Saturday, July 30, 2016

HELLO FRIENDS!!!!! It's a HUGE giveaway at Tarheelstate Teacher...but you can enter here!

OH MY GOODNESS!!!!!! I can't hold back the excitement! I was going to keep this "hush-hush" until tomorrow when I share my Juicy July Updates but I just can't hold back anymore! Brittany from Mix and Math and I have put together a HUGE giveaway!

You could win 2 $10 gift cards from teachers pay teachers

TWO HUGE bundles of resources to get you set for MATH or LITERACY this year (one from me and one from Brittany)!


And, because we love to share the love, you could also win the RESOURCE PACKS for ONE of YOUR LUCKY TEACHER FRIENDS! Click on the image to enter and tag other teachers in this post so they can enter too!

For each of the questions you answer, you get one entry, so increase your chances by entering information for all parts!

a Rafflecopter giveaway Let's get a little more excited and take a look at what you could win:
Brittany is giving away all of her Real-World Math Projects!
 Mix and Math Projects 4th 5th grade common core
You get to pick ONE of these MEGA BUNDLE BABIES from MY Store!
 4th 5th grade fractions task cards for fractions mega bundle common core
 4th 5th grade mega literacy bundle common core
Good luck! Don't forget to spread the love and SHARE with friends! You can double your chances of winning because both of you could win! :) It's like BOGO for your teaching buddy, and who doesn't LOOOOOOOVE a BOGO sale, especially when it's really a GET ONE, GIVE ONE, so we will call it a GOGO and you don't have to spend a dime! Okay, done with the cheese!

I've also been working really hard on my post for sharing how I launch reading workshop (it's ready!!! HAPPY DANCE HAPPY DANCE!). Your going to get some word-for-word lesson ideas for Day 1 and 2 and I'm including downloadable "day by day plan" and a "routines and procedures checklist." So look for that sometime today! Happy weekend friends! 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Two New Series at Tarheelstate Teacher

Over at, I'm breathing new life into some of the best posts found here at Life, Love, Literacy. I'm starting a new blog tradition called "Revisit and Revise" where I revisit and update posts from Life, Love, Literacy. First up, I'm revisiting some of my best tips from my Building a Reading Life series that I wrote in 2011. I have always believed that it is possible to help every child become a reader and I've always made it my personal goal to turn a "nonreader" around within the first two weeks of school. I hope you come along and join me as I share the best strategies and approaches I've used over the years to turn every child into a reader. 

I've also started a new math series called "ExtraOrdinary Math Hacks." My first math hack shows you how to take an ordinary worksheet and turn it into task cards. I've even shared a recording sheet that pushes students to go deeper when learning how to model and use different number forms in whole number place value. This engaging activity was two days worth of lessons and practice for my 4th graders. 

I hope you stop on by Tarheelstate Teacher, pick up some refreshed ideas, freebies, and decide to follow along! 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Implementing Morning Meeting~{It's my BIGGEST Blog Series Ever!}

Image Map
Through the end of August, all of September, and part of October, I will be focusing my Saturday mornings at Tarheelstate Teacher on the Community Meeting {aka Morning Meeting}. I have been working really hard on this blog series and I'm so excited to share with you all that I have planned. I LOVE thinking and talking about Morning Meeting, so this series is putting me in my "back to school" zone!

I love, love, love morning meeting and the community that it creates in my classroom. My first days of school will be spent having many community-building conversations with my students under the umbrella of the Community Meeting. I hope you will follow this series and learn more about why I'm dedicated to the community meeting!

1) Why I Devote Classroom Time to Community Meetings
2) The Design of My Community Meeting Program
3) Why Have a Theme-Based Community Meeting?
4) Materials and Resources for Preparing for Your Community Meetings
5) Launching Community Meeting at the Beginning of the Year {or anytime!}
6) A Look at Day by Day in the Community Meeting
7) Scheduling the Community Meeting
8) What if “I Still Can’t Fit it In!”?
9) Problem Solving Classroom Issues: a structure for when you need it!
10) (Do you need to) Justify Your Classroom Meeting?

