Friday, October 25, 2013

Making Crystals

This week, I introduced our geology unit.  We began by learning about the differences between rocks, minerals, and crystals.  We also made our own crystals. 
Here's how:

Materials Needed:
  • wide-mouthed jar (we used empty pickle jars and mason jars)
  • Borax (can be found in the laundry section at your local store)
  • pipe cleaners (any color; we used white.  I also cut them in half because our jars were short.)
  • string
  • hot water
  • popsicle sticks (you could also use pencils)
  1. Twist the pipe cleaner into a shape of your choice (heart, star, letter of the alphabet, etc.).  We simply made spirals by wrapping the pipe cleaner around our index finger and then slipping our finger out.
  2. Tie a piece of string to the top of the pipe cleaner shape.
  3. Tie the other end of the string to a popsicle stick (or pencil).  This will be used to hang over the jar.
  4. Boil water and pour the heated water into a jar.
  5. Stir in a tablespoon of borax.  Keep adding more borax and stirring until you can no longer get it all to dissolve.  (Some of the borax powder may start to settle at the bottom of the jar.)  It usually takes about three tablespoons of borax for each cup of water.
  6. Lower the pipe cleaner shape into the jar of water.  Make sure that the popsicle stick (or pencil) lays securely across the jar's top.  Be sure that the pipe cleaner is completely submerged but not touching the sides or bottom of the jar. 
  7. Leave the jar in a safe place over night where it won't be bumped.
  8. The next day, you should see crystals!
Interesting Facts:
  • If the water cools quickly, you will get small crystals.  If the water cools slowly, you will get large crystals.  (We will discuss this more when we talk about intrusive igneous rocks and extrusive igneous rock.)   
  • In the past, I've used this experiment to create Christmas tree ornaments. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Heritage Presentations

To introduce our reading unit on heritage, I assigned a project in which the students had to research their family's heritage and present their findings to the class.  They tried to find answers to the following questions:
  • What countries are your ancestors from?
  • Does your family have any customs or traditions from those countries that you still practice today?
  • Do you have any foods that you eat from those countries?
If the students didn't know much about their ancestors who moved to the United States from another country, they were to simply go back a generation or two and tell about some traditions and foods/recipes that have been passed down. 
They were encouraged to bring in items, pictures, and food samples to share with the class.  They gave a 2 minute presentation on their heritage.  We learned so many neat things about each others' families and the students did a fantastic job!  
This is only a portion of the food that was brought in!
We enjoyed Georgia cornbread, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, cannolis, bratwurst, rice and beans, Hawaiian rice, sugar cane, and biscuits with maple syrup.  We had a feast!  Seriously, most of the kids didn't eat their lunch because they were stuffed!
The heritage projects were a success!  Now we are ready to dive in to some stories that have the theme of heritage.  I'm sure the children will be able to make great connections now as they read.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

October--National Bullying Prevention Month

I recently found out (through Scholastic) that October is National Bullying Prevention Month.  To spread a little kindness, I posted this "Take a Compliment" flier on my classroom door.
The compliments were gone in about 10 minutes!  The students loved them!  If you'd like to print one of these compliment posters, click HERE for the pdf.

Finally, click HERE to access the article from which the poster came. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Think Pink

Last week, we kicked off Breast Cancer Awareness Month with a School Spirit Day on which we all wore pink.  The campus was decorated with signs and balloons, and my students came dressed in pink from head to toe.  Five of my kiddos walked in with pink hair!  We had pink shirts, shoes, socks, bracelets, laces, etc.  We didn't know there would be a contest to see which class had the most pink...but we were one of the top three winners!
The school also set up a prayer garden for those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.  Names were submitted of those who are currently battling the disease, have overcome the disease, or have lost their battle.  The names will be kept up during the month of October.  I submitted my Aunt Donna's name--she is a two-time breast cancer survivor!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Punctuatiónas Restaurant Grammar Activity (Week 7)

This week, in grammar, we focused a great deal on how to punctuate dialogue.  I ended the week by transforming my classroom into an Italian restaurant called "Punctuationas" (be sure to say that six-syllable word with an Italian accent!) where my students were served individualized menus stuffed with grammatically incorrect sentences.  They had to fix the errors with elbow macaroni, penne pasta, and small shells.  This hands-on culminating activity was a hit with my students!  Let me share some pictures with you and then explain in more detail how I created this activity.
My classroom door:
Look at that awesome flag a parent donated for the activity:

Décor from Dollar Tree:
For more decoration, donated empty pizza boxes from a local pizza place:
 I love that the community is always willing to help out my classroom.  All I have to do is ask!

