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Water Cycle Narratives with a Bit of Tech

Teaching about the Water Cycle is something that I do year in and year out, so each year I try to do something new and different if, for no other reason than to keep my own brain active and engaged. This past year, I combined the science of the water cycle with narrative writing and technology and, dare I say it, came up with a winner!

Of course we started with learning all about the Water Cycle during science lab.  You can see some past science lessons here and how I incorporated the Teach Me Something projects into those lessons to get the kids creatively thinking about the way the water cycle works here.

Once the kids knew all about how the water cycle works, I asked them to apply that knowledge by writing a narrative.  They were to pretend that they were a water droplet making their way through the various stages of the water cycle.  Within the context of a fictional narrative, they needed to include all of the science words that we had learned up until that point AND go through all stages of the water cycle (we learned that water can skip stages, or stay in one stage for a really long time...I didn't want them to include that in the narrative).  To help them along, I gave them this nifty little brainstorm sheet that helped them to map out their story, while keeping it in a basic order.

After the narratives were written, and subsequently typed, I asked them to get a little creative in the computer lab.  I took four separate pictures of each student posing as the water droplet in each stage of the water cycle.  Using the app Green Screen Magic, the students superimposed themselves into a picture that represented the various stages of the water cycle (they googled "evaporation" or "condensation" etc to find pictures they felt were appropriate and matched their narrative as best as possible.)

Once those google images were found, and the kids put themselves into the pictures, they then inserted the pics into their typed narratives.
As an added bonus, I had them google a generic water cycle picture and put all four pictures of themselves into that picture as well.

All in all, this came out great.  The narratives were amazing.  The pictures were spectacular.  The entire project, when put together, was a show-stopper.  

Framed Family Portrait: Holiday Gift Idea

Each year, I try to have my students create a gift for their parents that showcases their creativity, is something the families will remember, and won't cost me an arm and a leg.  This year, I blew myself out of the water with our end product ;)  

I really didn't have a lot of time to have the kids create a present this year.  With everything else going on, the holiday just snuck up on me.  So I needed something quick.  I went to the Dollar Tree and picked up 23 $1 frames and a roll of foil.  

I asked the kids to draw (on paper first) a family portrait.  They could draw whatever that meant to them, but I basically wanted a picture of their family in some sort of background.  The kids were so creative in their interpretation of this.  Some drew winter scenes.  Others drew their house.  Still others just drew their families outside.

Then, they transferred that drawing onto the glass of the frame using black sharpies to outline, followed by colored sharpies.  I had them take the glass off the white paper a color on the table about half way through the coloring.  This helped them to really see the "blankness" of their drawing and encouraged them to fill in more of the space with color.

When it was all colored, the kids wrapped the back of the frame in foil (since it was a cheap dollar store frame, there was no cardboard insert or anything. I just had the cardboard backing.)  The foil behind was a nice, depth-adding touch that really brought it all together, instead of the cardboard backing showing through.  They placed the glass back into the frame with the drawing side facing inward, replaced the backing, and viola, they had a finished product!

That was it.  All in all, this cost around $26 with tax.  It was super quick (only taking around 90 minutes) and the kids LOVE it.  I displayed them around the room for a day just so everyone could see them all.  This is definitely one I will be doing with the kids in the future.

Book Order Math: Multiplication Practice

When I moved to third grade this year, I had to find a way to repurpose the lessons I used in fifth grade for my new third grade audience.  I knew my kids would love the things I was doing in fifth, but the skills were just above the heads of these 8 year olds.  So for each lesson I do, that I once did in fifth, I sit down and think about how I can best adapt it to meet the needs of my new, younger learners.

In the past, I used the old Scholastic Book Order forms to help the students practice adding, subtracting, rounding, ordering, and multiplying decimals.  (you can see that lesson here and here) That wasn't quite the skill set my new third graders have.  So I decided we would bring the idea to a more manageable set of standards -- multiplication facts and adding.

