July 2016 - Top Floor Teachers

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    Reach for the Stars!

    Do you incorporate growth mindset discussions in your classroom? We have made a concerted effort to keep students motivated by talking about how our mindset determines our ability to achieve success. And we have seen results! Our students are continuously putting forth effort and showing great determination. The sighs and choruses of "I can't" slowly but surely faded into 'a-has' and chants of "I'll keep trying!" One way to ensure that this becomes a central part of our classrooms is to make it a focus from Day 1.

    Enter our Growth Mindset Collaborative Craftivity! The first days of school are typically filled with many get-to-know-you activities and teambuilding exercises. This activity is all that and includes a growth mindset twist! Students work independently to think about how they can work on their growth mindset throughout the year, and then work together to build a dodecahedron with their classmates. Each student has a point that is only a portion of what will become a star. This provides the visual that when we have a positive mindset AND work together, we can reach the stars!

    So, what's the activity and how does it work? It is simple, ready to print, and includes little prep on the part of the teacher. Score! First, you will need to download the template from our store. The file includes a blank editable version of the template as well as our growth mindset version, so it is really a steal! Once you have it downloaded, print out a page for each student. The finished project looks great on either colored or white paper. Either way, this works best when printed on sturdy paper like cardstock.

    This activity is particularly great because it is really open to interpretation. The spaces provided allow the teacher and/or student to choose how they would like it filled in.  For example, the "This is me" section can be a spot for the student to write their name or draw a self-portrait. Similarly, the "Growth Mindset Vision" panel can be a spot for the student to draw a picture of how they will be using a growth mindset, something they hope to accomplish through using a growth mindset, or what a growth mindset looks like to them. The possibilities are truly endless. Let the students run wild as they think about how their own mindset will set them up for future successes.

    Once the sheet is filled out, students will cut on the solid lines. It is VERY IMPORTANT to remind students not to cut on the dotted lines. Those will be for folding in the next step!

    Now we are ready for those dotted lines. Students need to fold on each of the dotted lines. This will separate the panels from the tabs that will be used for gluing.

    Start by folding over one panel at a time.
    Fold the tabs down and away from the triangle panels.
    To turn each sheet of panels into a point, glue the long tab behind the triangle panel on the opposite end (the 'This is me' panel).

    Here you can see the 'This is me' panel and 'Reach for the stars' panel are now side by side.
    Now that each of the students has created a star point, the collaborative portion of the project is ready to begin. Students now begin to connect the star points to one another. A total of 12 points will create one star. Begin by placing two star points next to each other. Glue one tab from point A to one tab from point B.
    Point A on the left is now glued to Point B on the right.

    Students will continue gluing in this fashion until there are 12 points. The 12th point is the most difficult to attach, as it will have five points to connect to. This is when a little helping hand from the teacher or another adult might come in handy. When all 12 points are glued together, you will have a star full of positive thoughts ready to be hung in the classroom!

    We hope your students enjoy this fun activity for the beginning of the school year and that they continue to see its value to their education. Let us know in the comments how else you plan to use the star template in your classroom!


    First Day of School Balloon Activity

    The story behind this first day of school activity is actually when we both discovered we were teaching in the same district! When we both got hired, our district offered a literacy training for all new teachers.  We were super surprised to see each other because it had been some time since high school.  Our instructor started the training with a really fun get to know you activity that we have both incorporated into our classrooms for the last decade! It's great for building classroom community and you can make variations to make it the best fit for your class. 

    Here's how it works!

    First, each student receives a balloon and a small piece of paper on their desk. We just cut up scratch paper, you don't have to be fancy! :) 

    Then, they write down 3 interesting true facts.  In order for this activity to be successful, ask students to write down facts that are not too common.  Give them some examples as we have shown above. They need to keep these facts private and not share them with their classmates.

    Finally, have the students fold up their paper, place in the balloon, and blow it up.  DISCLAIMER: When we did this in 4th grade, about half the students knew how to tie a balloon and the other half asked us.  That led to tying some spitty balloons (gross, we know).  Ask ahead of time if anyone needs help for you to blow it up.

    Once the balloons are done, place them in a corner of the class.  Now, the fun begins! Explain to the kids that this activity is going to show them interesting things about their classmates and they are going to see how much they have in common with each other.  Ask all students to stand up.  Take a balloon and pop it (another disclaimer, some kids want a heads up because the sound might startle them).  As you read each fact aloud, tell the kids that if they agree with that statement they remain standing.  For example, if the first fact says, "I like the color blue" then they remain standing if they also like blue.  If they don't agree with that particular fact, they sit down.  Now, once they sit down they can't stand back up.  So, if the next fact is, "I went to Disneyland this summer" and they are sitting down, they can't stand up.  We hope that makes sense? Eventually, after all 3 facts are read, the student who wrote those facts should be the only one remaining standing.  BUT! The great thing is sometimes more than one student is standing because those three students might share the same interesting facts.  If that is the case, ask the person to reveal themselves and everyone else to sit down.  Then, we ask the student to tell us more about one of those facts.  If they wrote that they had a dog, we ask about the name and type.  If they write about a vacation spot, we ask them to share more about it. 

