Climate Posts & Resources!

Today in class we talked about the differences between weather and climate, as well as how climate affects regions and habitats. Here are some links and videos we found useful and interesting.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DuiQvPLWziQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9OfdV8KTrM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05qDIjKevJo

We’ve been having a great time.

Woodland Park Zoo!

Today, we had the opportunity to go to the Woodland Park Zoo! I’ll admit, I heard quite a few of my students say beforehand, “Uhhhhh, we go to the zoo evvvvvery yearrrrr.” But I’m pleased to say we had quite a fabulous time. We prefer the Woodland Park Zoo to the Point Defiance Zoo, and we also noticed that this zoo has a bunch of new exhibits that weren’t there a few years ago when some of us came as kindergarteners or first graders.

In addition to seeing all the fabulous animals, we also met up with Greg from the education department, who taught us about plant and animals and how they survive with each other. Here we are on our way to visit the komodo dragon.

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He also showed us the tapir, the orangutan, the lion-tail macaque, and the siamang.

My group observed the jaguar walking like it was modeling on a catwalk!

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My group of eight students (so well-behaved! Wheeee!) went to one of the aviaries where we saw birds less than three feet away from us.

 

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The weather was ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS, and whenever we got cold we were able to go to an indoor exhibit.

 

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Not all the animals were exotic. In fact, we all enjoyed hanging out with the enormous chubby squirrels.

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Book of the Week: I Wonder… About the Sky

 

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions. I hope you find this useful, and please leave a comment with any suggestions or additions!

I Wonder… About the Sky, by Enid Field

This is an older book, and it seems like it’s out of print, but our bookroom has a copy, so let’s go with it. I think it can anchor a couple of pretty critical thinking skills. Consider pairing it with one of these resources:

Wonderopolis. The name pretty much speaks for itself.

I Wonder Why… New series on our local NPR station.

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggested lessons:

  • Ask questions throughout the reading process. This is pretty self-explanatory. The entire book starts with “I wonder…” and then some element about the sky or weather. For example: 
  • Predict what will happen, use text to confirm. I notice that often when I make KWL charts with my students, we neglect to follow up on them. (whoops) Consider copying a few of the pages, posting them around the classroom (or the hallway — the photographs are pretty neat), then letting students add answers or new learning as they find them.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

###

How old is too old?

I’ve had a copy of Byrd Baylor‘s If You are a Hunter of Fossils in my teacher tote bag for months, waiting for me to write CAFE lessons for it. It was originally a text included in kindergarten Kinderroots kits, but when we switched from Success for All, the books were introduced to general teacher circulation.

I put off posting lessons because I worried the book would be outdated, thus opening a huge can of worms in determining whose role it is to decide whether books are outdated. (It’s our librarian’s role, I’d argue. But we have a half-time librarian who is spending every second he’s in our school making up for the FOUR YEARS when we didn’t have a librarian at all. I don’t think weeding books are at the top of his list. He and our library assistant have added ELEVEN HUNDRED books to our school library this year.)

Despite my initial apprehension, I finally read the book and gave a few lesson suggestions. Hunter of Fossils has held up well to all the recent dinosaur discoveries and changes. But other books don’t hold up as well. And as a school with a teensy tiny library budget, at what point do we retire old books?

 

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/MsHoughton/status/153660132386017283″]

 

There are a bunch of other old books that are in the bookroom. I’m not too concerned about these texts, as they’re intended for teacher check-out, and I assume teachers know how to lead a rad anti-bias, these-were-the-times lesson.

 

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/donalynbooks/status/153657606077022208″]

 

Again, what is the line for “accurate,” though? For example, our school’s Ben Franklin biography is Jean Fritz’s 1975 book What’s the Big Idea, Ben Franklin? A large bulk of the information is pretty accurate, to my mind, but there are some pieces that have been disproven. We included the updated information in our class discussion. There’s an updated version of this book with illustrations by David Small, but I haven’t read it and don’t know if there are any changes.

But what about the books on the shelf available for general consumption? I’m not by any means looking to somehow censor outdated information, but I wonder how we can set students up for success in accessing accurate information.

 

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/cppotter/status/153660546456104961″]

 

As mentioned above, we are fortunate to have a 22-computer lab (Although it is tiny. And many of our classes have 25 students. And we use it to take state standardized tests in.), which many classes use to research information.

But access to information isn’t a cure-all. The nightmare scenario for my kids comes from my own cultural shock in China. I read at least a half dozen books on the country and the culture, but the most lasting impression I had was from Big Bird in China. I LOVED this movie when I was little. ADORED this movie. And as an adult, I knew that some things would be VERY different on my visit, but even the more recent texts I read didn’t prepare me for the changes I saw.

I thought people would be wearing neutral-colored Mao suits. I thought cities would be more run down. In retrospect, I guess there’s always more research I could have done, but I wonder what would have helped me sift out the most recent, relevant information, especially considering I went into the program knowing NOTHING about China. Except pandas and Mao.

Anyway. So I guess I’m still left with my initial question. At what point are old nonfiction books worse than no books at all? I’ll pester some librarians this week, and please leave any thoughts or ideas in the comments!

Sibert Challenge

All this chatter about the various ALA challenges going on in 2012 made me long for a few more nonfiction books on my to-read list. And although the Sibert Informational Medal hasn’t been around for that long, I realized I’ve read woefully few of the winners and honor recipients.

So I present to you this year’s Sibert Challenge, which you can find on Twitter as #nerdibert.

I’m not quite sure how to facilitate something like this, so I suppose I should ask you to please post any links to your versions of the challenge in the comments section. Here’s the complete list of award recipients, taken from the ALA site. For now, I’ll say that I’ll attempt to read them chronologically. If I’ve read a book, I’ve linked it to my Goodreads review.

  • Winner: Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado. Written by Marc Aronson.
  • Honor: Blizzard! The Storm That Changed America. Written by Jim Murphy.
  • Honor: The Longitude Prize. Written by Joan Dash. Illustrated by Dusan Petricic.
  • Honor: My Season with Penguins: An Antarctic Journal. Written by Sophie Webb.
  • Honor: Pedro and Me: Friendship, Loss, and What I Learned. Written by Judd Winick.

  • Winner: Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850. Written by Susan Campbell Bartoletti.
  • Honor: Brooklyn Bridge. Written by Lynn Curlee.
  • Honor: Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps. Written by Andrea Warren.
  • Honor: Vincent van Gogh. Written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan.

  • Winner: The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler. Written by James Cross Giblin.
  • Honor: Action Jackson. Written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan. Illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker.
  • Honor: Hole in My Life. Written by Jack Gantos.
  • Honor: Six Days in October: The Stock Market Crash of 1929. 
    Written by Karen Blumenthal.
  • Honor: When Marian SangWritten by Pam Munoz Ryan. Illustrated by Brian Selznick.

  • Winner: The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights. Written by Russell Freedman.
  • Honor: Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writing.  Written by James Rumford, translated into Cherokee by Anna Sixkiller.
  • Honor: The Tarantula Scientist. Written by Sy Montgomery, photographs by Nic Bishop.
  • Honor: Walt Whitman: Words for America. Written by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Brian Selznick.

  • Winner: Secrets of a Civil War Submarine: Solving the Mysteries of the H.L. HunleyWritten by Sally M. Walker.
  • Honor: Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow. Written by Susan Campbell Bartoletti.

  • Winner: Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon. Written by Catherine Thimmesh.
  • Honor: Freedom Riders: John Lewis and Jim Zwerg on the Front Lines of the Civil Rights Movement. Written by Ann Bausum.
  • Honor: Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea. Written by Sy Montgomery, photographs by Nic Bishop.
  • Honor: To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic NovelWritten by Siena Cherson Siegel, artwork by Mark Siegel.

  • Winner: The Wall: Growing Up behind the Iron CurtainWritten by Peter Sís.
  • Honor: Lightship. Written and illustrated by Brian Floca.
  • Honor: Nic Bishop Spiders. Written and photographed by Nic Bishop.

  • Winner: Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot. Written by Sy Montgomery.
  • Honor: Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring. Written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca.
  • Honor: Lafayette and the American Revolution. Written by Russell Freedman.

2012

  • Recipients to be announced January 23, 2012!

Book of the Week: A Cool Drink of Water

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions. I hope you find this useful, and please leave a comment with any suggestions or additions!

A Cool Drink of Water, by Barbara Kerley

You can see a preview of this book here, through Google Books. The title of the book might be taken from the poem “No No No No” by Maya Angelou, which contains the line used as the title of the collection the poem is featured in, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diiie. Depending on the students you teach, you might or might not consider the poems in this book appropriate for discussion in your class, but I definitely encourage you to take a look at them. The book was written in 1971, and nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1972.

National Geographic and the Smithsonian do a pretty bang-up job of providing high-interest, gorgeous nonfiction texts for students.

The text in this book is very basic, only a few words per page, which would make it perfect for primary read alouds. But the end of the book has individual stories about all of the places featured in the photographs. It would be pretty remarkable to have each page displayed around the room on multicultural night, then have each student be an expert on explaining information from one of the pictures. Wow! If Ms. Koyama puts together a multicultural night for us this year, I’ll TOTALLY do that!

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggested lessons:

  • Compare within and between texts. As mentioned above, have students select a photograph to become an expert on. Randomly have students partner up and give them two minutes to find a similarity and a difference between their subjects’ situations. At the end, debrief and notice if you noticed any common themes.
  • Determine and explain author’s purpose. If students have brainstormed theme ideas, discuss how those are similar to and related to what the author was trying to achieve in writing the book. Often, students will say that a nonfiction author wrote a book “because he/she liked ______” (whatever the book was about — like cats or ponies or tornadoes). But in this case, it seems kind of silly to say the author wrote the book “because she liked water.” Use this example to push students’ thinking further.

  • Skip the word then come back. Before you read the book, put small Post-it notes over some of the words in all capital letters. Often these kinds of activities are done with rhyming words covered up, but the support of the pictures should make the activity doable despite a lack of rhyme.
Example page for "Skip the word and then come back." You could also keep the first and/or last letter of the word uncovered.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

###

UW Atmospheric Sciences Trip!

Our class had an amazing trip to the University of Washington Atmospheric Sciences center this Thursday!

“They taught us a lot of things — like how to make a cloud. They were good scientists, they were smart but they didn’t act like they know everything.” L said.

“We were able to sit in college seats rather than regular seats, I felt like I was in college,” T.E. said.

“I wanted to say thank you for letting us sit in their classrooms because they taught us what they were learning about and they took us on the roof and that was really fun and kind,” T.S. said.

“I liked it when we were on the roof and they showed us the rain collector and the instrument that measured how much light there was,” K.A. said.

“When were on the roof, it was nice of them to show us how the instruments worked, and the rain catcher, and the satellite dish,” J.C. said.

Several of us thought the roof was going to be flat or go right upto the edge like in the old silent movie “Safety Last.”

“I thought the exploding cloud was really cool and it was nice of them to show it to us and having a volunteer was nice — it was kind of nice to have X help us,” A.B. said.

On our way out, we saw Cliff Mass and two of his TA’s coming out of Weather 101. We recognized Dr. Mass from his YouTube videos and from his NPR podcasts. Many students noted that he seemed older in real life than in the videos, although it was mentioned to them that that might not be the most tactful thing to say.

“My favorite part was when we were on the roof and Chris told us about the little thing that spins and told us about which way the wind was blowing — the wind vane. My second favorite part was when we took the picture and made funny faces,” A.G. said.

The photo A is talking about can’t be posted to this website because this is a non-district website, BUT families, if you e-mail me I will send you a copy. I CAN show you this picture of us walking up the staircase to the

“I was afraid it was going to be flat and we were going to slip, but instead it had a large square around it so we couldn’t fall,” A. V-G. said.

Penguin Sweaters

I saw this post in my Google Reader feed tonight and thought of a recent read aloud.

Call for Knitted Sweaters for Penguins Affected by Oil Spill

This reminded me, of course, of Pierre the Penguin, which we read earlier this week in our journey to read all the books nominated for the 2012 Washington Children’s Choice Picture Book Awards. Wonder what the folks at the California Academy of Sciences think of this fashionable take on their wetsuit?

Wildwood Park: The Autumn Edition

We made it today. And what a day it was! Huzzah!

Our scheduled October 12 field trip to Wildwood Park was initially postponed a week because we struggled with appropriate in-class behavior and we were slow to follow directions, but our practice paid off because we had, frankly, a flawless trip this afternoon!

The weather was wonderful, and students worked hard to accomplish everything we needed to in the morning to ensure we could set out for the park on time. A field trip to Wildwood Park is really more of a “field trip” with air quotes because it’s RIGHT next door to our school. But the fact that it’s off campus and requires OFFICIAL field trip paperwork gives it an air of greater importance.

The science gave it an air of greater importance too. Students trekked to the park armed with their clipboards, pencils (there was NO pencil drama — everyone was responsible and made a plan in case their pencils broke/got lost/were stolen by a squirrel), and super-neat FIELD GUIDES.

Clipboards and Field Guides

Once there, students had the option of exploring independently, or perambulating with me in a leisurely manner to ensure they didn’t miss any of the sights. They mapped out deciduous trees, evergreen trees, and ferns. As I’m typing this, I am JUST NOW reminded of The Definitive Central Park Map. I TOTALLY wish I would have thought of that this morning to show students before we left.

Recording observations (including neat orange lichen!)

No matter. We had a blast. I was thoroughly impressed at my students’ ability to let go and have a great time, yet still take care of the Official Science Business they needed to attend to. The sketched and described trees, moss, and ferns, and they were careful to stay in my line of sight (no chaperones today, sadly).

Thermometers read a balmy 56 degrees Fahrenheit!

After Official Science Business was attended to, we used the remaining time to play on the Wildwood Park Big Toy. As someone whose elementary school park boasted a strictly wood-and-bolts play structure, the crazy spider-y rope climbing portion and the see-saw swing things kind of blew my mind.

Then, it was time to head back to school. The entire trip, including the walk to and from the park (which, granted, was right next door), including the “tour” and time to fill out Field Guides, including the play time on the Big Toy, was less than one hour. Students declared the trip a success, and I’d agree.

One of our PTA parents (who doesn’t have a student in my class) asked why more teachers don’t plan trips like I did. Here’s an expanded look at the answer I gave her.

The first reason, the one I imagine is most pressing to our teachers, is because most classrooms at our school have greater than half their class reading a year or two (or more) behind grade level, so it can be difficult to get field trips approved. You’ll notice I was careful to say “it can be difficult,” not “you can’t do it,” because I believe that if your field trip doesn’t align to more than one core subject area, frankly, you’re not planning the trip to maximize its learning potential.

The second reason is that paperwork’s a pain. It’s decidedly less painful to me because I’ve filled out many field trip forms in the past few years (every math team contest counts as a field trip, which means 5-6 permission slips during the competition season), so I can fill out the paperwork pretty quickly. But in addition to filing everything properly, the teacher then needs to collect permission slips, which often aren’t returned. Even on a free field trip somewhere nearby, teachers need chaperones. If we were going anywhere other than next door, I would have needed at least two people to step up and join us. We have a trip to the UW planned for Thursday, and I’m not quite sure what we’ll do because I only have one available parent with Washington Patrol approval.

Speaking of which, want to join us at the UW Department of Atmospheric Sciences on Thursday??? You’d be home by noon. CONTACT ME, because we’d love to have you there. I’ve been listening to Cliff Mass’ KPLU podcasts lately to improve my weather knowledge.