Friday, October 30, 2009

Space Spectacular #2

Week 2 and 3 - Finding Out and Sorting Out

The activities in these weeks were designed to provide opportunities for students to find out about space and sort their ideas in a range of forms. Students typically "found out" through books, videos, websites, experiments and guest speakers. They "sorted out" using writing, diagrams, models, reports and art.

Students experimented with different sized meteors - an orange, a golf ball and a marble. They dropped these from a control height to see how meteor size affected crater size. In addition to this, they dropped the items from a greater height to see how speed affected crater size. Students enjoyed this activity immensely and learnt more about craters as a result.

Special Guest
We had a special guest visitor in our classroom this week. Susan was involved with an experiment involving a small rocket which was sent 400km above the Earth's surface and returned about 400km away from the take-off location. She explained the process involved and showed a video of the take off. Students were fascinated!

Integrating with Literacy

The Planets
As we read through two big books about the planets, students created "wonder clouds" on a worksheet. Students considered the questions left unanswered on each page and wrote them in their wonder clouds to revisit at a later point in time. This activity was designed to develop students questioning activities during the reading process.
Students were then provided with a range of books to use for research. They each chose a planet to research and created a mind map to gather information about the planet's appearance, features, location, history & exploration. When they had gathered sufficient information, they began to write a report using the format on Writing Fun. They then edited it (or had ME edit it!) and began working on a final draft to be made into a class book.

Life Cycle of a Star
Students began by taking 10-15 minutes to write down their prediction of the stages that a star goes through during its lifespan. Following this, we talked about the different ways we find out information - written text, diagrams, pictures, videos, podcasts, songs, teacher-talk. We viewed an explanation of a star's lifecycle through this interactive website. We then listed the positives and negatives of this form of gathering information. I then gave students a photocopy of an explanation from a book. They read through the information, and again we listed the positives and negatives.
In the following lesson we watched this video:

Life Cycle of Star - Click here for the funniest movie of the week
As they watched, students recorded the positives and negatives in their books. When the video finished, they compared notes with a partner and then with a group of four. Finally, we looked at this diagram and discussed the effectiveness of a diagram in the absence of any other information.
Students then began work on their own creations to explain the life cycle of a star to someone with no prior knowledge. They referred back to the resources, discussed their thoughts and ideas with others and considered the aspects mentioned in the positives/negatives charts.

Integrating with Art

Plasticine Models
We used this great activity that I found online to make scale models of the Earth, Mars and the Moon. I gave each student a ball of plasticine and asked them to make a model of Earth, Mars and the Moon to show their comparable sizes. Once students had completed their models, I went around the classroom capturing their "before" photo. I then took them through the process outlined in the lesson plan and took their "after" photo. We looked at the relative distance between the Earth and the Moon for these models. In a follow up lesson (after I had time to print the photos!) students glued their before and after shots on a page and wrote about how their thinking changed as a result of the activity. This will go in their student portfolios as an example of their learning this term.


Space Art
We looked at some examples of space art that were created using spray paint. I didn't have access to this video at the time, but you might find it useful if you were to teach a similar lesson (not so sure about the choice of song!) We considered the shapes and colours used in these paintings and looked at the way that colours merged together. We discussed elements that would be realistic/unrealistic given what we currently know about space (eg. no trees on other planets.) Students were then given a sheet of black paper and oil pastels to create their own space scene.

Friday Fun - 30/10/09

I know that I skipped last week. Sorry to those of you who were hanging out for an update. I just got really bogged down again with all the things I need to get done. I am so very, almost finished with my Uni studies, and then I'll be ready to concentrate...on reports!

So, that said, this week I will give you a bit of fun from both weeks!

Show-Boating Show-Offs
We have been learning about rhythm patterns and using body percussion and basic percussion instruments. We learnt a Welsh lullaby last week and a simple song called "Jelly on a Plate" this week. Students have been playing ostinato (repeated rhythm patterns) along to the music on the CD.

In Maths we have been working with decimals in the form of money and temperature. Students have been learning to round numbers and order them from least to greatest. They have also been exploring decimals using MAB.

We have had an extra boost in an attempt to improve students' spelling. We are encouraging students to use dictionaries to check their spelling as they write. We are also using a number of websites to build word knowledge and an understanding of word origins. We found it interesting this week to discover that "astronaut" comes from "astron" meaning star and "nautes" meaning sailor. A great website to use for this is the Online Etymology Dictionary. Students have also been using a few sites to practice their spelling words. The hot favourite at the moment is Spelling City.

Pumpkin Patch
Our school is currently involved in a Pumpkin Growing Competition. This week we planted our seeds in the Sunlight Centre. Each month we will photograph and weigh our pumpkin to see its progress.

Band Performance
We have been lucky enough to have had lots of band performances in recent weeks. We had a Combined Year 5 band concert at our school last week and The Junior Concert Band performance this week. Our very own Fife and Drummers were at a Combined Performance this week as well. So much great music to be enjoyed!

