Have you discovered Wonderopolis?

Throughout this year, I have been visiting a website called 'Wonderopolis'. It is an excellent resource for all primary school levels and I just love that it answers questions that children have posed.

This is one that I used this year with my Year 4 class while we were investigating health and hygiene practices.

Wonderopolis: Why do you need to wash your hands?

All the Wonderopolis topics are posed as questions and have a video or photos, text answering the question (which can be listened to if required) as well as 'wonder words' related to the topic and activity suggestions. 

I have often used the site as a springboard into a topic or to promote further questioning. As an adult, you can subscribe to their email list to get each new 'wonder of the day' in your inbox. I use this as a way of matching the new wonders to what we are learning. You can also search the wonders to find one that suits your purpose.

Students can ask their questions by clicking on 'what are you wondering?' link, and vote for wonders that others have asked in order for them to be answered.

I have found this to be a great resource that is pitched at the correct level and allows for all students to access and understand the world around us. I hope you enjoy exploring the wonders of WONDEROPOLIS!

Thanks for visiting!

Science Festival

Last year, my school hosted an Arts Festival to showcase all the incredible Visual and Performing Arts we do. This year's Festival was all about Science!


4H's design brief for their packages
4H's package design procedure 
Year 4 package evaluations
Packages and photos of the contents.
Packages and photos of the contents


In Year 4 for Term 3 our Science unit was a Primary Connections unit called "Package it Better". Through this unit, our students learned about materials and their properties. My class designed, created and evaluated packages to protect a LEGO model (Series 2 Mixels). These packages, along with a lot of photos and written evaluations were displayed in the Year 4 corridor during the Science Festival.

Package it better
Term 3: Package it Better

Also on display were Year 4 karakuri camshaft models. These paper camshaft models were created from a model book, then each student got to design a 'scenario' to attach to the model. We had a lot of zombie hands reaching from the grave!

Karakuri book used to create models

Year 4 Karakuri designs

While parents and students were looking at the packages and camshaft models, at the other end of the corridor (where there is a ramp) we were investigating gravity and friction using different sized and weighted balls. This is from Term 4's Primary Connections unit, "Smooth Moves".

Smooth moves
Term 4: Smooth Moves

One of the challenges with this activity was making sure the balls rolled down the ramp and corridor in a straight line, and didn't bump into people passing through the corridor. Lots of people joined in and had fun with this hands on activity.

Finally, in the 4H classroom, we had a 'make and take' type activity. We had resources and instructions for families to create a friction creature to take home. The idea for this came from 'The Usborne Big Book of Science Things to Make and Do', pages 56 - 57.

Big book of science things to make and do
Awesome Science book! 

In order to speed up the process of creating the friction creatures, I created a page of bug, spider, lizard templates to colour and cut out (the instructions suggest they draw their own). Once their creature was cut out, they threaded two pieces of drinking straw onto a long piece of wool. The straws were attached to the back of their creature, and once they had beads tied to the ends of the wool, they were ready to test out the property of friction.

Families creating Friction Creatures

Year 4 had a wonderful time creating their items for the Science Festival, and I know all the other teachers and students worked hard to ensure it was a success! My teaching partner Mark did a fabulous job of being the Science Festival coordinator this year and it will be hard to top this wonderful celebration of all things Science!

Once I have my scanner working, I'll post an update with the hand-drawn friction creature templates as a FREEBIE!

Thanks for visiting,
Bec

How to set up a Writer's Notebook

Last year, I was introduced to Writer's Notebook and was lucky enough to observe my colleagues teaching several Writer's Notebook sessions. For my next post about WN, I thought I would give you the low down on how I set up my Writer's Notebooks.

Where to Start: Type of book

The students in our school get a premium scrapbook as part of their book pack.  I discovered last year that it is actually important to get a premium scrapbook, as I ended up having to glue pages together to prevent my work going through to the other side.
Your starting point is the scrapbook. Get a decent one! Once you have that sorted, then proceed to cover your scrapbook. Remember, a Writer's Notebook is a book 'where you have the freedom to decorate the cover'. 


This is how my WN from 2013 looked:


2013 Writer's Notebook

As you can see, it's quite simple. I used some marbled paper I had bought for bookbinding and then cut some stars from some wrapping paper to decorate it. I used my usual name labels for identifying who the book belonged to, then covered the lot with clear Contact.

