Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

As we enter 2012 with a bang, I thought it would be worth looking for some resources for kids when they come back to school about New Years. There is a lot about Chinese New Year, but not as much about Dec.31/Jan. 1 New Years. Since we are not usually in school, I haven't looked for resources about this before, but there is a first time for everything! Here are some of the ideas I came across. There is a World Clock to see what time if in in other parts of the world and other information at Apples4TheTeacher including New Year greetings from around the world, a reading list and short stories, and other activities. Enchanted Learning has some activities also including a printable booklet for younger students, acrostic worksheets, and This Year activities. There is always an activity waiting in writing resolutions too. This site has some examples for resolutions for kids of various ages as a starting point. 

In addition to actual New Year activities, it can also be a time of reflection and using something like a circle plot diagram is a way to evaluate your year or use with books and other activities. You can also look at time passage with some activities like this one that shows different families over time that have lived in the same house and information about their lives. Or, just look back at how things might have been for their grandparents and create family trees.

Whatever you do, have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Local Legacies

I recently posted about America's Story resource on the states, but there is another Library of Congress resource that can be invaluable with some of the new curriculum changes. Local Legacies is a site that has compiled information submitted about local festivals, celebrations, etc. listed by state. Just click on the state you want to look at or you can search by key words. With new social studies standards that address local celebrations and culture such as these, this will be a helpful site. The North Carolina section has over 35 different listings as of this posting including the state fair, Old Salem, Eastern Music Festival, and so many more. One key note - these listings were compiled in the Spring of 2000 as a sort of time capsule, so as time passes, information may become outdated, but can still be of value even then to compare. Take a look!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Meet Amazing Americans

America's Story, a resource from the Library of Congress, has too many elements to cover in one post. I already talked about the Explore the States section in an earlier post, now let's look at the section Meet Amazing Americans. In addition to a short game called Dynamite Presidents about Mount Rushmore, there are links to lists of famous Americans from leaders and presidents to musicians and activists to enterpreneurs and inventors, and more! This would be a great place to start to think of people to fit a group you might want students to research. Our third grade is working on economics and may do something about entrepreneurs. Each link to groups of famous Americans lists several people. When you click on a name, you get some basic biographical information along with links to other articles relating to that person to help broaden the context of their life. I would suggest looking to see who is included however before assigning a name to students to make sure they are listed. Another option would be to let students just browse the groups and choose someone who interests them.

Our second grade does a big Harlem Renaissance project every year, so for example, let's use Langston Hughes. You see his basic information along with links to things like his early years, information about being a Renaissance Man, from busboy to poet, and other links that help put the basic biographical information into a bigger context of the Harlem Renaissance but still on a student level.

Explore the States

America's Story from America's LibraryThe Library of Congress has so many awesome resources that I will probably be posting about some of them for quite some time! One that I came across today is part of the America's Story resource called Explore the States.  This would be a perfect resource for 5th grade as they look at different states, or for 4th grade to study just North Carolina. You can click on the U.S. map for any state, then get a short paragraph of information about it, but more importantly, lots of good links to give you a good idea of the history and stories about the state. This is not the site for information about things like state symbols, but for more interesting stories and pieces about a state, this is a great place to start.
Let's use North Carolina as an example. Links include information about Kitty Hawk and the Wright Brothers, the Lost Colony, wild horses at Shackleford Banks, and the Lexington Barbecue Festival (among others). These are good links to give you a flavor of the state, more than the state seal. These are the things kids are going to be drawn in by and remember more than the state flag.

Another great use for this site would be to add to books you might be reading. If you are reading a book with a dog sled race, check out the Iditarod link from the Alaska page. If the book talks about the Dust Bowl, check out the Oklahoma page. There is even an audio file of someone who lived through it talking about her experience. A story with an immigration through Ellis Island? Check out the New York page to read about Ellis Island and living in crowded conditions.

Check out the resources here today!

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

snow1.jpg - Winter
Picture by Colleen Kelly
We don't usually get a white Christmas here in North Carolina, but it is still a fun time to talk about winter and snow, especially if you have kids that can't talk about Christmas or holidays. There are so many different ways to talk about snow and winter - snowflakes with math shapes, tracking snowfall in different areas, biographies of people like Snowflake Bentley, looking at how people deal with snow now versus in the past, weather elements of how snow is made, how animals adapt to survive winter, and so much more. In addition, there are many picture books about snow that can bring in various literary elements, poetry about snow, writing about being stuck in a blizzard or your snowman coming to life. The possibilities are endless. 

Here are some resources that might help with some of these areas. The Library of Congress has several resources such as this Science Reference Guide on snow that includes photos of snowflakes, links to many websites, and suggested reading titles. NOAA has a photo library also of snowflakes. Snow Crystals includes a lot of snowflake pictures, ice and snow activities, myths about snow, activities for kids, and more. The official Snowflake Bentley site has a biography, links to use, and a snowflake matching game, while the Buffalo Museum of Science also has a large section about him including biographical information, photos, and more. The Library of Congress also hosts Everyday Mysteries, here is one about how it is possible that no two snowflakes are alike. You could also show students this picture of a snow gauge from a 1917 book and see if they can guess what it is.

