Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Cardboard Box

Today's post is not technically school related, but just a reminder that something can always be made out of nothing. Back when I was taking my Early Childhood courses, I had a professor who always talked about open-ended art rather than giving children coloring sheets or templates. That's something I always try to keep in mind - cookie-cutter projects are cute for a hallway display, but allowing children to have their own interpretation of a project gives them ownership, a chance to learn from mistakes, an opportunity to problem-solve and an outlet for creative thinking.

Around my house we have lots of cardboard boxes. We buy wipes and diapers in bulk from Sam's Club so we have boxes from those, plus boxes of copy paper since I try to pick up a case whenever its on sale (my school only gives me one ream a month). With all these boxes lying around, it was inevitable that sooner or later Sullivan would be placed in one.


His favorite thing is to sit in his well-padded box with a book or two and a sheet thrown over his head - the squealing that ensues is hilarious!

Well, when his sister, Moira, who is 14, saw how much he liked boxes, she decided to make him a "spaceship". This required access to a little bit of spray paint, glue and the debris of my craft closet. She worked for several days on this, tweaking the idea as she encountered difficulties or thought of better ways to do what she wanted. Even at the last minute she was adding things (a plastic egg filled with rice and tied to the dashboard) but finally, on Sunday, she unveiled her creation:

 



What could our students create if we gave them access to materials and let them at it? Sure, maybe it won't be something that we can display in our hallways, and it might not even turn out to be something that can be displayed at all, but its the act of creating itself that we need to encourage! I challenge you to let your students cut and paste and color and see what happens!  I'm going to be digging out all of my scraps and whatsits and letting my students go to town - I promise to post about the experience later this week!

Remember,  when we allow children room to create and explore, they just might surprise us with something incredible!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Caterpillars are Rampaging!

It's that time of year again - the count down to the end has begun! I'm desperately trying to cram all I can into these last 25 days! Unfortunately I don't have time for it all, so now I have to pick and choose which activities are must-dos and which can be skipped this year.


One thing that is going really well is our Butterfly Life Cycle unit. I am so happy I decided to go with eggs this year! For the first week or so after we placed the eggs on our plants we couldn't really tell we had caterpillars, except for a few small holes on the leaves. Well, this week we got a major lesson in the ravenous nature of caterpillars:

 At the beginning of the week we were thrilled that we could actually see the caterpillars and attempt to count them. We had some great discussions about camouflage and why it was important that the caterpillars blend in with the color of the leaves they like to eat. Look how lush all those cauliflower, cabbage, radish and brussel sprout plants look! I was really proud that we had succeeded in growing the plants our caterpillars needed.

 
Unfortunately, by Thursday the caterpillars had completely decimated our plants. Seemingly overnight we went from just a few leaves with holes to not a single leaf left!

  
 When we came in on Thursday morning we were able to get a more exact count of our caterpillars since they had decided to try to escape in search of more food - almost every caterpillar had made its way to the top of the netting!

 
This did enable us to finally get an up close and personal look at the little buggers :)

It also led to some great conversations about why farmers would have a problem with caterpillars. Although my littles love the caterpillars and think it's great that we can see them eating so much, they were able to put themselves in the farmers' shoes and realize that if they had caterpillars eating all the crops that would be very hard financially. We talked about how farmers stop bugs from eating their plants - using pesticides and even releasing lady bugs. I love how though-provoking science can be at this age - something as simple as watching caterpillars has led to some big connections! And, most of these conversations would not have been possible if we were using the caterpillars that come with the brown goop to eat!

UPDATE: For those of you curious as to where to get the eggs, I ordered mine from Carolina Biological. They sent enough eggs to ensure "5-6 butterflies" and we had at least 13 caterpillars hatch! If you're wondering about our plants, I blogged about that here. Once we were ready for the caterpillars I just transplanted our seedlings to a pot and placed it in our butterfly net.

Now that we've had to finish up our Plant Life Cycle and switch our caterpillars to cabbage leaves from the grocery store, we're setting up our incubator in preparation for our Chicken Life Cycle! I'm also considering whether we have time for these:

 Any clue what they are? Head over to  my FB page to guess! You could win your choice of Life Cycle packs from my store!

Alright, to finish up this post, here is a picture of Sullivan with Olaf - we couldn't resist when we saw it at JCPenny lol!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bright Idea for Managing Hallway Behavior!

I'm joining up for another Bright Ideas blog hop! There are 150 bloggers, all with awesome FREE ideas and tips!
My tip this week is a management tool. Everyone knows what a line of students in a hallway should look like: quiet, facing forward, hands to themselves. My class this year can't handle that. Well, about 1/2 of them can, but the other 1/2 find it incredibly difficult. I do everything I can to avoid having to be in the hallway for a prolonged period - I don't go to lunch until I know the other classes have cleared the cafeteria line, we're the last ones into assemblies, we're the first to leave assemblies etc.

However, this class also can't handle going to the bathroom on their own (as our custodians can attest to!) so we have to do whole class bathroom breaks. With 26 kiddos, this can take a long time. I have several students that have impulse control issues, and this is very apparent while waiting in line. I tried redirection, making my expectations clear, having consequences etc. Ultimately though, I found that our bathroom breaks were a big negative part of the day - which of course followed us back into the classroom as well.

