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October 26, 2014

Science Dioramas

In past years I always had the kids bring in a shoe box to make our Ecosystem Diorama.  It was always a rush to find enough empty containers to make the project.  We would paint the setting, the room would stink for days, and it would take a long time to complete.  This year I didn't have that kind of time, so I used construction paper.

My 8th grade TA is a past student of mine.  He's responsible and I'm sure he appreciated prepping the paper for this project.  :)  At least he is too polite to tell me differently.

He put a kleenex box on a piece of 9 x 12 white construction paper and made a dot on the 4 corners where the box touched the paper.  Then he made slits in the paper  - a little cut from the corner to the dot.  

Then we handed the paper out to the students.  They folded the paper up to create a frame.  It was at this point that they were able to decide if they wanted a land (forest) ecosystem, or an ocean one.  They colored in the background with their crayons (no paint this year).  

Then they came over to myself and my TA to staple up the edges.  Just a quick staple in the four corners.  

We have been using these free workbooks that I received, and inside there was 2 food webs, an ocean and a forest scene.  

They cut out the pictures and labels and glued them into their dioramas.  Then the kids took a piece of paper and identified producers, prey, predators, herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores.  They glued it onto the back of their ecosystem boxes.  

It was nice turning a big project into something that was less smelly and took less time (since this year we are constantly running out of it).   

Hope you have a great day!

October 21, 2014

Starting Our Business Unit

Our second unit of the school year is entitled Dollars and Sense.  It's a lot about different businesses.  Last year I found this fun project by The Science Penguin that has kids design their own stores.  It's mainly a math project, but it ties in perfectly with our first story which is called "Starting a Business".  

The kids have to brainstorm their own business - complete with a store name and products, answering questions that tie in perfectly with learning about a business.  They have to realistically think how they are going to set up the inside of their store (great perimeter and area lesson), and then figure out the outside of the building.  

Highly recommend this if you need your kids to design their own store.  

October 18, 2014

Book Tunes Book Report

I wanted to share my students' first major book reports of the year.  Usually I have the kids make up their Cereal Box Book Report for their first trimester report, but then there is always the issue of where to store them in my small, cramped room.  This year (during the BIG SALE), I found a book report bundle from The Peanut Gallery that had a project called Book Tunes Fiction Book Report.  It had the kids create paper CD's for the different parts of the report, and they presented it in class in a CD case.  LOVE it!!  

The kids had guidelines and due dates along the way, some that I added.  For instance, they had to choose an AR book and take a test on it as part of their grade.  My past students came in this week and hung them up for me.  We just used large binder clips and push pins to hold them on the wall.  Little things that did not take up a lot of room.

I love this project and highly recommend it!  Definitely motivating for my students to complete.  

October 17, 2014

Explorer Books are DONE

The first major nonfiction multi-paragraph writing for my class are for their Explorer books.  We learn about the different men and they take notes in their notebooks.  We compare them, we tell all the fun details of their lives (and write timelines), and they write interesting paragraphs about them - full of details.  Then I do guided draws on the board with the men's portraits.  I'm not an artist, but the kids make me feel like I am.  :)    

We draw the coast of CA and map out the men's voyages.  To finish it up they have to write up a Table of Contents and put it into a folded piece of construction paper as their Explorer books.  

Here's the inside:
1.  Table of Contents

2. Map of CA with voyages

3.  Juan Cabrillo's portrait
4.  Juan Cabrillo's paragraph

5. Sir Francis Drake's portrait
6.  Sir Francis Drake's paragraph

7.  Sebastian Vizcaino's portrait
8.  Sebastain Vizcaino's paragraph

Do you study Explorers?  It's always a fun time of year!

October 15, 2014

Preschool Art Makes Me Happy

My 4 year old son always brings home adorable art projects from preschool and daycare.  I am amazed by his teachers' creativity.  Just wanted to share some of the cuteness that is adorning our kitchen cabinets.  (Yes, we hang them all over the place.)

Handprint art makes me smile.

Such a cute little rocket.  

I hope these put a smile on your face too!

October 13, 2014

Updated Theme Wall

I really love having the kids study themes during reading time.  I enjoy how the kids make connections between the books we read.  

I have updated this board over the years though.  This year I decided to put smaller squares on 2 of my cupboard doors.  In the past I used full sizes of construction paper, but smaller card stock squares seem be working just great (and they aren't fading in the sunlight).  

Just like in past years I gather the kids on the rug when we finish the unit to update the board.  When I first started doing this a couple of years ago I would do this every week, but it was kind of pointless with only one book every time.  It works out better time wise for me to do this at the end of each unit.  I would have them gathered and then we would go through each story together - putting them where it mostly fit.  I used to just write the story titles on the construction paper, but this year I decided to write them out on address labels.  It's keeping it a little more organized.  Maybe next year I will even type out the  stories on the address labels and have them all cutesy.  :)   

The kids have a section of their Reading composition books that are dedicated to the themes.  At the beginning of the year we set up the notebooks with writing down the different theme headings - one per page, and writing the definition under the heading.  As we go through the different unit stories together on the carpet, the kids are making their own decisions as to where to place the story, and writing their reason(s) why they think it's a good place.  Most of the stories have more than one theme, so as long as they have a reason then it's okay.

Do you do something similar?  Completely different?  I hope you had a great weekend!

October 12, 2014

So Proud of My Kiddos!