Some of my favorite books about snow to read with students are Owl Moon, Snowy Day, Stranger in the Woods, Snowmen at Night, The Biggest Best Snowman, Katy and the Big Snow, and Snowballs. Here are some links to other title lists about snow and winter also. Best Children's Books About Snow and Winter, Children's Poetry Books About Winter, and Delightful Children's Books all list good titles for snow.

Some fun introductory activities online might be making snowflakes here or here, other snowflake integrated activities, or check out Wonderopolis! There are many Wonderopolis wonders about snow such as the difference between snow, sleet and freezing rain; why all snowflakes are different; why we put sand or salt on roads when it snows; and why different states have different weather.

So heat up the hot chocolate and start a trek through a winter wonderland!
winterroad.jpg - Winter Road
Picture by Darryl Abner

Friday, December 16, 2011

Polar Express Day at the Creek!

Today is Polar Express day at Caleb's Creek Elementary, which means in addition to wearing pajamas and consuming loads of hot chocolate, there are lots of lessons integrating the book The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. If you are looking for ideas, there are tons of sites with compilations of links to lessons such as Education World, Busy Teacher's Cafe, and Houghton Mifflin, among others.

Some of the best ideas I saw involve elements of the book like using it to study the use of metaphors and similes, point of view, and writing your own version, but could also be a great way to do a lesson on adjectives to describe what you would see, using your 5 senses, writing or following recipes (what if you had to quadruple a recipe for everyone on the train?), showing just one illustration and have students write using that as a prompt before reading the book, and so many more. What if stories could be great also - what if the train broke down, what if you were chosen, what if you got to spend the night travelling with Santa, what if you were Santa?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Monkey Around

A fourth grade class is about to read Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls. As an introduction to the book and as a way to continue working on paraphrasing, we had the students each research a different type of monkey. They get so excited about animals especially, but also learning about new things. This is a great way to review skills while building interest and background for the book. With only a couple of projects behind them, they have really picked up speed in how quickly they can finish something like this. It was amazing to see the progress they have made this year on paraphrasing. We have given them 3 different projects before the monkey one and found on the first one they could not take notes without copying. On the second project, we gave them a form with space on one side to write 8 short notes from information they read. Then they leave the source, turn the paper over, and use the notes they wrote to write a good sentence with each fact. Then, they take the sentences and put them in an order that flows into a paragraph.

The initials beside the notes were to remind them which sites they used so they could go back to them for the citation information for their bibliography. Citing their picture was also a requirement, as always. It was a struggle for some of the students at first, but by this project, they have gotten so much better at it and it goes much quicker now. The kids are even commenting on how much easier it is. Each of the prior projects has had different topics, different end goals, but we have really focused on paraphrasing and using your own words. This time around, most of them were done with the notes, and some also with the sentences in the first 45 minute session! In three sessions, they all had completed research, writing, citations, and a powerpoint. (We plan to try dropping out the form for the next one now that they have practice.) They also were asked to choose backgrounds and colors that relate to the monkey they learned about. We are so proud of them. Here are some of the powerpoint slides they made.

Reading Together

chooseadearbook.jpg - Student browsing for a book to read during DEAR
Picture by Katie Boldt
Reading with your child is one of the best ways to spend time together, have fun, and encourage reading - all while exploring fun worlds in books! There are lots of websites with title suggestions if you want some good titles to start with. Trips to the library can also be fun times together as you choose books your child is interested in. Don't stop reading out loud to your child when they start being able to read on their own, they can still benefit from hearing books read aloud until at least age 10, plus it is fun! I still remember my mom reading The Secret Garden a chapter a night to me before bed. Having your child read to you is also a wonderful way for them to practice reading and they love doing it. The holiday season is a great time to get some books for gifts and to take some extra time together to read. Here are a few sites you can try for some good title suggestions by age level.
100 Best Books
100 Great Read Alouds
Kids Reading List by Age Level
Tips on Reading Aloud and Suggested Lists

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Best Christmas Pageant Ever Fakebook Pages

With a small group of 4th graders, we made Fakebook pages for characters from The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. We talked about thinking about the characters, what images could represent them best? Then, we went to Pics 4 Learning and saved images. Thinking about the order of the story, we wrote 10 sequential comments the characters might have made based on things that happened in the book. Add to that a list of a few friends they might have from the book, and we are ready to start. Having these items on paper is helpful if the Fakebook doesn't work so you can still see the thought and they don't lose the work.

