Thursday, April 20, 2017

Life Cycles and Animal Surprises

We have just started studying life cycles in science, our final theme for the year. I decided to splurge a bit and get some animals into the classroom so we can see the life cycles. I ordered ladybugs, a praying mantis egg case, caterpillars, and chicken eggs. This week, our ladybugs moved from the pupa stage to the adult stage. Today, three of our butterflies crawled out of their cocoons. 

It was so amazing to watch the butterflies emerge. They are so beautiful.

We got three different types of chicken eggs. They won't hatch for another 20 days or so. We're also awaiting the baby praying mantises. Can't wait to see them. 

Today we were all out on the playground when someone looked up and saw not one, not two, but three large opossums in the trees above us. We were all fascinated by them. We watched for probably a half hour or so. One of the big opossums actually had at least one baby in it's pouch. As we watched, we could see little pink feet sticking out of the pouch, then the tail, then nothing, and eventually, the little guy crawled out completely. It was amazing. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

How-to Writing in the Kitchen

We've had such fun with our how-to writing, especially since we've been in the kitchen throughout the unit. The students have really enjoyed this twist. We started out learning about decorating cupcakes. Once we learned the techniques,  we were able to try our hand at decorating these delicious desserts

Then we wrote about the process in a cute folder flip activity. 

As a final project after learning more about how-to writing, we hosted a class cooking show. Each student picked a simple recipe that did not actually involve cooking with a stove or microwave. They prepared a project board that displayed the ingredients and the steps in their recipe. I assigned a few students to present their project each day. Students set up their cooking show segment in the front of the classroom and presented their recipe. Then we all got to sample everyone's tasty food. 

We had a lot of fun with this unit. There are many more lesson activities in the unit as well, including a secret recipe chef craftivity, a cookie folder flip, a cookie exchange activity, and a recipe book that can be created from the cooking show presentation recipes.  

This unit has been a long time coming. It's been over a year in the making and I'm super proud to show it off. You can check out the details over here. Scroll down to see the contents of the unit. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Underground Railroad Simulation

This was the second time I've used this simulation. It's one I picked up from Interact Simulations and I love it. Even though it is geared toward 5th grade and up, I was able to easily do this with my third and fourth graders without changing anything.

Students were divided up into groups to become experts. They then had to learn about a certain topic and prepare a presentation to teach the rest of the class what they had learned. The topics we covered were: Secrets and Dangers of the Underground Railroad, Stories of Escape, Routes of the Underground Railroad, and one about Friends and Agents on the Underground Railroad. 

After presentations were over, I assigned roles for our simulation. Some students were slaves, some were conductors, some were bounty hunters, and some were patrol officers. We had safe houses throughout the school. Students had just a few rules. The most important were that they could not talk, unless they were the conductors, who could whisper, and students could not run until they were ready to run across the field and go to the fence at the back of our property which simulated reaching Canada. 

The salves had to follow the conductor, who had a map of the school. Their job was to collect 3 different colored tickets from 3 safe houses. Once they did that, they could run for Canada. 

The conductors used maps of the school to lead a group of slaves from safe house to safe house and finally to Canada.

The Bounty hunters tried to stop the slaves who were running for Canada. They had to stay in the field area. If a "slave" was caught, they did not reach freedom.

The Patrol officers were scouring the school looking for safe houses. When they found one, they were able to shut it down. 

Students really took to this simulation and were super serious. So serious that one student asked me if they got caught, would they really die? WOW! What a great reminder to take nothing for granted when explaining things to the students. 

Once our simulation was over, we debriefed together under the trees. The students were super respectful of each other and also had a lot to share about their thoughts and experiences. It was so great to see how they connected with this final lesson in our unit. Afterwards, we went inside where they wrote a response paper sharing their thoughts, feelings, and experiences on the Underground Railroad. 

What the students were saying: 
"I saw from just doing this, that slaves had a hard time. I'm glad I'm not a slave and that Harriet Beecher wrote a book and sold a million copies and it made people think, 'Let's get rid of slavery.' "

"I was so happy when we made it to 'Canada' but my sister was in another group so I was scared for her, but she made it. I went to go hug my sister when she made it and we were all happy."

"I was a conductor. I thought they were going to shut down all the stations (safe houses). I was really scared they would catch me and my slaves."

"I was a slave on the Underground Railroad. I felt like I was going to get caught but I did not get caught."

"I felt so, so, so, so, scared because I thought I was going to get caught. I almost fainted because I didn't know (what was going to happen). When I got to 'Canada' I felt like a slave that had reached their goal to be free."

And then the students did something almost unheard of....the asked to do it all again. When students beg to do the same lesson again, you know something went right! Days like this are the absolute best. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Slavery and the Underground Railroad

We have been working hard to answer the driving question of our PBL unit (project based learning), "Why would someone risk their life to help others?"We are finishing up our research by creating a museum of our learning with six fabulous projects that will be put on display...1. Biography Bottle People: Students are featuring some historical figures that were either slaves or abolitionists. Some of the people they chose are: Harriet Tubman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Levi Coffman.
2. Underground Railroad Quilts: Students have discovered the significance behind the quilts used as maps to the underground railroads and also used by abolitionists to signify that their house was a safe house. Students are featuring different quilt squares and the symbolism behind each one.

3. Maps and Important Papers: Students are creating maps of the slave and free states, maps of routes to freedom used by the slaves, and authentic wanted slave posters.
4. Plantation Diorama: Students are creating a diorama of a slave plantation.
5. Model of a Slave Ship: Students are learning about how slaves got here in the first place and what the ships they sailed on were like.6. Safe House: Students are creating a large model of a safe house to show where slaves stayed along the underground railroad.
Bottle People

Quilt Square

Quilt Square

Monday, April 3, 2017

Classroom Surgery

I recently purchased a fun activity on TPT. Last week I pulled out that activity and transformed our classroom into a room for surgery.  We performed surgery on our spelling words. They were contractions. We had to use the two words that each contraction was formed from and then we cut out the extra letter(s) that needed to come out to make the contraction. We then put a Band-aid (apostrophe) where the missing parts had come out.  When I can find a way to add a spark of fun to the curriculum, I always say yes.
 Surgery prep done....waiting for the surgeons to arrive.
 Getting started.
 Stitching things up.
 So much concentration.

Contractions are serious work.