Mrs. Salahi’s 5th Grade Resources

Debbie Salahi is a STAR member of the Discovery Educator Network


Excited About Changing to Teaching Fifth Grade

Posted by Debbie Salahi

I am changing grade levels starting in a couple of weeks. I am going from teaching second grade for twelve years to teaching fifth grade for the first time. I am very excited about this change. I will be able to use a lot more technology with my older students this year.

One piece of software I am really looking forward to using this next year is Voicethread for Educators. I know that our technology department will provide support. It will be very nice to get my students feedback in a variety of ways. Students can make a comment in these ways:  by phone, webcam, microphone, keyboard or upload. I plan to use the Voicethread 4 Education wiki site.  I have found wikispaces to be very educational. Check out this Page of Examples of additional Voicethreads to give you ideas. Unfortunately, if you want to have more than 3 Voicethreads or you want your students to be able to individually comment with their screen buttons this is not free. Read this article from Edutopia to learn more.

I had created a wikispace page for my second graders. Obviously I have to change it for my fifth graders. I learned a new trick. I went to the second grade sites I had been using. I slowly shortened the URL until I found the part where I could search for fifth grade. This worked on several sites. I am not quite ready to complete my fifth grade wikispace but I would like to share some of the sites I have found.

Sheppard Software – The Dallas Children’s Museum commented, “Terrific online educational games, especially geography.”  NASA –.This has very interesting content for educators and students. World Book at NASA for Students page that has some good information for research projects and things students wonder about. NASA’s Space Place is where the engaging games are found.  

PBS is another trusted source in my book. Check out this Storm Chasers site. For my students we would use this site for both science and language arts. Cyberchase is a very engaging math site designed for kids from 8-12 years of age.   I have been to COSI (Center of

Science and Industry) in

Ohio. COSI has some very good online activities.  After looking through and reading about Internet 4 Classrooms I am ready to recommend it to my students. If you want a grade other than fifth this is a link to the home page.    Mrs. Bogucki’s Teacher and Classroom Resources was created by a fifth grade teacher. There are a lot of interactive quizzes and activities on this site to explore.  

A fifth grade class at McKinley Elementary School has a website that I want to check out for the students’ podcasts. This is something I really want to pursue with my students this year.  Another fifth grade class website is by Mr. Drum. His site is a wealth of information on language arts, math, science and more. This site will definitely help me my first year teaching fifth grade.  The last two web sites I will recommend today are from schools in

California, Murrieta and Santa Maria-Bonita School District. Both sites are a wealth of language arts information for many different grade levels.

 Well that is my list for now. I hope you find it interesting. If you check any of these sites out I would be interested in your reaction. If you have any suggestions for other sites that should really be on this list, please share


Discovery Educator Network (DEN)

Posted by Debbie Salahi

One of the best things about taking classes with other teachers in the Wilkes/Discovery program is sharing with other teachers. Last week we reviewed web sites to give us more ideas that we can use to differentiate instruction to meet the individual needs of our students. As I read through teachers’ reviews of web sites I took notes and bookmarked many on my Diigo account. Since I will be teaching fifth grade next year I have been on the lookout for good web sites for students to practice basic skills, for research, and to explore areas of interest.

Another great place to share and learn with other teachers is sponsored by Discovery Education and this is how they describe the DEN, “The Discovery Educator Network (DEN) is a global community of educators passionate about teaching with digital media, sharing resources, collaborating, and networking.” The opportunities Discovery provides for teacher education are outstanding. Discovery provides local, regional, state and national events. After attending a few events, I was encouraged to become a STAR Discovery Educator. The above link will take you to the page that explains the benefits of becoming a STAR Discovery Educator. This link will take you to page that explains how to become a STAR Discovery Educator. It is a great resource for professional development. You may also want to check out the Discovery webinars another great place for technology information and how to integrate it in your classroom.

