The Hurricane Irma Edition

I got a little behind in my blogging as we prepared to be hit by Hurricane Irma here in central Florida. It was a big storm but we were so blessed to have minimal damage to our home - and to never lose our power! Cleanup is underway. All schools in the state were closed Friday and Monday, and my district is closed on Tuesday also. Many of our buildings were used as shelters, and now all must be inspected before we know they are safe for our return. I fully expect to be back in the classroom on Wednesday.

So what do you do when you have three days off - unexpectedly? I tried to get a bit ahead with lesson plans and gathering resources. I tweaked my plans to push lessons three days ahead and am not worrying about the timeline! We do not have to make up these three days as our superintendent says we still will have our instructional time in. (Hope we don't get hit again, 'cause we might end up with makeup days if that happened.)

In science, we are still working on our force and motion unit and we have some great object lessons about wind force. After we finish up with magnets this week we will be doing some activities that explore the force of the wind - very timely.

If you are a Florida or Texas teacher I know you can relate to this. And, I still plan to blog about our work with magnets either at the end of this week or beginning of next.

Take care, and stay safe!

Force and Motion, Part 2

Last week we had fun with part two of our STEM challenge (see here for part one). This time we took our show out into the hallway so that we could work on tile. Right away we could feel the difference from working on carpet.

Our goal was to get a car to roll at least four feet off the ramp. We started with a one-book ramp and increased up to 8 books. We were not successful in reaching our distance goal until we had a ramp that was 6 books high. Here's a few pics of one class running the tests.

We will still be working with Force and Motion for most of September. We will be focusing on magnets over the next week. Hopefully, I remember to snap some pictures to share! I've had a little trouble remembering - and sometimes the camera is hanging around my neck!

Force and Motion: Science/STEM

Last week we finished our "nature of science" unit and began our Forces and Motion unit is science. This is a favorite topic of mine since there are so many STEM challenges that fit right in.

We started by learning five vocabulary words: force, motion, speed, gravity, and friction. They went into our AVID notebooks in a 3-column chart. Each day we went back to that page and reviewed them since they are key to our newest STEM activity.

On Thursday we were ready for the challenge: building and testing a ramp that will help our cars have enough speed to go as far as possible. We learned that friction can help us or work against us. In our first tests of our ramps, the new carpeting was definitely working against us.

We kept adding books to raise one of the ramps but you can see we did not get much distance. It was a great help in understanding what friction does in slowing/stopping motion.

Why do I love STEM? The engagement of students as the lesson progresses! What could be more fun than rolling cars down a ramp? They used the force of gravity, raising the level of the ramps to try to increase the speed. None of our cars made it to the end of the 4-foot long yarn. Why? Because of friction.

What will we do to improve and try for that 4-foot mark? We will reduce the amount of friction by moving our work to the tiled floor. That happened this week - we will report our results in a few days.

A Few More Award Winners

This week I am finishing up the Sunshine State Jrs (there are 15 in all). Having completed two full weeks plus a couple days of school now, I can tell you that my students have enjoyed the ones I have used for read-aloud. I love that when they go to the media center for check out many of them are choosing ones I've read to them for a reread on their own.

1. My Pet Human

As you probably guessed from the cover this book is told by the cat. Oliver (who is nameless for much of the book) is a very independent stray cat who doesn't need a human fussing over him. Yet when a new girl moves into the neighborhood he sees an opportunity to train someone to meet his every need. He and "Freckles" end up providing much-needed support for each other.

This book is a bit of a cross between a graphic novel and a chapter book. I think this adds a lot of appeal to many readers. And for those who love the story, a sequel is already out called "My Pet Human Takes Center Stage."

2. My Life in Pictures (Bea Garcia)

I loved the character, Bea Garcia, in this story. It is book one in a new series and I will be watching for the next book to come out. Bea is an artist who is always drawing and doodling. At the beginning of her story, her best friend has moved -- to Australia! Even her art is not making Bea feel better about this, and when a new boy moves in next door it doesn't help.

Bea has a great sense of humor which shines through the pages of the book. With her art, this helps her gets through life's difficulties and possibly make a new friend. Like the previous title, all the art in this one helps make it accessible to readers who aren't yet ready for text heavy reads. It's also a good introduction to graphic novels for the younger set. 

