Friday, December 5, 2014

Index Card Towers

Our second STEM activity was a HUGE hit.  These activities are SO fun to watch and the conversations we have about the process are truly amazing.  As with the Marshmallow Challenge, the goal was to create the TALLEST tower possible.  Before I gave each group their materials, we talkeda little.   I wanted them to experience building before we talked a lot about what they were doing. 
Materials:  100 index cards and 24 inches of masking tape
Objective:  Create the tallest structure possible

There are SO many skills being worked on during these lessons.  Kids need to work with one another to express ideas

Thoughts we discussed:
What works about the shape of the Eiffel Tower?
What building traits does Leaning Tower of Pisa have?  Why does it lean?
How can you get your tower to be stable? 
What does a basement do for a house?
What materials are used in building tall structures?  Why?
How does the shape of the base effect the structure?
What shapes are strong?  (a long shape discussion ensued)
How can layering your paper help? 
Do you really need tape?

 Kids kept track of their ideas throughout the entire process.

 You can see our cool timer in the background.  It's FAB!  Kids are able to SEE how much time is left...allowing them to adjust what they are doing.  

The towers were wonderful.  They learned a lot and the second round structures were betterwhich proves how much they learned after round one.  Yahoo!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Jake Shimabukuro at Hill Auditorium

Jake ShimabukuroWOW.

In his young career, Hawaiian ukulele wizard Jake Shimabukuro has already redefined a heretofore under-the-radar instrument, been declared a musical “hero” by Rolling Stone, earned comparisons to Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis, and even played in front of the Queen of England.  from the UMS website

I hadn’t heard of this guy before this year.  He’s a genius.  He put on an amazing show and got kids not only excited about music, but the UKULELE!  What’s better than a cool UMS performance!?  A visit from our very own John Sperendi BEFORE the concert!  John shared his musical knowledge and ukulele love with the class before we headed to Hill Auditorium.  John shared two ukuleles, one traditional and one COOLER THAN COOLmade from an old cigar box.  Three cheers to Joey Parins, our amazing music teacher, John Sperendi, our resident ukulele dude and Jake Shimabukuro ukulele LEGEND.  Bravo!
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school until now.  He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep. And if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard it can be.  The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face.  But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?
This is the publisher’s description of our current book Wonder.  As with our other books, they have been captured.  There are SO many amazing things to say about this book.  They are HORRIFIED by how August is treated and would be eager friends if he happened to walk into our classroom.   I love the reaction when I stop reading”WHAT!?  WHY ARE YOU STOPPING!?” or “ARE YOU KIDDING?  YOU ARE GOING TO STOP THERE!?”  Always a good sign.  Reading a book out loud gives us a lot of opportunities to discuss what is happening in the book and our reactions to it.  There are so many wonderful aspects to this book.  We will begin to discuss POINT OF VIEW in depth and this book is a spectacular way to begin our discussion.  The story begins with Auggie telling the story, but soon switches to his sister Via, his friend Summer, friend Jack, and even Via’s boyfriend Justin.  They tell the story from their point of view including specific moments as seen by everyone. 

Our anchor chart (pictured) is started as soon as we start a new book.  We continue to add to the chart as we read.  Thoughts, ideas, questions, quotes, important information, and anything that we feel important enough to include will be added as we read.  If necessary, we will add another page to our chart. 

What can you do at home?  Ask them to tell you about what we’ve read.  Ask them to explain who was telling the story, and what differences there were in point of views.  As with any book, we will also keep track of vocabulary words.  One such word is PRECEPT.  This is an important word in the book and will be something we will continue to talk about after we’ve finished reading the book.  A precept is a general rule intended to regulate behavior or thought.  A teacher in the book has a precept each month and asks the students to write what they think it means.  The precepts (rules to live by) are:
“When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”  - Dr. Wayne Dyer
“Your deeds are your monuments.” Inscription on ancient Egyptian tomb
“Have no friends not equal to yourself.” Confucious
“Fortune favors the bold.” Virgil
“No man is an island, entire of itself.” John Donne
“It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.” James Thurber
“Kind words do not cost much.  Yet they accomplish so much.” Blaise Pascal
“What is beautiful is good, and who is good will soon be beautiful.” Saphho
“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can.” John Wesley
“Just follow the day and reach for the sun.” The Polyphonic Spree
 “Everyone deserves a standing ovation because we all overcometh the world.” Auggie Pullman


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Digging Deeper

Readers use THINKMARKS to show their thinking
How fun was this lesson!?  It happened over a few days, reading our National Geographic Explorer magazine.  On the first day, we talked about the sticky notes on the left side (the rest of the page was blank) and talked about various books we have read as a class (Holes, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane) and talked about parts we could mark with a sticky note.  In our next session, I posed the question “What about NONFICTION?” and was thrilled to hear the conversation that followed.  They had great ideas (our Surprising Fact sticky was a great suggestion!) and worked hard to compare fiction and nonfiction text  and how they would change up their sticky note when reading nonfiction.  On our third day, we brought part of the Nat Geo article into the mix.  As we read, we talked about things that jumped out (vocabulary words, cool facts, things we didn’t know, etc.) and marked our findings with our sticky note flags.  We also used a highlighter which is a fantastic tool to use when digging deeper into text.  Obviously, it’s not always possible, but when viable, it’s awesome.  These lessons are a way to focus on something called Close Reading.  Close Reading requires students to get involved with the text they are reading noticing features about the piece they may have overlooked before.  Having kids interact with the text gives them an opportunity for them to learn how to slow down and absorb more meaning in the texts they read.  This isn’t something we do for every text, but a strategy we will be able to use throughout our lives to understand what we read and use the information gained in a variety of ways.