Thursday, 31 January 2013

Colour Wheel Chameleons

Can I just say that I LOVE That Artist Woman? I do! She is absolutely my go-to person for art projects now!

As you know our topic this term is Rainforests so yesterday we adapted one of Gail Bartel's projects (Color Wheel Gecko) and did it with chameleons instead.

Just LOOK at this awesome chameleon by an 8-year old!

I got the chameleon pattern from clipart by Teachers Clipart (I already had it actually but it was SO perfect for this project)

We started by painting our colour wheels

Then, after cutting out the chameleon pattern on card (this was surprisingly easy - I just chopped the whole page in half and then taped it back together once the girls had cut out the 2 chameleon halves) the kids drew their rain forest branches, leaves and flowers and then painted them.

After that we added borders, outlined all the painting in black sharpie (the kids liked that part!) and then glued an overhead transparency to the back of the picture. Then, with the same sharpie pen, they added details - eyes, stripes, scales - to the transparent chameleon.

I attached the colour wheel to the back and handed it to a gleefully smiling child - who then rushed around the room spinning the wheel and demonstrating to all and sundry how the chameleon changed color! I sent them all over the school because I was so proud of the finished product!!! 

Such a cutie!

Love this little guy's expression!

Scroll down and see some pictures of the same chameleon with her changed colors. :) This was truly a BRILLIANT art project!!

Feeling blue

sunset colors

she looks happier yellow, doesn't she?


Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Chocolate Math

I have become completely enamoured of open-ended Math projects - they are absolutely my "favouritest" way to do math now. It's such a shame we have to do regular teaching and can't do this type of fun learning all the time!! It's so much more valuable (in my opinion) than traditional teaching.

Today we started our Valentine activities - early, I know but we are on half term break over Valentine week so if we don't do it now it just won't happen.

This morning's Math project was called Chocolate Choice and involved multiplying by multiples of 10 and using our addition pairs to 100 - 500. This sounds easy but the project showed me quite clearly that some of my children are not too sure of this when it comes to applying it to a real-life problem! It always boggles me (even though I know it shouldn't!) that they can do sheets of computation and the minute you give them any sort of a problem-solving activity it appears as if they've never learned the concept. This is the reason I love these Math projects so much - it forces students to think. :)

So... chocolate choices. Each group of 4 students was given a set of Chocolate Selection cards, 3 Weigh-In charts (on which to record their chocolate choices) a large blank heart template (for the chocolate box) and... a calculator!

Their task was to fill three 500-gram boxes of chocolates - with a different selection of chocolates each time.

One team got the hang of it very quickly and started selecting their chocolates based solely on weight - and addition pairs to 100. Some of the other groups got so involved in choosing chocolates that they forgot all about the maximum weight of the box and had to be re-directed. :) I loved hearing the debates on whether the box should have Strawberry Deluxe or Milk Chocolate Caramel - you'd have thought they were really going to eat these chocolates!

After their 3 boxes were filled the kids chose one of the boxes to create themselves. They had to design the box, then fill it with the chocolates on their chart. We used pink and red construction paper, heart shaped doilies and brown paper for chocolates. Then they labelled their boxes to say what was inside them. I have to say they looked awesome!!

And our bulletin board now looks FANTASTIC! We are ready for February.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Art... and snakes

I found a fabulous blog today That Artist Woman that has a ton of amazing art ideas, several of which I have already bookmarked to try, including these Valentine projects. (I love the idea of doing lots of different paint techniques - such fun!)

Valentine collage

Heart book

She also had some amazing painting projects - I particularly liked this gecko colour wheel, parrot painting and polar bear painting. I don't know when I'll be able to do these but I SO want to try them with my kids! They're just incredible!!

