Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fortune Teller Project

This week I have my students working on fortune tellers for each of our units that we have completed (weather, astronomy, light/magnets/electricity, organisms and their environment).

I am not sure all the other teachers are happy now that all the fourth grade know how to make them :)

I taped a quart size baggie in each of the notebooks to put them all in.

This was an "end of year" project but could easily be done at the end of each unit. I used the largest paper I could get from the art room (stay away from construction paper becomes too bulky for the notebooks...the closer you can stay to regular weight paper the better).
Students had to come up with eight questions and answers related to the unit (using their notebook to come up with questions). They had to illustrate and color. Aside from the initial instruction this was a largely independent project (I played some Kidz Bop CD's in class while they worked) done over five days (one day for each fortune teller and a makeup day if needed). I thought if I did this at the end of a unit that I might have students pair up for a minute to answer each others questions and then have them switch partners so that they get a chance to move around and review.
This project was run concurrent with the ABC and Decoupage project.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Decoupage Book Covers - Continued

The decoupage notebook covers were a hit with the students this past week. What I did was run this project concurrent with the ABC book project, which eliminated a bunch of students crowding me at once with their complete notebook covers.
In order to complete the ABC book within the five days allotted they had to finish 5 ABC blocks a day. Once they had completed those blocks they could start working on their book covers.
I quickly had to let go of my desire to check over every child's book cover layout and offer suggestions for improvement before they glued down. If they were happy....I was fine with it. Once they completed their layout and glued it down on the black cover paper they brought it to me and they started the decoupage. I laid out the books on the floor to dry and they completed their second coat the next day (to speed up time, in some cases, I did the first coat and the students did the second coat).

I am not going to lie...this was a very messy project. I had scraps of paper and magazine cuttings all over the floor. I relied on my homeroom kids to straighten the magazines and sweep up (I have a lot of really helpful students in my homeroom).
I was running out of magazines and I put out an "all call" school wide for any nature related magazines and was inundated with more then I could use (which will be saved for next year).
What I enjoyed about this project is watching the creativity of the students. I had several students who had a real design flair. I did talk about the need to have a "focal picture" and then to build around it...some listened and others didn't.
The sad part about this project is that all the students want to take their books home at the end of the year now. YIKES! I rely on several students to leave theirs behind each year and I am afraid I have made the book more attractive as a keepsake. Darn :)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

End of Year III

We have three Friday's until the end of the school year and I have decided to make each of those Friday's a "movie day". This will give me an opportunity to show some science movies/shows that I was unable to get to during the year (I TiVo'd several episodes of Raging Plant, Storm Stories, etc.). There are some great "World's Greatest" videos on Discovery Streamline if you have in your school district that are approximately 1 hour long (World's Best - Swarms, World's Best - Animal Babies, etc...).

I told students that they can bring in a snack and drink (unless it gets out of hand).

This will help give me some extra time to grade and start cleaning/packing my classroom (I am moving classrooms this year). I will watch the program with my behaviorally challenged class but the other two will be fine with me moving about packing.

If you are looking for other year end activities....try a google search....I saw several that could be modified for my use. Also, contact teachers in other schools for ideas....there is a group of teachers at one school who are doing a three week unit on the rain forest. A friend of mine is doing a three week integrated unit on Pirates (fourth grade) as a test for something she wants to do next year.

If you have any great end of year activities...please post and share.

Don't Forget

Don't forget to put out a donation box when students are cleaning out desks and cubbies at year end. I always get plenty of pencils, sissors, and colored pencils which get added to my growing collection for the next year.

