Monday, March 30, 2015

Bill of Rights Made Easy!

Memorizing the Bill of Rights is hard!  In fifth grade, students must know all about them.  In searching for something to help my students, I stumbled upon this video, "Learn the Bill of Rights Finger Tricks" on YouTube.  Credit goes to Katie Loftin who uploaded the video.  It's a great visual and tactile way for students to remember all the important points of the Bill of Rights.  I  used it with my fifth graders and they loved it.  We practiced with it every day for a few weeks.  I started by showing the video so they could see the finger tricks.  Eventually, we'd practice without the video.  Sometimes I would tell them the amendment and they'd show me the finger trick.  Then I would switch it up and show them the finger trick and they'd tell me the amendment.  In just a few weeks, they had the Bill of Rights memorized!

Click on the link to watch the video:

Bill of Rights Finger Tricks Video

Here is the a short description of each amendment, along with a photo and description of each finger trick.

Amendment 1
The First Amendment protects the rights of every American.  It covers the freedom of religion, speech, and press. Basically, Congress can't make any law about your religion, or stop you from practicing your religion. The government can't keep you from saying whatever you want, or publishing whatever you want (like in a newspaper or a book). And finally, Congress can't stop you from meeting peacefully for a demonstration to ask the government to change something.   
The finger trick is to put your finger to your mouth like you are "shushing" someone.  It represents freedom of speech.   

Amendment 2
The Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms, or own guns.  Congress can't stop people from having or carrying weapons, because we need to be able to defend ourselves.
The finger trick is to form an imaginary weapon with your fingers.  I just make sure students understand this is to represent this particular Bill of Rights and not a symbol they should use otherwise.  I usually have them put their hand straight up in the air instead (like a pistol used at the beginning of a race), so it never points at anyone.

Amendment 3
The Third Amendment prevents the government from forcing citizens to shelter soldiers in their homes.  In other words, you don't have to let soldiers live in your house, except if there is a war, and even then only if Congress has passed a law to enforce it.
The finger trick is to put up three fingers to represent "three's a crowd".  

Amendment 4
The Fourth Amendment protects the privacy of American citizens.  It prohibits unnecessary or unreasonable searches of a person's property.  In other words, nobody can search your body, or your house, or your papers and things, unless they can prove to a judge that they have a good reason to think you have committed a crime. In this case, the government would need a search warrant. 
The finger trick is to put your hand into a fist like you are knocking on a door to go into someone's home to do a search.

Amendment 5
In Amendment Five, all Americans are guaranteed the right to a fair and legal trial.  This amendment also protects someone from testifying against him or her under oath in a courtroom.  In other words, you can't be tried for any serious crime without a Grand Jury meeting first to decide if there's enough evidence for a trial. If the jury decides you are innocent, the government can't try again with another jury.  This is called "Double Jeopardy". You don't have to say anything at your trial.  It's informally called, "pleading the fifth". You can't be killed, put in jail, or fined unless you were convicted of a crime by jury.  The government can't take your house, farm, or anything else unless they pay for it.
The finger trick is to cover your mouth to show that you aren't going to say anything.  This represents "pleading the fifth".  Plus,  you are using five fingers to cover your mouth.  

Amendment 6
The Sixth Amendment is the right to a speedy trial.  If you're arrested, you have the right to have a trial very quickly. The government can't keep you in jail without a trial.  The trial has to be public, so everyone knows what is happening.  The case has to be decided by a jury of citizens from the area in which you live. You have the right to know what you are accused of which are called the "Miranda Rights".  You have the right to see and hear the people who are witnesses against you and to have the government help you get witnesses on your side.  You also have the right to have a lawyer appointed to you if you cannot afford one.
The finger trick is to point to an "imaginary watch" to represent the right to a speedy trial.  

Amendment 7
The Seventh Amendment guarantees the right to a trial by jury in civil, or private legal cases where the damages are more than twenty dollars. A civil case is a law case between two citizens rather than between you and the government.  
The finger trick is to hold up two fingers on one hand and then hold up all the fingers on your other hand (which makes 7 to represent this amendment).  Then close the fingers in the hand where you are holding up all fingers into a fist.  It is supposed to loo like a 2 and a O which represents legal cases with damages more than 20 dollars.

Amendment 8
The Eight Amendment states that unreasonable bail or fines and cruel and unusual punishment are prohibited. In other words, the government can't make you pay more than is reasonable in bail or in fines, and the government can't order you to have cruel or unusual punishments (like torture) even if you are convicted of a crime.
The finger trick is to put your hands out like you are being handcuffed.  It represents cruel and unusual punishment.

Amendment 9
The Ninth Amendment recognizes that Americans have rights that are not listed in the Constitution.  Just because these Bill of Rights are listed in the Constitution doesn't mean that you don't have other rights too.
The finger trick is to hold up five fingers on one hand, and four fingers on the other hand.  This represents the Ninth Amendment.  

