Sunday, December 25, 2016

STEM K-8 style

At the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, we decided to have an all-school STEM day every week.  We wanted have multi-grade groups work together on different projects. We thought it would be great to enhance our "community" feel by having the kids spend time together in an organized, educational program. Because I have a huge amount of pins on my Pinterest pages, I knew that what we needed was just a click and search away. Off to one of my STEM pages (I have two) I went and started picking out activities that would work well with the broad range of ages. I picked out a few fun activities, divided the kids up in mult-age groups and collected my supplies. After a talk with my older students about including the little ones in everything, we were ready to go.

Because we get out early on Fridays, we decided the last hour and a half would be the perfect time for our trial.  I chose to start with activities that involved craft sticks because I already had a lot of them.  We put all the supplies, craft sticks, rubberbands, plastic spoons and pompoms in plastic bags-one bag per group.

The first act of the first day was to chose groups, placing the younger students with the older students. Then, we passed out packages for each group. This day was capapault day!

Intense work and fun combined to make the first day a huge success. As the leader, I came away with a realization that being totally prepared was absolutely a must. Thirty-three kids in one room takes patience and total-did I mention total- organization.

We met in the gym. Expectations for the project were given and the kids were allowed to go off to a spot anywhere in the room that there was no group. They spent the next hour figuring out how to build a catapault and then had fun using them. The catapaults were refined so they could shoot farther, higher and-well, just better.

This is what it looks like:

Notice how focused they are as they work. To group, we drew names and these two gentlemen were excited to get to work together. Not everyone was placed with their best friends, but they all had a wonderful experience. Friendships also developed between the older and younger students that were stronger than ever.

The hardest part was getting them to realize that, even though we were in the gym, they could not run and scream when they needed to move about, but they eventually figured it out with a little help from the teachers. The easiest part was keeping them involved once it began. They made their capapaults and then we used them to aim at targets. We also tested them to see whose catapault would shoot the ammuntion the farthest. The day ended well; the kids were excited to do it again the next week.

When we went back to our room for dismissal, there were happy smiled everywhere. We decided the activity was a definite keeper.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Start 2017 with a Bang

A great start is all about being ready! Take a few hours from your vacation-but only a few-and plan the first week down to the smallest detail! Here are some of the ways that I plan to get and engage my students.

Engaging the class starts at the beginning of the day and for us, that is worship. Spend a little time to find a worship story that is more than words from a book. Give them something that your kids will watch and think about at the same time. Interactive worships are also a great way to start the day. I have had students beg their parents to get them to school on time because they did not want to miss worship!

Here is one of the worships I have planned for when I get back to school:

The first one is called "One Sin" and is found at a website called Mad About Jesus. You will need three air-filled balloons and one water-filled balloon. You will also need a candle, match and fire extinguisher or bucket of water. Light the candle when you are ready to start.

Ask the kids to define the word 'perfect' and come to the conclusion that only God is perfect Talk about how sin separates us from God. Ask three kids to name a sin. Put an air-filled balloon over the fire each time a sin is named and let the balloon pop. Ask the kids ask you to help them "fix" the balloons. Once they come to the conclusion that there is nothing they can do, bring out the last balloon.

Talk about how this balloon is just like the others but it has a relationship with Jesus and is filled with His spirit. Talk about how God takes care of those who have a close relationship with Him. Ask a fourth child to name a sin. Hold the balloon over the candle. It should not break.

Discuss why the first three balloons broke but the fourth one did not. Remind them that the balloons represent God's children and that a relationship with God will keep them strong.

Review and practice procedures and rules. Face it, Remembering things from the beginning of the day to the endis hard enough.They have been on vacation for two or three weeks. Remind them about the things that are important in your room.

Start the year with a fun challenge. During math class, we are going to review estimation. Once we have finished the review, I will present them with a large glass jar filled with candy. Students will have one week to try to estimate how many candies are in the jar. (I shall count them as I fill it.) The student that comes closest to the right number without going over will get the jar and everything in it! I mentioned it before break after I brought the dollar store jar to the classroom, so they are primed and ready.

Turn your students into teachers. On the first day back, I am continuing a Greek and Latin root word unit, but with a twist. This time, I am using a lesson I found on Cinnamon Classroom about word superheros. I have chosen "rupt" as an example I will do with my class. Together, we will define it, list words that include it and create a superhero for it using the words from our list.

The next day, after a quick review, each student will be assigned a word to learn that they will define and make a word list for the words. 

They will create a superhero to be shared with the class the following week. They will create their own costume that they will wear when they teach the rest of the class about their own superhero. As they listen to each teacher, they will have to write the meanings of each root and list a few words for it. This is a great activity for any class because so many English words come from the roots. On the Cinnamon Classroom page, you will find free downloads if you want to try it in your room.

There are so many ways you can have your students teach each other. Don't forget about the possibilities of technology, music, skits or booklets. I am choosing to start the second half of the year out with the above activity because it is guaranteed to capture their attention. I can almost hear the buzz in my room already.

Kids love to work together and creating a game is a great team project. One of the things my students will be doing will help us cover more of Africa with more involvement and more fun than we could have reading about them from our book. My first step will be to divide the kids into groups of two-my choice this time.

Students will be devising a lesson about their African country. Then they will create a game that they will be played after the lessons. Teams are required to come up with 35 questions about their country for each game. They will also make up their own rules and game pieces. Once they are done, two days will be spent on lessons and games. Then students will review the games they played using a rubric.

Teach your students a new skill for physical education. We are starting the year off with track and field-I am in a warm state. We will spend four days a week on the new skill. On Fridays, we will play a group game.

I haven't finished all my plans yet, but I hope this will give you a few ideas. Please share ideas you have used in your room. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Park Field Trips

Trips a local park can be a lot of fun and totally educational. We took our entire school, grades K-8, to a park that has a hummingbird trail, a pond and a castle. We had a lot of fun, but we also put in a lot of work.

I had a bit more work than anyone else. I went to the park before the trip. I took pictures of many things around the park. When I made it back to my classroom, I downloaded the pictures and made a different scavenger hunt for each child. As we took a walk through the park, the students would try to find all the things on the list. This made them more active, more attentive as we wound through the trail. The pictures included the life found on the trail as well as man-made items.

Because we are a Christian school, when we were at one of the ramadas on the trail, we had a Bible activity. We stopped and broke up into groups mixing the younger students with the older students. Each group chose a paper with a Bible story written on it. They went off into little groups and planned out their story. They had a lot of fun acting out the different stories and guessing what story each group was sharing.

P.E. was pretty simple. The castle involves climbing, sliding, balancing, etc. We watched as the kids did what kids need to do. They chased each other, played hide and seek, pushed each other on swings and other totally unmanuscripted fun.

We went to the river that borders the park. Along the edge, we looked for insects and, when we found them, learned how to respect life, regardless of the form. I did this because we really do not see a lot of insects in our area-outside of gnats, flies, ants and the occasional scorpion. We were able to observe the Burrowing owl habitats.

Follow up activities allow students to write, draw and tell about different things the kids learned while at school the next day. Other activities that we did not get to involved testing the water in the pond, bird watching and comparing what we observed and finding natural habits. Of course, there is always next year!