Tuesday, October 6, 2015

STEM Again

After six weeks of school I have so far met my goal of STEM lessons on a weekly basis. I'm hearing my students come in on Wednesdays reminding each other "it's STEM day!" which I love! I blogged awhile ago about our first two challenges, Saving Fred and Cup Towers. Since then we have constructed Spaghetti Towers:

Explored building with K'Nex:

And simulated what it might be like to work for an engineering in an activity involving building the tallest freestanding tower with 15 fuzzy sticks:

Students are understanding the importance of the foundation when building a tower and the steps of the engineering process. I have one more tower activity that we will do closer to Halloween, and in the meantime we are moving into our Properties of Matter unit in science and will be planning STEM activities that go along with that.

Honestly, my dream job would be to be able to do STEM with kids all day long! How about you?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Monday Made It: September 2015

As soon as school starts I always find new things that need to be made!

I've gotten started with math stations and decided to use cubbies to keep materials easily accessible. Had to make some labels for them!

It took two weeks, but my students finally got to do the Minion craftivity (glyph) that I had prepared for week one! We had such a good time making those little guys. Then I went home for the weekend and whipped up the Minion panel. My other class wants to make Minions too, so I'm going to copy some more pieces and try to fit that in this week.

I really liked this set of 7 math posters from Tales From Outside The Classroom, so I printed and laminated and have them on the wall in front of where we meet together for our math meetings. Kiddos think they are awesome, and we have been referring to them as we work problems.

I am so excited for my students to try this at math stations! It is a jumbo hundreds chart with puzzle pieces that will create a pattern. I found this Pattern Puzzle freebie at More Time 2 Teach. After picking up colored poster board at the dollar store I printed the four pieces to make the hundreds chart, glued them together, and then onto the board. I used colored copy paper for the puzzle pieces and laminated them before cutting out. The board will have to be laminated at school since it's too big for my personal laminator. I'm looking forward to observing this in the classroom to see who can pick up the pattern.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Fiction Friday: September 25, 2015

It is certainly harder to read voraciously after school starts! Lately it seems I'm reading longer books, which of course take awhile to finish, and am slowing down a bit of children's books. I do have for you the last of our 15 Sunshine State Young Reader Awards books. And by that I mean the last one that I had not yet read.

Fourth grader Zack has a small blue alien crash land in his bedroom. This book is filled with real science, including directions for creating a bottle rocket. Zack's parents are scientists but he is more interested in baseball. In his efforts to help Amp, the little alien who becomes a friend, he must develop his own science skills. The science is CCSS aligned, the story has many funny moments, and this book should appeal to many readers. I am planning to use it as a read-aloud in the spring when we get to our Sun and Stars science unit. My STEM lessons will be about rockets and this should fit right in!

This book was the one I chose to share with students on 9/11 this year. I had read it at home but still found myself getting emotional at the ending, which simply states that the towers are gone now.
This is the story of Philippe Petit, who with three friends stretched a wire between the unfinished towers in 1974 and proceeded to walk, run, and dance a quarter mile up in the air! It's a beautiful book and was a sweet introduction to the towers which were destroyed before my students were born.

I have enjoyed Rick Riordan's mythology series, but Heroes of Olympus has taken me a long time to get through for some reason. I'm looking forward to his new series on Norse mythology so I decided to get this one finished. The Blood of Olympus nicely wraps up the Percy Jackson story, as well as that of other characters introduced in this series. I'm personally hoping that Riordan is finished with this world; I loved the Egyptian series and would prefer more new ones like that.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

I had to say goodbye last week to an important part of my life :( Yes, my Scotch personal laminator passed away unexpectedly. RIP cherished friend. Suddenly there was no heat!

I have long since considered the personal laminator to be one of the indispensable tools for me. Over the years this little gem has laminated uncountable math station materials and more. When I ran a giveaway on my blog a few years ago this is what I sent the lucky winner. In fact, the laminator was so important that when I saw one in Walgreens on clearance I bought it -- it became my school laminator while my original stayed at home. 

With a price tag a bit over $30 I know I could replace the original, but I really don't want to spend the money right now. So, the school machine came home with me this week where we will hopefully be very happy together for a long while to come. 

What is your indispensable tool?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Fiction Friday: September 11th

In honor of 9/11 I will start with one of my favorite books to share on this date. There's A Big Beautiful World Out There is a picture book by Nancy Carlson. In very child friendly terms it acknowledges many of the anxieties that children may have while also emphasizing overcoming those fears so as not to miss out on the many wonderful things the world offers. This book was written on September 12, 2001 in response to the attacks on our nation and each year I read it to my third graders before anything else on 9/11.

 I read the Newberry Honor book Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage during the summer and absolutely fell in love with main characters Mo and Dale as well as the quirky town of Tupelo Landing. This is the next book in the series, and I chose to listen to the audio during my work commute (I'm about 40 minutes from my school). I highly recommend this version, as the narrator of the two books does wonderful voices for the characters! Mo and Dale (the Desperado Detective Agency) solve another intriguing mystery in this story, this time involving an old inn and a ghost. These books are aimed at upper elementary/middle school readers and I am totally hooked. The next one comes out in October!

 I became a Riordan fan with the beginning of the Percy Jackson series (The Lightning Thief) and have been reading his books ever since. Somehow when the Heroes of Olympus series came out I got behind in my reading so I am now trying to catch up. I'd really like to finish up this series so I can check out the new one involving Norse mythology! As a kid I devoured everything I could find on Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology and still enjoy this genre (as well as Egyptian, which I don't thing I had discovered as a child).

What are you reading this week?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Beginning of the Year - Engineering Design Process and Scientific Method

During our first week of school I introduced my class to both the Engineering Design Process and the Scientific Method with hands-on activities. I have a long whiteboard on one wall that fortunately is magnetic. This board is where I have placed STEM and Science standards.


 I made these labels to display on the board; actually I redesigned the ones I made last spring to make them easier to read. I also printed one page with all the circles so that my students can glue them into their ISN.


I am going to share my display circles; if you teach either of these processes feel free to download them to use in your classroom. You can access the freebie here.

During the first week of school my students saved Fred! It was a great way to introduce them to the engineering design process.

This past week we began our regular "STEM Wednesdays" with our first challenge - building the tallest cup tower. Since we have also spent the first two weeks talking about growth mindsets, the connection of the importance of learning from mistakes was awesome!


This week's challenge will continue the tower theme; I'm looking forward to seeing their spaghetti towers!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Fiction Friday: September 4th

I love posts about books that others are reading or recommending, so I hope to write a Fiction Friday post at least once a month during this school year and share some of what I am reading myself and in the classroom.

This book was my choice for the first read-aloud of the year. I chose it because of its short length, because it is one of this year's Sunshine State books, and because it involves dogs (third graders often enjoy animal stories). In my school if a student reads an SSYRA book and passes the AR test with at least a 70% score they receive a little metal charm to put on their bag tag chain. I am not an AR fan, but I like to help them get that first charm if that's important to them.



I had a little binge last month with books by Amy Krause Rosenthal from my local library. I'm pretty sure some are going to get checked out to go to school with me before too long. They were fun to read and will be great short read-alouds. I loved Spoon, which is about friendship, The chopsticks were characters in that book, so then I read their book and loved it even more!

“Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.”
I absolutely love this story. Ally is so brave as she struggles through school with (unidentified) dyslexia. Listening the audio book I found myself driving and talking back to my phone: "why has no one in her life figured out she can't read and has a learning disability!" It broke my heart but I ended up with so much admiration for her. Of course, she does finally get a teacher who cares about her and things begin to change.

All great stories! What have you been reading?

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