Exploring Georgia Habitats with Third Grade

Our 3rd grade is currently learning about the plants, animals, and habitats in the 5 regions of Georgia. The teachers wanted students to have an opportunity to gather some background knowledge prior to their lessons in the classroom, so I worked on a series of centers for students to rotate through and experience these standards in a variety of formats.

S3L1. Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information about the similarities and differences between plants, animals, and habitats found within geographic regions (Blue Ridge Mountains, Piedmont, Coastal Plains, Valley and Ridge, and Appalachian Plateau) of Georgia.

  • a. Ask questions to differentiate between plants, animals, and habitats found within Georgia’s geographic regions.
  • b. Construct an explanation of how external features and adaptations (camouflage, hibernation, migration, mimicry) of animals allow them to survive in their habitat.
  • c. Use evidence to construct an explanation of why some organisms can thrive in one habitat and not in another.

S3E2. Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information on how fossils provide evidence of past organisms.

  • a. Construct an argument from observations of fossils (authentic or reproductions) to communicate how they serve as evidence of past organisms and  the environments in which they lived.
  • b. Develop a model to describe the sequence and conditions required for an organism to become fossilized. (Clarification statement: Types of fossils  (cast, mold, trace, and true) are not addressed in this standard.)

To make instructions easy to access, I put everything on a Google doc with a short link. As each class arrived to the library, I split the class into groups of 3-4 students by having them sit on color dots on the floor. We briefly talked about the main goal of the standards being to compare and contrast the plants, animals, and habitats of the 5 regions of Georgia, and then I sent color dot groups to centers. I kept a timer on my phone for 8-10 minutes per center and students rotated to the next center in number sequence.

Center 1

Georgia Public Broadcasting has an amazing set of virtual tours on a whole range of science and social studies standards. For this center, students explored the physical features of Georgia including the Okefenokee Swamp, fall line, various mountains, Providence Canyon, and the Barrier Islands.  The purpose of this center was for students to explore the physical features through pictures, maps, text, and video and think about what adaptations plants and animals might need in order to live in these areas of Georgia.

Center 2

In addition to regions, students learn about fossils and how those fossils tell us about the past. At this station, I wanted students to see that fossils aren’t just about dinosaurs and that we have fossil discoveries right her in Georgia. Students visited a Georgia fossil site which includes a map of where fossils have been found and what time period they are from.

The site also included lots of text to skim and scan for details about what was learned from the fossils. Students also had access to several books from our library about fossils and how they teach us about the past.

Center 3

This center featured another GPB virtual tour. This one focused on the 5 regions of Georgia. Students could visit as many regions as time allowed and read the text, look at pictures, and watch videos to identify animals and plants that live in each region.  Students could also look at the land and see the possible habitats in each region.

 

Center 4

Since a piece of the standard is about comparing and contrasting, this book featured print books about the regions and habitats of Georgia. Students chose 2 books, which were about 2 different areas of Georgia.

As they read and looked at photographs, they thought about what was the same and different about the 2 regions.

Center 5

This center had the most pieces but the most popular part of this center was looking at various posters that featured groups of animals in Georgia.  There was a poster for bats, snakes, salamanders, dragonflies, lizards, and butterflies as well as a poster of plants.

On the back of the poster, students could see a highlighted map for each plant or animal that showed where it could be found in Georgia. Students identified plants and animals found in specific regions as well as ones that could be found in all regions. If students found a particular animal they were interested, they could use the computer to research more info on that animal. I included links for various animal groups to get them started.

    1. Butterflies/Moths https://www.butterfliesandmoths.org
    2. Dragonflies https://www.insectidentification.org/
    3. Lizards https://srelherp.uga.edu/lizards/index.htm
    4. Salamanders https://srelherp.uga.edu/salamanders/index.htm
    5. Snakes https://georgiawildlife.com/georgiasnakes

I also included some books about animal adaptations such as camouflage, hibernation, and migration.

 

Teacher Role

In each session, the teachers and I rotated around to all the centers to have conversations with individuals or groups of students. We helped students focus on the question of each center and asked follow up questions as needed. I loved seeing what each student was discovering and having me plus a couple of teachers helped us have many conversations. This format had structure, but it also gave students freedom to choose what interested them at each center to spend the most time on. The timing was also fast-paced so there was no time to be bored or be “done”.

