Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Student Computer Lab Activities

To mix it up a bit, we will visit the computer lab this week during English. Students, your job is to comment below to let the world wide web know what you thought of the activities! If you don't have an email address with which to comment, you will use a sticky note in class.

Student website from
Computer Lab Favorites

Okay so it's geared to 3rd-5th grade students, but this website has some good review. In class we will use Fish Up Word Endings to practice spelling, and Create a Character Scrapbook.

Fish Up Word Endings
Fish Up Word Endings
(Multiple choice quiz)
Choose the proper spelling after adding –ed or –ing to words.

Create a Character Scrapbook
Create a Character Scrapbook
(Writing activity, book connection)
Create scrapbook pages and write about your favorite book.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Learning About the Solar System (and how I use what they do in Science class as an English grade!)

The first unit (September-November) of sixth grade science is the relationship between the earth, moon and sun. The second unit (December-February) is the solar system, mostly the planets' similarities and differences.
When It's Okay To Double-Dip (Integrating Science and English)
I've been integrating literacy with science since I teach the sixth grade English classes, too. For example, earlier in the year we read and took notes on the basics of rocketry. The students wrote a five paragraph essay on what they learned. Additionally, we read and took notes about the life cycle of a star. They created a star booklet to demonstrate what they learned. Most recently, we read and took notes on the International Space Station. The writing connection was to write a summary paragraph. And of course, the December science research project integrated many skills normally associated with language arts.

Hands-on Learning
We study land features of the terrestrial planets to better understand the history of our solar system. It's interesting that the four inner planets have so much in common. There are also several terrestrial moons in the solar system that must have formed similarly to the earth.
First students experimented with dropping metal spheres into a tub of sand layered with flour and sprinkled with cocoa powder. They had to retrieve the metal spheres with a magnet, then observe the changes in the surface of their tub.

The students used flashlights to view the craters. I think these photos do a good job of modeling the surface of the moon. 

Second, partners used play dough to model an impact crater, its rays, its rim, and central peak. Ask your sixth grader, are there impact craters anywhere else in the solar system? 

Recently in class, small groups demonstrated other planetary processes like tectonics, erosion, and volcanism. Ask your sixth grader if they can name places other than Earth that have evidence of these events.

Gravity is the "pulling" force between two objects. The force of gravity is determined by the object's size, and its distance from the planet's center of gravity. Did you know, you actually weigh less on the top of a mountain than down in the deepest canyons due to the difference in proximity to the center of Earth's gravity? I am excited to further explore the concept of gravity, although it's bit challenging to fully grasp. It's gratifying as a teacher when I see the light bulb come on when the kids "get it."  The science curriculum has a couple interesting demonstrations for the kids to try. I'm currently looking for a good English assignment tie-in, as well.
Just a preview...
The weight of a pop can on earth will feel differently than a pop can on the moon. The earth is larger, with a stronger pull of gravity. So will the can weigh more on earth or the moon? We will find out in class!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Science Research Project- edited post from original 1/18

(Edited post- pictures successfully loaded once I updated to Google Chrome!) The research project is complete! I hope the experience, what I referred to as a mini research project, serves as a bridge to the more involved and in-depth research the sixth graders will be doing for their country report.
For this project, there was no essay or written report. The students were graded on their note taking & productivity, finishing a bibliography, a speech, and creative "show-n-tell project." They did all types of projects: edible planets, Power Point, posters, and Styrofoam crafts. Below you can see some photos of a few finished projects.

The objectives, and were they met? My thoughts.
1) Learn to list sources. Students learned to do things like find publisher info in a book, and write down the URLs from online sources. Not everyone used the exact format I taught, but at least they have been exposed to making a bibliography. Many students did not complete this part of the assignment at home and had to spend time in class completing a revised version (for less points). I am proud of the kids who typed theirs and turned it in on time!
2) Presenting in front of the class. Students all stood up front in the classroom with note cards and addressed their peers. Hopefully by doing this presentation they gained confidence for the future. Many students were poised and well prepared. Some spoke too quiet, or didn't have much depth to the content.  I provided feedback to these kids so they know what they need to improve for the next time they present.
3) Time management. I staggered due dates for parts of the project, hoping to encourage time management and avoiding saving everything for the last minute. Nearly all the work could have been completed in school, and all paperwork was due before Christmas break. There were still some missing assignments and late work received but for the most part I feel that the due dates were reasonable and gave students structure. 
4) Note taking and productivity. These two skills have blurred lines. A students with lower reading skills might struggle taking notes. So an incomplete SQRRR packet (see December's post) might be a reflection of his or her struggle to comprehend what they read. Or, incomplete notes and graphic organizers might be a result of wasting time or procrastinating. Some of the speeches were very short and lacking content, more proof of lack of research. I had to judge their behavior in the library and computer lab as productive or not, also taking into consideration their reading level. Luckily, I'm the reading teacher, too, so I know how much to expect of them!
5) Craftsmanship. Wow! What great results! There was some "out of this world" (get it?) creativity invested into the models and cakes. I was impressed by the professional looking boards and displays.

Overall, I feel this project was well worth it. I would love to hear any feedback from parents. Do you feel your child enjoyed this process? Did they learn any new skills?
I forgot to take pictures of the desserts! Here are only a few samples of students' work: