Wednesday, February 11, 2015

How Does Light Color Affect Plant Growth? We're Going to Find OUT!

I'm positive I've mentioned on my blog that I do have a few subjects in science that aren't exactly my favorite..... 
Anyone else have those moments in teaching?

Oh just me, huh?
The silver lining in having a least favorite subject to teach is the fuel it gives you to find engaging and interactive teaching materials. Last year, I purchased a "Seed Investigation" on TeachersPayTeachers from HelloLearning and it totally rocked our classroom. We were planting seeds, designing our own investigations, and having the best time studying plants. Who knew it was possible? (I totally recommend checking out HelloLearning's shop on TpT. You won't regret it!)

A few weeks ago, I started mentally preparing for our classification unit because it was on the horizon. It's all about the attitude, right? If the kids can see I'm not happy... then no one is happy! So by golly, we were going to make this unit rock two years in a row! After collaborating with a high school teacher and friend, he suggested a fantastic plant experiment for my kids. What if we tested how the color of light affects plant growth? Using the resources I purchased last year from HelloLearning, we set up another experiment testing light color and plant growth. Let's just say... this experiment is the cat's pajamas. 

Literally a cat wearing pajamas.

Here are few of my "live" tweets about setting up the experiment on Tuesday. 




Share with me! What are your best lesson for teaching classification? 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Part 2: Create an Interactive Timeline

We are deep in our Historical Fiction unit and my kids are loving every minute of it! Read how I got them hooked on the unit here

Once students were able to pinpoint their historical event, I introduced the next phase of our project. They were to create an interactive timeline with QR codes. Using a QR reader app (which is free!) students were able to not only scan QR codes, but can also create a code from text, websites, or maps. 

In this picture you can see one of my students creating a QR code with text about the Hurricane Katrina and the novel, Ninth Ward. As a class we made a list of "must haves" for our codes and went to work. 



Soon enough, our timeline began to take shape in the hallway. We had a great conversation on the sequential order of events and it was one of those "ah-ha" moments when kids started to realize the huge gaps between some of these events. 


Then, once our fellow 5th grade added their codes and labels, I gave my students time to scan and learn about different time periods. Once students had watched or read what other students put in their QR code, I encouraged students to write positive feedback on a post-it note for their peer. 

Next, I'll share our final project bringing our entire Historical Fiction unit together. Until then, have you used QR codes as a teaching tool? Share with me how you've used them in your classroom!


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Part 1: Getting 'em Hooked on Historical Fiction

Happy February teachers! We, here in the Midwest, are experiencing unusually warm temperatures this weekend and I'm beginning to think it's Spring. So... I'm wearing shorts today, but tomorrow I have to wear socks and long pants again? Hmm.. I'm confused.

Source
Now, enough of the weather talk! During our reading block, we are rockin' and rollin' with our historical fiction book clubs. A few years ago, I posted about my first try with historical fiction + Dear America + Prezi. You can read about that unit here.  This year, with help and collaboration with a fellow 5th grade teacher we gave our historical fiction unit a HUGE boost. 

Let me start from the beginning....

This quarter, we are focusing on students reading informational text (specially RI 5.3.. anyone else struggle with this standard? Whew - it's a big one!) While brainstorming how to tie in this standard to our instruction, my colleague and I thought this was a great opportunity to start book clubs for the quarter. Using historical fiction books during our informational text unit gave us an opportunity to bridge together informational text and fictional reading. The overarching goal of the book clubs is for the students to analyze how an author uses fictional details to tell a "true" historical story. Throughout the study, students are actively researching the time period (reading information text) and actively engaged in a book club of their choice. Emphasis on the word choice. 

Last week, I started gathering multiple copies of historical fiction chapter books. The piles started to grow around my classroom and the questions started to flood in...

"Ms. Furnell, why are those books in a pile right there?
"Are we starting book clubs again?"
"Can I read this book?"
"When do we get to read these books?"

....You get the idea.  

Finally, it was time to introduce our book clubs. I placed stacks of books around the room and instructed my class to walk around the room and read the backs of as many books as they could. Eventually, students started to gravitate towards the books they really wanted to read and some even starting claiming them before time was up! Once everyone had enough time to read through several books, small reading groups began to form around the room. Sure, some of them came together because their BFF was reading the book... but the majority of my groups were formed by a shared interest in the subject matter (SCORE!) 

Within seconds of groups forming, students were finding cozy spots around the room and reading immediately. A teacher's dream! I am 100% confident in saying that I know the enthusiasm for this project has so much to do with their choice in the book selection and partners. It's a risky gamble as a teacher to loosen the reigns and let kids make their choices but for this unit it's paying off big time. 

