Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fear Factor

Instead of moving on the adverb phrases, I spent today driving home the adjective phrase lesson from Tuesday.  We worked together, as a class, to locate prepositions in sentences, find the objects of the prepositions, and find the prepositional phrases.  Then, the class ignored those phrases while we diagrammed the rest of the sentence.  Finally, they diagrammed the prepositional phrases that described a noun by telling "which one, what kind, how many, or whose".  We will jump back in with adverb phrases in January.

In math today, both classes continued to work through lessons on their current topic.  The 4A class used what they have learned about the different types of triangles, while the 3A class worked with multiplication and division.
Writing-  Each of the students worked on their individual writing assignments.  Ms. Bev rotates throughout the room, helping each child with his or her needs.  I don't think anyone is at the same spot, but they are all doing an amazing job and have come a long way in understanding how to construct an informative paragraph!

Literature-  In literature today, Ms. Gale and the class reviewed last week's comprehension questions.  Then, they finished reading the book, "Mr. Tucket".  This book was an absolute HIT!  The kids loved it.  There are more Mr. Tucket books, so keep on reading!  After completing the book, the class enjoyed a holiday activity!  They made gumdrops using droplets of water and dry Jello mix.  Then, they created doughnut snowmen! 

Science-  The holiday fun continued, as the kids used ice to turn milk, sugar, and vanilla into ice cream!  The kids worked very hard to shake up their ice cream bags.  It took lots of arm muscles, but they enjoyed their sweet reward!

Today was the last day of class before Christmas break.  Instead of a party or presents, the kids collected money so that we could donate farm animals to a family in an underdeveloped country.  We assumed that we could raise $100.  I gave the class a list of the animals and prices.  At home, they each wrote paragraphs explaining which animals they would like to donate, and why.  They used all of the information they have learned so far in agriculture class to back up their selections.  Today, the kids were able to read their paragraphs to the class.  When it was time to take a vote, I gave them the big news.  We raised twice as much as we had hoped to!  Instead of voting, they were told that we could give EACH of the animals!  In all, we donated a goat, 10 ducks, 2 chickens, and 2 rabbits.  And, I didn't hear, "Why don't we get anything?" or "Why don't we get a party?" one single time.

 Today was the day of our winter garden version of Fear Factor!  The class was divided into two groups : boys vs. girls.  Each vegetable dish was given a different point value.  Each team member could earn the points by trying (chewing and swallowing) a bite.  If each team member tried a dish, then the team earned double!  As I concocted this nefarious plan, I figured that an entire team might earn double points for just a few items.  I mean, what is the chance that any amount of peer pressure could cause a multiple 8-10 year olds to try brussel sprouts and bok choy cabbage?  Well, this is obviously a very competitive (and very brave) group of kids!  Last week, one of the kids said to me, "You know what my biggest fear is?  Cauliflower!  But, I'm going to TRY IT!"  As the game began, I was a little nervous.  I just KNEW someone was going to throw up (which would, of course, lose points for your team!).  Fortunately, I think adrenaline kicked in and the kids got into it!

When it was all said and done, there was only one item that didn't earn extra points: one of the brussel sprout dishes.  The game included: raw carrots, sweet cooked carrots, savory cooked carrots, brussel sprouts with cranberries & feta cheese, savory roasted brussel sprouts, roasted garlic cauliflower, raw cauliflower, raw broccoli, steamed broccoli, bok choy cabbage, raw snap peas, raw spinach, spanakopita, kale chips, chocolate/kale/avocado shake, different lettuces, and spaghetti squash.  I was ecstatic to hear, on many occasions, "Hey!  This isn't so bad!" 

In order for parents to get a sneak peek at what their kids like, or what they will tolerate, I had them list the vegetables in categories:  I Like It / It's Not So Bad / I Don't Like It.  In my own house, I now know I can serve raw cauliflower!  They may not love it, but they will eat it!  Success!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Busy Hands

Working on a top secret project!  Shhhhh...

Ms. Nancy, teaching how to make construction paper wreaths.

Diagram of our classroom, with labels in Spanish!

Spanish Project

Spanish Project  (That's me behind the counter!)

Spanish Project

Merry Christmas!

Our Next Art Class Will Be in 2013!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Gift of Giving

Grammar-  Today, the class had a review of prepositions, objects of prepositions, and prepositional phrases.

