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.

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!

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