I showed the short tutorial clip first just to get them excited, it is only about 1:40 long. Then, they got to work on the pages. There were a couple of glitches. Some of the computers repeated or would not upload the images, which is the issue we had last time. Also, be sure you only do pictures that are uploads from your computer and NOT auto select from Google images. Here are some of the pages we ended up with. Here are Gladys Herdman, Charlie, Beth, Alice, Leroy, Imogene, and below you can see one for Claude. This is a great way for kids to rethink events in a book from a different point of view and think about character traits also.

View Fullscreen

Create your own

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Become a Botanist?

What's It Like Where You Live?
Third and fourth graders have been learning about plants so we used this site for a web scavenger hunt. This site is sponsored by the Missouri Botanical Garden and includes information about several different biomes including the plants, animals, and more in each biome. The kids enjoyed it so much a few asked if they could get to it at home to look at the biomes they didn't have a chance to get to! This was a great way for them to practice following directions on the scavenger hunt, skimming for information, and paraphrasing the answers in addition to learning about plant adaptations. Check it out!
Missouri Botanical Garden

Researching the U.S. Military Branches

My students are very interested in anything involving the military it seems, and devour all my books on topics about weapons, the military branches, wars we have fought, and anything else related to the military. Beginning with Veteran’s Day, my 5th and 6th graders started researching a branch of the military. I divided them into groups, and they drew from a basket to see which branch they were researching so there was no fighting about it. We covered the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. The assignment was to research that branch and then we made True/False PowerPoints with the information.

The first class we spent talking about the Big 6, note taking, and starting research at World Book Online. (Students can also access this at home, see Mrs. DuBois if you can’t remember the login and password.) The next class, they finished up research and wrote 3 true/false statements and answers that add additional information on paper. Once they had that on paper, they started their PowerPoints. We finished these (mostly) in the last class. Some of the kids still need to add clip art or backgrounds, but they got the information portions finished. They each had a title slide with citation information included, along with 3 true/false sets. Here are some of their statement sets:

The students seem very interested in the topic, but are having a hard time with the true/false aspect, putting notes in their own words, and remembering to cite their sources. I am modeling each part each class and hope that practice will help them get better at it!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Recordings of Christmas Past

The Library of Congress Jukebox is a collection of historical recordings, mostly from record labels now owned by Sony music who granted permission for the LOC to stream them to the public free of charge. Over 10,000 recordings made between 1910 and 1925 can be found here. They were recorded by the Victor Talking Machine Company, which used large horns to gather the sound and etch it onto wax discs. Find out more about the project here and more about the process of recording here.

Victor Talking Machine Company
Photo Source

All of this brings me to a current use for the Jukebox, Christmas recordings. If you do a search on the Jukebox for Christmas, you get quite a few results. These range from spoken recordings of the Night Before Christmas to The Newsboys Christmas to bible readings and carols. It is a neat way to bring the past into the classroom in a quick way. They even sound like ghosts of Christmas past with the recording scratches and static in the background.

Singing school conducted at Jacksonville as part of six-day Extension school in August, 1915. ...
Photo Source

This is also a good way to talk about technology advances, changes in how we communicate, and ways things have stayed the same as well. Showing students a picture of how recordings were made and discussing the process is sure to surprise them. I have no doubt they will be able to tell you several different and easier ways to record in our current day.

Don't wait for your perfect Christmas unit to utilize the jukebox though, you can browse by artists, genres, or playlists plus there are search and advanced search options. Find something for your students today, have them close their eyes, listen, and be transported to the past. Don't forget to also search for an image of the artist to show students who they are listening to.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas in the Classroom

christmastreepackage.jpg - holiday tree & package
Picture by N. Biddinger
Several different grade levels like to do some aspect of Christmas Around the World this time of year and let students compare and contrast American traditions with those of their counterparts elsewhere. Here are a few sites that are great for that purpose. Christmas Around the World, Why Christmas, and Santa's Net are the main ones I usually refer to. Each has it's own strengths and weaknesses but any are good for basic information about traditions in other countries.

Why Christmas also has information about various customs and why we have them, such as Boxing Day, Christmas bells, and carols. It also has information about other winter festivals besides Christmas.

earth_from_space.jpg - Earth from Space
Picture by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
It is always interesting to have students talk about their own traditions and see how many are the same and also how many are different just among the students in their own class. Then, to see how they compare with traditions elsewhere always surprises them how much is the same. I love venn diagrams!

Today, with 2nd graders, we compared Belgium and Finland with the US and they were surprised how many traditions are basically the same as what many of them do here. 
With fourth graders I am having them create a little flip chart about a country with a partner. This was a great way for them to learn about another culture in a fun way and also for them to practice skimming for information while taking notes. We used the Why Christmas website. Here are some samples of what they did.

Of course there are also ways to build more about the United States into your studies. A teacher just stopped by to talk to me about using the NC Christmas tree farms as part of an economics unit about supply and demand. How cool is that? No matter how long I do this, new ways to approach things and new ideas always come up and lead to so many other ideas as well!

christmasphotos9076.jpg - decorations on tree
Picture by Peggy McPherson