It is because of my association with Discovery that I am finally working toward my master’s degree in instructional media. How has Discovery helped you to be a more effective teacher? Have any Discovery products made your teaching more engaging? Discovery has made a world of difference in my teaching


Universal Access

Posted by Debbie Salahi

Today’s students are very diverse. They enter classrooms with widely varying backgrounds, skills, abilities and parental support. The range of abilities grows ever wider and the student-teacher ratio increases as they move from the primary grades to upper elementary.  How can a teacher meet the needs of all her students?

This week I am attending a math institute to review the new math frameworks and current research on math instruction. One of the strategies that I have learned about is called Universal Access (UA). According to the California Department of Education “The ultimate goal of mathematics programs in California is to ensure universal access to high-quality curriculum and instruction so that all students can meet or exceed the state’s mathematics content standards.”

UA is a technique designed to assist teachers in meeting the diverse needs of their students. These are procedures that may be useful in planning for UA:

  1. Assessment of the student’s current ability level is the first step. Teachers need to know which standards the students have mastered in order to provide instruction at their particular level.
  2. Diagnose areas of difficulty and try to determine the cause of the challenges and intervene quickly.
  3. Plan instruction to address those areas of need.
  4. Focus on the key standards that students need to move up to the next grade level and differentiate curriculum or instruction or both.
  5. Students should be grouped according to the students’ needs. Groups will change based upon ongoing assessment and specific skill to be addressed that session.
  6. Enlist help of others, such as parents or community volunteers, older siblings and peer tutors.

There are four phases for implementing UA. The time spent training students is time well spent as it will increase effectiveness of instruction for the rest of the year. In the first and second phase the teacher monitors.

1. The first phase includes instructions and rules.

a) A goal is established. Rules and procedures for UA time are explained.
b) Students work on an activity independent of any teacher support.
c) The instructions include a list of people the students can consult with if they have questions or problems. This could include their partners or the others at their table.
d) Students may not interrupt the teacher.
e) Teacher debriefs students on their experiences.

i) Did students interrupt the teacher?
ii) Were their partners or students at their table able to help them?
iii) Praise for working well together.

2. The second phase includes a review of rules and procedures.

a) Practice transitions from one required activity to a choice activity.
b) Students work on an activity independent of any teacher support.
c) When required activity is completed make a choice between optional activities assigned by teacher. Work on that assignment.
d) The instructions include a list of people the students can consult with if they have questions or problems. This could include their partners or the others at their table.
e) Students may not interrupt the teacher.
f) Teacher debriefs students on their experiences.

i) Did students interrupt the teacher?
ii) Were their partners or students at their table able to help them?
iii) Were students able to transition effectively from one activity to another?
iv) Praise for good transitioning and working well together.

3.  The third phase includes a review of rules, procedures and transitions.

a) Same as the second phase except the teacher pulls one group for instruction.
b) Teacher debriefs students on their experiences.

i) Praise for good transitioning, working well together and participating.

4. The fourth phase includes a review of rules, procedures, and transitions.

a) Same as the third phase except the teacher pulls multiple groups. 
b) Teacher debriefs students on their experiences.

i) Praise for good transitioning, working well together and participating.

UA is an effective technique for providing students with instruction at their level. Formal and informal ongoing assessment is a very important part of this process. Our new math program has a 5 question quick check and rubric to help teacher with placement in groups based on that lesson. Teacher models in their groups how to run group center activities. As time goes on students take on a leadership role for directed their group activities while the teacher is working with another groups. The number of groups is determined by the variation in the skills of the students. There are generally at least three groups.


Teacher Teaming to Provide Differentiated Instruction

Posted by Debbie Salahi

In order to provide more differentiated instruction last year, the second grade team started teaming for a portion of the Language Arts time each day. We had five second grade classes. Each teacher had just over 20 students. All students were pre-assessed at the beginning of the year on their reading skills. From this test students were assigned to one of five groups. The below-level learners were assessed every two to three weeks. The other students were assessed about every three months. However, teachers were able to move students at any time to another group that they determined might better fit the students’ needs.

