Friday, March 28, 2014

States of Matter Unit Part 1

I have waited for this unit the whole year! I loved the science labs I did when I was younger that were related to liquids, solids, and gases.  I plan on allowing doing a lot of those labs with my first graders.  

Click this Google doc if you want to see what unit I was following.  I found it on the this website, but I made it look pretty and presentable.  For the future, I will be posting what worked along with what didn't work.  

I started off by introducing the states of matter unit.  I tried to get their prior knowledge, but asking these questions I found in this big science book. Boy, was I happy when I found this in here.  



Then I had these mystery box that I taped around the sides so the kids didn't see the inside.  I placed a bunch of solids and a couple of liquids inside of it.  I would introduce one solid, and ask the students some questions about it.  They were totally into this! 




Water with food coloring :) My students loved seeing the mixture of those two liquids. 



What a horrible picture! Remind me to take them with my real camera next time! :) I had my students pair-sharing to get them talking to one another.  When I checked for understanding, I would write down some of their suggestions.  


Here is my anchor chart, but I think I need to make a nicer one.  It is not pretty!! I will post the updated anchor chart. I plan on using the same anchor chart throughout the entire unit.  



In the independent activity I had my students in heterogeneous groups.  Each group had three students, and each of them was supposed to choose their own state of matter. They would have to look through the magazine and cut out pictures of their state of matter.


I also allowed them to present, and this was their absolutely favorite part.  They love to talk and share with one another. I truly wouldn't think of having them do an activity like this without sharing with one another.  



Overall, it was a very good science day! :)  They were very excited for the unit to unravel in the next few weeks.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Literacy Centers Struggles

If you have read my previous posts about having Daily 5, literacy stations, in my blog, then you know how much I absolutely adore this very special time. The studenta are free to practice their reading and writing at their own pace, with the  activity of their choice.

Here is our word work station. I have lots of paper, pencils, color pencils, manipulatives, word work worksheets. I will make sure to update this post to link where I got those worksheets. 


These students are at the reading station. These boys are reading this book, one page at a time. If they were alone, they wouldn't be motivated to read, but having someone to read to, made it that much easier for them. I allow them to choose their own book and location.


Here is the computer center. I usually take this time to to pair students with games that they require extra practice in. 

 These girls are in the writing center. These girls in particular are copying a poem, but Thera are writing short stories, making lists, writing information hey learned about a book they read... Te ideas are endless. 


Last, but not least! Here is the listening station. 

 There are so  many to choose from, but here are my top 3 reasons why I cannot imagine my class without this wonderful time. 

Top 3 Reasons I Love Daily 5!

1. It is completely differentiated in the sense that I learn what my students need help in and try to fill in those gaps by adding whatever activities they need. 

2. I get free time I work with students either one on one or in small groups all the students are buy workig in heir rations, so it is a great time for me to call a few students by my side to work with them. I feel like I am not stretched thin because of this flexibility. 

3. My students love it! They can't wait for the time to work independently on what they need.

I'm happy, they're happy, everyone's happy......excepts when things go wrong. And boy, did things go wrong today. 

-The internet wasn't working.
-the stereo's noise was muffled
-spelling words were not printed out
-headphones were semi broken

It was horrible, and I was rushing from place to place trying to fix it all. I learned that I need to have a back up plan for each of those stations if the same technology problems occured again. So, learn from my mistakes, and prepare a plan B! :) 

'Til next time! <3 




Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Really, Very, Absolutely {Belated} Happy New Year + Challenges

Hello wonderful people!  I hope you are all enjoying the new year so far.  It is going by way to fast, and I wish it would just slow down.  I hardly remember when it was Winter break, and I was sleeping, eating delicious food, and Netflixing.  I was also able to spend quality time with family.  



Being away from my classroom really made me reflect on my successes and challenges of the first part of my first year of teaching. I knew that I would come across both, but I never sat down to think about it critically until now.  Part of it was due to my graduate school.  They also stress that reflection on our teaching was the most critical part of our career.  So, why don't I go straight into them, starting with my challenges.  

Challenges

  1. Balancing work life and home life. I always heard that teachers work 80 hour work weeks, but I never thought I would be one of those.  In my fantasy world, I would wake up at 7am, be at work at 7:30.  I would teach and inspire kids' lives, and then head home at 4pm to be with my family.  Boy, was I wrong.  The first 6 months of my teaching career consisted of endless cutting, pasting, creating lessons and centers, making bulletin boards, and reading on new strategies.  I just hope it gets better as years go by.  
  2. Balancing work life and graduate school work. If I ever had the choice to teach full time and do graduate school at the same time, I wouldn't do it again.  It is just way too difficult.  I am just so grateful that my graduate school is filled with awesome colleagues, amazing advisors, and a wonderful program that truly believes in 
  3. Having a classroom that is diverse (students with Autism, English Language Learners, Cultures, Religions, and Different levels of readers). Also a plus. :) I have grown so much as a teacher in the short time I have been in the classroom, and I feel like I wouldn't have been the same growth if I did not have all the amazing students I do now.  They challenge me, they make me think, and they allow me to learn how to be a better teacher.  Every. Single. Day. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How I Created a Safe, Learning Classroom Community

Before I got into my graduate program, looked for a job, got hired, and came to school on my first day as a teacher, my main goal was to create a  classroom that was a safe environment with the sole purpose of learning.  Creating that environment was very important to me.  


