter forced them to settle in Plimoth.
  • The Pilgrims did not live in log cabins. They built wood clapboard houses made from sawed lumber. 
I’ve taught this unit 8 or 9 times and it is a topic I always found to be fun to teach. I have always had the students document their understanding as we learned and assembled each individual project into a learning portfolio The final results really showcased their new knowledge and made an excellent keepsake. I just did a complete makeover of the lap book/ interactive notebook I had always used and am really pleased with the result. Not only did I update the fonts and graphics, but I also made it very user-friendly for teachers and students. 

The newly updated Pilgrim and Wampanoag Interactive Notebook can be assembled using only 2 sheets of 12 x 18 construction paper. There is not a lot of cutting, folding or glueing. You can pick and choose which activities you wish to include in your classroom or homeschool setting. 

I also added a teacher guide that outlines the sequence in which I taught the unit and now includes links to online sites you can use with your students with each activity. It also includes book lists for Pilgrims, the Wampanoag, and the First Thanksgiving. You can also view the recommended book lists on the Clutter-Free Classroom November resource page.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

November Lesson, Craft and Teaching Ideas for Teachers {as seen on Pinterest}

Do you need some inspiration for teaching in the month of November? They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well in this case a "pin" is worth a thousand words. Maybe not a thousand, but you certainly can find lots of ideas, projects, bulletin board photos, book suggestions, recipes and crafts, and more for classroom or homeschool learning.

Do you follow the Clutter-Free Classroom Pinterest boards? New ideas are being added daily that are timely for seasonal teaching. Below are the links to my November boards. I hope you find them to be helpful timesavers as you plan lessons for your students. Just click on any photo to go directly to that board.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Free Math Manipulatives...that Can Also be a Fall Decoration or Science Center

My girls are in Kindergarten and are very excited about numbers and math. I created some Thanksgiving themed math activities for them. These math centers focus on vocabulary and concepts such as numerals / digits, tallies, ten frames, subitizing, word form, shape identification, simple addition and subtraction. It’s so much fun to see them excited about learning.

I began by shuffling all the cards together and we sorted them using the category labels (dice, tallies, words, numerals/digits, ten frames). Next, they put the numeral cards in numeric order. Then I had them take the cards they had sorted and place each on top of the pile that showed it’s equal value. This activity allowed me to clarify any misconceptions and served as an informal assessment tool to guide future activities. These would be great for small group work with the teacher during guided math in Kindergarten of first grade.

Later we used the cards to play Go Fish with 4 sets and Memory Match with the ten frames and dice cards. Doing so gave me the opportunity to reinforce subitizing.

Since subtraction is new to them (and to keep with the seasonal theme) I gave them corn kernels to use as counting manipulatives. This gave me an idea…ACORNS!

I thought it was genius! Free…seasonal…festive. Best of all it tied in with my love of a Clutter-Free and organized classroom because when we were done we could toss them back outside into nature.

I scurried to the park and frantically gathered nuts like a crazed squirrel because when I get an idea in my head it needs to happen yesterday! 

While they were busy using them to solve equations on the turkey math center clip cards, I was glaring at my favorite candle holders. 

They are shown here filled with candy corn and my completely Pilgrim, Wampanoag and First Thanksgiving interactive notebook / lap book / learning portfolio. I mention it because it took me 2 full days to update it (new fonts, new clipart, new activities, easy to create foldable, less cutting and glueing, and links to resources for every lesson) and as you can see I slowly ate my way through a good portion of the decorative candy corn while working on it. 

That’s when I had my second genius idea of the day…replace the candy corn with acorns for the month of November! Free Thanksgiving decor.

So this morning I made my son head back to the park with me before school to gather more acorns. We came home and emptied our pockets into an empty bowl we had used to hold candy for trick or treaters and went about getting ready for the day. 
Not long after I was working at the table and kept getting distracted by a noise that sounded like scratching, popping and dripping. It wasn’t constant, but it was happening enough to drive me crazy. I checked the shower to see if it was dripping. I checked the thermostat to see if there was something wrong with the heat. I made my husband sit in silence to try to identify it. This went on all day.

