If Montezuma had an Instagram Account

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If Montezuma had an Instagram account, what would he say when Cortez arrived in 1519? My fourth graders have some ideas. We are finishing our study of the conquests of the Inca and Aztec empires and have been reading about Cortez, Pizarro and the events that took place in the 1500s when the Spanish arrived in Mexico and Peru. Students took the information they had about Cortez’s encounter with the Aztecs and Pizarro’s contact with the Incas and created Instagram posts from the point of view of the leader, the conquistador, and a common citizen or soldier. The students wrote comments that shared knowledge of the time period as well as demonstrated point of view and perspective.

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In order to create the Instagram posts, I shared a template with the students in PowerPoint. It had a permanent background with text boxes layered on top. The students clicked in the text boxes to create the usernames and three comments. The first comment was from the Inca or Aztec leader. The second comment was from the conqueror, and the last comment was from a person who would have been at the scene. The students were also allowed to create related hashtags.

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After students typed their comments, they printed the Instagram post. I set up the template, so the Instagram post filled the left side of the paper only.

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Using a paper cutter, I cut the paper into a strip about 4 1/4 inches wide. I also trimmed about 1/2 inch off the top. I cut colorful construction paper into strips that were 4 3/4 x 11 inches. With scissors, the students rounded the corners of the construction paper. They also had the option of rounding the corners of the printed Instagram post. They glued the Instagram post to the construction paper centering the white strip closer to the top of the paper. With a Sharpie, the students drew a circle for a home button at the bottom of the construction paper to complete the effect of an iPhone.

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Students colored a profile picture and drew a scene that matched the comments. The details in the drawing were based on information from the readings and unit of study.

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The finished Instagram posts have been so much fun to read and have made the material much more personal for the students. The activity idea is great because it can be adapted for almost any historical figure or time period you may be studying. CLICK HERE to make a copy of the electronic template via Google Docs. If you would like a PDF version of the template and have students handwrite their Instagram posts, CLICK HERE.

Shape Poems

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Poetry is in the air in my 4th grade classroom! We are reading and writing poems every day for the next few weeks. I always like to start my poetry unit with something that has a low intimidation factor (and does not require rhyming in any way), so we usually begin the poetry unit with shape poems (or concrete poems). In past years, the students used a writing “frame” I provided to write what I called adjective poems. They added adjectives to the poem frame and then transferred the poem to the shape. I explain the process for the adjective poems in THIS BLOG POST.

This year, students chose a simple object and brainstormed words they associated with their object. Students picked all kinds of items– basketballs, dogs, donuts, soda bottles, ice cream sundaes… They made a word bank using a graphic organizer like THIS ONE. Once they had a big list of words, we began a search for an image to match their word.

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We searched for black and white clipart in Google images. The kids pasted the clipart image into a Word document and enlarged the blackline image to fill an 8 1/2″ x 11″ page. We printed the image and lightly traced the main lines with pencil on a blank piece of copy paper. Using black pens, the students used words from their word list to fill in the shape over the traced pencil lines. Students left the paper with the clipart image under the paper with the concrete poem while writing to serve as a guideline. In the example below, the student is starting to create the French fry shape by writing words like “salty”, “crispy”, or “crunch” multiple times in each fry. The student poets would match the area they were filling with a word that made sense for that area of the image.

concrete-poem-patternThe kids also added a few details to complete the effect such as pink pen instead of black for the dog’s nose.dog-concrete-poem-pink-noseCheck out more ideas for student poetry in my TeachersPayTeachers store. CLICK HERE to purchase classroom resources for teaching poetry.key-concrete-poem

Native American Magazines

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I love culminating projects that wrap lots of skills together in a tidy finished product. Before the holidays, my students finished our Native American unit with a research project focused on one aspect of a Native American group from a specific region. They presented the information in a magazine style feature article. The project checked off a lot of boxes for me. Research skills (check). Technology skills (check). Expository writing (check). Non-fiction text features (check). Really cool looking writing piece printed on fancy paper (check).

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The students started the project by reviewing their textbook, readings, and graphic organizer notes for the different regions and tribes we studied as a group and chose a favorite area on which to focus. I had multiple topics ranging from the Inuit and igloo building to the Navajo and turquoise jewelry to the Iroquois and the game of lacrosse. Once students selected a topic, they generated three sub-topics that guided their research. I had the students use THIS ORGANIZER to help focus their reading and note taking.

Once students gathered information and were ready to begin writing the magazine style article. We looked at many professional writing samples in various magazines targeted at children in upper elementary grades (Kids Discover, American Girl, Muse, National Geographic for Kids, Boys’ Life…). Specifically, we looked at the titles of the feature articles, the first sentences in each article, and the layout of the page.

sample hook sentences from magazines

We spent one class period using THIS ACTIVITY PAGE and writing first sentences from several articles. The students met in groups to compare first sentences and determine what the sentences might have in common. The idea was for students to replicate a good “hook” sentence in their own article. Some key ideas emerged. Many opening sentences contained an unusual fact or an idea that grabbed our attention. All of the sentences used interesting vocabulary. We also noticed that the length of the sentence varied– we found short and long sentences that were effective.

