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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Teaching Cause and Effect in Upper Elementary

Happy New Year!  I'm back and ready to roll.  It has been a little bit quiet around here, but I have a whole slew of new posts planned and ready for you over the next few months.  First up is one that I actually started way back in March of 2014 (seems like just yesterday).  I was teaching my students about cause and effect--these were rather high 5th graders who already had a pretty decent understanding of the basics of cause and effect.  I needed something MORE for them!  And here is what we did...

Since my students already knew what cause and effect was, we did a very brief cause and effect interactive notebook journal entry with just two tabs and a short definition.  Then came the fun part--song lyrics!

Now, before I go on, I have to give my dad total credit for coming up with this song! Do you know how hard it is to find a song that tells a story and is appropriate for elementary school kids?  It's not an easy task!


We ended up using Hello Muddha, Hello Faddah, the old camp song by Allan Sherman.  You can download a copy of the lyrics I used HERE.  The kids got such a kick out of this song, and it's pretty harmless.  You could even let them listen to it a few times.  We had a great time looking for and generating cause and effect relationships.  I loved using the song because not only were we finding explicitly stated cause and effect relationships, but we had to do some inference as well.

After we pulled out as many cause and effect relationships as we could and annotated the paper (a little bit like we would with a close reading passage), we turned it into a foldable in our interactive notebook.  You can see the outside of it here, and on the inside we wrote the effect.  This challenged their thinking a bit because some of the annotations we made were written with the effect first and the cause second.  It was perfect to get them thinking about the different formats of cause and effect!

My students are very comfortable using pictures to practice reading skills, so I had them use their left side to find cause and effect relationships in a picture.  This is always a hit! 

If you would like to download the templates we used for the right hand side of the notebook as well as the picture we used for the left hand side, you can do so HERE.



After we went through the review, I had a pile of about 20 books for students to read and write out cause and effect relationships.  You can truly use just about any book for this, but here are a few of my favorites after seeing them in action with kids...


Finally, I used my Generating Cause and Effect Task Cards for their cause and effect assessment.  We used a modification of the Thinking Maps cause and effect map, as seen below.  I printed out the task cards at 50% their original size and gave each student four to glue in their notebooks.  They wrote the cause and effect relationships and shared with a neighbor.  I LOVE using task cards in interactive notebooks this way!  I also just finished writing a set of of paragraph cause and effect task cards for students to identify cause and effect in paragraphs--they will be perfect for test prep!

Cause and Effect Story Task Cards

All of this only took about two days, which was perfect for us!  I needed a quick review, and this fit the bill.  Do you have any great cause and effect activities to share?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thankful for Teachers Care Package Giveaway

Thanksgiving is almost upon us (how can that be!?), and it occurred to me that teachers are rarely honored during this time of giving thanks.  I believe it should be the complete and total opposite.  Teachers spend just about every waking moment of their lives planning for, caring for,  worrying about, and teaching children.  They deserve a little recognition this month.


I keep thinking of a way we can spread the love for educators and thank them for all they do.  They do SO much...not only for kids, but also for their colleagues, for the parents of children, and for our country.  Do you know a fellow educator who you think needs a little recognition?  Now's your chance!

Beginning tonight through Friday, November 21, stop by Teaching With a Mountain View on Facebook so share some love for a teacher.  It's easy.  Just leave a comment where you tag a teacher friend (or just write their name if they are not on Facebook) and tell them why you are thankful for them.  It doesn't have to be anything more than a sentence, but let's show the world just how amazing teachers are!

And there's a tiny, little incentive for spreading the teacher love this week... I wish I could send a care package to each and every one of you.

I will be sending out a care package to one educator who recognizes another on that Facebook thread.  Inside that care package will be two identical goodie bags (one for the teacher who posted the comment and one for the teacher he or she recognized), filled with some of my favorite teaching essentials and some Teaching With a Mountain View goodies, too.  There will be some chocolate involved, because every teacher needs a little chocolate to get through the next month... Already assembled task cards and Mr. Sketch markers are definitely included in the box.

And there's one more thing included in the box that I should mention ahead of time...a $25 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Certificate, graciously donated by my dad.  He is grateful for all that teachers do and wanted to show his thanks.  I thoughts this would be the perfect opportunity!    I will leave the rest of the contents of the box a surprise for now.

So, what are you waiting for?  Hop over to my Facebook page and find the pinned post that has the image shown above.  Add your comment noting who you a thankful for on that post.  It is sure to make someone smile!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Analyzing Firsthand and Secondhand Accounts


Compare and contrast a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic; describe the differences in focus and the information provided. 

