Monday, 30 April 2012

Building...With a Twist

 Hey Teacher Bloggers,
I wanted to share with you the building unit I just finished teaching my students. We had been working on testing materials and designs as well as building with a variety of materials and designs. Instead of having my students complete building and testing tasks out of context, I create a fictional character name Mr. Smithwick who has hired my class to complete these tasks for him. I used the program xtranormal to introduce Mr. Smithwick.

Peepz Movie
by: Deonaward

Of course I had the question, "Is he real?". My response was always, "You saw him. That is exactly who he is." I still think some of them are still confused.

I divided my students into 6 different building companies. They were asked to come up with a name for their building company and then assign a CEO, a secretary and a treasure. (I only have 18 students in my class, so each person received a job. Next year I may add board members or vice-president).
Here is the expectations for each job:
CEO - makes sure things run smoothly. He/she is in charge of managing the group and overseeing the work before the data or project is handed in.
Secretary - reads the letters and communicates with Mr. Smithwick.
Treasure - keeps track of the finances and holds on to the cheques before they are deposited into the company bank account.

The Tasks
Every day the students were given a job from Mr. Smithwick. The tasks were all pretend community projects that Mr. Smithwicks company had been hired to do. Each activity taught a different building concept or had the students test and compare materials.
The tasks were delivered in an envelop or package. I had my school secretary in on the project and she would often call one of my students down right before our science class started for a special delivery. The package contained a letter identifying what was needed to be done as well as the supplies and the promise of being paid. The students only earned the full amount of money if their observation sheet was completed properly. Previous to this, we had talked about fair tests. Almost each task required that students create a testable question, hypothesis, draw and label their observations and write a conclusion. If all of this was completed properly and thoughtfully, they received the full amount. If not, they only received a portion.
With every new package, Mr. Smithwick sent the cheques from the previous job. My students loved receiving these cheques and made sure the treasurers recorded the amount in their banking pages. Of course groups were paid differently according to their quality of work.

The Final Project (aka the assessment piece)
When all the jobs were completed, they received the final task of building a model bridge for Mr. Smithwick. This required the students to use all the knowledge that they had gained from the building tasks to design and construct a stable bridge that spanned 30 cm and could support 4 kg. (We also spent sometime researching different types of bridges.)
The catch was that each group had to use the money they earned to buy the supplies to build the bridge. Groups calculated the sum of their cheques (income) and brought it to the Bank of Ward to deposit it into their account. After doing this, they received a company credit card as well as a spending recording sheet. I instructed my students to keep close tabs on their spending. If they went over their account limit they would be in debt. If that happened and they failed to pay their credit bill, the bank would repossess some of their materials.

Mrs. Ward's Extremely Expensive Supply Store
After carefully planning out their bridge and identifying the supplies they would need, groups visited Mrs. Ward's Extremely Expensive Supply Store and purchased their materials. I had given them a list of the materials available as well as the price of each materials so that students could budget. When they came to the store they received a receipt and used this to keep track of their spending. If groups bought materials but wanted to return them, they could do so if they could guarantee that another group would purchase it.
The store was open all class long.

My students loved this project. They learned so much more than just what design shapes are strong. I am sure this model can be used with different curriculum as well. If you give it a try, or if you have done something like this in the last, I'd love to hear about your experience.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Sandpaper Prints!

Sandpaper prints were a huge success in my class.  I first heard about these kind of prints when my colleague took his grade four class to the Leighton Centre near Calgary. Following this, I looked on the internet for instructions and found a lesson written up by Shelley Port. You can find the instructions through this link: 

Of course, I ran the lesson a little bit differently to fit my students and my curriculum. I chose to print their pictures on clothe rather than paper. (I was also thinking that this would be a great way to make t-shirts! Maybe next year....) 
 Below is the basic outline of the lesson I did with my students.
- a poem about Spring (choose one with a lot of imagery)
- 80 grit sandpaper (cut each sheet into quarters)
- wax crayons
- broad clothe or paper
- an iron

1. Read a poem about Spring. Have the students follow along with their own copy. Then, have students draw the pictures of Spring that they got from listening to the poem.
2. Ask students to choose one simple picture and draw it on a piece of sandpaper using wax crayon.
They must colour the entire piece of sandpaper and apply a lot of wax onto the sandpaper. 
3. Iron the wax picture onto broad clothe or a piece of paper. Do this by placing the sandpaper face down on the clothe. When the sandpaper starts to lift off the edges it should be finished. 
4. Students can reapply wax crayon to their sandpaper when it has cooled down. Following this, they can have it reprinted. (I usually let them know that their second and third prints are not going to turn out as well as the first.) 

Like I said, this project was a huge hit with my students. I am not sure what turned out better, the first sandpaper print on the clothe, or the melted wax picture on the sandpaper in the end. We saved the sandpaper and pasted it in our art portfolios. 