This year's Writer's Notebook I have covered using Scotch brand duct and printed tapes. I haven't put a label on this book as I am hoping to keep adding to this one throughout the years.

2014 Writer's Notebook

I sent the students home with their Writer's Notebooks and their homework was to cover the notebook in a way that reflected them. It was great to see how creative all of my students were.


Next Step: Information pages

Inside the front of a WN, there are certain pages that tell you what to expect from a Writer's Notebook, and sample graphic organisers to assist you in unpacking seeds. Everyone's WN has these pages. I had all of the pages photocopied and as a class we all glued them into our own WNs in the correct order. 


Information pages at the front of WN

I have reinforced the inside spine of my WN with extra duct tape so it lasts longer. On the left (inside cover) there is an Overview of Texts grid, the right hand side (first page) is the "What is a Writer's Notebook" information sheet.

Graphic organisers for unpacking seeds

On the next double page spread, we glued in our graphic organisers. This is a reference for students to look at when needed, plus it ensures some variety in the way we unpack the seeds.

Gathering Seeds and Heart Map

On the following double page spread, I have included the "Gathering Seeds" information sheet. The heart map on the right is something I have added myself. You can find a variety of heart maps on the internet; the one I used is found here on TpT. I am using this to get the students to think of things they love as more starting points/seeds for writing (plus it means that the next double page spread can be the start of our unpacking of seeds).


Final Step: Pocket

Inside the back cover of my WN, I taped 2 clear plastic pockets to put my extra seeds and WN resources in. Most of the time we find images from the internet and save them to a shared Evernote notebook, but sometimes I will find seeds in newspapers, magazines or from my colleagues. These hard-copies are tucked into this pocket at the back of my WN. 

Plastic pockets for seeds and WN resources

The left pocket contains extra seeds I have collected or spares from previous lessons. The pocket on the right has my original copies of the information pages and some hats for the Thinking Hat graphic organiser. As you can see, I just photocopy the sheet on the colour I need (last time we looked at the yellow hat: good points).

My students don't have these pockets at the back of their notebook, but older students may have one as they may wish to collect their own seeds.

Where to Now?

Now that your (and your class') Writer's Notebooks are set up, you can start unpacking seeds. As well as collecting seeds in Evernote, I have also set up a Writer's Notebook Pinterest board. 

I hope that helps with setting up a new Writer's Notebook at the start of the year. We do a WN session each fortnight and I will add more photos of the seeds and graphic organisers we use to unpack.

Thanks for visiting.
Bec

Adjective Frenzy!

This term's writing focus in English has been narrative. In order to create interesting stories, we have been working on adjectives. In 4H, we've been swept up in an adjective frenzy!
To start us off, we brainstormed adjectives to describe character traits. Here's the poster (and Pin) that inspired us:


character traits
Character Traits Poster (inspiration)


Here's our version:

4H Character Traits brainstorm.

We tried to colour code our words, but there's a few in there that were written in the wrong colour. (Which is probably a case of Mrs Hadfield getting distracted... I'm easily distracted...)

Using Wordle, we created 'word clouds' of adjectives (and some nouns) all about ourselves. We took our character traits poster into the computer lab to support us with this task. It was interesting, as we hadn't tried Wordle before. Some of us found it challenging to create our Wordles, as there was a lot of typing involved. Once I showed them how to copy and paste text, we were off and running again.
Here are a few of our Wordles, photocopied onto coloured paper (as we weren't able to print them in colour). These have been placed in their student portfolios.




An interesting social experiment followed the creation of our Wordles. I printed each student a piece of paper with their name. They were encouraged to decorate their name, then we each got a coloured pencil or texta and walked around the room writing positive character traits on each other's piece of paper. Some students were very easy to write about, some required a little extra contemplation. Everyone ended up with a page full of positive thoughts from their peers. Here are a few of the finished examples:

Our positive character traits from others

This is a close up of mine. There are some spelling mistakes, but most of the class were using the character traits poster to help them with their spelling.

My positive character traits

It was really nice to read what the students thought of me, plus it was a good social experiment to see which students a) found the task difficult and b) didn't have as many things written about them. We are going to continue to work on developing our social skills and group mentality next term. (As an aside, I read this article on bullying a couple of days ago and it really resonated with me. I'm going to start doing this!)

