Saturday, February 10, 2018

5 Ways to Start Your Day With STE(A)M

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience, and at no cost to you. 

We've all seen the morning work or bell ringers that many teachers use to start the day. It usually consists of a packet of worksheets designed for independent practice. But independent practice doesn't have to mean more worksheets to print and more papers to grade.  In fact, it can be more rigorous, engaging, authentic, and open-ended if you start your day with STEAM instead!



In her article STE(A)M for Young Learners, Dr. Rebecca Palacios says:

Here’s another way to think about STEAM:
  • S(cience): A way of thinking
  • T(echnology): A way of doing
  • E(ngineering): A way of building
  • A(rts): A way of creating
  • M(athematics): A way of measuring

With this framework in mind, see how students respond when they get to start their day thinking, doing, building, creating, and measuring! This year, my school is beginning the day with a soft start. As students arrive at school (no more than 20 minutes before school starts), they can get breakfast and go straight to their classrooms. Whether you have students trickling in or you begin with the bell, starting with STEAM is a great way to get students excited about starting their school day! You can take attendance, lunch count, and turn in homework while students are engaged in authentic, open-ended, hands-on problem solving. Here are 5 ideas to get you started:

1. Science + Art: Let students record their observations of things found in nature.
Bring in bones, skulls, birds nests, snake skins, rocks, shells–whatever you can find. Challenge students to find things in nature too and bring it in to add to the science station. Let students touch it, study it, and observe it. Georgia O'Keefe was a famous artist who loved to draw things she found in nature like stones, flowers, and bones. Students can draw the items in the science station from different angles like Georgia O'Keefe or take pictures of the items and try to determine what they are and where they came from. Use a tool like SeeSaw that will allow students to take pictures, draw, and record their voice to explain what they see and design experiments to discover more about the items in the science station. 

To keep it novel, you can have themes in your science center that align with different units you teach. For example, when you are studying animals, display the bones, shells, and bird nests in the science station. Have design questions for students to focus on, such as: How are structure and function related in living things? Why is it shaped that way? When you study rocks, sand, and silt, add a variety of rocks to your science station. Younger students can sort rocks by attributes, and older students can sort them by igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary. They can even design experiments to determine what type of rock they have. 



2. Technology + MathBased on an idea from math guru Marilyn Burns in her book Math and Literature, students can calculate the number of feet that are in The Napping House. 

 

After listening to the story The Napping House by Audrey Wood, pose this question to the students: How many feet are in the napping house? Students can create a math story problem to figure out how many feet they would find in the napping house using addition or multiplication to answer the question. Integrate technology by using a program such as Storyboard That, Paper 53, or Pic Collage to illustrate their thinking. Here is an example  using Storyboard That:



You can continue the investigation by asking students to illustrate a math problem that shows how many feet are in THEIR house. For a more advanced option, you could have students create their own math riddles for their classmates to solve. For example, my riddle could be: There are 14 feet in my house. Who do you think lives in my house? The other students can illustrate the possibilities of who could live in my house based on the total number of feet. It could be a mom, a dad, a kid, and 2 dogs, or it could be a mom, a grandma, a kid, a baby, a bird, and a dog. What other possibilities are there?

You can also use the following books for more investigations that involve similar problem solving strategies when calculating how many animals are in the story:



3. Engineering + Coding: Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! Unless you give him driving lessons . . . 


We all know that the Pigeon isn't supposed to drive the bus, but he really wants to! After reading the story Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willams, propose this idea to the students: What if we give the Pigeon driving lessons so he can drive the bus? In this variation of the K'nex Chariot Challege  activity from the Sphero EDU website, students will need to build a sturdy "bus" for the pigeon to drive that will be powered by a sphero. The bus can be made out of Kinex, similar to the chariot design challenge, or it can be made with paper tubes and popsicle sticks like The Flinstones activity found on the Sphero EDU website.  Let the students be creative with the supplies you have on hand!
Once students have created a sphero-powered bus, they need to create a driver's ed course on which they will drive the bus. Make sure to include crosswalks and bus stops! Next, code the sphero to drive through your driver's ed course stopping at all the bus stops along way.


