Music in the Classroom!

One thing that I noticed (and all my colleagues noticed) was the fact that the moment you walk through the door at RCA it is LOUD. Loud in a very good way. Music is blaring students are on drums and it is an eruption of energy.

In several of the classrooms teachers used music in their lessons and even changed the words to some popular songs and added in their content. 

I have always loved music and singing. I grew up singing solo’s in church, singing in the choir and was even in traveling groups during college. However, actually writing content based songs was a little baffling to me.

I am not sure where I found this information. However, as I was researching where to begin in the process of writing my own songs these are the steps I followed.

  1. Find a song – try looking at Radio Disney for some kid friendly pop songs.
  2. Print out the lyrics.
  3. Pick out the area of concentration – what words, concepts or skills do you want this song to reinforce?
  4. Count the syllables in each line and match the syllables with your content information.
  5. Sing through it to see if it sounds okay.

Here is my first ever song – Ocean Floor to the tune of Thunder by Imagine Dragons!

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Ocean Floor Song FREEBIE!

To present this to students you have several options. You can sing acapela (not my forte – my nerves get the best of me). Or you can sing over the original, which I don’t suggest because of the kids singing the normal words. Or you can record your own version.

In order to present this to my students I used the Smule Karaokee App to record my own version of the song. I then played this so that the students could learn the song.

It is posted on my classroom website !

Since this time I have discovered another science teacher who writes songs for his science class – Mr. Parr. He has an entire youtube channel of science songs.

I hope you found some good information in this post that you can use in your own classroom! Until next time!!

A “Rock”-ing Autobiography

Recently there has been a push to add more writing in all content areas. Being from an ELA background I have welcomed this with open arms. I love writing and being able to see the creativity of my students through their writing.

We just finished a unit over the rock cycle, and to close our unit I created an assignment. My students had to pretend they were a piece of sand at the bottom of a river and write about how they became a rock and went through the rock cycle. They had an option to write a story or create a comic strip. I am very impressed with what they came up with. I had some stories about the sediment floating by SpongeBob’s pineapple and others about the rock being crushed in Super-Mario.

Here are a couple of examples that I thought really displayed their understanding of the rock cycle!

Story Choice

Comic Choice

If you think you would like to use this in your classroom, I made a downloadable product on TeachersPayTeachers. Just click the picture below:

Rocking Autobiography - Rock Cycle Writing Task

 

Where do you grade papers?

With the start of a new year comes many new students for this teacher. I thought about it the other day, and for every year I have been teaching the number of students has went up. In China I started with around 60 students, and that went up to 80 in Mississippi. Then my first year back in Georgia it raised up to 100 students. This year I have almost 150. For me it is a huge learning curve in how to grade, what to grade, when to grade, etc.

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I came home this weekend with two assignments to grade. One was a quiz, which students self-graded in class. Another was a writing assignment about “What is a Scientist?” I am sure most teachers who grade their papers find a comfy place in their home, perhaps around the kitchen table. However, I am not your typical teacher. This week my papers were graded at the drive-in movies under the light of the moon, meteors, and truck lights. I didn’t get them all done there, but it was nice to be productively relaxing.

SO my question to you is – Where do you grade your papers? Do you take them to exotic locales or stick to home/school?

 

 

A Field Trip and Farm Animals

Yesterday I had the opportunity to go on my first field trip of the year with my students. It was so much fun. The field trip was an incentive for students who had excellent behavior in December and January. Our first stop on the field trip was the bowling ally. Many of my students had never been bowling before. It was fun teaching them how to bowl and celebrating when they finally scored a strike of a spare!

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After the bowling alley we went to the local mall. The students got to choose what they wanted. A lot of my girls came with me to the chinese place in the food court. We ordered and I spoke Mandarin with the attendant. My students were amazed to say the least.

When we were pleasantly full from lunch a few of us decided to go to build a bear. One of my students started lip-syncing to “Let it Go” They helped me to stuff and wash my build a bear – Olaf. Then we named him William-Olaf-Sullivan after our school. He is now our class mascot!

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~ All in all we had a WONDERFUL field trip!

FARM ANIMALS – This morning my student, who is in 4-h, had a cattle show. Unfortunately I arrived late, but I did get to see him with his cow and his awards. He won first place and I am so proud. Next week he is going to the state competition and I hope he does equally as well.

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So those were just a few of the highlights from another week in Mississippi! It has been exciting and amazing to see my students doing awesome things!

It takes a…

Okay so the saying is so old – It takes a village…, but it truly does take a lot of people to support a successful teacher. My goal this year is to create a community of learners, but it takes a community to support me in this endeavor. I am so thankful that even though some of my family is miles away I have their support.

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My mom and cousin drove all the way to Mississippi to help me decorate my room. I honestly could not have done it without them. On top of that they helped me to get my interactive notebook stuff organized, so that I would have an example ready for the first day of school. My husband has been my rock through my whole teaching career. He painted my walls and then went around the school to help others. I am so blessed to have married such an amazing individual.

It takes a village – and it will continue to take a village to support me and my students!

Now for you teachers out there. My TpT community is hosting a sale. I have had the privilege over the past year to meet some awesome sellers who create dynamic products for the classroom. Click the image below for our back to school sale!! (It starts on August 4-5th)

Breakthroughs

Spring Semester has been a time of many, many breakthroughs for me as an educator. I honestly think that I was in a place of treading water last semester. What I mean by that is, I did not look forward to going to work each day and work felt like work. Now, I have finally come to the place where I am looking forward to going to work each day. Wooowho! (it doesn’t make teaching or managing my classroom any easier at times, but it does make me feel 10x better!)

