Tuesday, May 15, 2012

An Extension Project on Biomes

Biome Project Breakdown
Goal:  To teach the rest of the class about your selected biome and assess their understanding.

Products:  Research report to Mrs. Ripp, hands-on extension project to use as teaching tool, assessment for class (can be verbal), self-evaluation based on class assessment.

  1. Determine the top 3 biomes you would like to research with your group:  Savannah, desert, tundra, rainforest, grasslands, or deciduous forests.
  2. Within group, research the various parts of your biome, such as: people, climate, plants, animals, locations.  You decide what the most important parts are.
  3. Use sources from the library as well as from our LiveBinder to research.
  4. Once research is completed, write one report as a group - double spaced, Times New Roman, sz. 12.
  5. Work on extension project for teaching, ideas are: PPT, Prezi, Animoto, Posters, diorama, terrariums, movies.  You are the teacher, how would you like to be taught about a biome?  Make it interesting.
  6. Work on how you will assess the students learning.  How will you know you did a good job teaching them about your biome?  Ideas for assessment include: question sheet, asking questions, have students write what they learned,  have students draw/diagram their learning, have them write a song, create a concept map, do a compare/contrast, check their pre-knowledge and then their post-knowledge, true or false, word search, definition match, crossword, write a blog post that talks about your learning, solve a problem, student choice
  7. You need to know your facts as the teacher, figure out who will do what etc.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Super Tube Challenge

Again, another great idea adapted from Bill Ferriter; The Super Tube Challenge!

Goal:  Strengthen a toilet paper tube to hold as many social studies book as possible when it stands vertically.

  • As many different paper tubes as you can collect - we collected for almost 2 months.
  • Unlimited masking tape
  • 25 small popsicle sticks - purposely set a limit because I did not want popsicle stick structures.
  • One standard toilet paper tube per group
  • Only the original toilet paper tube may touch the table.
  • It may not be taped to the table.
  • You may not stack tubes next to each other on the table, anything that is taped onto the original toilet paper tube may not touch the table.
  • You may not steal supplies from each other.
  • They get exactly one hour from start to finish.
  • They may use books throughout the challenge to test strength of their design.
  • You may not interact with other groups during the challenge.
Process before the challenge:
  1. Either have students pick or assign teams of 3
  2. Show them a regular toilet paper tube and stack as many heavy books on one until it collapses.  In our case it was 3 social studies books.
  3. Tell them the challenge.
  4. Show them materials they will be building with.
  5. Have them plan for at least 10 minutes the first day.  I did this challenge over 3 different times, 2 10 minute chunks and then big 60 minute time.
  6. Explain the rules and discuss them.  Students will probably have questions.
  7. Give them time to manipulate the tube and start a plan with group - we spent 10 minutes doing this.
  8. Another day give them another 10 minutes to discuss whether they need to have modifications to their design or not.  They also need to assign one person to be the "scavenger."  This will be the only person who can gather materials.
  9. Have them decide on a  plan of attack for the challenge.
The Challenge:
  1.  Have 25 popsicle sticks and original paper tube ready for each team.
  2. Set a timer for 60 minutes (or whatever time you decide).
  3. Start timer - scavenger may get 10 tubes for their team - free for all.
  4. Throughout the challenge , like 15 min in I let the students scavenge one more time but usually just 2 tubes at a time.
  5. Film the challenge!
  6. At some point, inform them that you are taking away their masking tape.  This added challenge forces them to rethink their supplies as well as their original design, great on their feet thinking needed.
  7. I did shout out minutes left throughout challenge.
  8. At 60 minutes all building stops, hands off and the designs rest for a minute.  Then I place the books to see who has the strongest tube design.
Learning Goals:
Students will work on:
  • Teamwork
  • Perseverance
  • Creative problem solving
  • Engineering for structural strength
  • Time management
  • Controlling variables
  • Planning 
  • Using standard materials in a non-standard fashion.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Spaghetti and Marshmallow Tower Challenge

Thanks to Bill Ferriter for sharing the idea for this wonderful science challenge here.  I also garnished ideas from this PDF created by the BA.

As part of our team building and creative problem solving efforts, we have done several challenges throughout the year.  This one therefore fit perfectly in with science as we were able to discuss variables, perseverance, and working as a team.

To build the tallest marshmallow and spaghetti tower within 30 minutes.  The tallest tip will be the marshmallow that is furthest off the ground

  • You will create or be assigned a team; 3 people to each team.
  • You will be given 100g of spaghetti and 50 grams of mini marshmallows.
  • You will have 5 minutes to plan your approach.
  • You will have 30 minutes of build time.
  • Spaghetti and marshmallows may be broken but marshmallows may not be made wet.
  • You may not actively seek out other groups to poach ideas but you may spot ideas from your work station.
  • Once time is called a full minute will be waited before teacher measures height.  This is to ensure tower stability.
Learning Goals:
Students will work on
  • Determining variables and controlling them
  • Team work
  • Time management
  • Creative problem solving
  • Engineering for structural strength
  • Perseverance and idea adaptation
Here is a video showing parts of the challenge and the winning design


Diary of a Revolutionary War Soldier Project

As part of an integrated curriculum, I love when students get to create, adapt, and adopt a character from the historical setting being studied.  This project was part of our social studies curriculum with lots of in-class time given to explore resources, create their character, as well as produce the final product.  Students would use the textbook as a way to build knowledge but then could branch out and use other resources as well, whether it be web-based or books.

