Sunday, April 27, 2014

The End of Year Tug-of-War

Hi All!
It feels like it has been awhile since I have added a new blogpost.  I've been drowning in state testing, progress reports, committees, end of the year celebrations, etc.  I've barely been able to keep my head above water.  I don't know about the rest of you, but this time of year is crazy for me.

This time of year is especially interesting because, if you are like me, you are counting down the days until summer and that count is a bit scary!  33 school days.  33 school days to make sure all 34 of my beautiful, smart, talented kiddos are ready to move on to 5th grade.  33 days to make sure that all the billion Common Core standards have not only been taught, but met.  33 days...  its not enough time.

BUT on the other hand 33 days seems like a long stretch when your students (and the teacher) have spring fever.

So what do you do?  You pull out your most interesting, engaging unit...  for us that is...
In fourth grade, students participate in an Oregon Trail simulation where they are in wagon trains and travel along the trail seeing the beautiful landmarks, make important trail decisions, and suffer some disastrous fates.  The students are thoroughly engaged!

Another great activity students are engaged in right now is our Artist in Residence.  Students are studying drama.  We have a professional artist visiting our class for the next 5 days.  Students are learning about improv and participating in a lot of great theater activities.

And if the count-down to the end of the year wasn't scary enough..  the days until 2nd round of state testing is even scarier...  10 days!  10 DAYS!?!

To help prepare my kiddos for their second attempt, I've created a couple of products and placed them in my TpT store.  The first is a "Close Reading Booklet Freebie".

I'm using this booklet to help students understand and practice close reading skills, not only for the state reading test, but also for "real-life" reading.  While I am focusing on this handful of students the rest of my class is participating in "Independent Reading Partner Novel Studies".
Students are very excited about partner reading.  Students were able to choose their own partners and their own novels!  Students break up their books into eight sections and read one section at a time.  For each section, each partner receives a reading response prompt and responds to the prompt by writing a letter to their partner.  The partners exchange journals and write back to each other.

The prompts are based on CCSS for 3rd - 5th grade and cover such aspects as characters, setting, plot, point of view, connections, themes, etc.

So, as the end of the year tug-of-war between not enough time and too much time wages on, I have my plan in place:
1.  Keep the students learning and motivated through engaging activities.
2.  Focus on what's most important.
3.  Enjoy my students.  In 33 days they will be out that door and I will miss them.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Making Connections with Knex: Motion and Design

Hi All!
I hope that this last week has treated you well!  It was a very busy week for me and I predict that it is going to just get busier and busier as we head toward the end of the year!  It always feels like after spring break rolls around it is a mad dash to get everything we need to cover completed.

For the last couple of week my students have been involved in a science unit called "Motion and Design".  It is a wonderful unit that I was lucky enough to have funded through  The unit has students building and testing Knex vehicles to learn about motion.  My students are LOVING this unit!

This weekend I am working on my "Thank You Package" for my donors and one of my classroom parents took some beautiful photographs of my students at work so I thought I would share a few with you.

The Design Challenge

Each student group has a bucket of Knex pieces.  

Students work together to build a "vehicle" with their Knex.
A finished Vehicle

The vehicles had to travel 100 cm.  The students weren't told HOW to get their vehicles to move.  

This was the first design challenge of the unit.  We are currently working on experiments with a "weighted pull system".

If you are interested in learning more about this unit, you can visit my DonorsChoose page and see the materials list, supplier, and cost of the unit.

Part of the Donorschoose project I was funded for included Knex roller coaster kits...  My plan is for the students to use what they have learned from this motion and design unit to work in teams and complete a roller coaster challenge.  I'll make sure to post more when we get to that part.

I know that many schools are in the middle of test prep or assessments, but I hope that each of you have something going on in your classroom that both you and your students are enjoying!

Thank you for visiting!