    We do this throughout the day so it's not 30 something balloons popping at once.  It keeps the kids excited to learn about each other and the little "pop" wakes everyone up :).  Don't forget to include yourself.  The kids love it when everyone sits down and they realize the facts were about the teacher.  Also, you don't have to read the facts in order.  Try to pick facts that are more common at first.  We always learn so much about the kids through this simple activity.

    The past few years, we have made variations with this activity and given them an index card to write down the three facts.  We then shuffle them up and just pull them out of a box.  Not as fun without the pop, but if you forgot to buy balloons or don't want to deal with them, it still works and the kids still have fun.  

    We'd love to hear if you try this out in your class!


    Main Character iPad Template

    We are always looking for fun and meaningful extensions after our novel studies.  The idea to use an iPad came from the fact that we have seen the power of technology grow over the past few years.  When we both first started teaching, many students didn't have their own device but now it seems like every single student has at least one device in their house and if they don't, they sure know how to use one! This activity is a fun one that can be used with any novel.  The best part was not really giving detailed instructions because it allowed the students to be creative! We read My Brother Sam is Dead in class (which the students absolutely loved!) and asked them to think of this question: "If Tim had an iPad, what types of made up apps do you think he would have on there?" It's important to emphasize that most should be made up.  Of course, they can choose an app today if they can make connections to the book but we highly doubt a young boy during the Revolutionary War would be interested in Angry Birds! The pictures below show what one student came up with.  We were blown away with their creativity!

    Students cut and glue iPad down in notebook or piece of paper.
    On a separate piece of page, students redraw the apps and add a short description about the app.

    This template isn't on our TpT page but it is free here to you! If you are interested in using the book, My Brother Sam is Dead, please check out our Interactive Notebook Unit Study at our store.  Enjoy the template by clicking the link below and leave us some comments of how you used it in your classrooms! 


    #BestResourceEver - Our Story

    Our #bestresourceever is special to us, not necessarily because it is hands down the top teaching tool. This resource didn't revolutionize the way we organize our classroom or provide insight into a specific content area. No, this resource is more than that. This resource changed our lives.

    Having taught together as fourth grade teachers for years, we were faced with the exciting, yet nerve-wracking, opportunity to bump up to fifth grade. What would happen to all of the work we had created and collected over the years? What about those awesome lessons that we wouldn't have the chance to teach again? Worst yet, what about all of the new lessons and activities we will have to create to go with the new content?

    This is where our #bestresourceever comes in.  We were excited to change things up as we moved onto a new grade level and were looking forward to arranging our ELA blocks in such a way that we could incorporate whole-group reads of novels that tie into our social studies units. Joe's wife is a former fifth grade teacher, so she gave us a long list of titles that fit into the fifth grade curriculum. Elizabeth George Speare's The Sign of the Beaver was near the top of that list. A quick read over the summer geared us up to create an interactive notebook full of activities to work on as we read the book with our class.

    We started out simple by breaking down the book into weekly chunks and finding some vocabulary words. Cutting, gluing, folding... it makes reading that much more fun, right?

    Looking at the standards, we realized the students needed to be able to discover the meanings of words on their own. That is why we included some context clue word hunt pages in our notebook. These would later become great word work activities during daily reading rotations.

    We included a bunch of fun foldables to cover various reading standards to accompany our reading. From theme to point of view, figurative language to character motives, and so much more, we were able to incorporate nearly every tested skill in this one novel study.

    Now, this is all well and good.  We created an interactive notebook. That's cool, but not exactly life-changing. But wait! We put a lot of work into this thing. What if we upload it onto Teachers Pay Teachers to save some other people the hassle? Sure, let's try it. That is the decision that changed our lives. This is the resource that started our TpT journey.

    It has been nearly a year since this idea went from our brains onto the computer screen, and eventually onto our newly-minted TpT store. Since then, we have created multiple other interactive notebook novel studies, as well as a ton of new products. The TpT community is one that inspires us to keep working on being the best teachers we can be. We are always so invigorated to try something new. Once we make it and try it out, we get so excited to share it with others in our store.  We have made so many connections through our TpT community and that has truly shaped who we are as educators.  For this reason alone, we have to thank The Sign of the Beaver, our #bestresourceever.

     Interested in our Sign of the Beaver interactive notebook?  Check it out here!

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