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January 10, 2017

Teaching Civil Rights in a 5th Grade Classroom

"Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope."

This quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. could not be more beautiful. To me it symbolizes the changes that all Civil Rights Activists were working towards.

If you are familiar with my blog you know that I am an advocate for teaching love and appreciation for diversity in the classroom. At the kindergarten level this seemed to not be a larger undertaking. However, teaching 5th grade I have a bit of a challenge. My students now come to school with a certain mindset on the world they live in. Now, this could be a wonderful thing to embrace or it could mean breaking down barriers in your classroom.

I want to share with you some tips for teaching about the civil rights in your classroom. The biggest point I can make is that you need to teach about these influential chapters in the history of the United States.

Go In Depth

At the elementary level we typically pair a craftivity with historical content. I know I did! Art is such a fantastic subject to integrate into our content, as it is typically overlooked. However, in 5th grade I am thinking my students will not want to make a paper bag Dr. King. :) So instead I want to open their mind to the real issues. In the lower levels they give a great background on who individuals are so that I can dive into the stronger issues.

Don't Be Nervous

Anyone feel this way? Ever feel that as a white teacher what right do you have to teach about issues impacting African Americans? Um, HELLO! You have every right!! Who cares if your ancestors were not the ones who suffered the heartache of millions of Americans. This is part the U.S. history....of your history. 

Could you imagine if teachers did not go in depth on issues just because it was unconformable? 

Yes, it is hard to talk about our painful past. Are we proud of it? Heck no! But if we do not learn from our past, aren't we doomed to repeat it? I am SO passionate about teaching historically accurate facts to my students. I personally cannot rely on another teacher to teach the content I am passionate about.

Use Great Resources

This is so key and I really feel like it could make or break your lesson. Now, who else can teach lessons on the fly? After some time we all can. However, this is a lesson that needs to be planned and thought out.

First, know your students. At the end of the day you know what is appropriate to share with you class. I personally shared with my kinders a decent amount, at an age-appropriate level. Some teachers would not do the same, but that is your decision to make. Trust your gut!

Resources I Use

I began by touching upon the history of slavery using videos from the History Channel and oral discussion. I felt it important to go through a progression to have my students understand how we moved from slavery to the Jim Crow Laws to the Civil Rights Movement.

Here is another great video that could be used to start your dialogue. My class loves the kid president, and how cool to have someone they can relate to?!

At the beginning of the school year I purchased a subscription to Flocabulary because my students loved it so much! I love the blend of content with music! You can watch the beginning of the Civil Rights video if you do not have a subscription and it would be the perfect hook to your lesson.

Finally I really wanted my students to have an idea of what are country was going through. Yes, it is painful, but it is so necessary for them to understand. In my rural area they could never fathom this could of hate or racism.

I utilized the free film kits from Teaching Tolerance - you can find them here.
Need a place to start? These films are perfect. They are under 40 minutes and come with a disc of teacher resources. I highly suggest adding them to your school for yourself and other teachers. 

As educators we have the difficult task of changing mindsets and teaching empathy to our students in a world filled with hate. BUT we are molding the future, we are making the world better. Do not stop embracing others and teaching your students the importance of what it means to help others. We have one life and one world, and we are all in this together. Be the change.

January 3, 2017

Decimal Review - Pirate Theme

I am always inspired by amazing educators and what they do to engage their students. For some time now I have been wanting to think of an activity to do with my students to review operations with decimals. Inspiration came through this amazing Pirate theme that Hope King created in her classroom. Read about her transformation here.

Now I know some teachers think that it may be crazy to complete a classroom transformation. But let me tell you - it is very doable! I am going to walk your through our engaging week with math - pirate theme!!

Keep reading to enter for a chance to win this decimal review!

**Closes Saturday, January 7, 2017**

The Transformation

Last year I did bigger transformations, but this year I am in a new grade and it is not just not as possible. BUT, we still had a blast. I purchased my items from Oriental Trading and took advantage of free shipping. 

When my students arrived they were greeted by fun and thought provoking decor.

On their desk they were greeted with a treasure map. On the back I had typed up their task for the week. I am having my students collect gold coins to earn some extra recess time. This is going to be based on the entire class. That way my students who need extra support will still be able to earn the reward at the end of the week. Come Friday after their quiz I would love to let them unwind!

On one of my black boards I draped the fish net.

I then attached the flag to make for a fun feel! I teach two math classes so I will put up the jewels each class earns to see how much extra recess they will have.
I adore this little parrot!

Now, I told myself that I was not going to buy each of my students an eye patch. BUT, I just couldn't resist! Below are Amazon Affiliate links to some awesome items I used during this classroom flip! The other items were purchased from Oriental Trading.

Cloth Ragged Ship Door CurtainNatural Fish Net Wall DecorationPirate Treasure Maps

The Content 

This part is crucial! Yes it may look like my students are having a blast this week, because they are!, but we are also working hard. This week is a review of all operations with decimals. I have created four pirate themed activities, one for each operation. Again, students will be earning gold coins for equations that they solve correctly. 

I wanted to do this review week, even though it is not part of my curriculum. I feel so often that students are not given enough practice with skills they have learned, and therefore they forget.

With our math series my students work on a spiraled review packet each day. This week will provide them with more rigorous review before we transition into fractions. 

I am using these activities during my Math Workshop. I will have my students complete one activity a day. Before we enter workshop I will review with the class the operation that my lower group is going to be working on that day.

Check out my activities below. Be sure to enter the giveaway for a chance to win this resource!

In this game students are working to find the treasure! There are 24 task cards so each student will have a chance to earn up to 2 gold coins. Students can complete these task cards as a scoot game or center. However, I have added a dice to make it even more engaging. Students will roll the dice and are only able to solve a card with that image. This helps to ensure that students are not rushing through the problems and promotes a group activity.

This game is designed similar to the board game, Battleship. However - it has been a LONG time since I played LOL. Students will be doing a little backwards work here. I set these game boards up on file folders to shield their board. Students will first need to record the answers that they are given. These coincide with the differences to the subtraction problems on the task cards. Students will place their answers where ever they want on the grid.

Next, students will pick a task card to solve. My students love working on white boards and it is a quick clean up. After the students solves the equation they can self check their work with their opponent. That student will then try and sink one of the ships of their opponent. This student will call out a coordinate, "A 7". If it hits a number they get an extra coin! Students will use the bombs to record where their opponent fired! 

This game is called, What Does the Pirate Need? In this activity students will be completing word problems. On each task card I have placed an item that they will be purchasing, as well as its cost. Students will need to complete the work problems using the amounts provided.

If time allows they can challenge each other by telling them what items to buy!

The last game included is called "Walk the Plank!"Students will be using the game board provided. They will take turns spinning the spinner and moving on the board.

When students complete the game - the winner is awarded an extra gold coin. If time remains they can start over. With the replay, the challenge is they will only be able to solve the problems they have not already done. They will be able to tell this due to the recording sheet.

Click the image below to go to this resource.


Click the image below to check out the sampler of this resource. It contains a comparing decimals activity that aligns with this resource. 


I am BEYOND excited for this resource. I truly would love to see it benefit other teachers and their students. While it contains some prep, it will be well worth it!