Saturday, May 25, 2013

Planets and.......the {DIRT} on soil

As I've said before (like, 100 times before), we are up to our eyeballs in science right now!  Trying to cram in a semester of science in 7 weeks is beyond absurd.  What the heck was anyone thinking (myself included)?????

We wrapped up our solar system unit (the kids were very upset about this.....very, VERY, very upset).  They could have spent the rest of the year on the solar system!  They were put into cooperative learning groups and did research on each planet.  Then, they presented their findings to the class and made posters to go along with their presentations.  They all did so good!!!!

When we finished our planet presentations, we went into landforms and soil.  I found this adorable {FREE} foldable from The Teachers' Cauldron
 The kids loved getting to draw their landforms.  I used this as an assessment tool because, right now, getting them to stay engaged is like pulling teeth!!!  I figured if they could draw, I would get more out of them......and I did!!! Here is one of my kiddos' drawing of an island.  Tell me this kid doesn't understand what an island is!  How cute is that? 
Then, after landforms, we dove into dirt.....or soil, rather! I found this awesome unit on soil.....and everything involved with soil.......from Natalie!  It comes with all the info you need to complete the activities.  For the life of me, I cannot get the picture to transfer, so you'll just have to take my word for it.  I loved it!  We did some whole group stuff with it, some group work and then some independent practice with it.  My all-in-one soil resource. 
Next week, we are getting into ecosystems and inherited traits and behaviors.  I'll let ya know how that goes.  Are anyone else's kids just DONE with school at this point??  I mean to tell ya, anytime I ask them to do anything that requires effort or thought, they look at me like I'm the wicked witch and then they groan in despair.  It really makes you feel like "Teacher of the Year", ya know?? 
I have some really cool, neat, "no thought required" stuff for the last week of school......we just have to make it that far!!  Wish me luck :)
I know that some of you are already out for the year {I hate you} enjoy your time off!  For the rest of you going back to work on Monday.....enjoy your Saturday night and Sunday.  Rest. You'll need all the energy you can muster these last few days!
Keep livin' the dream, 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

We (K-4 teachers) are sooooo important!!!!

Hello, friends!!!  I hope you are all enjoying your Sunday afternoon.   As some of you know, I went to a 3-day science workshop this last week.  I loved it!!  It was a great break from the classroom (at this point in the year, we all need that!) and it was a great learning experience.  The instructor was fabulous.  She was hilarious and obviously very passionate about her job!  She is the kind of teacher you hope you are in your own classroom. 

The name of this conference was "K-4 Physics".  Now, that title isn't very......well, it's not good.  It's a boring title and it completely undermines the power of the workshop.  However, my principal sent out an e-mail asking who would like to go and there isn't a teacher in the world who is gonna say no to a 3-day paid vacation workshop with a 9:00 start and an hour and a half for lunch!  Can I get an amen?!?!?!

I digress........back to my point.  The training was fabulous!!  We (60 K-4th grade teachers) sat together and vertically aligned our TEKS (in Texas, those are our standards......we haven't adopted Common Core).  It was incredibly eye-opening.  We got to see how the curriculum builds and how the verbs in our standards changed, and what that meant exactly.  For example: in kinder (in regards to force/motion/energy) the expectation is that students will use their 5 senses and explore different forms of energy, such as light, heat and sound.  Then, in 1st grade, following that same TEK about force/motion/energy, students are expected to identify and discuss how these forms of energy (light, heat and sound) are important to every day life.  In 2nd grade, students are expected to investigate the effects of increasing or decreasing amounts of light, heat and sound energy.  Third grade is then expected to take that information and build upon it.  In 3rd grade, we expand by exploring mechanical energy and we introduce "thermal energy" into their vocabulary to replace "heat energy".   Finally, in 4th grade, the students are expected to differentiate among forms of energy, including mechanical, sound, electrical, light and thermal.  We add electrical energy in 4th grade. 

We then looked at 5th grade and 8th grade released STAAR (our state mandated test) questions and saw how important our jobs are.  Everything they are asking on those tests is directly tied to what we teach in the younger grades.  We are so often overlooked.  Yes, we get the pressure for math and reading.  And those are important skills and I'm not downplaying that, but we are JUST as important in the science arena as well.  It is critical that we put an emphasis on science. 

In science, we build our students' critical thinking skills.  We use problem solving and team work and we get to have fun doing it!!  There isn't another subject that lends itself so naturally to curiosity, higher-level thinking, and real-world importance.  Science is the real world!!! 
One of the great things about this training was that they integrated math and ELA all throughout the science curriculum.  Math tends to lend itself to science anyway, so the ELA part was the biggest concern for most of my peers.  The instructor showed us ways to assess, using ELA objectives or TEKS, and it worked beautifully.  I can't remember what grade it was for, but for one experiment, we read a book called "Letters to my Energy Superheros" and in the book, the characters wrote letters to their heros (ex: Dear Sound Energy Superman, etc.) and in the assessment for that lesson, they had to write a letter to their favorite energy superhero and explain why they were thankful for their particular kind of energy and how they use it every day.  Perfect way to go cross-curricular! 

