Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thick and Thin Questions

Throughout the year I have been really trying to stress, model, expect, provide examples, etc., of higher order thinking questions...ugh! I went over to It can be like talking to the wall. I can pull my hair out sometimes. That's when I headed over to Hello Literacy (I love this site). You can read more about my post here.

I have those posters posted front and center in my classroom. They are fabulous! I still needed a chart that they could reference at all times, even at home. I went searching on the Internet for an anchor chart that I could also display permanently and continuously add to for reference. I found one on Pinterest (it says from, but I'm unable to link to it to credit properly).

The chart is simple, straight forward, and easy to manage. We discussed the importance of getting those gears spinning in our brains to really dig deep and create lasting learning experiences. Some of my students immediately made reference to our order thinking posters.(Yippee!) I don't know about your kiddos, but food always seems to make lasting learning in my class. Therefore, I made them think about a meal that they have had and that was very memorable or made an impression in their minds. We talked about the why's of such an event. I then showed them a picture of a "thin" hamburger and if any of them wanted one--of course all the hands go up. I then showed them a picture of a "thick" and juicy looking hamburger and asked who would prefer that one--all the hands went up with a roar.

This led to a "deep"--5th grade level conversation about how questions have the same impact on our brains, and how our brains NEED the "thick" hamburgers to really learn things and make them have lasting impressions at a deeper level. Lastly, and most importantly for my kiddos, I had them copy the chart in their Language Arts notebook. Now when they have to come up with questions of their own at home and in class they have a point of reference along with our other posters. In class, I always ask them if the question is "thin" or "thick", and they quickly modify if necessary. I know it is difficult to believe that a simple chart and posters have made such a difference, but they have. (Even my principal was impressed at their level of questioning one day as she made her rounds :))

Gingerbread Christmas T-shirt, Pencil Topper, etc.

I don't know about you, but this school year is absolutely flying by and I don't seem to ever have enough time to do everything I want to get done with my kiddos. What I am getting done, no matter what, is my kiddos monthly t-shirt and pencil based on whatever theme/holiday we decide on (and the only reason these are getting done is because I have the best mom-volunteer that does most of the work!).

This month we decided to go with a gingerbread theme, and I was a bit worried my 5th grade boys were going to moan and complain. Well, I was very wrong. They were as excited as my girls to wear their shirts and have their picture taken--they are too cute.

 Gingerbread Boy

 Gingerbread Girl
Can you believe it is all fabric paint? They look very shimmery and colorful.  

Gingerbread Pencils

The pencils are made from tan felt, some pillow stuffing, and fabric paint. We were so into the gingerbread theme we decided to make their yearly Christmas frame of little gingerbread (about 6in. tall). The frames are made from felt, wiggly eyes, and more fabric paint. Their faces will be in the tummy section. 

Gingerbread Frames

We also made them stockings in the shape of Gingerbread girl and boy. They look so adorable. My kiddos say that they hang all the past stockings around their home for Christmas...aaahhh.

Gingerbread Stocking

I know we went Gingerbread CRAZY, but my kiddos loved it and therefore I loved it. Next week we are going to be eating gingerbread cookies (I love the ones carried by Trader Joe's) with hot chocolate on Pajama Day. I just can't wait!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Water Planet-Solar System

We have begun our study of the Solar System, which will include Earth's water cycle and weather currents. To following are some activities we have done so far:

1. Characteristics of the Planets--the students worked in groups of 4 to sort and classify the pictures of the planets any way they saw fit. Some classified by color, some by size, etc. I then had them classify the planets by their composition. This led to introducing them to the terms terrestrial and gas giants. 

2. Planets in Order---In groups they placed the planets in order by looking at the back of the picture card and identifying the distance from the sun.  We then discussed the inner (terrestrial) and outer (gas giants) planets and how they were separated by the Asteroid Belt  and the Kuiper Belt at the end of our solar system.

3. Expert Groups---each group was to become an "expert" on a planet. They read a sheet with information about their planet. They were to highlight any pertinent information and take notes in their science journal. I then gave them a large chart paper for them to write, draw and display any information they thought was the most important for the whole class to know. As a group, they selected 2 presenters to teach the class about their planet. This gave them each an opportunity to work on the chart based on their own type of intelligence. While the group presented, the class took notes and asked the presenters questions. I was impressed with their charts and with their eagerness to ask clarifying questions.
Students in Groups

Students' Charts

4. Planets on display---the students took all the information they had learned and created a foldable (I got the idea on Pinterest). They got to color the planet template I found online, placed the planets in order, and had to write at least 5 pieces of information on each planet that they thought was very important.

5. Gravity (Isaac Newton)---there is a great investigation in our FOSS Science kit to demonstrate gravity.  They thought it was hilarious that this great idea came from an apple falling on his head. I was able to reiterate the importance of observations and that they NEVER know when they will have an extraordinary breakthrough that will change all of our lives. The investigation uses a ball and string being swung overhead to demonstrate Newton's first law of motion: every object maintains constant speed and remains in a straight line unless gravity (push/pull is exerted on it)--in very simple kid language. This led to discussing the gravitational pull that the sun exerts on the planets and vice-versa.

6. Pendulum Swinger (Galileo Galilie) --this fun and engaging investigation is also from our FOSS Science kit. We discussed Galileo's great contributions to science with the use of the telescope and from research from Copernicus. Students then got the opportunity to test out one of Galileo's observation while he was at Church. They built a pendulum, counted the cycles, and drew conclusions from their investigation. In the process they learned about variables. This was truly learning in action! They realized that everyone was getting different results with the same materials and length of string. They then realized (on their own!) that mass, length of string, and release position all effected the data. We standardized all these variables to have consistency and "true" results. Students then had the opportunity to test out other variables and graphing their results. Their conclusion was that the longer the swing the less cycles and the shorted the string the more cycles the pendulum would complete.  

We were fortunate enough to have the CA Science Center a rail ride away. We saw up-close the magnificent site of the Shuttle Endeavour. We walked around and under it a couple times. We were are perplexed at the material on the exterior of the shuttle, therefore we read more on it. It was truly an exceptional learning experience.

Shuttle Endeavour

What do you do to engage your students learning of the solar system?

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