Thursday, March 27, 2014

Frog Evolution Flipbooks

Frogs. Frogs. and more Frogs. This past couple of weeks we have been swimming in frogs! A couple weeks ago, I got a crazy idea to have a thematic unit.. not on ecology, cell biology, or genetics... but on frogs. We are learning about frogs as we cross off ecology and evolution standards. Today, we made a flipbook. We read an article about the fossils that were found that scientists believe are ancestors to frogs today. We then used the fossil descriptions from the article to imagine and draw picture of what the frog looked like. They had to put on their scientist hat to use scientific reasoning, as well as their artist hat to visualize a picture and draw it. You can see the full set of directions and article here. They also had to answer some critical thinking questions about their flipbook after creation.
Here are some pictures of some images that came to mind when students read the descriptions of the fossils.
They even have some scientific names!
Same species... Different Student Images
They had to guess at a time period that has no frog ancestor fossils. 

As a teacher, I really like how this lesson incorporated a literacy skill, such as imagination. This project gave students motivation to really understand and picture what the article was explaining. I could also assess students' comprehension of the article by their drawings of their flipbooks. I feel that it is difficult for science teachers to constantly incorporate authentic on-topic literacy in the science classroom on a consistent basis! What do you guys think? How do you incorporate literacy in your classrooms? I know that's a verrrrry broad question!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Writing Utensil Crisis

In every middle school that I have been in, there has always been a writing utensil crisis! The kiddos lose their writing utensils faster than they can run! I love them but geeezzz... I used to keep a stock of pencils until I bought two boxes for $30 and they were gone before 1st quarter... Then, I decided to have them write their name on the board when they took a pencil... thinking that I would have a waaay slower rate of the pencil disappearances... As scatterbrain as I am, I was forgetting their names on the board at the end of the hour more than kids were forgetting pencils! So, I decided to create my own no-disruption, easy peasy fix to this crazy mess... which how crazy is it anyway that we can get so disturbed by PENCILS!... Anyways, here's what I have done for 2 years, and I looooveee it... more than I love chocolate, which is a WHOLE LOT!

I first buy the most obnoxious bouquet of flowers that I can from the dollar tree, as well as flower tape and pens! After all, you want to deter kids from using these unless they have no other alternative.  I already had the pens. I bought the flower tape 2 years ago when I started this, and its still going strong!
I then cut the flowers so that they had about three to four inches of stem. You can do this with a handy scissors, but a wire cutter works best!
I then secured the flower to the pen with floral tape.
Like magic, I had created my flower pens for 2 dollars!
I have a little clay pot in the back of the room where they stay. If a student needs a writing utensil, without asking me (because I never want to hear that question again), they go and get a writing utensil from the back of the room... No loans for pencil boxes + no classroom disruptions over pencils =  happy teacher!

Like everything, they will be accidentally taken out of the room, stolen, lost, or damaged... However, I had ten at the beginning of the year, and I am just replacing them now in four quarter! Ten pens for $1 + One bouquet for $1 + Flower Tape for $1 = a Priceless peaceful three quarters! I tell everyone about my flower pens because they have made my life so much easier!! What kinds of things do you do in your classroom to solve the pencil crisis?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Frog Molds

I'm not sure if my school has ever had an art program, but we definitely had one today! I'm currently working on a "frog" unit. In this unit, students are taking a closer look at just frogs. Traditionally, I have had a unit on ecology, a unit on cell biology, a unit on plants, etc... However, I got this crazy idea to just zone in one animal and let the students see all examples of ecology concepts through frogs in my frog "ecology" unit. Some would say I'm narrowing down the curriculum. I'd say that we're going deep not broad. Anyway, I digress. This week we began learning about the stages of a frog's life cycle, and we finished up our frog molds today! Each mold represents a stage in a frog's life.
After they let the clay molds dry out and harden overnight, they painted them!

I'm so proud of them, and how they turned out! While students were waiting on different stages (clay to harden, paint to dry, etc.) they also wrote a story to accompany their frog. In the story, they had to explain each stage in a creative way. They had to include imagination, creativity, and accurate and complete descriptions of each phase. If you would like to see the whole lesson, it's here in my TPT store.) Here's the beginning of one of my student's papers:

Jimmy, Have you ever seen your baby book? You were such a cute little one. We didn’t have a camera when you were growing up. So, we decided to write a story about what you looked like instead.

Creative, right!? I was so very impressed by their work and writing. This is definitely one of my top ten projects of the year.