Saturday, April 30, 2016

Math Problem Solving

What's a teacher to do with left over parts from her classroom project? Have students make individual table supply boxes, of course!

Each post left a hollow box tall enough and wide enough to hold writing supplies for all the members of the group, but how to organize is the question. With a little help from a 3D printing app and a 3D printer we will solve the problem!

Taking the time to sketch ideas and decide as a group what will work best becomes the most challenging aspect. Bigger slots for highlighters and smaller slots for pens and pencils seem to be a norm, but rectangles vs. triangles seems to be the biggest rage. I even wonder what will win.

Listening to the intricacies of the app leaves the children wondering what to do first but eager to try. What tool to use, what method to try, should I build and then hollow out or piece smaller parts together, how do I put the parts together so they stay together are all questions that burn among the tables. But where to start seems to be the overarching topic.

And as you expected, measurement comes into play. The children quickly discovered that each 'box' was slightly different so we labeled them so they would get the same one back. Our discussions of volume are chiming through the room. I overhear the children, "You don't need the volume but you still need all three dimensions!" "They will all be used, but separately!" The enthusiasm is evident and the children get underway.

After PARCC Down Time

PARCC definitely changes our routine in a way that warrants some flexibility. So we all enjoyed some indoor recess time as a well deserved break.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Invertebrates come to an End

And, class two has just completed their study of the invertebrates. I am sad to say goodbye to animal classification as this was the most fun we've ever had doing it. Allowing the children to research and utilize their findings to be the creator of their own animal allowed them the freedom to be creative, the opportunity to learn and the lightheartedness of a self made game. Being the 'scientists' discovering these new species with riddle clues allowed them a rich fun learning experience. 

After announcing their discoveries to the class, students were called upon to decipher the animal secrets by unpacking the specific features of the more familiar invertebrates. I was very impressed with their findings. Students were able to share the features of their own researches animal group, the riddle animal and the findings of the other scientists and artists. They were even quick to use the text book and internet to find more classification ideas. Way to go 220!

It amazes me how fifth graders come to us without the clear cut skill set of finding and using information independently to learn from and leave with many of the skills required to do research. This time, I didn't have to give them any extra directions to use resources to add to our animal facts. 

More on Our Innovative Classroom

It is truly amazing to me to see my ideal student work space coming together. A place where students are met with a problem solving group space to identify problems and determine solutions. Just last week, final items came down from the wall to allow for paint and our unique white board wall to use as a community work space. This week our first table was put together. 

I find it interesting how this experience is allowing me to grow as a teacher. So much of this work is foreign to me. I learned that measuring wood to cut has to account for some wood loss as it is sawed away. I learned about the different sizes of screws, and the jobs of drivers and drills. In the end, I discovered that I needed to see some of these things unfold to understand them, or hold them in my hand to acknowledge how they work. It is a great reminder of how individual students need to learn. 
So many others have stepped up to help out, or just come by to support our innovative environment. If it weren't for Francis Wyman's 'Tech Guru,' Ben Schersten, there wouldn't even be a plan for this great table. If it weren't for Diana Marcus, I am not sure what standing desks would be in my room. 

Watching the children take on one new piece of furniture at a time has allowed us all to figure out best uses and best practices. I am impressed with the number of children already choosing standing over sitting.

I am even more excited to complete our transformation from a traditional classroom to what I hope to be a place where children love to come and work together, where they welcome a challenge and where they see each other as an asset in their learning.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Invertebrate Showdown

The Land of the Lost Invertebrates

Completion of What Makes an Invertebrate and Invertebrate

As we finish our explorations of the elusive invertebrates, students became the scientists in the Land of the Lost Invertebrates. They were met with these curious creatures, rain forest sounds, binoculars and fact cards (another student's animal riddle card.)
The students were asked to observe all of the animal inhabitants prior to deciding which animal they were searching for. Clues on the card broke down animal structures, features, habitat, eating habits and more.
Once they explored all of these unique critters they went back to their newly identified animal and presented their findings to their fellow investigators. The results were impressive. All of the animals were correctly identified. 

Finally, all of the scientists worked together to determine the traits of these strange new creatures. We were able to identify the structures, characteristics, environments, eating habits and more of these less familiar inhabitants from our own scientific explorations. We correctly broke down mollusks, marine invertebrates, crustaceans, worms, insects and arthropods both myriapods and arachnids. Our study of the invertebrates is complete!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Reading and Acting Out "Number the Stars"

The boys and girls have been reading my all time favorite fifth grade core book, Number the Stars. This historical fiction chapter book by  Lois Lowry is about the escape of a Jewish family from Copenhagen during World War II. The story centers on ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen, who lives with her family in Copenhagen in 1943. She questions her bravery throughout the book due to her fear, but when the time comes to help her best friend and their family she comes to find out bravery is not quite what she thought it was.

Students were asked to study example reader's theaters and make one of their own on a chapter from the book. Each group did an amazing job with just a week's time to listen to, create and practice their own chapter from the book. Here is just a taste.