I tried to distract myself with work. I was checking to make sure acorns wouldn’t cause a safety risk to students with tree nut allergies.  I had planned to put up Facebook and Instagram posts suggesting teachers use acorns as math manipulatives and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t giving a bad suggestion.

The good news is that no research has found them to be a danger to kids with tree nut allergies.

The bad news is I would’ve been giving a bad suggestion.

Luckily I did not send thousands of teachers scurrying off to gather millions of acorns to put in classrooms across the country because I finally realized the sound was coming from the bowl. A second Google search about acorns for the day alerted me to some interesting acorn facts.

Or should I say acorn grubs.

{photo source}

Ewww, right?

That was my initial reaction too. But, they are actually really interesting. 

This article about these acorn weevils is short and informative.

They are definitely not something you randomly want hatching out during math workshop or in your math manipulative bins…or in your decorative candle holders on the dining room table.

But, they are actually really fascinating and it would be very cool to bring a little science into the classroom. If you conducts animal research or teach about plant or tree life cycles during the school year this would be a neat addition to your yearlong curriculum

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Tips for Working with Students Who Struggle with Reading, Writing and Spelling

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month and although I am just under the wire (Hello October 31st), I wanted to make you all aware of an amazing resource. Based on statistics, it is almost certain you will have students affected by dyslexia in your class during your teaching career. In many (possibly even most) cases the children will not be identified as dyslexic.

Someday I will share what I have experienced as a teacher and as a parent, but for now I want to point you in the direction of a resource I know will be valuable to every teacher.  

The Literacy Nest

The Literacy Nest was created by my friend Emily. She’s a former classroom teacher who is currently working as an Orton-Gillingham tutor. She’s also a fellow twin mama. I’ve had the honor of getting to know her personally as a local New England Blogger and through our work with Teacher Pay Teachers. 

Not only does this girl know her stuff, but she excels at finding, sharing, and creating content that is extremely helpful to all teachers.

I highly encourage you to follow her blog and Facebook page and am confident you will find both to be a treasure trove of information. Her blog posts are high quality and include lots of tips for teaching reading in general. Her series on syllables was especially fantastic!

The Literacy Nest Facebook feed is a constant stream of articles, memes, and more that are informative, but extremely quick and easy to read. 

And on a related note...Have you read Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt? It's a wonderful read aloud for classrooms, but also an enjoyable read for adults and especially for teachers. It's one of those books that makes you a better teacher because it sticks with you and reminds you to look at the whole student and dig deeper into the root of why they say the things they say, do the things they do and perform the way they perform.

{Click to view and order from Amazon}

Monday, September 28, 2015

FREE eBook of Tips and Tricks for Teachers

October is my favorite month for teaching. The procedures and routines should be starting to stick, you have had a chance to get to know your students and develop a community, behaviors are getting under control and you have a pretty good grasp on where they are at academically and where you need to take them. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and get busy. 

There are so many ways to integrate fun into the learning in October. The students are so motivated by all things Halloween which makes your job easier. Even if you are not allowed to mention the H-word, you can still capitalize on their excitement with activities that are thematic to fall and make you think Halloween without saying it.  

This week I’ll be blogging about my favorite classroom activities that I used annually to make learning fun in the month of October. To kick things off I’m thrilled to share with you a FREE eBook chock full of Tricks and Treats for Teachers.
A Free eBook containing tips and printables for 3rd, 4th, and 5th Grade Teachers

The eBook was a collaborative project put together by the team from Upper Elementary Snapshots: A Blog for Grades 3-5. The “tricks” are tried and true tips we have used in our own classrooms over the years and the “treats” are FREE printables for you to use with your students.

We are looking forward to working together to bring you more free resources and ideas in the future so be sure to follow The Upper Elementary Snapshots store and blog

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tips for Using Writing Prompts as Inspiration During Writer's Workshop {FREE Writing Journal Covers}

I was so tired of hearing a collective groan from my students when it was time for writing. I taught the skills for narrative, creative, opinion / persuasive and informative pieces, but they weren’t always eager to practice those skills in their writer’s notebooks. The problem for many was getting started and coming up with quality topics and ideas to write about.  