4. Engineering + Art: Let students make their own mech-animals that are both useful and beautiful.

Gather all the odds and ends you can find: screws, nuts, bolts, washers, wire, and pipe cleaners–whatever you can find–and let students sculpt their own Mech-animal masterpieces like in the story Mechanimals by Chris Tougas. For inspiration, check out this sculpture of a T-Rex made out of scrap metal by South Dakota Sculptor John Lopez:
In the book, each animal performed a special job to keep the farm running. Challenge students to design their Mech-animal to perform a useful job on the farm too. 
For another variation on this project, students can use the iPad app Faces iMake to create their Mech-animal. Here is my example of the rooster clock whose job it is to wake you up in the morning:
 Whichever version your students use to create their Mech-animal, they can use a program like Seesaw to take pictures and record their thinking and reasoning behind their design.


5. Science + Technology: Take students on a scavenger hunt as they do research to learn about animals of the rainforest.


The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry is an excellent introduction to animals of the rainforest. Send students on a research scavenger hunt to learn more about the animals that appear under the Great Kapok Tree with the app Goose Chase EDU. It is a fun and easy-to-use program that allows students to work cooperatively as they collect answers for a mission that you can create:
I have created a Goose Chase for The Great Kapok Tree that you can use with your students. Click here to get started. In this scavenger hunt, students should do research in order to answer the questions correctly or risk losing points if they get it wrong. Some of my favorite research websites for elementary students are Kids National Geographic, Pebble Go, and Britannica School. Students can use these websites or books to find and submit their answers. You can track their progress and assign points for their answers as they work their way through the scavenger hunt.

Goose Chase is easy to set up and organize, and it can be created for any subject. This could be a fun way to introduce a new unit, show students how to find facts, or teach students the importance of checking their facts. The sky is the limit!

Have fun starting your day with STEAM in the classroom!



Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Introducing Close Reading Strategies at the Beginning of the Year

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience, for which I do receive commissions if a purchase is made, but at no cost to you.

According to Beth Burke, NBCT, “Close reading is thoughtful, critical analysis of a text that focuses on significant details or patterns in order to develop a deep, precise understanding of the text’s form, craft, meanings, etc. It is a key requirement of the Common Core State Standards and directs the reader’s attention to the text itself.”  She also says that texts used for close readings should be short, they should be discussed in large or small groups, and they need to be deliberately reread at least 3 times. 
With those key points in mind, short films and wordless picture books are a great way to introduce the strategies involved in close reading. Like wordless picture books, there are short films that have no words, but the content is definitely discussion worthy. Taking out the decoding to focus on the content and thoughtful discussion will allow every student to be able to access the content and practice the strategies involved in close reading. 

The short film For the Birds by Pixar is a great place to start. It addresses the subject of bullying, which is a great discussion to have at the beginning of the year. 

First Read
When doing a close read, students focus on what the text says first by identifying what the story is mostly about. They can look for the main idea, summarize, or find the theme. If your students are identifying a theme, remember that the subject and the theme aren't the same thing. Bullying, for example, is not a theme. it's a subject.  A universal theme about bullying might be Overcoming Adversity; someone overcomes the problems they face with bullies. Another common theme might include Man vs. Society. The reason someone might bully another person could be from peer pressure, and they are trying to fit in by joining in the bullying. Students can come up with their own theme too by giving an opinion about the subject, such as: bullies always get their pay backs. This video helps introduce how to find a theme:

Second Read
On the second read, students focus on how the text works by looking at text
structures and text features. They might also focus on the author's craft or
what the text says by looking at vocabulary or word choice. 

Still using the short film For the Birds, have students think about what words
they would use to describe the birds. Have them use evidence from the film to 
support their thinking. Here is the video again, but with comments embedded to
help students think about the birds character traits :


Third Read
Students focus on a deeper understanding of what the text means 
by inferring, analyzing, and evaluating the text on the third read. They might
compare it to another text or connect it to the larger world with text to self 
connections, text to text, text to media, or text to world connections. 


With this short film, on the third read have students make a connection to your
classroom. How can you address bullying in your classroom? You can also 
compare this short film to the wordless picture Bluebird by Bob Staake. Just like
the short film, this picture book has no words, but it is definitely discussion
worthy. Every student will be able to access the content and deep thinking, and 
this book is intense. The story is a very sad one that includes death, so you may
want to preview it first to make sure it is not too intense for your class. I am 
including the book trailer for this book, but a video does not do it justice, so 
you'll want to look at a copy of this powerful wordless picture book yourself. 