So, how do I remove the negative from our bathroom breaks? By changing my expectations! I can't expect this year's kiddos to be able to do everything previous year's classes have done. Instead of trying to get them to stand still and be quiet, I had to give them something to do and focus on. Since our bathroom breaks are so long it helps that this is educational too.
We've been working on fluency and sight words a lot, so I came up with the idea of using Fry's Phrases on poster boards. I chose phrases from the first 300 and wrote them on the ghostline posters. I taped these to the walls in the foyer outside our bathroom. Each time we head out for a bathroom break we bring a pointer from the classroom with us.

Now instead of saying "Please keep your hands to yourself." or "Remember, our voices are off in the hallways.", I say things like "I'm looking for the antonym of short." or "Find a word that ends in a digraph." or "Can you find a silent e word?". The beauty of this is that I can make this as difficult or as easy as my kids can handle. I have some CVC words on the posters so my lowest kiddos have a chance at identifying those, but I can make it super challenging for my higher level kiddos by asking for them to identify words with blends or multiple syllables etc. We look for verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs as well as punctuation too.
 Now, the management part comes with the fact that they only get a turn with the pointer if they are standing in line quietly, directly behind the person in front of them. They also don't get to raise their hand until they've found the word I'm looking for, which means that everyone is scanning the posters trying to find the word. Since they're all working for a turn, I don't ever have to get on them about line procedures any more.They're no longer bored since they're focused on reading the posters, trying to find the words before a friend. This is fast paced too, so in a single bathroom break almost everyone gets a turn, which gives them the opportunity for movement so they don't have to stand still as long.
I used a multicolor pack of posters so I can give hints like "You might want to look at the green poster."  too, but also because the colors are naturally appealing to the kids. I started off with only 3 posters, but have progressed to having 7 taped up now. Sometimes I'll just ask someone to read a whole poster, or a whole line. The point is to keep changing it up so that it's something new to engage them each time.

I hope this idea helps some of you who are having problems with hallway procedures. Sometimes it's helpful to have that reminder that expectations need to be realistic and can change to reflect your class. I'm not saying to lower your expectations, but if a procedure isn't working you have to see if there are other ways to get the desired result - in this case a class that didn't disturb others while waiting for the bathroom!

Be sure to check out all the other Bright Ideas from this month:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Science Fair Winning Experiment!

 Woohoo! We won the Science Fair! Okay, so there were only 5 class entries in Primary, but still :) The kiddos and I are very proud of our ribbon and certificate:
 Our topic was "Does Sunscreen Really Protect Your Skin?" I got the idea from Steve Spangler's site. Here's what we did:

I purchased some Sune Sensitive paper from Hobby Lobby. It was $9.99 for a pack of 15 sheets but I cut them in half so we only used 3 sheets plus I used a 40% off coupon :)

We placed each sheet in a ziploc baggie and designated one our control sheet with no sunscreen. On each of the other 4 baggies we spread a nickel sized amount of SPF 15, 30, 50 and 70 sunscreen. (I had the SPF 50 and 70 at home since my kids are really fair skinned, but I purchased the Walmart brand SPF 15 and 30 for the experiment).


Once we had all 5 baggies ready I taped them to the lid of a box:
 Then we took the baggies outside and left them in the sun for 5 minutes:

When we got inside I rinsed the paper in cold water and then set it to dry. The results weren't as dramatic as I thought they would be - but you could still tell the difference. Next time I would use more sunscreen on each baggie!

The paper with no sunscreen is just a dark navy blue.

On the SPF 15 protected paper we could see some areas that were protected but the sunscreen was so thin that it didn't provide much coverage.


I forgot to get a picture of the SPF 30 paper, but the SPF 50 paper shows clear areas of protection - you can see where we tried to smooth the cream out!

The SPF 70 protected paper has many more light spots and overall was lighter in color than the other papers. Again, if we had applied more sunscreen I think the effects would have been easier to see.

I was told that the judges really loved our writing. I have to admit that the writing was a simple free write. The kids and I talked about sunscreen, I explained what SPF meant and we talked about why and where we might use sunscreen. Then I gave them a piece of paper and 20 minutes. We did not edit these pieces at all, and I did not provide any help with spelling or sentence structure, except for my kiddos on IEPs. To be honest, we had so much else going on that I simply couldn't take any more time for this project. It was one of those "get it done, just to cross it off the list" kind of moments lol. So I was pretty pleased that they turned out decent! Here are a few samples:
This little guy loves to have me check yes or no. Every time I read his writing I'm reminded of that old George Strait song lol.

 This little sweetie is very persuasive. "Do you want to get red? No, you don't want to get red." Nuff said!
 I love how she refers to Oklahoma as a hot place!

Moral of the story? Don't leave your sunscreen unattended at a waterpark!

I think in total it took about an hour of class time and an hour of prep to buy the supplies and put our board together. I spent less than $20 on it too, so that's a win in my book lol.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Butterfly Eggs & Foxy Math!

