Monday, February 24, 2014

Peek at My Week {Feb. 24}

Hi Friends!  Just thought I'd peek out from the avalanche of papers I am trying to get scored before report cards and conferences next week and give you 

It is going to be a topsy turvy kind of a week as we try to wrap up multiple end of the trimester projects and get ready for our Genius Hour presentation on Friday.

In Social Studies we are in the middle of our Civil War simulation.  In our current episode students are going into battle for the first time.  Each student has been randomly assigned to either the North or the South, as well as, a specific regiment.  For each day's episode they have to make decisions pertaining to the events of the day.  Depending what each group decides to do and how their roll of the die turns out different things can happen to them.  For example they may be injured and lose a limb or die from disease.  At the end of each day's events students write a journal entry describing their trials as a solider.  This is our second simulation of the year (we did the American Revolution earlier in the year) and the students LOVE them!  I also have the Pioneers simulation which is similar to the Oregon Trail.  The books says it should take 5 days to complete the simulation but it usually takes me around 7 class period because  I try to add extra bits like short video clips, pictures or other resources to help make it even more real to the students.  If you are looking for fun way to engage students while studying our country's history I highly recommend you look into these simulations.

We are continuing to work on long division in math.  Slow and steady seems to be the key on this topic with my group.  They  really enjoyed putting together the first part of our Division Lap books (see last week's post) and we will be adding more to that this week also.

In writing we are finishing up our descriptive writing.  To wrap this up, we are doing a partner project incorporating a little art.  To begin with, each student had to draw a monster of their own creation (They could not draw a monster that already exists from games or TV) and they had to keep it secret from anyone around them.  The next step is to write a detailed description of their creation which they will give to their partner who then will try to draw their monster.  After each partner has drawn the monsters based on the descriptions, they will compare their drawing with the original picture.  I hope to post some pictures of the comparisons when we are done.

On Friday we will be hosting our first Genius Hour presentation for our families.  I am planning another post on that topic when we finish up :o)

Well, that's my week for the most part.  Now back to those papers that need correcting.  Be sure to link up with Jennifer at Mrs. Laffin's Laughings and see what others are up to for the week.  Have a great week!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Genius Hour Part 1..{Tried it Tuesday}

Hey all! It's Tuesday so that means its time to link up with Holly over at Fourth Grade Flipper for her Tried It Tuesday linky.  Before I start this post, I want to let you know that this post will be part of 3 posts I am planning to write up about Genius Hour and how it is working in our classroom.  I hope you will check back to read the others as they come out.  Without further ado, here's my...

Genius Hour...
  To give you a little background, Genius Hour is the educational equivalent to Google and Apple's 20 percent time, time where employees are allowed to use 20 percent of their work week on a project that they are passionate about.  A couple of the ideas that have come out of 20 Percent time are Gmail and Google+.  In the classroom setting, students are allowed to use 20 percent (about an hour a week) to devote to a project that they are passionate about.  They come up with the project idea, what research they need to do, and a plan for how they are going to complete it.  When they are done they share out with the class.  Students are encouraged to be creative and they are motivated by the power they have over their own learning.  Where did I learn of this intriguing idea you ask?

While blog stalking and doing what I consider as my own personal-PD over the summer, I stumbled on the idea of Genius Hour at Joy Kirr's Genius Hour LiveBinder.  It has a TON of resources about this idea and over course leads you to other teachers who are trying this phenomenal concept in their classrooms as well.  After looking at these resources and those found at  all I could think was AMAZING!  I want to try this!! I knew I wouldn't be ready for anything like this in the fall but I kept the idea in my head and stored resources in my Dropbox as I came across them.  Of course one part of me thought I had to be crazy--most of the project ideas were done by middle and high school students, but I did find a few elementary examples.  The next hurdle was how do I justify this time away from the curriculum and all that I have to teach.  I decided this fit in perfectly with the student centered classroom and project based learning.  Plus students would be researching and presenting all which are part of the Common Core!  Finally over Christmas break, I decided my fourth graders were definitely up to the challenge (even as I wondered if I was), so I tackled the next steps to get it launched in my classroom.  Stay with me to see how it's been going in my classroom. :o)