Amendment 10
The Tenth Amendment states that the powers not given to the United States government  by the Constitution belong to the states or the people.  In other words, anything the Constitution doesn't say that Congress can do should be left up to the states, or to the people.
The finger trick is to hold up all your hands and fingers like you're "raising the roof".  I always have my students say, "Power to the people" when they do this.

Do you have any special tricks for teaching / learning about the Bill of Rights?  Please share your ideas in the comments section. Thanks!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Cream of Broccoli Soup

Set your timer because you can have this Cream of Broccoli Soup ready in under 10 minutes!  It's so easy. It only has three ingredients- broccoli, heavy cream, and chicken stock.  Ready.  Set.  Go!

Here's what you'll need:
1 package broccoli florets (12 ounces)- I get the steamer bag which makes it super fast!
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup chicken stock
salt & pepper to taste

Makes about 3 servings.

Here' what to do:
Steam your broccoli in the microwave.  The bag of broccoli florets that I used instructed to pierce the bag, place on microwavable plate, and microwave for 4 minutes.

Put broccoli, heavy cream, chicken stock, salt and pepper in food processor or blender and puree until smooth.  This only takes a couple of minutes.

Transfer mixture to medium sauce pot and heat on medium  heat for 3-4 minutes.

How's that for fast and easy?  If you like broccoli and cheese soup, you can add in some cheese.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mozzarella Chicken

This Mozzarella Chicken is light and fresh.  The best part- it's easy and quick!  I made it tonight for dinner and after one bite I was instantly transported back to Italy!  It's got all the yummy Italian flavors of mozzarella cheese, ripe Roma tomatoes, and chicken with Italian seasonings.  I served it with broiled eggplant and a spinach salad tossed with balsamic vinaigrette.

Here's what you'll need:
grilled or baked chicken breasts
mozzarella cheese (I used one snack package for each chicken breast- see pic below)
1 roma tomato per chicken breast, diced

Here's what I did:
I drizzled my chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkled Italian seasoning on both sides of the chicken breasts.  Then, I baked the chicken covered in foil in a 350 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes.  Bake until the juices run clear.  Chicken should have a minimum cooking temperature of 165 degrees, so invest in a cooking thermometer if need it to check the temperature. I usually bake quite a few chicken breasts in advance, then put them in food saver bags and freeze them for future use.  That's what I used tonight- a package that was pre-made from the freezer.  The food saver bag keeps the chicken fresh and moist. It makes the dinner come together in a snap.

Put the chicken breast on a microwave safe plate and top it with the mozzarella balls.  You could also use shredded mozzarella cheese.  Heat until cheese is melty- yes, I am declaring that "melty" is a word.

Top with diced tomatoes.

It's that easy and makes a boring chicken breast a little more interesting.

Here's what one of the snack packages looks like.  They are only 70 calories and you get three mozzarella balls.

Here's a pic of me in the Tuscan countryside.  Italy is a beautiful country!
On vacation in Italy with a sampling of bruschetta. 
The fresh flavors of this dish reminded me of the wonderful food I sampled in Italy.  Delizioso!  Now, I just wish I could be transported back there for another great vacation! Some day....


Monday, March 23, 2015

Fake Out Mashed Potatoes

I love a vegetable in disguise.  Especially a sneaky bowl of cauliflower that transforms itself into a delicious creamy mixture that tastes just like mashed potatoes, except without all the carbs! Who would have ever thought that pureed cauliflower could ever taste like mashed potatoes?  Certainly not me!  BUT, it does! And, it's delicious!  Give these Fake Out Mashed Potatoes a try!

Here's what you'll need:
1 package of cauliflower florets (10 ounces)- get the kind that's in the microwave bag- it makes it fast and easy to prepare
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons heaving whipping cream
salt & pepper

Makes 2 servings.

Here's what to do:
Microwave the cauliflower.  Follow the package directions.  For the package I bought, I just had to pierce the bag with a fork and cook on medium high for 4 minutes.

Put the cooked cauliflower in a food processor with butter, heavy cream, salt and pepper.  Puree until creamy and smooth.

Enjoy your vegetable in disguise!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Chicken Mushroom Soup

This soup is currently my husband's favorite.  Chicken & Mushroom Soup is packed with protein and can be ready in a matter of minutes.  It makes for a satisfying lunch or dinner.  Just add a salad for a complete meal!

Here's what you'll need:
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 cans cooked chicken breasts
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
salt & pepper
2 green onions, chopped

Makes 4 servings.

Here's what to do:
Saute the onion and celery in a small stock pot until tender.  Add the chicken, mushrooms, chicken stock, water, garlic powder, salt and pepper to pot.  Stir ingredients together.  Simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Top with chopped green onions.

Here are a few time savers:

Mushrooms are great for you!  Hey, it says so right on the container!  They're a super food because they are packed with vitamin D and are a good source of antioxidants.  Plus, they're low in calorie. Save time by buying the pre-sliced mushrooms at the store. They're already clean, sliced and ready to go.  You can add them to soups, salads, sandwiches, pizzas, or your morning omelette.