Here are a few more pictures of their masterpieces:

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Personification Poetry about Nature!

One of my favourite writing activities is personification poetry. This is the second year I have done this lesson with my students and it is always a huge success. I first want to give you a few examples of their poems and then tell you how I go about facilitating the lesson.

by Halanna & Mackenzie

I am snow.
I waltz in the air landing on
the white ground. 
I sometimes rest on flaky trees. 
I paint the leaves on 
my way down to the coated earth. 
I am snow!

I am a Volcano
by Shinae & Advik

I am a volcano,
Roaring loudly as I spew
over the land. 
I pounce on the hard rocks 
as I skip and tease them. 
I melt the rough bark
of the tree. 
It's been a long day.
I'd better go to sleep. 
I am a volcano.

I am the Stars
 by Anisha

I am the stars
shining bright in the night. 
 I paint the black sky making
children smile. 
I sleep in the day and awake
when the sun says goodbye. 
I try with all my might to stay 
awake at night. 
I am the stars.

I am Storm
by Daniel & Marc

I am storm. 
Tickling the shuttering alders, 
I touch the solid ground,
Pouncing on the muddy dirt. 

I work on smashing
the scared pine trees, 
and scream at the wet people.
I dance around the slippery

After I get tired,
I go to sleep.
I am storm. 

I am a Flower
by Madeline & Jacob

I am a flower.
I embrace the fireball
sun into a deep relaxing sleep.
I dance for the big moon
to calm it down. 
I cry when nice people are not around me.
I love to drink good water.
The wiggly worm tickles my roots,
I am happy when the buzzing bee comes to
take my pollen.
I am a flower.

I am the Wind
by Jillian & Annika

I am the wind,
I steal every
chilly leaf off
the ground. 
I whisper softly
through the air 
as I swiftly pass by the 
little children. 
I touch the girl's and boy's warm faces as 
I slowly pass by.
When I dive down into the green grass
I get weak and fall asleep.
I am the wind!

In this lesson, we focus on personification and word choice. I begin by introducing personification using examples in poetry. There are many different poems you can use and find on the Internet. I give a few examples of sentences like, The wind played tag with the clouds or  The sun kissed my face.  We talk about how the author is describing something in an unusual way. I explain that personifications are sentences where non-human things or ideas are given human characteristics. When students have an idea of what personification is and it's purpose, we start our poems. 

Part 1 - Brainstorming
1. I write the word rain on the board and start to model writing down verbs that could personify rain. For example: paint, race, slap, stomp, greet, sing, slide. 
2. Then, I come up with a sentence using one of these verbs. The rain raced down from the sky and greeted the dirt.  
3. Next, I have the students partner up and choose a topic about nature. I have big 11x14 pieces of paper with one word written in the middle. My options for the students are: sun, wind, moon, star, tornado, volcano, flowers, trees and storm. Each group must choose a different topic. 
4. Then, I read out a list of action verbs and have students decided whether or not the verb fits their topic. It if does, they write it on their paper to create a brainstorming web. 
Here are a few of the verbs I read: (I am sure you can think of more)
dance, paint, sing, stomp, clap, race, fall, sleep, whisper, scream, cry, tickle, drink, touch, embrace, pounce, speak, giggle, laugh, chuckle, steal, run, hop, jump, waltz, boogie, jive, kiss, hug, play 
5. When the students are finished deciding which verbs best fit their topic, they write a personification sentences using one of their verbs. 

Part 2 - Writing the Poem
6. The next day we review personifications. Then, I go back to my web of verbs for rain. I model writing a poem using the verbs. I am very conscious of talking out loud while I write so the students can hear what I am thinking. Here is usually what I come up with: 

I am rain,
Racing down to the earth. 
I slap the ground,
Greeting the dirt.
I paint the leaves of the trees.
I slide down the bark. 
I am rain.   

7. Next, I talk to the students about revising and adding adjectives and adverbs. They are already very familiar with this. I underline the nouns like earth, ground, dirt, trees and bark. Then I add interesting words and change a few things to add more detail. I model using a thesaurus and usually ask for their input at this time.

I am rain,
Racing down to the parched earth. 
I slap the hard ground,
Greeting the dirt with a smile.
I paint the leaves of the young poplars.
Then, I slide down the brown bark,
Weaving in and out of it's grooves. 
I am rain. 

8. The students are asked to write their own poems and follow the same process.  We all start and end our poems with I am...
9. When they have written their rough draft, revised and then edited, I get all the students to write their own good copy and illustrate and individually illustrate their poem.

The challenge for students is the punctuation and knowing when to go to the next line. I briefly talk to students about this, but that part doesn't always come through. The important part is the ideas and word choice.

If you give this a try, I'd love to hear how it turns out.