Sunday, December 14, 2014

War Lords of Japan

We are in the midst of War Lords of Japan: A Simulation of Shogun History of Feudal Japan.  During this simulation, students join one of five Samurai clans.  The clans are competing with the ultimate goal of taking of Japan and becoming Shogun, the ultimate military ruler of Japan. 

In conjunction with our ELA Asia/Pacific Rim Literature Unit, students are studying the socio-political landscape of Feudal Japan.

Before we began the simulation, we talked about the structure of Japanese Feudalism.  As our classroom is usually collaborative and student centered, I wanted to make sure students were prepared for the shift in power structure.  During the simulation, I take on the role of Empress Lau, and students take on the role of Samuri.

Students are arranged into five clans, and it is their job to work together with their clan.  Each day, students are assigned one of the following roles:
  • Leader:  The leader organizes the groups and directs the Empress where to move the clan's troops
  • Accountant:  The accountant completes the ledger for the day.  The accountant keeps track of  the koku (rice currancy) which is earned and spent and the armies gained and lost.
  • Journalist 1: Informs the Empress of the clan's army movements and battle accounts.
  • Journalist 2: Informs the Empress of the knowledge earned and the day's fortune.
  • Artist: Completes an art project to decorate the classroom. 

Take a look into the classroom below:

Maps of Japan on the back wall.  Each clan is represented by a different color thumb tack.  Each thumb tack represents one army regiment.

Clan leaders gather around Empress Lau (me) to inform the Empress of armies to be bought and troops to be moved.
In province R, Oska and Edo prepare for battle.  Only one army my occupy a province at a time.  

Samurai in their castle groups plot their next moves.  You can see the Japanese artwork hanging from the ceiling.

Artists hard at work on their Japanese Kite Fish

Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Discussion Skype

To wrap up Global Read Aloud, our ELA class 3/4 Skyped with our blogging partners in Ms. Pinnigar's class.  Students skyped in small groups, and took turns asking each other questions about the book One for the Murphy's.

Students worked together to create the questions they wanted to discuss. Here's some highlights of the questions they came up with:

  • How did you feel about the ending?
  • What do you think would have happened if.....?
  • How do you think the story would have been different if Carley had been a boy?
  • How do you think Mrs. Murphy feels about Carley's mother?
I was impressed with how deeply the students were thinking about the book.  It was great to see how invested they were in the plot and the characters!

Here's some more photos from the Skype:

The other class had to go a bit early, so we will be finishing up this Skype sometime next week.  A blogging partner Skype for ELA 5/6 will be coming up next week as well!

Google Hangout with Author Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Friday Nov. 14th, we participated in a Live Google Hangout with Lynda Mullaly Hunt.  Students from around the world sent in questions to Pernille Ripp, the creator of Global Read Aloud, and Mrs. Ripp asked Hunt the questions.  We learned everything from what motivated Hunt to write the book (Starwars!  We couldn't believe it!) to how she got the inspiration for Carly (Hunt was in foster homes growing up too!)  

It was so interesting to hear more about Hunt's writing process, and how she makes the characters come alive.  My favorite part of the Hangout was when Hunt told us the epilogue to the book....we got to find out what happened with Carley years in the future!

For the full interview, check out the video below.  To learn more, visit Hunt's blog or website.

Hunt's next book, Fish in a Tree, comes out February 5, 2015.  We can't wait to read it!  It's already on the list for book contenders for Global Read Aloud 2015!!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Book Fair!

Book Fair
Mon. 11/10-11/14

We have the Book Fair coming up next week!  Students will have time in class on Monday and Wednesday to go to the book fair and look through the books.  The book fair will be open during the school day Monday-Friday next week, and after school until 7:00pm on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.  If you are here for conferences, that would be a great time to take a look!

Here's a video we watched about the book fair:


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Book Groups!