And... our snakes are coming along. Bodies are constructed and we've begun painting. Next week we gloss them, add googly eyes, write similes and then (somehow) attach them to our bulletin board. I'll post pictures of the finished display at some time :)

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Persuasive Writing a la the Class Blog

This is so cute I just had to log back on and share it :)
We have a class blog that my students are really enjoying and this weekend I set a persuasive writing assignment.
I posted the directions on my page (post entitled Class Pet? Which One?) - to write a post explaining which of 5 class pets they think would be the best choice to win the Class Pet Award.
I picked 5 photos of interesting class pets (located on pinterest :)) gave them names and entered them in my Class Pet Competition.
My kids have been writing their responses this weekend and I'm enjoying seeing their attempts at persuading me to choose one pet over another. This post made me laugh - plus I think it's really good for an 8 year old! Parents have been forbidden to assist and I know this is her own work.

Free 4 All Linky

I just linked up with All Things Upper Elementary and have already acquired some very cool activities for my class. Can't wait to try them out next week - mind you it may take a little longer than a week to do all of them.
Head on over and link up yourself - and don't forget to leave feedback on the activities you download :) (I've forgotten - again! - how to add the clickable link to this picture and although I KNOW the directions are somewhere on my computer I can't find them right now so just click on the link to the blog above and you'll find this. :) ) Enjoy!

I shared this freebie Terrific Tortoise Habitat Open-ended Math project which can be downloaded from here

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Building a Rain Forest

This is such a fun term!! Our classroom is being transformed slowly but surely into a rainforest. Today my husband brought us 9 plants to share among the 3 classrooms - our plants had barely arrived when the kids swarmed them and arranged all their stuffed toys (which have been waiting for a home for a week now) in the branches. It looks so cute! Have a look at the pictures of the bulletin board the kids have painted and all our rainforest animals in trees and vines :)

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Terrific Tortoise

We did an open-ended Maths project last week that was a lot of fun. It was a challenge for my third graders but I have to say they definitely rose to it and produced some thoughtful work.

We have a class pet - a tortoise named "The Tortoise" - who lives in a stupendous 4 ft x 2 ft habitat built by my husband and painted by my students. "The Tortoise" is in semi-hibernation right now so to appease my children (who keep trying to wake him up) we did a "design a habitat" project which introduced the concept of finding area. (I deliberately didn't tell them anything about area beforehand to see what would happen).

The object was to design a new habitat for a tortoise with a theoretical budget of $100 and a list of supplies. The habitat had to be either 10 feet square or 12 feet square but they were allowed to choose the dimensions.
Next up was purchasing supplies - they had to work out the area of the base and sides of the habitat and buy their wood (available by the square foot), purchase bedding (they had a choice of different substrates) decide which heat lamp to buy (that was a requirement to keep the tortoise warm) and then they could spend their remaining funds on plants and water bowls and houses if they wanted.

To help with finding area I gave them pre-printed "square foot" tiles on construction paper to cut out and arrange for the base and sides. They had a small counter for the tortoise so they could see exactly how much space he would have with the different arrangements they tried.

And to make it more fun I gave each group... a calculator!!

I wandered around the room making comments and suggestions but overall the kids did a great job. It was interesting hearing what their priorities were. One group of 4 was very focused on the needs of the tortoise while another group was much more interested in seeing how little they could spend.

When they had chosen all their supplies and added up the costs, they drew their habitat on one of the habitat boxes I provided. Only one group chose to do a 5 foot by 2 foot design - their tortoise needed a long space to run, they said! All the rest chose a 4 foot by 3 foot design.

The final part of the project was to write their reasons for choosing the design and supplies they decided on - justifying their purchases really. :)

It was a great project and the kids loved it.
Here's a picture of part of our Maths bulletin board with a finished project.

We used 3 separate sheets for the base and sides design. It helped the children see exactly how many square feet of wood they had to buy. Laying out the base in squares made it easy for them to work out how much bedding to buy - if a bag of peat moss covered 4 square feet they covered 4 squares of their base with counters and then decided how much more peat moss or bark they needed to buy.

As an introduction to finding area it was perfect - what I really liked about the project was the fact that it was a real-life situation. The kids could see the application of the concept of finding area - and in our discussion afterwards they immediately grasped the idea that area can be measured in different units and some of them started working out the area of the classroom based on the number of ceiling tiles!! I've never had such an instant response to this before - it was quite something.

