Friday, May 29, 2015

The Last Day of School

The last day of school was filled with excitement! We started off the day watching a Teacher vs. 6th Grade volleyball game and before we knew it, it was time for our make-your-own-sundae party.
Students enjoyed loading up their bowls with yummy toppings.
Thank you to everyone who sent in toppings for this delicious end to our day! 
Once everyone was finished eating, students signed yearbooks.
I passed out memory books for anyone who didn't have a yearbook so everyone had something to collect signatures.
Then it was time to line the hallway to "clap out" the 6th grade students. There were lots of tears during this bittersweet occasion.
Possibly the most exciting part of the day came when a student revealed that he had heard some of our students mentioned on TV while watching PBS in regards to one of the writing contests we entered this year. We did a little googling and sure enough, we had two third place winners and a first place winner! Congrats to these students and I hope to do a blog post when I get more information! 
The 2014-2015 school year was an incredible one for me, and I will never forget it. Each student played a special role and brought something important to the class. This was a class of eager learners, high achievers and students who were kind, generous, funny and sweet. Through this blog, you now have a permanent record of the amazing 2014-2015 school year. The blog will be archived so you and/or your child can look back at what we did in 1st or 2nd grade.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Another National Winner!

Wow! I was recently informed that a student from our class placed first in the Be Kind National Writing Contest! Every student in the class entered this contest  earlier this year a by writing an essay about the kindest person they know, accompanied by an illustration. The Be Kind people said they received many entries from all over the United States but Archana's stood out among the K-2 age division! 
Archana received a whole goodie bag full of awesome prizes along with a set of Be Kind t-shirts for the entire class. Way to go!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Academic Contest Winners

1st, 2nd and 3rd Place Word Masters Challenge Winners
Throughout the year, we competed in several academic contests. Medals and awards came in right around the same time for two of them! Congratulations to our Word Masters Challenge Champions! The Word Masters Challenge is an advanced analogy and vocabulary competition and consists of three meets during the school year.
National Honor Roll Winners
Students love being a part of the Noetic Math Competition and the class did awesome in the Spring Meet with 15 students placing in the top 10% nationally. We also had several students who placed in the top 50% nationally and our top six scorers helped us earn a Team Achievement Award. Nationally the class tied for third place. Way to go, Math Maniacs and congratulations to all the students for their hard work and accomplishments this year!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Many Marvelous Millionaires

The Millionaires!
In the self-contained gifted program, we do not focus much on Accelerated Reader (AR) as it is lower level thinking according to Bloom's Taxonomy. However,  I have found there are some very positive benefits to AR in 1st and 2nd grade, including good test taking practice and checking for understanding and reading comprehension, versus just fluency. 
Triple Millionaires!
The school promotes a school-wide "Millionaire Contest" which challenges students to read a million words (or more) over the course of the school year. As AR is not a requirement in my class, this is an accomplishment that is almost entirely student-motivated. 
Benefits that come with reaching the coveted millionaire status include being allowed to check out extra books from the school library (an extra book a week per million), a certificate for a free meal, being honored by the principal at one of the quarterly award ceremonies, a cool "million-dollar-bill" bookmark and of course bragging rights. But probably the most sought after prize is the exclusive ice-cream party!
The Class Read Nearly 21 Million Words This Year
A student in my class this year was the first millionaire in the entire school, reaching a million words within just a couple days of school starting. This set the pace for the rest of the year and the class very competitively devoured books with a goal on the horizon. I've never had so many "millionaires" in one class and it is very rare for a 1st or 2nd grader to read a million words. Congratulations Radical Readers! Keep up the voracious reading this summer! 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Be Kind People Project 1st Place Winner!

Congratulations Liam!
Earlier this year the class completed a Social Studies unit about Kindness and at the end of the unit, the entire class entered the Be Kind People Project Creative Expression Contest to demonstrate what he or she had learned. I am thrilled and honored to announce we had a first place winner in the technology category!
Part of Liam's prize included a Skype for the whole class with Akellz from the Be Kind Crew.
Akellz was a ton of fun and lead the class through the Be Kind Pledge. He discussed every word in the pledge, what it meant and why it was important. Then he had the kids partner up and create a kindness handshake.
The kids loved being out of their seats singing, dancing, cheering and clapping! Below is a little snippet from our Skype.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Create Your Own Spelling List

We are down to only a few more spelling lists and tests for this school year! This week instead of our usual pre-assessment to determine which list students will study for the week, students came up with their own spelling lists.
Students broke into small groups and scoured the dictionary looking for words they thought would be appropriate. They added the words to a shared Google doc. When all groups finished we reviewed the lists to make sure we didn't have any duplicates, words we had already studied this year or words deemed to be "too easy" or "too difficult."
Not surprisingly, none of the words were determined to be too difficult because this is a group that likes a challenge! Students took a survey after this activity and almost unanimously students said they were excited to have some ownership of the list and they hoped they would be able to challenge their classmates with the words they chose. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Tie Dye Science