  • The top group consisted of all above-level learners. They could work on extension activities because those students were already reading fluently with adequate comprehension.
  • The next group also had above-level learners. They were not quite as high so they spent some time working on comprehension skills, but a lot of time was spent on group work and writing.
  • The middle group students were at-level learners on fluency but below-level learners on comprehension. That teacher was able to work on lots of activities to increase student comprehension of their reading.
  • The second to the bottom group had below-level learners in their reading fluency. An additional teacher joined the regular classroom teacher during this time. That gave the lowest students in that class a ratio of 6 students to one teacher. The regular second grade teacher worked on both fluency and comprehension with the rest of the class. She also met with small groups during that period but not daily.  The additional teacher worked with her small group in about the same way that I did.
  • The most intensive group consisted of below-level learners and far-below-level learners. I had that class and three additional teachers joined me for this time. The students in my room were in small groups the entire time. The most intensive students were in groups of three to five. I had the highest of the below-level learners in my room. I usually had four to six students.  The additional teacher in the group just above mine would move students between our groups about once a month. We both spent time on phonics, lots of time listening to the children reading aloud, practicing high frequency words, and chunking words into phrases. We spent a little time on comprehension but the focus was to increase their reading speed. I worked on Dolch words with the kids daily. I sent lists home with kids and we would do speed drills with those words.

I think the 30 minutes a day that we grouped students by their ability level especially the far-below-level and below-level learners increased their reading ability. It was much easier to differentiate instruction at that time because most of the students at that time were at the same level.

Have you ever been part of an experience like this? What do you think about being responsible for a different group of students for thirty minutes a day?


National Educational Technology Standards for Students

Posted by Debbie Salahi

So what are the NETS? According to the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) website their new National Educational Technology Standard (NETS) of 2007 “identify several higher-order thinking skills and digital citizenship as critical for students to learn effectively for a lifetime and live productively in our emerging global society.” The NETS Project has developed a set of profiles describing technology literate students in four grade brackets (Pre-K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12). “These profiles are based on ISTE’s core belief that all students must have regular opportunities to use technology to develop skills that encourage personal productivity, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration in the classroom and in daily life. Coupled with the standards, the profiles provide a set of examples for preparing students to be lifelong learners and contributing members of a global society.” When I looked at the profile for technology (ICT) literate students I became much more aware of what is expected of me in my students technology education.  When I looked at the third profile “Engage in learning activities with learners from multiple cultures through e-mail and other electronic means” I immediately thought of ePals. I didn’t know much about this organization. There is a great video on their site and a document that explains how ePals can help in reaching the NETS.  EPals was created about 12 years ago with 10 classrooms in 4 countries. Now there are 16 million students and teachers in 200 countries. “The company’s mission is to support lifelong learning through collaborative experiences that empower and inspire.” This free service to schools provides the means for students from around the world to connect over their website. Pen pals learn about each other’s countries and cultures. To enhance communication between students of different languages ePals has language translation software in both their community site and in their email browsers. This translation software has provided an additional benefit for non English speaking parents. These parents use the translation software to overcome previous problems of communicating with their child’s teacher. This software if provided free to schools and they gave access to the parents.  EPals provides safe collaborative tools designed for K-12 use, specifically emails and blogs. The project sharing part of this organization would address three of the K-2 profiles:  

2. Identify, research, and collect data on an environmental issue using digital resources and propose a developmentally appropriate solution.  

4. In a collaborative work group, use a variety of technologies to produce a digital presentation or product in a curriculum area. 

10. Demonstrate the ability to navigate in virtual environments such as electronic books, simulation software, and web sites.

EPals projects promote the use of higher order thinking skills. When students have an authentic reason for writing they are motivated to do their best work. Students will write much more for a peer that they are working with and learning with. Working within the ePals framework would also address the seventh profile, “Demonstrate the safe and cooperative use of technology.” I will definitely have to look into ePals for my class next year.  