This blog post will give you a link to some free printables and explain how I managed to… 
  • replace the chorus of groans with loud cheers and excitement about writing
  • solve the problem of what to do with early finishers
  • easily document their progress as writers over the course of the school year
Back in the day I used to have my students do journal writing, but found that many struggled with coming up a topic. Most kids would write the same genre of story in their journals (often starting with “Last night…”) over and over.  I decided to do something a wee bit more structured.

Each year we began by making a personalized Writer’s Notebook (inspired by the About Me collage in the book, Judy Moody) and collecting ideas in a Writer’s Idea Bank to use throughout the year when journaling. They always had the option of selecting a topic of their own, but the idea bank was a great help for those friends who “didn’t know what to write about.” However, the problem I observed was many kids still really struggled getting started. 

Once they had that initial sentence on paper they were off and running. 

That’s why I created a writing center with writing prompt task cards. The first set I made was for the month of October to capitalize on their love of all things Halloween and the intrinsic motivation it brings. The writing center included task cards with prompts and a collection of thematic paper for them to write on. They LOVED it and were more enthusiastic about writing than I’ve ever seen. It was such a hit that I made them for November and December and the other months in the school year as well.  

Last year I encouraged my class to set goals for reading and writing different genres instead of sticking to a favorite. To help them keep on track I decided to try something new. I made posters for each month to display with the task cards. The posters listed all the prompts found on the individual cards. I printed a copy of each poster from the different genres, added a cover, printed 15-20 copies of the thematic monthly writing pages (which were differentiated with different types of lines for students with varying abilities) and stapled them into monthly journals.

{Click to access and download the FREE Monthly Journal Covers}
The students used these when they completed their assigned writing projects during our writing block and when they were done with assignments in other areas as well. As part of our morning routine, they had the choice of writing in these booklets, reading a book of choice and working on their interactive bookmarks or completing unfinished work.

When writing in these monthly journals I asked that they rotate the genres from which they selected prompts so they would practice the different types of writing after the unit was formally taught. They were required to do their best work and implement the grammar skills from our monthly spiral review work, but I didn’t go through each booklet and edit every single entry. Instead, I used them as an informal assessment and based my mini-lessons and small group instruction on the needs I saw from their writing. For peer feedback they often shared their writing verbally with partners and the class. Every student would pick one entry each month to take through the writing process and publish. 

These booklets, in conjunction with the  published pieces, and our seasonal writing projects provided a wonderful way to document their growth throughout the year. 

I highly suggest you create monthly writing journals to use with your students. Each of my monthly packets includes writing prompt task cards, differentiated thematic writing paper, and the mini-posters I used to make the monthly booklets. They are available by the month or in a yearlong bundle.

I have created a collection of FREE printable monthly thematic journal covers that can be used with or without my prompt packets. 

They’re great for keeping a neat and organized record of your students’ progress for parent teacher conferences and look great when displayed at open house.

Please feel free to share this free product with any teacher or homeschool family that you think will enjoy them!

{Click to access and download the FREE Monthly Journal Covers}
What is your favorite genre of writing to teach?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Spelling Activities for Any Word List: EDITABLE {Makeover Monday Product Updates}

This week's featured remodel is the: 
Spelling Activities to Use with Any Word List

It is always challenging to meet the varied needs of the learners in your classroom. Ideally you want your students to be working on the same activity, but you understand that each learner has different needs and abilities. 

These printable activity pages and center signs allow you to easily provide your students with modified assignments without making it obvious that they are working at different levels. Each student may complete each activity using a spelling list specific to him or her.

If you already purchased this product please redownload it to access the free updates. If you haven't purchased it previously you may be interested in grabbing it now while it is temporarily on sale in honor of it being featured as a Makeover Monday Product of the Week.

I gave this one a complete makeover. 

  • It is NOW EDITABLE {differentiate and modify for your students by adding your own word lists and directions}.
  • It now includes Full Color, Partial Color, and Ink-Saving Blackline Options.
  • EVERY page has been recreated with updated fonts and clipart.

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