Saturday, October 25, 2014

Field Trip to the Arboretum

Can I just tell you how amazing our field trip was last week? 

It was epic. Seriously.

Here is how it happened:

My team this year is just fabulous. We literally come up with last minute ideas during lunch and then we do everything in our power to make it happen. This field trip is the dream of one of those lunch talks. 

As I mentioned here, I have made it one of my missions this year to really "beef up" the amount of social studies and science in the classroom. In college, I made a leaf collection book after we did a unit on how to incorporate plant life cycles into science in the classroom. This made me want to do the same thing with my students as we finished up our unit on plants. My students are so hands on this year, and they LOVE science. 

A local college near our school has an arboretum. I mentioned to my team that it would be awesome to be able to take a field trip there so the students who look at the different trees, their leaves, and learn about the scientific names and classifications. I didn't feel like I could do it justice by just walking around our school campus. My teammates were 100% into the idea so I reached out to one of my amazing college professors, and she helped us set up a fabulous, extremely educational, and FREE field trip. 

The trip started off by the students meeting with one of the college biology professors. She talked to the students about what an arboretum is, discussed that there were different types of trees, and gave students a reference sheet of some of the leaves they were going to be seeking out on our tour. The students were blown away with getting to sit in a real auditorium with "tables" and comfy chairs. 

Then, our fabulous biologist told the students they were going on a tree scavenger hunt. The kiddos 
were given a bag and their reference sheets and went for a walk. 

We had the best time ever. The students saved their leaves so that we could go back to school and make a leaf book. 

The next day, we took out all of our leaves and went to work. We identified the leaves, wrote down leaf characteristics, and put together our leaf books. 

It was messy. It was a little time consuming. But, it was worth every minute. Students referenced back and forth to their sheet, our pictures, and the internet to make sure that their leaf information was correct. 

Just look at the smile. He was tickled because his leaf was too big to fit on his page. We had to get a little creative with the placement of his leaf. 

We had such a blast with this that I wanted to share the book template we used with you. Hope you can use this in your classroom with your kiddos. 

Just click on any of the pictures above or click here to take you to the TPT link. 

Happy Fall Y'all! Stay tuned for a giveaway! My awesome "aunt to be" made me something to share with you, and I can't wait! You are going to LOVE it!

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Little Bit of Geography

Greetings! We had a packed week of learning in the cottage this week. Everything from QR codes and math word problems to geography and the continents on which we live. 

Shew. This teacher was TIRED when Friday night rolled around, but we had so much fun! Here is a little recap of what we did.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we are really stepping it up and adding a lot of science and social studies into our reading curriculum this year. That means making the curriculums blend into one another as often as possible. I am really excited with how well everything has been going, and the students are learning so much in the process. 

This week, we began our two week unit on Geography. We talked about the continents, map keys, compass rose, equator, and hemispheres. On Monday, the students spent time exploring the names and important facts of each of the seven continents.We started the entire unit off by creating a KWL chart on continents. We had one fact for the K section, and the students struggled to list any questions or comments that they had for the W section of our poster. I was totally okay with that because it meant that most of this unit would be entirely brand new to the students. 

We learned a song on the continents. You can view a snippet of it here. I cut out life size posters of each continent and placed them around the room. I also used fact sheets from Lucky to be in First's awesome unit on the continents to help students build a foundation of knowledge for each continent. 

Next up was our ThingLink activity. Students spent two days exploring different Thinglink tasks centered around the continents. Our reading comprehension skills this week were problem/solution and making predictions with fables. Students used the Thinglink to explore different fables from around the world. 