End of Year Activities II

I saw a variation of this at another school and wanted to try it this year. It is a decoupaged cover for student notebooks.
Pictured above is my prototype (which I am glad I did because now I know where the problems are going to come up).
I cut a black sheet of construction paper about the size of the front cover (you could also do this in white...or any other color.). Each student would get one.
Over the school year I have had a lot of National Geographics and science magazines donated to the classroom, which I have been collecting. I went through the National Geographics and cut out any questionable photos - which ranged from naked tribesmen to graphic scenes of war violence. I had a parent volunteer help me. Each table will get a stack of magazines, enough for one per person, as well as a brown lunch bag (which they will put their name on).
They will cut out pictures that interest them and can be tied to science. They will also cut out large letters for their names. They are not trimming them at this point just cutting them out. I am going to ask students to have at least 10-15 pictures (with a variety of sizes). They will store them in their lunch bag (which serves as a means of collecting and storage only). They can swap magazines with each other.
Once they have their 10-15 pictures they can start trimming and laying out on their black construction paper. I would recommend that they do not start gluing until they have figured out where everything is going to go. I also recommend the use of glue sticks verse white glue for this project because the white glue really caused a lot of bubbling. I used white glue in the prototype above and when I got to the decoupage stage the bubbling became problematic (see first picture above).
After they have glued everything down they use a foam brush (cheap at Walmart - craft section) to put down a THIN layer of the Modge Podge on the cardboard notebook cover. They then lay their collage on top of it, working the bubbles out. It should take about 7-10 minutes to dry. I am going to try putting a heavy textbook on top of the collage during the initial drying process to see if that will help get rid of any bubbling (but I am not going to loose sleep over minor bubbling).
Once that is done students will put another thin layer of Modge Podge on top of the collage (students should keep the strokes going in one direction only) and wait for it to dry. My sample above has two layers of the Modge Podge on it and it is fine.
A friend suggested this might be good for the beginning of the year but since the notebooks are treated fairly roughly though out the school year (shoved in and out of storage bins, getting tossed on tables as they are being passed out, etc.) I purposely left it for the end of the year.
I estimate that this project will take 2 class periods. I am going to have some worksheets and activities on hand for early finishers. Once I get some students covers finished I will post their work.

End of Year Activities I

For Mother's Day all of our fourth grade students made this adorable accordion book out of one sheet of paper and cardboard from cereal boxes (which we covered in black construction paper). Students took the word MOTHER and wrote and illustrated an acrostic about their mom. When they were done we tied a nice white ribbon around it and students decorated a brown lunch bag as their "wrapping paper" (the accordion book was put in the bag and folded over and they took it home this way). We took pictures of all the students and printed them in black and white on the school printer.
As I sit thinking about end of year activities that I can do with my students in the three and a half weeks left of school, I was thinking how this could be modified as an "end of year" activity. Students could write the word SCHOOL and write and illustrate an acrostic of things related to the current school year or subject.
Most likely we would not do this since we just completed the Mother's Day one but I thought I might put it out there for anyone needing something to do with students the last few days of school.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Notebooking for Next Year

I have had the pleasure of introducing notebooking to several schools in my district this year and at the South Carolina Science Council Convention (picture of me above).

Most of the presentations I made were at the requests of other teachers, not administration. To me those are the better presentations. I find teachers tend to be more receptive to ideas if they are suggested by another teacher as opposed to administration (to which the general reaction is...."Great something else we are being asked to do/try!" :)

If you are thinking about trying notebooking next year, or if you have started this year and would like to share your experiences with other teachers in your school, NOW is the time to speak at a facility meeting or a team meeting (feel free to download the PowerPoint I put together and can be found under the "video" label). This would give other teachers time to start thinking about it and possibly plan over the summer. If it is something that is introduced at the beginning of the school year, or mid school year, the chances of it actually being implemented goes down.