When students finished visiting all 5 centers, we came back together on the carpet and students had a chance to share some of the most interesting things that they discovered. Overall, this format served its purpose of gathering background information and it held closely to the wording of the standards. I loved that students were able to explore the standards in a variety of formats and there was variety from one center to the next. This is something I would definitely repeat, but I do wonder about what might be added to help students remember some of the interesting nuggets of information they learned along the way. I wouldn’t want to add too much writing because that slows down the gathering of background knowledge, but it would be nice to have some means for remembering a few facts.

If you have ideas or you try this and add something new, please leave a comment.

Studying the Art of Mike Lowery (Plus a Contest)

 

We are eagerly awaiting a visit from author/illustrator Mike Lowery on October 24th to celebrate his new book Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts. For the past couple of weeks, we’ve held a design-a-dino contest. Interested students picked up a blank design sheet from the library.  They could design a new type of dino and list out it’s many features in the style of Mike Lowery’s new book or they could research an actual dino and include true facts.  This was a very popular contest with students and we had to make additional copies of the entry form on numerous occasions.

It has been really fun seeing the student creativity in each grade level. Most students chose to create new dinosaurs and some of the designs and “facts” have been pretty humorous.

It’s going to be a hard decision as we choose 10 winners to receive an autographed copy of Mike Lowery’s dinosaur book.  Every design will be displayed in our library windows at Mike’s visit. Take a look at just a few of the entries.

 

The art teacher and I are also collaborating together with our 3rd graders. Each 3rd grade class came to the library during art time for a cartoon study.

We started out by learning a bit about Mike Lowery and his new book through these two videos.

We watched this video up to the point where Mike talks about the new book:

Then we switched to this video to learn about the new book:

Then we set students up for their work session.  Students were split between 3 tables.  One table had books written and/or illustrated by Mike Lowery.

The other 2 tables had a variety of graphic novels from different authors and illustrators. At each table, students were supposed to see what they noticed about line, shape, color, simplification, and how text was incorporated.

As students looked at books and talked, Ms. Foretich and I rotated to each table and had conversations with students about their noticings.

If a table was having trouble picking out observations, we offered some models.  For example, we noticed that many of Mike Lowery’s illustrations use dots for eyes and lines on eyebrows or mouths to create expression.

After students rotated to each table, we collected books and introduced a project. Students got to choose from 4 final products based on their observations from the tables.  They could:

  • Create an informational poster in the style of Mike Lowery
  • Create a character and book cover for a comic in the style of Mike Lowery
  • Create a self portrait in the style of Mike Lowery
  • Create a one page comic

For this first session, students had time to select the project they were most interested and then create some initial sketches, notes, or story lines in their artist sketchbooks.

Now, students will begin working on their final project in art class and the final products will be displayed on the walls of our school during Mike Lowery’s visit.  We can’t wait to meet Mike Lowery.  Look for a post at the end of October about our visit.

Enriching Rocks with Blendspace, Tinkercad, Research, Thinglink, and Painting

Third grade studies rocks as a part of their science curriculum. Each year Ms. Hicks, 3rd grade spectrum teacher, finds so many ways to enrich the study with her students. She collaborates with me in the library on several pieces of the project.

Blendspace

Early in the project, students come to the library to learn about a tool called Blendspace. This tool has gone through many changes and names. It allows users to create a lesson made up of tiles. The tiles can include quizes, images with descriptions, links to websites, embedded Google docs, and more. The goal for the students is to use Blendspace throughout the study of rocks to capture their learning and present in a way that might teach someone new what they have learned.

I show the students how to login with Google and we explore the features together. Ms. Hicks shares a folder with students in Google drive that is filled with images for them to pull from. The images feature work the students have done in class during their study of rocks and the Mohs hardness scale.

We also think about types of quizes and students create pre-test, midpoint checks, and post tests for their blendspace tiles. Each time they learn something new in class or create something new in the library, they add a tile to their blendspace.

Tinkercad

In another series of library blocks, students return to the library to explore a 3D design tool called Tinkercad. They use their knowledge of the Mohs hardness scale to design a climbing wall prototype. Each color they select represents a different rock or mineral that would work well in their wall. As students finish their design, they create screenshots and upload those to Blendspace.

Thinglink

When students have added several tiles to their Blendspace, they return to the library and add their link to a Thinglink image so that we can access every Blendspace in one location. This makes it easy to share with families and with other viewers around the world.

