Do You Really Want a Turtle?

By the second day of school, my new Rm. 202 friends were already asking me about why we didn’t have a class pet.  What??  Were they serious?  They had found out about Mrs. L’s turtle, Javy (because of a sibling we have in 4th grade), and many had seen Ms. Turken’s water turtle, Bradford, who lives next door to us in Rm. 203.  And so already my friends were turtle-crazy.

The problem?  It was the second day of school, I didn’t have a turtle, nor did I really know anything about them (or had we decided yet as a class if we needed one or could take care of it!).  So Ms. Turken and I devised a little plan: her class was going to learn about turtles anyway, because of Bradford and their interest in them, and they could teach us about what we might need to know about what would be the best kind of turtle to have as a pet (I had noticed that Mrs. L’s turtle–who is actually a “cousin” to Bradford–is a box turtle, as opposed to Bradford, who is a water turtle): box or water.

Well, they worked and researched and wondered and wrote and last Friday they were ready to share their information with us.  They came over after lunch on our half day to present their research.  We were SUPER impressed with how organized and professional they were with their words and how well they used the microphone, stood so we could see them, and were so quiet and listening when it wasn’t their turn.  Again a group of first graders was knocking my socks off!

Like I said, Rm. 203 friends were SUPER turtle researchers and taught us a lot.  And yes, now our turtle craze is even greater than before.  We even found this book to read together to teach us more:

Screenshot 2016-09-02 17.17.06

And luckily, I now also have a connection to a turtle.  Updates to follow on whether or not a turtle joins the Rm. 202 family to come….:)

 

Culture Projects Come Together

Remember how I told you about how we started reading all sorts of versions of Little Red Riding Hood?  And then how we started researching the cultures from which each version came?  Oh, and how I only was able to tell you those parts of the story because of the changes I’ve made this year?  Ok, good, glad you’ve been here so far for this much of the story, cuz here’s the rest. 🙂

Kiddos spent many days researching the cultures of many countries and several regions of our own United States: Germany, Ghana, Spain, China, the Midwest, the West and the Southeast (Cajun culture).  They worked in groups of three to discover important facts about many culture and geography topics: language, flag, location, landforms, holidays, food, games, religion, school, art and music.  One group decided to add info about clothes, as well.  This part of the project took longer than I had expected, mainly just because there were so many topics to find out about, and 4-Squares to fill in.

After enough days of research work for kiddos to have something to put in their planners, we worked together to draft what we thought our topic sentences should sound like.  Each group worked on their own to add in specific details about each topic, but we all used a general common starter for our first sentences to add continuity.  We worked on some general ones, first, to get the idea of a paragraph (topic sentences, details and a conclusion) solidified in our heads, and then tried one from one of our countries together.

Once we had agreed upon our starting points, kiddos got busy crafting their own words into their organizers.  These would then become each page of their book.  We saved the introduction and conclusion for last.

Eventually we got to the point where we were ready to put all of these fabulous facts and wondrous words into a draft of a teaching book that we could later share with our classmates.  There were many options for how to do that, and students were allowed to choose whatever format made the most sense for them. Most students chose to use Keynote at the way to create their book, as adding in the text features we would need would be the easiest in that app.  One friend thought Notability would be best for her, and two friends decided to hand write their books.  Regardless of the how, though, we add worked toward the same goal together.

Students then spent the next few weeks (yeah, i know, this project was LONG!!) putting together the words first (you have to build the house before you can decorate it!) so taht they could then plan how they would add in text features to enhance their reader’s understanding of the topic.  For that lesson we talked a little about “app smashing”, where you take more than one app and “smash” it together with one or more others to create something even better than you can do with any one single app.  Kiddos made plans for their text features and showed me what they were thinking, many of them smashing together their camera and Notability or their camera and Keynote.  Some friends smashing Safari in there, too, and used images from the internet.