A parent helped me set up the room while my students were at P.E. 
I dressed the part as Chef Bowman and my accessories came from Party City:   
 FYI, it's very difficult to smile with a stick-on mustache! 

Me and my "waitresses"
My parent volunteers were a huge help!  This activity would not have gone as smoothly without them!  They circulated the room while the students worked and were able to answer any questions the children had.
Okay, so you've seen some fun let's move on to talking about how I planned this 40 minute grammar activity.   
I decided that I would give each student five unique sentences to correct.  They sit in groups and I didn't want anyone to cheat!  At first, I thought I would just write these on sentence strips but soon realized that there wouldn't be enough room.  I typed up various sentences, making sure to space twice between each word so the students would have plenty of room to glue pieces of pasta in the correct places.
I only had the students add commas, quotation marks, apostrophes, periods, and exclamation marks.  I included the correct capitalization and made sure that I didn't have any interrogative sentences.  What kind of pasta would be used for a question mark, anyway?
My students worked independently to punctuate their sentences, but I did offer clues in case they got stuck.  On the back of each page, in the bottom right corner, I wrote a number that indicated how many errors there were on that page.  Also, the students could refer to our "special menu" for help:
I just pulled information from a few references in our Shurley Grammar textbook, typed them up, printed them out, and stuck them in a plastic frame from Dollar Tree.  They made great table tents!
Using manila folders, I created menus for the sentences to be placed in.  To keep things in order, I carefully numbered the menus and sentences:
My entrée numbers corresponded with my menu numbers. 
Each student got the exact number/type of pasta pieces they needed to complete their sentences:  
Once they finished their hands-on editing, they had to transfer their answers to a sheet of paper that I could grade:
To begin the activity, I picked my students up from P.E., dressed as a chef, and they were shocked!  I spoke in my best Italian accent and told them that they were about to have a unique dining experience.  I explained the grammar activity and made sure they understood what their task was.  As an incentive, I told them that I would award a special prize to the boy and girl who finished first with a perfect score.  I made the prize something I knew they would enjoy. 
When we got to the classroom, the waitresses seated the children and they quickly got to work.  One child tried to call out to another one across the room and I quickly walked over to him and quietly said, "Excuse me, Sir.  This is a nice establishment and I can't have you yelling across our dining room to other patrons.  Thank you."  From then on, the students took their job seriously and you could hear a pin drop in that classroom!  They were focused and engaged and I was thoroughly impressed.  I had Italian music playing in the background and a slideshow rolling with scenes from Italy. 
For those of you who are interested, here's the majority of my playlist:
Bella Notte--Lou Monte
O Sole Mio--Lou Monte
Papa Loves Mambo--Perry Como
Mambo Italiano--Renato Carosone
Tu Vuo Fa L'Americano--Renato Carosone
Tarantella Napolitana--The Godfather
That's Amore--Rocco Granata
I gave the students 30 minutes to complete the gluing and then they had to transfer their answers.  Of course, the students finished at different times, so I just had my early finishers read at their desks.  I wrote everyone's finish time down on their papers so I'll know which two students to award a prize to. 
For a surprise ending, our waitresses brought out pizza slices for us to enjoy for lunch!
I'd say Punctuationas was a success!
*My classroom transformations were inspired by my visit last year to the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia.  You can read about my first classroom transformation HERE.  You could transform your classroom for any subject area, but I plan to focus on transforming my room for grammar lessons because grammar is my students' least favorite subject.  My hope is to get them more excited and engaged.*