I put the whole project together as a freebie and posted it here if anyone is interested in looking at it and I'm definitely going to pursue this type of problem-solving Maths for my class. It's such a fabulous way to learn.

Spectacular Simile Snakes - the beginning

We started a Simile Snake project today :) And what is a Simile Snake, you ask? Well, first of all it's a papier mache snake that will dangle from somewhere in the classroom to add flair to our Rainforest decorations. Secondly, it's a nice visual object on which to base a whole lesson on similes. Of course we have to finish the snakes first but next week I hope to have beautiful painted snakes, with amazing similes attached to their tails, hanging around the classroom in time for student/parent conferences. :)

Since it is thought that there are still many undiscovered species in the rain forests we are going to create new species of snakes - give them interesting Latin names (I'll see if the children remember anything that we learned about Latin in our Roman unit last term!) and then color them exotically. One child has already asked for hot pink neon paint and glitter so I am prepared to see some spectacular snakes.

Here's what they looked like today as we began.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Diamonds in the Rainforest ... and other stuff

We wrote diamond poems today - it was a cross-curricular activity covering a writing objective, a grammar review and Topic work and I love the finished products. The poems were parts of speech:

adjective, adjective
verb, verb, verb
adverb, adverb, adverb, adverb
verb, verb, verb
adjective, adjective

Every poem had to be about a rainforest animal - which is our topic for the term. We've done some research already but it was great to see the girls using their thesaurus to find interesting words and looking up facts in books to check that their words matched the animal.

Some of our finished poems on the white board

I also had a surprise drop-in inspection at a time when there was what I like to call "organized creative chaos". You know, those times when you're in the middle of finishing up a whole pile of projects! We were writing poems, typing poems, finishing books of rainforest facts using place value matching cards, painting rainforest animals and there were children standing on the counter behind the computers stapling their finished paintings to the bulletin board display. I hope it looked like we were a vibrant, engaged class of learners! :) 

Place value cards with matching rainforest animal facts on the other side

I love this jaguar!
Tomorrow we're going to try out another open-ended Maths project since our Aquarium project was such a hit. In fact, my kiddies have asked every day when we're going to do another cool project. They liked the Aquarium one so much that I added it to my Problems with Pets packet (lots of word problems with a Pet Fun Fact theme) and posted it yesterday.

We'll see how the Tortoise Habitat project works tomorrow - I've made it pretty challenging with area as well as addition of money. I'm looking forward to seeing what they all make of it :)

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Fishy Fun in Math

 My husband told me last night he hasn't seen me for two days - this is true because I have been tied to the computer trying to keep up with sixteen 8 year-old bloggers! Right now (because presumably my class have finally gone to bed!) I have a few minutes to post on my own blog!

I have officially decided that I love teaching Maths in small groups - it's the best way to really get a handle on what the kids know. Yesterday we did center work and today, while I reviewed 2-digit x 1-digit multiplication in small groups, the rest of the class worked on team projects.

Their project was to purchase the equipment, supplies and fish for a 20-gallon aquarium and boy, did they love it! They had a supply list of filters (several types) 2 kinds of gravel, ornaments and weeds for the tank, fish food and, of course, a catalogue of fish to choose from. They had $130 to spend and had to work collaboratively.

Conversations centered around whether it was worth buying a really silent filter system for $100 when the fish wouldn't mind if their tank was noisy and they could get a filter for $79 instead. There was heated debate on whether guppies, goldfish or tetras were the best fish to get and whether the fish would prefer a castle or a cave to swim in! I loved listening to them!

They added and subtracted and budgeted and finally came up with the ultimate aquarium design. Then they took all their information, including the colored design of their aquarium, and put it on a poster. (A lot of time went into naming the fish in the aquarium and decorating the poster appropriately!)

