It’s Electric!

I’m thinking about teaching my students the electric slide to go along with our current unit…hmmm… 🙂

So January is all about electricity and magnetism. We spend the month learning what electricity is, how it relates to magnetism, and other important topics in this area of science. This is a really fun unit that I enjoyed revamping when I got hired at JCS! One of my favorite parts is all of the fun experiments that the kids get to do with their lab partner. These are beneficial in so many ways. For instance, the students learn how to work together on a task, follow directions (or else something could go majorly wrong!), and treat materials appropriately.

Anyways, to start the unit, each student decorated a light bulb for our “electrifying” classroom bulletin board:

We start out the instructional material by learning about important inventors related to the field of electricity, such as Edison, Bell, and Faraday. I send the students on an “Inventor Scavenger Hunt” around the classroom. Each student receives a list of questions about the 5 inventors we focus on and must match an inventor with each question by searching for the facts around the room:

One of their first homework assignments for the unit is to make a list of every item they use from the time they leave school until the time they arrive back at school the next morning that involves electricity in some way. It is always fascinating to see what these kids use! Of course they all listed things like “my Wii”, “my iPod touch”, and “the car”, but I enjoyed the ones that said “the crockpot for dinner” or “the digital picture frame on our bookshelf”!

The next day, we talk about the four functions of electricity – light, heat, motion, and sound. We then classify the objects on their lists. This year, each student received several post-it notes on which they wrote a few items from their list. They placed them on the board in the correct section based on its function. Some of them were quite difficult to classify, such as a lava lamp – isn’t its main purpose BOTH light and motion?? Tricky…

We then move on to learn what exactly electricity is, starting with static. The kids enjoyed several static-related experiments and eventually came to the conclusion that like charges repel and opposite charges attract – it’s always so exciting when they discover this!!

  

 

We move on to talk about lightning and Ben Franklin’s famous experiment. The cool thing we do with this lesson is watch for sparks from a student eating a mint in a dark closet. Have you ever tried it? If you chew a lifesaver peppermint, sometimes you can see sparks! It is really cool.

We then learn about cells and batteries, and why what we refer to as batteries should really be called cells. The students do several experiments for this, including making their own battery out of zinc washers, copper pennies, and salt-water soaked paper towel, and measuring the voltage in different fruits and vegetables using a multimeter.

 

One of my favorite parts of this unit is the lesson and experiments on circuits. We learn about series and parallel circuits and how they work. We also talk about why certain things are wired the way that they are. For example, Christmas lights – everyone hates to find a string of lights that doesn’t work anymore! Now, most manufacturers of Christmas lights are wiring them in parallel so that if one light burns out, the rest will stay lit – brilliant! My kiddos absolutely LOVED the circuits experiments because I simply gave them a bag of materials to make circuits with (such as batteries and battery holders, light bulbs and light bulb holders, wires, alligator clips, etc.) and let them have at it! They attempted to make both series and parallel circuits, and all of them did a great job! They kept asking if they could “play” longer 🙂

 

On a side note, I ordered some awesome wires at the beginning of the year – they are magnetic, so the ends attach to the bulb holders magnetically, instead of having to use alligator clips to clip them on! They are so easy to use and made it much less of a struggle for the kids. I wish I remembered where they came from or what they are called!

So that is what we have done so far this month. I am looking forward to getting into magnetism next! The students’ project for the month is to complete a science experiment relating to electricity to present to the class. They will be presenting next week, so hopefully the class will get to see some pretty cool experiments from each student.

Do you teach electricity? What is your favorite part of the topic? I am looking for field trip ideas – any suggestions?!

 

A Day in My Shoes

Today I’m linking up with “Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher” so that you can learn about a day in my shoes!

Now, as is the case with most of you, each day is a little different due to specials and other fun activities. But here’s a glimpse into a normal day:

*6:00 – alarm goes off on my clock. SNOOZE!

*6:07 – alarm goes off on my phone. SNOOZE! (continue snoozing both alarms until 6:30…I do not enjoy getting out of bed in the mornings…haha)

*6:30-7:00 – get ready.

I shower, get dressed (I always pick out my outfit the night before – this saves me SO much time in the mornings!), do makeup, sometimes hair (sometimes I spend time on this, though lately with my hair getting so long, I have been sticking up in a ponytail or messy bun), make sure I have everything (keys, cellphone, laptop, etc.), and get out the door!

*7:00-7:25ish – drive to school.

It used to take between 15-20 minutes to get to work, however they are doing construction on the main route, so I am going a different way that is longer and has more traffic. Oh well – I enjoy listening to the morning radio shows and thinking about what I need to do when I get to school.

