By Gina Kennedy

By Gina Kennedy

Inference Creative Writing Fun!

     A great way to review or introduce inference reading skills in the upper elementary is with the "Inference Shoebox Mystery." 
     Even though my students thought they were quite familiar with inference skills by 5th grade, I would still use this activity so that they could really grasp how important it was to take an inference clue and run with it! 
     I would divide the students into groups of four and provide a shoebox for each group filled with a shoe, piece of clothing (shirt, dress, etc) and other apparatus.  Generally I would just go to our junk drawer at home and grab tools, school supplies, gift cards, greeting cards, unopened letters, bug spray, hairspray, jewelry and anything else I could think of to provide enough inference clues to place in the shoeboxes.  My husband is used to having a few articles of clothing or tools missing here and there, all in the name of good education, of course!

     After the students viewed their shoeboxes full of clues, they were asked to inference as many clues about the "mystery person" who owned their shoebox as they could.  They are told that their mystery person was headed on a journey and is now missing but has left their shoebox of clues behind.
     The students were then asked to fill out a "Bio Card" on their  subject based on their shoebox clues.  After that they created a sketch of their mystery person and then wrote a story about where the mystery person went on their journey based on the inference clues from the shoebox.

I also have several other reading inference skill resources at my Teacherspayteachers Store , check out each product below:

Inference Reading Class and Individual 

Practice Activities

Fun and rigorous whole class and individual inference activities.

Reading Inference Unit
Inference Introduction, Lesson, Activities, Creative Writing and Practice Test

Reading "Inference" Skills Enrichment Projects

Fun, creative writing enrichment projects in which students are asked to use their amazing inference skills.

I've also created a set of free "Reading Text Structures" posters that you may download below.  It is great to keep the posters up all year long.  Every time you read a story, ask your students to refer to the posters to review the important reading text structures that they will be tested on later in the year.

Quiz Whiz Review, End Every Math, Science and History Unit With Meaning!

     A fun way that I ended every science, math and history unit was by creating a "Whiz Quiz Review" game with my students.  At the beginning of the year I asked parents to send empty Pringles cans with their child to school.
     I purchased 1000 craft sticks at Walmart every summer for $4.00 and I kept those handy and near by at all times as we culminated each unit.
     I covered each Pringles canister with colored paper and labeled the canisters with the topic we had just finished studying.  I passed out five craft sticks to each pair of students.  The students were given a set of directions and directed to complete five review questions and answers on the craft sticks with their partner.  As the year progressed, the students no longer need directions as it became quite routine.   I had the students use ink pens because they don't run and they are easier for the students to manage.
    I simply collected the finished craft sticks, placed them in the appropriate "Whiz Quiz Review" canister and "Vo La" we have a great authentic review game that was student created.  (However, I always add about ten questions of my own to fill in the missing gaps.)
     Throughout the year we started many math, history and science lessons by pulling out a random "Quiz Whiz Review" game and reviewing past concepts.  I displayed the games together and I also used them for centers, brain breaks, sponge activities and more.  

Current Events in the Classroom

       I have the glowing memories of sitting in Mrs. Busch's 4th grade classroom in Dana, Iowa in 1972.   I portrayed George McGovern and my opponent, Kary Hoskinson stood in for Richard Nixon for our 1972 classroom presidential debate. In the end, I'm sure that we were both convinced we were the winners  However, the memories of preparing for the debate, putting up signs in the hallway, "Don' Be Stubborn, Vote For McGovern" still linger in my mind as if it were yesterday.  
     Of course in 4th grade you are simply a mimic of your parent's political viewpoints; but either way we were involved and it was the foundation of my strong interest in politics today. Yes, I'm a news junkie and proud of it.  
     How can we make sure that students are informed about what’s going on around the world? That they are armed with the tools to be able to distinguish between opinion and fact; between evidence-based statements and empty rhetoric; between sensationalism and solid journalism? Just like most other things in life, the best way to do all that is through practice.

Why Should Teachers Cover Current Events in the Classroom:
  • To provide support and resources for students who are directly or indirectly impacted by such events.
  • To help ease some of the confusion, anger, and pain that would be felt by many students.
  • To foster a safe environment that supports equity and diversity in education.
  • To give silenced students (whether by circumstance or choice) an opportunity to express how they feel.
  • To connect the real world to school and community.
      On Fridays in my classroom we participated in "Current Event Friday".  Every Friday, the students were responsible for sharing one current event story with the class.  It made Fridays very popular and if I said we didn't have time or we had to cancel for any reason; I felt a "mob" reaction of disappointment.  Bottom line:  kids love current events and talking about what is going on in the world.  For some, a few news stories may be uncomfortable (know your audience); but for others it is a stepping stone to a future of being an involved citizen.  
This is the template I used with my students:

2016 Presidential Debates
It's going to be an interesting year in politics in the United States, why not get your students involved in the excitement?  There will be several debates taking place over the next year and it would be beneficial for your students to take part in an important piece of history. Sometimes it takes something as small as this to create a future president. 