Good morning! Is time flying for you too?! It's almost the end of the year here (less than 35 days!) and I am frantically trying to fit it all in! First up, look how cute my little man is, now that I can't eat ANYTHING:
 His eczema was exacerbated by food allergies. So far we know that he's allergic to dairy, eggs, wheat, peanuts, soy and codfish. We're still waiting on more test results so we can add to the list lol. I cut all of those foods out of my diet and he is looking and feeling much better! We're crossing our fingers that he outgrows the allergies.

In classroom news, usually I'd be doing all Spring stuff, but it wasn't really Spring weather, so we did Fox. My students LOVE the Fox. When we've been really good, we get to dance to this video:

Anything to do with the Fox gets my kiddos super motivated - which is important for this time of year lol! I created "The Fox Says Math!" pack with a ton of printables and work station activities:
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Fox-Says-Math-Common-Core-Aligned-Math-Activities-1173686

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Fox-Says-Math-Common-Core-Aligned-Math-Activities-1173686
We've only done about 1/2 of the printables, and my students love them. This is not really a group of kids that likes to color, but they've been going to town trying to out-color each other with these papers!
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Fox-Says-Math-Common-Core-Aligned-Math-Activities-1173686
Two of our favorite activities were the Fox Fact Family Forest and Measure the Foxes!

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Fox-Says-Math-Common-Core-Aligned-Math-Activities-1173686

We also did Read & Write the Room with Missing Addends, Time to the Hour & 1/2 Hour, Clothespin Cards with Number Bonds and Missing Addends, and Foxy Ten Frames for those of us still working with number sense.

Next week we're finishing up our Plant Life Cycle pack so that we can start on our Butterfly Life Cycle pack! Look what came in the mail:
 Those are teeny tiny Brassica Butterfly eggs from Carolina Biological!
 We have our butterfly net set up with lots of Brassica plants - radish, brussel sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower!
The pamphlet said that the eggs would hatch 48-72 hours after placing the eggs on a plant, so I'm hoping we have some excitement when we come into school on Monday! I am so excited to get to see the whole development of the caterpillars!

I also got super exciting news this week: I'm teaching Pre-K next year! Well, maybe. After I said Yes! to the pre-k position a Kindergarten position opened up (one of our K teachers got a job in Japan!) I've thought about going back to my admin and asking for Kindergarten instead, but either way I'm moving down next year! I love my firsties, but my heart is with the little ones!

I'm also in the TPT newsletter this week for hitting a milestone! In celebration, ALL of my Math products are 20% off from April 6th-9th!

Have a fabulous week and be sure to check back for our WINNING Science Fair Experiment later in the week!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Plant Life Cycle Unit

We started our Plant Life Cycle study this week! I started now for two reasons - next week is Spring Break so when we get back to school on March 24th we should have some sprouting action within a few days. This cuts down on the wait time so that the kids aren't checking day after day with no results for so long! The other reason is that I want to start our Butterfly Life Cycle after Spring Break as well, and to do that we need plants! You see, this year I am ordering Brassica Butterfly eggs so that we can see the complete life cycle from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly - in the past with the Painted Lady caterpillars I ordered we always skipped the egg phase. Since we won't be getting that nasty "food" stuff that comes with the caterpillars (and really, the kids are always confused that caterpillars eat leaves but come with brown sludge lol) we need to have some Brassica family plants ready to feed our caterpillars when they hatch!

I start our Life Cycle study by putting together a folder for each student. I make sure to buy enough of each color folder at the beginning of the year when they're on sale so that I have one for each student. The green folders are always Plant Life Cycle, my blue ones will be for Butterfly Life Cycle, and yellow will be for Chicken Life Cycle. This means that when I tell the students to get out their Plant Life Cycle stuff they just have to grab their green folder and they're ready!
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Plant-Life-Cycle-Pack-Including-Observation-Journal-Labeling-Pages-and-More-649266
In the left side pocket go all of the printable sheets - life cycle calendar, labeling pages, kwl sheets, sequencing sheets, writing prompts and color by code sheet. The right hand side has the easy reader and the Observation Journal.
 
I always start my seeds in a Jiffy Greenhouse - the kids love seeing the little peat pellets absorb the water and expand! Then everyone gets a turn to poke a hole and plant some seeds. This year we planted radish, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and cabbage to hopefully feed our Brassica Butterflies!

I'm lucky enough to have huge windows, so we set our greenhouse in the window and wait for sprouts.
Every day we get our folders out and complete part of our unit.
 
 The kids love the Plant Life Cycle reader - we take our time coloring it and read it each day:


 The labeling and sequencing sheets are favorites too:
But, my favorite part is the Observation Journal. There are 10 pages of prompts for students to draw pictures, answer questions, and describe the life cycle.

One of the best things is that whenever someone comes to visit us, the students can quickly grab their folder, bring the visitor to our greenhouse area and show off all they know about the life cycle!

If you'd like a chance to win your own copy of this unit, check my Facebook page for a fun giveaway today! Also, don't forget to go enter my Joy Crowley Big Book giveaway!
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