I'll come back to Life, Love, Literacy to link-up the blog posts as they go live each Saturday, but it'd be great if you go ahead and follow Tarheelstate Teacher on bloglovin' and you won't have to worry about missing a thing!

Did you see this? It's my "first day of school" step-by-step community meeting lesson and it includes free student journal pages and bulletin board materials!
And did you grab this free list of my favorite back to school read alouds? I took it with me to the library this week to start collecting read alouds for my first few weeks of school! 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

2014-2015 Top 10 Classroom Highlights

{I've fully transitioned my brain to blog at Tarheelstate Teacher but I'll be maintaining Life, Love, Literacy and cross-posting things from time to time. I'm so appreciative of my loyal followers and everyone who comes across this blog. I hope you continue to find useful posts here in the archives and that you follow me over @ Tarheelstate Teacher where it's only going to keep getting better and better :)}

I wanted to make sure you saw my 2014-2015 highlights posts. This post serves as a summary of my Top 10 Highlights from last year, including my bonus post of my favorite Math Highlights. Oh, and don't miss my "Stop Comparing Yourself to the Highlights Reel." It's perfect for back to school inspiration and helping calm your mind.

2014-2015 is a wrap! Personally, my brain starts transitioning to the next school year around March. Call it spring fever, but we're at the 300 yard mark in a 400 yard dash. Routines and procedures are {mostly} running smoothly, and I have some brain space available for thinking about next year.

Never in my career have I reflected on the school year as in depth as I have this past month. Making a Top 10 Highlights list forced me to reflect on the best parts of the 2014-2015 school year. As I shared many resources and project ideas, I documented my school year and cataloged some of my favorite classroom projects and experiences, most of them brand-new this year.

I'd like to impart to you that this reflective documentation of my work was a priceless teacher experience. During my New Year's goal setting period, I realized that I had become the kind of teacher who throws her planbook away each year {not literally} and starts from scratch {not all the time, but way too often}. This is not very efficient and often leaves me feeling like a first year teacher. This is unnecessary and I made a commitment to myself to stop reinventing the wheel ALL the time. This is not to say that I am unwilling to develop new lessons and materials, but that I should begin with considering what I have done in the past more often. My time is very important now that I have a family to love and take care of. Teaching should be manageable and falling back on what worked in the past is critical to managing this career. {I know your district probably won't say that to you, but take it from my 10 years of experience. Promise!}

Taking the time to announce what I loved will help me remember all that I did this year AND will help me choose to use some of these classroom activities again and again. If you can't tell, I highly recommend taking the time to reflect on this year's highlights--for now, stay away from all the stuff you want to change, and focus on the good stuff, what you and your students loved and why you loved it. Reignite the fire as you rejuvenate for next year!

I hope you found something that piqued your interest and inspired you as you plan for your 2015-2016 school year. {I'd love to hear more about your thoughts in the comments.} If you missed any of my highlights, you can click through here.

#10 Transitioning to a New School
#9 Spiral Math Homework
#8 "One Thing" Goal Setting Strategy
#7 School Budget {Govt} Project
#6 Bill Peet Author Study Projects
#5 Poetry Workshop
#4 {State} Travel Brochure Projects
#3 Classroom Read Alouds {Chapter Books}
#2 Ecosystems Museum Projects
#1 "Teach Me How to Teach" Projects

BONUS: Top Math Highlights

Don't be disappointed that this series has ended. I have re-envisioned my blog to really focus on reflection and documentation. My brain REALLY needs to reflect in a productive way and write. In truth, I am still reflecting on the school year. My "highlights" series focused on the positives from this year, but you will surely hear more about what I plan to continue doing and what I plan to change for 2015-2016. I look forward to sharing this love of teaching with you. Reignite your passion this summer!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

It's {almost} a Wrap! 2014-2015 Top 10 Highlights #8

#8 on my 2014-2015 highlights countdown was a New Year's lesson that popped into my head this year. It was life changing for me and really made an impact on my students. Head over to tarheelstate teacher to read more about how "One Word" became a "One Thing" strategy for goal setting. 