Research & Painting

This year, students were very interested in their birthstones. One birthstone in particular caught their attention more than others: opal. We had no idea how many kinds of opal there are in the world. Students spent a week in the library exploring 2 websites: Gem Kids and Geology.com

Each student narrowed down to one type of opal to research. Students added notes and images to a Google doc so that they could tell someone else about the type of opal they chose. Once they gathered enough information, students selected a river rock and used paints and paint pens to design the rock to resemble the opal they studied.

We sealed these with Mod Podge to give them the shiny play of color effect that opal has. Students added their Google docs to Blendspace and will get to take their painted rocks home.

It’s always fun each year to see what new directions this project takes. There are always pieces that we keep the same, but time and interests always lead us in new directions too.  Take a moment to look at some of the student work in Blendspace and see what you might learn about rocks.

 

Matching Readers to Books: A Reader’s Advisory Exploration

In the library, we see all kinds of readers: those who still haven’t found a book they have fallen in love with, those who read everything in sight, those who need a nudge to try something outside their comfort zone, those who wander around and just can’t choose, and more. Even though one of my favorite things to do is talk individually with students about their interests and connections with reading, the busy library program that we have sometimes gets in the way. My time is pulled between numerous classes I’m teaching and collaborating on projects with, collaborative planning with teachers, keeping our collection up to date and organized, exploring new tech with students, and the list goes on.

This quarter I’m working with 2 different groups of 3rd and 5th graders to explore our reading lives. Some of the students I’m working with have not found a book they connect with enough to finish. Others need a nudge to try something maybe a little more challenging or stretch the breadth of their genre choices.

Prior to meeting with both groups, I tweaked a reading interest survey in Google forms. The questions included:

  • What are you reading now?
  • Would you rather……have fun with friends at recess or go on adventure in the jungle?
  • Who are some of your favorite celebrities (yes Youtubers count)?
  • Would you rather…..cast a spell on an evil creature or battle an army in a war?
  • Who is your favorite superhero?
  • Would you rather…..be scared by a ghost of a girl who drowned in a lake or play a prank on friends?
  • Do you like……just the facts, a far out story, or something in between?
  • What book did you NOT enjoy?
  • What are some of your hobbies?
  • What are some of your favorite movies, shows, or Youtube channels?
  • What are 3 books that you loved?
  • Why do you read? to escape, to be entertained, to learn something new, because you have to, something else
  • What is your preferred length of book? short and sweet, long and detailed, in between short and long, depends on the book
  • If you could visit any time or place, where would you go?
  • What is your favorite series or genre?
  • What else would help me match you with a book?

When students arrived, we had a quick conversation about how you make a decision on whether a book is right for you. Conversations were mixed. Some groups had lots to say. In other groups, I had to share some things that I do for myself to match to a book. We talked about looking at covers, reading the description, using Novelist for reviews, and reading a few pages. One interesting thing that came up was that several students did not like someone telling them what to read. Can you blame them? I want to pick my books too.

This part put me in a bit of a dilemma. I told them that I wanted them to give me some information through a survey so that I could pull a possible stack of books that matched their answers. However, I also let them know that I wasn’t forcing them to read any of the books. If none of the books matched, I would work with them to explore other books until we found something they were actually interested in reading in class.

Next, students answered the survey. Once students left, I went through their answers and pulled out key words from student responses and wrote them onto post-it notes. I used these notes to walk through our chapter book genres and pull stacks of books for each student.  I tried to match the book length that students suggested, but I also mixed in some varying lengths of books too.  Several students mentioned that they wanted at least some illustrations in their chapter books or even that they wanted an illustration on every page. This also gave me a challenge because most chapter books aren’t going to fit this description unless I’m pulling from graphic novels. Again, I tried to meet their requests but also throw in some surprises too.

In general, each student had between 6-8 books to choose from. On day 2, students returned to the library and we reviewed what readers do when they are deciding on a book. Each student took the personalized stack of books and found a private spot in the library to go through the stack. Most started by looking at all of the covers. Most students then picked a few of the books to start reading a few of the first pages. In a few instances, students dismissed most of their stack based on the covers alone. For these students, I sat with them and actually walked through some extra steps with them so they could at least give some of the books a chance. Most of the time, having me read the description or the first page for them was enough to get them started back into their stack.