We then used the character traits to describe characters from our novel. We are studying Roald Dahl's Matilda, one of my all time favourite novels. The characters we looked at were: Matilda, Mr Wormwood, Miss Honey and Miss Trunchbull. Not only did we describe their character traits, we used evidence from the novel to prove it!
Here are the worksheets we used to organise our thoughts:


As it's the last week of term, I thought we could finish up our Adjective Frenzy with an activity I did with my Year 2 students last year. 




I love the inspiration picture for this activity, as it goes through the adjectives that can be used for each letter of the alphabet. 
Not to forget, in this Adjective Frenzy, the reason why were were looking at interesting words, here is an online activity that supports students in choosing words to enhance their story writing. It's called Super Stories: The Abandoned House. The premise is that you are an editor who is proof-reading some rather dull stories. You need to read through the story, then you go back through and change the dull words for more interesting ones. Finally, you get to choose the illustration that best suits the text. This will be helpful for my students, as we are in the final stages of creating a picture book story. We had a chance to have a go at this activity in the computer lab on Wednesday.

I hope these ideas inspire you into your own Adjective Frenzy! Please share your own adjective lessons, activities and inspirations below in the comments.
Thanks for visiting!

How to Make Quizzes More Exciting!

A while ago, I discovered through Pinterest this blog post about Plickers. Not wanting to get completely swept up in the hype, I held off trying them out until today. 

After our Geography lesson on South America, I tried out a simple multiple choice quiz on the content we had just covered. My main goal was to try out the Plickers to see if they worked as well as the hype would suggest.

It was FUN! 

To set it up, I needed to go to the Plickers website to download and print the Plickers (a paper barcode that is assigned to a student). 
Here's one of my Plickers:


One of my students commented that it looked like something from Minecraft! You need to download the FREE app to your smartphone to assign each Plicker to a student. Then you teach them how to hold the Plicker while you scan the class with your phone. You may be able to see 13 (the number of the Plicker) and a small A, B, C and D. To answer with a Plicker, you simply hold the answer you want (A, B, C or D) at the top.

It was incredibly easy to scan the room with my phone, and it was also easy to see any students who didn't have them scanned in the first pass. All I had to do then was go back to that student and rescan.

After the session, I asked the class for feedback about the Plickers and if they would like me to use them again. Their feedback was a unanimous "Yes!" to using them again, they loved it! The whole class was engaged and motivated, and I was able to see straight away who understood and who needed more help.

One of my lovelies commented that it was like a game show, while others said they loved using the Plickers but the questions were hard. 

Another noted that it was difficult to see the A, B, C and D on their Plicker. I had already had that thought, and looked at the Support page of the Plicker website. Here's their response: 


Q: Why are the answers on the cards written so small? Can I get a larger print version?
    A: We want you to have the most accurate data possible about what your students do and don't know, and we want your students to feel comfortable answering honestly. The small print of the answers and the unique shapes on each Plickers cards help protect students' privacy so they can answer your questions honestly without worrying about what their peers think of their answer. If you still think your class would benefit from a larger print version, please contact us!

The website is really user-friendly with excellent step-by-step instructions on how to use Plickers. 

My only concern is that my phone crashed and shut down twice while I was using the app. Not sure what was happening, as it seemed to happen when I was using the camera to scan the room. Other than that, I was incredibly happy with my attempt to use Plickers with my class. 

I was so excited about it, I bombarded my teaching partners and colleagues with overstimulated Bec-babble, trying to get across to them how awesome Plickers are! 

I guess I have succumbed to the hype after all!




Recognising Exceptional Teachers

In my job as a teacher, I have been fortunate to work alongside some exceptional teachers. It has been my privilege to be supported, mentored, inspired and challenged by these teachers throughout my short career. In light of this, it was so lovely to have the chance to show my appreciation of these people in the form of A Day Made Better. These inspiring teachers may not win the competition, but I have been able to share my thoughts about them in a way that hopefully brings a smile to their faces.
Thank you to Christina, Tracey and Hari for encouraging and motivating me throughout my career.

If you know of a teacher who you think deserves recognition, nominate using the link above. The comments you write about them will surely make their days better too!

How to celebrate the end of Term 1

Tomorrow is the last day of Term 1 and it's cause to celebrate! My Year 4 students have managed to survive their kooky teacher for a whole term. Well done!