I will soon be phasing out Lifeloveliteracy and fully launching Tarheelstate Teacher with a new blog design by Michelle at the3amteacher!  You won't want to miss all that I have planned for the summer. Please go ahead and follow Tarheelstate Teacher on Bloglovin' so that you get all of my post updates.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

It's {almost} a Wrap! 2014-2015 Top 10 Highlights #9

Implementing Spiral Math hits my 2014-2015 Highlights list at #9. Head over to Tarheelstate Teacher to read more about two programs I used for spiral math homework (one that is completely free!), why I believe it is important to use a spiral math program, and why I loved it this year. 

If you missed my post about my transition to a new blog, check it out here.
I will soon be phasing out Lifeloveliteracy and fully launching Tarheelstate Teacher with a new blog design by Michelle at the3amteacher!  You won't want to miss all that I have planned for the summer. Please go ahead and follow Tarheelstate Teacher on Bloglovin' so that you get all of my post updates.

Monday, June 1, 2015

It's {almost} a Wrap! 2014-2015 Top 10 Highlights

2014-2015 is about to be a wrap!! We have 9-1/2 more school days, but I'll call it 10 since I still get to wake up to an alarm clock each of those days. This year has been a BIG year of changes for me. I changed jobs, sold my house, got engaged, got married, and just moved into a new house! For the first year ever, I get a long summer break and I have been making mental lists of all the things I want to accomplish!
As I work to clean up my TPT store and do a little rebranding, I'm also moving my blog to Life, Love, Literacy's first post was on March 12, 2011. I think I opened my teacher store prior to starting the blog in October 2010. Wow! It feels like it has been a lot longer than four years! I have went back and forth for a while about my lifeloveliteracy blog and whether or not my TPT store and blog should match, so finally I decided to buy the tarheelstate teacher domain and start anew. Rather than try to revise this blog, I thought I would take all of the experience I have gained over the years and just start fresh. Michelle Tsivgadellis @the3amteacher will be designing my new blog later this summer so it's not pretty yet. However, I have so many exciting blogging plans for the summer {lots of reflection on this year and the 10 YEARS of teaching that I will wrap up next Friday!!!} that I want to go ahead and start building my blog over there in hopes that you will follow me to a new adventure! I will continue posting here with teasers as a reminder over the summer, and then will fully transition when I launch my new blog design! {So excited about that!!}

You can head over to tarheelstate teacher to read all about my Top 10 Highlights from 2014-2015. I will be counting down for the next 10 school days to go along with my 9 1/2 more days until summer!!! Now it's really 8 1/2 :) because I'm almost done with Monday :)!!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

~*GIVEAWAY*~PREP TOON Math Resources

Last year, I used the 6th grade PrepToon math videos with my 5th graders (4th and 5th grade videos were not yet available.) I loved the real-world math exposure that the videos allowed my 5th graders to experience instantly. They were not simply given word problems on paper, but were able to visualize them with the help of Preptoon's short videos. This was especially helpful for my inclusion students and students who have difficulty understanding what computations a word problem requires them to complete. The CD also includes worksheets that go along with the video questions.

After using the videos, I left this feedback:
{You can check out some of their awesome work with the freebies in their TPT store.}

I'm excited to be partnering with PrepToon to host my first ever giveaway! Math Animations by Preptoon has offered to give away a set of Common Core aligned math animations to one lucky winner. (4th, 5th, and 6th grade video sets are available).

"These story based animation videos which show importance of math in daily life will help you engage your kids and make your math class more fun and lively. Plus these videos are CCSS aligned and come with printable worksheets to follow along video activities."