By the end of the 2nd session, every student found at least one book they were going to read in class during “read to self” time and also outside of school too. Most students had 2-3 books. For those students, I took their post-it and left it on the books they were interested in so they could check them out next time.

Ms. Hicks, 3rd grade teacher, shared with me that one of her students said “This is just like heaven” as she was referring to the opportunity to just sit with a stack of books curated just for her and spend time reading. It’s such a simple concept, but it’s so powerful for students to show them that their interests matter. Reading books they have selected matters. We can’t just put kids in guided reading groups all day long and never give them a chance to select books they want to read. Some students get to 5th grade and despise reading. I can’t blame them when their main experience with reading is sitting in a group reading a book they aren’t interested in that they had no hand in choosing.

Reading skills and strategy groups are important, but they can’t replace the power of hearing a great story read aloud and discussing it or finding a book that connects with your soul and having time just to read it.

This was very time consuming, but every time I do it, I’m reminded and how much interest and choice matter in reading.  My next steps are to check back in with these students in a week to see how the books are going.

Love Projects: 3rd Grade Selfies

When Ms. Foretich (art teacher) and I finished sharing Love by Matt de la Pena & Loren Long with our 3rd graders, we flipped back to one image in the book.

This image always surprised students when I read the book aloud.  It’s the only image in the book that is zoomed in so close.  There was always a collective gasp or audible reaction, and we often had to stop and talk about what this image was all about. I was so glad that Ms. Foretich chose to focus on this image with a whole grade level.

We paired this image with another book called The Best Part of Me.

This book features voices of children as they talk about the favorite parts of their body and why. Each poem/prose is accompanied by a black & white image.

In response to Love and The Best Part of Me, students brainstormed about their own bodies and what they love.  We encouraged students to think about body parts, favorite activities, and personality as they brainstormed.   By the end of class, we wanted students to focus in on a particular aspect of themselves that they could photograph and write about.

Ms. Foretich continued this project in class by having students use iPads to take selfies of the favorite parts of themselves.  Students also finished the writing and typed up their words.  Ms. Foretich printed all of these to mount on black paper.

They are now displayed in the rotunda of our school.  I love standing in the center of the rotunda and looking around at all of the student images and voices staring back at me.  To see what each student loves about himself/herself is reassuring in a world that can sometimes seem mean and chaotic.

If you find yourself in our school, I hope you’ll take time to see (and be inspired by) their work too.

Using Makerspace to Extend Curriculum: A Geology Project

tinkercad rock walls (12)

Third grade studies rocks and minerals as a part of their science standards. In Ms. Hicks class, they have been extending their research of rocks and minerals to create their own Blendspace lessons to teach others facts about rocks and minerals. They are even including pre-tests and post-tests in their lessons. As a part of this Blendspace project, students started thinking about how they might design their own climbing wall for our school based on their research.

tinkercad rock walls (11)

Ms. Hicks asked me what tool we might use to design and prototype of a climbing wall, and I immediately thought of Tinkercad. We have used Tinkercad for other projects and have found it to be one of the better tools for 3d design at the elementary level. Students came to the library to learn a bit about how Tinkercad works.

tinkercad rock walls (10)

I gave them a very quick tutorial which basically showed them things like adding a work plane, dragging over geometric shapes, resizing shapes, and building up.

tinkercad rock walls (8)

I created two generic accounts that students share rather than creating an account for every student. Half of them logged in with one account and half with the other. Their goal was to tinker during the first lesson to see what they could figure out, but their tinkering was a bit more focused than usual. Ms. Hicks really wanted them to already start envisioning their climbing wall as they were tinkering. Some of them latched onto the tool and really got a jumpstart on designing, while others tried something and started over several times.

tinkercad rock walls (7)

One student thought we was being a bit silly by trying to design a chicken instead of a climbing wall, but we turned this into a learning opportunity. I thought about the climbing wall that is at our own Omni Club here in Athens. It is shaped like a giant bulldog, so I pulled it up on the screen to show that he could in fact design his rock all to look like a chicken if he really thought about how people would climb a giant chicken. Instead of shutting him down, his wheels were turning about what he might try, and he is in fact now designing a penguin rock wall.

Other students started thinking about which rocks and minerals would be the best choices for the climbing wall based on their strength and also their color. They referenced their research and the Mohs hardness scale to choose rocks and minerals that would hold up a climber. As they did this, they changed the colors and shapes of the climbing pieces on their walls to represent their different choices. Not all students were ready for this level of thinking, but when we found students who were thinking in this way, we encouraged them to share what they were doing in the hopes of giving other students ideas.

