Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Plate Tectonics with Mrs. Gunn

Mrs. Gunn, my next-door colleague, is an amazing teacher. While my strength in teaching is lecture and discussion, Mrs. Gunn teaches primarily with collaborative groups and hands-on activities. Several times per week we co-teach geography with our homeroom students. One day last week I hosted Mrs. Gunn's class while they illustrated the water cycle in their interactive notebooks, and my students went to her classroom so she could teach them a hands-on lesson about plate tectonics using cake frosting and graham crackers. The best part of the lesson was that at the end they would get to eat their activities. Now that's a way to keep students attentive!

Mrs. Gunn teaches near Sean's table.

An edible activity. Yum!

Aaliyah and Anisha get in the mix.

Mrs. Gunn gave the students the following four definitions for their interactive notebooks:

plate tectonics - the theory that pieces of the earth move and change shapes

convergent boundary - when two plates collide

divergent boundary - when plates move away from each other

transform boundary - when plates slide past one another

Mrs. Gunn demonstrates a transform boundary at Shayla's table.

Michael enjoys eating his project.

Aaliyah and Shayla think it was a sweet lesson!

Thank you, Mrs. Gunn!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Focus Titles: Prairie Songs and My Daniel

We have almost finished the first two focus titles of the year, both historical novels set on the Nebraska prairie, by children's author Pam Conrad.

The AM class has been reading Prairie Songs, a coming-of-age story about a young girl whose life is changed by the tragic life of a young doctor's wife from New York.

The PM class has been reading My Daniel, a heart-rending story told in flashbacks by a grandmother taking her two grandchildren through the Museum of Natural History in New York.

A third Pam Conrad book, Prairie Visions: The Life and Times of Solomon Butcher, is a related nonfiction title about a man who photographed the people who lived on the Nebraska prairie in the late 1800s. The book is a great visual for Pam Conrad's readers, giving us a peek back in time to see what prairie soddies and the pioneers who lived in them were like.

In addition to reading these great books, we have been studying Pam Conrad's writing craft, particularly the way she writes original similes and metaphors to create visuals in the reader's mind. We are learning how to recognize these figurative literary devices in writing and also how to use them in our own writing.

In Prairie Songs, Louisa, the main character, memorizes a poem by Tennyson to recite at the Fourth of July festivities. We are memorizing the poem, too.

The Eagle: A Fragment

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring'd with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

—Alfred, Lord Tennyson

There are a few surprises yet to come in our Pam Conrad prairie unit, but if I revealed them now it would spoil all the fun. So stay tuned and perhaps there will be a follow-up post.