Web 2.0 Tools

Posted by Debbie Salahi

This week I will be describing Web 2.0 tools for both my use and the use of my students. Diigo has been a terrific tool for me. I’m thinking it is more than my second graders need. But if I were to teach students a little bit older, I think I would sign up for the educator account. I used to have a hard time keeping track of the great websites I had found and bookmarked. Diigo has changed all that because it allows the user to put multiple tags on a website and organize them in lists. Another great feature is that you can share the sites you choose with others. You can share not only the site but your tags, comments and highlights.  My group did this a lot while working on our group project. I am always sharing sites with other teachers at my school site. This site will make it so much easier to do that. I love the highlighting feature. Last year I used to print out web articles because I wanted to highlight important sections and write notes in the margins. I don’t need to print out web sites and articles anymore because Diigo has highlighting and sticky notes features.

Diigo’s introductory video asserts “you are what you annotate.” In terms of social networking, this aspect of Diigo’s social bookmarking helps you to connect with others. There is a description of the Diigo bookmarking tools in Blogs, Wikis, Podcast, and Other Powerful Web Tools by Will Richardson.  I also like the WebSlides, a show of websites in a list. I haven’t used all the features in Diigo yet but it is a great site to know about.

I am going to try Edmodo with my second graders. The site says it was built for teachers and students. It was “built with the privacy of students in mind.” It was easy to set up my side of the Edmodo account. My students weren’t in school this week so they are not signed up. Students are asked to sign themselves up and I think this would be good practice for them. It looks fun and I think students would like to know that they are actually micro blogging.  I can add links of useful websites for them and some of the PowerPoint presentations and videos that I use in class. My students often enjoy watching the PowerPoint presentations and videos over again. This would be an easy way to allow them to do this. There is a lot of great information in the section “Read about Edmodo on…TechCrunch, Mashable, Instructify, Box of Tricks, and Mr.”  Mr. Warner wrote, I can make the homework / spelling posts on Edmodo public (simply by ticking one box), so that the parents can see what their child is expected to achieve and when it is due.” This is a great idea. I think I will try it too. It will help those students that lose their homework and keep parents more informed.

The second site I would like to review is Wikispaces. My district prefers wikispaces for teachers to make their classroom websites.  This site is free for teachers and you can have more that one account. I like the fact that wikispaces can be private. I have parents that have concerns about having their child’s face on the web. Of course you need parent permission to include their child. I didn’t see any requirement that students need to be 13 to use it. Since I know that many primary teachers let their kids post things on their wiki, I am thinking that it must be okay. Another teacher lets her second grade students post on the wiki. I have not done that yet. I am just at the point of starting to post the work of the students whose parents have given permission. I have posted many resources for my students on my classroom website wikispace.

Group 2’s wikispace was a good collaboration tool for our group project. I can now see the value of wikispaces as a collaboration tool. Since my class website wiki is private, I created another wikispace to show other (especially primary) teachers some great resources for them and their students.

I have not done much with publishing yet. I loved Gcast when it was free and so did my kids. When we were coming home from our field trip two weeks ago, my cell phone was passed around by the students and everyone that wanted to report got a chance. Unfortunately, you can no longer make podcasts by phone for free anymore. I will now look into recording on my computer and adding it to Gcast. I used GCast when I created a virtual field trip on Google Earth and when I made a sample podcast to describe for parents a technology project their children would be participating in at school. Gcast is very easy to use. The Gcast website has a lot of good information under Podcasting 101. 


Challenges of Global Project-Based Learning

Posted by Debbie Salahi

An October 2006 article in Partnership for 21st Century Skills reported on deficiencies of young people entering the workforce. This article states, “applied skills such as teamwork, critical thinking, and communication are essential for success at work.” Global PBL projects provide students opportunities to work on these essential 21st century skills that will be required when they enter the workforce. In addition to the benefits provided by PBL projects, Global PBL projects allow students to experience multicultural understanding of their world. Through Global PBL projects students learn to understand the commonalities and diversities between them and their global peers.  Global projects provide many challenges for the educator.

The first, and often the biggest, obstacle is TIME. Teachers are always pressed for time. Project-based learning takes even more time, both in terms of planning and instructional time that would be needed to prepare students for the project.  

Learning today is mandated by state content standards. I don’t see how we could find the time for a global project that was just technology. I don’t see how I could justify a project that just taught technology skills. A few years back our district directed us to teach technology as a tool. This means that students learn about technology as they are using it to meet state standards.  