Math-  The 4A math class continued to work with angles, parallel lines, and perpendicular lines.  Geometry seems like a big hit with this group of kids!  They are flying through and enjoying themselves!  The 3A class continued in their multiplication and division unit.  Each class will be working toward moving along the multiplication table track with an at-home timed quiz!

Writing-  Right now, each student is in a different place with writing.  Ms. Bev is working with them, individually, to improve each of their papers.  Some of working on dinosaur research, some are working on insect papers, and others have moved on to a "free choice" paragraph.  Each of these are working through the same process, using the same outlined writing guide.  They have been making leaps and bounds as they have learned to choose a main idea, come up with subtopics, and back them up with supporting details.  They are also coming a long with in their sentence structure, narrowing down to a focused topic, and using transitional phrases to allow their thoughts to flow.  Ms. Bev and I are proud of each of them for the hard work and patience they are demonstrating!

Literature-  Ms. Gail and the class discussed the answers to the comprehension questions for the first 10 chapters of "Mr. Tucket".  There were a lot of at home questions this week, and the class really did a great job rising up and tackling such a huge assignment!  They read the next few chapters in the book.  I really love that they are learning to enjoy books that they may not have chosen for themselves to read.  Sometimes, kids can get very picky about their reading materials... deciding they simply cannot read something that isn't in their narrow concept of acceptable reading.  This class is hopefully helping them to broaden their interests, or at least learn to enjoy books that they didn't chose for themselves.

Science- Today was the day of the big midterm test!  The room was completely silent.  Nothing could be heard except the whirring of little brains and the flying of pencils over paper.  This was a closed book, closed note test over the entire semester of Chemistry.  This was not easy... and these children rose to the challenge, and then some!  The average grade on this test was 94! 

Social Studies- The class has been learning about territorial growth and the expansion of the United States.  They have read and watched videos about the Louisiana Purchase, Texas Annexation, Mexican Cession, the Gadsden Purchase, and others.  Today, they took what they have learned and applied it to a map exercise.  They used an outline map of the U.S. to create a visual record of territorial growth.  They created a legend for the map, completed a chart of the various purchases and expansions, and expressed how the map illustrates the idea of Manifest Destiny.

Agriculture- Today, we collected money for our Christmas charity project with World Vision.  The students were given a list of animals and prices from World Vision.  They each came up with their own selection and the reasons behind it.  They thought through animal reproduction, sustainability, and took into consideration the product that each animal supplies its owner with.  At home, they will be writing persuasive paragraphs making their argument for the animals that they chose.  On Tuesday, we will read the paragraphs and take a silent vote!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

What Ag Teaches Us

Grammar-  Today, we began our lesson on prepositions. The term "preposition" wasn't new to anyone in class, which was an excellent surprise!  The students will be working on memorizing the list of prepositions over the next few weeks.  Committing the list to memory will make recognizing prepositions in a sentence much easier.  After we discussed the role of prepositions, gave examples, read the list, and pointed them out in sentences together, the class worked to independently locate prepositions on their own.  They did great, considering this was the first lesson on this part of speech this school year!  A lot of students marked articles or helping verbs as prepositions.  Over the next few lessons, it will become easier and easier to spot them!

Writing-  Ms. Bev worked with each child, independently, on their writing assignments.  They are, understandably, at different points in the writing process.  This is why splitting the large class into two smaller writing groups was so needed!  The kids are getting more and more comfortable with paragraph writing.  Transition words, conclusions, topics, and supporting details are no longer such scary concepts!

Math-  The 4A math class worked with protractors again today.  They measured and drew different angles as a group, as well as individually in their books.  Using a protractor takes practice!  The class also worked on their multiplication race track challenge.  Ms. Jennifer will keep quizzing them on their multiplication tables, as this is a skill that must be mastered!  In the 3A math group,

Science-  The one word that the children all had to describe today's science lesson was, "gross"!  Ms. Gail began class by going over the review questions for chapters 1-5.  The students made changes to their study guides as the class went through the questions aloud.  They need to use this sheet to study for next week's test!  Ms. Gail gave the students the next study guide, for chapters 6-10.  The class will complete it at home and use it to study for the test on Thursday.

