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Mid-Winter Recess = Well-deserved Rest!

Valentine decoration The New York City Public Schools are on vacation this week, and I am enjoying a much-needed rest.  I wanted to share with you some pictures of activities my students completed last week (since I just figured out how to work the new digital camera I received as a very belated birthday present!) for Valentine’s Day and the 100th Day of School. I came in to school on Friday to find that my easel had been decorated by some friends from another fifth grade class, and it was a great way to start the day!


For the 100th Day of School, which fell on Thursday, February 12th, my students generated one-hundred things they like about being in fifth grade.


Here are some of my favorites:100 things we love


“I like having two nice teachers.” 

“I like being a roll model (sic) for the little kids.”

“I like reading The Giver.”

“I like being able to go on the Senior Trip.”

“I like being older and more mature, and we have more responsibilities.”

“I like all of the friends and new people I have met this year.”

“I like the books in our class library.”

“I like it when we have PAT.” (Preferred Activity Time, a regulated choices period)

“I like how we get to be in class plays and do Reader’s Theater.”

“I like how our class gets along and cooperates.”


I think some of my kids may have been trying to ingratiate themselves a bit, but I appreciated their efforts. 


Valentine hearts project My students are engaged in a fiction writing unit at the moment, and part of their grammar and mechanics skills for this section includes working with dialogue.  I taught a two-tiered lesson on dialogue during a writing period last week.  The first level of students worked on simply how to incorporate dialogue into writing (where and how to punctuate, how to capitalize, where to put the quotation marks) and the more advanced students worked on placing dialogue in different locations within a sentence (before an introduction, after an introduction, surrounding an introduction, or as a stand-alone sentence). 

Destiny candy heart dialogue

I adapted Marissa Ochoa’s Candy Hearts writing lesson for use with dialogue, gave my students some candy hearts, and let them go to town.  They had a blast, and I enjoyed reading their highly-entertaining resultant dialogues. 


I am enjoying my break, but I miss my students.  One of my first activities when I get back on Monday will be to update my class library with all of the books I am acquiring over break.  Check back next week for a two-part posting bonanza on cheap, free, and fun ways to acquire books for your class library and my class’s top ten series picks, also known as my shopping/search list for the moment!

P.S. Due to a site-wide problem, the 'comments' feature has been unavailable for a while.  If you have any comments or questions, please email me directly, azelkowitz@schools.nyc.gov and I will reply or post your comment when the glitch is worked out.  Thank you!

Candy Hearts Quality Control: A Valentine's Day Data Activity

How much does your class LOVE math??  As Valentine's Day fast approaches, I am looking for ways to keep my students engaged in the math test prep at hand as well as combat the pre-vacation excitement that so often hinders productivity in my class.  This Friday is the 13th, and as we approach a day so fraught with ill will, I am hoping we have a 'lucky' day in spite of the superstitions! Add that to all of the additional sugar in the form of chocolate and candy hearts that my students are ingesting this week and I have a recipe for disaster on my hands!  This year, I've decided to make the sugar work for my literacy and my math instruction.   I want to share with you my HeartSmart data analysis activity for math.

Candy hearts For this activity, you need the data collection sheets attached here Download Valentine hearts project as well as enough mini-packages of conversation hearts for your class (or for partners to work together).  I like using the little packages because it keeps the data manageable as well as the hearts clean for eating later after a job well done. 

To complete the activity sheets, students are asked to put themselves in the shoes of a Quality Control Official at a candy hearts factory.  They have to complete various data-gathering and analysis activities toCandy hearts page  help their employer ensure that the factory's candy production stays up to snuff.  I also found candy heart computer paper at the dollar store and copied the data sheets onto the special stationery to add motivation to the project. 

This activity incorporates math skills in the following areas: tallying and modeling data, data landmarks (maximum, minimum, range, median, and mode), ratio, percentage, pie graphs, and bar graphs.  I picked and chose which activities appeared on my students' sheets based on their readiness and needs, and it was very easy to cut and paste to customize the worksheets.  Then, each student gets to work on his or her own level and can complete the activity independently or with just a little bit of help.  Feel free to customize these sheets for use in your classrooms!  How are you celebrating Valentine's Day in educational ways?  Share your ideas and project suggestions here!

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