My whole class behaviour management strategy this term was based on Mr Potato Head. This is he, in all his glory:

4H's Mr Potato Head

My students had to earn each part of Mr Potato Head through this term. There are 2 arms, 2 ears, a hat, nose, moustache, tongue, eyes and glasses adding to a total of 10 parts. As we had 10 weeks this term, I thought that an average of 1 part a week was achievable. Luckily for my students, it was! Our reward for earning all the potato parts is a movie afternoon with popcorn. I'll give my class a choice of the G rated movies I have (because we like choices!).

The other thing I like to do is give my students a little Easter gift. It's generally something small, like a small Easter egg, a fluffy chick and a novelty eraser. This year I went to Pinterest for inspiration and found this pin. I followed it further to get to this lovely blog with free Easter printables. It always amazes me how generous people are with things they have made, sharing them so freely! (Which is the whole reason I started blogging in the first place - to share my ideas and resources.)

Here's how my Pet Easter Bunny project turned out:

Pet Easter Bunnies

Aren't they just adorable with those huge eyes?? Here's a shot of the back of a bunny (so you can see how they are able to stay upright!)

Back of a bunny - resting on his cotton tail!

Bunnies tucked away in a basket for school tomorrow

Please go to iheartnaptime.net for the full instructions, plus the free download. My version is a little simpler than the one Erin describes, as I glue the head, feet and tail directly to the Easter egg. Both ways are completely adorable!

I hope you all have a great end to Term 1 and have a relaxing break. 
That's all for now,
Bec 

Classroom Update

What does my classroom look like now?

If you are a regular visitor to this blog, you would know that I have made a move from the Junior end of the school (Year 2) to a new classroom. Here's what my Year 2 room looked like at the start of the year and what it looked like when I had to rearrange my furniture.

I am now a Year 4 teacher after many years in the Junior school. Here's a peek at my class at the very start of the year, when I was still moving my things in. As you can see, I am a messy mover!

Now that I am moved in and settled, here are some photos of my classroom as it is. It has a 'lived in' feeling, as I didn't tidy up before taking the photos.

Without further ado:

View of the classroom from my desk

From here, we can see the back corner of the classroom, the general clutter on my desk and the decorations I bought at the start of the year. I also have my star curtain, which I bought many years ago in Chinatown in Sydney.

Our Science Wall - Plants in Action

Our Science unit this term is a Primary Connections unit called Plants in Action. You may be able to read some of our questions or wonderings from the start of the unit, as well as some of our vocabulary words.

Looking from the back wall to the whiteboard and Smartboard

In this photo you can see the whiteboard and Smartboard area. This is where we sit for whole class instruction, games and activities. 

View of mini whiteboard and floor space with my desk tucked in behind.

Here are the tables my students sit at with their table labels hanging down from above, plus some of the decorations I bought at the beginning of the year. I also re-used my "Mrs Hadfield" sign as students often find my name difficult to spell. 

View from the door to the back of the classroom

On the back wall you can see a wide expanse of display space that hasn't yet got any work. We are currently working on 2 artworks and a reading activity that will be hung there soon. Stay tuned for that! Above the display, there are some Matisse inspired collage name artworks. These artworks are also at the front of the class above the whiteboard.

View from back corner towards the door

From this angle we can see the door to the corridor, the science display and the bookshelf (that is stuck to the wall). Moving out into the corridor we have this display:


Our poetry display in the corridor

The ruffled border on this display took a little patience and time, but it is very eye catching as you walk up or down the corridor! Well worth the time I invested. The other end of this display has student photos, so I won't post pictures. 

Where to now?

I still have a few displays to put up in the classroom and some boxes full of things left in my spare room at home to bring in to school. I need to organise my filing cabinet (which is almost too full to close) and develop a system for dealing with the clutter that covers my desk on a daily basis. I think I may have to come in during the school holidays to sort out some of these things, as I am focussing on teaching and learning as a priority now.

Thanks again for visiting and having a virtual tour of my classroom as it is now. 
Bec


Treasure Island Maths

Whoops! Have you ever thought that you've done a job and ticked it off your to-do list only to find that it was never done?
Sadly, I have.

Last year, with my lovely Year 2s, I did a coordinates and mapping activity in Mathematics. I got them to draw a treasure island which had to include the following things:


  • Treasure (either a treasure chest or an 'x' marks the spot)
  • 5 palm trees
  • a pond/lake
  • a volcano and 
  • 2 animals (any type)


Once they had draw their map with the features, they then had to guide the pirates to the treasure. Their instructions had to be clear and concise, using either directions (N, E, S, W) or the coordinates. I also stipulated that each square was equal to 10 steps. I had some really creative results and some interesting directions.