*7:25ish-7:40 – relax.

I usually spend the first 10-15 minutes at school checking my email, Google Reader, and Facebook (we don’t actually have to be at school until 8:00) while eating breakfast at my desk – usually cereal.

*7:40-8:30 – prepare for the day.

This involves writing their morning work on the board (usually a review worksheet, cursive practice, silent reading, reciting Memory Marathon verses, or re-reading a story with a partner), making copies that are needed, and mentally preparing for the day! Every Tuesday morning, the staff meets for prayer before the students arrive.

*8:30-9:00 – students arrive.

The students begin arriving at 8:30 and come anytime between then and 8:45. They do a great job of coming in quietly and getting their morning work done, although sometimes it takes a bit of prompting 🙂 I send a student around with our attendance clipboard at 8:45, and morning announcements over the walkie-talkies happen around 9:00.

*9:00-9:30 – devotions

On Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, my students and I journey through the Old Testament together. We learn about the Godly men and women and talk about how we can apply what we learn to our lives today. We also do prayer requests and I have a student pray for the class. On Thursdays, the whole school comes together for All School Worship. We sing a song or two, then one of my student’s dads does a short devotion for the school.

*9:30-10:15 – math

Four of my students go to 6th grade for math, one student takes 7th grade math later in the day (taught by the 6th grade teacher since we only go up to 6th grade), so I am left with 8 out of my 13 for math.  We start every math class by going over the previous night’s HW and answering any questions they may have. During the lesson for the day, the students take notes in their math notebook. We do lots of examples problems together, then the students do some independent work, either in their notebook or on a mini white board. Homework gets passed out at the end of class which students must write down in their HW planner.

*10:15-10:30 – snack

The students bring a healthy snack every day to enjoy during this time. They can socialize, play games, and just hang out for these 15 minutes.

*10:30-11:30 – Language Arts

This is my first year teaching English, writing, and spelling, so it has been interesting trying to work out a fairly consistent schedule. We usually do an English lesson until around 10:50, then work on our writing assignment until 11:30. This often changes based on the day; for example, spelling pretests/final tests are given every Monday/Friday at 10:30. Sometimes I do a writing mini-lesson before they begin to work. We are about to begin our next writing assignment on persuasive essays, so tomorrow I will spend a good bit of writing workshop time introducing this to the class and reading some samples together. I also throw in some computer instruction during this time every once in a while.

*11:30-12:15 – reading

We use Harcourt Story Town for our reading curriculum. Every day’s reading instruction is different! On Mondays, I introduce the vocabulary words and we discuss some background information needed for the story. On Tuesdays, the students do Literacy Centers which I created. There are 12 centers to choose from and they must pick a different one each week. Maybe I’ll do a post on these in the near future 🙂 On Wednesdays, we read the story for the week and discuss. On Thursdays, we discuss the literary element (theme, conflicts, point of view, or whatever I am focusing on with that story). On Fridays, the students complete a quiz on comprehension of the story, its vocabulary, and the literary element we discussed. We also read a novel each month relating to the unit we study (ex: Sign of the Beaver was our novel for Colonial America), so we spend some of this time reading and discussing the novel.

*12:20-1:00 – lunch/recess

The students have lunch for 20 mins and recess in the gym for 20 mins. I am thankful to teach at a school where teachers are not required to do lunch/recess duty! We have parent volunteers in those positions 🙂 This time always FLIES by…

*1:00-1:30 – silent reading

This is the time of day devoted to silent reading. We use Accelerated Reader so the kids are encouraged to complete quizzes for each book they read. I have given them each a goal of points they must acquire by reading books and taking quizzes. There is no punishment for not reaching their goal, however they will be rewarded if they do so 🙂

*1:30-3:00 – unit

We spend the majority of the afternoon on unit instruction. Every month each grade focuses on a different topic. This month, we are studying electricity and magnetism. Therefore, the bulk of our afternoon is learning about this topic. I love using PowerPoint, so most of my instruction is through PP presentations. Sometimes I have the students fill out a notes page I have created while we are going through the PowerPoint. Sometimes we read books together that teach us more about the topic. Two of the months we create a lapbook – one of my favorite teaching tools! This month involves a lot of experiments involving static electricity, batteries, magnetism, circuits, and other electricity-related topics. Each month the students complete a project that correlates to the unit. For example, this month they are each planning an electricity experiment to present to the class. They will fill out a form that talks us through their experiment; they will also type up a summary of what they learned, and then present the experiment and their findings to the class. Next month, we will be studying Western Europe, so each student will be assigned a different country that they must research and teach the class about. This allows for a lot of creativity because they can teach the class however they would like – through PowerPoint, brochures, posters, books, etc. This is my favorite time of day – the students are always excited about what we are learning! Several days a week we have specials (gym and Spanish) in the afternoon but we always work around those.