I'm not going to lie. This was a scary standard for me to tackle.  It's one of those that you Google, and almost nothing comes up.  Sure, pulling out nonfiction resources is fairly simple if you have a great library, but not much exists to explicitly teach this skill.  And this is a skill that needs explicit teaching!  The Common Core not only asks us to teach Point of View, but they definitely want us to take it a step or two further...and this skill is definitely taking it further!
I started by using a few passages that I have used for years--even before Common Core.  My students LOVE learning about European Explorers, so I pulled some primary sources from my English major days.  Here are the excerpts I use to introduce firsthand accounts.  They aren't fancy, and they absolutely require discussion and some explanation on your part, but they always hook my students.  You can download these Firsthand Accounts of European Explorers for free HERE.
I read these aloud to them while they read along.  We talk about the information we can get from these accounts, and how an encyclopedia might give us different information.  We also discuss how the extra information I included on the sheets (to help give them background information) changes or alters their view of the firsthand account.  I explain that the extra information I give is technically a secondhand account, or a secondhand source.  They almost immediately understand the difference.

Firsthand and Secondhand Accounts Foldable
What would a lesson be without something in their interactive notebooks!?  After creating the anchor chart above, they put that same information into their notebooks.  You can download my template free HERE.


I LOVE using task cards in interactive notebooks.  It's a great way to provide proof of learning.  I have created these Analyzing Firsthand and Secondhand Account Task Cards, and I am so excited about them!  Each of the sixteen cards has two different accounts of the same event.  One is a firsthand account and one is a secondhand account.  I have also included guiding questions to helps students firmly grasp the goals of the standard.  The questions help students compare and contrast the two accounts, understand how the focus is different depending on the source, and discern the differences in the information provided.

Complete several of the cards together, first.  Annotate the cards as you would a close reading resource (Did you know that almost ALL of my half-page reading task cards are perfect for close reading?) and dissect them well.

The students can then glue one of the task cards into their notebook and answer the guiding questions using the individual student question prompt sheet.  The resource also includes a recording sheet if you don't use interactive notebooks.  After we have completed the task cards together and in the notebook, they are perfect for small groups and to put in your literacy centers, too!


You can find these Analyzing Firsthand and Secondhand Accounts for Comparing and Contrasting Multiple Accounts of the same event in my Teachers Pay Teachers store HERE.

Do you have any other ideas for teaching this tough skill?  Please share them in the comments!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Educational Halloween Activities for the BIG KIDS!

Every year, I find myself frantically searching for Halloween activities that are suitable for the big kids.  There are tons of adorable activities for the K-1 crowd, but finding activities that are both educational and engaging for older kids can be tricky.  Here is a roundup of some great ideas to get you through the next two weeks with your sugar-hyped students!

Spooky Story Writing
This would be a great one-day activity to get your students in the Halloween spirit!  The freebie includes Character Cubes, Setting Cubes, Obstacles Cubes, and more to get their creative juices flowing!
Spooky Story Writing from Brain Waves Instruction
Plot in the Pumpkin Patch
Jennifer Runde's ideas never disappoint, and this activity is no exception!  Practice story elements using this super fun pumpkin craftivity!

Plot in the Pumpkin Patch from Runde's Room

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich
This book is hilarious and one of the few Halloween books that will keep older kids engaged.  It's a compilation of silly poems, which lend themselves well to activities, fluency practice, and being read aloud.


Here is a fun activity to go along with the book and practice summaries and main ideas. Check out this FREE matching activity from Pitner's Potpurri!

Acid Candy Test
Candy?  Yes, please! Candy Science?  Even better!  Test the acid in certain candies with this engaging activity from the Science Gal.

Acid Candy Test from Science Gal
Monster Mash!  Math Project for Bigger Kids
One of the things that I noticed was a lack of big kid math activities with a fall/Halloween theme.  So, I created this Halloween Math Project!  It's unique in that it covers tons of math concepts with a fun Halloween theme (although it never actually mentions Halloween).  You can use this before and after Halloween and have guaranteed learning and fun!  This project is for sale in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Halloween Math Project by Teaching With a Mountain View
Halloween Would You Rather
This is an activity I do with my kids for every holiday.  Stop by Rachel Lynette's store to download the Would You Rather Halloween scenarios for FREE, and while you're there, download her other holidays as well!  We LOVE these, and then the students love coming up with their own, too.

Halloween Would You Rather by Rachel Lynette
Geometric Bat
The shapes included in the template for this geometric bat are fairly basic, but the questions take it to a "big kid" level.  You could even let your students create their own geometric bat using more advanced shapes!

Geometric Bat from Math Four
Scarecrow Crunch Science
This is a great free science activity to teach science concepts like mixtures and solutions.  Bonus: The kids get to eat their experiment when they are done!