Midway through the week, one of my students wanted to add a new question to our KWL chart. She asked me what the continents looked like from space. I was floored at how awesome of a question that was, and I told her that I would somehow show her the answer to her question. The next day, I walked in with a ThingLink for students to explore in our continent centers. This might be one of my favorite ThingLinks that I have created so far. The students could click on the "hot spot" hovering over each continent to see a direct view of what the continent looks like from space. I also had a hot spot embedded in the upper left corner of the image. This hot spot would send students to a general page where they could move the globe all around and look at the globe in 3D. Students noticed that some continents had different colors on them so we discussed that white represented ice, blue was water, green was area with dense vegetation, and brown meant desert or extremely dry areas. Students would also find a continent and then refer to our life size world map to try to figure out which continent they were looking at. 

 We wrapped up the week by reading some rigorous informational text from TN Core. I knew that the passage on oceans would be challenging so students read it in groups. The passage covered everything from the names of the five world oceans and their locations to the water cycle. I had a proud teacher moment when students left for the afternoon. It was raining and a student exclaimed, "Look! It is raining water from the ocean!". It just goes to show how very important it is to expose our students to text. They DO apply the information to real life!

Students also applied their understanding of the 7 continents and 5 oceans, the equator, and the 4 hemispheres by making a paper plate replica of the world. Here are two cuties showing off their work! 

We have another exciting week ahead! Students will be writing their first informational paper about Christopher Columbus. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Science and Reading..A Blended Unit

Every year, I take a look at my classroom curriculum and see what I can add to it the following school year to help prepare my second graders for life in third grade. I am a big believer that the academic jump from second to third is one of the most challenging transitions in school.

In TN, Science and Social Students are not tested skills for second grade, but we do have standards that we need to cover. I really wanted to amp up these two content areas this year, but I was unsure of exactly how to do it.

I finally decided that the only way that I was going to be able to make it work was by combining my Reading and Social Studies/Science into one block. 

We are switching between S and SS in biweekly rotations. Our first unit was all about Life Science-living vs. nonliving, plant and animal needs, parts of a plant, and plant life cycles. My students LOVE Science(which is sadly not my favorite subject), but I have really enjoyed teaching it over the last two weeks because of how engaged and enthusiastic the students have been. 

There is just something magical about watching students dig into dirt, observe roots with a magnifying glass, and scream when they see a new sprout in their lima bean cup. It's adorable and so inspiring!

Our Science and Reading lessons fit perfectly together this week because our Reading skill was focused around predicting and making predictions. We worked most of the week on modeling good predicting skills in reading, writing, and speaking. My students are only allowed to make a prediction if they speak or write with the following prediction stems:
-I believe that ________
-I predict that_________
-I think that__________
-My prediction is__________
-Based on the evidence_________

They also know that if they make a prediction then they have to to back it up with evidence. The students planted their lima bean seeds last Friday. They got to look at the progress of the plants on Monday, and then we put the plants on our back porch, out of view, for a few days. After a much anticipated break from observing their plants, the students made predictions of what they thought their plant would look like based on the knowledge they had gained through our parts of a plant discussions, life cycle exploration, and prior knowledge of plants. Students had to write their prediction AND draw a picture. 

(This above picture is one of my ELL students. I was SO impressed with ow well she was able to put her thoughts down. Obviously, there are some errors, but I was more concerned with how well she was able to make a prediction and put that prediction into writing! Major progress!)

By this point, my students were so worked up that I thought they would never forgive me for holding the plants hostage for a few days. To say that shouts and squeals erupted in my room once I brought out the plants would be an understatement. Students were digging in the dirt, holding their magnifying glasses up to the plants, turning the cups on their sides to look at the roots and mingling around the classroom looking at the plants of others. 


After the students had time to observe, explore, and discuss their plants, I asked them to "check" their predictions(another Reading skill we have been working on) by writing about if their predictions were correct and drawing pictures of what their plants really looked like. 

I was so proud of how they turned out!! EVERY single student shined in this activity, and they seemed to really enjoy themselves. 

You can grab the graphic organizer for this here. 

I really feel as if the sky is our limit. Our first big Social Studies unit will be focused around Geography(globe, maps, etc.), and I have already had a blast setting up our incorporated learning experiences for the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned to hear more about it!