*3:00-3:10 – pack up

The students make sure they have all HW assignments written in their planners, they pack up, and I walk them down to bus dismissal.

*3:10-4:00 – lesson plan/prep work

We are allowed to leave around 4:00, so until then I usually prepare for the next day. I try and leave right around 4:00 to avoid traffic on the way home, although I tutor on Mondays until 4:15 and we have staff meetings on Thursdays until 4:15 or 4:30.

*4:00-10:00 – enjoy being home!

I spend this time with the hubs (who is currently preparing to start his LAST clinical before he graduates as a Doctor of Physical Therapy in May! Yahoo!) just hanging out, watching shows we missed the night before, playing volleyball at a local church on Tuesdays, hanging out with my BFFL who lives upstairs from us, eating dinner that one of us (or both of us!) has prepared, reading, and just relaxing! This is my absolute favorite part of my day…as much as I love my kiddos at school, I love being home with my husband even more 🙂

*10:00ish – bedtime

I try and go to bed around 10, although I’m often not very tired so I usually end up reading for a while in bed.

 

So that’s what my days are usually like! Busy busy busy but there is always something fun going on. I’ve enjoyed reading about everyone else’s days too!

Currently…

Linking up with Farley over at http://ohboy3rdgrade.blogspot.com/ – that dang pencil sharpener is SA-WEET! The new one I ordered this year, supposedly a “quiet” sharpener, is just alright. I mean, the kids use it a LOT but it is sure not quiet. It’s also really messy – don’t you just hate those tiny, dirty pencil shavings? And when the kids try and sweep them with their hands, both their hands and the table get smeared with graphite? Argh. The drama of pencil sharpening!

Today was frustrating, watching my Steelers lose to the Broncos. However, that Tim Tebow is a quality guy, so if we had to lose to anyone, that’s the team I’d pick! They better beat the Patriots next weekend!

School is going to be rough this week because it is our first full week in quite a while. I’ve got lots of plans to work on and no specials tomorrow. Did I mention that Mondays are not my favorite? Last year I had two specials on Mondays – it was the BEST! But not anymore. Oh well – the kids are doing some independent reviews tomorrow for some tests coming up, so at least I’ll have a little time during the day 🙂

Post #20

[This post was written way back in the middle of December and I am just now getting around to publishing it…sorry for the absence!]

I have finally made it to post #20! Yippee!

We are reading the book The Family Under the Bridge throughout the month of December. Because we usually take a break from our Harcourt stories this month, I wanted to make sure we were still covering comprehension skills, literary elements, and vocabulary.

After each chapter that we read, the students answer comprehension questions that I found on this website. Each student has a copy of the questions and they record their answers in their reading journal. In addition to the questions, they also must go through each chapter and find at least THREE vocabulary words whose meanings they may not know. Now, several of my students have great vocabulary, but there are some toughies in this book, so my kiddos have not really had trouble with this at all. I require them to write down the word and its definition after looking it up. At the end of the book, I will compile a list of all of their vocabulary words and we will study these as a class and take a short quiz on their definitions.

One literary element that is easy to discuss with this book is characterization. Armand, the main character, is the perfect character for this! We talked about why authors include so much information about certain characters. We looked at the main ways that authors reveal the personality of the characters – through words, thoughts, and actions.

I then split my kids into groups to dive further into this topic. Each group was given the task of creating a life size portrait of Armand…

All 4 groups traced a group member but added a little extra “flub” around the middle, because Armand is portrayed as a rather large hobo. They turned out GREAT! After sketching and illustrating their portrait of Armand, they had to find examples from the book that reveal his character through his thoughts, words, and actions (2 of each). They typed these up and glued them on their portrait – some were super clever and attached his thoughts in a thought bubble, his words in a speech bubble, and his actions near his hands or feet! They are so creative 🙂

Finally, they had to type a short summary of Armand’s character, bringing in what they learned from his thoughts, words, and actions.

Overall, I was really impressed with their work. They did a great job of finding examples and creating a summary.

    Here are the final portraits!

 – Here is a sample summary.

There are so many good characters in the novels we read this year; I think I will continue this activity for others because they enjoyed it so much and learned from it as well!

*Now that we are done with the book, we looked back at their character descriptions and saw how much Armand changed throughout the story! It was neat to have the concrete evidence from the beginning right in front of us so we could really observe the changes in the protagonist*