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Soon, PrepToon will be launching their website with "100's of interactive videos, 750+ critical thinking questions and printable worksheets." The videos will include interactive features where students input answers and receive feedback and data reports for teachers. This week, I had the opportunity to try out the website and it's features and I think it's going to be a classroom necessity!

You can preview one of the videos I watched here:
When the website launches, I will be holding another giveaway for access to it! {Holy MOLY, that's gonna be a great deal!} 

I will announce the winner on Monday April 13th, so submit your entry and stay tuned!!

Don't forget, I'm having a spring break appreciation sale through Monday!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Yahoooooooo! Geometry!

I just updated one of my OLDEST PRODUCTS!!!!! Like, 5 years old, BABY! And I have to say, I am so glad I took the time to add more information to my Geometry Vocabulary Cards Product. This baby went from 13 pages to 25 and it's staying at the same price as it was!

I'm starting my Geometry unit on Monday so decided this was a great time to freshen up all of my Geometry resources. I hope to have the others updated this week! I hope you love this resource as I can't wait to use it with my 4th graders! My 5th graders LOVED the team competition we did with these vocabulary cards last year.

These 41 Geometry Vocabulary Terms aligned to 3rd-5th grade common core. Terms, a visual, and a written definition are included (for a total of 123 cards).
This set of Geometry Vocabulary cards can be used to provide students with multiple exposures to vocabulary terms and to offer them a study strategy for Geometry units and state assessments. I have included creative and fun ways for students to play with these cards and engage with the vocabulary terms. 
This resources also includes:
-Over 5 different activity and game ideas for utilizing the cards in your classroom (with cooperative groups, partners, stations, and independent activities-includes ideas for differentiation and scaffolding)
-Printing ideas that help you DIFFERENTIATE
-Common Core alignment
-6 pages that support the activity ideas
Don't forget, everything in my store is on Sale through Monday and tomorrow I'm announcing my GIVEAWAY contest! It's getting exciting UP-in-HerE! <3

Friday, April 3, 2015


Hello Followers!

My spring break is coming to an end. We go back on Monday! As I'm planning for our upcoming units, I'm having to make a few purchases of resources on TPT, so I thought, maybe you are planning too and YOU DESERVE A SALE!

My Teacher Appreciation Spring Break {you deserve it} sale runs now through Monday April 5th and everything is 20% off! It's a great time to grab my Multiplication Intervention Bundle or my Morning Meeting bundles at a super duper deal!

I'm also spending some time today updating my geometry files. I plan to put together a bundle by Sunday of all of my Geometry products, so be on the lookout! It's gonna look something like this {and if you already own some of my geometry products, be ready to download the new files!}
Also, I'm announcing a GIVE AWAY on Sunday for a FREE Year-Long Common Core Curriculum for Math from Prep Toons! Animation products for grades 4-6 are currently available. The set costs $20 on TPT but its over 35$ worth of value! Later this year, I will be hosting a giveaway for Preptoons newly launched website! You don't want to miss any of this fun! You must be following my BLOGFACEBOOK page, and TPT store in order to enter. Please follow Prep Toon on TPT as well. Go ahead and do it now to get ahead of the game! :)

Monday, March 23, 2015

~*Worksheets and Dendrites*~Ch 1 & 2

Allowing students to brainstorm and discuss is something I feel I do all day long! My students have journals for every subject. This provides the perfect place to brainstorm ideas for questions that I pose. I learned early in my career that choosing one student to answer questions was not my style (mainly because it bugged me that the disengaged students constantly got out of doing the thinking). I think it is important to give everyone "thinking time" and my students quickly get in the habit of jotting ideas and responses when I pose questions, especially in reading and math.

