Friday, October 19, 2018

Saving Jamestown

This week in social studies, students were able to participate in an "escape room" learning experience, using teamwork and critical thinking to solve a series of challenges related to our study of the Jamestown colony.  

THE "TOP SECRET" MISSION: Captain John Smith's men are dying of famine and disease. Smith knows that if he doesn't do anything, his entire crew will die and the colony will be a failure.  He decides to make peace with the local Powhatan tribal chief. As a peacemaking token, Smith has decided to offer some glass beads and jewelry to the tribe in exchange for food and medicine. Smith meets with the chief and is about to make an exchange of goods when he forgets the combination to the safe where the beads and jewels are stored. The chief believes that Smith is trying to trick him and has pointed his weapons at Smith and his crew. Smith needs our help getting the safe open before it's too late! 

"Special ops teams" were each handed a file containing a series of challenges related to our study of Jamestown, decoders and clues to crack the code of the safe that would help Captain Smith save the colony. Shout-outs to special ops teams StormRacer88 (from my homeroom class), WindJet101 (from Mrs. Bouffard's homeroom class) and JetNinja25 (from Mrs. Cummings' homeroom class) for being the first teams to help save the colony!

"Escape Room" learning experiences motivate and engage all students and can be used to introduce a new lesson or concept, or to reinforce and strengthen learning. The games provide a student-centered learning experience where students use critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication to problem-solve and own their learning, apply their understanding of new content or even discover it.  One of the best aspects of these games is that they provide students with many opportunities to fail forward.  Every unsuccessful attempt to solve a puzzle and decipher a code forces the player to try again. These young historians were determined to solve all of the puzzles within the allotted 35-minute timeframe. It was just as thrilling for me to observe as it was for students to participate - it was wonderful to see them supporting one another as learners and persevering through the more difficult aspects of the challenges. Well PlayED, kids!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Young Historians Crack the Case

Who doesn't love a good mystery? The story about what happened to the colonists of Roanoke during the late 1500s is one of our country's oldest and greatest mysteries, and it wasn't lost on these inquisitive fifth graders. 

To date, historians have only been able to come up with likely hypotheses about what happened in Roanoke during the years of 1587-1590, but the question still remains: What caused the colonists of Roanoke to disappear?  Students took on the role of detectives who were assigned to research evidence and evaluate primary sources as well as existing theories about the disappearance of the Roanoke colonists. Based on each group's analysis, students then developed their own viable theories based on sufficient evidence. These theories were evaluated by small student focus groups to receive the Editor-in-Chief's approval for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to appear in the "spotlight". These young historians were given the opportunity to publish "award-winning", headline stories, proclaiming their theories to the world. 

Just another day in the life of a fifth-grade journalist. #ReadAllAboutIt

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Shared Reading: An Interactive Reading Experience

I love when a book causes students to be on the edge of their seats.  The novel, Eleven, by Tom Rogers doesn't disappoint. It does just that and so much more. 

We're using this novel for our first shared reading experience. This collaborative reading approach engages students and makes them better readers by demonstrating the skills of a proficient reader, modeling fluency, interpreting visual information in texts, introducing and reinforcing print conventions and mechanics, and activating the brain and creating connections for memory.  Just as important, this approach conveys an authentic joy of reading and motivates students to READ. It affords students the ability to share the reading experience with one another and discuss aspects of the story that might be confusing, poignant, relatable, that present opportunities to infer meaning, etc., thus creating a community of critical thinkers. This approach is a win for EVERY student. 

Our recent experience with this novel involved a literacy activity enthusiastically referred to as "Table-Top Twitter".  During this activity, students are presented with questions that require students to dig deep and think critically about the text, using evidence from the text to support their thinking. Collaboration occurs when students read and respond to one another's comments and responses, expanding on their own ideas and ways of thinking. They are learning the value of varying perspectives and how they help us evolve into global-minded thinkers, broadening our view of the world.  Who knew that a few sheets of butcher paper and some markers could elicit this much engagement and so much deep thinking. #keepitsimple

Read, write, discuss, collaborate. Repeat.


Eggleton, Jill. “Why Is Shared Reading Important?” Where Teachers Go To Grow,

“Shared Reading  .” Classroom Rewards Reap Dividends for Teachers and Students | Education World,

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Saving Jamestown

This week in social studies, students were able to participate in an "escape room" learning experience, using teamwork and critica...