Thursday, April 25, 2013

Cultural "Artifakes" and Artifacts

Cultural “Artifake”
In Social Studies, my 3rd graders are learning about primary and secondary sources and cultures of the past and present. To begin our unit we learned about artifacts or any object made by a human being, typically an item of cultural or historical interest. Tools, jewelry, pottery, clothing, toys…all of these are example of artifacts.

To make this lesson meaningful for the students we asked them to share a cultural “artifake” or a fake artifact from their culture. A cultural artifact is anything created by humans that gives information about a culture. Some students created their “artifake” while others used a objects found in their homes. 
We asked the parents to talk to their child about their “artifake” and how it represents their culture. In the classroom we placed all the items in our cultural museum, the student's labeled their "artifake" and included details about where the "artifake" originated.

After learning more about different cultures around the world, the student's interviewed each other about their personal cultures. At this time, they were able to share their "artifakes" with each other. The students were able to make new connections to their culture and the culture of their peers through this activity and the passages in the text.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Text Features, Text Features...


Text features are parts of text that draw your attention to important information. Some examples of text features include Headings, Photographs, Captions, Print Styles, Illustrations, Charts, and Diagrams. Text features help readers to understand the important parts of the text. They also can help readers to make predictions and set a purpose for reading.

To kick off our unit on text features we introduced different types of text features using posters like the "Captions" and "Diagrams" examples above. After introducing each text feature, the students hunted for the text feature in their Science and Social Studies textbooks. We quickly learned how to identify different types of text features.

We then created a Text Feature Wall, the students worked in groups to find the very best examples of each text feature from various non-fiction magazines. We discussed each text feature and how it was used in the text and then we organized the text features on our Text Feature Wall.

As we read about the Neighbors of the United States in Social Studies, we continued to identify and label the text features in each chapter. We discussed why the authors decided to use the text feature and what was its purpose. For example, a map may help us to learn where things are located or it may help us to understand specific information about a region.

After the students were familiar with text features and their purposes, we used textmapping to help us make predictions and set a purpose for reading. Before reading the next chapter in our Social Studies text, we made copies of the chapter and pasted the pages in order on a long scroll. Then the students worked in groups to identify each text feature using a textmapping key. 

After identifying each text features, the groups labeled their purpose. It was challenging for the students, but we encouraged them to be specific (ie. not to write the purpose of a map, but to write the purpose of the specific map in that chapter).

Once the scrolls were complete the students could "read" the text features to learn about the content in the chapter. The students were impressed with how much you can learn just from "reading" the text features! We were also able to make a lot of predictions about the chapter before we even read it. 

Text features have become part of our daily discussions in Reading, Science, and Social Studies. I love it when the students refer to a chart, sidebar, or any other feature to provide evidence to their conclusions!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Tracking Student Progress...

I'm always looking for meaningful ways to track student progress that are simple to create and utilize in the classroom. Tracking student progress allows both teachers and students to examine increases in knowledge towards a learning goal. Teachers can use multiple informal assessments to quickly assess progress being made on a daily basis and to adjust instruction. Moreover, students are able to make connections to learning goals and their learning progress. Most importantly, however, tracking student progress helps students to take responsibility for their learning. 

During my junior internship, I was able to work with an amazing team of 3rd grade teachers that developed an efficient system to track student progress. For each student, the teacher created cards for each learning goal. The cards included the learning goal, customized scales, and a bar graph for the student to track their progress. 
Prior to, during, or after a lesson the students would track their progress. Students would fill in the date, use the scale to determine where they felt that they were in attaining their learning goal, then shade in the bar graph to the corresponding number on the scale. Students used a 3x5 index card box to store their individual tracking progress cards and separated the cards by subject area.  
Once you create the initial set of cards, the system is simple to use and effective. The teachers and students were able to visualize student progress. Also, students could re-visit learning goals throughout the year.  Some students showed that they met their learning goal on their individual bar graphs, but they were not able to demonstrate their knowledge on a formal assessment. Students and teachers can use both the bar graphs and formal assessments to reflect on the student's progress and set new learning goals. The graphs provide great data for teacher/student conferences and/or parent conferences.  

In my senior internship, I used a similar system to track student progress for a various standards units. Below is a Social Studies example. Although I love using individual bar graphs to track student progress, I've learned that we should use a variety of techniques to track students' progress both informally and formally in the classroom.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Prezi as a Presentation and a Teaching Tool...

Prezi can do so much for an educator...engage all students, chunk information into digestible bites, develop 21st century skills. I love to use Prezi as an interactive graphic organizer in the classroom. When I design my lessons using Prezi I am able to organize images, videos, and other resources into a story line to create a dynamic visual representation of valuable knowledge, concepts, or ideas for my students.

