Thursday, August 21, 2014

Back to School Writing Tip

Back to school is a wonderful time of the year.  Fresh ideas, fresh faces, and a fresh start.  Join my literacy friends and I in a wonderful hop "Blasting Off a Great Year!"

I have a simple idea for you today to help spice up your students' writing.  I have been in school for almost a week and have an idea of the writing strengths and weaknesses of the kids in my school based on the writing samples the teachers have collected this week.  One weakness that always gets kids is being more descriptive in their writing.

One way I help my students be more descriptive writers is by teaching them the "show, not tell" technique.  I display a sentence on the Elmo like "My room is a mess." I explain to my students that using this sentence in my writing tells the reader that the room is a mess but doesn't help the reader see my room. What I think is a mess might not be a mess to someone else. I need to help my reader visualize my room by showing them in words that my room is a mess. I use the five senses to help students really think about what a messy room might look like. Then I model writing what what we talked about.

My model might look something like this:

I wish I had a maid. My floor is so littered with clothes my hangers feel lonely in the closet. My bed is hidden under a pile of more clothes, school books, lost homework assignments, and DVDs. Looking under the bed, I see empty cups and plates that need to be taken to the kitchen. The vacuum has not graced my room with its presence in over a year, so I have a whole generation of dust bunnies living in the nooks and crannies. My cat has rolled over the top layer of my bed so many times that the clothes look white and grey. I have pushed things to the side in an effort to create a trail from the bed to the door. My mom is going to kill me when she comes for a visit. I can hear her now, “I raised you better than this.”

We discuss the difference between "My room is a mess" and the paragraph that shows the mess.  I give students a telling sentence and have them practice working in groups to creating a showing paragraph.  Then I want them to apply it to their own writing, so I have them reread a piece they have been working on and pick out a telling sentence.  They write a few sentences (up to a paragraph) that show instead of tell.  Finally we add "Show, Not Tell" to our revising strategies list.

I have a lesson plan that goes with this idea HERE.

I hope you enjoyed this activity.  For the next activity, check out The Reading Tutor


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Beginning of the Year Science Activities

Are you looking for some great ideas to get your year started?  You are in the right place.  It is time for the monthly Bright Ideas Linky.   I hope that you have enjoyed the others as much as I have.  If you missed them, no fear, check out my posts HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE.  I have filed away a ton of useful ideas for this year!

In my role as a math and science instructional facilitator, I have been looking for easy, low-prep, engaging science activities that my teachers can use at the beginning of the year to get the kids excited about science class.  Today I am going to share with you three activities that fit this bill.  The toothpick and paperclip ideas I learned at a great science professional development this summer and the cups challenge was one that I saw in multiple places as I searched for STEM ideas.

Toothpick Star

What you need:
  • five toothpicks
  • dropper
  • wax paper
  • water

What to do:
  • Break each toothpick almost in half.
  • Lay the toothpicks in a star shape.
  • Using the dropper, place one drop of water at a time in the center.

Science behind it:
Wood is made up of various types of tissue, which provide strength and a transport system for water and dissolved minerals from the roots up to the leaves.  Capillary action combined with transpiration from the leaves provides the force required to transport water vertically.  Capillary action is the result of the strong surface tension of water causing it to rise vertically up narrow capillaries. The height to which water will rise in a capillary depends on its size and the material it is made from. Capillary action can also be observed by dipping the bottom of a strip of paper towel into water.

This is a video I took with my iPhone as we did this at a teacher workshop this summer.

Floating Paperclips

What you need:
  • bowl
  • paperclips
  • water
  • various objects:  plastic spoon, tissue paper
What to do:
  • Fill the bowl with water.
  • Place the paperclips on top of the water (not as easy as it sounds)
Hint:  I used a spoon.  Other teachers put a little piece of tissue paper on the water and then carefully placed the paperclip on the tissue paper.  They slowly pushed the tissue underwater.  Some of the teachers were able to just use their hands to get the paperclip to float.

Science behind it:
--> Surface tension is like a skin on the surface of the water where the water molecules hold on tight together. If the conditions are right, they can hold tight enough to support the paper clip. The paperclip is not truly floating; it is being held up by the surface tension. Many insects, such as water striders, use surface tension to walk across the top of the water in a pond or stream.
Questions that students can build experiments to answer:
  • How many paperclips can the surface hold?
  • What liquids have the strongest surface tension? 

Cups Challenge

During the professional development I lead with my teachers this summer, I wanted to give them low-prep ways to engage their students in STEM challenges to begin the year.  The Tower Cup Challenge was one of the easiest that I could find.

What you need:
  • set number of cups per group (I used 25)

What to do:
  • Give the same number of cups to each group.
  • Tell them:  Your challenge today is to build the tallest tower using all of the cups.
  • Give them 2 minutes of silent think time.  They cannot touch the cups or talk to their group.  2 minutes is a long time (even for teachers to stay quiet) but they need the time to really think about what might work.
  • Give them 5 minutes of group planning time.  They still cannot touch the cups.  They can talk.  They can draw different ideas on paper.
  • Give them 10 minutes of build time.  Give them the entire ten minutes.  Towers will fall and reemerge many times, so they need all the time.  The team with the tallest tower at the end of time wins.
  • You can discuss at this point or give them another ten minutes to redesign and try again.

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For bright ideas from more than 100 different bloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting!


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