Check back over the next few days and I'll share different mini lessons and activities associated with our book clubs!

Happy Sunday!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

What I'm Reading Wednesday ... on a Thursday

A great stress relief for me is reading a hilarious book. The perfect night cap to a nonstop day at school if you ask me! Really... there's nothing like finding a book that literally makes you laugh out loud. 

If you haven't been introduced, let me have the honor. For your comedic pleasure, allow me to introduce, Amy Poehler. 

Aren't ready to commit? Enjoy a 5-minute excerpt from her book on YouTube. 



Seriously. If you're a fan of Amy's, SNL, Parks & Rec, or comedy in general.... you're going to enjoy this book. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

5th Grade Explains it All - Vertebrates Project

We kicked off the new year with a few new apps in 5th grade. (Catch up on my other iPad posts here) I've been anxious to use the app Explain Everything with my students since downloading it myself back in August. One of the (many) things that intrigued me about Explain Everything was the functionality - I could use it as a teaching tool and my students can create projects as well. 

As our first Explain Everything production, I decided to introduce the tool during my science classes (I have three sessions this year!). Mastering the five classes of vertebrates is a big deal in 5th grade and I thought it would be great - and equally fun - to introduce Explain Everything with this unit. 

My requirements for the project were the following:
Name the 5 classes of vertebrates
Provide three living examples of each vertebrate
Identify three characteristics of each vertebrate

From there.. the sky was the limit!

I strongly believe what made this project so successful (and fun.. have I mentioned how much my kids loved it?) was the intense app tutorial I provided on day one. I justified spending more time on introducing the app to eliminate confusion and frustration for the rest of the year. I simply introduced all of the features and walked through different samples with the kids. This way, they would spend more time focusing on the content of their project and not playing with the lightsaber feature. (Can you tell we had to spend time playing with the lightsaber?)

Once the kids started working on their project... they were ALL IN. Within 10 minutes, my students were showing ME the features I hadn't figured out yet. Pretty incredible! 



I anticipate our next encounter with Explain Everything will not be as elaborate. I want students to see the app as tool to demonstrate their understanding of multiple content areas. I'm excited to see what else we create this year!


Curious to see some of our projects? Check out our playlist on YouTube! (P.S. Creating a playlist was a great and easy way to share our projects with families!) 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Classifying Vertebrates Pre-Test Through Socrative!

It's amazing how, when I'm relaxing on my couch, my to-do list seems so bare... then the moment school kicks off, things are rolling at full speed again! Whew.. deep breaths!

This year, our 5th grade has been fortunate to have 6 iPads put into every class as a replacement for our laptops. As each day passes, we are finding more and more ways to utilize our iPads to impact our instruction. One of the apps I'm a BIG fan of is Socrative. One of my colleagues wrote an awesome post on our "Tech Tidbits" blog at my school about using Socrative. Check it out here ----> UETechTidbits. In the post, she gives an overview of Socrative and how to use it in the classroom.

If you're curious about Socrative, I would watch this informational video or simply follow their posts on Twitter. I'm always gaining ideas just from their tweets!


Access Socrative Twitter Profile
One of the huge benefits of Socrative is that it is not limited to just one device - even if my classroom wasn't equipped with iPads, I could still utilize this response system in my classroom. Pretty fancy, huh? 

In science, we are starting our animal classification unit. Based on a consensagram from the beginning of the year, this is the unit my students are HIGHLY anticipating and they haven't let me forget about it. Which means.. I've got to up the anty and make it worth the wait!




Now, all of my blabbing and going on and on leads me to an eight digit number. This post was was simply a ploy to get to you snag this number and use my "Shared Socrative Quiz". If you are a teacher in need of a pre-test over the five classes of vertebrates - look no more! I've got you covered!

Vertebrates Pre-Test:

SOC #:

14406769

Now... share with me find educators! How have you utilized Socrative in the classroom? I'm eager to learn more! 


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

That's a Wrap, 2014!

Wow! What a year it has been.
I'll spare you all of the details, but it was an absolutely amazing year and 2015 is bound to be even better. 

Last year, I created a foldable for my students to make a few new year's resolutions using the numbers "2-0-1-4" based on another folder I found through Pinterest. You can read about that foldable here

With the new year approaching and Christmas break winding down, it became time to create another foldable! Last year, my students enjoyed kicking off the new year with resolutions and I hope my crew this year enjoys it just as much. 


Download the 2015 foldable HERE

Have a safe and happy new year!

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