Wednesday, November 26, 2014

An Integrated Approach

When I approach unit planning, I place everything under the umbrella of social studies. Not only is this the way my brain is wired (thanks to my mother and my homeschooling days) but it is also the ONLY way I could possibly get any social studies standards accomplished!  I teach reading, writing, and social studies, that means that these subjects are connected on a daily basis. Sometimes my partner teacher and I are able to even get some great theme connections in math and science as well! 

We are just wrapping up one of my favorite units - Native American Indians. During each unit, our room reflects our unit and student learning. 
In READING, we have been using Native American Legends during our "Story Element" unit as we study Character, Setting, Conflict, Resolution, and events that help create the plot and build toward the Climax. 
After studying, how characters change throughout a story, we discovered that many Native American Indians had multiple names based off their actions throughout their lives. We then created our own Native American Names and symbols.
The Northwest American Indian tribes created totem poles to share their family heritage and to tell their stories. Using creative WRITING, along with our READING lesson on "Character Traits," we created short paragraphs that described each of our family members on our totem poles. We assigned an animal to each member of our families according to the character traits applied to what the Natives applied to that animal.
As with each unit, students are required to read at least one NON-FICTION text on our social studies unit. They fill out a sheet highlighting the who, what, when, where, why, how as well as find one FUN FACT to add to our Wall of Facts for the unit. They are also encouraged to test on the 
book to get a running record of non-fiction comprehension and practice. 
In WRITING, we have been working on creating strong expository (informational) paragraphs. After creating dream catchers with our grandparents, we went on to research them more and write about them.
In both SCIENCE and SOCIAL STUDIES the kids are researching how plants, animals, and Native American groups ADAPTED to their environments. 

In MATH, students worked with fractions to create "maize" or corn {bread} which was a dietary staple for many Native American groups. It is one of the newly discovered products from the New World, brought back to Europe, Africa, and Asia by early explorers. 
For our Thanksgiving Celebration, we enjoyed eating our corn bread muffins, created by the students during math class using fractions. We also made homemade butter using an old fashioned technique of "Churning" much like the Europeans would have used during the time of early exploration. Dairy Animals, such as goats and cows, were old world products brought to the Americans by explorers.
For our party craft, students also created Navajo "Sand Paintings".
Do any of you teach thematically? 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Adaptation Simulation

I tried something new this year during my introduction of Native American Indians. 

New. Favorite. Intro. Period. 

A big focus, according to our standards, is on how the different Native American groups (and people in general) adapted to their regional environments. Starting at the beginning, we talked about how groups of hunter/gathers crossed the land bridge and began settling across the continent. 
I then gave my groups a tube with different pictures of natural resources found in their "region". I also added a larger picture of the natural environment to help them visualize it. 

 They had to come up with adaptations for shelter, food, transportation, and clothing using the natural resources provided in their tubes. It was SO cool listening to them discuss how they would utilize the resources. Some of them came up with very innovative creations, while some of them were DEAD on with what the natives in that particular region used for shelter and clothing. The activity also allowed for great connection between what they already know about survival and Native American culture (for example, my arctic region immediately went to ice block houses and many of them chose animal skin clothing.) An active KWL if you will ;0) 

Students presenting their environment and adaptations 
As we learned about the different regions we traded out OUR adaptations for the actual adaptions by the different regional groups. 
The most profound impact for me was their internalization of HOW a group of people adapt. Throughout the rest of our unit, I was impressed at how often they connected what they were learning about the Native Americans to how THEY had decided to survive. 
     "Look! They adapted by using a similar shelter to ours!" 
     "Wow, they used cotton for clothing, we didn't even think of        
        using that!" 
      "I know why they raised their houses off the ground, there are    
        poisonous reptiles and alligators roaming around!" 

