Friday, January 30, 2015

Double-Entry Journal Responses & Padlet

I have been reading aloud two amazing books to tie in Social Studies, Reading, and Writing this unit: A Friendship for Today by Patricia McKissack and The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. Our discussions have been mainly about the civil rights time period because of the books, but students will be tackling the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and a lot about Missouri!

The really awesome thing about A Friendship for Today (and totally engaged students right away!) is that the story takes place in our very own neighborhood! Patricia McKissack attended Robinson as one of the very first African American students integrating into a public school and writes about an African American girl attending "Robertson" in "Kirkland, Missouri" in 1954, after the decision of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka banned racial segregation in public schools. Rosemary befriends a white girl who was her sworn enemy before she came to Robertson simply due to the differences of their skin color.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 is about an African American family living in Flint, Michigan making the trek to Birmingham, Alabama during the crucial time of the civil rights movement, especially in the South. Students are learning about the unrest that occurred and how African Americans struggled for basic human rights. This book has been bringing about an open discussion of our rights and how the times have changed...or have they?

As I read aloud, students are taking notes in their reading notebooks with a double-entry journal response. The anchor chart we made last semester looks like this:

Once I finish reading aloud a chapter, students are asked questions that relate to that week's skill/strategy. When we first began answering these questions, students were writing incomplete sentences and very short responses. We then had a writing mini-lesson of revising and editing with the use of colors. [We've had to have many mini-lessons about nouns, verbs, and adjectives...more on that in a later post!] We use yellow to highlight the first word of our sentences [to add variety in our sentence starters], blue for verbs, and pink for adjectives. Students have noticed a growth in their responses, both in length and in thoughtfulness as we have continued to monitor what we write.
A sample of a student's writing to the question found on the label at the top of the picture.
Although writing in our individual notebooks is a great way to guide our thinking, it oftentimes is thought of as a private thing. So sometimes, students don't feel that they are kept accountable to their writing and their responses to the text. My teammate introduced me to padlet, a great way to view real-time responses. I placed some of the questions on padlet and students were able to see that their responses were going to be viewed by everyone in the room. It was a great way to be accountable for their writing and have a rich discussion afterward about the thoughts that were displayed.

Prior to the discussion, students had to read everyone's comments and then find one that they agreed with or disagreed with. Students had to provide evidence from the text or their own schema as to why they agreed or disagreed. What a great way to have a discussion while working on our skills of citing evidence and providing support!

Students have been enjoying this unit, as we have been learning about issues of social justice and the basic human rights of all. We hope to become citizens who respect the rights of all, within and outside the four walls of our classroom!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Field Trip

When I taught second grade in CPS, I had students choose where they wanted to go on a field trip. Students decided to go to the Planetarium, the Museum of Science and Industry, Lincoln Park Zoo, and Shedd Aquarium. I had decided to provide subs for the students and this is what the distribution looked like:

Group #1 [Planetarium]
- 3 subs
- 4 people

Group #2 [Museum of Science & Industry]
- 4 subs
- 5 people

Group #3 [Lincoln Park Zoo]
- 7 subs
- 8 people

Group #4 [Shedd Aquarium]
- 3 subs
- 5 people

Now the question that was on everyone's minds when we returned the next day was:


So, today, I decided to make my fourth grade students decide if on that day five years ago:

1) Was the distribution fair - did each person in each group get the same amount?
2) How much of a sub did each person get, assuming the pieces were cut equally?

Phew. My fourth graders went to work today! Oh, and did I mention that today was the first day of our fraction unit?

Some big ideas that will be discussed tomorrow in our math congress are:
- fractions can be seen as division
One student was able to find the pattern right away and didn't have to draw pictures to decide the amount each student from each group got.
- fraction equivalence
This partnership used connecting cubes called this amount 4/5.
This partnership used connecting cubes and called the amount 16/20.
- what to name a piece
Do you see the misconception that we'll address tomorrow?
1/2 + 1/10? I love it!
Students worked on a draft first, figuring out all of their math. I walked around at this point, lifting the work that students were doing, or addressing some ideas that students were using, but confusing. Then as students finished their rough drafts, they then began to work on their stand-alone posters [posters must speak for themselves w/ clear mathematical thinking] that will be critiqued during our gallery walk tomorrow!

I love me some Cathy Fosnot! I can't wait to see what our gallery walk and math congress will bring tomorrow! Stay tuned...

Marshmallow Challenge - Part Two

This always happens to me. Life gets a hold of me and I haven't blogged in forever.

Well, part of my [school] resolution this year is to get blogging, so here I am!

I love having my students take part in the Marshmallow Challenge twice a year: once at the beginning of the year in August and a second time in January. The second time around, I like to see how students respond to the challenge and what they might have learned from their mistakes last time. We talked about which base would be more stable, a triangular base or a quadrilateral base. (It's interesting to see which two structures were still standing after coming back from specials.)

Although the students participate in the Marshmallow Challenge to build the tallest freestanding structure, I have students discuss the process of collaboration and teamwork more so than their product. After 18 minutes of designing, building, redesigning, and rebuilding, students took a seat and we began the discussion of how we could collaborate better in Room 208.

