Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tech Savvy Teacher

OK, so it's Winter break. A time I usually spend catching up on lesson plans and grading, etc. This year for the first time in a long time I decided to visit my brother in Texas. He's a teacher and his wife is too. He's working on his doctorate and is super tech savvy. He fixed up my laptop, talked to me about how to use an iPad in the classroom (and now I want one even worse than I did before), and many other educational topics. I've been here a week and my head is spinning from all the great info. Even tho he teaches in a high school and I teach elementary, there are many ideas he has about education that are cutting edge and innovative which I can use. A book he introduced me to is going to be my next professional book to buy and read.

Make Just One Change by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana

Monday, November 19, 2012


I've been working on starting a composting club AND I know nothing about composting. LOL. So I invited Sam & James from Green Country Permaculture to share a lesson with my students. A few weeks ago they came and taught the sixth graders about composting from the biology aspect and the chemistry aspect. I think I fell in love at that point! They used vocabulary words and concepts that I had been introducing. It went well and the sixth graders began composting.

Before the guys came back today, I taught a lesson on how to take successful notes to my fifth graders. When the guys came in and taught the composting lesson I watched and tried not to interrupt unless behavior warranted it. My fifth graders are a much more kinesthetic group and I was worried that it wouldn't go as well as the sixth graders. They were AMAZING. They were a little talkative but the notes were fabulous and extensive. The guys even used grade level appropriate vocabulary that was different (or maybe I was listening as a fifth grade teacher instead of a sixth grade teacher this time).

My students learned about why composting is important.

In the chemistry section, they learned about Nitrogen (green) and Carbon (brown) as the two major components of a compost. In the sixth grade class we talked about the ratio of nitrogen to carbon and related it to how many students per teacher in each class.

We talked about things that can not be composted and why those things should not be composted.

Then we talked about the Biology of composting. One of the guys asked my class what living things might be in a compost bin. I was so proud of one of my girls that answered germs. When they asked what she meant by germs she said bacteria! Woohoo! They do pay attention. We talked about decomposers (which happens to be the next lesson in our book) and what they need to live.
We talked about how the decomposers need an acceptable environment which includes shelter, air flow, food, water, and warmth. We talked about the compostable things we listed earlier and what is readily available for us to compost at our school. We have a composting bin (with straw next to it) in our outside classroom/garden area. We talked about the food scraps and how to gather them from the cafeteria.

When it came time to talk about the need for water, we talked about Chloramine being in our tap water now. We talked about it's harmful effects and that we should get water from another source. We decided that we need a system to collect rain water.
We talked about how during the winter the sun is mostly on the South side of the building.  So to keep the decomposers' shelter warm, we decided that the south side of the Garden wall would be the best place.

Overall, the lesson was a great success. We have 5 gallon buckets for our new Composting Club, which were purchased at Home Depot by another teacher helping with the project. The kids are excited and I'm proud. Another lesson success!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Election lessons

I know we are past the election now but I had a fabulous time teaching the election process with my fifth and sixth grade classes this year! So I thought I'd share. I started off by researching several ideas on the internet (candy bars, pop, etc). I even bought a mini unit on Teachers Pay Teachers. I didn't like anything that I found just as it was So… I did what a good teacher does and I adapted other peoples' ideas to fit my needs. I chose to hold a candy bar election.

I started by having each class brainstorm (or add to earlier brainstorms) a list of chocolate candies and then chewy candies. The next day everyone nominated their favorite in each category. I calculated to find the top 3 chocolate candidates and the top 3 chewy candidates.

Next it was time for a lesson on Presidential primary races. We talked about what happened in the spring of 2012 and how Mitt Romney became the republican nomination and why President Obama did not have to run against anyone in a primary this year. Students were asked to make a Voter Registration card which they were responsible for keeping during the ENTIRE process.

Then, during station (center) time, I asked students to research and find our candidates slogans. I asked them if they could create a better slogan. I allowed a few days for this process.

After that, we held our primary elections. Students had to show their registration identification card in order to vote. Now, after many hours of calculating votes, we had our candidates for top candy. For this year it was Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups vs. Gummi Bears.

At this point, the students chose sides and made campaign posters and “buttons” (Avery labels 8293).

Students were asked to make campaign speeches. I chose one from each candidate and asked the student who wrote it to go on the morning announcements to give their speech. It was great to hear “…There’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s, so you can't go wrong voting for Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.” But my favorite was when the chewy representative stood up and talked about “… Bringing tasty back…” our new slogan for Gummi Bears.

I created a ballot, printed out Vote stickers (labels 8293), and handed out ballots/stickers to the teachers of 3rd and 4th grades. On Election Day, I gave students each one Reese’s and 4 or 5 Gummi Bears. I asked them to consider which candidate best met their needs. Then I made students in 5th and 6th grade show their voter id to get a ballot. When they turned in their ballot they got their vote sticker.

In the end, Reese’s won (I still think we need a recount). I waited a week before asking the students what they learned from the experience. I wanted to see if the excitement was about learning or about the candy. I was happy to find out that many students retained an understanding of how the election process works.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ocean Food chain

Ok so I may not understand all this blog stuff... how to change fonts... how to make it cute... BUT I DO HAVE FABULOUS IDEAS TO SHARE!!!

So here goes...

In class today we will be working on food chains and biomes. I chose to combine a lesson on shark parts with a lesson on food chains. I searched images to find pictures of plankton, fish larvae, small fish, and large fish. I chose the pictures I liked and used the copier to make them the right size for my project.

Then I free handed a shark shape onto a large piece of construction paper. This took 3 tries as I am NOT an artist in any way.  On the shark's tail I drew a small sun. Then, I placed the picture of the plankton near the tail.

Then the picture of fish larvae/small fish in the middle of the shark.
Then the picture of the large fish near the shark's mouth.
I drew food chain arrows from each picture to the next. Finally we labelled all fins.  

It really turned out very cute. My sixth grade science students were jealous!

Update: I found another blog that has fabulous ideas about teaching food chains... you can find it here.