This year I started up a data wall in my classroom.  It wasn't something that is required, it's just something that I wanted to try out.  It has helped drastically to motivate my students.  Every week we are trying to get a little bit better.  

My students each have a binder in their desks that have subject dividers inside.  Inside the binders they record their personal scores for each assessment.  It's something that we do on a daily basis.  I pass out the assessments directly to the students (usually during a time that they are out of the classroom - PE, Recess, Lunch, etc), and then it goes pretty fast to update the different sheets.  

They record:
Date   Name of Assessment   +Their Score/Total Amount

On the data wall I record our class averages on the different assessments.  It's nothing extra special, just a percentage chart inside a border (to make it look a little cutesy).  Our online grading portal turns my entire class scores into a class average, so then I just head over to the wall and draw a little line and fill it in.  

Here's the Google Drive link in case you want to try this out too.  Enjoy!

October 11, 2014

Apostrophes - Macaroni Style!

Don't you love pasta projects?  Last year I combined apostrophes and quotation marks when I did this  lesson, this year I decided to separate it out.  I used the foldable from Jivey's Stellaluna's Mentor Sentence lesson, and instead of gluing it into their notebooks they glued it on the middle of their construction paper.  We had brainstormed full class of both types, they wrote examples of sentences using both type of apostrophes in their notebooks, and then they got to move onto the art project.  What motivation a little bit of pasta was to have them come up with their own examples.  Adding this to Joanne's Motivation Linky.

These are just the small elbow macaroni with a dot of glue.  I had to remind them to write big enough to fit the pasta in its place.  Under the pasta and glue they did have to write it with a pencil.  

What pasta projects do you complete with your class?  I'm always looking for ideas!

October 10, 2014

ADHD & ODD - What a Roller Coaster!

I'm sorry that I haven't blogged much this school year.  It's been a roller coaster the past few months.  This summer we finally contacted the doctor to request testing for our son.  He was having temper tantrums multiple times a day.  He's 8, and most of the time he was acting younger than our 4 year old.  Love him, don't like the behavior.  Completely draining.  It was like something snapped, and what used to be just stubbornness and impulsivity had turned physical and verbal.  Time outs were more common, he was saying mean things to our family members.  That's not how we have raised our son, and we didn't know what was going on.  

A friend mentioned her son had a temper tantrum about chicken pieces on his fork, that it was the life of an ADHD and ODD child, and it clicked that we had had the same temper tantrum the week before with our son.  We requested testing and they forwarded our information onto the Mental Health department.  Everything moved in super sonic speed in August, and I went in for a parent orientation.  Then they called later on that day and set up an appt. with a child psychologist in another town for the next week.  He recommended that our son be tested for ADHD (which was interesting because he didn't qualify two years ago), and they got him in later that week for the group screening time.  These last 2 appointments happened to be the week before school started, and my poor husband had to go to the parent meeting by himself because I had to be at my contracted beginning of school meeting.

Then the wait started.  Everything was supposed to take 4-6 weeks after they received the paperwork from us and his teacher from last year.  Time dragged and school finally settled into a routine.  A routine that included my 3rd grade son having a hard time keeping himself organized, of more and more temper tantrums before school and after school.  

I was researching online about ODD and it seemed that he had every "symptom" listed.  I blamed myself, but then got the wake up call that as parents we had done nothing wrong.  What worked for our other 2 boys just wasn't working for him because his brain is wired differently.  

Then the official call came in, and of course they wanted to meet with us.  They don't want to meet with you in person if nothing is wrong.  So we went in, and they told us the official diagnosis.  ADHD and ODD.  No surprise there.  At least I had read about it.  What surprised me was the depression that overtook me for the past 3 weeks.  The reality that this is our life.  I know that sounds bad.  I had been hoping for years that his impulsiveness and stubbornness would be a phase.  To learn that he will have hardships for years until that portion of his brain develops (which it develops at a slower pace than average kids), and that he will have to learn coping techniques... It was just more than a little overwhelming.   

  We have started behavior therapy because it's been known to work.  2 appointments into it and we have a plan.  We are presently trying out the plan of "I need you to do this ____, and then you can do that____."  It's all about rewards and retraining the brain to want to do those things that will cause him to get rewards.  The therapist has said that he will fight us with these changes, that it's going to be more challenging as we are putting more intensity into changing the behavior.  It's been a tough week.  He is motivated because if this doesn't work the other plan is to take away everything in his room and he has to earn everything using a ticket system.  

We went in for another dr. appointment and he started ADHD medication this past week.  As a teacher, I have seen the beauty when meds work.  I haven't seen the hardships that go on behind the scenes though.  Of learning the hard way that he can't take his pill with milk because it will cause a stomach ache.  That when it wears off around 4 he will become a bear to be around.  Right now he's on the lowest dosage, and so far it's not helping him to completely focus yet.  We have to give it another week or so, and then we can regroup.  

In the meantime, since he has an official diagnosis, we have also asked for testing through school for any learning disabilities.  If nothing else a 504 to make sure he gets accommodations when he needs them.  Life is definitely not dull these days.  

I guess I'm not putting this out there for any other reason to let you know where I've been.  That I haven't fallen off the planet, just that my plate has been completely full.  That once again I'm learning to give it all up to God, and let Him carry us through this difficult time.  

Please keep my family in your prayers as we navigate the best plan of action for our son.  We love him so much, and we want the best for him (like all parents do).

Thank you!