At this training, we started with a 4th grade lesson.  They wanted us to begin with the end in mind.  The next 2 days, we all did a kinder, 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade lesson, building up to the 4th grade TEK (standard).  All of the lessons followed the 5E format.  I'm not sure how many of you are familiar with that, so I'll do a quick run-down.
 Engage- the hook
Explore- let the kids explore (without much teacher explanation)
Explain- here is where we teach
Elaborate- expand on the explore and explain
Evaluate- did they get it?
Using these 5 E's, we went through every grade level and got to really see the knowledge and skills that our students should be coming to us with and what they should leave us with.  It also helped me to understand how to not step on the toes of the grade after me.  Just because it's exciting, doesn't mean that I have the right to jump ahead and teach 4th grade!  I've got enough to do with my 3rd grade curriculum, I don't need to jump ahead (as much as we want to sometimes).
I hope I haven't completely bored you to death.  This conference was amazing and I wished there was a conference like this for every subject!  I wish we had the time, as a collaborative team, to sit down and dissect our curriculum and really get to know what our students are coming to us with and what they need to know to get to the next level.  I wish we all had the opportunity to vertically align and see where our kiddos are the big picture.   
That's all for now!!  Enjoy the rest of your weekend :)
Keep livin' the dream,

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Lots of science and a 3-day workshop!

Ohmiword.......are you exhausted???  Cause I'm exhausted........pooped.......and ready for summer!!!!  We have 4 weeks left.......15 instructional days (days to take grades) and one last week of mass {chaos} before we are D.O.N.E.!!!!  In the spirit of countdowns, Christi from Ms. Fultz's Corner has created the cutest little blinky!!
Now, if that doesn't brighten your day, I don't know what will :)

In room 14, we have been up to our elbows in science!!!  I didn't realize I liked teaching science this much, but I really, REALLY do!  We are in our solar system unit right now and the kids cannot get enough of it.  They are asking me so many great questions and they are genuinely engaged in the content.  It's awesome!  We broke up the solar system into the sun and planets and we made cooperative learning groups.  Each group has 2-3 people who are responsible for teaching the rest of the class about their planet or star (the Sun).  Here is some of the work we've done so far:

We have been to the library to check out books and have been to the computer lab to do research online.  (BTW- there are soooo many awesome websites that are kid-friendly and use fantastic imagery and grade level vocabulary).  Here are just a few that we found:
Here comes the kink in my perfectly organized plan......I have a 3 day workshop tomorrow thru Wednesday.  Taking kids to and from the library and computer lab is not something I am willing to do to a sub......especially as rowdy and rambunctious as my kids have been lately......BUT......I also don't want to just leave busy work and the learning to stop.  Enter......Amber from Adventures of a Third Grade Teacher!  She has this wonderful solar system lapbook/foldable and it is perfect for this situation.  I used it on Friday (hence, the pics above) when I had a half day sub (meetings......ugggghhhhh) and I would use it even if I didn't have a sub.  It's just that awesome.  I'm kind of jealous that I won't be there to see my kids do more of this.  Sad face.
My kiddos will be comparing planets with a Venn diagram, creating foldables about day and night, eclipses and the phases of the moon.  The learning won't stop just because I'm gone and that puts my mind at great ease.  With this product, you also get a mini-book that has all the information you need to complete the lapbook and foldables.  My kids already have these books, printed and ready to go.  Amber really did think of everything!!!
Another great resource of Amber's is her End of Year "Color by Code" product.  It's perfect for kids who get done early or for subs (yayyy!!!).  It requires thought and calculation, but not teacher help.  It's great!  My kiddos LOVE them! Here's a little sneak peek:
I am totally prepared and my kiddos and sub are ready for my 3-day absence. This workshop is a K-4 science (physics) workshop and I can't wait to attend!  I'll be sure to share all the wonderful things I learn :)

Ok.....I'm off to enjoy the rest of my Mother's Day.  I hope you all are enjoying your weekend.....and for all you mothers out there.....Happy Mother's Day!!!  I hope you're spoiled rotten :)
Keep livin' the dream,

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Too much to do......and not enough Xanax

Now.......even though I am totally joking with my blog title {I'm not really on Xanax.....and I'm sure you needed a good laugh!}......this last 6 weeks of school is going to push me right over the edge and into prescription pills.  It's madness.  My kids have taken complete leave of their senses.  I am trying to keep our routine on lockdown so that they don't "feel" like it's the end of the year......but this has been to no avail.  They are hanging from the ceiling fans and it's all I can do to get them home alive at the end of the day.  Anyone else out there having days like this???? 

In the midst of the craziness, we have been able to get some science done.  We have had to cram in science at a rate that is much faster than I am comfortable with {this will change next year}, so bare with me!  We have a great resource for our science curriculum with our Gateways to Science.  It has hands-on labs/lessons/experiments with every topic.  It's awesome.......but does take some prepping!  Here are some pics of our science this past week:
I don' know what happened, but the pickle got cut out of this pic!  We used the 5 senses to make observations about a pickle.  This got us warmed up to using our science notebooks (on a regular basis) and got us thinking with our senses!
We studied the states of matter.  We used clay and rocks in our lesson on solids.  They are moving the clay from container to container to observe its shape change (or lack thereof).
We studied liquids as well.  I think my kids liked this state of matter best.  Something about pouring liquids from container to container......and getting to see me pour syrup :)
We also worked on simple systems, using toy cars and yo-yo's.  My boys loved that lesson!!!  We got a little too excited using our yo-yo's and I didn't take a pic.......sorry!
In other news, I have not been able to stop thinking about all the things I want to do differently next year!  I am going to devote an entire post to it......I've put that much thought into it.  That'll be coming soon.......
Now, just in case you've been hiding under a rock.....I'm gonna let you know about this fabulous, wonderful and amazing "Teacher Appreciation Extravaganza" that 15 awesome bloggin' peeps have gotten together to do.  It's a perfect way to spend teacher appreciation week.....hoppin' from blog to blog, pickin' up freebies and finally entering for 3 grand {and I mean....GRAND} prizes!  Grab a Frappuccino, click on the pic below and start your's a blog hoppin' good time :)
Happy Teacher Appreciation Week, my friends......I hope you get all the lovin' you can stand!!!
Keep livin' the dream,