Celebration of Learning Fiesta with Esperanza Rising

After a couple years of teaching with the Expeditionary Learning Curriculum under my belt, I learned more about Celebrations of Learning from my district.  Keeping with a topic for weeks at a time, such as Human Rights, allows students to make connections between a collection of their work over a nine week period.

Expeditionary Learning shares an excerpt from Leaders of Their Own Learning:
Celebrations of learning are more than a display of student work and more than a party at the end of the year. The events compel students to reflect on and articulate what they have learned, how they learned, questions they answered, research they conducted, and areas of strength and struggles. They are powerful opportunities to make learning public.
This resonated with me.  I realized I needed to take a moment to allow students to take pride in the work they have done.  We push hard and have high expectations.  If you ask any of my students if they ever get extra recess or if they have "free" time, they will say "hardly ever."  As much as enjoy students being appreciative for what I do for them as their ELA teacher, they need to take pride and appreciate themselves for the work they put in.

My Classroom
The students' Painted Essays and Narratives (we changed EL's "Monologue" to "First Person Narrative), both associated with Esperanza Rising, were teaching tools we spent a lot of time perfecting.  Collaboration and sharing their writing naturally made a positive impact on our classroom community.  The trust they built with each other after being vulnerable and sharing their writing and ideas was priceless. After each of these writing tasks, the students responded to a totally different writing prompt independently.  We call this a "cold write," and it mirrored our state testing format.  Every step of the way, they knew that the work they were doing was preparing them to fly solo to write an essay response to a prompt.

The Celebration
I am fortunate that I had support from parents who helped me purchase items off of an Amazon Wishlist.  I saved every bit of the decor to reuse next year!  The tablecloths SOMEHOW survived two classes!  That alone is worth celebrating!

Celebration of Learning Fiesta Amazon Finds:
I listed them in order of my personal opinion of priority

We also watched an interview of the author of Esperanza Rising, Pam Muñoz Ryan, in which she discusses her stories and winning the 2000 Pura Belpre Medal for Esperanza Rising.  I used this time to get some of the food items ready.

Food List for Esperanza Rising Chapters
I used SignUpGenius to allow parents to send in food as well.  One of my students told me I should have started the celebration with grapes, and ended it with grapes, just like in our book!  Brilliant!  Next year I will put a few grapes on their desks with their morning work, and end the class with them as well!
  • Las Uvas (Grapes)
  • Las Papayas (Papayas)
  • Los Higos (Figs)
  • Las Guayabas (Guavas)
  • Los Melones (Cantaloupes)
  • Las Cebollas (Onions)
  • Las Almendras (Almonds)
  • Las Ciruelas (Plums)
  • Las Papas (Potatoes)
  • Los Aguacates (Avocados) - Did you know you can buy chopped frozen avocados?
  • Los Espárragos (Asparagus)
  • Los Duraznos (Peaches)
  • Las Uvas (Grapes)

Yarn Dolls
The yarn dolls were the biggest hit!  It was such a treat for me to see how my students used their creativity.  Some students really struggled with the dexterity required to tie knots, which honestly surprised me.  This is my first year teaching fifth grade, but prior to this I taught fourth grade. I assisted some student slightly, but I really encouraged students to make their yarn doll their own and not to worry about making it look like the picture.  I ended up having students make robot yarn dolls, monster yarn dolls, and yarn dolls with mowhawks. One student even made a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs with a nacho bowl.  She was so proud of this, and I was too!

Celebration of Learning Teachers Pay Teacher Finds:
For morning work I purchased a Parts of Speech Color Page from Elementary Teacher's Pet.  We also determined the main idea and details of a text regarding migrant farm workers.  We then used Sarah Chesworth's Main Idea Tacos.  Each student hung their tacos around the room for part of our decor!

On a more personal note, I really enjoyed this day with my students.  A few years ago if someone suggested I do a "Celebration of Learning Fiesta" with my students I would have said, "Yeah...we don't have time for that! Instruction is already interrupted enough as it is!"  This celebration held so much value and energized all of us for Module 2 of our curriculum.  We built some momentum for what's ahead.

Edit: I got some questions about the Painted Essay Poster pictured on the bulletin board behind my students.  Click here or click the picture below for that file!