Scarecrow Crunch Science from Third Grade Thinkers

Candy Conundrum Decimals Activity!
You may recognize this one from my blog last year.  We LOVED this comparing costs activity that helped us practice adding and subtracting decimals.  Start saving the ads, or have your students bring them in.  It's So. Much. Fun. (And FREE!)

Comparing Costs of Halloween Candy
Owl-some Order of Operations
Jennifer from 4MulaFun has this fun fall freebie to help kids practice Order of Operations.  Who doesn't need practice with that!?

Halloween Order of Operations Freebie from 4MulaFun
Free Halloween Close Reading
Not only do I love the author's name, but this is a perfect close reading passage for Halloween from The Panicked Teacher.  Teach students about the history of Halloween while practicing their close reading skills.  It's FREE, too!

Halloween Close Reading from The Panicked Teacher
Pumpkin Predictions
This pumpkin activity is perfect because you can use it before or after Halloween, and tie in some measurement math fun!  I love that it involved estimates because so often we focus on exact answers that we forget about teaching the crucial skill of estimation, too.

Pumpkin Predictions from Laura Candler
Tickle the Turkey Decimals Smart Board Game
Are you lucky enough to have a Smart Board in your classroom?  This fun and free game will help you review several decimal skills with an interactive touch.  This is another activity that will last you well beyond Halloween.

Turkey Tickle Decimals by FlapJack Learning
Candy Perspective Writing Prompt
What a clever prompt this is, and so great for teaching perspective and point of view.  I would love to hear students share their stories and practice their fluency as well!

Candy Perspective


What ideas do you have for fun Halloween activities that even the bigger kids will love!?  Share them in the comments.  If you are looking for even more Halloween activities, click the banner below to see all of the Halloween activities in my TpT store!


Saturday, September 27, 2014

An Amazon Listing Cumulative Novel Project!

It's no secret that I love a good cumulative novel project as an assessment.  I usually spend the entire novel brainstorming how we can sum it up!  Sometimes the projects are a miss (you don't get to read about those!) but sometimes they are great successes.  Like the character project we completed for Rules or the reading skills review project for The Westing Game, this novel project was a huge hit with my students.

This is actually the last project we did at the end of the school year last year.  I knew that I needed a book that would keep the students on the edge of their seats, so The Phantom Toolbooth fit the bill.  When we were finishing up in the last few weeks of school, I knew that the project would need to be equally engaging.  I couldn't imagine giving my students an essay test at the end of the year, but I also needed a great assessment to gauge their understanding of the book, of the content, and of some of the skills we had worked on that quarter.  So, the Amazon.com Listing Cumulative Novel Project was born!


Before I introduced the project to the students, I pulled up an Amazon listing page for a book we had previously read.  We talked about all the elements that it included and what stuck out to us.  Then, we read a few of the reviews that people had written, as well as the formal editorial reviews on the page.  I would highly recommend this step because the students were hooked on making their own page after I showed them the real page.

After analyzing a real listing page, I gave them their assignment sheet.

You can download the assignment sheet for free HERE.


It is fairly self explanatory, especially after the students have already seen the examples of a real listing.  I have tried to break it down as simply as possible on the assignment page.  They make a book cover, write a summary, select quotes, write a review and more!  They are actually doing MORE than something like an essay test would require of them, but they never realize it, and they love doing it.  Some of my students even posted their reviews on the real Amazon site when we were finished.


Here is an example of one student's project.  I just love how they came out!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Teaching Children to Compare & Contrast


A few weeks ago, my two year olds and I were perusing the shelves of the library when they stumbled upon a book that they wanted to read "because there is an apple and an orange, and I like fruit!"  I flipped through it and threw in into our pile.  Little did I know I would be reading that book every. single. night. for the next three weeks.  Luckily, the book itself is quite hilarious, with an imaginative premise and delightful artwork.  I  fell in love with the author Sara Pinto.  The book,  Apples and Oranges: Going Bananas with Pairs, has children consider how two things are alike...and on the next page has a clever similarity so absurd you would never imagine think it up on your own!  (Take for example...Apples and Oranges both don't wear glasses!)  

With every passing night that I read this to my toddlers, I knew I wanted to use it in a compare and contrast lesson with big kids.  This book is sure to please even the older crowd because of its antics, and I just LOVE incorporating picture books into lessons.  

The book would be perfect for an introduction to the concept of comparing and contrasting using similarities and differences.  Even though it only asks for how the two items are alike, you can challenge students to think of differences too before you turn the page and get to the funny similarity.  Here is an anchor chart example to use with the book:


After going through the first six pages together, I made a worksheet for the students to finish out the book with less guidance.  Continue reading the book, but before you reveal the funny similarity, have students brainstorm similarities and differences on their own or in their small groups.  Since they know to expect that funny on the next page, there is a spot on the sheet for them to come up when their own "they both don't..."