In my undergraduate days at UCSD, I read many journal articles about theory and practice in the classroom. I was immediately drawn to the concept that students learn best when they feel safe and free to explore and learn.  So starting then I drew up an action plan to fight for that type of environment. Here is a list of what my action plan was for creating that lovely atmosphere that allow my students  to thrive in now. 


My Action Plan
  1.  Create rules and guildlines from day one. 
    • create, at most, five rules for the classroom
    • discuss the rules with the kids and the purpose of the rules
    • stay constistant with the rules
    • have positive reinforcements and consequences (MAKE a PLAN)
  2. Build positive, healthy relationships with every single one of my students.
    • show them that I care
    • show them that I love them
    • show them that I am a human being
    • show them that I want to know what kind of people they are
    • show them that they matter 
  3. Let my students know that mistakes happen!
    • They will not be perfect, nor do I expect them to be.
    • Teach them that mistakes help us learn.
    • Show them that I will not get mad because they made a mistake.
  4. Provide ways of communication.
    • teacher mail box
    • happy notes home
  5.  Have three-four weeks of classroom community building activities in the beginning of the year. 
    • community building embedded in lessons
    • getting to know
    • getting to know student activities
  6.  Have continued classroom community building activities the rest of the year. 
    • incorporate at least one community building activity a week
    • create lessons that are 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

How I Introduce Counting Coins

It's time for money counting! After checking for previous knowledge, I noticed that my first graders had very little to no previous knowledge about money or counting coins. No problem, we will just spend a couple more days on this unit than I first set out for. 

To combat this and get my students performing where I needed them, I decided to first set up an anchor chart that they can always refer to when counting money. This visual was the perfect initial tool because now they had a visual they had access to. 

The next step of scaffolding I provided was so crucial in their success. I definitely will do this again next year. Now, what I did was very simple to create. In my SMART notebook I created slides copied/pasted real looking coins. They look exactly like the real coins, they are big enough for everyone to see, and most importantly they are almost true to size in comparison to one another. So the dime is significantly smaller than the quarter, etc. 

If for some reason I do not have a smart board, I will make huge sized color copies of the coins, an attach magnets to them so we can use them on the white board. 



The way I implemented this was really fun! I had about 5-8 of each coin, and I showed them how to count the coins.  Next, I gave each pair of student a small bowl of coins. I would write a cent amount (less than a dollar), and they would work with their partners of make that amount with their coins. To conclude, I checked for understanding by seeing what combinations of coins the students worked with. This was definitely the funniest part of that days lesson. 



Another instructional strategy I will also use for next year will be reading "Jelly Beans for Sale" by Bruce McMillan. 


It's less than $5 on amazon. It is a very basic book that shows students how to count money up until 25 cents. The kids loved the book, and I read it to them 2 days in a row! 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Gimme that Prior Knowledge!

The first time I heard of the term "prior knowledge" was my first day as a graduate student in the teacher education program.  My professors showed us research of how important it was, emphasized what it would do, but I didn't really understand the importance until I had my own class.  


I consider accessing prior knowledge to be when I ask what my students know about the topic I am about to teach. This is when I can find those holes or gaps in between the students' education and try to fill them in before I start the lesson.  One of my least favorite things is beginning a lesson and then finding out that I had assumed that a few of my students knew a part of the prior knowledge needed to progress forward.  That usually requires more attention, time, and effort to go back and fix the mistake.  It is usually much easier and effective to begin with finding out the missing parts in the students' knowledge. 



 There are many ways that I try to access this prior knowledge, but I have an absolute favorite three.  


My kiddos are brainstorming some concepts related to subtraction before the subtraction unit.  
1) Pair-share: I pose the topic to the entire class, ask them to think about it.  Then I ask them to share with their partner everything they know about that topic.  Finally, I follow up with hearing out loud from a few of the students. This is the most minimal and easiest way for me to get access into a student's head 
2) KWL charts: (Know, Want to know, and Learned): I pose the topic, hand out the KWL chart (google it and you will find a million!), and then have the students fill out the K(now) and W(want to know) part of the worksheet.  After I give them a few minutes to fill it out, then I let them talk to their group mates about what they wrote.  Once again, I call them back to a whole group discussion of what students wrote.  This takes much longer than a simpler pair-share.  
3) Brainstorming: I pose the topic, delegate how the students will be brainstorming (chart paper or white board), and give them about 5 minutes just writing down everything they know about that topic. We then have a discussion of any misconceptions, similarities, etc.  I LOVE it when my students have the free reign to think about, write down, and share their knowledge in the subject areas.  My students already love talking so why not have them talking about school! :) 

That day, I had the signs 'subtraction' and 'addition' in the room, and the students were free to go back and forth from the different graphs.  

One students wrote '1-2=0,' and that is something I will address to the entire class.  It is a common misconception, and my goal is to nip it in the bud. 

They really do get excited!