Year in Review: Elementary


3rd Graders:

This has been a great year for my 3rd graders. I have been very proud of them for the fact they have tried some new units out with me and gave me some good feedback about them. These 3rd and 4th graders this year are seeing shorter and more in-depth units than in years past. Let me share with you some of what we did.

In the first quarter of the year we looked at bubble science. This was a short unit on how bubbles form, and how they react to different forces, and what makes the best bubble. This was a fun unit, because we made some big bubbles! Some as big as 3 feet long!! We looked at how these big bubbles and looked at how light passed through them, and how the bubble always tries to go back to a circle when it is poked.

We looked at time warp videos that showed how bubbles react and move using high speed cameras. My students absolutely loved seeing the videos.

The second part of the first quarter we looked at inventions. We read short stories about some of the inventions that have made life easier, life challenging, and how somethings have made life more dangerous. So we looked at how the light bulb was invented. How much time and energy Edison put into the light bulb. We looked at how the telephone brought people together from different places on Earth closer. The main thing we looked at was the elevator. We diagramed the positives and negatives of elevators. The answers I got from my class surprised me. We discussed how elevators made cities more populated because now buildings could be taller. We also looked at how elevators have made life so much easier. One aspect of elevators we talked about was people don’t use the stairs much and have grown obese.

The second quarter we looked at Pirates! I love this unit for the fact that all children have this skewed view that all pirates were a lot like Captain Hook. So we looked at different pirates such as Blackbeard, Captain Morgan, and Captain “Calico” Jack and several others. We looked at fact and opinions. We compared fictional captains with real captains and compared/contrast those by characteristics.

We also looked at the different style of ships that were used in the time. We also looked at the technology that these pirates had. We made telescopes, star-clock, and an astrolabe: Very cool stuff.

We ended the unit by watching Pirates of the Caribbean, which is pretty fun to watch since most have already seen it. After the movie we talked about how Captain Jack Sparrow was a combination of several different pirates of times past. Students have fun with that. Good times!

This was a great unit, but it took a lot longer than I wanted this quarter. This unit took us 7 weeks instead of 4. Which is ok. It happens, and the pacing of the unit just wasn’t there.

The last two weeks we looked at Bats, which continues into the 3rd quarter. We are looking at what makes a bat a bat. We are looking at how they are classified, and what kinds of bats live in different habitats. ultimately we will build some bat houses to be placed here in the community. I hope to let you know how it goes. Stay tuned for some pictures and blog.

4th Graders:

My fourth graders are a good group to work with. I enjoy having them in class with me. The first unit I do is the one they look forward doing since they were 3rd graders. We start the first quarter with a study of Easter Island. This is one of my favorite units because this is a baffling place, because this island has no trees, no beaches, 880 different Maui statues. How did they get built? How did they get moved? These statues are 30 ft. tall and over several tons in weight. They are awesome. Every time I look at these statues, I am reminded from a line in Night of the Museum when we see the Easter Island statue the statue talks and says “num num wants gum gum!” Cracks me up!!

Easter Island is an island in the South Pacific about 15oo miles from Chile, and 3000 miles from Africa, and about 1000 miles from Antarctica. It is known as “the belly button of the earth” to this culture.  This is a cool place to study because archeologists are still working on figuring out this place. There are some cool websites from NOVA that are awesome.

We do a lot of different activities with this unit. One activty we carve out miniature mauis out of soap. We do some mapping skills, and we look at the culture. On aspect of the culture that is cool is the myths and legends. We study the legendof the Birdman, and the legend of the Rongorongo. We also write to a prominate archeologist, Jo Anne van Tilburg who studies the culture and history of Easter Island, in hopes of hearing back from her. A few years ago she sent us some memorabilia from the island. That was very cool!

My students look forward to this unit, and it is fun unit to do. My students learn a lot, and we debate about the demise of the people if Easter Island. Great unit for students to learn about a different culture and the stages of population and how historical events have influenced it.

The second part of the first quarter we looked at storms, really just thunderstorms, hurricanes, and tornadoes. We looked at how they form, and what kind of damage they can do. We discussed the different categories of hurricanes and EF scale of tornadoes. We topped this great unit off with a simulation of a hurricane hitting a small coastal city in Florida. They had to make the decision to either evacuate or ride out the storm based on information given about the storm and the city. We had a great discussion and each of the groups the students were in did something different.

For our second quarter, we did a unit of a variety of science crafts. We looked at rockets and airplanes. We made different kinds of rockets and paper airplanes and had competitions about how far they would go. We discussed kinetic and potential energy as we made a ball launcher that would launch a golf ball and a basketball. That was cool! We also looked at how bridges work. We built some bridges out of toothpicks and spaghetti noodles. They turned out awesome. some of these bridges held quite a bit of weight. I think it really surprised my students.

Overall, it turned out to be a great half-year for both my 3rd and 4th graders. They built a lot, they debated, they presented, and they had fun learning. Isn’t that what education is all about? Learning and showing what you learned, and then adding to your bank of knowledge so you can continue to use it and add to it.

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