After the review, Ms. Gail taught the class about the chemical reaction that takes place during digestion.  The students were each given a small piece of white bread. They put one piece of bread into their mouths and chewed it up, making an effort to mix as much saliva as possible with the bread.  When the bread was good and squishy, spit it out onto a piece of wax paper. Yuck!  They drops of iodine to each bread sample. Plain white bread turns a dark blue-purple color when the iodine touches it. The chewed up bread-saliva mixture does not turn dark.  The starch in the bread combines with iodine to form iodine-starch molecules, which are
blue-purple in color. Chewing the bread mixes it with saliva. This is where the chemical reaction occurred in your mouth: the large starch molecules were changed into completely different, smaller, sugar molecules. Sugar does not react with iodine in the same way that starch does. It was a gross experiment, but effective!

Literature-  The class began their new book today, "Mr. Tucket" by Gary Paulsen.  They listened attentively while Ms. Gail read the first few chapters out loud.  They seemed to really enjoy it!

In social studies, Mr. Dennis went over the test with the students. I saw nothing lower than a B!  They did a great job!  

Agriculture-  Sometimes, in agriculture class, I have a preorganized lesson plan on a topic.  Sometimes, we perform activities or make farm observations.  But, sometimes, I actually have things that need to be done... and even need help!  Our broody hen/incubator challenge has reached its end.  We all agreed that this was an unfair time of year for such a challenge!  The broody hen ended up abandoning her nest, possibly due to the cold weather.  If a hen goes broody at an opportune time in the spring, we will have another challenge and compare results!  But, the incubator won this round.

 Out of the 41 eggs that we put into the incubator, 35 made it to lockdown.  The other 6 did not develop, which is not abnormal.  The class and I discussed that the fertility rate is most likely lower now, in the late fall, than it would be in the spring.  Out of the 35, there were a lot of chicks.  These hatched Tuesday and Wednesday.  Because of the number of squirmy chicks, I was unable to get a look at the remaining eggs.  This is where the class came in to help.

When eggs are in the last 3 days of development, you do not want to decrease the humidity level in the incubator. The chicks that have hatched can survive for 72 hours without food or water.  This is because they have absorbed the remaining yolk from inside the egg, through their umbilical cords.  When the incubator does need to be opened before the eggs have all hatched, it is best to crack it open in a humid room.  However, I have a method that has worked for me.  I take a towel, drench it in hot water, and then wring it out.  I drape the towel over the sides of the incubator.  Then, I reach my hand under the towel, crack the lid (without having a visual, just by feel), and do whatever needs to be done.

Today, I had the students take turns helping take chicks from me as I reached under the towel, moving them quickly to their spot under a heat lamp.  After enough chicks were removed, I was able to assess the situation.  There were 7 eggs that had not pipped at all, and one chick that had pipped and began to zip, but stopped.  I taught a quick lesson on percentages.  We calculated the success rate based on the original 41.  Then, we calculated the success rate of those 35 that went into lockdown.  I recognized that the one chick that had stalled out during its zipping process was the same one that I took note of the day before.  Once a chick is stuck for a long time, the membrane begins to harden, creating a very sticky film that hardens, locking the chick inside.  What comes with practice is knowing that, most of the time, the chick was not able to zip successfully for a reason.  It simply was weak and unable to do so.

I have learned to trust nature, and let it take its course unless it is obvious to me that an external force (like a humidity issue) locked a potentially healthy chick inside.  (We call these "sticky chicks"!)  I explained to the class that a chick had stopped zipping.  I also explained, very clearly, why we do not assist.  However, I told them why I make exceptions in certain cases.  I told them that I did not think this was one of those cases... but I left the decision with the class.  Did THEY want to help?  They knew the risk (It was very clear that there was a slim chance that the chick was "normal"), but they opted to give it a try.  So, I very carefully peeled back the shell.  The students watched as the chick finally unfolded.  It is smaller than the others, and its feet are slightly curled, but there are not outward signs of weakness at this point.  However, I still explained that weak chicks usually do not survive.  I will keep them posted on the chick's status!

Once the chick was out and warming under the light, I demonstrated to the class the "float test".  By placing an unhatched egg into a glass of very still, warm water, you can see if there is a living chick inside.  An egg with a deceased chick will simply float in the water.  However, if the chick is alive, the egg will bob side to side and cause ripples in the water.  After floating all 7 of these eggs, there were none that contained live chicks.

This was not a lesson from a website or a worksheet.  This was a lesson that anyone who raises chickens goes through on their own.  Most of the time, we learn these lessons as adults, but I think decisions such as these can only benefit a child.  You see, we have separated ourselves from the grit of reality, from the life and death of the farm.  I believe there is much to be learned from tough lessons: empathy, rationality, decision making skill, humility, forgiveness, the realization that life is not fair, and the ability to learn from it and keep moving forward.  There is far more to agricultural education than learning where milk comes from... It can help us to create more grounded, less entitled, and more well rounded, generations.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A day too busy for words!