You can download this lesson on Teacher Sherpa. It includes QR codes and links to all the videos in this post so you can use it with iPads or laptops/chromebooks. It also includes the text dependent questions for the first read, the second read, and 2 options for the third read, along with blank pages to use with your own books and/or videos. 
 

How do you introduce close reading in your classroom? I hope you'll consider using short films and wordless picture books to kick it off in your classroom. They're a great tool that will allow you to have deep conversations regardless of a students' reading level. Enjoy!


Thursday, June 8, 2017

New School Year Resolution: Organizing Parent Communication Tutorial


It's summer time, and that means it is time for teacher's to make their New School Year's Resolution! We do it every summer . . . we say, "Now that I have time to do it, THIS year I'm going to . . . " and for me, the end of that sentence usually has something to do with organization. 

As a technology specialist, I want to give you some ways that technology can help you get more organized than ever and save you a ton of time in the process! Who doesn't need to save time?! At the beginning of the year, there is a lot of information we need to collect from parents. I've created some pretty lists for you in a few different color schemes:
If you are afraid of technology and you are perfectly happy printing out your word doc and sticking it in a binder, you can download these as a word doc. I have a set of each of these lists that you can choose in all of these colors, and while it's nice to have a pretty checklist, that doesn't exactly save you a lot of time or paper and ink. 

When you download these lists, there are also links available that allow you to make your own copy as a google doc. Google docs will save automatically and allow you to share the lists with subs or other staff members. They can see all the changes live, so no need to send a new copy when you have to add a new student to list. Google docs also give you the option of going paperless. No need to upload, download and upload again to save your changes and print them out. Seriously. You can stop doing all of those extra steps!

Google forms is the trick that will save you the most time. By sending a google form to parents, THEY do all of the work for you! They fill out all of their information, and everything is automatically saved on one google spreadsheet. 
Here is how to see the responses:

1. When you click on the link included in the download, it will ask you to make a copy of the form.
2. Click on "responses" on the top, and you will see the responses from all parents when they have filled out the form.
3. If you click on the little picture of the spreadsheet in the corner, it will put all the responses on a google spreadsheet for you. It's not as pretty as the form I created, but it is a quick way to get all the info you need in one place!

The picture below shows you how to do it step by step:



I've created the forms for you and included them in the download as well, so all you have to do is share it with the parents and you're done! 

Not sure how to get these forms to parents? There are 2 easy ways. 

First, you can email it to parents. 
1. Click on send
2. Click on the link icon in the middle.
3. I usually click on the url shortener in the corner so that the link is shorter.
4. Click "copy" and paste the link into an email. Although you can send it as an email straight from the form, you have to type in each email by hand. If I copy the link, I can send it to the group I have set up in my email. 

The picture below shows you how to do it step by step.



But what if you don't have an email list for parents set up yet?

Make a QR code! That might sound a little scary, but it's not. I promise! After you copy the link following the steps above, go to qrstuff.com.
1. Paste the link in the box. It will automatically create a QR code on the right hand side.
2. Click on "download QR code." You don't even have to set up an account to do it!
3. Now print the QR code. During open house, ask parents to scan the form and fill it out. Done!



The forms included in Organizing Parent Communication ask for parent email addresses, phone numbers, and a detailed volunteer questionnaire of how parents might like to offer their help from donating supplies for the classroom to volunteering every week. There is also a form for parents to sign up for helping with classroom parties. You can send the spreadsheet of responses to your room parent with the names, email addresses, and phone numbers of the parents who would like to help and what they are willing to bring. Another task crossed off the list!

You can find all of these docs and forms as a free download here on Teacher Sherpa.

Happy New School Year! Enjoy!












You may also like Notes from the Staff Meeting:



Sunday, April 2, 2017

Easter/Spring Read Alouds with QR Codes

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience, for which I do receive commissions if a purchase is made, but at no cost to you.

It's that time of year to start sharing stories about Easter and Spring time in your classroom! Here are some Read Alouds that you can add to your listening center. You can download the QR codes for students to scan. You can also pair these stories with Thoughtful Log Entry questions for higher level thinking with these stories.

Click here to download the QR codes for these stories.


Rose's Garden


Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
How would you describe the main character in the story? What is he/she like? What did he/she do in the story to make you describe the character this way?