 

One student even let me record a snippet of his thinking about his own rock wall choices.

The students have worked on these designs for 3 work sessions. As they finish, they are taking screen shots of their designs and adding them to Blendspace with an explanation of their design. In the future, we plan to export their designs as .stl files so that we can actually 3d print their prototypes when they are ready to present.

tinkercad rock walls (1)

I loved this real world application of rocks and minerals because it showed students that there are actually careers where you might consider some of the facts that they are learning in science. There was so much higher order thinking built into this project, especially this design piece. I had some great conversation with students as they referenced their research to find the specific rocks and minerals they wanted to use. One conversation involved a student specifically wanting a rock that was yellow. He kept Googling different rocks he knew to see if they came in yellow. When he finally found one of the feldspar family that was yellow, he noticed that the website description referenced Bob’s Rock Shop. We had a great conversation about the importance of digging into the website to really see where the information was coming from, and he found that the information actually did come from a reliable source within that site.

tinkercad rock walls (6)

I hope that we can find ways to share the work that this class is doing in the hopes of inspiring students at all levels to apply what they are doing to really world experiences. It would be fascinating to actually see this climbing wall come to life and have o

Social Studies Character Traits: Historical Figures and Personal Connections

IMG_4902This year our school has been creating space for vertical alignment meetings for each subject area.  In these meetings, a representative from each grade level talks about the standards for each quarter and we start to look for ways that we might collaborate across grade levels or move curriculum around the better serve our students.  One of the conversations that keeps coming up in the social studies meeting is character traits and historical figures.  Every grade has a list of historical figures that they have to cover along with a list of character traits that each person represents.  Students really have to understand both the historical figure and the character trait in order to connect the two.  We’ve discussed looking for themes in character traits across the school curriculum so that we might feature specific traits each month with both historical figures, current figures, and ourselves.

IMG_4901

Third grade just tried something new with their standards.  They learn about Mary Mcleod Bethune, Susan B. Anthony, and Frederick Douglass and how these figures demonstrate leadership, diligence, cooperation, and courage.  Wow!  That’s a lot to understand.  I love how the 3rd grade approached this.  They spent two weeks  really going in depth with each historical figure.  They read informational text, used the PebbleGo database, and other online resources to know the main contributions of each historical figure.  Along the way, students gathered facts about each historical figure.

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They also spent time learning about diligence, leadership, courage, and cooperation. With these traits, they tried to think of real world examples of how each trait was used.

In the library, each class came for a 45 minute session to comb through all of the facts collected through the lens of a character trait.  Each student chose one character trait to focus on.  The goal was to look back through all of the facts about Susan B. Anthony, Mary Mcleod Bethune, and Frederick Douglass and pull out the facts that demonstrated that character trait.

To setup this time, I modeled the process by using another historical figure that wasn’t part of the social studies unit: Martin Luther King Jr.  We quickly reviewed the 4 character traits.  I thought students would better be able to pull out facts that demonstrated a character trait if they first had a personal connection to the trait.  I told a personal story about how I had shown courage.  When I was in high school, I was terrified of public speaking to the point that I would shake uncontrollably and get sick to my stomach.  By using courage, I have not eliminated this fear from my life, but I’ve learned to control it and now speak in front of many different groups of people.

After telling this personal story, we looked through lists of facts about Martin Luther King Jr and tried to pull out facts that matched each of the character traits.  Students turned to partners and talked about which facts matched which traits and why.

Then, students moved to tables and began their writing time by reflecting on themselves and their chosen character traits.  The teachers and I circulated to talk with students about this.  Then, they went through each of the 3 historical figures and pulled out facts that matched that character trait.

Back in class, students continued working on this process and then crafted their chosen facts into a script where they could explain how each of the historical figures demonstrated the chosen character trait.

Students returned to the library for 10-minute recording sessions.  They used Flipgrid to capture their thoughts.

I think that this was a big step toward thinking about how to make character traits and historical figures connect with our students’ worlds today.  I think we have more work to do, but I love that a new process has started.

I invite you to listen to all of the incredible 3rd grade videos about courage, diligence, leadership, and cooperation.

Leadership

Diligence

Courage

Cooperation