Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Insect Fun!

This week I began my attempt at curbing end of year chaos through giving the kids more freedom and choice in the classroom.  Remarkably there were periods of absolute silence at times.  Granted they lasted about 3 minutes a stretch, but still an accomplishment.

We began learning about Insects this week.  I introduced the unit by reading a book on insects and creating a can, have, are chart for a caterpillar as an example.  We then used the smart board to model how the kids could use the computer to look for information about their insects.  I bookmarked a couple of cute webquests that focused on the group of insects that I had chosen, and we practiced how they could choose what they needed to look for.  We also modeled how to use non-fiction books to gather information.  Much of this was review, but it was the first time I was asking them to be accountable for finding and recording the information on their own.  Next, we decided as a class on three objectives.  1). We wanted to find out where the insect lived.  2). We wanted to learn what the insect ate, and 3) we chose to research habits of the insect.  Once this was done, I let the students sign up on chart paper for the insect that they wanted.  Each group had about 4 people in it.

We are on day three of our projects and each group has done much of their research and are now choosing how they are going to present that information to the class.  Some are creating a video, one is writing a song, and another is writing their own non-fiction story.  It has been lots of fun and the kids really seem to be enjoying the group work.  Here are some photos of the research part of the activity (I laid out butcher paper on the tables, gave them markers, and let them go to town!)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Ideas for surviving the last few weeks of school ...and a freebie

I don't know about many of you, but this time of year seems to creep by in a slow drag of tattling, talking, and overall disregard for the classroom rules and expectations that I have set up from the beginning of the year.  I have asked around school and it appears to be the case in the school as a whole, not just in my classroom.  It still confuses me though, because one thing that I would call myself very strong with is management.  I attribute most of this to being a certified Responsive Classroom coach, and all of the amazing training that I have benefited from along the way.  However, something is just not working and I have spent the weekend thinking about how I can make the end of the year as smooth and enjoyable as possible for both my students and myself (so I don't go running for the hills!)  Some of the realizations and ideas that I have come up with are the following:

1.  We are all sick of each other.
Now I love my kids, I truly do.  Most of the time they love each other too.  However, in the past week the tattling that has never really been a problem has really picked up.  I am convinced that they are just too familiar with each other at this point, and are nitpicking and bickering because of it.  I have moved seats at tables and on the carpet but there are only so many places that they can go.  For this reason I am turning to the adage of Academic Choice, one of the 10 RC ideals.  Academic Choice can be given in a variety of different ways.  I will use it in this case to allow the students to work in various areas of the classroom.  On the floor, in the reading chairs, at my table, as long as they are following the classroom rules while doing it.  This will allow them a break from their table mates and the ability to sit, stand, or lie down as they feel the need.  It kills two birds with one stone - they get some quiet and privacy, and they can move as they need to as long as they are safe about it.  If they do not follow the classroom rules while doing this, they lose the privilege and must return to their seats.

2.  They are done with math tubs, stations, and the same old same old.
I rotate my stations and activities often.  I make new games, and find cool things on pinterest and TPT.  Ultimately, at this point in the year they feel like they have "been there, done that" and I cannot hold their interest, nor their mouths closed, while they are at these areas.  Therefore, I am going to ix nay stations and incorporate more of the act of the kids designing them.  Instead of having them play a phonics game, I am going to challenge them to create a new phonics game to add to my stations next year.  Instead of using a math tub for their magic number, they are going to have to write some story problems that I will then type up and give out for morning work.  I am going to give them more freedom in using their creativity that will in turn serve as an informal assessment for me to see what they have mastered, and what knowledge they are able to transfer.

3.  They don't want to sit and listen to me talk.
Even though I use a variety of resources when introducing new materials (smart board, story books, games, manipulatives) they are just over hearing my voice for longer than a few minutes.  For this reason I am challenging them to learn the material in their own way.  I am planning a unit on insects where instead of me introducing the material, I will divide the class into groups and have a variety of resources on hand for them to use (library books, encyclopedias, computers, an ipad).  Groups will be assigned an insect (preying mantis, ladybug, dragonfly, butterfly, grasshopper and centipede) and will have to learn as much as they can about the insects in their own way.  Before beginning, I will share with the class a rubric of what I will be looking for so that they know what they will be responsible for learning and what they will be assessed on.   I will be there to assist, but the majority of the responsibility for this activity will be on them.  At the end of the week they will have to choose a medium to teach the class what they learned - making a poster, writing and performing a play, making a video, writing a song, etc.  I will videotape each presentation and they will be able to watch it back and help me design their grade based on the rubric.

I am hoping that implementing some of these ideas will make the last few weeks of school fun, and we all know that when students are engaged with and enjoying what they are doing, behavior issues decrease.  I will share how things go as I begin these activities so look out for my updates!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Goldilocks and a freebie!

In the past week, we have once again begun my favorite time of year...Fairy Tales!  I think I enjoy it more than the kids do.  This week we are reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  We always use the elements of a Fairy Tale to compare and contrast  the different versions that we read.  I created a pocket chart station retelling activity to help my kids practice the order of events.  It is based on the original version of the story.  Below are some pictures of how my kids did with it.  Click the link below the photo to  get your own copy of the!  Enjoy, and hope your day ends with a "happily ever after".