Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Bringing Art into Content Lessons: Part 2

In my last post, I shared a few ideas to integrate art into our Social Studies unit on ancient China.  We always follow up ancient China with ancient Egypt which gives me more opportunities to bring in some fun art projects.

One of our messiest projects is making our own "papyrus" paper.  I made a mixture of about 3 cups of warm water and 1 cup of flour.  Then we soaked strips of yellow construction paper in the mix, gently squeezed them out, then laid them, overlapping, on foil.  We did two layers- one horizontal and one vertical- to make sure the strips really stuck together to make paper.

Soaking the paper strips
Putting down the first layer
Beginning the second layer

After letting the papyrus paper dry for a day, we wrote on them a message in hieroglyphics.  I didn't manage to get any pictures, but the students always rise to the challenge of writing in hieroglyphics!

Our second project also involved hieroglyphics.  Students made a cartouche with their names.  We made them into necklaces so they kids could show them off.  In past years we've made the cartouches out of clay, but we ran out of time this year and took a simpler approach.

Decorating the cartouche
Cutting out
A rather large necklace!

Our final project was making a pharaoh's necklace.  I didn't manage to get any pictures- we did this the day before spring break!- but the idea came from this pin.

Finally, if you're looking for a fun way to introduce or review your ancient Egypt unit, check out my Ancient Egypt QR Code Hunt.  Students scan the codes to answer questions about ancient Egypt.  It's an easy way to fit in technology and research!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Bringing Art into Content Lessons

Even though I have absolutely no artistic talent, I really enjoy finding ways to bring art into the classroom.  My students spend one hour a week with our school's art teacher, which I just don't think is enough time.  My goal is to do one art activity a week in class;  I'm not successful very often, but I keep trying!.  That's why I love our unit on ancient China- so many opportunities to integrate some fun art projects.  I'm going to be sad next year when the new Standards of Learning move ancient China up to 3rd grade.

One of the more simple projects we do is a Chinese banner.  My kids LOVE writing Chinese characters, and these banners give them another opportunity to practice.  Making the banners also helps them appreciate how difficult some of these characters are to reproduce.
Chinese banners
This year we were lucky to participate in a "Have Art, Will Travel" program hosted by a local college.  A docent from the college's art museum came to our school and gave a presentation on ancient Chinese clothing, porcelain, and mythical creatures.  I whipped up a quick planning sheet (which you can download at the end of this post), and then students designed and created their own zhenmushou out of Crayola Model Magic.  My kids really got into creating their mythical beasts.

Zhenmushou made from Crayola Model Magic
The final project focused on pandas and managed to cover just about every subject, with the exception of math.  First, we watched clips of a National Geographic movie about pandas living in the wild.  Then we followed this tutorial to complete brush paintings of a panda.  I love how all the pandas turned out beautifully, but different from each other.  Not at all cookie-cutter.

Panda Brush Painting

Next, students completed research on the giant panda using the Enchanted Learning website.  Finally, the students used what they had learned and wrote a paragraph about pandas.  (Again, the planning sheet and final draft paper we used can be downloaded at the bottom of this post.) We put the paragraphs and panda brush paintings together to make a nice display for the hallway.

And if you're looking for a new way to introduce or review your ancient China unit, check out my Ancient China QR Code Hunt.  Students scan the codes to answer questions about ancient Egypt.  It's an easy way to fit in technology and research!    

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Assessments Assessments Assessments

Performance tasks. Performance assessments. Performance assessment tasks. 

So I've always thought that these kinds of assessments are ideal. Instead of limiting kids to your supplied answer choices (and one silly one that someone ALWAYS picks), kids can show the depth of what they know. Best case scenario: kids make a connection that you hadn't dreamed of yourself. What a wonderful world!

On the other hand, I don't often do these kinds of assessments because they seem to be so blasted time consuming. A paper and pencil test takes maybe, thirty minutes? Performance assessments can drag on for days. Some kids make great connections and show deep understanding. Others, not so much. 

In a perfect world, all of my assessments would be this way. I hate to say it, please don't judge my less than sunny outlook, but mine is not a perfect world. There, I said it. I just don't have time to give this kind of assessment all of the time. Sometimes, though, I am encouraged to reach beyond my comfort zone and make time for things that I otherwise might not. That is the case this year. For the past two years, our system has had teachers give a performance assessment related to our social studies content. Namely, students have to tell about an imaginary civilization based upon its location on Earth and the natural resources surrounding it. This is great. It goes right along with our studies of American Indians, ancient Egypt, and ancient China. Our kids usually do quite well on it. This year, my school is doing focused work to prepare our kids even further. The idea is to prepare children by giving two performance assessment tasks leading up to the final one. I'm seeing it as giving our kids a running start, some experience, and eventually reaping the benefits of getting a better understanding of their knowledge and abilities. 

