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Friday Favorites – PBL Activities

Social Studies

Every Friday this summer I am sharing some of my favorite things with you! The month of July is focused on technology and academic areas.

Check out past Friday Favorites…
PD Books
Read Alouds
Kids’ Favorite Series
Book Studies
Tech Apps

Math Activities

Today I’m sharing with you my favorite PBL or social studies activities. PBL stands for Project Based Learning. It incorporates multiple subject areas into a unit and is very student-led.  I now teach social studies this way and have also been able to incorporate reading, writing, math, public speaking, and more into my projects.
Here are my favorites from this year…
Johnson Elementary – I start the year off with Johnson Elementary. Basically my class starts our own elementary school. I am the principal and they are the teachers. They get to decide what class they’re going to teach, what they will focus on, what their classroom will look like, and what the rules/expectations they will have in their classroom. The teachers (my students) also get together to come up with expectations for the main areas (hallway, lunch room, etc).  The goal of this PBL is to get kids interested in PBL, start working in teams, and understand the need for rules/expectations in a school.  For more info – check out my detailed blog post on it – here.

Statue of Liberty – The Statue of Liberty was a new PBL that I started this year. The goal was for this to be a little more guided than the rest of the PBLs, but it is the first research PBL.  I knew that some of my kids hadn’t researched before and some didn’t have much experience with report writing so I wanted to guide them through this one a bit so they’d be better prepared for our research PBLs later in the year.  We talked about American Symbols and also brainstormed questions that we would want to find answers to when learning about the Statue of Liberty. I created a website on Weebly with links to safe, kid websites for the Statue of Liberty.  Students researched and took notes and we also wrote our first report.

International Week – Holland Presentation – This week our school had an International Week. Each class had a country to research.  My class researched Holland. I broke my class up into partners and the students focused on researching a certain topic – culture, food, kid’s lives, etc.  Then, they created a little presentation and presented it to our visitors to teach them about Holland.  For more info – I wrote an entire blog post on our school’s International Week – check it out – here.
Famous Historic Figures- One of our social studies standards has us focusing on important leaders in US history. We focus on Rosa Parks, MLK Jr, George Washington, and Abe Lincoln. Students can request certain figures and they work in groups to conduct their research. Then, like the others they create a report and come up with a way as a group to present their information about their person to the rest of the class.

Country Presentation – We did this PBL prior to our school taking on International Week. The kids were split into groups and each group took one of the six countries.  It was very similar to our report on Holland – each group focused on their country’s culture, food, geography, schools, etc.  After they researched, they wrote a report about their country and then came up with a presentation to share with the class. Some students created books to share their information, some created posters, and some a KeyNote.

Thanks for stopping by! Next week I’ll share some of my favorite teacher supplies for the classroom!

Five for Friday – April 21

Math, Social Studies, Writing

The week after Spring Break is always tough. Hard to get back into the routine after an amazing week off! But, we did it and I’m back linking up with Kacey over at Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday. Here’s what we were up to this week….

My school does a large Earth Day celebration every year! It’s a lot of fun and the kids get to go to different rooms and learn about all kinds of things surrounding the topic of Earth Day!  I decided this year to also have my students do some writing about Earth Day and ways they can help make the Earth a better place.  Their answers were pretty cute! I especially like the above one – “if you ride in a car… you can pollute the air…and it’s your fault.” Too funny!  This writing prompt and five more can be found in my TPT Store – Earth Day Writing Prompts.

We learned all about coordinate grids in math this week. We started by watching a Brainpop video and then created the above anchor chart. To practice plotting points, the kids played this fun game called Gridlock from MathWire – it can be found here

We finally finished our Map PBL this week. The final part of the project had students creating their island using some of the landforms we discussed. They also buried treasure on it and had to write directions for how to find it. Their maps turned out amazing!!! 

Where have I been? I’ve seen many people posting and writing about Epic books, but I never looked into it. I remembered yesterday trying to find something for my Earth Day class and it is wonderful! It’s full of so much information and fun books – I can’t wait to dive into it more!
On Monday, I presented to some of the teachers at my school about Differentiation in Writing Workshop. It went well and we had some great discussions.  Stay tuned because I’ll be doing a blog post soon on some of the ideas for differentiation in writing!
Have a great weekend!

International Week Recap

Project Based Learning, Social Studies

Our school had our very first International Week last week and I’m going to share with you some of the events and things my kids were a part of.  It was a wonderful week and full of many cultural experiences!

