Sunday, May 8, 2016

Earth Day Inventions!

Hi there!
I am so excited to share a really innovative project that my kiddos did for Earth Day! Here at our school, Earth Day is a really big deal. We teach the kids about ways to help our earth, and we even had a "Zero Trash Day." This year since it was our school's 25th birthday, students donated quarters to fundraise enough money to plant a new tree. On Earth Day, we planted the tree at the front of our school as a whole school. One of our fabulous special education teachers conducted an "Earth Day" that inspired students to try their best to help our earth!

In our classroom, we take the whole day to do some huge thinking. Students were asked to think deeply about different problems that we see around our earth. Students were asked to brainstorm potential problems in the following categories: land, water, air, animals, garbage, and recycling. From there, students were given the choice to find the "problem" that they were most passionate about. Students used their passion and creativity to design an "invention" that could help reduce or diminish this problem. Students were shown the materials, and all the materials were recyclable.

After the students did their brainstorming, they were asked to "plan" out their invention before starting their actual creations. Check out this focus! The students were so engaged, and they LOVED inventing something that they really thought could make our earth better.

After all of the brainstorming, planning, and creating, students were provided a time to share their inventions with our class. I honestly think the share was the kids' favorite part. They loved sharing their passions and inventions, and they also had to share one design change they would make if they continued this invention in the future.

Some of the topics that kids were passionate about include the following: destruction of animal habitats, using too much water, boat pollution, using too much energy, recycling, collecting rain water, etc. 

Overall, the kids loved this experience, and they certainly found meaning in this project. What I loved about this project was the fact that it incorporated creativity to plan and create the invention, critical thinking to think of a workable invention, student choice to discover their passions, and communication by requiring the students to share their inventions with our class. Next year, I would love to expand the communication piece and have students somehow communicate these inventions with an outside "world" audience. For students who finished before others, students were able to post their inventions on "Earthagram". The kids loved that little twist on Instagram. 

Have a great week! 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

March Happenings!

Yes, I know it is April! But, barely! And, we had so much going on in March that I would love to share with you guys! As I'm sure many of us already know, March was Reading month! Wow, I was completely blown away by our fabulous reading month committee. We had an amazing month of reading full of meaningful and FUN activities. I have to start by saying that we just switched our mobile carriers, and right now, all my pictures are "missing." Once I hopefully find them on the cloud, I will upload the pictures I took from March.

Our reading month theme was "Character Matters." All of our activities revolved around Julia Cook's character books. Have you read any of Julia Cook's books? If you haven't you should look her up! Her books are great for families, parents, and teachers. She has many different books that are written in kid friendly language that teach certain character traits. Check out her website! She has so many titles addressing topics such as bullying, health, hygiene, anger, lying, peer pressure, etc. The more books I read of hers, the more I want to buy to read for my kiddos. They are so kid friendly, and the kids really connect with the content. I plan to buy quite a few more for the beginning of next school year. Some of our class favorites are: Soda Pop Head, My Mouth is a Volcano, and But It's not My Fault. During the month of March, each week we had a book of focus. We read the book to our class and had a rich discussion regarding the topic. Depending on the book, we then created a craft or completed an activity that pushed the kids to think deeper with the issue. One of our amazing readnig month reps even got Julia Cook to come give a presentation to our school. She led a parent night, a teacher PD, and two assemblies for our kiddos. The kids loved her and her precious dog. She is quite hilarious and engaging!

Earlier in the month, we also had our "Pajama Camp Read A lot" day. We came to school in our pajamas and read and listened to mystery readers all day. The kids loved cuddling up in their blankets next to our "camp fire" on the projector reading their favorite books. It was also very neat to have parents and grandparents come into our classroom to read their favorite books! It was a lot of fun!

At our school, we also had a reading festival at the end of the month.  This day was SO much fun! Beforehand, the kids were able to sign up for different books that they would like to listen to for ar read aloud. Throughout the day, kids rotated from different classes to hear different books read aloud by different teachers. This was an awesome way to continue to build our school community and trust while listening to rich titles. The kids seemed to really enjoy this day. During the course of the reading festival, the students listened to Julia Cook's presentations. They just couldn't get enough of her!

Stayed tuned for uploaded pictures to go along with our reading month and a post about our last science unit on rocks and minerals! I can't wait to share the details!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Michigan Maps!

Kids love projects! It is always fun to incorporate projects into our learning in third grade. Our district is big on incorporating the 4 C's ( collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking) into our teaching practice. I love this because I am a firm believe that the 4 C's are crucial to the success of our future learners. These are skills that our kiddos need to master for their future. I am excited to share this fun project that my third graders completed at home. In Social Studies, our big focus is our wonderful state, Michigan. We study Michigan geography, history, economics, and government. We had been learning about Michigan geography and history. To reveal and push their learning, students created Michigan Maps given the follow requirements noted below.

The students did a great job with this project. They really showed their creativity and personalities. After they turned in their projects, I teamed up with one of our other third grade classes to participate in a gallery walk. Students taught the other third grade class about their Michigan maps. It was very empowering to see the students teaching other students with such pride. Here are a few snap shots!

Just a little snippet into our current Social Studies learning!

Have a fabulous week of teaching and learning!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Holiday Happenings

     Yes, the holidays have come and gone, and we are now in a new year. Break was very relaxing and filled with memories. However, our third grade class had SO much fun before we left for winter break. Throughout the whole last week before break, we did many activities continuing to practice our skills in a "holiday" way. The kids had a ball.