After the book, consider doing a journal entry with students in their reading notebooks!  Here is an example of mine.  The pool and beach comparisons would lend themselves well to learning to write a compare and contrast paragraph as well. 



Finally, differentiated task cards are a perfect way to transition into comparing and contrasting from longer reading passages.  These differentiated compare and contrast task cards are available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Here's a suggestion on how to use them!


There are five different types of cards in this set that progress from easiest to more difficult.  They start having students compare pictures based solely on the qualities of the picture.  Then, they look at a picture and compare it to something they know in their life.  You can see in the above picture that there is a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge.  Students make a list of how it is the same and different as what they see out their window right now.  The third type of card has students decide whether something is being compared or contrasted--is the writer noting a similarity or a difference?
The fourth card has students list similarities and differences between two things or items (a pencil and a marker) before finally reading a short passage and answering questions on the last type of card.  This is a great way to differentiate or scaffold student learning!

Here is a picture of the set up before students work on it.  Each group (there are enough cards for 4 or 5 groups to all have different cards if you want them to) progresses through the 5 task cards on chart paper.  You could have them walk around and read each other's when they are done, too.

Of course this is just the tip of the ice berg of teaching this skill.  Your next step is comparing and contrasting two books, including the settings, characters, ideas, changes, etc.  These activities will get you will on your way to that!

What ideas do you have for teaching students to compare and contrast?  Any favorite books?  Please share them in the comments!


Saturday, August 16, 2014

The One Rule Classroom: Just a little RESPECT!

There are so many ideas for classroom rules, and I love and respect many of them.  I remember my mentor walking in on my first day of teaching while we were generating class rules.  The kids, by nature, were shouting out things like "no talking when the teacher is talking!" and "no running in the halls."  I was just glad they at least knew what I expected from them, and was just trying to get through that first day of teaching, so I wasn't correcting them.

As I furiously jotted the notes on a chart, my mentor-teacher piped up in the back and said "Why don't we turn some of those 'no' rules into something more positive?"  For the next few years, the positive rules were the route I went, and we would parse it down to 5 or 6 positive expectations.  Then suddenly one year, my colleagues and I decided we only needed one rule: RESPECT.  It was the perfect rule, related to our IB Attitudes, and really, how easy is it for kids to remember ONE rule? (Side Note: We actually called it our one "Essential Agreement" since we are an IB school, and that is what we refer to such expectations as.  For the general population's purpose, I'll refer to it as a rule.)


When we begin talking about our expectations, I ask the students to brainstorm a big list of rules.   Any rule they can think of. We compile a great big list of rules (sometimes they get really crazy and have 20 or 30 rules and start to get borderline silly!) and then we sit back and look at them.  Then, I get incredibly dramatic.

"BUT!!! How in the WORLD will I ever remember all of these rules!?" I groan.

The children stare at me, totally unsure of my dramatics.  After all, it is only the first day of school, and these children barely know me.

I tell them that I have an idea...Let's categorize our rules to make it a little bit easier to remember.  We put them into categories like "How we treat others" "How we treat supplies" "How we behave" etc.

To the children, I am still clearly overwhelmed by all of these rules.  Obviously, they agree that this is a lot to keep track of.  I ask the children to come up with just one word to describe all of these rules... We hem and we haw.  Eventually, they come up with the word "Respect" and a lightbulb goes off, and there is peace in the world again.

Okay, maybe I got a little dramatic again, but truly, the students get it.  They "get" that everything boils down to respecting others, ourselves, our learning, and our property.

Once we have come up with the rule, I write "RESPECT" in big bubble letters on a poster and have all the students sign it.  We hang it up in our room and everyone who walks in can see what our one class rule is.
Don't judge my bubble letters.  They are absolutely not my forte. 
When I see students goofing off in the hall, I can remind them that they aren't showing respect to the students learning in the other rooms.  When they don't put the marker tops back on, they are reminded that they aren't respecting our supplies.  When they shout out while I'm teaching, it doesn't take long for them to realize they aren't respecting me.

Of course, this doesn't work for every single child.  Some children and some classes will need very specific rules, and I absolutely don't fault them for that.  There are programs out there that I ADORE that can accompany this well, too, but it's a good starting point.  If you're willing to give it a go, you will very likely be thrilled with the RESPECT you have in your classroom!

I love sharing with my teaching colleagues!  Stop by my Facebook Page, my Teachers Pay Teachers Store, or my Pinterest Page to see even more ideas and resources!


For even more Bright Ideas, hop along to some of these other excellent posts!