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Monday, January 30, 2017

Part Two: An Inquiry Based Journalism Unit

Today I am sharing part two of my journalism post from last year, where you can see the final products that my students created and hear what I will be changing for this year, as well as what I absolutely loved.  This is an inquiry based journalism unit that integrated our state reports in social studies with our writing workshop. You can read my first post that explains the assignment here.
A fifth grade statement on the importance of gun control.
You could have a boring day or you could go to these interactive sites!
Arizona is probably best in the spring.

This author pretended it was back in the 1800's, just after the Civil War, so that she could argue for racial equality.
What? You can't view a moose from an airplane? And you can shoot a bear legally, but it's against the law to wake one up for a photograph. These are hard to believe.
I love that this Alaska newspaper was titled "The Last Frontier." The breaking news is from WW2.

I love all of the symbols of California that she used in her masthead.
"Donald Trump, love him or hate him....." Great voice. There were a lot of political editorials written.
This student is obsessed with WW2 and even though his state was North Carolina, he found a way to write an editorial about support for WW2.

This student's middle name is Gehrig and he was so excited to write an obituary for someone that he shared a name with.

What will I do differently next year?

First, I did really great with setting deadlines for rough drafts and revisions on the first five articles everyone did. But when we got to the four student choice articles, I didn't set deadlines and I really wish I had. Many students waited until the last minute and then either tried to throw 4 different articles at me on the last day or just put their articles in the final product without a rough draft or revision. I think the choice articles would have been a lot more thoughtful and complete if I had set dates.
Second, I also didn't spend as much time with the inquiry part on the choice articles and you can tell by the quality of their work. Next year I will continue pulling up mentor texts and letting the students work together to discover what a good article in that particular genre looks like.
Third, I need to enlist the help of others. I don't have enough devices for everyone to work on their research at the same time. So next year I am planning to ask the computer teacher to help them with their research during their computer time. I may need to have them do some more research at home too.
Lastly, I want to tighten up the amount of time we spend on the unit. I didn't know how long we would need and that probably led to me moving a little slower than I needed to.

What did I love?

I love, love, love the inquiry based approach to writing. I loved the opportunity to learn from mentors who write on a daily basis as a career. It was good for my students to see that there are different types of authors. Not all authors write books. I loved that it fostered an awareness of what was happening in the world today and still gave us a chance to talk about topics of historical significance. But mostly I loved that we were able to learn about so many different types of genres and we could use all that we already know about persuasive writing, narrative writing, and informational writing to create really great pieces.

Happy writing from my fifth grade to yours!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Journalism: An Inquiry Based Writing Unit


I originally wrote this post last March for another blog, I thought I would share it here on The Research Based Classroom since I am getting ready to start this writing unit for the second time. One of the things I really love about teaching fifth grade is the opportunity to really integrate curriculum. I'm not sure if state reports are the norm in fifth grade everywhere, but at my school they sure are. So when I headed to fifth grade for the first time this year, I was already trying to think about how I wanted to do this a little differently. Last year our school book club read Study Driven by Katie Wood Ray and I knew that I wanted to turn my class state reports into more of an inquiry-based journalism unit. 

Clicking on the cover will take you to Amazon.
If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend it. But you don't have to take my word for it....here is another recommendation. (Did that just sound Reading Rainbow-ish?) 

Back to the state report....think inquiry-based, study driven, real world writing models and mentor texts. Sounds like the components to a great writing workshop unit to me.


I started by gathering a collection of newspapers. I had no idea how much they would cost or how hard it would be to find them. I tried the grocery store...no. I tried a gas station....nope, not there either. I tried a truck stop....still no luck. Finally a Seven Eleven had them and they were $1.50 a piece! I had to run back to the car for a credit card, because I thought $7 could buy me 6 more papers. Who knew? 

After I had one paper for every 2 students, I allotted one writing period for them to go through the newspapers and make a list of the different types of writing they found. The came up with a fairly comprehensive list. 

The next day I gave each pair of writers a type of writing and the task of finding examples to determine what they could about how to write the assigned type of article. The students created small posters with the characteristics of each type of writing.






Once we had spent a couple of days discovering what newspaper writing looked and sounded like, we picked states and went over the requirements for their state newspapers. 

You can download my requirements by clicking on the picture.
You are almost caught up with us now. We took a look at several types of travel articles that I found for the state of Rhode Island. One talked about a single destination and the other was the top 10 destinations in the state. We read each of them together and used them to discover how to write a travel article. Then for homework my students went home to look up the possible destinations in their assigned state. Oh, how I wish for more technology at times like this. But when you don't have enough devices, you have to send it home sometimes. As my students came back to school the next day, they started writing their travel articles. About half are writing about a single destination and the others are writing an article about several possible places to visit in their state. I can't wait to see how they turn out.

Next up....obituaries. I'm not completely sure how this entire unit is going to look or how the finished products will turn out, but stay tuned and we'll find out together. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Task Problem Tuesday

I am excited to announce my new feature, Task Problem Tuesday. If you're like me, I'm always scrambling for a new task. It doesn't matter what mathematical topic I'm teaching, I'm always trying to come up with new task problems. And the more they relate to real life, the better. So once a month I am going to start blogging about some of my favorite task problems.  I picked Tuesday nights because I've been going to school every Tuesday night for the last two years working on my math endorsement, but my schedule cleared up in the fall. So welcome to Task Problem Tuesday.

Back in March I linked up with Miss Math Dork for her Math IS Real Life and I blogged about building garden boxes and the task I gave my students. You can read that here. When I moved into volume,  I extended the previous problem to come up with this new task.


These are the actual sizes of my garden boxes which are shown in this picture.


Mathematical Tasks:
1.  How much soil will I need to fill my boxes?

2.  I want to fill them with 2/3 dirt and 1/3 mink manure. How much will I need of each?

3.  Luckily my neighbor has too much dirt sitting on his lot. He will let me have the dirt I need for free.  However, it costs $170 dollars to have 7 cubic yards of mink manure delivered to my house. How much will it cost for the mink manure?

4.  Will it change the price dramatically if I leave the soil in each box 6 inches lower than the sides? How much would I save?

This task requires a lot of problem solving. Students were converting measurements, calculating volume, multiplying, adding, dividing, and subtracting. They were using whole numbers and fractions.  I ended up leaving the top six inches of each box empty. I'll add compost to them for the next few years to fill them up, we just got tired of shoveling dirt and manure and didn't want to spend any more money.  But here is how they looked when I planted the garden.

I'm not sure I wanted to know the total cost of that mink manure, but it was in the name of real life math. Happy problem solving!