This year, I have increased partner and group work to capitalize on my students' love of talking. (Look on the bright side!) Early in the year, I realized that my students loved to talk. The first week of school, I was really unsure of how I was ever going to get them to be quiet and work. I find myself often saying "How can I do this where they get to talk?" My students have multiple opportunities throughout the day to discuss and work in partnerships and small groups; we are often engaged in a group project where they have to work with the same classmates long term. With small group and partner activities, engagement and participation increases to nearly 100%.
With our recent Ecosystems Museum Exhibit (project based learning), I have fallen in love with using art in the classroom. Project-based learning is a perfect reason for incorporating art, and I not only included it in my students' culminating project, but their research pages contained multiple opportunties for them to draw what they had learned. I'm definitely on the look out for more ways to allow my students to sketch, draw, and paint in the classroom and have plans to increase my use of art next year. I had to put this strategy under the "sometimes" category.
During the first week of school, I was going back and forth about whether or not to have my students create Heart Maps. Holy-moly, teacher-friends, am I glad I did!?! I have little artists in my classroom. They worked so hard on these things and took their time. {I should have known then that drawing was the way to their hearts.} And, doesn't art often allow certain students to shine?
I have greatly increased my use of sketching and drawing in math with our fractions unit. Students have drawn and colored pies, pizzas, cookies, chocolate, and cake! I found an amazing set of math resources from Georgia from their Common Core performance standards. I modified their handouts a few times, but if you want something hands-on with a little bit of art incorporated, go to this website immediately. I used the 3rd and 4th grade materials, but they have them for K-6.
In my previous post, I reflected on my use of the 20 strategies discussed in Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites and categorized them as "I already do that-A LOT," "I already do that SOMETIMES," and "I hardly ever do that." I am enjoying the reflection that this book is putting me through. Even if you are not reading the book, I encourage you to look at the strategies and see which new ones you might implement more often. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

~*~Book Study~Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites~*~

Have you heard about this book study? I bought Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites as soon as I saw the announcement from Amanda at One Extra Degree. I thought it would give me some PLC (professional learning community) time that I am missing these days (I'm at a one person-per grade level school, so I am the lone 4th grade teacher). I'm a pretty reflective teacher {have you noticed?}, and I thought this book would push me through some reflection.

I have been reading the book and thinking about my own classroom, but I have yet had time to post. Tonight I was thinking about the title...WORKSHEETS (pencil and paper, sit at your desk for an hour and do this) "don't grow dendrites." When I think of dendrites, I think of synapses and neurons, and one idea connecting to another like our veins running through our body or tributaries leading one river into another, into the ocean. I've had many experiences as a teacher where I could literally feel my dendrites branching off and connecting to other things I knew and experiences I have had--I bet you have too. We constantly have those AhHa! moments when we are teaching--oh, that connects to that thing we are doing in another content area--oh, that's a new way to teach that--oh, I'm out in the world doing my thing, and that reminds me of ____ that I teach.

I believe that finding ways to get kids OFF of the worksheets WILL grow more dendrites than constant pencil-paper-pencil-paper-sit-at-desk.

When I skimmed through the book and saw the strategies mentioned, I thought, "Man, this is all stuff we all already know," and "I already do that."
And then...
      ...I remembered that "I already do that" is my PET PEEVE of professional development. We always have something to learn and I believe that even if we think we "already know this" and "already do that," we {I} always have tons of room for improvement in utilizing strategies routinely, consistently, strategically, and with FINESSE. The 20 strategies suggested in Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites include:
When I look at the list of strategies, I have to admit "I don't already do" all of that :) I'm sure we all lean on certain techniques more than others. Maybe we find what works for us and our kids and maybe we are in a rut sometimes and forget to include things we've already learned. So much to do, so much to think about, so much, so much! I also think that I put a lot of pressure on myself when thinking about how I'm doing and making improvements--I don't feel like I'm using these strategies if I only use them in one subject area or as a once a year kind of thing. In my mind, "doing" these strategies means that they are embedded in my classroom throughout the year. Being an elementary teacher with 5 subject areas is tough!

