Saturday, March 28, 2015

Chapter 7: Manipulatives, Experiments, Labs, and Models

This week's book study discussion, hosted by Deanna at Mrs. Jump's Class, is all about using hands-on strategies to increase learning.

My favorite quote from this chapter:

"When learning is active and hands-on, the formation of neural connections is facilitated and information is much more readily remembered than information learned from an abstract viewpoint, where the teacher is doing the work while the student watch (Gregory & Parry, 2006)."
(Source: Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites by Marcia L. Tate)

For me, reading this chapter was a big "You're doing it! Way to go!" I'm all about hands-on learning.

I just wish I had more cupboards and storage space! (Our building was not originally a school when we bought it.) One way we've tried to alleviate the storage burden is by practicing what we preach - SHARING! One teacher has all of the mini Judy clocks. Another a set of the 3D shape models. We even have a cupboard of math manipulatives to checkout in the teachers lounge. When I don't have a certain manipulative... and I don't want to buy it, I just write a note in my lesson plans about who has what I need.

These insect collections were borrowed from the high school science department.

Hands-on learning is engaging. It's important for any grade, but especially the younger grades. They explore using their hands. That's how they make sense of their world.

Here are some examples of Chapter 7 in action....


 Fraction Pizza

During our fraction unit, we donned our chef hats and made paper pizzas. 

We discussed equal parts and then cut them into fourths.



Telling Time

When we read The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle, I give each student their own clock.

As I read, they match their clocks to the time on each page of the story.


3D shapes Models

"When students are working with concrete shapes, they are developing the foundation for spatial sense" (Wall & Posamentier, 2006).
(Source: Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites by Marcia L. Tate)

See how we created our own 3D models with play-doh. It's a little tricky, but it's a great way to practice our vocabulary. "Make a sphere, and then roll one end to make a cone."


Building Letters and Words


Boys love this Word Work station!
Wikki Sticks are great for learning proper letter and number formation. I use them frequently at the beginning of the year. After building them, we trace them with our finger.

TIP: Use glossy paper plates to keep the sticky residue off your tables.


Subtraction Bowling


Click HERE to get a FREE copy of this recording sheet from Kelly Young.


Pumpkin Experiments

During our pumpkin unit we measure the circumference of the pumpkin with string before cutting it open and exploring the "guts" inside!

Bones and X-Rays


Here was our "Bug Lab", where we categorized bugs according to the number of legs they had.

In my defense, this should be called a "recording sheet" :)

We created our own models out of play-doh using what we learned about insect characteristics.

6 legs? 3 body parts? Yes, it's an insect!
Check out the link-up at at Mrs. Jump's Class, to see how other teachers are implementing these strategies!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Five for Friday!

It's time for my "week in review" with Kacey from Doodle Bugs Teaching.

It was a rough week! I went in for strep throat last Friday and took off Tuesday for a bad cold on top of it! Nothing like going to school before 6am to type up sub notes. (You gotta get out of there before anyone stops you and sees how terrible you look!)

The struggle is real.
My students started joking with me: "Its like a pattern - you, a sub, you, a sub!" Oh, dear!

I usually do blow painting with my kinders each spring as a fun art activity. I wanted to amp up the science integration and came across Kindergarten Kel's What Will the Wind Blow? experiment recording sheet. It was perfect!

I set up a mini IKEA table in the middle of the rug. We wrote our prediction for each item before I called on someone to try er' out. (TIP: I always have my students use marker to record estimates or predictions. Why? So they can't go back to erase and change their prediction when the result ends up being different than their guess. I can pick out the perfectionists in the group!)

I love hearing at the end of an activity "That was so fun!" *happy dance*

Click HERE to get a free copy of this recording sheet!
After our wind experiment we painted with wind - our wind! All you need is watercolors and straws.

The next day, we added tissue paper flowers using the end of a pencil.

"Buzzy" the Bee kicked off our insect unit.

He taught us his favorite song to help us learn the characteristics of insects.

We used play-doh to make our own insects using what we learned. The bendy straws worked perfectly for legs.

3 body parts? 6 legs? Antenna? Yes, it's an insect!

Here is yet another perk of teaching at a K-12 school: the science department lends us their bug collections!  We got out our magnifying glasses to investigate. (Some of my girls needed confirmation that yes, the bugs were indeed dead.)

I think we might have some future entomologists!

We talked about the difference between insects and arachnids.

These are my favorite kinds of spiders... cookie spiders!

Aren't these spiders "sweet"?

How ridiculous is this? We did these In the Spring... poems..... because we've had spring weather. One day it was a glorious 70 degrees! I thought it was perfectly safe to do these poems.

Well,..... we spent all this time describing spring... and the next day it SNOWS! They must be so confused!

Even though spring is hesitant to come, Easter is on it's way! We began our tradition of telling the Easter story by opening up a Resurrection Egg each morning before our Bible story. My students love guessing what's in each egg and sharing what part of the story each symbol represents.

I'm looking forward to linking up with Easter ideas next week!

Enjoy your weekend!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Prayer Pail

A privilege I have teaching at a Christian school is praying with my students.

I want them to see prayer for the blessing it is! (Isn't it amazing that God hears our prayers at any moment of the day!)

He loves to spend time with us. He loves when we talk with Him: when we bring Him our joys, worries, or requests.

Just like we spend time talking with those we love, prayer is a spiritual discipline that grows us closer in our relationship with God.