Don't be discouraged if nobody else in your school or team looks enthusiastic. Notebooking will not work if the teacher is not enjoying it (which is the last thing I say when I present). My suggestion is to keep notebooking and enjoy it (and share it)! Hopefully other teachers and administrators will notice your enthusiasm, student engagement/work, and increased test scores and will jump on the notebooking train :)

Mini Science Experiments

In preparation for our upcoming end of year testing in science I am reviewing all our standards from beginning to end in the next couple of weeks.
One area that students typically do poorly in is inquiry skills. To help us score better I am creating mini science experiments in class that help us review the scientific method, independent and dependant variables, graphing, what makes a fair test, etc.
My hope is that by doing three or four mini tests in our classroom, before the state test next week, that students will have more recent experiences to draw from when answering these inquiry type questions.
This past Friday we did two of those experiments using baking soda and vinegar. Most student knew that when you add baking soda to vinegar you get a reaction. My question I wanted students to answer was, "Does the type of vinegar change the speed of reaction?"
Since the supplies were quite costly there was no way I could do this with five tables in each of my three classes without going broke. I decided this was going to be a whole class experiment and I used my "call on me sticks" to pull students up to do the experiment.
We reviewed the steps to the scientific method, variables, etc. prior to the experiment. Students were asked to make a hypothesis (some students said the white vinegar because there was nothing "in it" that could possible slow down the experiment and some students said the darker vinegar because it was probably "stronger" then the rest of them).
Initially I set up the experiment the best way I thought it would work but by the time the third class of the day got to me I had a much better set up and even thought of things we could have done better (like timed the speed of each reaction instead of visually observed it....which students argued over).
Here are things I would suggest if you are going to do this in class:
1. Use large (extra large if possible) clear plastic cups (my cups were too small initially...I had bought XL cups for another experiment and broke those out for my last class and they worked much better).
2. Get a stop watch and time the reaction from the moment the vinegar hits to the moment it reaches the top of the XL cup.
2. Make sure you use trays underneath
3. Use the "call on me sticks" for clean up of trays and cups as well (students liked doing this)
4. Ask students to tell you ways the experiment could be improved or what further questions did they have that could lead to other experiments (we also tested one of the questions that came up...does the amount of baking soda affect the reaction time?)
While these may seem too "simple" of an experiment it really generated the types of discussions I hope will stick with students when they are asked to answer inquiry questions on their end of year testing.
I am still on the lookout for other simple experiments to do in the classroom that can be done to answer a question. If you have any suggestions I would love the hear them!
Other simple experiment ideas I am thinking of doing this next week
"Does the temperature of water affect the brightness of a glow stick?"
"Does smell affect the ability to identify foods?" (that was an idea I got from Food Detectives on TV that I though that students would like to do)
Normally I would have students record results in their notebook but since we are reviewing I chose to let this just be an observational exercise.

Testing - End of Year (Game Websites)

We are currently reviewing for our state end of year testing (PASS test) in science. I put together several online review games, i.e. Jeopardy and Who Wants to be a Millionaire, for students. These are linked on my website so students can play at home as well as in school.

Students like the Jeopardy games and I prefer the Who Wants to be a Millionaire game because you get four choices and you have to find the right answer (which is how our PASS test is set up).

Next week is our last week of review and I booked the computer lab for each of my classes. Students will be able to bring in their science notebook to the computer lab to help them out. My higher kids don't use the notebooks but some of my struggling students will use it as a reference.

The three sites I used to make games were: (I used primarily for vocabulary games)

Many of these games can be played whole class. When I play in class each table group is a team. I rotate between people at the table for answering. If they can't get it they can consult with their table mates. Sometimes I will just play half the game and tell students they should finish play at home and challenge their siblings and parents (that heads off competitive behavior between groups and the need to give a prize to the winning table...which generally leads to whining behavior from the other tables despite talking about good sportsmanship before hand...sigh!).

Another thing I do is look for existing online games. Many teachers and organizations have posted games on the web that are excellent reviews. In a Google search I might type in "astronomy games for children", or variations thereof, and look to see what might be best linked to our standards.

For this PASS review I really want students to focus on very specific games so I linked them all under a "PASS REVIEW" tab of my website. When we go to the computer lab next week students will not be allowed to go anywhere on my website except that tab to keep them focused.

If you choose to do this make sure you have a backup plan in case the internet is down, it goes down, or slows down. I have a couple of Bill Nye videos I did not get a chance to show during the year and I have them on standby for such occasions :)