I've included this "Presidential Debate Student Response Sheet" if you'd like to involve your students in the debates this year:
Click Here to Download the Free Presidential Debate Student Response Sheet!

A Few Weeks Down, Only About 35 More To Go!

     As you begin the new school year, I know you will be trying to find your classroom organizational niche and also be on that constant search for the perfect activities to engage your students and encourage creativity.

     For the last eight years I have had all of my teacher resource materials in tubs near my desk.  Resources are easy to  find at a minute's notice. Other teachers love browsing through my materials as well.  I even had to develop a checkout system.

     Every year I have a monthly "Estimation Station" for my 4th and 5th grade math students, they have the entire month to place their guesses in the jar.  At the end of the month, we count the items in the jar, work the "estimation problem" together and the winner receives a prize. I found the jars at the Dollar Store, I'm sure you have similar containers in your classroom. 
     As I posted in an earlier post, I use a more in depth way of estimating that also involves problem solving which I've included an example of below. Each month I create a multi-step mathematical problem for their estimate. Just guessing would be way to easy!!! They are required to show their work on their sticky note that they place in the "Guess Jar."

     Some of the items I would use in the estimation jars included:  skittles, toothpicks, beans, math cubic square manipulatives, cotton balls, spaghetti sticks and macaroni noodles.

    Please develop a "Organize by Day" system.  If you aren't doing this; start, because it will save you a great deal of time and if you have a sub; it is all there and waiting!  This is my favorite system below:

    Whereas; most of us do this quite well, there is no value that can be placed on hanging student work in the classroom.  They love it!   I have always had a "Proud Wall" in which the students would be responsible for placing two items of work each month.

I always wanted my students to have math journals they could take ownership of.  I photographed black and white photos of each student and glued the photographs on the covers of their math journals.  Every student was responsible for finding their favorite math quote as a homework assignment.  I placed the quotes under their photographs and covered the journal covers with clear packing tape.  The final product was a math journal that they couldn't wait to use.

During the first few weeks of school my students create passion posters.  We discuss the importance of finding out what inspires us.  The students are then directed to create 8" x 11" posters using Word or Powerpoint that represents the things that inspire them.

Every New School Year Brings Another Opportunity to Inspire and Make a Difference!

Welcome back teachers!  I hope by now most of you have rooted a few consistent routines, built a great level of confidence, established relationships and more than anything I hope you are having fun. 

I had a wonderful summer, spending quality time with family and traveling here and there. My husband and I set a goal a few years back to visit at least one different country a year and we were lucky enough to spend a few weeks this summer on the French Riviera in France, Italy and Monaco.

I also had an amazing time in Las Vegas at the TPT conference; but nothing compares to our time in Iowa and South Carolina spending time with family and friends.  Of course; more than anything, I always cherish our time with our grandchildren in Iowa.   

As well I have had the unique and incredible experience working with a charter school in New York over the last three months assisting them in creating an enrichment curriculum for their science and social studies units.  I always feel honored and thrilled to visit schools from different regions and states and see what is taking place in education across the country.

It was a fantastic summer; more play than work, but I'm happy to get back to writing, visiting schools and supervising student teachers for a local college.  Yes, after 29 years of elementary education, I have officially retired.  But I'm far from out of the game, I'm only getting started!  Once a teacher, always a teacher!

Have a great year, make sure that every student feels special everyday and take time every day to laugh,

April: National Poetry Month, "Poetry Can Be A Little Silly!"

     April is "National Poetry Month"!   Kids love poetry, of course most children get stuck in the "all poems have to rhyme" pothole; but even rhyming poetry provides authentic vocabulary and phonics practice.  
     To start our poetry celebration, I used the "Writing Interactive Notebook" included in my TPT Store .  With this unit, students learn to write several different genres of poetry step-by-step with many examples, showcase their poetry into a poetry book and then practice their genres with a "Differentiated Poetry Project Menu".  The menu includes several creative poetry prompts that my students loved!  I've included a link to this resource below:

     Once my students had mastered and been exposed to several genres of poetry, we took it even a step further this year and had some more "poetic fun."  Most of my students love superheroes, so I had each student create a picture of themselves as a superhero (even though many are loosely mimicking a real superhero).  They were then asked to create a poem that highlighted their own super powers.  I've included some examples of their amazing "Superhero Poems" below:

     We discuss social emotional issues in our class every Friday in which we talk about everything from conflicts to friends to current events. Every once in awhile we discuss grooming issues and personal hygiene.  I decided to add a little humor to our personal hygiene talk last week by having the students create "Hygiene Humor Poetry."  
     First we discussed hygiene issues that 5th graders deal with such as not brushing their teeth, using deodorant, not washing their hair, inappropriate clothing (tight, short) and etc.  I divided the students into groups of two and each group chose a hygiene theme and created a four stanza poem that discussed their topic.
    I've included a few of their finished products below:

      However you decide to celebrate "National Poetry Month", make it fun for your students. There will be a day when they will appreciate the heartfelt analogies spoken by Maya Angelou and the deep seeded messages communicated from Langston Hughes.  But sometimes kids just want to be creative, have fun and write some silly poems!  

Happy National Poetry Month,