It's easy for me to unintentionally turn my prayers into a Christmas list: "God... I need this, and this, and this..... if you could provide, help, give...." But prayer is so much more!

I found this practical idea that many people call the prayer pail. It's a simple way to pray for a variety of things.

Each morning, I have a girl and boy student each pull a green stick. I pull a 3rd. We take turns praying for our topic and then return the sticks (red side up). When all the sticks are red, we flip them and start over.

To Make Your Own Prayer Pail

You need:
         1 container
         Large Popsicle sticks (One side colored green and the other red. I used a Sharpie for this.)

Write a topic, or person's name on each stick.

     Here are a few topic we have in our prayer pail to get you thinking...
        - Families
        - Houses (and toys)
        - Missionaries
        - Pastors
        - Our President
        - Community Helpers (police officers, firemen/women)
        - Wisdom
        - Loving others
        - The Bible
        - Our School
        - Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace...

       I've had students ask to write their own ideas on popsicle sticks and add them to the pail.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Friday, March 20, 2015

Hack: Perfect Teacher Gift

I'm frequently asked "What is a good teacher gift?" This is such a difficult question. I'm not the official spokesperson for all teachers. I don't want to offend anyone. Example: for me, cut flowers are a better gift than a potted plant because they are supposed to die...eventually. A potted plant is way too much pressure! I feel like a failure every time one dies.

No pressure!
But when a student gives you something...it's always precious! I'm allergic to apples, but every time a student gives me an apple - I rave! I feel tickled that they thought to give me something. (Then I take the apple home for my hubby.)

But in answering.."What is a good teacher gift?"....let me offer you a suggestion...

A Gift Card Wreath!

One of the parent's in my class had the idea. She collected cards from any families wanting to participate. Then, she wove them into a grapevine wreath. Best. Gift. Ever.

Thoughtful (cards for my favorite places: Starbucks, Maurices, Hobby Lobby), yet I have the freedom to get what I want. (Gift card wreaths don't have to be Christmas themed either. There are wreathes for every season/holiday.)
What are some of the best teacher gifts you've received?

Writing Similes

This month's literacy unit is all about plants. This week's focus was on how seeds travel. I introduced one book by saying "There is a way that seeds travel like us!" I meant by cars (car tires to be exact).... but one little girl exclaimed with wide eyes "They can walk?!?" Hehe! Now, wouldn't that be cool?

The writing assignment was to finish the following simile: "Seeds travel by_____ like_____." Before having my class dive right into creating similes, I decided to "warm up" their brains to recognizing similes and making them meaningful.

We read Quick as a Cricket by Audrey Wood. Half way through the book, I would say the beginning of the next simile "I'm as large as a......" and see if they could come up an ending "whale, elephant, ocean..." before showing them the answer and illustration.


Next, we brainstormed as a class....

My favorite was "I am as bright as a star."  I shared with the class that the Bible says we are like stars - shining for Jesus! "You shine like stars in the world." ~ Philippians 2:15b

I ran out of room, but it was supposed to be "I am as tired as a hibernating bear."
Here were some of the similes they came up with. I compiled them into a class book.

Click HERE to grab a FREE copy of this simile writing sheet. 

Five for Friday!

Happy Friday! Time for my favorite linky. Thanks Kacey at Doodle Bugs Teaching for hosting!

There are many perks of working at a K-12 school:

1) I have an amazing high school student who comes in for one period a day to help out in the classroom.
2) They always have left over pie each year when they celebrate "pi" day.
(You should have seen how excited all of those math fanatics were this year since the date for pi day  had "15" [the next 2 numbers after 3.14 in pi].... 3.14.15) Hey, I'll be that excited if it involves pie :)

We continued on with our plant unit this week. Our focus when reading about sunflowers was describing words. After reading about sunflowers, each student wrote one word on a post-it and stuck it to our chart.
These words made a reappearance in our journals.

I was impressed that one of my students knew that these words were called "adjectives". When I asked how she knew that, she replied "My family plays a lot of MadLibs".

"Beautiful, Humungous, Pretty"

Flip 10

If you are working on sums of 10, your kids will love this game! Students play in pairs a game similar to memory. Player 1 flips over 2 cards. If the sum = 10, they keep the cards. Whoever has the most combinations of 10 at the end wins! It's great practice to help get sums of 10 automatic.

I encouraged them to go beyond counting their fingers: "Try saying the biggest number and then counting on: 8....and 2 more.... 8.... 9, 10!"

Subtraction Stories

Last week we read Who Stole the Cookies from the Cookie Jar and made a class book. This week used the Five Little Monkeys to help us practice subtraction sentences.


First, we got out our individual whiteboards to write the subtraction sentences as we read Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree by Eileen Christelow

Then, we made our own stories!

Thanks Mrs. Ricca's Kindergarten for the resources! (Click HERE to get your own FREE copy of the Five Little Monkeys subtraction story booklet.)

Each student created their own book featuring 3 different subtraction sentences.

Mr. Bones visited our class this week to teach us about our skeletons. He even brought X-rays of different people and animal bones! He was a hit!

Mr. Bones taught us that our bones: 1) Give us support, 2) Help us move, and 3) Protect important organs.

He even taught us 10 different bone names. (I laughed when a student said "Patella rhymes with Nutella!" Yes, yes it does!)

Click on the picture below to dance along to Dem Bones School Tube video.


These guided drawing skeleton paper dolls turned out adorable!