Another great time saver is canned chicken breast.  It's convenient for making a quick chicken salad, or tossing into a soup.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Show, don't tell!: A Writing Mini-Lesson

Using descriptive language is a must if students want to be great narrative writers.  Many times students will just tell what the character is feeling.  For example,  they might write "Ben was mad."  That's it. Readers crave more! Don't just tell and leave it that.  When writers SHOW a reader what the character is feeling, it gives the reader a better mental picture and insight into the character. An example of showing is, "Ben stomped into the room with narrow eyes, a red face, and nostrils flaring.  He put his hands on his hips and pointed a finger at his older brother.  See the difference?  Now, we can tell that Ben is really mad!  We have a mental picture of  him stomping into the room and showing anger towards his brother.  Writers need to SHOW, don't Tell!

I got the idea for this anchor chart from Pinterest (Oh, how I love Pinterest for great teaching ideas!).  The "Showing Emotions & Feelings" chart was posted by  It was the inspiration for the chart I created with my students.  Thanks for the idea Hooty's Homeroom!

Here's a great book you can share with your writers to introduce this writing mini-lesson.  It's called Show, Don't Tell:  Secrets of Writing by Josephine Nobisso.  It's a long book, so you may want to only read an excerpt.

I started this writing lesson by having my students draw 6 squares on one sheet of their reader's notebook and 6 square on another sheet.  This gave them plenty of room to jot down their ideas.

Then I had them write the emotion and feeling words in each box.  The words included:  excited, sad, shy, shocked, tired, cold, hot, afraid, embarrassed nervous, and angry.  You could have them brainstorm their own words as well.  

As a class we brainstormed ways as writers we could SHOW the emotion, rather than just telling about the emotion or feeling.

Here are some examples of some of the questions I asked students during the lesson.  For the word "angry", I asked questions such as: 
  • What does angry look like?
  • How is your body language /posture when you're angry?
  • How do your eyes look when you're angry?  What does your face look like?
  • What actions are you doing when you're angry?

We repeated the questioning and brainstorming process with each emotion.  I recorded student responses on chart paper and students jotted their ideas in their reading notebooks.

Students can refer to these charts in their notebook as they write narrative stories.  It will remind them of the the descriptive language to show, not tell when writing!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Roasted Broccoli

Really, I am a veggie lover.  I have a great fondness for carrots, squash, zucchini and all sorts of beautiful green veggies, BUT there are two veggies that I've never been a fan of.  One is broccoli and the other is corn.  Please don't judge me!  In an effort to eat healthier, I am trying to conquer my fear of broccoli.  I've tried it steamed many times and just can't handle it yet.  So, tonight I got brave and roasted it with a little olive oil and roasted garlic.  Ok, why oh why didn't anyone tell me that when you roast broccoli it is amazingly delicious!  I think I might like it now. Actually, I think I might love it now. Now, if I can just learn to conquer the corn!  Baby steps, people.  Baby steps.

Here's what you'll need:
2 cups raw broccoli, cut into smallish pieces
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons roasted garlic
salt and pepper

Makes 2 servings

Here's what to do:
Mix the olive oil and garlic in a mixing bowl.

Toss the broccoli with the olive oil and garlic.

Spread broccoli on a sheet pan.  I lined mine with parchment paper for easy clean up!  Add a little salt and pepper.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.

It comes out roasty, toasty delicious!  Do you have a broccoli or corn recipe to help me (and others like me) love them?  Send it my way!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Dad's Sausage Supper

This was my Dad's all time favorite dish that my mom made while I was growing up.  It's full of delicious, colorful veggies.  I lightened up my mom's recipe by using smoked turkey sausage.  Plus it's a quick and easy recipe!  It comes together in about 30 minutes.

Here's what you need:
1 package smoked sausage (I used Eckridge Smoked Turkey Sausage)
1 green pepper, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 medium white onion, thinly sliced
1 can diced tomatoes (if you want something spicy, use Rotel tomatoes)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
salt and pepper
rice for 6 servings (I used brown rice)

Makes 6 servings

Here's what to do:
Cut sausage into round slices.

In a skillet on medium heat, begin to saute sausage until it browns.

While sausage is cooking, slice onions.  Then add to skillet with sausage.  Stir mixture.

Slice green peppers and add to skillet with sausage and onions. Stir mixture.

Slice red peppers and add to green peppers, onions, and sausage. Stir mixture.

Add salt, pepper and garlic.  Cook until peppers and onions are tender.  It usually takes about 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Add 1 can of diced tomatoes with juice.  Stir mixture and let simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare rice according to package directions.  Serve sausage, pepper, onion, and tomato mixture over rice.

This is the basic recipe, but if you want to change the protein to chicken or shrimp, that would taste great too. You can also make a vegetarian version by using mushrooms, eggplant,or tofu.  If you like something spicier, add Rotel tomatoes or a few dashes of hot sauce.