I thought I would share with you what we are doing, in case you can use it in your classroom too. Also, we'd love feedback on what you think and what you have learned if you have gone down the same path.

Here's what we've done...

First, we started with the idea of revisiting our Americans Indians unit and trying to tie it into our most current unit, economics. Immediately, we thought of bartering and natural resources. Then we realized that capital and human resources also played a part in the bartering of American Indians. After thinking about that, we also added the idea of scarcity as a reason for bartering, which then lead us to needs and wants. OK, so maybe economics and Native Americans could be brought together, and pretty easily. We were hoping that the kids would make some of these connections also. 

We came up with a simple sheet of our own, sort of resembling the sheet that our system uses for the final assessment. Here it is, nothing groundbreaking. Get it here

I was all ready to give it, when I stalled. I may have told you this earlier but... I have a classes of 50% English and 50% Spanish speakers, and so I usually have to front-load heavy language activities like this with something that kids can seriously connect with. I decided that I was a little worried about the kids coming up with goods from a list of natural resources. I was worried that I might see modern-day goods or maybe just our list of natural resources being copied.

I did some thinking on that. I decided on arrows. I needed to do a hands-on activity with something that all of the kids were all familiar with - arrows. Arrows are full of natural resources, but also require some capital resources to be made. I also happen to have a really cool arrow that I bought when I was in New Mexico for a dual language conference (La Cosecha is the best!). I put together a tub of stuff that the kids could use to make their own arrows. One of them squealed, "Oh we get to MAKE arrows!" Yup, that's what my kids love to do. Make, make, make. The materials in the tubs that I passed out were super low tech: straws, pipe cleaners, and black paper. At their desks they had scissors and glue. You could choose whatever materials you have hanging around. Students had a ball experimenting with the materials. In pretty short order all of the kids had their very own arrows. 

After making the arrows, I had students draw them on paper and label the drawing with what it would have been made out of long ago (not straw and construction paper of course). There were some very creative answers. I had a few kids say that their glue was tree sap - nice!  I encouraged them to draw and label their diagrams very scientifically and, of course, they obliged, take a look at what some of them came up with! 


Here are the blank documents and one that I made for pottery as well. Because I was working on comprehensible input and scaffolding for my ELL, I added the sentence frames at the bottom for sharing, but I told kids they could freewheel on their sharing if they were comfortable. Some used the sentences frames, some did not. I have them for super cheap on TPT here (in the context of the comprehensible input lesson.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Snow Daze!

Thanks to a extreme blast of winter weather, I haven't seen my students in over a week.  This unexpected break, while welcome, has wreaked havoc with my curriculum map!  When we go back to school Monday morning, I will be focused on catching up but my students will want to tell me- in great detail!- everything they did on their snow days.  While I enjoy listening to my students' stories and hearing about their lives outside of school, I just don't always have the time.  So, instead of telling me about all their snow day adventures, my kids are going to write about them.  I made up a quick sheet that has the students write about not only what they did but also what they wished they had done.  That second part forces my reluctant writers -AKA the "I didn't do anything in the entire week we weren't at school" kids- to get something down on paper.  After writing, the students will get in small groups and share. 

Voila!  The kids get to share and be heard, and my curriculum map doesn't suffer!  You can check out and download the writing sheet here.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

All About Clouds!

Here in Virginia, we teach a fairly comprehensive unit on weather in 2nd grade.  Our Standards of Learning (SOLs) include the water cycle, weather instruments, and dangerous storms, but clouds are not covered.  Being the rebel that I am, I teach clouds anyway!  My students love learning about different cloud types, what weather they bring, and what those Latin-derived names actually mean.  Well, maybe not that last part, but I throw it in for fun.

We start our cloud learning out with an old-fashioned K-W-L, which you can get here.  I find that most students have some background knowledge, even if it's as simple as the idea that clouds can form different shapes.  Then, to help students make sense out of names like cirrus and cumulus and cumulonimbus, we read a great book called The Man Who Named the Clouds. (You can find a link to it at the end of this post.) Some of it is too advanced for my kids, so I just pick out the relevant parts.

After that, we are ready for student research!  Students are divided into small groups, assigned a cloud type, and use QR codes to link to various websites to read and answer questions.  Each group is responsible for filling in the class chart with the information they learned and presenting it to the class.  I was pleasantly surprised by the addition of non-required illustrations!
Next, to get in some hands-on learning, students make sky cloud charts using cotton balls.  Because you can't teach clouds and not incorporate cotton balls, am I right?! I only allowed the students ten cotton balls each and they agonized over how to divvy them up.  Pretty good results overall.

Then, over the next couple of days, we do cloud sorting activities, cloud jigsaw puzzles, and interactive notes entries.  If you're interested in seeing more, head on over to my TpT store and check out my All About Clouds unit.

Last but not least, here are a few links to some great cloud books!