Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Communities and Environments

With all of the things we have to teach, and all of the new mandates about how much time we have to spend teaching reading, it is becoming increasingly difficult to study Science.  I try to incorporate Science into my Reading lessons as often as I can - partly because the kids like the Science book more than they like the Reading stories, and partly because it is a way to get some Science content in there. 

One of the skills I'm working on with my kiddos is how to support their answers with evidence from the text they are reading, whether that be a fiction book or a non-fiction book or article.  I'd been to the Feed the Children Teacher Store, and I'd picked up a bunch of that foam paper stuff.  You know, those colorful, squishy papers you see at the craft store that you wonder exactly why anyone would buy.  I'm still not sure if I'd buy it, but it seemed like a good idea to pick it up when it was free!

Anyway, I gave each group of students a wide variety of colors of these things and the instructions to use it to create an environment.  The only limitation was that they had to support anything they put into their environment with evidence that it belonged there from their Science textbook.

I figured the evidence part was pretty easy.  Look in the Table of Contents, find the chapter on environments, read the first paragraph and use the sentence that says environments are all of the living and non-living things that surround us.  There you reign to put anything you can think of in your environment.  Needless to say, it did NOT turn out to be that simple.  The kids searched and searched and searched.  But what they came up with was pretty cool!

Of course, there were also some clues that the evidence part still needed some work.

It's a little hard to read, but they were explaining why they created Mt. St. Helens.  Then at the end, they explain that they added the house because houses are where you find evidence.  *sigh*  These kids watch too many crime shows!

All in all, a successful lesson.  There was only one other minor issue, and I have to say, it is a cultural one - and one that I thought we were beyond.  When I handed out all of the colors, I had forgotten to hand out two of them - peach and pink.  I discovered this about 15 minutes into their work and quickly handed them out.  The response was telling.  "Thanks!  Now we can put people in our environments!"  I was a bit shocked.  I said, "You could have put people in before.  You have three colors of brown in front of you!"  "You mean we can make people brown?!"  "Why not?  Aren't you brown?"  "Well, yes, but..."  "We have a whole class full of brown people, why wouldn't that be okay?"  All I got was a shrug as they continued to work.  I find this extremely sad.  We have much work to do.

In a seemingly unconnected, and yet will be connected, event, we have been working on our Classroom Champions lessons.  This month was Community.  We watched our video from Emily Cook, and now we are discussing communities.  We have had a couple of opportunities to expand our own community recently.  First of all, we had a wonderful Mystery Hangout with Jennifer Regruth's class in Indiana.  We learned two things.  One - we need to study more geography.  Two - our Principal can be pretty fun!  Here she is dancing to our Flocabulary song while we wait to start our Hangout.

Then, we had the totally cool and supremely amazing opportunity to do a Google Hangout with Emily Cook.  The kids were so excited!  (Okay, so I was just as excited.  How many chances to you get to talk to Olympic athletes afterall?!)  They love this hangout thing, and they think Emily is the coolest person ever.  Well, except for football players, but we live in Oklahoma.  That is to be expected.  :D  Thanks, Miss Cook, for spending your time with us!

That brings me to that Science connection.  I believe our next task will be to create something...not sure what yet...but something that connects the environment and our study of communities.  We have also been studying the early people of Oklahoma in Social Studies.  I think we can tie this in as well.  Perhaps a group of students assigned to build environments for different types of communities.