Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Look to the Stars! Earth Science is such fun

My students always love talking about the universe. They come to me knowing tons about it already, and that's great. But as I slowly move through our curriculum guide I find that they aren't exactly clear how it all works. I have to stop every five minutes to answer the waggling hands in the air.

They have questions like, "Will a black hole suck up the Hubble Telescope?" Nope, kiddo. That telescope is in a low Earth orbit it isn't anywhere near a black hole.

"What will happen when our Sun dies out?" Our planet will more than likely wither away and become a cold barren rock.

Which leads to my next answer...

"No, you will not be around in the 10,000 years it will take for our Sun to burn itself out. Don't worry."

We usually take a look at our universe from the outside in. Starting with stars, moving to planets, and finishing with our Moon. I separate it into two sections of stars and planets and then the Moon. This way I can get more grades for the ole report card. Oh, and I've only got two weeks to cover all of this information. Don't you love it? We just took our stars and planets test today. I haven't graded those yet. I'm saving up all that fun.

I planned ahead for our Moon stuff this year. I had them start the Moon calendar as soon as we started talking about stars. This way we can at least see some of the phase changes for ourselves. Getting them to conceive how this happens on a cyclic pattern every month is difficult to say the least. But as we were filling in our Moon calendar they had tons of questions which will definitely help us later on (I hope).

Oh, and did I mention that we are doing our Moon Phase chart soon? Why am I excited? Because we use Oreo cookies to do it. YUM! It's a guilty pleasure to walk around showing them how to scoop out the cream to represent various phases while nibbling on a chunk of chocolatey goodness.

I've got some task cards up in my store that we use to quiz each other before we take an assessment. But my biggest fun is when they start bringing in their Solar System models. Who would have thought I'd get so excited over Styrofoam and poster board?

But that's just me.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Literal Conversations with Fourth Graders

I've been trying to get my Fourth Graders to have more conversations. No, not that kind. They definitely have NO trouble talking to each other.

I'm talking about more in-depth conversations where they take what another person has said and respond to it in a positive manner. Sitting in a group, taking turns, using good eye contact. All of that good stuff. This kind of skill can only help them with college work later on in life.

I started by posting some Sentence Stems around the room such as "I agree with ____ because," "I disagree with _______ because," "I see your point, but," "I can piggyback off of _________." I refer to them heavily as I model responses to what they say. When they get ready to respond to me I remind them to think about using some of these stems.

Next we created an anchor chart that brought out even more stems to use with each other. Plus I added in some reminders on good conversation behaviors. Here's what we came up with:

Then, through some staff development I learned some new techniques to help them move into writing their responses and then responding to someone else written response. I started using this 'Literal Conversation' sheet with my whole class as we read an integral part in Sign of the Beaver.

Students write down their own response then pass it to a partner. Partner has to read it and respond with either agreeing or disagreeing and adding their own take on it. Then they pass it back to the owner who reads and responds as well. They loved it!

Next I'll be trying something called a Discussion Roundtable with a group of four students where they respond to a posed question. Taking turns they each read out their response as their team members are taking notes on what they said. After all this, they take all the information they heard and write a summary of their final response.

After nine weeks of this stuff, I have witnessed them using the vocabulary and techniques on their own without any prompting. Does an old teacher's heart good!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mentor Sentence Set 02 is up!!

I finally got off my tukis and started looking through some old projects. I couldn't believe it when I saw that I had four of the ten lesson sets done for my second Mentor Sentence pack. Why haven't I finished this already?

So I cracked down and got all the materials together. I listed several lessons I am currently trying to get my kiddos to comprehend. Then I pulled my current favorite books down off the shelf and figured out which ones fit which topics. It took me a couple of hours to seal up the final six, and it felt awesome! Too long I left it stagnant.

Here's a list of materials I used:

Week 11: Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson articles
Week 12: Miss Rhumphius by Barbara Cooney prepositions
Week 13: Sweetest Fig by Chris van Allsburg clauses
Week 14: Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown poetry – repetition
Week 15: Crazy Hair Day by Barney Saltzberg proper nouns
Week 16: My Brother Dan’s Delicious by Steven L. Layne compound subjects
Week 17: Trevor’s Wiggly Wobbly Tooth by Lester Laminack compound predicates
Week 18: Encounter by Jane Yolen figurative language
Week 19: Enemy Pie by Derek Munson Quotation Interrupters
Week 20: The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt Comparative Adj/Adv

One of my favorites that I was introduced to last year and can't wait to use again is

It's a clever little story giving those very erratic coloring utensils separate voices. And they have no qualms about using them either. I like these kind of cheeky stories that make me laugh. The kids love them and get so creative when I ask them to write their own letters as writing tools. Hilarious stuff indeed.
For this book I included the usual lesson plan - that you can read more about here - that is broken down into five day sessions. Here's a couple of screen shots of those plans.

I just posted Mentor Sentence Set 02 in my store which was in dire need of some fresh stuff. This made a total of 51 items in my store. There's always room for more though!

My brain is already thinking of some great stuff to work on next. If you want to see a sneak peek go check out my TDQ Reading Log homework.

Monday, October 13, 2014

I taught teachers!

Our AP (assistant principal) sent out a request for anyone willing to teach a staff development session. Choice was ours. I immediately thought of that awesome session I attended over the summer. You can read more about it here: Comprehension and Technology

It's a lot harder to plan for teaching teachers than I thought. I had to do a lot of research and testing things out to get ready for the big day. I made some mistakes and spent too much money on stuff before figuring out that there was a free way of doing the same thing. I had some thoughts on what to do, but I needed an overall theme for it to actually work.

That moment came on September 19 when Patricia Polacco announced on her Facebook page that her brother Ritchie had let go of the grass. I love her stories, and her older brother figures into many of them. I felt like I knew him and was saddened to hear of the loss.

But it got me thinking about how social media is enveloping our children on a daily basis. They need to be prepared for acceptable use. Some teachers are creating bulletin boards and using sticky notes to introduce their kids to the idea of posting and replying.

That got me thinking of how to approach such an idea and remembered using Kidblog in the past. It's a closed system that allows the teacher to control all of the postings. The teacher must release posts before they appear on the website so rude comments, or inappropriate responses can be filtered out. Through my research I found edmodo and that led me to Backchannel, a paid app to use through my account. This program will allow students to have a running commentary open for instant response to the teacher's lesson. I later learned that Todaysmeet.com does exactly the same thing, but for FREE!

So I put these things together in a prezi and was ready for the day. I was so technologically prepared, I was gonna knock their socks off!

My confidence wasn't solid though. I was a bit nervous that I wouldn't have enough material to make it through the entire hour. But that fear proved baseless once we got into it. There was a bit of a struggle getting everyone onto Backchannel so they could see the last picture of Ritchie before he died. I didn't tell them anything about it and asked them simply to respond to what they see.

Then I put up a picture of one of Patricia's illustrations of her and her brother and most of them got that right away. Finally, I posted up Patricia's Facebook status to connect it all. All the while they were typing thoughts and connections and responding to each other's posts. It was great.

I read them My Rotten Red-Headed Older Brother from Patricia so I could use it later in my piece on how to use KidBlog to increase literacy. Everything went very well and I had many smiling and nodding their heads. It is such a great feeling!

I wonder if they need any other staff development taught??

Monday, October 06, 2014

Sunday Scoop - Only it's Monday

I just found a fun new Linky Party over at the Teaching Trio. It's a short and sweet kinda way to get ready for the week ahead.