Time zones are a challenge in global PBL projects. Most of my students don’t have internet access at home. We do have an after school program that might be able to allow students to use school computers until 5:30 p.m. and our technology rep allows students in the lab before school from 7:30-8:00 a.m.  That might bridge he gap if the other class had more flexibility.   

Language would be another challenge. Many of my students are second language learners. They can speak Spanish but they don’t know how to write it. It seems that Spanish is a very diverse language. I had a parent from Cuba tell me it was easier for her to understand English than the Spanish spoken by many of the other parents of our students.  Since most of my students are still learning English, I think I would need to find another class of English speakers for my young students. 

My administration does not know or support project-based learning (local or global). Staff development of both teachers and administrators would be necessary to solve that challenge. It would also serve the added benefit of having another teacher at my school or in the district to work with.  

To solve these problems it would take a lot of perseverance on the part of the teacher. I think that for my young students and my expertise, we need practice with PBL projects before we expand to global PBL projects.


Learning for Understanding

Posted by Debbie Salahi

State content standards dictate what students will learn. Constructivism is a theory about how people learn. In a constructivist classroom, the teacher asks questions and guides students toward possible solutions. The focus is on the student and their construction of knowledge. “Students must be permitted the freedom to think, to question, to reflect, and to interact with ideas, objects and others – in other words, to construct meaning,” according to Martin G. Brooks and Jacqueline Grennon Brooks. Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe state, “If we don’t give students sufficient ongoing opportunities to puzzle over genuine problems, make meaning of their learning, and apply content in various contexts, then long-term retention and effective performance are unlikely…” I also like their idea that, “The textbook should serve as a resource, but not as the syllabus.


I have heard repeatedly in my educational career that I have to get my students to be able to perform at higher levels on Bloom’s taxonomy. Bloom’s taxonomy was developed to describe intellectual behavior that is important in learning. There is a list on the Concept to Classroom website (a 2002 selection for the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse’s Digital Dozen, a list of exemplary Web sites for educators) that lists the benefits of the constructivism. In reviewing the benefits I noticed that many were the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. The benefits included application (apply, demonstrate, illustrate, interpret, use), analysis (compare/contrast, question), and synthesis (drawing inferences). I am not sure if reflection is quite as high as evaluation but it is important in learning.  Research shows that students were more likely to transfer skills learned in PBL. Perhaps the reason is that they are operating at higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy.


Justifications for using Project-Based Learning:


Greater transfer of learning to new situations

Engaged learners – more time on task means more time devoted to learning

Decrease in absenteeism means more time devoted to learning 

Opportunity to work on higher order thinking skills—critical thinkers

Promotes intrinsic motivation to learn

Students learn collaboration skills – learn how to work together

Increase oral and written communication skills

Learning for understanding, which it true knowledge

Independent workers

Promotes lifelong learning

Research show that it also improves test scores


Related reading used in this blog:

Concept to Classroom

PBL Research Summary:  Studies Validate Project-based Learning – Edutopia 


Project Based Learning

Posted by Debbie Salahi

I recently read three inspiring articles (“More Fun Than a Barrel of … Worms?!”, “Geometry Students Angle into Architecture Through Project Learning” and “March of the Monarchs: Students Follow the Butterflies’ Migration”) from the Edutopia web site. Project-Based Learning (PBL) is an “in-depth investigation of a real-world topic worthy of children’s attention and effort.” This is an active hands-on approach. Perhaps the most important parts of the students’ learning are how to collaborate, problem-solve, and work with their peers. In their future careers these interpersonal skills will be essential.

All three projects had many things in common. It was the enthusiasm of the students that was the most exciting. The projects were designed to address content standards but to extend knowledge and apply that student learning. The first thing a teacher needs to do is change her mind set of the one dispenser of knowledge to learner that doesn’t know everything, but that’s okay we are all learning together. “Teachers must be willing to work harder to ensure that projects are meaningful learning experiences.” The PBL projects were more labor intensive on the part of the teacher. The teacher needed to do a lot of planning with the projects; incorporating as many state standards as she could, coming up with a guiding question, setting up field work (field trips and lab work), collaborating with others in the project, setting up experts, etc.

