Who Will Win?: A Research Lesson with 5th Grade

Killer Whale vs. Great White Shark. T-Rex vs. Velociraptor. Scorpion vs. Centipede.  These topics grab the attention of so many readers in our library.

When the 5th grade language arts teachers, Ms. Freeman & Ms. Hinkle, asked me to brainstorm some lessons ideas about the following standard, my mind immediately jumped to these popular books.

ELAGSE5RI8: EXPLAIN how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text, IDENTIFYing which reasons and evidence supports which point(s).

I began to think about how students might create their own quick versions of these stories using books from our informational section.  Ms. Hinkle and Ms. Freeman scheduled each of their language arts classes to come to the library for 45 minutes.

We began our time together on the floor and took time to look at a selection of books from the Bug Wars, Dinosaur Wars, and Who Would Win series. I asked students how an author might go about comparing two animals who might not actually meet in real life. We brainstormed a list of categories that an author might use to compare animals: size, speed, abilities, classification, etc.

Next, we took a look at an interactive ebook from Capstone called Tyrannosaurus Rex Vs. Velociraptor from the Dinosaur Wars series. We looked at the structure of the book and how the author used size, speed/agility, weapons, and attack style to compare the two dinosaurs. In addition to the summaries at the top of the page, we saw how the author gave several pieces of evidence to backup the point of which dinosaur was superior to the other in a particular category.

This set us up for our work session. Ahead of time, I pulled multiple animals books from our library as well as a few other things that could be compared like weather events and landforms. When I pulled the books I considered which animals I might pair together if I was choosing, but I wanted students to have the choice of whichever pairings they wished to have.

With a partner, students selected two “things” to compare. This was a bit of a frenzy as students tried to quickly pair two animals or other things together before resources started to disappear to other partners.

Then, they used a brief graphic organizer to decide on 4 categories to compare the two things. I encouraged them to look at the index in the books to help them think about comparisons they might make.

Their goal was to find evidence for each thing in each category and then decide on a winner for that category based on the evidence.

After looking at the evidence for all 4 categories, students decided on the overall winner. Sometimes students couldn’t decide an overall winner, so I encouraged them to create some “what if” scenarios that might help them think about when one of the particular animals or things might come out on top. If time allowed, students could create a Flipgrid video explaining their comparisons.

The teachers and I circulated between the pairs of students and conferenced with them on their categories and pushed them to look for evidence. What we saw as we conferenced was that most students were excited and engaged.

They were really searching for information and putting books side by side to make comparisons. They were having critical conversations to determine which animal would actually win in each category based on the evidence they found.  They were even asking to see additional resources like websites and other books because they weren’t finding the info that they were looking for.

This project gave me lots to think about. The concept of competition between “things” was motivating for students. I didn’t give them a detailed graphic organizer with a bunch of pre-written questions they had to find answers to. They determined the categories and looked for the answers. I was surprised by how many students started asking for additional resources because they wanted to find the answer they were looking for rather than trying to make one resource work for everything as I’ve seen in other research projects.

Of course, everything wasn’t perfect and some students didn’t stay focused the entire time. However, I saw an engagement that I don’t always see. I saw students excited about diving into books without too many complaints that we weren’t researching on the computer. We also didn’t really have enough time for most students to record. The teachers are going to try to give time back in class to finish recordings.

I want to unpack this a bit more in my mind and think about implications for future projects. I definitely think that this project could be expanded to something much bigger. It was obtainable in a day, but it could be so much better with a little more time.

The students who were able to record so far would love for you to take a moment to watch their videos. If you decide to try this out with your students, I would love to hear how it goes and what modifications you made.

 

Kindergarten Researchers in Action

Planet Research (4)Ms. Kelly Hocking’s Kindergarten class is hard at work again.  They were so excited by what they discovered using the Storykit app, that they decided to continue their work by making their own nonfiction book.  Their last adventure was about creating their own versions of folktales.

You can read and listen to their folktales online:

Ms. Kelly’s class has been very curious about space, so they decided as a class that they would work on creating informational books about the planets and solar system.  Ms. Kelly put the students into groups of 2-3 and each group chose a planet or part of the solar system to research.

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In the library, I pulled our books about space as well as checked out some books from the public library.  I also setup 2 computer areas.  One area was focused on PebbleGo and the other area focused on TrueFlix.  Even though the content of TrueFlix is written for older students, I felt like the read aloud function would support Kindergarten researchers.

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In class, students filled out a KWL chart to bring to the library.  When they came to the library with their questions, Ms. Kelly and I did a quick intro to the 3 areas available to them.  I loved how Ms. Kelly set a realistic goal for students in this big venture.  She said, “I want you to have at least one fact written down before you leave today”.  Of course, most groups wrote more than 1 fact, but every group left the library with a successful experience of meeting their expected goal.  To support students in their research, Ms. Kelly, a parent volunteer, and I rotated among the groups to help students with navigating the information in front of them.  Students continued this research for the next week in class.