Subjects involved:  Social studies, Writing, Reading.

Diary of a Revolutionary War Soldier Mission:  To produce a 10 entry diary from the perspective of a Revolutionary War soldier with at least one letter from home.

Goal:  A book that looks and reads like a diary from a developed character.

To see the whole lesson plan, with grading rubric go here

Thursday, October 20, 2011

These 5th Graders Recommend

In our classroom we have a running list of book recommendations we thought we would share with the world.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Eragon series by Christopher Paolini
The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
The Alchemyst by Michael Scott
13 Gifts by Wendy Mass
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black
Camp Confidential by Melissa J. Morgan
Soulsurfer by Bethany Hamilton
Amulet Series by Kazu Kibuishi
The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson
The Lost Children by Carolyn Cohagan
Ghosts in the Fog by Samantha Seiple
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Rules by Cynthia Lord
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
The Lightning Thief Series by Rick Riordan

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A $10,000 Opportunity

As some of you may know, a couple of weeks ago I was told I was one of 10 finalists in the Great American Teach Off.  This contest was created to highlight great elementary educators across the nation and I am frankly astounded to be part of the group.  Not only that but the grand prize in the contest is $10,000 for my classroom.  

The last two weeks I have been very busy creating videos highlighting my students and how we are innovative and making a difference and now I need your help.  The final part of the contest is a nationwide vote-off.  Every week they post a video and the lowest two vote-getters will be eliminated until finally one is left standing.  I do feel like I am on American Idol right now, but thankfully it is not my singing chops being evaluated but rather me as a teacher.

Voting starts on Monday at 1 PM at www.good.is/gato and you can vote once a day for the week.  If I survive the first week then I have to get people to vote the following week and so on.  

So if you have a moment, would you please consider voting for my classroom (on Monday)?  

These students work their hearts out, sharing their journeys with the world, and we try to be innovative within the very rigid public school framework.  I am proud of the accomplishments of my students, their eagerness to try and fail, and their willingness to share it all with the world. 

$10,000 for us would mean more books in our library, perhaps a new gym floor, or even carpet in our classroom so we could snuggle up with good books.  There are many deserving educators out there and I am one of many, thank you for considering.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Using Animoto in Social Studies

I recently showcased a small project my students created using the fantastic Animoto website.  Now Animoto does not want student accounts, so they used mine instead, which is a free educator account.  Sorry Animoto, but I just don't see why students shouldn't be allowed to use your site.  Anyway,  I was asked to go into details of how these were created and the truth is, it was really simple.

  1. We brainstormed what we knew about the US Land Regions to get the kids thinking about them.
  2. I spilt the kids into 5 groups, one for each region, by picking sticks - suck it up if you don't like your group.
  3. Then I gave the students print materials to start them off in their research  My students have a tendency to want to jump on the computer right away but I wanted them to use books first, because these books are really good.  
  4. They also got an idea sheet to get them started since this was their first project of the year.
  5. The students then had some time to brainstorm, research and search for images that they wanted to put in their Animoto.  Now they had already seen how Animoto worked because of the creation of their classroom vision.
  6. Students had different roles as decided by their group; image finder, citation expert, fact finder, fact writer (have to keep it short and snappy) and Animoto person.  I did not have them put their citations in the Animoto, instead they had it on a separate sheet for me to see.  This is important since they need to cite their sources.
  7. Once they had some research, one student would get logged into my Animoto and would be in charge of adding the pictures that they had found as well as working on the text.  
  8. The whole group would play around with the Animoto, the background, placement of facts versus pictures, etc.  It was great to see how the kids worked together successfully and some not so successfully   Everything is a learning opportunity.
  9. Once the videos were finished, the students watched all 5 of them with a scrap piece of paper and wrote down 3 facts they learned in each.  
  10. We then created big posters of all the facts we learned through the presentations.
  11. Then the students evaluated their work.  We discussed what would make a great Animoto versus a not so great one.  What type of facts should be included etc?  
  12. Students then assigned each presentation a rubric number 1 through 4 and boy, they were harsh.
  13. We finished the project discussing what we would change, how we would do it better next time and what we learned.
The last step was super important because I want my students to be teachers as well.  So it is important that they put on their teacher hats and do the evaluation.  They are often much more critical than me.  They own their work, they evaluate it, and they know what they should do better.  Sometimes we redo it, sometimes we take the knowledge and apply it to something else.  I loved seeing how engaged the students were in this project.

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