One team managed to spend all their money exactly and one team designed the Ultimate Spartan Fish Tank (my words) and had quite a lot of change! At the end everyone wandered around and commented on each other's choices. It was a great project and as soon as the final decorations are applied I will have a really neat bulletin board for the corridor. :)

(N.B: This project is available as part of a bundled set of four open-ended projects here or as part of Problems with Pets (available here)

Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Joys of Teaching

I had to share this even though it's late and I should be heading to bed. As you know we started our class blog on Friday and I set a homework assignment for this weekend. I've just finished approving a TON of comments and some fantastic book reviews. This is what makes teaching worthwhile. I particularly love the last comment.

I just LOVE this post heading!

And this is just the best thing a teacher can ever read!!!

Saturday, 12 January 2013

We Have Lift Off!

They sat down at their computers, they flexed their little fingers, they listened with half an ear to what their pilot (aka Mrs F) was saying and... off they soared into the world of blogging at full throttle.

I can't even begin to share the excitement of my children about this new venture. They are over the moon about it!
They blogged steadily for an hour - most of them are still at the "hunt and peck" stage (despite constant keyboarding practice) so they weren't actually able to write that much but they were FOCUSED!

We wrote an introductory post ( I particularly liked the heading of "Ready or Not, Here I Blog!") and then they commented on each other's posts. Meanwhile (having set up the site so that I have to moderate every post and comment) I sat with the ICT teacher, my fingers flying over the keyboard (and luckily I am NOT at the "hunt and peck" stage!) trying to keep up with 14 little bloggers who kept coming up to say "Have you moderated me yet?" (I was actually grateful that 2 children were absent!)

For the weekend I sent home a 4 page letter with detailed instructions for parents on how to access the blog, navigate the blog and how to write a post - I set a homework assignment (The Most Fantastic Book I Have Ever Read) on my page and directed them all to check the page and write their assignment on their own blog page.

Tonight I checked - so far 3 children have done the assignment properly and commented on 16 other introductory posts; 2 children decided to write about completely different topics ( a holiday in Spain and  the daily routine in school - apparently all we do is Maths and eat! ) and one of my absent-on-the-day children wrote about her sick day. I wasn't quite sure how to deal with these deviant posts - we discussed at length the rules for the blog (all posts were to be related to learning) - but decided to send private comments to the authors (along with emails to their parents) to read the homework assignment carefully before posting again.

I've since been directed to a great freebie product that's a template for blog post choices ( you can find it here ) which I think will be a great way to guide my enthusiastic writers.
And what a great phrase THAT is!
"Enthusiastic writers" - I love it!!

I foresee a busy time ahead and may have to set some more stringent rules about numbers of posts and comments - at least until we settle into a comfortable routine. It's going to be a learning curve for all of us but I am just thrilled with my kids' response to it.

Our journey into blogging space is just beginning and who knows what we'll discover along the way! :)

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Class Blog - here we come!!

I am SO excited about this!! We're starting a class blog on Friday! I have us all set up on Kidblog - our names are in, our background is chosen and we'll be writing our first posts during our ICT lesson on Friday morning.

Today as an introduction to the blogging world we looked at some student and class blogs from around the world. We talked about what we thought about their blog titles - were they catchy and alluring; did they make us want to check them out? We talked about what made a good post and heading - again, eye-catching, interesting content, good writing. We talked about what a good comment was - was it meaningful? Did it address the content of the post? Was it positive?

From the smartboard we moved to our desks and paper blogs. (I can't remember where I read about this idea so I can't give proper credit but it is a BRILLIANT idea!)
I gave all the kids a template on card stock. They then chose a catchy blog title, decided what topic they would write about, came up with an interesting post heading, wrote the date and away they went!
When their entry was finished they decorated their backgrounds and then came the fun part!

Everyone was given 4 different student names and 4 small squares of fluorescent card stock. The girls then read the 4 blogs belonging to the students whose names they had. They left a comment on each blog.

The room was SILENT. Every single child was completely engrossed in reading, thinking and writing. And they loved it. When they'd finished their comments they went back and read the comments on their own blog - then they went and wrote comments on all the blogs of people who had commented on theirs!

I can't wait until Friday to see what they do with the real class blog!

Here are some pictures of my happy little learners today!

Writing comments

Reading posts and comments