As I mentioned earlier I have experienced many breakthroughs with my students. We have gotten incredibly close, and some of them call me ‘MA’ – which I equate with Freedom Writers. We have read some Holocaust literature and my students were very empathetic and dove deep into their reading. I was able to get some AMAZING writing from them.

Since spring break (the second week of March) we have been reading The Freedom Writers Diary and each student is required to keep a journal. I thought that this would only be another of my failures to add to my list. Surprisingly my students love their journals. We write about topics we are reading about and they can add their own writing at any time.  The main thing that I keep in mind with journal prompts are the themes we are reading about and how relate-able it is to my students.

A week or so ago we had a journal topic about labels. What labels did people place on Ms. Gruwell and her students? What labels have people placed on you? During our discussion my students were not completely understanding the labels aspect of themselves. So I offered myself up as a guinea pig. I asked them what labels they could place on me. They started listing some personality traits and so forth. I redirected and said, “Okay, I walk into a room and you have never met me.” Silence. “Come on guys, I’m White!” Then one of the most amazing and profound thing happened. A student raised her hand and said, “Nuh-uh, Ms. Caldwell – You’re our color!”

I was and still am speechless. I have went through so much with my students just trying to give them a little taste of my passion for learning. It is nice to see how far we have journeyed! I am looking forward to our final moments of the year as bittersweet as they may be! Until next time…

Appreciating Teachers 2013

This week it is great to be a teacher (well most other weeks, too!). It is teacher appreciation week. With Teacher Appreciation Day on May 7th. I am making a cute gift for my co-workers using Fanta. It is super simple, but I want them to know how much I appreciate working with them. No man is an island and that is certainly true when it comes to teaching. We cannot function well as teachers without the support of our co-workers. Here is a picture of what I am making. You can click the picture to find the labels!

Check out my stores at TeachersPayTeachers and TeachersNotebook for Amazing Deals this week! Happy Teachers Appreciation Week!!

Two day sale

Already in America?

Conversation from last night:

Me – Honey, I feel like I am on autopilot and just coasting through this semester. Is that bad?

My husband – Sweetheart, that is because your mind is already in America.

~ ~ ~ ~

Ever since I got accepted in TFA (Teach for America), I have been working on pre-work and trying to soak in as much information as possible about my placement region. Unfortunately, that has led to a sort of nonchalant attitude toward teaching the students that I have right now. I feel like I have been on auto-pilot. This is not easy to admit. My students deserve to have a great teacher right now.

I guess I am in my comfort zone (more so than I was last year at this time). I am teaching classes that I have already taught and I have a good idea of projects and activities that work. My goal for the rest of the year is to take the stuff that I am learning and apply it to my classroom right now. I started looking at some online resources from Achievement First and they have some excellent ideas about how to keep students engaged (which is my biggest problem with the different levels I have in each class).  I plan to read up on their strategies and start implementing them into my classes. I am also planning to re-read some books from college – The First Days of School and The Cornerstone for Teachers. Both are awesome books about classroom management.

I don’t think that I am doing a terrible job, but I am sticking to what I know works. So I just want to shake things up and have a more engaging class.

What are some ways that you shake up your instruction when it seems to become stagnant?

 

Wow for Writers Workshop

This semester in one of my classes I have started using Writers Workshop. So far it has worked out great. My students are excited to have a few minutes each day set aside to just write. This class is the last class of the day and I think the students find relief in just writing for a few minutes. I have used the following ideas in formatting my Writers Workshop:

Mini-Lessons – Each week I teach two mini-lessons pertaining to problems that students have in their writing. So far this has included subject/predicate agreement, run-on sentences, and sentence fragments. After our break we are going to complete mini-lessons on formatting an essay and narrative writing. These mini-lessons do not last the entire class period (only 15-20 minutes), but include practice for the students to do in class or for homework. I also ask for student recommendations for mini-lessons. Usually they can pinpoint ideas that they need help with and we can complete a mini-lesson to review in class.

Conferencing – I also have conferences with students each week to talk about their writing. Before they come to conference they must pick out one thing they are finding difficult and one thing that they really like about their writing. We then discuss these two items and attempt to make their writing better.

Peer Review –  Students are required to complete a peer review for their writing each week. This is something we have talked about a lot. Especially how to complete a helpful peer review.

Sharing – One day a week we all share what we have been working on. Everyone reads their writing and we give polite feedback.

Modeling – During this part of the day I write with the students, unless I am conferencing or teaching a mini-lesson. I work on my own writing and share with the students. It is important that they see me writing so that they see it is important to me as an adult.

Music – I have started to play music during writers workshop. It is strictly instrumental, but I heard from another teacher about a really neat group. Vitamin String Quartet actually transposes modern music into instrumentals. My students love it!

Eraser and Pencil

Maybe these few ideas will spark some inspiration for your class as well. I hope to add some of my mini-lessons to TpT soon, so be on the lookout!

Valentines Day 2013

Love is in the air! I have always loved Valentines Day. My mom and granny always worked very hard to make it a special day for me. However, one thing I have realized is Valentines day is one of those holidays that many of my friends don’t appreciate. Keeping that in mind I try to add humor into my classroom on Valentines day. I use cheesy pick-up lines to play a game or to create writing prompts. They work really well with my ESL kids, because they have an opportunity to understand different figures of speech.

Here are a few ideas for using them in your classroom:

Option 1: Cut apart these cheesy pick-up lines and put them in a bowl. Students should draw one line and try to act it out with a partner. You can choose whether students should look at the line before the scene starts or not.

Option 2: Charades. Have students act out the line without using words. This could be really tricky!

Option 3: Have students choose one of the lines for a writing prompt. They could invent the history of this cheesy line or write a letter to a special someone.

Be sure to stop by my store and pick up my Valentines Day Freebie!

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