Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Rainforest

We just completed a huge unit on the rainforest. It just so happened that our theme for "March is Reading Month" this year was the rainforest. So we decided to incorporate many of our lessons with it! At the beginning of the month I put up a giant tree on our bulletin board outside of our classroom. Throughout the month, we added to it!

In its earliest stages, it was merely a leafless tree. However, after we started our unit on poetry it began to come to life! 

I find that so often my students love reading poetry, writing poetry, and learning about poetry but really struggle when it comes to understanding the pentameter an rhythm of a poem. It is definitely one of the hardest things to grasp!

To start our unit, I had them each find a poem that had to do with the rainforest. they were asked to copy it word for word in their neatest cursive handwriting onto a leaf. They needed to pay special attention to the stanzas and spacing that the writer uses. 

After they had completed their leaf, they read the poem out loud to the class during our poetry coffee house. We enjoyed hot chocolate, cookies, and awesome poetry. It doesn't get any better than that!

After the students got practice verbalizing poems, it was time to start writing. In social studies students were asked to research an animal in detail and complete a graphic organizer about that animal. Eventually they turned this research into a poem! I shared many different types of poems and students each chose a type they wanted to create. They then had to draw an animal to add to our rainforest. I have MANY artists in my classroom. It is truly amazing how gifted they are. They were also allowed to trace the animal if they felt that would be easier for them. Our tree (and river for the amphibians) turned out amazing! I dread taking this beautiful board down. It has become quite the focal point in our hallway!

Math Madness!

Ahhh spring break.... the sounds of birds chirping outside my window, getting plenty of work done, and lounging in sweats all day. Most importantly I get the opportunity to blog again! It is oh-so-nice to have some "me time" this week.

This post contains math, math, and some more math. I love thinking of new ways to teach concepts to students who are struggling. I think be creative and teaching a concept a new way can really help a student grasp a concept that they may not have otherwise!

We have been hard at work with geometry in third grade. We learned a lot about quadrilaterals and the attributes that make them unique and different from one another. I had the students create "quadrilateral quotes". 

In this assignment, the students were each assigned a quadrilateral. Parallelograms, rectangles, rhombi, squares, and kites were all in the mix. They were then given a quote bubble. In that quote bubble they needed to list things that made that shape what it was. On the last line, they told the name of the shape. Next, the students needed to draw the shape. It is important to stress that they use a ruler to measure and a straightedge to make straight lines. 

The students LOVED this assignment and loved making their shapes unique. (I had some rockstar rhombi hanging on my wall! Mohawks and all!)

My kiddos are also working on memorizing their multiplication facts! This can be quite a challenge for some. I really find that making learning the facts fun is key to learning them. Students tire of reciting the "8's" off of a piece of paper. 
I have tried to think of some new fun ways to get them practicing! 

One of the thing my students love most is our multiplication towers. 

This is a very popular idea on Pinterest. It is a fast paced game in which students stack dixie cups with facts on the bottom of them as fast as they can. The key is that they cannot ad the cup to the stack unless they know the fact on the bottom. (If they need a reminder the answer is written on the inside of the cup). 

My students literally beg to play this game. They battle to make the tallest tower in the shortest amount of time during indoor recess. They have even created adaptations to the game were a third player must write down the answers while the others stack the cups. I LOVE THIER CREATIVITY! Aren't kids the best?!

My next math tidbit for this post is about area and perimeter. My fourth grade friends have been working on area and perimeter for some time now. I wanted to think of a way to let them review what they knew. I wanted to do something tangible and fun! 

I used Cheez-Its as a way for students to visualize 1 square inch. It worked wonderfully and the students really enjoyed it! 

I began by giving the students the area (25 Cheez-Its) and having them find the length and width of the rectangle. Then, I reversed it giving them the dimensions and having them find the area. I did the same with perimeter. I even threw in some "missing-side" problems at the end! The possibilities are endless!

Lastly, since I came into the classroom as a long term sub, I really had wanted a way to gauge my students full understanding of the topics that had been taught thus-far in the school year. I wanted to do something fun! I created a bulletin board and what we call problem of the week. Once a week, the students get one math problem. Because it is only one problem, they are expected to do their absolute best. The problem requires a model, a equation, and a written explanation in which they must highlight their mathematical vocabulary. The problem gets turned in at the end of the week.

One of my favorite things about this is that if students don't get a problem I offer "mini-lessons" for help. I announce that I am holding a mini lesson and those students who feel like they need a little extra help are able to get a quick review on the topic. 

It is amazing to see how far their responses have come on these people! They have improved leaps and bounds and their written explanations blow me away.