Kids practice multiplying using the book orderAdapting Book Order Math was actually rather easy to do.   It is just such a versatile project!  The basic idea is simple:  the kids go "shopping" for 6 books in the book order magazine.  Each book, priced between $1 and $12, was then cut out of the magazine and placed on the recording sheet.  Using a pair of dice, I asked the kids to roll to see how many copies of each book they would buy.  Since we are only working with the basic fact set, a pair of dice worked great for keeping the kids under 12.  They then performed the multiplication to figure out the cost for the set of books in that title they would be "purchasing".
Once that was done (which took about 30 minutes), the kids then added up the total books they would be purchasing, how much all of them cost, and ordered the unit prices from least to greatest.  This hit a few more standards the kids have been working on this year.
Overall, this was an easy adaptation that kept the kids engaged.  It gave them the perfect way to adapt their math skills to the real world, while having a little fun (I mean, who doesn't love pretending to shop??)  

If you would like to do this in your room, you can pick up the recording sheet here.

Expanding Sentences Effectively

One of the areas my students struggle the most is with writing expanded sentences.  They are so very good at writing short, simple sentences with no detail.  You need an essay full of short, three word sentences and my students are your people!

But good writing isn't made up of simple sentences alone.  An author plays with sentence length to really convey meaning.  I want my students to be able to do the same.  I want their writing to sing the way that any other author's does.  However, that is no simple task!  The kids are content just writing about Jim going to the park with no further detail.

So I decided to set out and see if I could teach my students how to expand sentences in a clear, coherent way.

We have been talking a lot about how to make narratives better.  I am always asking them who did what when where why and how?    So I thought I would use that same idea to get the kids to expand their simple sentences.  I gave them a very simple sentence.  

The man went shopping.

I then asked them to draw it.  After about 2 minutes of drawing, the students shared their sketches. Every single one of them had a different drawing.  Some added a picture of Target.  Some drew the man with a car.  Others had him on a skateboard.  There were some with a grocery cart.  The sentences were so different because the sentence wasn't detailed enough.  

Working together, the kids and I started asking ourselves who was the man?  Did he have a name?  Was he old?  How did he get to the store?  By car, plane, roller-skates?  If he came by car, what kind was it?  A Corvette? If so, was the man wealthy?  The students brainstormed this and more on a simple template I gave them.  
We then began to revise the sentence so that we could expand it.  I had the students write the expansions right on top of the original sentence.  Once it was fully expanded, the students then set out and redrew the sentence.  This time around, the kids were all able to get a much more similar picture to each other!   This really helped to drive home the point that the more details there are in a sentence, the easier it is for the reader to visualize  the intended meaning.

The next day, I had the students work in pairs with the same idea.  This time, they wrote the expansion in pairs instead of as a class.  They used the same ideas from the previous day and expanded a very short sentence.  I asked the pairs to then write their sentence on a chart paper to compare what they each wrote.
Finally, on the third day, I had the students each expand a different simple sentence on their own.  They used the same expansion strategy of asking themselves Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? and then drew a picture of their expanded sentence.  Once these were all done and displayed, I made it more of an interactive activity.  The students put a sticky note over their drawing.  The other students then came up and tried to draw the pictures themselves.  They tried to see how close the pictures would match based on the expanded sentence!

Overall, this set of three lessons really have set the kids up on a great path towards more detailed sentences.  They are more conscious of what they are writing and how.  Our next step is to venture into revising using those third expanded sentences.  Making them clearer, more precise, and less long winded (because, let's face it, the kids liked to over expand at times ;) )  

If you would like my exact lessons and all of the printables, you can pick them up here.

Book Display Chains

I am always trying to find new ways to get books into the hands of my students.   I have a huge library full of great novels, but sometimes they get lost in the shelves.  Kids just don't notice them all because of the volume of books available.  So this year, I came up with a way to allow the students to notice those hidden books and get their hands on them --- Book Display Chains.

The idea is basic and simple.   I have this space under my whiteboard that was empty.  So I bought four of these Three By Three Seattle Chained-Up Ball with Chain Photo Display, Silver (41108) 
from Amazon (this is my affiliate link) and hung them on the wall.  Then, I placed between 5 and 6 books on each chain.  The books just hung there on the chain, prominently on display.  
When a student wanted to read the book, they simply walked up to the chain, took it off, and walked back to their seat to read.  I then would replace the book with another from my library that needed a little spotlight love.  The student, when finished reading the book that was grabbed from the chain, would place that book back in our library.
And that is it.  I found that by having this chain display, the students truly were reading books that they wouldn't have otherwise.  This really did help to highlight lesser known books and I really love it for that.  If you would like to see this in use (by me ;) ) you can watch this video here on my IGTV.

Have you ever used any type of display system like this?  What was it?  Please share below!

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