The rest of our exciting lessons have been space related, so you can check them out in Space Spectacular #2.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tech Tips Tuesday

This Week's Tip - Take a Tour Through Space

Last Friday I went to a Professional Development session on the Celestia Software. Celestia is a free program that lets you explore space in 3D (download it here). I find it amazing that someone has been able to create such a great simulation that even shows the movement of objects over time. I enjoyed experimenting with the program and considering how it might be used in the classroom.

I see that it will be useful for showing students the movement of objects in space and demonstrating night and day and the phases of the moon. It will also be useful for students to explore these things for themselves and to capture images and video of the things they explore. It will be useful for helping students to deduct their own information and question things further. As you start out with Celestia, it is really helpful to have this chart of keyboard shortcuts. You can click on it and save it to print out at a larger size.

If, however, students are writing a factual report about a planet, this program doesn't offer much support. Instead students could use the World Book fact sheets at the NASA website. The NASA website contains up-to-date information including the plight of Pluto. This is very useful given that many books still list the "Nine Planets of the Solar System". The NASA website also contains a great bank of resources for teachers and interesting projects for students including (at time of posting):

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Space Spectacular #1

This post is the first in a series of posts about an Integrated Inquiry Unit about Earth and Beyond.

Week 1 - Tuning In
This week our activities were designed to activate students' prior knowledge about Space and to stimulate questions they would like to investigate. We began with some brainstorming, where students listed words that come to mind about Space. They then worked in small groups to bundle their words into categories. Following this, students wrote questions they would like to know answers to. They chose the best question for their group and shared it with the class. We collected their ideas and will use these for a word wall and to guide our investigations.

Integrating with Literacy
Predicting and Questioning Skills
Prior to reading the big book "Watching The Night Skies" the class formulated three questions they felt would be answered by the text given the title and list of contents. Students wrote the questions and the answers they predicted, leaving space for the answer from the text. We then read the text together, discussing the information we were finding out. After reading, students went back to the questions and wrote the answer from the text.
In the next literacy session, students were given an individual text on Space. They repeated the activity for themselves - choosing a question, writing their answer, and finding the answer in the text.
This activity is useful for helping students to engage with a text and seek out information.

Creative Writing - Description
I told students that they would be doing a piece of creative writing, imagining that they are the first person to step onto the surface of Mars. We began by looking at some photographs of the landscape of Mars and then watched these NASA Vodcasts: Soaring Over Mars and Mars Exposed. While they looked at these things, students jotted down notes on their clipboards. They then returned to their desks to begin writing. I gave an initial prompt sentence which they could use to get them started: I stepped from my space craft and there, stretched before me, was Mars. I walked around while students worked and, with permission, read out their writing to help those struggling to get started. There were some really descriptive passages being formed and many were including details from their notes including the names of some of the places.

Integrating with ICT
Students were given some terms to investigate eg. morning star, evening star, shooting star, the sun comes up, the sun goes down, the sun goes behind a cloud. They needed to use the internet to research the accuracy of these statements. Students used a variety of online resources including wikipedia, google search using 'define:' and yahoo answers. This was a great activity for students to practice using the internet for quick clarification.

Friday Fun - 16/10/09

This week was the first week of the last term for 2009 and I have to admit that I found it a struggle to get back into the right head-space. During the term break I visited New York City again. I think it is where my heart is most at home. (More about that later). Also while away, I didn't blog or do uni work - it was a true break from work. So, now my brain is out of the habit, and I'm trying to get things rolling again! This term I am continuing in my Acting School Leader C role, which means that I am on the executive team - teaching for some of the week and supervising/managing/leading as well.

Fun This Week

More Pigeon
While in New York City I did some book shopping and picked up "The Pigeon Finds a Hotdog" and my very own stuffed Pigeon. I was very excited to share my new purchases on the first day of term and we enjoyed reading the book together. We had only "The Pigeon Wants a Puppy" left to read - which my husband owns, but was apprehensive to share. My literacy class wrote my husband letters to try to persuade him to let us read the book. I gave them some tips on what was preventing him (fingerprints, ripped pages etc) and what he likes (sense of humour, pictures, not too wordy). They wrote some great letters which I took home and shared with my husband. He loved them and sent me off to work with the book the next day. We enjoyed reading "The Pigeon Wants a Puppy" and have now completed the Pigeon books to date.

Mass in Maths
This week we looked at mass and where it fits into the big picture of measurement. We looked at photos of some grocery items and sorted them by whether they are labeled in grams, kilograms, millilitres, or litres. We used hefting to order pencil cases from lightest to heaviest and then checked our estimates using a pan balance. Students also worked on mass with the teacher who shares my class this term.

We are now starting each morning with a handwriting session. We scan in a page of handwriting for students to copy in their books. We hope that this will give their writing and presentation a boost. We also hope to be able to give out a few more "pen licences" to students who master cursive writing.

Integrated Inquiry
This term we are investigating Earth and Beyond for our Integrated Inquiry Unit. I will be writing a separate post for this unit so that it is easier for people to access for their own Space lessons. You can read about it here.