Treasure Island BLM

For Year 2 the Australian Curriculum outcome is: ACMMG044 Interpret simple maps of familiar locations and identify the relative positions of key features. This is an extension of that outcome, with the students not only   interpreting and identifying, but creating as well.


My students loved it so much that they wanted to do a second one! Here are their completed examples:









What I loved about this activity was the way it showed my student's creativity and understanding of mapping and coordinates. Some were very basic, but some were incredibly detailed and showed a great understanding of directions.


If you would like to try out this lesson, I have the BLM on my Freebies page. I have edited it to have both the Australian Curriculum outcome and without. This version doesn't have pictures, but you could always add your own pirates if you wish. 


Now that I have posted this activity, I can finally tick it off my list as done!
Thanks for stopping by!

Bec

We're going to have a BRIGHT year!

I can hardly believe that we've been at school for 6 weeks now! It seems like I wrote about the start of the school year only yesterday.

As I'm playing a bit of catch-up, I'll share a little gift I gave my students during the first week of school. (I'm sure I'll catch up all the other posts I had planned later...)

I popped on to the computer to check out Pinterest, as I always do when I'm looking for cool ideas and found this:

Back to school gifts with glow sticks - "We're going to have a bright year!"
http://www.pinterest.com/pin/16255248626615518/

and this:

Back to school :)
http://www.pinterest.com/pin/16255248625734264/


As I absolutely love stars, I fell in love with both ideas at once. I chose to go with the second version, as it seemed the simpler idea (but still effective!)

I quickly opened up Microsoft Word and found a star shape. After adding the appropriate text, and playing with the font I ended up with this:


We're going to have a BRIGHT year in 4H!

I got a packet of 50 glow sticks from The Reject Shop for $2 and printed off the stars. It took a little while to cut all the stars out, and I was glad I only have 23 students this year! After putting two holes into the star with my hole punch, the glow sticks just slid right in! I was so happy with the results, and my students seemed to love them too!

I have edited the template to be suitable for any class, grade or year level and have left a space for you to sign your name. You can get the template here.

Thanks for visiting. I hope you are as inspired by Pinterest as I am!

A brand new year!

On Monday 20th January 2014, I hauled myself into school at 8am to move my teaching resources from my old classroom (a Year 2 shared space with a huge wet area, courtyard access and huge windows) to this:

Large whiteboard and Smartboard

View from corridor

Back of the classroom with display boards and cupboards

My teacher desk (much smaller than my last one...)

View from my desk

View from back corner towards the corridor

View from the back of the room at the whiteboard, Smartboard and art cupboard

A bookcase (it's attached to the wall, so there it stays!)

These photos were obviously taken after I did several trips from my old room to the new one, so all my junk is everywhere. I'm going to need to make another visit in to unpack and tidy! It's obviously much smaller than my last teaching space, but I don't need to share this time.

I will post more photos once I have had a chance to make it my own (and put all my resources away). I have the tissue paper and wire to make pom poms like last year, plus I found these goodies for $2 each at a local discount store when I was shopping with some friends.

Honeycomb ball and decorative fan $2 each at Top Bargain

As you can see, I am going with the blue and yellow theme again, and I plan to re-use a lot of the things I had to decorate my last classroom (got to keep within a certain budget!). I also had a lot of things I couldn't display last year due to a lack of wall space. I have plenty now! 

I let blogging lapse a little towards the end of last year, mainly because I was busy with my trip to the U.S. for Thanksgiving, then back to school for a whirlwind 1 1/2 weeks before the end of school for 2013. 

Unfortunately for me, one of my teaching partners won a promotion at another school, so we had to say a sad farewell to him. Fortunately, my other teaching partner, Mark, is going to be teaching with me this year. I can only imagine what he'll have to do to put up with me for another year! On the last day of school, we took a few photos to remind ourselves of the crazy times we had as the awesome Year 2 team. I love Google + and the way it makes a sequence of photos into a Harry Potter style moving photo. We had too many fun moments to count, and I'm going to miss Ryan when he goes to his new school.

The Awesome Year 2 Team, 2013
Mark, Bec and Ryan
Thanks to Maggie for taking these photos, and for putting up with how crazy we were being. You are such a trooper!

I will be posting a few more photos once my new room is beautified and Becified!

Thanks for visiting!