Friday, October 7, 2016

Fun Quick Write Idea

Check out this fun story starter generator from Scholastic.
Scholastic Story Starters Scrambler (Click to follow link.)

Scholastic has provided a teacher's guide to go with this tool. I think this would be a great way to practice writing as a group.

A fun way to use this tool would be to select buttons 2, 3, and 4 for everyone to use and let each student push the 1st  button for the product they will be writing. Changing only one element would make the writing lots of fun as a group.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Veteran's Day Project

Here is our Veteran's Day project for this year. My students really enjoyed working on it and hearing the compliments we've received from people who stop to see it. Before starting the project, we did a little research on the meanings behind the colors on the flag. Once we had some words to work with, we looked for synonyms of those words. Many of my students wrote the words on red, white, or blue hearts while a few others worked on the gold fringe. The hearts were then arranged on a 3'x4' piece of paper to make the flag.

My class is so proud of this flag. The discussion over the synonyms was meaningful and memorable!

Our flag will be displayed, along with other's projects, at our local VA Hospital this year.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Time Traveling

My second graders always surprise me! This week we read a photo essay about a girl who attends a school for deaf students. We learned some hand spelling and signs. We also read a story about Helen Keller. It was after that story that my students began to ask me questions such as:

-Is Helen Keller still alive?
-How old is she?
-Did you know her?

I decided it was a great time to get out one of my magnetic timelines and help them find answers to their questions. I've never taught timelines so early in the year, but I believe in grabbing those natural, teachable moments and riding the "interest wave" as far as I can! This was one of those moments.
Through the course of the lesson, we discussed many things. Here are a few of them:

  • place value and the 1000's place
  • counting by tens above 1000
  • counting on and back on a number line
  • how long ago Helen Keller lived
  • how long she has been gone
  • how old she was when she died
  • whether or not Mrs. Edwards was alive at the same time as Helen Keller (for 13 years!)
  • whether or not Mrs. Edwards knew Helen Keller (It's a big world! and, no, I never met her.)
We now have a foundation to build on as we explore immigration, explorers, and pilgrims later this fall. At the end of the lesson, a student raised his hand and said, "That was like traveling in a time machine!" I think I have them hooked!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Measuring the Miles on a Map

Last year, I stumbled upon a way to have my students measure the miles that Uncle Reuben traveled in his adventures in the 1920's and 30's for The Uncle Reuben Project that I thought I would share here.

We studied the map key on the large wall map that we used to mark Reuben's travels. I showed them where the key showed how long 100 miles is on that map. We talked about whether that would be the same for our small map in our notebook or the large carpet map in our classroom until I felt they understood that the map key was for that particular map only.

Then, I gave each student a 12 inch length of ribbon (the curling, gift wrap kind) and a tiny piece of paper the length of 100 miles on our map. The students marked ten 100 mile marks on their ribbons with a pen so they had 1000 miles on the ribbon.

They learned very quickly how to measure using the ribbon.

Read about their success during the first year of the project by clicking here.

The Uncle Reuben Project - Year 2

Here are some end products for year 2 from May 2013's Open House.
More about the process later! It was an exciting spring!

  • black and white dioramas
  • canoe sketches and blueprints with measurements
  • realia in the form of a 16.5 ft. canoe and two small metal models of Uncle Reuben's childhood home and school wth students to answer all of their questions
  • video interview between "Uncle Reuben" and a reporter
  • silent movie made by five 2nd graders
  • posters about the 1920's popular culture
  • photographs of transportaion from the 1920's and 30's
  • posters of students' family trees that were completed at home with their families
  • timelines of Uncle Reuben's life
  • demonstrations of how to use the scale key on a map to measure the miles
  • notebooks full of primary sources to explain to visitors
  • 20 confident seven and eight year-olds proudly talking about their newly acquired knowledge
  • one proud teacher who was already planning their next authentic learning experience in her imagination

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Challenging and Rebuilding Mental Models - Conceptual Models

My students study the road while traveling to the YMCA for swimming lessons. 


Because they have studied the route, back in the classroom, on Google Earth and are working on their mental map models!

Sometimes we have to break something in order to fix it. When someone visits a doctor for a nose injury, there is a good possibility that their nose will need to be broken again as part of the treatment.

As teachers, we must often go through the process of breaking through the misconceptions and incorrect models that our students have built, in their minds, around an academic concept. These are called mental models. And, we all have them!

What I'm calling a mental model is the representation, or picture, seen, and sometimes "felt," in the mind, when thinking abstractly. For example, the picture you see in your mind when you think about a year divided into months. Is it a line? A circle? A calendar? 

Mental models begin to develop early on in our lives and we test and correct them from then on. By the time my students get to my room, they have all kinds of models that they are using. Many are correct, but some are flawed and can cause problems when learning new concepts. 

Shari's Nerd Corner:

You might be surprised to know that everyone has a slightly different model. What I perceive may not be what you do.

I asked a friend what her model looks like (Yes, I’m nerdy like that!). It took her a minute to understand what I meant but when I asked her to show me where we are right now, (April), she looked down at the place she would put April and pointed at the space in front of her. She described a linear representation that looked like a timeline that repeated every year. When her eyes focused on the space in front of her, I knew she was experiencing what I do. The model is more than a picture. It's an invisible object that she can move and refer to in her mind. 

I suppose my tendency to drift into my Intra-personal Intelligence (Gardner) makes me more aware of these models floating around in my head, but I can't help but notice them! I've been surprised that most people I have asked about their model of a calendar year have taken the time to look and describe it to me. 

The model of a year that I see in my mind looks something like a Ferris Wheel that I travel around during the year. I move counter-clockwise around the wheel as the year goes by. Winter is at the top and summer is at the bottom but don’t ask me for details because the actual visual is a little vague. 

When I mentioned this idea to my sisters last month, one described my model in nearly every detail, which really surprised me, and the other described a timeline model with months in a row. My son describes his as a pie chart. 

What DOES your model look like?