     We have been working on writing informational texts for over a month. Students studied many mentor texts and crafted two polished informational books of a topic of their choice. They really rocked out this writing unit. I was so proud of their dedication and end products. During this last week, students were broken into small groups to research a country and how that country celebrated the winter holidays. They used their informational knowledge and research eye to construct a powerpoint or poster of this information. They then presented this information to our class at the end of the week. To guide their research in a kid friendly safe way, we used Kid Rex as our search engine. Kid Rex is a kid friendly safe search engine powered by Google.

At the end of the week, my sister-in-law came in to help us with our gingerbread house project. The kids adored this activity. Check out these smiling faces!

We have such amazing parents, and we got enough donations to let each student make their own. They did a great job! Later that afternoon before our holiday party, the students created a gingerbread man and wrote a piece about how to catch a gingerbread man! That was a wrap up to our Gingerbread Man book study.

Happy New Year! Have a great January friends!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Thanksgiving Community Building

     In our classroom, we are part of a family. This is a motto that I tried to instill since the first day of school. When you walk through our classroom doors and into our classroom, you are part of a family. What does that mean? Well, that means that we take care of each other. We love each other. We support each other, and we even grow with each other. Like most teachers do, I always front load our first and second week of school with community building activities in efforts to instill, build, and strengthen this family bond.
     As the year progresses, we all make choices on activities that will hopefully strengthen our classroom community. This is an area that I am very passionate about. I could write about it for hours, but I will spare you that. Putting aside all of our appreciation circles, morning meetings, kudos,etc.......I like to take purposeful time during the Thanksgiving season to really show my students how much I appreciate them. Now, I will warn you.... this takes TIME! However, it is well worth it. The pay off is big. The kids can sense and see the appreciation!
     This year, students were asked to decorate a turkey feather that represented his or her family tradition for Thanksgiving. Students then brought this feather into class, and we create a whole class turkey together. During our "thankful luncheon", each student was given a turn to come up to the front of the class to share his/her turkey feather. Students were proud to share their traditions. Other students were then able to ask questions. At the end of the sharing, our turkey looked like this!

After we constructed our class turkey and ate our delicious Thanksgiving lunch together, we then were able to discuss how unique each and every one of us is, but how we come together to form an awesome family at school. This project turned out great, and it certainly served as an awesome activity to continue to enhance our classroom community.

     I also took a chunk of time at home to create these "thankful" cards for my kiddos. I just feel especially blessed this year to have such an amazing room of students. I wanted my kids to truly see how much I appreciate and value their presence in our classroom family!

What are some ways that you continue to build community in your classroom throughout the school year?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Animal Creations

     I am so excited to share an amazing project that we did in our classroom this week! To start off, I just want to share some background information. Our district strongly promotes the 4C's in instruction and teaching: collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication. Being new this year, I really wanted to push myself to design some meaningful project based experiences that would require my third graders to collaborate, thin critically and creatively, and communicate effectively and clearly to peers and adults. With that in mind, I dug into our Social Studies and Science curriculum and looked for opportunities to supplement/enhance student learning with projects.
     With the help of one of my third grade team members and a fabulous parent, we came up with this project. In third grade in Michigan, students are expected to be able to "identify and compare structures in animals used for controlling body temperature, support, movement, food-getting, and protection (for example: fur, wings, teeth, scales). " Instead of simply reading about these different structures and adaptations, I really wanted to push my kids to apply their skills in a a different context. We took a week to go over animal habitats and research different animal adaptations for a given habitat.
     The next week, the students were given a creature card. Students were asked to design a creature to survive on a different planet given specific constraints. Each creature card told the student what their creature ate, what type of habitat they lived in, and how the creature moved from one place to another ( flying, swimming, walking, etc).  Students were then given one science period to plan out their creature. They were able to look at all of the materials that they could possibly use in their design. These were the requirements for their plan: list the materials that will be used, draw a picture of creature with adaptations labelled.

The next day, the students started creating!

The students LOVED this project. Every day, they were so excited for our end of the day science project. Even more importantly, the kids were engaged. Students were given three days to complete their creatures. They then were asked to write about their adaptations to prepare for their presentation. The following day, every student was given a chance to visit other students' creations and ask questions. Each student gave a brief one minute presentation to peers, and then peers asked questions using the following guiding questions.

Here are some of the creatures that my kiddos came up with! They did a fantastic job thinking outside of the box, and they were able to apply their knowledge of habitats and adaptations to design their creature to survive in their environment. They rocked it! Check these out!

 I'm really glad I took the risk and tried out this new project. The kids were able to apply their science skills about animals while being engaged in a fun, hands on project! Great job third graders!

Happy Teaching!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Ghostly Greetings!

We're exactly one week away from Halloween. With the halloween spirit in mind, I have been trying to keep my kiddos engaged while practicing skills  in our classroom. We just finished drafting and revising/editing our personal narratives. Our Lucy Calkins' unit stressed so many amazing teaching points. One of these teaching points was the idea that students should be showing their story to their readers versus simply telling. We worked very hard to come up with examples to show versus tell. We even picked apart and revised our own personal narratives to change telling sentences to showing sentences. With these efforts, students were using much more dialogue. As wonderful as it was to see their stories come to life, I was quickly noticing that many of my students were having issues with the punctuation that comes along with dialogue in their writing. Our Calkins' unit did teach this punctuation, but we simply needed more practice! I went on a hunt to find an engaging activity that stressed dialogue practice in a festive way!

Then, I found this!! I was sure to mention to my students that each ghost had to be appropriate. Nothing violent was allowed. Check out this amazing post from Halle at Across the Hall in 2nd. I found it to be perfect for my third graders, and we jumped right in! Here is what my students created!

 This one is simply adorable! The students certainly revealed their creativity, while practicing using commas, punctuation, and quotation marks  properly with dialogue!

Happy October friends!