Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday's Words for the Week

Taught at children's church today....spent time with a group of cute little ones.  We
 were learning about how God empowers us to do incredible things.
A great lesson for them and for me.  
Thoughts dedicated to all my "ordinary" teacher friends....


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Simple Machines Make and Take Models and Flipbook

Yes, it is about time to replace the mouse with a mop and tend to my housework.  Before I do that I am sharing a quick post on my current science unit:  Simple Machines.  This is a fun unit and students enjoy learning about the six simple machines. As with all my units, I try to integrate language arts skills and reading.  There are plenty of books out there on the subject of simple machines.  Here are some of my top picks:
 I've posted about the Simple Machine Flip Books before.  After many requests, I have finally gotten these materials bundled and they are now available on TPT! Many thanks for your patience! 
Making the models is always a fun learning experience for my third graders.  They understand the functions of each if they are able to work with them.  These are made with cardstock so they hold up better.  Students do love to use them! We store them in a "tool bag" and they are taken home so they can teach a parent or sibling about each one.

As an alternate assessment, students show what they know using a variety of thinking maps.  I love teaching with thinking maps and once you have taught the map itself, students can apply almost any type of learning to one of these maps.
This double bubble has them comparing and contrasting two different machines.  Great higher level thinking.  You could easily extend this to writing and have students write a comparison paragraph based on the map.

Here we have students creating a bridge map using the function of each machine as the relating factor. I like having students work with partners for the making of these maps.  I want to encourage discussion as it helps reinforce the learning.

Well, with two snowdays this week, I was finally able to put the flipbook and model materials together in a file.  I also threw in a poem I like to use to hook students into this unit and a writing idea printable.  You can check out these materials here:


Wish I had a house cleaning machine! 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Investigating Energy Resources

That was me last night.
I don't know the answer to that question BUT we got just enough.
It's a bit ironic that I am posting about an Energy Unit today since I have very little of it these days.  I've been downright tired lately so you could imagine my delight when I woke up to just enough snow for our school system to close down for the day!  Our first real snowday in a very long time.
I am so thankful!!  I've been out to play in it already so now we're all  back in and  thought I'd post about science since we just finished up our Energy unit.
 We learned about renewable and nonrenewable resources.
We read various stories and articles about these natural resources.  If you teach this type of unit you must check out the resources put out by the NEED FOUNDATION...a true gold mine for us teachers!
Thanks to the fine folks who sponsor the National Energy Education Development Project. Head over and visit their site. Great stuff!!

From our reading and research we created an Energy Flip Book to help us remember the basics. 

This book is made from a large sheet of construction paper that has been folded in half. The bottom third of the page has been folded up and then  cut into six flaps that can be folded up and down.
We  classified these natural resources by whether they were renewable or non renewable.
This makes a type of study guide that can be taken home for review.

This is an illustration one of my students drew on theirs.  He wrote:
POLLUTION...Can we find another way?
He found out that yes, we can and should find another way!

After we read about fossil fuels and some of their disadvantages, I set up an investigation called Chocolate Chip Mining. Through this activity, students explored the idea that mining for fossil fuels can damage our land and environment. We got some practice reading informational text as we read an article about coal mining and land reclamation.
Then students were given two chocolate chip cookies to represent land sites.  The chips represented the coal that they were to mine or dig out of the ground. Their tool was a toothpick.
This investigation takes students through the scientific method.  First they had to take a close look at two different land sites (hard and soft chocolate chip cookie).  They had to predict how many pieces of coal (chips) they thought they could dig out and how difficult they thought it would be.   All observations were noted and recorded.

Then they got to work.  They quickly found out that it is really hard to dig out the coal without destroying the land site! 

Pictures and words were again recorded. 

Reclaiming the land after mining proved to be very difficult.  One land site was definitely easier than the other though.  We talked about how people have to be mindful of where they mine because of what it will do to the environment. 

At the end of the investigation, students counted and graphed the pieces of coal they were able to dig out and a conclusion was written. 

Through this unit students learned about the negative aspects of using nonrenewable resources to produce electricity.  We also spent time researching and learning the good news...there are renewable resources that we can use to create energy. 
I found these simple kits at a local Hobby Lobby store.  You must check out their science section if you have this store nearby.  Wonderful finds that you would not expect.  These little kits were about $5.00 each with a coupon! 

I've put some of the printables shown above together in a bundled file.  I included the pages to make the energy flipbook and the Cookie Mining Lab Report.
Head here if interested:
Happy snow day to all my VA teacher friends!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunday's Words for the Week

Words of wisdom from Pooh.
He still makes me smile.
I hope you have a week full of favorite days. -Doris

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Modeling Multiplication....Literally

My students have become marvelous multipliers (Is this a real word?)  This is not to say that they have committed these facts to memory yet but as long as they can use a model,  students can get the answer to most any multiplication fact. Using the models and understanding that multiplication is repeated addition is the key to their success. A couple of weeks ago we started the study of multiplication. We worked on putting equal sets together and told lots of multiplication stories.

I had this set of play doh sitting on my counter so I thought why not use it to model multiplication literally.
Before I show you what they did, let's just take a moment to  recognize and appreciate the power of playdoh.  My kids were all ooohs and aaahhhs when I brought out the playdoh so I made a bargain with them.  IF they worked and listened well throughout the lesson THEN they would get 5 minutes of playdoh playtime at the end.   And yes, I teach third graders.You would have thought that I promised them them a hundred dollars. They were GOLDEN, everyone on task and productive! So if you are going to try this, try using that bargain as well. I think you will be happy with the result.  
So here we go, I gave each student half a can of playdoh, a big dry erase board and a challenge.
My challenge was to tell a multiplication math story through pictures, numbers, words and the play doh.  Here are some of the stories they came up with:
First we had three hungry cows each eating 3 of something????
Next we had 5 trucks each carrying 4 boxes.
How about 7 people each having 2 apples each.
Students used repeated addition, number lines and set models to show their thinking.
Later in the week we worked on the array model.  For this students were given square tiles. I used the smartboard and squares to model this first.  Then students came to the smartboard to demonstrate before I set them off with their own tiles and boards.
Here we see students representing multiplication facts with array models and set models side by side.
This student gets that it is repeated addition.  I liked the plus signs between his rows.

See what I mean?  Marvelous multipliers!
Next week students will be writing explanations during writer's workshop time.  I will be having students write what it means to multiply and students will need to explain the process through a paragraph.  I am hopeful that they will have much to write about!
I am posting some of the printables I have used for this early stage of multiplication learning.  IF you are interested check it out here:

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sunday's Words for the Week

Vincent van Gogh pretty much summed up how I've been feeling lately.

 So this weekend I set it all down, walked away from it and prayed for wisdom  as I attempted to reclaim my mind.

Yes, the truth.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Implementing STEM Activities: Worth the Effort?

Earlier this year I took a fabulous weekend college course on STEM at Mary Washington College. STEM activities have been heralded as a way to promote and advance academic progress and creativity.  These open ended learning opportunities encourage collaborative inquiry and discovery based problem solving.

I was totally motivated to start implementing as soon as I walked off that college campus,  but you know how easy it is to get distracted  by the overwhelming demands of our jobs.  Reality hit and soon I was was sidetracked by the meetings, report cards, conferences and curriculum  and so thoughts of getting STEM activities going in my class were put aside. 
Well, thanks to some awesome teammates, coworkers and especially my STUDENTS, I have been reinspired to make this a more regular part of my teaching.
I am SO fortunate to work with  amazing teachers, one of my teammates designed a fabulous lesson that integrated a STEM activity with our current study of Rome.  We have been learning about how the Ancient Romans created aqueducts to transport water to the people.  The STEM activity that we ran had students working collaboratively with a group to design a model of an aqueduct that would be able to transport water from point A to point B. 

The materials used were: large buckets, wrapping paper tubes (some cut in half and some left whole), and ping pong balls to represent the water.  Students were not allowed to use glue, tape, etc.

The challenge was on and let me tell you the kids were more than ready for it!
It was amazing to see how engaged and energized these students were.  Here students are attempting their design. 
Like real engineers and scientists they soon discovered that many attempts were going to be needed. There was a lot of trial and error. They problem solved, redesigned and tested multiple times before reaching a desired outcome.

As a teacher I heard and saw them predicting, questioning, problem solving and reaching conclusions.  

Students had to figure out how to work together to adjust the size, height and angle of their structures until they were able to create a working aqueduct.  All three groups were successful!

There was much celebrating! Proud students and teachers! 

 Are these types of activities worth the time and effort it takes to plan and implement them?
You must try it yourself, but after witnessing your students in action I believe you will answer a resounding YES! 
Children are natural scientists and engineers.  Let us put those textbooks and study guides aside once and awhile and allow our students to experience what real science, math, technology and engineering is really all about.

So now I am challenging myself to continue to give my students more of these opportunities. My plan is to seek out stem topics that can be integrated into core academics.  Check back because I plan on posting each one I try. The successes and failures.

I'd love to hear from you.
Do you implement these types of unstructured, open ended problem solving lessons in your classroom? 
Please  share!  

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year: Math Freebies

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a great first day of 2013. After requests for the Guided Math pocket chart signs shown on a previous post, I have added them as a free resource on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Click below the following images to access the file. Thanks to those who emailed their thoughts about Guided Math.  We had great email discussions about what is working and what is not. I love to hear from you so email me if you also have insights to share!

Let's kick the New Year off with another Freebie.  I've posted a  Math Problem Solving file that integrates our social studies unit on the Ancient Civilizations with math concept review.  This set gives students practice with problem solving involving addition and subtraction, elapsed time, rounding, and place value while also reinforcing what we are learning about Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and Mali. Gotta fit it all in, right?
I've used these pages as part of our "On My Own" phase of Guided Math.  We usually have students share their solutions to some of the toughies afterwards though.  The sharing is so important and worth the time it takes.

Email me with feedback if you choose to use this one.  I've got others I could post if it is something you all  like and could use!

We are back to school tomorrow so I'm off to enjoy my final hours of freedom.  What  a joy it has been!
Have a great week back.