Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mummified Apples

Two weeks ago, in the midst of our Egypt study, we started an experiment to see which salt combination would best mummify an apple. 

Egyptians would cover a body with natron (like baking soda) for 40 days.  We learned that different priests would use different combinations of salts to soak the bodies.  So, we put it to the test.  We quartered an apple and set up 4 test cups:

Students worked through the scientific method to develop a hypothesis.  Then we hid the cups in a dark closet for about a week and a half. 

We unveiled our experiment and recorded our observations.  We found that the two pieces that were best preserved were the two that contained epsom salt.  Interesting. 

Since students fought over taking these apples home, I count this experiment as a success!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Community Schools

Want to know what a community school is all about?  
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When Life Gives You Lemons...

Yesterday life handed me lemons.  Literally.  It was our school wide snack and my students begged to make lemonade.  How could I say no? So today I brought a pitcher and sugar so we could make our own fresh-squeezed lemonade.  It sure was tasty.  

I like to think that it is the moments that are not mapped out in your planning book, the moments that come up naturally from student inquiry and desire, that build community with your class.  Like with the lemonade.  By helping them make lemonade today, their ideas were validated.  They know that I hear them and that what they have to say and what they think matters.  

Last week, we took another moment out of our day to walk across the street to visit the horses.  Its nice to show them that our learning can come from anywhere, and that it is not confined to the walls of our classroom.  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Marshmallow Pyramids & TP Mummies

Our study of Ancient Egypt is proving to be so much fun.  The students are getting to explore and apply what they've learned in super-engaging ways. 

Here is the winning group in our marshmallow pyramid competition.  It is a lot harder than it looks, but they did a great job.  In this open-ended project students learned so much more than just how to build a pyramid.  They talked about structure, stability, building a strong foundation, and working well as a team.  In fact, these boys produced the best pyramid because of how well they worked together.

Groups also competed in a toilet paper mummy competition after we read about the process.  This group did the best job of applying the steps they researched.  Such great fun.

We will be checking in on our mummified apples soon, so stay tuned for the results. 

Monday, April 30, 2012

Individualized Homework (Goal Folders)

Does this sound familiar?  Every kid brings home the same math homework on a pre-determined skill (possibly even one that has just been taught that day).  Not only is it unrealistic to think that every child will be able to be independently successful on a newly introduced skill, some children just do not have the parental support at home to utilize for homework help.  The Kindergarten team at my school started something that lead to the whole school adopting a new mindset and strategy for homework that is individualized.  Different students work on different goals at home based on what they need!  I helped develop "Goal Folders" for the 4th and 5th grades.  Take a peek at what it looks like inside one of our goal folders. 
 We sat down and decided on all of the math skills a 5th grader should have mastered by the end of the year.  We created these charts with the goal on the left, then examples on how to practice it, a spot for dates practiced at home, and a column for mastery date.  Each night, students take their goal folder home and decided on one math goal to work on for that night- something they have not yet mastered.  They create their own problems to practice the skill for 20 minutes and write the date. They have to show me their work the next morning (and I have a reward system for reinforcing this).  I continuously assess them on their goals to see if we can mark any more mastered.  Students get pumped up and excited to "master another goal" and beg for specific goal quizzes each week.  One might say "I'm ready to pass metric conversions, can I PLEASE take the quiz?"  They take pride in themselves as they master each of their goals.  Students can even set their own specific goal for themselves.  We may highlight 3 goals together to focus on until they are mastered. 

Parents like knowing exactly what is expected of their child within the year. And they LOVE seeing their child master goal after goal.  I usually launch these at the first parent teacher conferences so I can explain it in person to them. 

Here are the reading goals.  These goals need to be practiced over and over, and you never really master a skill.  You might be having wonderful connections in one book, but you have to keep working on that in your next book too.Once you master determine importance in one book, and move to a harder book, you may need to work on it again.  Therefore, I do not require my students to put dates on the reading goals.  They just need to show me their reading log each morning. 

This system has worked extremely well for us.  One student may be practicing multiplication at home, where another is working on exponents and fraction division.  Each of them is right where they need to be.  How much better does that sound than everyone doing the same thing?!  MUCH.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ancient Egypt Foldable Books

With four weeks of school left, I thought some project-based learning would be a lot of fun for all of us!  I've decided to do a unit on Ancient Egypt becuase it can be taught through several subject areas.  We can encorporate shared reading passages, read alouds, geography, science experiments, and even egyptian math!  Along the way, students are authoring their own non-fiction Ancient Egypt foldable books.  Instructions on how to assemble the book out of two manilla envelopes can be found here:

And here are several pics of our Egypt book.  Students do not have to make theirs exactly like mine.  They may find other interesting information through our research that they wish to include in their book.  I love that they won't all be the same!!

Here is my cover:

The first set of inside pages: (notice that this page has a pocket on the left side from the envelope...this will be used to hold other foldables and research)

The first set of inside pages all opened up:

The second set of inside pages:

The second set of inside pages all opened up:

The third set of inside pages: (notice this page also has a pocket created from the can see this is storage for some of our shared reading passages and other fun activities)

The third set of inside pages opened up:

The back cover is dedicated to Egyptian math.

I am so excited for this unit of study to unfold.  Some fun activities I have planned include mummifying and apple experiment, toilet paper mummies, pyramid construction competition from marshmallows and toothpicks, designing a tomb-robber proof pyramid, writing notes to the principal in hyroglyphics, and making "papyrus."

We start our mummified apples experiment tomorrow, so look for a post with results in a couple weeks!  

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Earth Day!

Normally we wouldn't be able to spend a whole day celebrating Earth Day, but since we just finished 2 weeks of state testing, it was a nice treat!  The kids really enjoyed all the activities and valuable learning took place too!

We began by brainstorming ways we could help the earth.  They came up with the ideas below.  We also talked about how we have to make every day Earth Day, not just April 22nd!

Then I read aloud my favorite Dr. Seuss book, The Lorax. They were more attentive during that book than they have been in a long while!  After, we watched the movie (the older one).  Student colored Earth Day books marks at this time too.

After the movie, I introduced our Earth Day ReUse Challenge.  Boys vs. Girls would create something beautiful and artistic out of something ugly- TRASH!!!   I'd been collecting boxes and all sorts of reusable trash for a little while in preparation for this.  I didn't expect how excited and pumped up they would be for this competition.  They really surprised me!  They split up and split up the trash and got to their design plans.  

Here are their final creations (both teams seemed to go in the robot direction).  The girls created the vending machine robot on the left and the boys made the robot family on the right, even including a dog!  (And be sure to notice the sharp dressed robot in the tuxedo!)  This challenge led to so much more than the original objective of "REUSE materials."  I was glad to hear them talking about the structure and stability of their bots too!

The next project was a modern artistic representation of the earth via marble painting! 

We posted these in the hall along with their Earth Day pledges.

We also passed out water and energy conservation kits that had been sent to us by Oklahoma Natural Gas.  These kits were free to the students and included such things as energy efficient light bulbs, faucets, and shower heads. 

And what better way to top of the day than with Earth Day Pie!!  Chocolate pudding, oreo crumbles, and gummy worms are a favorite combination for all kids (and us older kids too!)

Happy Earth Day 2012!