Thursday, January 31, 2013

Research, Compare and Contrast, Using Graphic Sources, and Presentations

My 6th graders have been busy learners these last few weeks.  Upon completing a passage called Dinosaur Ghosts: The Mystery of Coelophysis, I challenged my students to some research.

I don't know what it is about dinosaurs, but my students LOVE learning about them.  I think it is that they lived so long ago, were so massive, for the most part, and no longer exist.  As soon as I shared with them what we would be doing, they truly couldn't wait to get started.

Upon completing the passage from Reading Street and identifying main idea for each section of the text, the students were then allowed to choose a packet of information about a dinosaur.  The list included: Omnithosaurus, Ultrasaurus, Xiasaurus, Pachycephalosaurus, Kronosaurus, etc.  I selected and printed out information on 24 dnosaurs that I knew my students had NEVER heard of.  I wanted them to complete authentic research, rather than read and write about something they already knew a great deal about.

Upon getting their packet, they were given a Venn Diagram and asked to find/identify/organize the following information about their dinosaur and Coelophysis...

They gained knowledge of words like locomotion, anatomy, etc.  We incorporated our work with prefixes and suffixes discussing the difference between a biped and quadruped.  We used graphics to identify more information.  All in all, so many learning targets were part of this project.

Next, they had to combine the information about these two dinosaurs into two different paragraphs-a comparison paragraph and a contrasting paragraph.  Each paragraph had to have an introductory sentence, three supporting details, and a concluding sentence.  Upon editing them and rewriting, they were typed on the laptops.

Upon printing out their paragraphs, students created posters to display their research.  Their posters had to include the following: a venn diagram, graphics of both dinosaurs, a map where their dinosaur fossils were found, and their published paragraphs.  

Other items could include an Encephalization chart or other graphics found.  Here is an example of one student's finished product.

Today the students present.  They will stand before the class and share information about their dinosaur compared to Coelophysis.  They have been given a rubric in order to earn their 35 presentation points.  I am eager to hear their new knowledge.

I would love to hear your thoughts on how you incorporate research into your classroom.  Keep me posted on any cool tools you use or fun ideas you have!  Happy almost February!  

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Organization...A Valentine's Craft and A LOOOONNNNNNGGGG Weekend to get some things done!

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!  100th Day of School!  Half-Way Through the Year....
It has been an incredibly busy last few cards completed for the 2nd quarter, back into the swing of things with school, and SICKNESS!  UGGHHHHH-I am ready for spring to say the least!

Both my son and daughter were blasted with the flu last week.  My son is the inevitable "thrower-upper," while my daughter just gets the fever and the cough.  My son was able to wrap up his bout with the flu with a noisy case of Croup.  He had it at 6 months, but I had no idea that 6-year olds could even get that!  Needless to say, we are on the mend and back to school as usual l tomorrow.  I HOPE!

I needed this 3-day weekend more than I ever could have imagined!  With Baby #3 arriving in about 6-7 weeks, I needed time to sit down and plan the remainder of my school year.  I am about 80 pages of lessons, planning, procedures, and other information into my "SUB INFO BINDER" to prepare for my long-term sub.  Only a few last things to add, and I can say that I am confident Mrs. R will be ready to go!  Ten weeks is a LOOOONNGGGG time to prepare someone for coming in to take your place in a hopefully seamless fashion.

This was a HUGE organizational weekend on the home front as well.  Since we have no idea what gender baby we are having, all bins were pulled, loads of laundry was tackled, bags of unneeded items were dropped off at Goodwill, and I can say with as much confidence as one can have welcoming a THIRD baby, that we are as ready as we will ever be...

