Picture (and Video!) of the Day: April 27, 2015

Welcome to a new week!  Let’s get started with some super pictures.  This week’s gonna be a good one. 🙂

IMG_4474We have been working on a design challenge in science lately (more later!), and this picture is of some friends working on it.  Even better, it’s a picture of first graders independently documenting their learning with videos explaining how their design works.  Amazing.  It’s cool when 5th graders do it, but when you’re 6 and 7YO and you can do that, somehow it seems better.  And now that we’re all 1:1 in KSD, it’ll continue to happen over and over.  What will these friends look like with tech and learning when they’re in 5th grade?  I’m excited to find out!

Here’s a video of this same work:

Can’t wait to share more!  Have a great week, friends!

Dichotomous Keys, WebQuests and the Zoo–Part 1

We have been busy scientists lately in Rm. 202.  Let me tell you about it! (And also let me apologize for not writing about Science very often.  This may be one of the first posts I’ve ever included about our lives as scientists…boo. 😦 )

During 3rd quarter we were busy learning about many things.  The latest science unit we ventured through was one on Living Systems, specifically animal classification.

One thing we focused on was dichotomous keys.  What?  You’ve never heard of them?  Well before I started teaching about them in 4th grade several years ago, I hadn’t either!  Well at least I didn’t know that’s what they were called.  Let me show you what I mean:

Dichotomous key to determine Silly Scientist names of common items

Dichotomous key to determine Silly Scientist names of common items

The goal is for students to be able to use keys like this to identify animals, but we started somewhere else.  With shoes.  We worked first to CREATE a dichotomous key, so we’d know how it works, and then we practiced using it.

We began by putting everyone’s shoes in a big pile on the floor.  Then, we had to decide two groups that we could classify all those shoes into (see, the dichotomy part–two groups).  Here’s how we started:

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Shoes were put into one of two groups: boots or not boots.

Then, with two groups, we tackled the “boots” pile first.  Again, we asked ourselves what two groups we could make.  This was pretty easy, and so we decided on:

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Only two choices with this one! There were two boots, one was brown and the other was not. We could quickly label those as Natalie and ZB202’s shoes.

Next we had a big ‘ole pile of everyone else’ shoes to classify.  We started like this:

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We looked at shoelaces on all those “not boots.” They all happened to be tennis shoes, by the way.

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Two more: this time looking at the inside of the shoes

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The last step here was pretty easy: only two shoes left, one was a Nike and the other was not. So we could then label one of them as Anna’s and the other as Damonte’s.

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The other side (colored insides) was a little bigger, so needed more groups: tab/no tab, then Nike/not Nike, and pink/not pink and blue/not blue.

After that pile was classified and labeled, we could tackle the other side of the “not boots” bunch, which was colored shoelaces.

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You can see that we had many more small categories in this group, but went through the same process: what two groups could we break the larger one into?

And so once we were finished, our key looked like a beautiful tree, and ended with everyone’s names.  We could now use that key to determine whose shoe was whose.


Devan uses our dichotomous key to identify Sophia’s shoe.

Here is Natalie in action, proving how she knows who shoe she has in her hand:

After we had practiced with this dichotomous key that we built, kiddos had a go at the one from the top up there, where they had to identify the silly scientific names of these common items:

1. a die

2. a small paperclip

3. a large paperclip

4. a piece of chalk

5. a popsicle stick

6. a colored marble

7. a white marble

8. a sharpened pencil

9. an unsharpened pencil

10. an eraser

Could you do it?  Use this dichotomous key and tell us what you think the names of each of these items are.  Good luck!

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Do You Remember It All?

Of course, not, silly, but I can help you pull some of it out of the depths of your memory!  Wait–let me back up a little bit.  Remember when I mentioned the other day about how we are going to be starting MAP testing in a couple of weeks? Well, one thing that we have been doing to help us prepare for the Science section of that test is to review concepts that they have learned about previously.  Because, of course, they probably wouldn’t remember all of it without a few reminders.  And pretty much anything they’ve ever learned about (yep, since 1st grade!) is fair game on this test.  So we had some work to do.

This week we went back to an activity we’d done with past units in Social Studies in our classroom.  Since I knew that it worked to help us remember big ideas and I knew they had fun doing it, I figured it was perfect to pull out again.  Plus, unfortunately, the last few units we’d been doing in Social Studies had been more of the sit-and-read-from-this-book-and-tell-me-what-you-learned type units, so they were ready for a change.

We have access to Safari Montage through our school district, which is an amazing resource for videos to supplement your curriculum.  There is a great series by Schlessinger Science Library that presents concepts in a fun and informative way with short, interesting videos.  This week we watched several videos and then created window murals to help us remember the big ideas.  We worked with a partner or in a group of 3, and created representations for each big idea on the mural.

Here’s what we’ve been working on this week–

This one was after a video called All About Plant Life:

Can you see the big ideas of leaves, roots, what plants need, how plants are different from animals, photosynthesis, and how they give us oxygen?

Next we watched a video called All About Animal Adaptations:

I wish the picture had turned out better, but this one had big ideas about how animals have to adapt to their environments to help them survive.

On Thursday, the topic was animals again, but this time Life Cycles:

And then Friday we moved on to Electricity:

It is always great to see what my students do when they are given a challenge, and how much fun they have doing it.  I loved how so many kiddos mentioned this activity when they shared in our closing circle on Friday.  The Friday question is almost always “What did you like or what did you learn?” and a majority of kiddos mentioned that they liked going back to this again.  And any time we can learn in a fun way, I’m all game.  We have more window space and more science to review, so there are surely more of these in our future next week!  I am sure my class will be just fine with that. 🙂