Class Presentations:

Each class in the lower school (K-4) had a different country. The class researched the country and came up with a presentation for the other classes to see during International Week. Some classes did group or partnership presentations and the younger guys did whole class presentations. It was amazing! Everyone worked really hard and the kids learned a lot and had fun while doing it!

Below is our passport.  As kids went to the different classes, they received a sticker for their passport and filled out the page inside for each country. Things on the page included – capital, currency, culture, language, etc.

Passport to Dance:
I unfortunately can’t post any pictures of this, but it was super cute! Each class got to learn dances from a different culture.  My kids got to learn South American dances. They had the cutest ponchos and skirts to wear. They learned 3-4 dances and did a great job!
Holland Presentation:
Our country to share with the school was Holland. A few weeks ago I posted a picture of my class interviewing my dad via Facetime.  My dad was born in Holland and immigrated to the US when he was 8. The kids had a great time interviewing him and learning more about the country.  We also picked Holland because one of our students (she moved over Christmas break) had been to Holland and her parents were from Holland.
We spent many, many days researching and many, many, many, many days preparing our presentations. I cannot tell you how proud I was! The kids knew their stuff and were so excited to share their presentations. It was quite a long day.  They had 4 different 40 minute blocks of presentations.  Each block was then split in two where each class (we have 2 classes per grade) would come in and visit the kid’s stations. They were exhausted by the end of the day!
Below are some of our posters and presentation materials…
To hear a few of the presentations – check out the videos I posted on my Facebook page…here.
Here’s a Holland poster that some of the older art students made for our class.
Holland Government and History
Kid’s Lives in Holland
Dutch Food – they even had stroopwafel at this station for people to sample! 
Famous Residents of Holland
A book about Holland’s Famous Landmarks and Symbols
Holland’s Currency and Language
Holland’s Culture- the cow clogs were a hit!
A Keynote on Holland’s Geography
As you can see from the presentations, my kids had different ways of sharing the information they learned. That was totally up to them. Once they had researched their topic, they got to pick how they wanted to present it with their partner. We did have a lot of posters, but I loved the addition of  Keynote and student-made book.
Parent Presentations:
Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of this, but the culminating event of the week, was parent presentations on Friday. We have many parents who are from many different countries. They came in to share their culture and food (the kids favorite part) with us in stations set-up in the cafeteria. Sweden, Syria, Germany, Italy, and Mexico were just a few of the countries represented.
All in all it was an amazing week -but, boy were the kids and I tired by the end!
Comment below – does your school do a week like this? What all does it include?

Five for Friday – January 20

Math, Reading, Social Studies

It was a short week, but a long week all at the same time! I enjoyed having Monday off, but could’ve used one more day. I’m linking up with Kacey over at Doodle Bugs Teaching for another Five for Friday. See what we’ve been up to below….

I love the book Martin’s Big Words.  With MLK Jr Day on Monday, we studied him a bit (we’ll study him more later in our historic people PBL project) and I showed them the video of the book. It has James Earl Jones reading the text and beautiful music in the background. One of my favorites to use every year! I highly recommend you check it out on YouTube.
We’ve been working on multiplication for three weeks now and this week students started spending more time working on story problems. See how I use differentiated multiplication story problems in my classroom… here….
We started our second whole class book study – The Chocolate Touch this week! I love this book and so do the kids! They find it hilarious and I love the break from our traditional Journey’s reading series! Can’t wait to finish it next week with them.  What book studies do you do with your whole class? Write them below in the comments! I’m always looking for new ideas!
Last week, a student asked if he could clean up my Morning Message board. I said sure. He asked if he could erase it. I said sure.  He asked if he could get rid of the “posty sticks.”  I said…what??? Apparently he thought post its/sticky notes were called posty sticks.  We all got a good laugh out of that one!
I’m trying to become more active in the New Year. If you’d like to join me, check out my Instagram that I’m using to keep me accountable with my fitness journey – and also add me on FitBit! My email with the account is  I love having new friends on there and participating in Work Week Challenges.
Have a wonderful weekend!

Five for Friday – November 18

Reading, Social Studies

At noon today we begin Thanskgiving Break! We have the whole week off and I could not be more ready for a whole week break.  For those of you that do not have a whole week off, I am sorry. I know how hard it is to try to teach the 2.5 days before Thanksgiving and keep the little ones on track. Since it was a full week, I’m linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday. Here’s what we’ve been up to…

On Monday, we had a treasure hunt to find out what our next PBL project would be about. We are going to start learning about maps.  After researching maps, students will be creating their own island and then burying their own pirate treasure on it (with directions). The kids had fun on our treasure hunt and got some little goodies at the end!