Here are some of the bullet points we took away from our activity:
- communicate [listen to EVERYONE'S ideas]
- agree w/ your teammates BEFORE you do something
- it's okay to follow someone else's plan EVEN IF it's not your first choice
- watch your BODY language
- let people TRY things out

We have learned so much about collaboration throughout the first half of our year, but we have resolved as a whole class to get better at it!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Force and Motion

We began our science curriculum with a force and motion unit. After attending STEM TQ this summer, a two-week long teacher workshop involving STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) practices, I was really motivated to bring a lot of the things I learned into the classroom. One way of doing that was to bring a lot of design challenges where students are designing, building, engineering, and so forth.

This unit began with an iSlide experiment, learning a lot about push and pull, as well as an experiment involving ramps, different surfaces, and toy cars to determine speed and how the different surface types affect the motion of the toy car.

We have since then moved on to one of our design challenges, designing a balloon car. Each group could only "spend" $15 on supplies and had two days to create a design and execute the plan.

Many students planned and designed and quickly learned that their balloon cars failed. Only three out of six balloon cars moved a distance of more than zero inches. Unfortunately, we did have to stop our design challenge time so that we could discuss (and revisit) our norms of collaboration and teamwork. Hopefully, our redesign of this challenge will prove to be more successful than 50%.

The first car moved a total of 155 inches, and it probably would have gone even further if it had not run into the chair (another lesson learned). However, this car definitely will need a redesign because it did not use a balloon! :)

The second and third balloon cars didn't go quite as far, but any movement was a success this round! Hopefully, these two groups will redesign their balloon cars for further movement!

Look for our redesigns in a following post!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Olweus Bullying Prevention Kick-Off!

On Friday, we had the privilege of hosting Marshall the Miracle Dog at our all-school assembly! If you don't know much about Marshall, you need to look him up! He's been written about in a book (by his mom/owner) and is about to be a huge movie star!

We also had time in our classroom to talk about bullying. I decided to use what I learned from my summer reading (Bullying Hurts: Teaching Kindness Through Read Alouds and Conversations by Laminack and Wadsworth). We read Same, Same But Different (Kostecki-Shaw), Whoever You Are (Mem Fox), and Skin Again (bell hooks) and had a classroom discussion about how we have so much in common! Laminack and Wadsworth state, "As human beings, we are more alike than different. Those things that make each of us human are present in every other human across the globe." Truly, we are all the same, same, but different! I also led them in an activity where I had them think about the many ways we've been hurt by someone and each time someone bravely shared it out, I wrinkled up the new, fresh piece of notebook paper in my hands. I then continued by saying that sometimes the people who offend us or hurt us apologize or we try to make ourselves feel better, but the piece of paper is never truly new ever again.

Afterwards, we went to build confidence in ourselves with Master Lee from the ATA Marshall Arts studio in Manchester. He helped us recognize that bullies tend to pick on those who don't look confident and proud of who they are. Students left with a little winded after following some of the exercises, but with a few strategies of how to look and feel confident!

Our final rotation was in the cafeteria with Mrs. Miller and Mr. Shelton. We had an opportunity to watch some scenarios from the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program DVD and think about some of the ways that we would have responded instead (or even likewise)! After the scenarios, students were able to post the areas in our school that they found to be a "hotspot", but more importantly provide a solution for the problems that they posted.

All in all, our Robinson Roadrunners are ready to start the trend in being a friend!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Almost Ready for Robotics

We received a generous donation on Donors Choose from a Kirkwood High School graduate and Bill and Melinda Gates' Foundation! We received our package of Legos and finally had a chance to open them in our classroom!

We are now waiting for our other project proposal to get funded on Donors Choose so that we can finally try out Robotics in our 4th grade classroom! If you're interested in learning more about the proposal, check it out here!

Building a Community in Room 208

It's September?!?! That's crazy! No. Do you know what's crazy?? My schedule these days! I'm finally blogging after almost a month of teaching. But I guess it's better late than never, right? I sure hope you agree with me. :)

The first couple of weeks in 4th grade were consumed with Room 208 desperately trying to learn what it means to be a community. Our essential questions for this time were: 1) What makes a community? and 2) What does the way I show respect say about me?

Students were involved in so many activities that required a lot of communication, collaboration, teamwork, and so many other wonderful qualities needed to succeed.

Solo Cup Pyramid
- 6 solo cups, 1 rubber band, 4 24-inch long pieces of string
- Students had to work together to make a solo cup pyramid (3 on the bottom, 2 in the middle, and 1 on top) without using their hands.

Build a Tower
- playdough, 5 straws
- Students have to build a tower using only the materials provided.

Saving Sam
- gummy worm and gummy life saver, 1 plastic cup, 4 paper clips
- Sam is the worm that has tipped over in his or her boat (plastic cup)! He or she needs to be saved and placed into the life preserver! The only thing is that the partners can only use the paper clips and must not use touch the worm or the life preserver directly!

Magic Carpet Ride
- butcher paper
- Students are on top of the butcher paper and must flip the paper over while the entire group is still standing on top of it.

- 20 spaghetti noodles, 1 yard of masking tape, 1 yard of string, 1 marshmallow
- Students have 18 minutes to plan and design the tallest freestanding structure with the marshmallow on top

The Human Tank
- blindfolds, socks
- Students are paired up and one student is blindfolded
- The student who is not blindfolded is giving his or her partner directions to find a sock and throw it at another blindfolded student

After these activities, as well as some others not mentioned in this post, students created a list of thoughts to the question, "What makes a community?" We then created this anchor chart to help remind us off what we want our learning community to be like and is hanging in our classroom (our class picture is missing from the middle):