We had a blast tie-dying shirts this week using Sharpie markers and rubbing alcohol! 
These are the materials you need for this tie-dye science project. 
First, students isolated a small section of their shirt by putting it over a cup and wrapping a rubber band around it. Then, they meticulously drew a design in the middle of this shirt section using a Sharpie marker.
Next, students drizzled some rubbing alcohol on their design using a straw.
The results were immediate! Students were excited to watch their designs morph right before their eyes.
We continued repeating these steps until students felt their shirts were complete.
We made observations and predictions and collected data as we worked.
Our finished product was a uniquely designed t-shirt! We had a great class discussion regarding the chemistry of why the ink separated, why this project worked with rubbing alcohol and why it would not work with water. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Project Based Learning and the Scholastic Book Fair

My class turned the school book fair into a Project Based Learning opportunity. We decided our driving question would be, how can we increase attendance at the school book fair? We began this project last October and students have been working in small groups on different parts of the project at various points throughout the school year.
First, we took a vote via Google forms to decide what method or project would be best to answer our driving questions. Creating a commercial won almost unanimously!
The next step was for a small group to work collaboratively writing a commercial script using Google docs. After doing some research, the students found a similar project I did with a class several years ago, took that existing script and revised it. I was impressed by the editing and revision skills of this group.
At the fall book fair, we took some video footage. I worked with another small group using iMovie to edit the footage to create a promo about the book fair. Students took turns reading the script and we added that as a voiceover. Our finished project is below. We hope to see you at the book fair!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Bears With Our Bird Buddies

Our final field trip of the school year was a huge hit! We went with our buddy class, Mrs. Bird's 5/6 students, to the Stuffington Bear Factory
We started off with an interactive, animal themed Jeopardy game. Both big buddies and little buddies did very well, with many students winning accessories for the bear they would build later in the day. Then, our tour guide brought us around the factory. Since it is an actual, working factory, we were cautioned not to touch anything and "stay behind the red tape" throughout most of the tour. 
We learned about the materials used for the products created at the factory and saw workers stitching by hand. 
Both classes were VERY excited to spy a tub full of Google themed pillows! We asked our tour guide about them and she said they have a contract to create them for another company.
After the tour each student got to pick out a very deflated looking stuffed animal to create. 
First, students stepped on a pedal attached to the stuffing machine to stuff their bear.
Next, they brought their freshly stuffed bear over to the sewing station to be hand stitched closed.
 After the stitching, students headed to the vacuuming station where all the lint, fuzz and extra thread was carefully vacuumed off the bears.
If there STILL seemed to be debris on the bears after the vacuum, this bathtub blasted air and students could "wash" their animals.
Then, students brought their new snuggly friends over to the ribbon station. Everyone chose two different colored ribbons to be added to their bear.
Finally, students looked through lists of potential names for their new toy and filled out a birth certificate.
After this very thorough bear creating experience, we headed back to Fireside and had a delicious pizza, juice and picnic party in the park with our buddies!
It seemed that every student enjoyed this experience and it was a wonderful day for students from both classes. A big thank you to the parent helpers and everyone who sent in picnic foods and supplies for our delicious lunch. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Mystery Money Eggs

This week we combined a few math lessons to learn about money, calculating sums, calculating differences and data analysis via Google sheets. To kick off this lesson, each student received a Mystery Money Egg, opened it, and added up the contents. 
When they were finished with their calculations, they scanned the enclosed QR Code to see if the total they had calculated matched the amount listed on the QR code. None of the QR Codes matched the totals! The next step was for students to figure out the difference between the total listed on the QR Code and the actual total. 
Then students found a partner with the same color egg and combined their totals. They also worked together to add the totals listed on their two QR Codes and found the difference between their combined money totals and the two QR Codes. 

Next, students returned to their original seats and accessed their pvLearners accounts. They learned to create a Google sheet and created a spreadsheet detailing their egg contents. The next step was to share the digital spreadsheet with their Mystery Money Egg partner and me. Partners added another page to their spreadsheet to record the data from the combined eggs. 
Students enjoyed the "mystery" aspect of this lesson and were able to practice somewhat basic math skills and combine them with higher level data tracking and analytics. The Mystery Money Eggs incorporated The Four C's, as students were required to communicate, collaborate and think critically throughout the lesson. The creativity integration came when creating the spreadsheet, as students had choices of fonts, backgrounds, colors, cell size, etc.  
The rubric was reviewed at the beginning and throughout the lesson, so students had a clear understanding of the purpose and how they would be graded.