CCSS RL.2.1, 3.1, 3.3, 4.1

Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
What is the central message, lesson, or moral of the story? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
CCSS RL.1.1, 2.2, 3.2

Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
How did the character respond to the problem? Why did he/she act this way? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
CCSS RL.2.3, 3.3, 4.3

Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
Describe the overall structure of the story:
Beginning introduces the story
Setting
Major Events
Ending concludes the story
CCSS RL.1.3, 2.5

Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
How is this story similar to another story? Use evidence from both texts to support your answer. 
(possible stories to compare: The Curious Garden, Plant a Kiss -- a read aloud book you can find in the Valentine's Day QR codes download, and Miss Rumphius)
CCSS RL.2.9, 3.9 

The Curious Garden


Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
How would you describe the main character in the story? What is he/she like? What did he/she do in the story to make you describe the character this way?
CCSS RL.2.1, 3.1, 3.3, 4.1

Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
What is the theme of this story? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
CCSS RL.2.1, 3.1, 4.2

Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
What is the central message, lesson, or moral of the story? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
CCSS RL.1.1, 2.2, 3.2

Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
How is this story similar to another story? Use evidence from both texts to support your answer.
(possible stories to compare: Rose's Garden, Plant a Kiss -- a read aloud book you can find in the Valentine's Day QR codes download, and Miss Rumphius)

CCSS RL.2.9, 3.9

The Tiny Seed


Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
When did this story take place? What evidence from the text makes you think so? (This could be a season)
CCSS RL.1.3, 2.1, 3.1, 4.1

Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
Where does the story take place? What evidence from the text makes you think so?
CCSS RL.1.3, 2.1, 3.1, 4.1

The Easter Egg



Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
How would you describe the main character in the story? What is he/she like? What did he/she do in the story to make you describe the character this way?

CCSS RL.2.1, 3.1, 3.3, 4.1

Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
What is the theme of this story? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
CCSS RL.2.1, 3.1, 4.2

Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
When did this story take place? What evidence from the text makes you think so? (You could focus on the time of year, March, April because of the weather and because it's near Easter time.)
CCSS RL.1.3, 2.1, 3.1, 4.1

Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
How did the character respond to the problem? Why did he/she act this way? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
CCSS RL.2.3, 3.3, 4.3

Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
Would you respond in the same way as the character in this story? Why or why not?
CCSS RL.3.6
The Velveteen Rabbit


Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
How would you describe the main character in the story? What is he/she like? What did he/she do in the story to make you describe the character this way?
CCSS RL.2.1, 3.1, 3.3, 4.1

Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
What is the theme of this story? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
CCSS RL.2.1, 3.1, 4.2

Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
How did the character respond to the problem? Why did he/she act this way? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
CCSS RL.2.3, 3.3, 4.3

Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
Would you respond in the same way as the character in this story? Why or why not?
CCSS RL.3.6

Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
Who is telling the story? How do you know? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
CCSS RL.1.6, 2.6, 4.6

I'm Not Hatching


Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
How would you describe the main character in the story? What is he/she like? What did he/she do in the story to make you describe the character this way?
CCSS RL.2.1, 3.1, 3.3, 4.1

Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
How did the character respond to the problem? Why did he/she act this way? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
CCSS RL.2.3, 3.3, 4.3

Here Comes Easter Cat


Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
How would you describe the main character in the story? What is he/she like? What did he/she do in the story to make you describe the character this way?
CCSS RL.2.1, 3.1, 3.3, 4.1

Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
How did the character respond to the problem? Why did he/she act this way? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
CCSS RL.2.3, 3.3, 4.3

Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
Who is telling the story? How do you know? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
CCSS RL.1.6, 2.6, 4.6

Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
Analyze one of the pictures or illustrations in the text. What does it tell you about the (characters, setting, events, plot, mood) of the story? (Circle one.) (I would circle mood --- the cat has great expressions that tell the story.)
CCSS RL.1.7, 2.7, 3.7

My Garden


Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
Where does the story take place? What evidence from the text makes you think so?
CCSS RL.1.3, 2.1, 3.1, 4.1

Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
Who is telling the story? How do you know? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
CCSS RL.1.6, 2.6, 4.6

Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
Analyze one of the pictures or illustrations in the text. What does it tell you about the (characters, setting, events, plot, mood) of the story? (Circle one.)
CCSS RL.1.7, 2.7, 3.7

Egg


Thoughtful Log Entry Question:
Analyze one of the pictures or illustrations in the text. What does it tell you about the (characters, setting, events, plot, mood) of the story? (Circle one.)
CCSS RL.1.7, 2.7, 3.7


Enjoy!