Two of the projects put students in the role of thinking and acting like a scientist. In the first grade classroom there was a sign about a first grade wormologist. In the third grade classroom students not only shared their observations with scientists through the Journey North database, they had access to working scientists “who take questions about the different migrations.”  The geometry students consulted with and were judged by professional architects. It was very evident that what students were doing had real world applications. Students are required to use their problem-solving and collaborative abilities to create a project that meets the requirements set by the teacher.


After the guiding question is decided, the role of the teacher is one of master planner, designer of the project requirements, event planner and facilitator. She is no longer the sole source of knowledge. In every case the students had contact with experts. The teacher sets up the experiences so that the students can do the hard work. The teacher asks probing questions, she offers suggestions and provides support, encouragement and feedback.


These learning experiences increase student engagement because of their real-life application. These hands-on experiences are more interesting and fun for students. The students may have had input into the choice of the project. They certainly have some choice built into their work.  Children are enthusiastic when they see that their efforts make a difference. Kids are excited to hear and talk with experts. They are excited about getting out of the classroom and the exploring that is a part of field trips. All these things increase student engagement.


Students work harder when they have an authentic audience (like writing a real letter) so this helps transfer the knowledge they have from language arts. They put more energy into projects they can share with family and friends. Because the students spend more time on task they learn more. Teachers find there is not as much re-teaching. Students use what they are learning in their projects. This helps them remember it. One third grader said, “If you find it yourself, it stays in your brain.” I think that is a great testament for real knowledge. 


Blogs and Wikispaces

Posted by Debbie Salahi

I started reading Discovery Education blogs about a year ago. I plan to continue reading those. The rest of the information on this page will probably only be helpful if you teach K-3.


I learned about the blog Adams’ Technology Spot when I attended the Orange County CUE Conference in Newport Beach, California. The author of the blog was the presenter. I have spent hours and hours on this blog. There are so many great areas to explore. These are three of my favorite links: 


 Starfall I use the “Learn to Read” section the most. This is a site that most of my second graders enjoy as they are reviewing digraphs, r-controlled vowels and vowel combinations. This site is even more valuable for my struggling readers.

PBS Kids-Between the Lions This is my favorite show for helping kids learning to read. They have great songs under video clips that include closed captioned and address many of my standards. My kids love to watch these over and over.  

HMTech  Wikispaces . This is one of the most beneficial links and site I have ever used. This is part of the description of the wikispace, “This site has been made by teachers that use technology daily to motivate and engage students in authentic learning, differentiate instruction, integrate many standards into one lesson and like to have FUN!”  All the resources are tied to the Houghton Mifflin language arts program. I just look up the theme and the story and there are many links to websites where my students can practice the exact skill of the week. For me there are links to websites for teachers with PowerPoint presentations and more resources. A couple of years ago I made PowerPoint presentations covering the vocabulary for every story. The PowerPoint presentations that other teachers have created are quite different from mine. I think it is helpful for the kids to see both versions.  Two of the best sites I have found from this wikispace are:


Kathy Kronemeyer . Some of her resources are on Debbie Ferguson’s wikispace but there are even more on her own site. It was from visiting Kathy Kronemeyer that I got the courage to try to have my students create PowerPoint presentations this year.


Mrs. Rios The same holds true for Mrs. Rios. Some of her resources are on Debbie Ferguson’s wikispace but there are even more on her own site.


Debbie Ferguson’s profile shows the several blogs she has authors

Debbie Ferguson and the other teachers she collaborates with on the wikispace are teachers that I have a lot to learn from. These resources, the Global Classroom 2.O project through my district and Discovery Education are my resources for professional development between now and mid January when I plan to sign up for my next Wilkes/Discovery class. Last night I was invited  to join this wikispace that has been so helpful to me!

Bad Behavior has blocked 9 access attempts in the last 7 days.