3. Woodpecker Wants a Waffle

This is one of the picture books that I have read to my classes, and they thought it was hilarious! Benny the woodpecker wakes up one day to an awesome smell, which turns out to be waffles at a new restaurant. Determined to try them, he tries the door - and gets the boot. When he attempts to sneak in he is swept away. The illustrations, by the author, are a wonderful part of the story. The other animals laugh at his desire for a waffle, but Benny is formulating a plan. He plays a wonderful trick on everyone before the happy ending! I challenge you to read this book without laughing at the story.

Happy reading, everyone!

First Science Experiment and First STEM Challenge of the Year

August 11th was our second day of school and we dove right into the scientific method. I love to start the year with what I call The Great Banana Experiment. It starts with my problem keeping bananas fresh in my kitchen. Starting with the question, "How can we keep a banana fresh?", we develop a hypothesis that either a special produce bag, slider bag, paper bag, or the refrigerator will keep it the freshest. Placing bananas in each of these containers, we run our test for the next week.

On the 18th we observed the results of our experiment. Many students were surprised that the refrigerator was best. They were so excited and could scarcely contain themselves the last couple days. One of the best parts - I brought home three mushy bananas to make banana bread! In years past I have brought in something homemade after this experiment but this year I have a Nut Free Zone classroom, so no food goes in. That makes the bread all for us, which is OK too!

Most of my students had me last year when they were in first grade as their STEM teacher, so they were thrilled to find out they would still be doing STEM challenges this year. Our first was building cup towers. We reviewed the Engineering Design Process and they learned how important a good foundation is when building! Last year they used larger cups, so the shot glass size from Dollar Tree was much more challenging for them.

Giveaway and Book Talk Tuesday

No More Noisy Nights

This is the third and final giveaway book. I haven't read this one, so be sure to read the description over on the giveaway page (click the Giveaway button at the top). It sounds like a great one just from reading the Amazon description. Hopefully, YOU will win it!

1. Douglas, You Need Glasses

Some of your kids may recognize themselves in this story of a dog who needs glasses but does not realize it. Not being able to see well gets him into some funny situations - and you and your children will laugh. When his owner takes him to an eyeglass store he wants to know why they are at the shoe store. And when he gets his new glasses, a whole new world opens to him.

2. There's A Bear On My Chair

Mouse wants to sit in his favorite chair, but Bear is sitting in it. This is another fun read-aloud and I was fortunate enough to hear it for the first time being read by the author. Check out the Youtube video of Ross Collins - for his accent if nothing else!


3. March of the Mini Beasts

This is the first in a series of easy reading chapter books about the Data Set - three kids who are quite brilliant. They find out that one of their neighbors is a mad scientist, and before you know it their toy animals have been zapped by a growth ray and come alive.

There are currently seven books in the series, filled with Danger! Action! Trouble! Adventure! - check it out.

Book Talk and Giveaway

Make sure you click the picture above to enter this week's giveaway. The book is:

I'm bringing you three more of our SSYRA Primary winners for 2017 - 2018. I am enjoying the picture books from this year's list and plan to read them all to my kids.

1. Let Me Finish

This is another book about the joy of reading, so I loved it! This one is about the trauma of having someone spoil the book for you. Now personally, I don't usually mind spoilers (yes, I sometimes flip to the end of the story), but it can drive some readers bananas. This young man does NOT want the story spoiled and all the animals have already read it. They keep popping up and telling details about the story, when he just wants to finish it himself!

2. Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea

Narwhal is a bit of a free spirit. Jelly is all business. You might think they would not get along, but a wonderful friendship develops in this book. This is a graphic novel which contains three separate stories about the duo. The first is about friendship, the second is about working together, and the last is about imagination. And yes, there is another book in the series.

3. The Rooster

The little town of La Paz is quite a noisy place, so the people fire their mayor and hire a new one. Bit by bit, he takes away all the noise -- it becomes illegal to sing. Along comes a brave rooster who refuses to stop crowing no matter the threat. Will freedom win? The illustrations in this book are wonderful and add a lot to the read-aloud experience.

Until next week . . .

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