Sunday, November 29, 2015

Space Science: Notebooks, Flipbooks, & Writing Extensions

Earlier today, I was sitting at a coffee house, working on my laptop. My brother called and said, "Hey, what are you doing?" I said, "I'm working at a restaurant." 

He said, "Oh, the Starving Teachers Catering Company?"

Ha. Ha. 


I corrected myself. "I am at a restaurant, working on my laptop." 

"Sure you are. Do you need me to let you go so you can bus tables?" 

Everybody's a comedian. Anyway...

I love notebooks. Each year, my kids had a notebook for science, social studies, math, reading, and writing. And language conventions. And their home-school writing-reading connection. Yipes. That was a lot!

For our solar system unit, we used our notebooks a lot. There are fewer hands-on activities to do with the solar system than there are with physical science, so we relied heavily on diagrams, flipbooks and writing to understand the complex scientific ideas.

To get started, I thought it was very important for students to understand Earth's movement in space. Earth moves in more than one way around the sun.  It rotates on its axis, and it also revolves (or orbits) the sun. To make the distinction between those two words, we did a little acting out (kids think it's hilarious to watch you try to rotate on your axis while orbiting a student) and then we made this little folded flipbook.

(This is in the freebie below)
On the front, students recorded the two ways Earth moves, and they drew a labeled diagram. (I always required labels. If not, it looks like some sort of insect is flying around a sunflower. And that's not exactly scientific.)

On the left side, under "rotates", students explained the way the Earth rotated on its axis.  This included what an axis was, how the Earth was tilted, and how long it took to make one rotation (one day).
On the right side, students wrote about the Earth's revolution around the sun. They explained the orbit and how long it takes for the Earth to make one revolution - one year.
Once kids understood that basic information, we were ready to move on to the big stuff. Our next entry is about how seasons happen, or THE REASON FOR THE SEASONS! 
I loved using interactive notebooks with my kids. It took me a little while to get used to planning my lessons this way, but once you understand that the right side=input= information, and the left side=output=kids' processing, applying, manipulating, remembering, learning the information, it was pretty easy.

On the right side, we read a bit about the Earth's movement in space from our textbook and sketched a diagram of the Earth and sun to show how the title of the Earth is responsible for the seasons. The kids labeled the diagram with the first day of each season to show the relative position of the Earth to the sun at that time.

Then we watched a BrainPop. Of course, because I basically watched every BrainPop relative to the science we were learning. My kids LOVED BrainPop.

After that, we made a little folded flapbook by folding the outside edges into the inside. We added the names of each season and the kids sketched the sun in the middle and the Earth orbiting the sun, tilted on its axis.

To have kids use the information they had learned from the textbook and the BrainPop, I'd made little tiny cards with different characteristics of each season. The kids sorted the characteristics into each season and glued them in.

It was a great little assessment and gave kids a chance to talk to their teams as well to discuss the correct sorting of the cards.
As I was planning our learning about the planets, I realized there was tons of information and the kids weren't going to get much out of simply filling out a form, or a cloze activity, or watching a million videos without any opportunity to do anything with the information.
So, in response to that problem, I created my favorite science writing activity EVER. 
It's my "I Am the Solar System" book, and it's part of my new product, too.

The kids liked it, too. It appelaed to the writers and the illustrators in my class, as well as my science nerds (who loved Bill Nye as much as me.) I made them about a million circle-shaped pages with lines. One page was the cover, and the other 11 pages were the following space objects, in this order:

The Sun
Earth's Moon
Pluto (so they had to explain the whole not-a-planet thing, which was all the rage at the time)

On each page, they wrote an "I Am" poem. They used this poem to include the important information we'd learned about that planet, sun, or moon. At the bottom of each page was a reference to the next space object to come in the book. It sounded like, "But I'm not made of layers of rock, because Mercury is" and then Mercury was the next page.

The kids illustrated the edges of each circle to look like that planet or object. In the case of the sun, Uranus, Saturn, etc., where there are parts jutting out into space, they illustrated those first and then cut around them so they'd be part of the book. It looked pretty cool when it was all assembled.
I can't tell you how sad I am that I have no pictures of my kids' actual books from this project. Instead, I had to recreate a sad version (because my kids were always SO much more incredibly creative than I am).

I spent a nice chunk of time this summer looking back through my kids' science notebooks from my last year in fourth grade. Do you ever have those moments where you look back at your stuff and think, "Man, that was awesome!"? Well, that's what happened to me. And I thought, "Seriously, this needs to be TPT-ized."So I did! I took these activities and many others that I used (plus a few new ideas) and complied them into a new product!

You can get the 2-fold flipbook for free, and you can grab the whole pack from TPT, too!
Earth's Movement in Space 2-Fold Flipbook
Grab the whole pack at TPT
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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Getting families involved in dreaming for the future

My school serves a population of students who struggle financially and many suffer from generational poverty. We know, from the research, that children in generational poverty have difficulty setting goals, and seeing that their futures could be different from their childhoods. This is why it's so essential to involve parents and kids in dreaming about the future and all the possibilities for their kids. We also use this as an opportunity to talk about what it takes to achieve those goals.
One of the really important things we do as a school is "Family Dream Board Night." Dream Boards are posterboards that are full of a child's dreams for the future. Our kids start planning their dream boards at home, including their future career, homes, education, family life, car, pets, and hobbies. Teachers often provide fun materials such as magazines to cut pictures out of, printed pictures from the internet, tissue paper, stickers, sequins, and fun foam.
Then they get to take home a piece of posterboard to create the dream board at home. They can use magazine pictures or draw their own images for each element of their future lives. 

