Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Survival Novels

In taking on teaching all subjects in a STEM classroom, the one I was most worried about was ELA.  How do I incorporate all of the common core requirements and still teach good literature?  I KNOW I can incorporate non-fiction with Social Studies and Science, but I also want to find good books that incorporate STEM ideas.  Then it hit me this summer..... SURVIVAL books!  In all honesty, some of these were novels I used when I taught years ago, and so is the writing project, but I have of course updated the work.

 In introducing the idea of survival books as a theme, I had the students read excerpts from two of the books.  I really should have had them read from all 5, but I wanted them to search for evidence to show me WHY these books met the theme.  One night the students read from Hatchet, and another night they read from My Side of the Mountain.  Each day they would come in with evidence as to how the character survived.
   I then logged on to www.todaysmeet.com and the students joined my class (I made the above picture larger so you can see what they were doing). The way this works is that the teacher creates a private room, and a temporary website is provided.  The students go to that room's website and join the class.  At that point they can all enter their ideas.  I asked the students to choose only 1 of the novel pieces and type in the evidence they found.  As they typed they labeled the book and posted.  They found the limiting of characters to be challenging sometimes, but quickly understood that as soon as they hit enter their info was posted for everyone. I did not care if information was duplicated.

Once all of the kids had finished their evidence, they broke into teams and analyzed the data provided.  They took the evidence and started to break it down into categories.  They came up with the following without any guidance from me:  shelter, finding food and water, making fire, protection from animals and weather, making weapons, making clothing, and making tools.  When I revealed my list of survival elements they were quite surprised as they were so similar.  The following day the students looked at all 5 novels to choose from and got to pick their title.  I did ask the students who stay in my math/science class to please choose Earthquake Terror as this connects our Science (Landforms) to the theme of survival.

As my students read this novel they are looking for evidence of: shelter, food/water, fire, protection/weapons, clothing, tools, and descriptions of the setting.  See, my list of elements was VERY close to theirs, but they got to discover them on their own which I believe makes it more powerful. I'll let you know their projects to choose from soon.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Chatting about Poetry

     A week ago my intern led a lesson about poetry and elements of a poem, and how to give feedback to each other.  After drafting with her, the students came in with their poems typed on their chromebooks, and then we paired them up to edit.  We gave them the option of sitting together and giving feedback verbally, or using the chat (Instant Messaging) tool.

     The chat tool is something I have to monitor carefully.  It isn't something I want up MOST of the time that I'm teaching.  My students are young and I want them focused on the task at hand, so they know that they are to only use it with permission or face consequences.  At our school, students are to only use technology and their district accounts for emails and work that relates to school.  We are training them to use it appropriately.  In higher level grades other rules apply to them.

Overall, the lesson went well.  A lot of solid feedback was provided. We are trying to get the students to actually help each other instead of just giving the "I like what you wrote" response.  Teaching children to critique politely and help give an honest look is important, as well as receiving opinions about work. Speaking without hurting feelings, or taking things personally can sometimes be tough, but I hope that in doing this often we will become less reliant on the teacher, and more confident in ourselves.

     Here are some of the finished poems:

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

STEM Selfies

     My students crack me up.  I keep the camera on the white board tray, under the smartboard, because honestly..... I use it all the time and I need to know where it is.... just in case.  Every now and then the kids grab it to document something, but in the first couple of weeks they always asked.  Apparently we are all comfortable now because in going through my camera for yesterday's post I noticed some videos and pictures I hadn't seen before.  They were taken during our "stations time."

     This first video is taken by J asking another J questions about what she is building with snap circuits.  I absolutely love the questioning and the desire to document.  This is 100% kid created:

     I love the girls interviewing each other, offering ideas about what in the heck the second knob might be, and the independence of grabbing that camera.

Here were a few more that my math/science group created:
J and his obstacle course.

D and his structure.

     My crew certainly isn't shy.  I'm glad I've created an environment where the camera is to be used by all (as are any of the tools in my room, really) and isn't just saved for the teacher.