I decided to put the 20 strategies on a chart (One of my favorite strategies--always, sometimes, rarely :) )
If you haven't started following along with the book study, here's the schedule. Each of the bloggers listed are hosting a linky party, so if you have a blog, you can link up your reflections too. Click on a blog and catch up!
Kickin it in Kindergarten- Chapters 1 and 2 (February 28th)
Mrs. Wills Kindergarten- Chapter 3 (March 7th)
Queen of the First Grade Jungle Chapter 4 (March 10th)
Fabulous in First Chapter 5 (March 14th)
One Extra Degree Chapter 6 (March 17th)
Mrs. Jump's Class Chapter 7 (March 28th)
The First Grade Parade Chapter 8 (March 31st)

In April, you will be visiting these girls for the remainder of the study:
Mrs. Ehle's Kindergarten Chapter 9 &10 (April 4th)
What The Teacher Wants Chapter 11 (April 7th)
First Grader At Last Chapter 12 (April 11th)
Erica's Ed Ventures Chapter 13 (April 14th)
KinderGals Chapter 14 &15 (April 18th)
A Rocky Top Teacher Chapter 16 (April 21st)
Mrs. Wills Kindergarten Chapter 17 (April 25th)
Little Warriors Chapter 18 (April 28th)
Falling Into First Chapter 19 (May 2nd)
Kickin' it in Kindergarten Chapter 20 (May 5th) 

{And stay tuned for my "catch-up" posts of my reflections from each chapter}

Monday, March 16, 2015

Mobile Museum Ecosystems Exhibits~PBL~

Project-based learning has been in full swing for my 4th graders for the past month or so. I'm so excited to share the process and the results with you. My principal {requires} at least one project based unit each year. In our first "project" earlier this year, students negotiated and presented a $20,000 budget to the principal {for our government/economics unit}. If you are not familiar with project-based learning, the Buck Institute is a great place to start poking around. We were also strongly encouraged to figure out ways to incorporate the arts into our project because we are working to be recognized as a STEAM school. I decided to focus my PBL unit on Ecosystems/Organisms through an Ecosystems Mobile Museum Project--Project based learning? Check! Art...Oh yeah baby! {If you didn't catch my last post about my Ecosystems Research unit, you may want to go back and read that first.}

I dare say this project was more fun and meaningful AND allowed me to incorporate lots of Language Arts and technology goals into a science-based unit. I'm going to share what we did {and if you are a PROJECT BASED whiz, please forgive me for coming late to the game AND I  will admit that I do feel this is more INTEGRATED, INTERDISCIPLINARY than PBL, but it's a great start for this year}.

One note to keep in mind as you read, I collaborated with the 5th grade teacher for this unit, so anything I did focused on Organisms and Ecosystems of NC, she applied to world biomes to meet the 5th grade standards.

To launch our project, we planned a field trip to a local Natural Sciences museum. Before our visit to the museum, students received a "letter" from the museum challenging them to create a mobile museum to help the museum educate more children about ecosystems and organisms of North Carolina. The letter started with "You have been hired by the Museum of Natural Sciences to help create a mobile museum exhibit. A mobile museum exhibit is one that can be moved around from place to place. We believe that mobile museums are important for helping us educate more students beyond the walls of the museum."

Driving Question:
Project-based learning is supposed to start with a driving question. Our driving question was "How can we create a museum that educates children and adults of all ages about our state ecosystems and wildlife?"
In 4th grade, Students chose an organism local to NC’s coastal plain or the mountain region (also included temperate deciduous forest animals). 5th grade students focused on organisms from specific biomes. All students used the research pages provided to learn about their organism in-depth. The journal pages provided a focus for students’ research and the 5th grade teacher and I each chose the sheets that matched our standards.
After researching their organism, students wrote research papers AND turned those papers into Google slide shows (or other presentations) to be shown as interactive learning stations during the mobile museum. I also had plans for us to pull sentences and paragraphs from students’ articles to create informational posters for our mobile museum displays, but we didn't get the time to include this in our exhibit. {Can you say "SNOW DAYS"?}