Today was an action packed day!  

Because it was my last day to teach pysanky for art class, I was a bit short on time... so please forgive the photo post!


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Have a Great Break!

Handwriting-  Today, we worked on the letters V and W.  Unlike the cursive U, the "tail" on these come from the top.  As we work our way through the alphabet, we have been really focusing on the parts of each letter that tend to get sloppy.

Grammar-  Each child recorded their recitation of the poem Ozymandius.  They were able to use their clay figures from art class to create a dramatic representation of the poem.  I am excited to put these together!  The kids did such an amazing job with this difficult poem!

Math-  The 4A math class had a review of concepts involving fractions.  They reviewed improper fractions, mixed numbers, simplifying fractions, and word problems involving fractions.  Each student was able to teach the class how to perform a word problem on the board.  They all have been doing a great job with fractions.  I think that the concrete nature of the problems (visualizing 2 2/3 pies) helps a lot!  The 3A math class worked on more multiplication and division practice.  They also continued their multiplication race car challenge!

Because it was wet outside (and we were in our picture day clothes!), Ms. Gail taught the class a game that I remember loving in the 4th grade: "7 Up".  Honestly, the fact that my home-schooled children can sit in a class of friends and play "7 Up" on a rainy day makes all of the hard work SO worth it!

Science- The class acted like monomers... walking around the room.  Ms. Gail asked them to pair up to form polymers.  Some polymers were made of two monomers, while some were made of more than two.  This was just a visualization for the polymer lesson that they have been reading at home.  The class then worked on a review sheet over chapters 1-5.  They will be completing by the next science class.  Then, they will review chapters 6-10 before the final test over our chemistry lesson. 

Literature-  These children are absolutely loving this book!  Ms. Gail went through the comprehension questions from last week.  They discussed the answers to each one.  In addition, she pointed out that some students are still reluctant to write their answers in complete sentences.  After Christmas break, when we begin a new semester, we will be cracking down harder on this.  Why?  Because writing answers to discussion type questions shows that you are trying your personal best.  It shows that you are putting forth effort, and it helps to explain what you mean in your answer.  I told the kids at the beginning of the year that they are beginning at one level of achievement, behavior, and maturity, and they will end the year at a much higher level... but in order to get there, we have to raise that bar throughout the school year!

Social Studies- The class has continued their journey westward.  They are now to the 1890's, learning about the end of the Reconstruction Period. They discussed the difficulties that the Exodusters faced as they settled in the Great Plains.  These settlers called themselves "Exodusters" after the book of Exodus.  The class worked in small groups on reading comprehension exercises over the material.

Agriculture- We had some disappointing news in agriculture class today!  The broody hen "flew the coop"!  After 5 days of setting on her clutch of eggs, the hen was up and out of the nest.  It is my guess that she recognized that they were too cold in this November weather.  So, it looks like the incubator won the challenge... THIS TIME!  The class learned how does (like other mammals) go into "heat".  I explained that there is a cycle where an egg is released in the doe's body.  There is approximately a 12-36 hour window that the egg can be fertilized.  If it is not, then the doe will return to heat 18-21 days later.  I explained that Gretta was in heat on October 27th (obvious due to her VERY vocal and frantic behavior) and June was in heat on November 1st.  They will be calculating the day of their next heat.  They are also going to plug it into a goat gestational calculator to find out the possible dates for new kids in the spring!

Due to scheduling reasons and availability, the class will be going to Rock Eagle 4-H Center for their Environmental Education Program in the spring!  It will be an overnight trip for all children in the 3rd and 4th grade class.  We will leave early on Monday, April 29th and return the next evening.  Cost for the trip, which includes meals, is $64.00.  We will not need a total count until March, but if you know for sure that you will or will not be able to attend, just let me know so we can get a ballpark number.  Ms. Gail and I will be going, but we will need one or two dads as male chaperones.  These are the only chaperones needed, but any parent is welcome to join us! 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pronouns, Plantations, and more Pysanky!