I love Kahoot. And my kids love Kahoot.  This was our first time trying Kahoot with partners. We’ve only done it as a whole class before. They did great! We worked on a geometry Kahoot that someone else had made.

Today is Grandparent’s Day at our school and my class will be doing a Charlotte’s Web Reader’s Theater.  We got the scripts yesterday and students highlighted their parts before practicing.  This will be quite a hoot.  I have some very fun, dramatic personalities in my room who have been waiting for their acting debut.

Speaking of Charlotte’s Web here are two funny things from it this week.  This first picture is from a student’s answer to our morning meeting question “What was your favorite part of Charlotte’s Web?” One – I really hope he didn’t lick the book. 2 – Apparently we still need to work on our silent e, long vowel type words.
My second student has made up a very interesting name for Henry Fussy.  Have no idea where he got Gribe Grumpson from but it made me laugh.

I have a new post up from this week about teaching elapsed time. Check it out for some ideas and elapsed time story problems.
Hope everyone has a nice weekend! This weekend I’ll be decorating for Christmas! Can’t wait!!!!

Five for Friday – October 14

Reading, Social Studies, Writing

I’m linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for another Five for Friday. October is moving along and it’ll be the holiday season before we know it. See what we were up to this week below…

This week we continued on with our Statue of Liberty PBL. Students used books as well as a teacher-created website to research more facts on the Statue of Liberty. They really got into it and I love how excited they were to tell me the new facts they found!

We worked on inferring this week in reading. I love using pictures and videos as a way to introduce inferring/drawing conclusions, which is quite a tricky concept. We used the pictures above that I found on Pinterest a few years ago and had to infer what was happening in the picture. Then, I showed them the Pixar video. This was a new video to most of them and they were dying laughing. But, they also made some good inferences too :-).  

We are finishing up our first Writing Workshop unit on Narratives. Students this week finished editing their pieces and writing their final drafts. We’ll have our first author’s celebration this Monday!

I love this quote! So important to remember! If kids can see and feel our passion for what we’re teaching them, they’ll love what they are learning even more! A little inspiration for my Five for Friday.

Last weekend I was back up in Cedar City, Utah. We went to another football game and also visited the C Overlook, which is about 2,200 feet above the town. Beautiful views from up there!!
Have a wonderful weekend!!

Johnson Elementary – Back to School PBL

Reading, Social Studies, Writing
This is one of my favorite school projects. Last year, I wanted to move into Project Based Learning as a way to teach our Social Studies standards while also incorporating Reading and Writing. My teacher friend, Katie helped me out with some great ideas for how to get started.  See how I teach my first PBL of the year….
Going over rules is an important part of any classroom. And, it’s something that has to be done in every class at the beginning of the year. The first few standards we typically tackle in Social Studies had to do with community, rules, etc.  So, instead of the same old boring here are the rules, here is why we follow them…Johnson Elementary was born.
The kids are introduced to this project by finding out that they will be teachers at Johnson Elementary.  I am the principal – Principal Johnson and they quickly become Miss ____, Mr. ____, etc.  The excitement that builds just from this announcement is amazing! Buy in happens instantly!
Next, we talk about the school we’re opening and what classes our school will have. The teachers (students) get to pick what class they are teaching. We’ve had math, kindergarten, roller blading, ballet, science, cooking, Legos, Minecraft, etc.  I’m pretty flexible on what they can teach. I want them to have fun and pick something they like.  
Here’s the cover page of our PBL Packet.  The Essential Question we focus on is – How do rules help people function in a community and school?
Teacher Info:
On the next page, “teachers” give more information on the class they teaching. They tell me what they picked and why. They also create a list of a few things they will be teaching in their class. 

Class Set-Up and Map:
Before starting this we look at a few pictures/maps of classroom online. We talk about making sure you have things you need to teach and things your students will need to learn.  “Teachers” start by brainstorming a list of things they will need to have in their classroom. Once they have finished brainstorming, they draw their classroom map on the next page.

Classroom Rules:
Before the “teachers” write their rules for their classroom, we research class rules. We read Officer Buckle and Gloria, read an article from ReadWorks on rules, and look at multiple examples online from many different types of classrooms. We even brainstormed a ton of rules on our circle map below. We talked too about a good number of rules. We thought 40 would be too many for kids to remember and 1 rule was not enough. So, we decided to keep the rules between 4-10.

