Sunday, January 30, 2011

Science/Reading Connection

As stated in an earlier post I teach ELA/Reading to a homeroom class and then I teach science throughout the day. Obviously as someone who likes science I really try and look for literature that has a science theme. I go between reading a novel (or class set) and using the reading text book for our grade level. In our text book there are a few stories that have connections to what we are learning in science...we tend to read those first :)

I came across this article in Book Links magazine that highlighted quite a lot of science themed novels that I found helpful.

Normally I start my year with Top Secret by John Reynolds Gardiner. It is an easy and entertaining read for my fourth graders and talks about science fairs and photosynthesis (we don't talk about photosynthesis in our standards but our students did in third grade so I look at it as a review). I am very lucky that we have a class set of these in our system and I can order them through our inner office library loan system.

I do try and talk to our Social Studies teacher to see if can introduce any history novels as well. They aren't my favorite but she did manage to turn me on to a few (Sign of the Beaver is a favorite of my students).

At the end of the year (after state testing) I read The Dangerous Days of Daniel X (this was recommended by another fourth grade teacher). It is written by James Patterson and is fast paced and entertaining for children (particularly boys). I remember one child going straight to the local county library and getting the graphic novel tie in to the book and read the rest of the series over the summer. This isn't really science themed (more like scifi themed) but it is still a fun read with kids.

I would love to hear about any other science themed novels that people have used in the classroom.

Bill Nye The Science Guy

In just about every unit I teach I show a Bill Nye the Science Guy video.

Because our school does not have the series on CD or VHS I have to get creative about finding the videos to borrow. Normally I do a search through our school's library system (that links to all the other library systems in our district) or through our local Beaufort County library system (they have all kinds of great videos you can use in the does Netflix if you have a subscription...although they don't have Bill Nye). Normally I can find them somewhere and then I have our librarian place an inner office loan for them (at the beginning of our unit because they take FOREVER to get to us). Worse case scenario I have a friend at another school who happens to have access to the entire Bill Nye Science Guy set (the entire set costs $3,000) but they are not in the library system and she will lend me one knowing she'll get it back :) Each video is $30 through this site and is worth trying to get your librarian to order those episodes that are specific to the units you teach.

We are going into Astronomy right now and these are the videos I like to have on hand:

The Sun
The Moon (excellent explanation of phases of the moon)

There are several others in his Astronomy series that don't quite hit our standards. If I can find them I try to get them as a filler if needed.

Our next unit is Organisms and Our Environment and I like the following videos for that (there are a lot in this series):


For Weather I like:

Water Cycle

For Light, Electricty and Magnets I like:

Light and Color
Title One schools generally have a lot more money and could probably get away with requesting an order but I always wondered if I could write a grant for the videos that I like (mmmm...something to think about for next year :)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Science Vidoes - YouTube Finds

I thought I would highlight some of my favorite YouTube videos (songs) related to science that I have used in the classroom. You can use the YouTube downloader (earlier post) to download them at home and then show in the classroom.

Meet the Elements - Song
Photosynthesis - Song (younger grades)
Photosyntheis - Rap (older grades)
Lab Safety - Rap
Layers of the Earth - Rap
Sun, Earth, Moon - Rap
The Sun - Song
Shoulders of Giants (early Astronomy) - Song (my students LOVE this one)

Hi Ho the Weather O (song about fronts) - Not YouTube but fun to play in class

Random - Teaching Writing

In addition to teaching science I also teach my homeroom reading/ELA. One of the most common complaints I hear with fourth graders, when faced with a writing assignment, is "I can't think of anything to write about!"

I always tell children, "Fair enough. Make it up then." This always blows my students away.

As a teacher I am not grading if they are telling the truth or not in their writing. I am grading their ability to develop an idea, write coherently, use proper punctuation, etc.

To drive this point home I play a writing game called Fool the Teacher. I assign a short writing prompt, i.e. write about one of your pets. I leave the room (briefly) while they decide who, at each table group, is going to lie and who is going to tell the truth in their writing. The students call me back in and I tell them to write.

I sit at a table and as they finish they bring it up to me and I read it. I have to decide if they are lying or telling the truth. If I guess wrong they get a starburst treat.

My kids LOVE this game and ask to play it all the time. The quality of their writing has improved drastically (learning how to add just enough detail to convince me but not so much as to make their writing unbelievable). When I manage to guess correctly the child wants to know what they did wrong.

Some people may not feel comfortable having students make up their writing but I'm fine with it. This was definitely one of my better writing ideas (wish I had thought of it a couple of years ago!)