After break, I told the class we were going to try something special.  I wanted to build some suspense so I gave them little hints off and on during the week.  I had them create a "Me Map" which was a cluster web about them.  Each of their bubbles had to answer one of three questions: What is something you LOVE? What is something you are GOOD at? What is something you are INTERESTED IN or WANT TO LEARN ABOUT?  One day I had them write about what class they would take if they could learn about anything. And my last tantalizing questions for them were: "Has any teacher ever let you choose what you wanted to learn?  What would you do if a teacher allowed you to learn whatever you wanted?"
On the day of the launch I used an approach I got from Runde's Room and her post about getting Genius Hour started in her classroom.  I gave each student two sticky notes. On the first sticky note I had them look over their ME Maps and write down one thing they thought they were really interested in.  Then we watched the following video from about what Genius Hour is. (This video is actually for teachers who want to know more, but I felt like my fourth graders would get the idea).
After we watched the video I asked the students to think about what they had written on their first sticky note.  Would that subject be a good topic for a Genius Hour project?  Could they think of a project that would fit with that idea?  On the second note I had them write down what they thought would be a good topic for a project that they could come up with, then they added the other note to our board. (I did tell them they could write the same topic down if they thought it still fit.)
After all the sticky notes were on the board, I explained that for the next few weeks they were going to be allowed to work on a project of their own,  a project that they thought up, were interested in and were 100 percent in charge of.  Oh the whispers and grins!!!  The only thing guidelines I insisted on were these four things: 
1)They had to do some research on their topic (learning something new) 
2) They had to create a product to share  
3) They had to present their project 
4) They had to have their parents approval also (I knew some of this work would have to be done from home so wanted to be sure they were going to have that support.) 
At the end of the first session their homework was to brainstorm two research questions and a possible project for each topic that they would bring to me for approval for next week's Genius Hour.

Genius Hour Session 2:  The students brought in their ideas and questions.  I was SO impressed by some of the things they came up with.  I spoke with each student individually to make sure they had an inquiry question and to get an idea of what types of projects we'd have going.  Here are some of the questions and projects they proposed:
  • What would make the perfect outfit? (outfit design-ended up making the perfect outfit for her American Girl Doll)
  • How did the Native Americans build a longhouse? (building a longhouse model)
  • What would be the best design for the ideal city? (make a model city with legos)
  • How do you make a fashion bag? (sewing a bag)
  • What do you have to do to become an NFL player? (poster with pictures and articles about how to be an NFL player)
  • What are some of the most common sea animals? (Diorama of the ocean)
  • What are some good recipes for kids in the kitchen? (Cookbook with kid friendly recipes)
  • Who is Paul Rhodes and why is he a good coach? (Poster)
  • How do I learn to draw? (a sketch book for self taught drawing)
  • How to design a model car? (build a model car from wood)
  • How do you train a rat to follow a maze? (He was going to bring in a pet and the maze but his parents vetoed this idea-I hate rats so that was fine with me LOL)
  • How can you build a lava lamp? (building a lava lamp)
  • What is the best dance costume? (poster with costume comparisons- what they are made out of and what kind works best for which types of dances)
  • Animal research on penguins- animal report
  • What are some of the most unusual animals? (An A to Z animal book)
  • How do you put together an outfit? (poster with different outfits for different occasions)
  • Who is Slenderman? (poster telling about the game)
  • How to make a movie? (they are the videographers of our project time :o))
We have had two more work sessions for our Genius Hour projects.  The students are so motivated and engaged in their projects....I honestly don't think some of them realize they are LEARNING!!  I am going to leave you with a few pictures from our work sessions up to this point.

Well, that's a quick peek at our Genius Hour adventure so far.  I hope you found it interesting and will check back later for Parts 2 and 3 to find out more.
What have you tried lately?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Peek at My Week {Feb. 17}....

Happy Monday all!  Thought since I had some extra time today I'd post a quick Peek at My Week and link up with Jennifer over at Mrs. Laffin's Laughings for her weekly linky:
(It has been a bit since I've been able to link up here...not that my week's haven't been ultra exciting between snow days and state testing.)  Anyway... here's
This week will be a short week for me for a couple reasons: 
Today was a snow day.  Yep our seventh for the school year.  As of today we are now getting out in June :'o(  This is the fifth grade door where staff usually comes in.  That drift was to my knees this afternoon when I went in.  When I came back out an hour later my footprints were already filling in.  Guess we'll see what happens tomorrow morning.
My son Jason is the 220 weight wrestler.  The team made it for State Duals which begin on Wednesday in Des Moines, so we are heading down to watch.  He was a district qualifier this year as well. He placed third since they only take the top 2 places at each weight, he doesn't get to wrestle for the individual state tournament.  All the boys have done an outstanding job this season.  I am looking forward to seeing them in the big arena.  Best wishes to all of them!!!

So what will be going on in my classroom while I'm am missing this week you ask?  Here is a quick look:
Students will be taking part in the first lesson of the Junior Achievement: Regions unit taught by one of our community members.  This is an awesome program that brings business people into the classroom to teach for five lessons.  In fourth grade the unit is on Regions which ties in great with our social studies.  Students learn about products, supply and demand, using the resources and running a business.
We are also going to be digging into our historical fiction novel units this week.  Since we are also studying the Civil War in social studies at this time, I try to use books that fit this time period as well.  My high and on level students will begin reading Freedom Crossing by Margaret Goff Clark.  It is a great story about the Underground Railroad.  I love how students can really see that Laura is a dynamic character as her views change throughout the course of the story.  My two lower groups will be reading a couple shorter books- A. Lincoln and Me and Follow the Drinking Gourd.  We will be working on summarizing as well as identifying why these books fit the historical fiction genre.