After students completed their slideshows, I had them pair up with another student who studied a similar organism and they completed the venn diagram from my Ecosystems research booklet materials. I thought this was a great way for students to experience one another's projects, but then I also realized it was a great way for them to get feedback and a motivator for revision. So, after doing the comparison activity, I copied the niche, behavioral adaptations, and physical adaptations sheets and paired students again. This time, students had to try to fill in the niche and adaptations sheets using only the information their partner provided in the slideshow. (I call this "backwards mapping" as students were kind of trying to work backwards from the slideshow to the research template.) This activity created a lot of motivation to revise their projects and to include missing information. (Constructive feedback for 21 kids given by other classmates? PERFECTO!)
Simultaneously with our in-class research, students created a 3-D model of their organism with either clay or by felting in art class.
After getting a good grip on our research and slide shows, I divided students into groups based on their specific ecosystem (Mountains/Forest in Mountains, by the Riverside, in a Forest by the coast, etc) and they worked together to design ecosystem murals to serve as backdrops for our Mobile Museum Exhibits. {Mural design and painting happened mostly in my classroom! I was so scared to take on "real" art happening in my classroom, but now I'm so glad I did it!} I cut butcher paper fit to the size of tri-fold boards. Groups figured out how one backdrop would flow into the next so that we had a “mountains to sea” display.
When the mobile museum was ready, we opened in the cafeteria and invited parents and all classes to attend. In case you can't tell by the pictures below, it was AH~mazing!
As grade levels came to visit, my students grabbed one student and led them around the museum. (I made a little checklist/scavenger hunt of all the organisms in our museum so that they would have a little something to engage them at the museum.) I spent the morning watching my students share their slideshows and what they had learned with students in other grades. It was so cool to see a culmination of all their hard work!

I do have some wishes for what I wish we had time to add to these projects:
* I wanted a key of the organisms (instead of using the labels you see) where students create a simple illustration of the environment and use numbers and a key to identify each organism. (This is how it's done at our local museum's exhibits)
* I wanted foreground environmental stuff (you see those bare tables? I would have loved for students to have had time to add sticks, leaves, grass, moss, etc. to the displays)
* the DECOMPOSERS in the ecosystem are missing! (Whoops!!! Something else that needed to be added to the foreground)
* Using information from students' slideshows and research to add displays and info boxes to the exhibit (like at a real museum--you have info to read as you move through the exhibits)
* And lastly, I truly had the goal of having students create one hands-on learning tool in partners. This would have helped us better meet our "Driving Question" and would have required more critical thinking as students become teachers. The 5th graders were able to pull this off. Here's two examples from their projects:
You might ask how much time this took. We began our projects in January and wrapped up at the beginning of March. We also had nearly two weeks of snow days in there. I would estimate that we spent 2 weeks on research, 2 weeks on typing drafts, one week on slideshow creation and mural creation (same week), and that the art teacher used 5 or so art classes to help students get their 3D organisms completed. Keep in mind all of the standards I included with this one project--research and reading informational texts, writing informational texts, creating slideshows/utilizing technology, art, communicating and collaborating (to design a cohesive mural together), all of my ecosystems science goals, and a better understanding of the regions of North Carolina (social studies). I call this a WIN WIN! and my students are excited to do it again in 5th grade for their biomes unit!

I'll be reflecting on my {first} project-based learning unit  using this Project Design Rubric and a PBL Essential Elements Checklist, but for now, I'm going to bask in the glowing light of joy from having my students complete 3D organism models that look amazing, a collaborative mural backdrop that flows from one environment to the next, a final research booklet, research paper, and a google slide show. I can hardly measure the time put into this project, but I dare say it was less than or equal to what it would have taken to teach research, nonfiction writing, slideshow design, and ecosystems separately. And this project surely created memories of 4th grade!


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