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Next, the students came back to the library to work on prep for their book production.  Their KWL charts were filled with facts that they had discovered.  Ms. Kelly even shared that some groups had conflicting information about the order of the planets, so they had done some fact checking as a class before they came.  During this 2nd library session, we started in the floor again to establish our expectations for the day.  Every group had small squares of white paper, a long sheet of lined paper with room for illustrations, and a pencil.

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The task was to sort through the KWL chart and identify the facts that would go into the finished book.  One fact was written onto each piece of white paper.  The whole group worked on this part.  Ms. Kelly, the paraprofessional, and I circulated among the groups to assist with reading the KWL charts, correcting spelling, and searching for additional facts if needed.

Once 4-5 facts were identified, students sequenced the facts into an order that made sense.  Again, the adults helped students read aloud the facts that they identified and facilitated sorting the facts into different orders until a final order was chosen.  Then, the adults taped the papers to the larger lined paper.

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If students had time, they thought about what they could use in the school to photograph for each fact on the sheet.  They made notes or drew a picture to remind themselves what they talked about.  Ms. Kelly ad I encouraged students to stretch their brains to think about what they could creatively use to take a picture.  One group had a fact about the crust of their planet.  They decided they would take a picture of a piece of pizza in the cafeteria and draw an arrow to the crust.

Students will continue this process in class throughout this week.  Next week, they are checking out iPads to photograph things around the school as well as type their text into Storykit and publish their own ebooks.  I can’t wait to see how their work turns out.  I will most likely push into their class at some point next week to help, or they may schedule a time to come work with me again in the library as they finish their books.

Projects like this show me that it is completely possible for our youngest students to create amazing work that is based in real facts.  They can explore technology that no other class has attempted.  Some of the key factors in a successful project are plenty of time, realistic expectations, adult and peer support, and lots of encouragement.  I love how Ms. Kelly doesn’t rush a project of this size.  She understands that for quality work to be produced, we must give students the space, the support, and the time to make the work happen.

Heart Poems, 3D Printed Charms, and Rainbow Loom Bracelets for Banding Together

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We kicked off poetry month today with Heart Poem writing.  After our wonderful Skype last week with Shannon Miller’s students and poet, Joyce Sidman, our second graders have been hard at work crafting their heart poems to attach to our Rainbow Loom bracelets.

They started by filling out the heart poem graphic organizer from Joyce Sidman’s website.

www.joycesidman.com books what the heart knows chants heart worksheet.pdf

They did this in their classrooms and also in the media center.  Teachers sent small groups to me about every 15 minutes so that I could conference with some of the students and help them think about what their hearts know.  Each heart map was so personal and I smiled with students as they shared the happy things that their heart knows, but my heart also hurt with them as they shared very sad things that their hearts know too.  I was just floored when a student told me, “Mr. Plemmons, even when our hearts our sad, there is still happiness.  Everyone has happiness.”  Wow!  When I heard that, I knew that this project was going to be something that truly mattered in the world.

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When I conferenced with students, we looked at their map and I asked them if there was a part of their heart that spoke to them more than others.  Most students gravitated toward what brought them joy and what they treasured.  A few wanted to write about what they longed for.  Even fewer wanted to write about fear, but we still talked about that part of their heart since Joyce Sidman really encouraged us to.

Once they selected the part of their heart to focus on, I asked them to think about how to add words to that thought to really make the poem sing or to make a picture in our heads or to make us feel an emotion.  Each conference was a little different.  We played around with words and thought about how a thought in our heart could sound different depending on the words that we put with the thought.

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When students were happy with the poem, they used iPads to scan a QR code that took them to a Google form.

Heart Poems

They typed their first name, selected their school, and typed their poem.  Each poem went to a spreadsheet so that I could print them, cut them into strips, and attach them to our Rainbow Loom bracelets.  Here are a few of their poems so far:

Adaline David C. Barrow Elementary The waves, the sun, the beach, it makes me happy!!
cyra David C. Barrow Elementary Dogs spread joy with a wag of a tail.
clara David C. Barrow Elementary Nature brings me joy and love when the wind blows and it rains and I go splashing through the puddles.
Wilson David C. Barrow Elementary Sudden noises scare me but my family comforts me.
Sola David C. Barrow Elementary Love is everywhere,up the hill and over the mill,in nature.
Jacob David C. Barrow Elementary Sun feels warm when you be nice
Finley David C. Barrow Elementary Spring showers brings spring flowers.
Mara David C. Barrow Elementary Love is in this bracelet.
Claire David C. Barrow Elementary You give me the best thing someone has ever gave me and it is the love,joy,and the happiness that makes my heart sing
Carinne David C. Barrow Elementary We are joy. We are bright together. You are powerful.
Evin David C. Barrow Elementary Enjoy the world,keep it healthy
Finley David C. Barrow Elementary Animals spread joy with a wag of their tail
Alanna David C. Barrow Elementary Roses are red, violets are blue. I’m your friend and I hope you are too.
Harry David C. Barrow Elementary Love defeats hate.
Natalia David C. Barrow Elementary April fun and sun. Here. I come! Flowers. Showers Baby. Animals
Axel David C. Barrow Elementary I wish my brother would come back.
Finley David C. Barrow Elementary Bands linked together just like a family
Kyleigh David C. Barrow Elementary My family bring’s me joy and my school bring’s me joy and so do you.
Alice David C. Barrow Elementary Don`t expect things to be bad, expect things to be good.
Adam David C. Barrow Elementary I wish I was magic so I can bring my papa back to life.
Adam David C. Barrow Elementary I wish I was magic so I can bring my papa back to life.
Sha’Niyah David C. Barrow Elementary Enjoy you – don’t change enjoy life – do what you like enjoy Love – love your love
Sophia David C. Barrow Elementary Treasure and everyone is everything

Students and families are helping me with attaching poetry to bracelets.

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These poems are such a great addition to our Rainbow Loom bracelets.  I was excited when we added 3d printed charms, but the poetry brings the bracelets to life as if they had a voice to speak to our friends across the miles.  We will write more poetry tomorrow before we finalize our package of bracelets to ship to India via Van Meter.

Happy Poetry Month!

 

 

Exploring Georgia Habitats with 3rd Grade

IMG_1351Each of our 3rd grade classes have booked time in the media center to research the habitats of Georgia.  Here’s what they need to know:

S3L1. Students will investigate the habitats of different organisms and the dependence of
organisms on their habitat.
a. Differentiate between habitats of Georgia (mountains, marsh/swamp, coast,
Piedmont, Atlantic Ocean) and the organisms that live there.
b. Identify features of green plants that allow them to live and thrive in different regions
of Georgia.
c. Identify features of animals that allow them to live and thrive in different regions of
Georgia.
d. Explain what will happen to an organism if the habitat is changed.

S3L2. Students will recognize the effects of pollution and humans on the environment.
a. Explain the effects of pollution (such as littering) to the habitats of plants and
animals.
b. Identify ways to protect the environment.
• Conservation of resources
• Recycling of materials

During their library time, I set the stage by doing a brief mini-lesson.  We looked at the standard and talked about the word “feature”.  We tied this to the word “adaptation” and looked up the definition online.

a change or the process of change by which an organism or species becomes better suited to its environment.

Then we looked at a National Geographic video on owls.  We didn’t watch the entire video, but we paused each time a new feature of the owl was mentioned:  its satellite head, its huge eyes, its large wings, etc.  We tied this back to the word “feature” an the word “adaptation” so that students would know the kinds of things they were looking for in their research.

Next, I posed the question:  Why does all of this matter to us?  why do we need to learn about animals, plants, and their habitats?  Before they answered, we watched a news clip that aired this morning.  It was a perfect fit to our topic because it showed a black bear roaming around near an elementary school’s dumpster in Hall County.  IMG_1346

http://www.wsbtv.com/videos/news/hall-county-schools-cancels-after-hours-activities/vCHZXM/

After watching this clip, I posed the question again.  Students said things like:

  • If we know about plants and animals, then we’ll know how to take care of them.
  • If we know about habitats, then we’ll know how to not pollute them.
  • We’ll know how to keep animals alive and where they belong.
  • and more.

I was really glad that I watched the news this morning at the gym instead of rushing in to school because that clip really set the stage for our research.

For about 30 minutes, students used a graphic organizer to gather information about the habitats, plants, and animals of Georgia in a variety of ways.  They could freely float between 3 different areas in the library.

  • Books:  I used the State Standards Publishing series for regions, rivers, and habitats of Georgia.
  • Posters:  These posters featured different kinds of animals along with a map of where they were found in Georgia.  Students had to identify an animal, look at what region of Georgia it was found in, and then think about what habitat that would fall under on their graphic organizer.
  • Websites:  Students had access to a Sqworl site that had songs, informational sites, and games about the habitats and regions of Georgia.  http://sqworl.com/uo3kud IMG_1352

As usual, it was interesting to see where students chose to go.  Some went directly to games.  Others went to posters.  Other chose books.  It really said a lot about what kinds of media our students need access to in order to match their needs as learners.  Some students stayed at the same station or site for the entire 30 minutes while others moved to several stations.  During this time, the teacher, student teacher, special education teacher, and I were able to walk around and facilitate learning.  We asked questions to nudge students thinking or spent time showing students how they might pay close attention to a game and gather facts while still maintaining momentum in their game.  As usual, it was very freeing and individualized.  This has come to be one of my favorite models for gathering information.  My regret is that we don’t have more day scheduled to find information.  Now, the students will use their 1 to 1 netbooks to continue to explore the Sqworl site on their own.