In math we are backing up a bit to "restart" division.  I don't like the way our series Every Day Math jumps into long division.  Most of students were confused last week when we tried it, so we are going to back up and try again (Kind of like getting around in the snow today LOL).  We are going to use Elizabeth from Fun in 4B's awesome Common Core Division Lapbook. Check it out at her TPT store.  I think it is going to make a HUGE difference to my kids!  Plus it will provide a great resource for the rest of the unit and later.
Well, that's a peek at my week.  What's going on in yours?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Project Groundhog {Tried it Tuesday}

Good morning all!  We are starting late today due to some extra chilly temperatures, so I thought I'd get my post done for Holly's weekly Tried It Tuesday link up over at Fourth Grade Flipper before I head out to school.  Have you tried something new lately that you want to share?  If so, be sure to head on over and link up.  I come away each week with at least one new idea I want to try out in my room.
Last week my students and I joined Project Groundhog 2014, an online project run by first grade teacher Bill Jameson.  This annual project has students predicting, researching, gathering and graphing data based on the weather folklore of whether or not the groundhog can predict the comping of Spring. (I for one hope old Phil is wrong and Winter will soon give up its hold...not sure I can take 6 more weeks of this.)  For the project, Bill teams up different classrooms around the USA and Canada.  There are 7 schools on our team this year. We are participating with schools from New Mexico, Canada, Texas, Vermont, and Alaska.  My students will track the temperature and sky conditions each day from February 3 to March 21.  We are graphing the daily temperature, then finding the average at the end of the week along with the range for the week.  On Monday each classroom inputs their average temperature for the week so we are able to graph the averages of our team to see how the locations compare.  This week our team had temperatures ranging from -18°C to 4°C (We had the second lowest temp for the week with -13°C/ 9°F!) One of the hardest parts for us is the conversion from Fahrenheit to Celsius.  There's a handy dandy web tool that does it, but the mindset isn't there.
In addition to monitoring the temperature and sky conditions each week, classes have a challenge to complete as well.  Last week we had to put together a short community description to share with the rest of the team.  It is really interesting find out more about some far off places.  We were certainly jealous of the warm temperatures reported in New Mexico and Texas but thankful we weren't in Canada!
While it is too late for you to join up with Project Groundhog this year, you may want to put it on your calendar so you can join in next year.  It is a fun easy to do project that I know your students will enjoy.  Be sure to head over to Fourth Grade Flipper to see what others have tried.  Have a great week!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Currently...It's February!

WOW! I can't believe how fast the month of January flew by!  It felt like we spent very little time at school between the bitter cold/snow days.
It's that time again...time to link up with Farley over at Oh By Fourth Grade for her FABULOUS monthly linky.  Here's mine:
 Listening- the boys' video game- lots of shooting going on :(  Thank goodness they are getting along-it has been a rough week or so...too much time spent indoors and in each other's company.  
Loving- a full week of school.  While that may seem odd to some....we haven't had a full week of school since the week before Christmas.  Between the snow falling and bitter temperatures from not 1 but 2 polar vortex, we have missed 6 days of school.  Hopefully they are correct on the track of the latest snow storm and we'll only be getting 1-3 inches which we can handle. (Not that I want to, but it beats the 6-8 inches south of us.)
Thinking- we start IA Assessments on Wednesday, so I need to move things around to accommodate the testing block.  6 days of testing- SOOO not looking forward to it.  Crossing my fingers and toes that Mother Nature plays nice for while as we are already off schedule.
Wanting-  One of my teammates gave me season 1 of the TV series Downton Abby last week on one of our snow days.  Totally hooked me!  I've been frantically trying to cram seasons 1-4 in as season 5 is airing on TV right now.  Only 3 more episodes of season 4 to go then the 3 I've missed of the new season. LOVE IT!
Needing to get those animal reports corrected.  I hate checking writing! Enough said!!
Truths: Can't live without my Dr. Pepper. Most days its 2-3 cans.  Trying to cut back but so far am not finding the right motivation.  I am planning a trip to Ireland in 2015.  I have always wanted to go so am making it my 45th birthday present to myself.  FIB- Love winter-haha haha who does that?  This winter has provided me with plenty of valid reasons for why it is not my favorite!
Now it's your turn.  Head over to Farley's to check out what everyone is up to and link up yourself!