Handwriting-  We worked on the letters "s" and "t" today.  I have explained in class that cursive is one part writing and one part art.  There is some variation in styles!  The uppercase letter T is an example of this.  I explained that if parents have taught them a different way than in the book, just go with what they know!  When we learned how to make an uppercase S, the students decided that it looked just like an uppercase G, but without the "horn"!  I think the agriculture lessons must be sticking, because they said that the G would be the buck and the S would be the doe.  Hey, if agriculture can help the kids remember how to make correct cursive G and S, then so be it!

After reviewing yesterday's video lesson on how to diagram questions, we reviewed the pronoun list in grammar today.  They reviewed subject pronouns, object pronouns, and demonstrative pronouns.  They then learned a new type of pronoun: interrogative pronouns.  These pronouns (who, whom, which, and what) can replace a noun in a question.  Because you need to rearrange the words in a question to form a statement before diagramming, this can get a bit confusing.  In the sentence, "Whom did you visit?", you would diagram it as You did visit whom.  Whom is taking the place of the name of the person that is being visited, so it is taking the role of the direct object.  In the sentence, "Who is winning?", the word "who" is simply taking the place of the name of the person in the subject.  This is why I have been trying to teach the class to always diagram the verb FIRST, then ask yourself who or what is doing the verb to find the subject.  The words do not always fall in a certain order!  If any student needs extra help with any lesson, I have an extra copy of the instructor's guide that parents can borrow between classes.  Just let me know!

The 4A math class worked more on word problems involving fractions.  They have been working on these at home.  Today was a chance to continue the practice, as well as get individual help from Ms. Jennifer.  They covered material from pages 104-105 in the textbook, as well as pages 105-109 in the workbook.  The 3A class worked more on division today.  Their material was from the extra practice book, pages 61-64.  Both math classes continued their multiplication challenge!  They now have race cars, complete with little faces, and are working their ways around the track!

Writing-  In writing class today, Ms. Bev helped the class to understand the difference between independent facts and supporting details for those facts.  They used a worksheet to help them step through the process.  It all seemed to click!  Although the initial Abe Lincoln research assignment was too broad, it served as a tool to teach the class how to narrow down facts and develop a theme for a single paragraph.  Ms. Bev explained the difference between a multi-paragraph essay and a single informative paragraph.  Although it was a bit hard to switch gears in writing class, I saw it really come together today!  The class will continue to knock out an excellent Abe Lincoln paragraph, complete with thesis, facts, supporting details, and conclusion.  They will finish this on Thursday and start fresh after Thanksgiving break!

Spanish-  The class moved from grammar with Ms. Holly to Spanish grammar with Ms. Rose!  They worked on their feminine and masculine articles.  They also went through the vocabulary that they have been working on at home.  Ms. Rose helped them to piece things together... and they were even able to translate a phrase on the board!  By listening to Ms. Rose speak and learning the concepts in class, they have come a long way in a short period of time!

Social Studies-  What gets kids excited about learning?  TRAINS!  These kids were on fire with information that they soaked up through their at home reading and videos.  They have been studying the westward expansion.  The class worked in small groups on a comprehension exercise.  From across the room I actually overheard one of them say, "I found the answer to that one!"  "That's okay, I want to find it myself."  Excellent!

Although it wasn't agriculture day today, the class took a walk over during lunch to see the new buck that we brought home yesterday.  His name is Omega, and he is an eight month old registered Saanen.  We will be breeding our does to him in hopes for some babies in April!  Although the lack of fall kids was a disappointment, it led to some very interesting lessons!  You can't teach using farm animals without being flexible with your lessons!

The class also checked on our broody hen.  We were able to see that a splash maran was laying her eggs in the same nesting box as the broody black maran!  Each day, I remove her eggs from the nest.  The ones that remain have been dated, so I can tell which ones are our original eggs!

In art class, the kids learned to use the Ukrainian tool, the kistka.  They each had their own kistkas, which they heated over a small candle.  Once the kistkas were hot, they used them to scoop up small amounts of beeswax, which melted easily when touched by the hot copper funnel.  It took an entire day's class to practice writing with this tool!  They learned how to hold it, write with it, and learned a technique where they will be able to place a small amount of dye within a small, wax-bordered shape.  This allows for more variation in color choices.  As a class, we went over each students' design for their egg.  The color choices were discussed.  Some of the students had nailed the concept of color progression through the dyes.  A few had to make some changes.  For instance, it isn't possible to go from dark pink to green, without ending up with a muddled mess!  By the end of class, all of the colors and designs were finalized and the children were comfortable heating, filling, and writing with the kistkas.  They can't wait to work on their eggs, which will be turned into Christmas ornaments!