Group Project – Expectations:
In addition to rules in the classroom, we talked about other places that needed rules and expectations. We decided to focus on the bathroom, hallway, playground, and lunch room. The students broke into groups of 4-5 and worked with their group on expectations for their area. They first brainstormed some ideas. Then, they came up with again 4-10 and explained why they picked them.  The last piece was presenting. Each group presented their expectations to the class. They did awesome! Great first presentation to the class.
Essential Question:
After completing the project, students then went back to the Essential Question and explained why rules are necessary in schools and communities.
PBL Rubric:
I created the rubric below as a way to score this project.  This is our first PBL so it includes less pieces than some of our later ones, but I wanted to be able to identify how they did on each area – especially the Essential Question. Most kiddos did great! They really understood why we had rules – safety, keep things fair, etc and really enjoyed this project.

Do you use PBL at your school? What’s the first project you do with your students?

10 Pin Linky Party – Social Studies and Science Ideas

Pinterest, Science, Social Studies

I’ve linked up with Ashley Reed over at Just Reed and joined in on her 10 Pin Linky Party. Check out her site for more info. 

Below are my Ten Favorite Science and Social Studies Pinterest Pins:
1. I love The Cloud Book as a way to talk about different clouds and Fun in First Grade has wonderful activities and ideas for teaching weather.
2. Rain Experiment – using a clear cup, water, shaving cream, and food coloring. First, fill the cup with water and put shaving cream on the top. Then, squirt some drops of food coloring in and see how it moves through the cloud and as it gets heavier it looks like rain.
3. Love this flip book to show the phases of the moon.
4. Love the science book lists on this site. Great way to tie in informational text with science experiments and lessons.
5. Science Notebook – Love that kids can record thoughts and predictions while working on experiments.
6. Cute social studies book to talk about geography and the United States.
7.  I use this page every President’s Day. I love seeing the different answers the kiddos give for what they would do if they were President of the United States.

8. Cute voting activities at this site. Great books and activities to introduce and explain Election Day.
9. Constitution Day Lessons at kid level.
10. Me on the Map – I love using this book to introduce maps and Clutter-Free Classroom has great ideas and activities that go with the book.
 Hope you enjoy these links and great ideas from Pinterest!

American Symbols Bulletin

Bulletin Boards, Social Studies, Thinking Maps

My student teacher came up with a great idea to display some of the different activities we completed with each American Symbol.  Below you will see the circle map for each symbol and a few examples of the activities that went along with each symbol.


White House – American Symbols Unit

Informational Text, Report Writing, Social Studies, Thinking Maps

So our first grade team took on a huge project and it went so well! American Symbols is one of our social studies standards and with the huge increase in informational text we decided to create a huge unit on it.  Each teacher took a symbol – White House, Statue of Liberty, Washington Monument, American Flag, and Bald Eagle. Then, we came up with a PowerPoint, books to use, stations etc.  My symbol was the White House – see my ideas below…

First, I started out by showing this fun video of a student interviewing President Obama. I started off by telling the kids that we had a mystery symbol today and they had to guess what it was.  They loved the suspense and love the video. The video was about 10 minutes long so I picked out the appropriate parts that I thought they would enjoy. 

Next, we watched a PowerPoint that I made on the White House. This PowerPoint focused on the main facts that I wanted my first graders to come away knowing.  After the PowerPoint, we started a whole group circle map putting up details from the PowerPoint.  Then, we read a nonfiction book about the White House and again added more facts. 

See our White House Class Circle Map….

After working our class circle map, the kids made their own that they added to throughout the day.  Then, it was time to move on to our White House Stations.
Station #1 – Informational Text
Students looked through a variety of White House books (different text levels) and added more facts to their circle maps. 
Station #2 – Writing Activity
Students write a story about what life would be like if they lived in the White House.
Station #3 – Word Search
Students highlight the presidential words.

Station #4 – World Book Kids Article
Students read a White House article printed from World Book Kids online and highlighted key facts.

Station #5 – White House Virtual Tour

The White House has a great website with a virtual tour of the White House. The kids can see a map of the White House and see pictures and information on the various rooms. This is a kid favorite station!

After completing their circle maps, on day #2, the kids wrote a report on the White House using their circle map information. 
Once we were all complete with our report on each symbol, students picked their favorite symbol to do a technology project on using the program “Frames.” Our wonderful district Ed Tech is helping us out with this. 
So, overall, this symbols project incorporates – reading standards, writing standards, social studies standards, listening and speaking standards, and technology standards.  Love it!
Below are some student circle maps…