Today, I introduced our Second Quarter Reading Unit to the students.  Students told me that they enjoyed Esperanza more when they sat down and read it in large chunks rather than spreading it across an entire quarter, so this quarter, we will plan to spend no more than three weeks on one text. For second quarter, students will be reading a book and discussing the books in book groups.  Then, students will choose one to two additional texts from a text set to read individually and make text-to-text connections.

Today in class, I introduced and talked about the books.  Then, students ranked their book preferences in order. Take a look at the initial information regarding the project.  Students will receive their book groups and their books on Friday, and I'll be sure to update with more information soon!

Our After-Lunch Read Aloud: The Fourteenth Goldfish

After lunch each day, we do a read aloud.  This is different from our ELA read aloud.  It's a little more informal.  Students come in, sit down, and we enjoy a little bit of a story together before they head off to their afternoon classes.

Yesterday, we finished Schooled by Gordon Kormon, and the students decided they wanted to read The Fourteenth Goldfish next.  This book came out just a few months ago, and we got this copy from our Donor's Choose Project.  Thank you again to everyone who helped make that possible!

The Fourteenth Goldfish is another book choice in Global Read Aloud this year.  While we'll be sticking with One for the Murphy's for Global Read Aloud work, we're lucky that we get to read another book that's so highly recommended! 

Here's a synopsis of the book from GoodReads:

Galileo. Newton. Salk. Oppenheimer.
Science can change the world . . . but can it go too far?
Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then one day a strange boy shows up. He’s bossy. He’s cranky. And weirdly enough . . . he looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this pimply boy really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?

Look What We're Reading!

Since the best book recommendations come from each other, we've created a space in our classroom to share what we're reading!

 I've had my current reading and writing projects up on the board since the beginning of the year, and now it was the students' turn!

Since we've posted them, they've already been conversation starters!  Students have been reading what others are reading, and sharing their reviews with one another.  Our wall will help keep up the reading buzz! :)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Geographer Skype

The class gathers on the carpet to Skype with Ms. Raimann
Yesterday and today, we had our geographer Skype!  We Skyped with Margaret Raimann, a geographer and cartographer from XNR Productions.   To prep for the Skype, students looked through Margaret's personal website as well as the XNR website.  Then, each class brainstormed a list of questions, and students volunteered to ask the questions.  Click here to see our question sheet.

Here's some of the highlights of what the students wrote they learned:

"You can make a map of anything, not just locations." 
"Most maps she makes are made with software on the computer!"
"You don't have to know all the countries and capitals to be a map maker"
"You can use photoshop on maps!"
"Editors have to look over every map to see if there is a mistake."
"People actually order different types of maps"
"There are many steps to making a map"
"Blueprints are maps"

Some other interesting topics Margaret highlighted is that most maps are made on computers now, so computer programming is a valuable skill in cartography.  She also said that if she could meet any cartographer, she would want to meet Arthur H. Robinson, the man who created the Robinson Projection.  He was a cartographer and he worked for the CIA.  We studied the Robinson Projection in class, so it was cool to make that real-life connection to that!

Take a look at our experience below:

10th Hour Skype
Tuesday, 2:25-2:45

The class engaged in the Skype.
Students go up one by one to the laptop to ask Ms. Raimann questions.
Here we see Chris asking a question.
View of the class. You can see students sitting on the carpet listening.
In the back, we see Riley asking a question and Leah "on deck."

9th Hour Skype
Wednesday, 1:35-2:05

Class gathers on the carpet for the Geographer Skype.

Class engaged in the Skype.

View of the Skype.  In the background we can see Gavin asking the question and Wren "on deck."

Wren asks Ms. Raimann a question.

Mackenzie asks Ms. Raimann a question.

Ms. Raimann let us know that we can create our own maps using Google Maps Engine.  Most of us thought that was pretty cool!  She'll be sending us some more resources in the next couple of days, so I will be sure to share! 