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To create the article, students used MSPublisher documents. Each person started by setting up a text box and changing the formatting to two columns. Each article was three paragraphs long matching the three sub-topic boxes in the notes organizer page. After typing the article, the students inserted a fancy header and developed a catchy title and sub-title, added images with captions, and chose a colorful background. Finally, I purchased shiny paper that felt the same as magazine paper, so the printed masterpiece really looked like a true magazine article. We were all impressed with the quality of the final product and are ready to write for a real publisher.

To see another activity idea for non-fiction text features CLICK HERE. To see my Native American teacher resources, CLICK HERE to visit my TpT store.

Facebook Character Activity

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A few years ago, my students designed a Facebook page for a favorite character in the book, Dying to Meet You by Kate Klise. I was surprised how much critical thinking was involved. The students needed to pick a significant scene from the story, summarize it from the point of view of a character in the form of a Facebook post, and then respond to the post from the point of view of a different character.

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It was challenging for students to think about one story event from several angles. The finished writing activity reveals quite a bit about a student’s understanding of events in the story, character traits, and character interactions and motivations. It is a short activity but packed with reading skills, and the results are completely entertaining! It also had the bonus of incorporating technology skills since my students completed the Facebook page digitally.

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I recently assigned the activity again, and it did not disappoint. My students were in three separate reading groups this time around, but all students completed the Facebook page based on a character from their assigned book. It is such an easy activity to adapt to any novel study.

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In my classroom, I inserted the blank FACEBOOK TEMPLATE that I designed as a background in a PowerPoint slide and then added text boxes as placeholders on top of the background. I shared the template with my students, and they clicked in the text boxes to add their writing. They also inserted pictures, used bullet points, and changed font sizes (potentially tricky technology skills for 4th graders).

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For younger students or classrooms/homes without computer or printer access, the activity could be handwritten using THE TEMPLATE. The basic Facebook page with the text box outlines can be printed, and students draw profile pictures and neatly write posts, likes, and replies.

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The samples above are related to the novels, Dying to Meet You, Love That Dog, and Hate That Cat. Complete novel units are available for purchase in my teacher store. Click the book names to see more details about the novel studies.

Mini Books

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As most all teachers do over the summer, I have been tinkering with student materials (when I should be catching up with missed doctors’ appointments and bathroom cleaning and dog hair vacuuming– or even enjoying a day at the pool). I want a student-made dictionary style resource for commonly misspelled words for my students next year. Ideally, the spelling notes will be in some kind of individual booklet that each student could add to all year. I may have found a solution– a sturdy little mini foldable booklet.

I called in my temp help to see if the booklets would work, and team RoomMom has been printing, cutting, folding, and testing all day.

mini books materials

Materials

  • 8 1/2″ x 11″ white cardstock OR 4×6 notecards
  • scissors
  • rubberband (medium sized)
  • paper cutter with ruler guidelines

Directions

  • If you are using an 8 1/2″ x 11″ piece of cardstock, cut it in half horizontally and vertically, so you have 4 pieces of cardstock that are 4 1/4″ x 5 1/2″. Fold each piece of cardstock in half the “hamburger” way making sure the corners line up neatly. That means the 5 1/2″ side would be folded. Press down firmly along the fold.

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  • If you are using notecards, fold 2+ notecards in half the “hamburger” way making sure the corners line up neatly. That means the 6″ side would be folded. Press down firmly along the fold.

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  • Once each card is folded, stack the cards on top of each other lining them up evenly. I think 3-4 cards is about the right amount for each booklet. You can use a combination of notecards and cardstock. ** Make sure your sizes match if you are mixing cardstock and notecards.
  • Following the center fold, cut a 1/2″ notch from the top and bottom edge of the stack of cards.

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  • Wrap a rubberband around the stack of cards. Have the rubberband sit down into the cut sections of paper to act as the mini book binding. If the rubberband is too tight and pulling on the paper, cut your notches a little deeper.

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  • Decorate the cover and add notes, drawings, information, doodles… to each page of the booklet.

mini books sampleUses

  • I set up a template in Word and inserted the spelling information I needed. I printed front and back, cut down the paper, and folded the pieces into the booklet. There is space for students to add additional notes, but they will each have a starter booklet.

spelling mini books notes

  • Mr. Star Wars wrote a personal narrative about our trip to North Carolina last summer. Using the Word document template, we inserted pictures and printed the pages (it takes a little spatial thinking to get your pictures on the pages in the order you want when you assemble the booklet). He handwrote the story using the printed pictures as enhancement. This would be a great back to school activity. Students could use a blank booklet and write and illustrate a story about something they did over the summer. You could also use the booklet as a way to assess summer reading by having students create a book review in a mini book.
  • mini books sample 2Miss Priss used her booklet to report facts about elephants. This was an end of year project for her. She took her researched information, grouped it by topic, and wrote bulleted facts on each page.

mini book elephantThe spelling mini book template with pre-printed notes for 31 tricky words like there, their, and they’re is now available in my Commonly Misspelled Words product at my teacher store. CLICK HERE to purchase.