Lastly, with impending Valentine's parties coming, I thought I might as well tackle the task of finding a craft and working on it with my son, so he is ready to teach his classmates on Valentine's Day.  Since I am often lying awake at 3AM, I did some late-night Pinteresting and found an adorable Valentine butterfly craft.  After a trip to Walmart today to grab: colored craft sticks, pipe cleaners, googly-eyes, felt heart stickers, and bags of M&Ms, here is what we made:

Brennan happy to show off our fun work!
Some inexpensive supplies!
We will be using Valentine M&M bags to make them more festive.
While I often say this, my 6th graders love crafts!  We will begin our work with 26 Random Acts of Kindness in 28 Days in February, so I am thinking of teaming up with my friend, Maria of Curious Firsties and having a 6th grade/1st grade buddy time to make this craft close to Valentine's Day as well.  Combining this with a reading activity will be better than any party we could ever have.  I will happily post pics of this fun event in a few short weeks.

In the meantime, stay warm and know that spring will be here before we know it!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Happy New Year! A Resolution Essay Organizer FREEBIE!

Happy New Year! While I know many school districts went back to school this Monday, we have been back in school since January 2nd! At this point in the school year, I love to take the time to challenge my students to think about their work so far and where they hope to be by the end of the school year.  To incorporate the start of the new year, we work on goal-setting and we resolve to do things that will help us to be an even better version of ourselves.

I started the week-long writing assignment discussing commercials students have been seeing a great deal of on TV.  Many confirm they have seen lots of commercials for gym memberships and weight-loss companies.  I ask them why they think these are so "in your face this time of year?" and they were able to respond that "with the new year comes people setting goals to become better."

We created a brainstorm cloud where students listed ways they could improve upon themselves.  Some were very forthcoming and willing to share things that they thought needed improvement.  Examples were: practicing harder, putting more effort into school work, listening more to a parent, being more responsible, etc.  We discussed the difference between setting a goal versus achieving a dream.

Next students decided on the three things they wanted to work on, starred them on their brainstorm cloud, and got to work on their organizer.  We tackled the topic sentence first, so students understood how they needed to begin the task of organizing their writing.  I helped them through this by modeling with my three resolutions: saving more money, being less quick-tempered, and saying only respectful things about others.  
Once we established our topic sentence, I showed students that my BING paragraph would be all about saving money, my BANG paragraph would be all about being less quick-tempered, and my BONGO paragraph would be all about saying only respectful things about others.  I have to share that my students loved hearing the stories behind my resolutions and were very enthusiastic about helping with with the three strategies to achieve each of them. In addition to having three strategies, each paragraph needed to include an opening sentence-introducing the resolution and a concluding sentence-bringing the paragraph to a close.  

After the modeling, students began working independently as I moved around the room.  I was so thrilled to see how enthusiastic they were about writing to achieve their personal goals.

Day 2: We discussed what we did the previous day and got to work on our introduction and conclusion.  Some may find this strategy backwards-I have have found that it can be tricky for students to find a place to begin.  With each of their body paragraphs completed, I explained that now they simply have to grab the reader's attention, and then bring the work to a close.

I gave the example of crime shows.  Often the writers open the show with a person dead on the sidewalk to grab the audience's attention, so you are hooked and don't want to change the channel.  They got it, so we began working together to create a "hooky" introduction.  They agreed that asking questions and using exclamations would hook a reader.  We created a model and did the same for the conclusion.

For the conclusion we discussed how we are bringing the piece to a close and sending the reader on their way.  This is NOT the time to share new information, but instead give the reader the chance to reflect on what we have shared.  Again, they got it and were on their way! The students completed their organizers and were ready to draft.

Here are a few pics of my students drafting...

Yesterday I had the chance to have writing conferences with them.  They signed up for a conference once they completed their draft.  My focus in conferencing was: mechanics-CUPS-capitalization, usage/grammar, punctuation, spelling.  Lastly, we discussed organization and the use of transitions in their sentences. Students re-wrote their drafts and will be publishing them on the laptops tomorrow.  I will share a few examples of these final pieces soon!

While students are at different levels in their writing abilities, this is a writing strategy that they will find useful through their college years. In addition, it can be modified for multiple uses: friendly letters, persuasive pieces, and expository writing where directions are given.  I would love to hear about the tools you utilize to enhance writing in your classroom settings.  Happy 2013!  May you work to achieve all of the resolutions you set out to accomplish!

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