Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Our Space Inquiry

My students were fascinated with nocturnal animals and the moon in the fall. They have been talking about it ever since and I just knew that we had to revisit the topic. As we embarked on a journey into space, I gathered space books to share with my students and let them explore. We wrote down our questions and used them as a guide throughout the inquiry.

My students loved this book about space:

This was a great one for inquiry because it was in an ask and answer format. My students loved looking at it to get their questions answered. Below is a picture of the model one of my students made on the light table of the solar system from looking at this book.

Then, she drew and wrote about her model:

My students also really enjoyed learning from the pictures in this book:

We began our inquiry by making a solar system out of black water beads and glow in the dark planets.  My students unanimously decided that we needed black water beads for our background and of course we needed stars. Are stars yellow or white? How could we find our answer? Look in a book of course! My students were shocked to find out that stars can be white, yellow, red, and blue. It is so neat seeing even our youngest kiddos figuring out non-fiction text features through asking and answering questions. When my students learned that the sun was a star, they had so many questions! We made a chart (inspired by Darla Meyers class) to show our new learning about stars. Then, we went back to our solar system and added blue, red, yellow, and white water beads to represent stars.  

Then, we made a large solar system on black butcher paper:

Below is our space small world play that we made out of colored water beads , black water beads,  and small planets.

We were challenged to make our own constellations out of marshmallows and toothpicks.  Their STEM challenge question was: can you make a constellation from marshmallows and toothpicks?  We documented our learning by putting our final product on a piece of paper and glued confetti stars were the marshmallows were and then wrote about it.  

I made a bear in the sky!
We learned about Van Gogh and made pictures inspired by The Starry Night painting. First, we practiced making swirls on aluminum foil.

Then, we made our own pictures inspired by Van Gogh. We used chalk pastels, but if I were to do this again, I would use oil pastels.

Last, we explored the different types of planets. We made craters by dropping pebbles into white play dough to model Mercury. We made volcanos to demonstrate the surface of Venus. And, we blew up a balloon by using baking soda and vinegar to demonstrate that some planets are made of gas and not rock. (Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of these activities).

I hope you found some fun activities to incorporate into your next space unit!
Happy Teaching,

Please note that the links above are Amazon Affiliate links. If you purchase something through this link, Amazon will send me a small compensation at no cost to you. 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Fun and Easy St. Patrick's Day Ideas for your Classroom

St. Patrick's Day is always a magical time for our students. The little leprechaun that comes to visit our classroom adds so much fun and excitement to an engaging week of learning.

Some of my favorite books to read with the kids during this week are (click on the picture below to find the books on Amazon: affiliate link):

Everyone knows that if you want to catch a leprechaun, you have to find one and the best way to do that is to look at the end of a rainbow. But where can we find a rainbow? How are they made? What type of weather do we need to see a rainbow? This simple science experiment is a great way to begin investigating these answers. All you need is a dark room, a small mirror, a glass of water, and a flashlight. Place the mirror in the cup of water and shine the flashlight at the mirror. A rainbow will appear on your wall or ceiling. You can see each of the bands of light and it is fascinating! This is one of my students drawings of the different color bands.

Some other great resources to check out for videos about this topic is the StoryBots episode: Why is the Sky Blue? (There is a part where an artist shows the different colors of light). Astronomer Amy from Ready, Jet, Go also has a nice clip about prisms and how they work.

Learning about rainbows cannot be complete without the Skittles science experiment.  It is so fun and easy.  All you need to do it put the skittles in a circle around a plate, pour water on top, and watch the magic happen!

The leprechaun is a pretty tricky little guy and likes to visit our classroom while my students are away.  Last year he left ingredients for a shamrock shake, fun leprechaun rocks, and even peed in our toilet.  Well, only because we asked him to… lol. This is a great opportunity for a little letter writing practice.  We tried to catch him, but unfortunately we were unsuccessful.  Maybe next year...

Leprechaun rocks are super easy to make.  All you need is gold coins, baking soda, water, and green food coloring.  Check out the Gift of Curiosity's blog post on how to make these.  When the leprechaun drops off these rocks, make sure to leave "water" in a bottle next to them... The last trick is that the water is actually vinegar.

So fun!

Shamrock Shakes are easy to make and so cute! We put a little green food coloring on the bottom of our cups, added a scoop of vanilla ice cream, poured Sprite on top, and then added rainbow sprinkles on top. 

And to top off our fun, we even had some St. Patrick's Day math interactive notebooks.
You can find these in my  Teachers Pay Teachers store if you are interested 

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Valentine's Day "How To" Writing

In our classroom, we like to combine “how to” writing and sequencing. This week we are writing about how to make a Valentine’s Day card. I like to start by asking the class, how do you make a card for Valentine’s Day? It is always fun to hear their answers. I also read the book, “The Night Before Valentine’s Day” to help build a little background knowledge and excitement for the topic. Then, I had my students look at the sequencing pictures and help me put them in order.

After that, we read our shared reading book on our interactive whiteboard. This is fun because we can highlight the sight words we know. I usually read the book during the first reading and then my students help me during the second reading. It is a little hard to see, but I turned the Smart Notebook pen into a highlighter and we found words we knew.

We cut and pasted a sequencing page. 

Then, we made a card for our loved ones. I joined the fun by making a card for my parents :)

After all of the fun, we wanted to teach others about what we knew.  We are in the process of using the sequencing pictures and interactive writing to make a poster so we can hang it up and teach others. We will finish that up tomorrow!

I just love kid writing! It's the best!

You can find these activities in my Sequence and Write: How to Make a Valentine's Day Card unit on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Happy Teaching!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Polar Animal Inquiry

Learning about polar animals is always a favorite in January.  I love helping students learn that some of the animals they thought may have lived together actually live in different parts of the world. When doing research, I always like to start by allowing them to browse a non-fiction books about the topic to spark their interest and help them get ready to ask questions.  

Then, we sorted arctic and an arctic animals. This gives me some nice information about prior knowledge and student interest.  (Check out Simply Kinder's website for some Kindergarten ready videos) I find that while my students may not have strong background knowledge for this topic, once they see the videos, they are always excited to learn more. We also completed a “I see, I think, I wonder” chart.  This year, my students were super interested in penguins and fascinated by the narwhal.  

The kids always want to know how the animals stay warm in the cold waters.  The classic blubber glove experiment is a great science experiment to help kids through the scientific process. It is so great to see their hypotheses and then construct their own knowledge from the experiment.  Usually, kids think animals just have thick fur. We always take a look at walruses and wonder what they do because they don’t have fur like a polar bear.  The kids put their hands in the water with ice (this year I added some arctic animals from the Safari Toob) to see what that felt like.  Then, they tried the blubber glove and were amazed at the difference.  We used the left over water to grow our water beads and then put the animals from our experiment into the water beads. 

We also made these cute polar bear cups.  You will need ice cream cups, chocolate chips, and mini Nilla Wafers. 

During our literacy workstations, the students were able to use “snow” playdough, the Toob animals, and glass pebbles (from Michaels) on a mirror to tell stories. They also used the water beads for storytelling as well. The kids helped decide to split our water beads in half so that one tub could be Arctic animals and the other could be Antarctic animals. We could NOT mix the two...lol! These non-fiction books were in Chick-fil-a kids meals last year.  A student brought them in to share with the class.

Two of my favorite fiction books to read during this unit are “The Three Snow Bears” by Jan Brett and “Dear Polar Bear”.  “The Three Snow Bears” is an arctic version of “The Three Little Bears” and great for retelling or acting out.  “Dear Polar Bear” is a book about a lonely polar bear who writes letters to his bear friends around the world and a penguin postman who delivers them.  The best part about this book is a map in the beginning of the book that shows how the penguin traveled to each part of the world to deliver the letters.  

Click on the picture to go to Jan Brett's website

Click on the picture to go to Amazon to check out the book
(not an affiliate link)
The last part of our inquiry was about penguins.  We watched a penguin video from Scholastic News and read a non-fiction book about penguins. We learned that emperor penguins are 4 ft tall so we use a tape measure to draw an emperor penguin to scale on butcher paper.  Then, we stood next to the penguins to see how tall we were compared to a penguin. Then we learned how penguins kept their eggs in their feet so we used a ball to practice walking with an egg.  This brought about lots of laughs.  Then we huddled together for warmth.  

We ended the unit with a stem challenge. I froze the Toob animals in small mason jars. The kids were presented with the problem: Your animals are stuck in the ice.  You only have salt, a plastic spoon, and a plastic knife.  How will you get the animals out of the ice?

Happy Teaching!