Teacher heart is full. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Grandparents and Dream Catchers

Every year for Grandparent's Day, I have the students participate with them by making a Native American craft. I am usually beginning Native Americans so we do an inquiry discovery lesson with the different Native regions - that lesson is HERE. However, this year, we are now testing in the spring and that meant that I was now ENDING my Native American unit for Grandparent's Day. No problem - we adjusted and I am SUPER excited about the results! 
We started off making Great Plains Region Dream Catchers with plastic plates. I found it neat that it was actually the grandparents of most tribes who made these for their grandchildren to not only guide their sleeping dreams, but also their life goals and dreams in life. What better craft for grandparents to help with!?
To recap our unit on Native American Regions, we took our grandparents on a "Regional Tour". Each region discovery box held "artifacts" and pictures that aided the students in sharing their knowledge of that region. They were to identify whether the object was an artifact or a natural resource and then tell how the Native people in that region utilized it. I was very proud of the student's knowledge and excitement as they shared their learning. It was also neat to hear grandparents add to their knowledge and share tidbits about Native culture that they have picked up through the years.
 I am blessed to have my grandmother, Grandma Ware as the kids call her, help out in my classroom every Thursday. She is a retired 3rd grade teacher and one of the inspirations for me becoming a teacher. She was a great help to me in aiding those students who did not have a grandparent visiting by guiding their crafts and listening to them share their knowledge with her.
 We will be doing some informational writing this week to go along with our Dream Catchers. For now, I just LOVE the way they look hanging in the room! 
Does your school do Grandparent's Day? If so, how do you get them involved in the day's learning? 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Why is Government Important?

...Quite possibly the most difficult question for fifth grade students to understand. The number one goal for many kids is to break consciously or subconsciously every rule that they can at home and at school. Therefore, explaining to them why RULES are important can often be a daunting task. 
However, there is a trick ...I introduce government by sharing with them that tomorrow no teachers are coming to school, there will be no recess monitors, and Mr. Principal is not coming. They will have the opportunity to do WHATEVER they want be prepared for the whoops, hollers, and cheers. I then ask them what they are planning on doing ... the list is always entertaining. Inevitably, there is always someone who says it would be the best day at school ever! Now it is time for the real life senarios that are going to play out during the day. The kids pull out of a hat: "Someone is going to get hurt accidentally at recess", "A strange person will not be stopped and comes into the school since there wasn't anyone in the office and takes a kid", "A bully doesn't get stopped at recess because there are no people to watch them or stop them." I ask kids what other things could happen without any of our rules in place - this list gets darker, and while sometimes humorous, I can always tell that the kids aren't sure this new found freedom is really a good thing. I always have a couple kids say they just wouldn't come, they would like to avoid the chaos. This leads into a great discussion about how having the freedom to do WHATEVER you want also means that mean, unkind, and hurtful people can as well. This leads to a discussion about chaos and fear which is exactly what no government is - ANARCHY. 
A great read aloud is What if Everybody Did That, it allows students to see why rules are important.

I use this great sheet from Ashleigh's Educational Journey to have the kids map out what broken rules look like. It is a free download - go check it out! I had the kids draw a picture of the rule being followed and then not being followed. 
This leads well into why the Founding Fathers felt the need for a national government that would help make rules and the most important document for running our country - The Constitution. Much like a video game instruction book for Mine-craft which my kiddos are OBSESSED over The Constitution lays out what our Founding Fathers believed would build a good government. 
Anchor chart is an adapted Pinterest idea from One Teacher's Take
We summarized the major sections of the Constitution and then created video game covers that summed up the Constitution's purpose. Some students even included the Federalists and Anti-Federalist arguments ;0) Federalists argued FOR strong national government and Anti-Federalists wanted citizen's rights protected.
Yes, my husband made fun of me for printing a Playstation 2 cover ... they've come out with two more of them???...We don't play video games, give me a break, I'm trying to relate ;0) 

We even made it into the newspaper for Constitution Day!! 
 The Federalists and Anti-Federalists finally came up with a compromise - THE BILL OF RIGHTS. In this way, one could have a strong national government and not worry about it taking away the rights of it's people. Much like a Super Hero needs a trusty side kick - see my lesson HERE on the Bill of Rights. 

 To see more posts on Government Visit HERE, HERE, and HERE
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