Monday, August 26, 2013

Simple Tools for Assessment-Toothpicks

Last year, around Christmas time, I gave each of my students a small handful of toothpicks. I gave them directions to show me what Christmas made them think of-I can do that at my school. Then I started thinking, what else can I do with toothpicks.

Math: Toothpicks can be used to demonstrate any flat-sided figure. For example, squares, rectangles, triangles, hexagons, octagons and more. Numbers can also be formed with toothpicks because rounded numbers can be squared.

Toothpicks can also be used to make 3-D shapes like triangles, prisms, and other geometric figures. All you need to add are marshmallow. The marshmallows will be used to make the joints.

Geography: Use toothpicks to demonstrate a knowledge of various land forms, such as mountains, mesa or peninsula.

Spelling: Spell words using the toothpicks. Again, rounded letters can be squared.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Dinosaurs...How to dig for them in the classroom

Kids love learning about dinosaurs. The idea of discovering their own dinosaur was exciting to our 1-2 grade students. We didn't have a place to bury them, so we made our own dinosaur dig that can be used inside (if you cover the floor) or outside. Not telling the kids what they will find adds an element of suspense and fun to the activity.

First, buy plastic dinosaurs from a dollar store. They should be 2- to 3-inches in length. The hard plastic dinosaurs work the best. You will also need Plaster of Paris, sand, a disposable plastic container (like a large cottage cheese container) and Styrofoam cups.

Then, you will need to mix the Plaster of Paris with water. Add sand until you have a thick, grainy mixture that still pours. Pour the mixture into a Styrofoam cup until it is half full. Wiggle a dinosaur into the mixture, making it sure it doesn't reach the bottom. Finish filling the cup. Make one cup for each student. Allow them to sit for two days.

Peel the cup off of the mixture. Give the children plastic knives or use sticks. Let each child excavate his own dig. The fun grows once the first child finds his or her dinosaur. Now that they know they each have one, the others dig with more intensity to discover which dinosaur they will discover.

The expression on his face expresses how much fun he had. This is a fun way to introduce or conclude a unit on dinosaurs.

Friday, August 23, 2013

What do plastic bags have to do with science inquiry?

The first week of school, I like to think outside of the textbook. That isn't always easy when you have diverse ages and grades...sometimes it isn't easy if they are just alike. Well, science can be a challenge, so I went to a book I have about science and plastic bags. I gave everyone what they needed, a large book, a straw and a baggie. As I was about to describe the experiment procedure to them, something overcame my mind and a whole new thought came out. Instead of saying, "Try to raise this book using the materials you have?", I said, "Use what you have and create an experiment." Those were my total directions.

What fun it was to watch them put their heads together and come up with their own ideas! They create experiments that demonstrated air pressure that would lift a book (the original idea), force air out of the bag, open the book and, some even added another piece of equipment and made their books look like lungs as they inhaled and exhaled.

There are a few great things about open-ended science inquiry projects. First, the students discover the joy of investigation. Because I was not telling what to do, they were free to use their own inquiries and their own imaginations. Second, ability was not important. Experiments that are simple, yet open-ended, allow students who do not excel in science to enjoy the subject and gain confidence in the subject. Finally, the only thing I, the teacher, had to do was rotate around the room and answer any questions they had. Because they were so involved, there was no need for discipline.

You can see by the smile that, while science was happening, fun was also a part of the experiments.

As you can see from the picture, once they had done all they could with what they had, they added to the experiments by using a ruler. 

When they were done, they each explained their own experiments and what they had learned. Watching them take ownership of their learning was fun!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Back to School Fun

We all headed back-to-school today. The kids-and I-had a great day! We laughed; we played. They had fun; I learned lots. After a busy, busy day...I took a few moments to review!

One of the things that they did was fill out an interest survey about reading.

Now, I not only have the information to get books for my classroom that will be read but I also have ideas to make my lessons more interesting for my students. 

We played a game that involved group work. This is where you find out who your leaders are, who doesn't "play well with others," and who let's everyone else do all the work. It was fun watching them figure out the clues. 

First, I put name cards on their desks using colored note cards. The color of the card determined each child's group. Then, as you can see in the picture, I sat out one table for each group. On each table was a white page, colored their shade in the corner. The bag included everything they needed, except the clues. 

I handed out envelopes for each team and they were off and running. The first thing they had to do involved squirt guns (you could use spray bottles) and one sign per group with washable markers on it. 

They had to read something for each clue, figure out what they needed, find it and check with the teacher to make sure they were right. The game was based on The Amazing Race, complete with challenges. All of the materials they needed were easy to find in nature.

Because we are doing whole brain activities in our class, we gave the winning team a 10 finger woo. If you don't know what I am talking about, check out Whole Brain Teaching's website by clicking here.

We watched a video. After the video was over, they worked in groups to bring out the main teaching points of the video. This was a fun assignment because two of my students had never worked in groups before and they couldn't understand why everyone didn't get a white board and marker. They got an extra is cooperative education as they learned that the group, not they, were responsible for the answers. 

What is your favorite back-to-school activity?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

We have a winner!

Congratulations to Laura Mullane! You are the winner of the set of magnets, the science center and the reading stamps. Here they are-but, of course, you get the real thing! I hope you enjoy them!

Friday, August 2, 2013

FREE classes for teachers!

While perusing the web to help a friend in need of online professional growth, I came upon a wonderful site. I know I was looking for her, but I ended up signing up for a class that began on Monday! Imagine combining inquiry learning and art to teach critical thinking. I am loving the class, so I wanted to share the program with you! 

If you sign up, you won't look like this:

That's because class materials are online-mostly articles that you are required to read. You read, watch a video and participate on a group board to answer the question of the week. You even have a weekly quiz. The class I am taking, "Art and Inquiry: Museum Teaching Strategies For Your Classroom," only lasts for 4 weeks. If you hurry, I don't think it is too late for you to sign up and catch up!

To get to the site where you can sign up for classes, click on Coursera. They will take you to their site where you can sign up and get started. I have to tell you that I am loving my first course. I am not sure how it will be when I add more, because I signed up for about nine of them! Head over and check out what they have to offer. I would like to say that you may want to check with your district to find out if they will accept them for professional development hours! If they don't, look anyway. Some of them sound like a lot of fun!