I've had the opportunity to share this valuable tool with pre-service teachers and public school teachers at my university and at a local elementary school. Initially, presenting in front of a group of my peers seemed daunting, however educators were enthusiastic to learn how to "Prezify" their lessons and presentations. Many of the attendees of these workshops continue to stay in touch, I love to hear their stories about how they are using this amazing tool in the classroom. 

Explore a variety of resources and examples on how educators and students can use Prezi in their schools.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Fishing for Fractions

My 3rd graders had some difficulty with comparing and ordering fractions. To help them review I created a Dr. Seuss inspired fraction review, Fishing for Fractions.


We celebrated Dr. Seuss week with some fraction fun! In this fraction flip book my students worked in groups of four to represent, compare, and order fractions using various strategies and models. 

  Each student in the group had a different fraction on their cover pages, once their booklet was completed they put their fish bowl fraction flip books in order from least to greatest. 

Once the class finished their fraction fish bowls we had to share with the rest of the school. We decorated the halls with our fishy fractions. My supervising teacher made those amazing red fish and blue fish to add to the fun!

This packet is aligned to the following Common Core Math Standards: NF.1.1: NF.1.2: NF.1.3

This packet is aligned to the following NCTM 3rd Grade Standards:
Recognize equivalent representations for the same number and generate them by decomposing and composing numbers.
Develop understanding of fractions as parts of unit wholes, as parts of a lines, and as divisions of whole numbers.
Use models, benchmarks, and equivalent forms to judge the size of fractions.
Recognize and generate equivalent forms of commonly used fractions.

Develop and use strategies to estimate computations involving fractions in situations relevant to students experience. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

How many raisins are in a mini-box of raisins?

To expose our third grade students to more hands-on math activities, the fantastic 3rd grade teachers and I incorporated Mathtastic Fridays into our schedule. Every Friday we use our math skills to solve real world problems. This Friday we became Great Graphers as we asked ourselves, exactly how many raisins can you find in a mini-box of raisins. Below is a quick summary of our activity.  

First, we asked ourselves – How many raisins are in a mini- box of raisins? 
Each student received two unopened boxes of raisins. We made some interesting observations of our mini-boxes such as, both boxes are exactly the same size and same shape. We revisited our question and the students shared their predictions with their partners.

Then, we collected our data. 
Each student carefully counted their raisins (I had to remind them not to eat their data). They recorded their totals on their data sheet. 

Next, we organized our data. The class decided a line plot would help us to organize the class' information. We found the highest number of raisins in a box and the lowest. The students used this information to construct the scale for the line plot. 

Then, we began plotting our data. Each student added one dot sticker to represent number of raisins in each box.

After everyone's mini-boxes were plotted, we analyzed our data. We asked ourselves:

  • What do you notice about the data in this graph?
  • Every mini-box was the same size, why do you think every box did not have the same amount? 
The students came up with wonderful observations! We also found the range, mode, and median. 

Finally, we interpreted the results to answer our original question-How many raisins are in a box of raisins? 
Using our data, we predicted how many raisins are likely to be in a new box  of mini-raisins. The kids were great graphing detectives as we tried to find an answer to our real-world question. Everyone loved graphing with raisins.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Unit on Figurative Language...

Recently, I used this Prezi and a variety of children's literature to explore different types of figurative language with my 3rd graders. After reviewing the definitions and examples of one type of figurative language in the Prezi, we examined how author's use this type of figurative language in context. Sometimes, we read the entire text, sometimes we read snippets of the text, and sometimes we read the text 2 or 3 times. Some of the books we used include:
Some Smug Slug by Pamela Duncan
Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
The Little Red Hen by Paul Galdone
The Little Red Pen by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel
Bedhead by Margie Palantini
Piggie Pie! by Margie Palantini
Cloudy Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
“Ode to Pablo’s Tennis Shoes” by Gary Soto
Shel Silverstein's poems

Then students became writers themselves as they created their very own Figurative Language Flipbook. Each "flip" was designated for a different type of figurative language. The students had to include the definition of the type of figurative language, at least one original example, and a picture to support their example(s). When complete with each flip the students would assess themselves using a rubric. 

This was, by far, one of the more enjoyable lessons for both me and the students that I've taught this year. Between the Prezi, the music video, the books, and the student's Figurative Language Flipbook, the students were completely engaged. The student rubric helped the student's to take ownership and reflect on their work. The students continued to sing the figurative language song throughout the day. They loved to tell me when they heard someone use figurative language or when they spotted it in a story. In fact, they loved it so much that we had to come up with a silent hand signal. To this day, when we hear figurative language we'll quietly touch our nose and smile!