What's Going on Here...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

January is OVER and I am SO BEHIND!!!

Getting back into some kind of normal after all the snow has been difficult! This week I am SO off schedule I don't know if I'll get back on track before school is out. I guess I have learned - and am still learning - to give myself permission to let some things go! We spend so much time and brain power making things "just so" - we pour our souls into it...it's hard to let our wonderful, well-planned, beautiful lessons go! What will the kids do without that particular lesson on...?! I KNOW you all get EXACTLY what I am saying.LOL  With that being said I did find some time to make a few pictures of our activities this week - a little math, a little science...but ALWAYS a LOT of fun!

These are the promised photos of my students building the "snowflakes" after viewing photos of real ones.

Aren't these absolutely amazing! I want to send these to the "folks in charge" with a message - We don't have to push little folks. Look what's in their little minds! Let them alone and guide them - these creations are proof that they have the potential to do great things if we'll give them time to develop!!! Ok...off the soapbox! :-)

After building with the real blocks, the kiddos recreated their snowflakes with black paper and pattern block die-cuts. These are displayed in our hall. While we are experimenting with this we use the matching color for each die-cut shape because they are easier for them to see. Next, we'll use all white paper die-cut shapes to build a snowflake. I'll post those pictures later.

 Another activity this week has been to learn how the animals change to survive the winter cold. This book -  Summer Coat, Winter Coat: the Story of Snowshoe Hare  illustrates "adjusting for winter" wonderfully well. You can make lots of comparisons to how people adjust as well. The kiddos love it!
I found a similar activity on Little Giraffes - the children took their rabbit and helped him "blend in" like Snowshoe Hare. 

Next, we created a fact page, writing about what we learned from the story. The children do all of it from start to finish. They choose the fact (I help them count the words), they sound out each word (I help by modeling letter strokes as they write), and they create their own artwork (to reinforce what we have written).
(My allies in crime, Mrs. Knight and Mrs. Scott have since "graduated" from kindergarten to teach elsewhere, but working with them to create this unit was a blast. I think of them each time I teach it.)

Another day we learn about animals that "move" or migrate for the winter. I like the differences in the illustrations. Each child's work is his own - no cookie cutter here! :-)
A great activity is to give each child a cup of "dirt" with a gummy worm inside. Layer "snow" on top of the dirt (whipped cream or something like it) and put in the freezer for a bit. Give each child a beak (clothespin) and ask them to find the worm - no fingers, but the "beak". This definitely demonstrates why the birds have to migrate and is tasty, too!

Next week, we will complete the last page...more pictures to come!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Whoever you are...you are my HERO!

 I have grown "snowflakes" using borax and boiling water for years. I love the end result, but DREAD the labor of making 18-19...one for each kiddo. I have tried to think of an easier way after the first year of pushing myself through the process of this wonderful, but wearisome activity. Well, I finally found it! I don't know this teacher, but I LOVE YOU! No more dragging out 18 jars, washing 18 jars, REwashing 18 jars, storing 18 jars...you get the picture. Check out this site for the easiest directions I've seen! 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

January...a little Science...a little Math...a LOT of FUN!

Snowflakes~Symmetry~Patterns~3 States of Matter...plus a few
We started our unit reading the book, Snowballs by Lois Ehlert. After we listed what we needed to build a snowman, I gave each group a bag of mystery items. Of course they quickly guessed what we were going to do, but the toilet paper threw them off a little...hmmmmm.

SIDE NOTE...Since it rarely snows in this part of the world I had planned that we would follow steps to "build" snowmen by decorating a friend. Who knew we would have the first white Christmas in at least 44 years, come back to school for 2 days only to miss the next week of school due to 6 - 8 inches of snow and sleet! I can't wait to get back since the kiddos have FINALLY experienced the real thing!:-)

 After the children divided into our 4 math station groups, their assignment was to first agree as a small group who would be the snowman, who would be the decorators, and discuss the steps to build the snowman. Each group quickly came to their own conclusion - only one took time to vote since 2 of the 5 children wanted to be the snowman. 

One snowman complete!
Still working....

A proud group of builders!
We then drew in our math journals each step of snowman building - first, second, next, etc.
The book, The Snowy Day is a great lead-in to a few lessons on the 3 states of matter. 
We played the game, "Melt the Ice Cube" found on the Little Giraffes website. 

He's blowing on the ice cube! :-)

After discussing the HUGE gift of a WHITE CHRISTMAS, we talked about what the flakes looked like. It's interesting to hear the children describe what they saw and compare their observations with photos of real snowflakes.
After admiring several beautiful snowflake photos from the website snowcrystals.com, we read the book, Snowflake Bentley This book tells about the farmer who invented the first camera able to take photos of actual snowflakes.
Next, I gave each child a bag containing one of each pattern block shape. It was exciting watching the children's faces as they found the blocks in the snowflakes! No one had to be encouraged to count them or pay attention - they were completely engaged!
The children came up and pointed out the pattern block shapes they saw. We reviewed symmetry and found that a snowflake can be divided in any direction and still have symmetry. FYI this is called "rotational symmetry".
Some brought their shapes to match.
How many can YOU find?!

 We watched a short movie on the same site which shows a snowflake forming. We then acted it out - pretending to be little ice crystal friends attracting more and more friends until...

We fell from the sky!

Our next step will be to build snowflakes using our pattern blocks, then recording what we build by gluing paper die-cut pattern block shapes to match. As soon as we get back to school I'll have more photos...I'm ready! I like snow, but enough is enough!