The dream boards are usually really incredible, enlightening, and hopeful. They show us things that our kids think are important, and what they hope their lives are like when they grow up. Many of our kids want big families, pets, and houses with pools.

They want to be teachers, open their own extermination companies, and become police officers. Their boards are charming and earnest, full of childhood dreams.

A group of teachers vote on the boards and we choose one from each grade level to win first place. We also choose a "most creative" board - this year it was a board with a drawstring curtain you could pull back to see the goals inside! We display those boards on the stage on easels and give the kids certificates and a prize donated from our state university and their future high school.

We  plaster the boards all over the gym, cafeteria, and hallways, and then we have our Family Dream Board Night.

On Family Dream Board Night, the families wander through the rooms and hallway, reading their child's board and all the others, appreciating each child's creativity and dreams.

The hallway looks incredible, full of student work. It's so inspiring to walk down the hall and see what each of our children wants in their lives.

Of course, we give away books. We always give away books!

And we have some fun stations. At this station, students get to create a sentence strip comic book about their future lives.

Our kids "Dress for Success" with paper bag creations! They get to decorate a paper bag to dress up for work!

Of course, we have a reading nook so our kids and parents can "Read to Succeed." We want them to have positive reading experiences together!
 Our kids make little cutout people into their future selves! They love these little "Career People."

We have such an incredible time with our Family Dream Board Night - it's such a special event that our children and parents love!

Want to have your own Family Dream Night?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Responding to Reading: Double-Entry Journals* Freebie!

One interesting way to use reader's notebooks is a double-entry journal. In a double-entry journal, you have a two-column page. On the top of the left side is a quote that is directly lifted from the text. On the top right, respond to the line of text. Monitor your thinking and explain how you reacted to the quote.

To use double-entry journals with your kids, be sure to model, model, model. If you pause and open up your brain for your kids enough, they can start to think in the complex way you're modeling. Here's a little script you might use for a double-entry journal.

1. Choose a book you will honestly react to. I love anything by Eve Bunting, but I'm generally in tears by the end of the book, so maybe stick to Patricia Polacco.
2. Read a part of the book and stop after a line that meant something to you.
3. Say: "This line is very powerful. I think I'm going to stop and think about it."
4. Record the quote on the left side.
5. Model thinking aloud on the quote. You may use the following as starters:
- I am surprised/shocked/saddened/excited because...
- This makes me think of....
- This reminds me of another book I read where...
- I chose this quote because...
- Because of this, I think ___ will happen because...
- I wonder...

This is a double entry written by one of my fourth graders when we read Esperanza Rising.
A few tips for double-entry journals:
1. Don't kill it. Any strategy, when overused, gets pretty boring pretty fast. Choose some great texts to use this strategy with, periodically; not every time kids read!
2. Read the responses! You'll be surprised how interesting they are, and how much they tell you about your kids.
3. Model, model, and then model some more. Children don't just pick up new strategies like this. We need to give them opportunities to try it out together.
4. Talk it out. If kids are having trouble getting started writing on their own, have them talk to a partner about their thinking, or make a class-wide dialogue entry together.
5. Use sentence starters to help kids (and yourself) think. A sample anchor chart is included on this post about monitoring comprehension!
Try it out and let me know how it goes!
And for more ideas, check out "Responding to Reading," a freebie on TPT!

Or my new Scaffolded Reading Responses for Fiction!

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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Studying Characters' Emotions

One great book to use to help students understand characters' emotions is The Way I Feel by Janan Cain. It's a beautifully illustrated book. On each set of facing pages, there is an emotion represented in the tones and colors of the illustration. The text rhymes and does a vivid job of describing that specific emotion, showing kids when they might feel that way.

To make inferences using The Way I Feel during a read aloud, simply cover up the emotion with a post-it. Have students gather clues by recording the details the character says, does, and what other characters are doing. The illustrations make a great place to gather information too!

Then they can infer the emotion depicted on each page. If kids are stuck, provide them an Emotions List like this freebie I've made for you on Google Drive

Then we worked with making inferences on some character emotions task cards. I handed out the cards to students and they highlighted evidence on the card that helped them infer how the character was feeling in that instance.

After they marked their evidence, they sorted the cards into different headers of the emotions. Students used their lists for this, too, to help them think of different ways to describe how the character felt in the card. Rather than always saying, "The character was angry," they learned words like "furious," or "upset."

We also have students gather clues during shared reading. During our reading of Wolf, students recorded evidence and made inferences about the wolf's emotions.
Grab these ideas in my Character Emotions Unit 
and my 41 Characters Analysis Tools.
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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Using clues to identify the author's purpose

 I really have a thing for sorts. There's something about the way kids have to read closely, and say, "No, this is not that same as that. This belongs there," that makes me feel like they're getting it!

While I was working with some struggling readers in fifth grade, I noticed that they didn't really have an understanding that authors have a specific purpose for the way they write. They include different types of language and details based on their purpose. To help them solidify their understanding, I pulled out this Author's Purpose Sort.

 Before I handed out the cards, we built the top part of this anchor chart. We focused on the four main purposes and then we brainstormed the genres that each purpose would be suited to. I reviewed an explanation for each purpose as well.

 After making sure we were all on the same page, I handed out the cards. Each team of three had a set of eight cards with a few paragraphs on each card. There were enough cards in the short texts to ensure that students could make a good decision about the author's purpose.

Students sorted the cards into the four purposes, marking their evidence in pencil.

Then I had each group share one of their cards. They read the title of the card and stated their reason and which clues helped them decide on the purpose.

This activity helped us develop a common language for discussing author's purpose, and helped my kids understand that they can find clues if they read between the lines!

and check out my Author's Purpose Pack for the sorting activity, too!
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