Thanks Ms. Raimann!  We really appreciate the time you took to talk with us! :)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Rett Syndrome Awareness Day

The class gathers around Mackenzie.  We are dressed in purple to support Rett Syndrome Awareness Day!
The month of October is Rett Syndrome Awareness Month.  Here at IMMS, we celebreated Rett Syndrome Awareness Day.  In ARRE time, every class across the school watched a video made by Kelly Schoeller about Rett Syndrome.  Take a look:

Then, in our ELA class, Mrs. Hickey came in and talked with us about how to use the Tobii.  The Tobii is eye gaze technology that Mackenzie uses to communicate with us.  Today, Mrs. Hickey invited us to try out Mackenzie's means of communication.

The Tobii has different tabs with pages behind it that Mackenzie can use to communicate with us.  Just like we are learning how to use our iPads efficiently, Mackenzie is learning to use her Tobii.  When we talk to her, we are invited to ask questions by touching and interacting with the Tobii, just like we do on our iPad.  When we uses the Tobii, it helps Mackenzie see the different pages, and it also helps the students understand how she can communicate.

Thank you Kelly, Mrs. Hickey, and Mackenzie for teaching us so much!  Mackenzie, we are so lucky to have you in our class! 

Global Read Aloud and Writer's Workshop

We've been working on kicking-off our writer's workshop.  Our normal class period goes something like this:

0-15 minutes: Silent Reading & Reading Conferences
15-25 minutes: Read Aloud
25-30 minutes: Agenda, Announcements, Fill out Assignment Notebook
30-45 minutes: Mini-Lesson
45-77 minutes: Workshop Time

We are getting in a schedule so on Mondays and Wednesdays, we do a reading mini-lesson and then reader's workshop, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we do a writing mini-lesson and then writer's workshop.

Here's some pictures from our classroom:

Students gather in our classroom library for read aloud time.

Students gather on the carpet and sit by their writing partner during writer's workshop

Students talk with their writing partners during active engagement. 

Students work individually at their desks during writer's workshop.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Central and South America Project

This week, students began their Central/South America Project.  The Project goals include:
  • Students will select one country and research the connections to the five themes of geography, internal and external forces, landforms and the weather and climate of the country they've selected.  
  • Students will create a Slideshow Presentation to organize and share their information.
  • Students will understand how to use citations tools to give credit to the places they found their information.
This week, students were assigned their partners and received the rubric to guide the project.  For specific information about the project requirements, please see the rubric.   I've included a sample slide show, created by Alan Northouse, that can serve as a mentor presentation to the students:

To Strike or Not to Strike Debate

As we are wrapping up our unit on Esperanza Rising, we are delving into some of the themes of the novel.  Over the past week, we've been studying about workers rights by reading Harvesting Hope and watching a documentary called Viva La Causa, both of which discuss the life and work of Cesar Chavez, and also by reading narratives written by children who are migrant workers.  We've been connecting all of these texts with the events in Esperanza Rising.

Today, we brought these themes together in a class debate:  Should the workers in Esperanza Rising strike or continue working?

Students chose a side, and then individually brainstormed benefits and drawbacks for their choice.  Then, students gathered as a group to prepare for the debate.  Each group selected four members to represent their point of view in front of the class.  The debate went in the following format:

Opening Statement- 1minute
Present Argument- 2 minutes
Cross Examination- 3 minutes
Closing Statement- 1 minute

Students were quite passionate about their points of view!  A large topic of discussion was the balance of working for a social cause while also working to support and take care of one's family.

Here's some of the students speaking to the class:

The Groups Brainstorm their points of view

Mackenzie makes and opening statement.

Emma makes and opening statement.

Rache, expressing the team's main argument.

Evan and Caleb ask and answer questions.

The group prepares their argument.
The group prepares their argument.

Aliana gives her teams opening statement.

Callie gives her team's opening statement.

Morgan explains her groups main argument.

Morgan and Anya face-off in the cross-examination.

Ruby and Richard give their closing statements.