Ultimately we will share our final drafts on our blogs, or print them to create actual books for our classroom (or both!) or we could publish them as ebooks and share with other readers in our school…we haven’t decided on this yet.  The first step was to share with each other, though, and we did this the other day before we left for Spring Break.  Kiddos were able to project their book on the big screen (either by AirPlaying from their iPad or just by displaying it through my computer since they had turned it in to me through eBackpack).

While we were listening to kiddos share about their cultures, two other meaningful things happened, thanks to my friend and teammate Mrs. Appelbaum (remember her and her amazing Tower Garden adventures?).  One, kiddos had a big sheet where they were to collect information from their classmates’ books; they could write or draw anything they found interesting, a connection they made, something didn’t know, something they wanted to remember, etc.  It made it so much easier to pay attention through the 12 books we were able to share that day.

The other super smart thing that happened was that I was able to knock out much of the grading part of this project while the presentations were taking place.  This project was a big part of kiddos’ social studies, speaking and listening and writing grades.  I was able to sit with our rubrics on my lap and make notes about what I observed right in the moment.  this is really a big deal because I usually leave things like this until the last minute, and this was just such a smart, efficient suggestion.  Thanks, Shannon A.!

While my kiddos’ final drafts are WAY better than this one, here’s an idea about what they ended up looking like.  I’ll share theirs when we all come back in 4th quarter, but here’s mine (well partially finished one) about Australia:

 

Screenshot 2016-03-13 20.14.49Australian Culture Book

Please let us know what you think!  This project has definitely been a motivating and engaging one for us in Rm. 202.  Can’t wait to share the final drafts with you!!

 

A Little Further Into the Woods

Since we’ve begun our Little Red Riding Hood culture study, some exciting things have happened!  Let me tell you about what’s going on!

Alongside the LRRH books that we shared was another book, full of all sorts of organizers, charts, and a map.  This would be where we’d record our thinking and learning throughout the study.

Screenshot 2016-02-07 15.22.10LRRH_culture

As we read a book, kiddos would fill in a chart that marked certain features of each story, which we would later use to compare stories and use the information to learn more about each culture represented.

Additionally, we kept track of where our countries are in the world, by adding a star on the map for every one we read.  Later on, we added a US map to our book (which I don’t have a picture of yet) as we learned about regions.

IMG_0392-min

As we read different versions, we also compared how certain books were alike and different…

IMG_0395

…as well as finding other things that we needed to add into our book (note to Mrs. Bearden to make sure to put this in there next year!):

IMG_0393

Once we got the background of the stories, talked about characters, compared and contrasted and decided on our favorites, we were ready for the really fun part–researching more about the cultures from our books.

Each kiddo chose their top 3, then randomly came and declared which culture group they wanted to be in.  I wanted it to be about the country/region/culture, not the people in the group, so this part was all done first, then I shared their groupings.  Each group has 3 people, which is kind of ideal.  I could hardly get the directions out before they were ready to get going (kind of like with our spelling investigations this week–they were eager!).  I had found books for each group to start their research, but groups had to go book shopping to find the right ones.  Once they had books, they were busy digging in, collecting information about land (not culture, but related to the geography focus), language, holidays, food, games, religion, school, music, art and then a topic of their choice.

After our initial book search, kiddos were allowed to use website that I had found, as well as World Book Online and Kid Info Bits, which we have subscriptions to from our library.

Screenshot 2016-02-07 17.09.06

We even had an opportunity to learn about German culture from someone in Germany! I sent out a request on Twitter for friends from our countries/regions of choice, but was unable to work out any Skyping situations.  Then I remembered that Mrs. Appelbaum’s daughter is studying German in GERMANY and that she might be available to help us out!  She was more than willing and so we worked out a FaceTime call for last Thursday afternoon.  Those girls were so excited (and so was I!)!

We are just about done with research and are excited to start writing–we’re going to take all of our information and make books to share with other Robinson kiddos!  Stay tuned for updates on that part of our work!