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!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hen vs. Incubator Challenge is ON!

Today may not have been a typical day, but it was a great one!  Ms. Gail had a trip planned in advance, and I was happy to take the reins on science and literature.  It just so happened that Ms. Jennifer had car trouble and Ms. Bev was ill all on one day!  It may sound daunting, but it really allowed for a flexible, Ms. Holly-led day!

In grammar, we reviewed the four types of sentences.  Then, we zeroed in on commands.  The class learned how to diagram the understood subject (you).  We will be picking up with the other three types next week. 

In writing class, we learned all about homophones.  The kids came up with tons of examples of homophones... and then, they were given the ultra-fun activity of turning their homophone list into a joke book!  There were some good ones about scared bow and arrows (quivering), dear deers, and having a report card that is "below sealevel"!

In math class, the 3A class worked on long division practice.  They worked independently and then we worked the problems out together.  This is one of those lessons that really takes a lot of practice to make "stick".  They learned that the steps of long division can be remembered by Dad (Divide), Mom (Multiply), Sister (Subtract), and Brother (Bring Down).  The 4A class had a lesson on fraction of sets.  We worked through visual representations of problems (1/4 of 24 colored pencils), manipulating them into equal groups.  Then, we moved from the manipulatives and did problems on the board and in the workbook. 

Science-  In science class today, the students put their knowledge of polymers to the test as they completed a crossword puzzle over key terms from chapter 9.  After a discussion of the material, they made observations of two substances: white glue and liquid laundry starch.  They documented their observations.  Then, we combined equal amounts of each substance and stirred.  It formed a thicker material, much like silly putty!  The longer the substance sat, the harder it became.  The class documented their observations of the new properties and came up with ideas as to why it changed!

Literature-   The class turned in their completed comprehension questions.  We read the next four chapters in "Sign of the Beaver" today.   Because I am not the literature instructor, I was jumping in towards the end of the book!  After reading four chapters with the kids, I was dying to know why Matt was in the woods alone!  Where was his family?  What is this cabin?  I asked questions and the kids were excited to fill me in!

Social Studies-  The class has been studying the 1860's through 1890's.  They are learning about the purchase of Alaska and Nebraska.  They are also learning about cattle drives, sharecropping, and the dispute between Andrew Johnson and Congress during the Reconstruction Era.  They worked on reading comprehension exercises in small groups.  Earlier in the day, I explained how these tough reading comprehension exercises really helped prepare the class for standardized testing in the spring! 

Agriculture-  We had a lot to learn in agriculture today!  We are still working our way through our goat lesson.  Although I expected baby goats by now, we had an interesting situation.  One of our does did not "take" and the other had a "false pregnancy"!  We have never had a false pregnancy before.  Basically, the goat's body had a "short circuit", causing the corpus luteum to produce progesterone as if the goat was actually pregnant.  She went through the entire pregnancy, filled her udder, and then... nothing!  I explained the the class what happened.  Unlike our Nigerian Dwarf goats, I had heard that our Saanens, from Alpine origin, are seasonal-only breeders.  They do not breed for fall kids!  Little did I know that this was more of a definite and less of a "possibly".  So, I will be driving to Hoschton, GA on Monday to pick up a Saanen buck to use... and hopefully we will have some babies in April!

As the days have become shorter, the class has learned that the hens lay less eggs.  In order to get the lavender orpingtons to lay eggs so that I can breed for more spring orpington layers, the class and I put a light on them.  The timer gives the hens 3 more hours per day of light.  It worked.  The class was thrilled to learn that the coop of three hens that were giving us NO eggs are now up to 2-3 per day.  The eggs have been collected, and labelled with the date that they were gathered.  Today, we set the eggs in the incubator AND saved one from each date to set under a broody hen.  The class made guesses as to which will have the first egg to hatch, the hen or the incubator.  They made their arguments: constant heat, not relying on electricity, etc.  Then, they made guesses as to which will have the highest success rate.  They had some great reasons for their hypothesis.  I gave them some extra information to apply, such as the introduction of bacteria in the nesting box.  For the most part, the class trusts the broody hen more than the incubator!  In 20 days, we will see!

One of our kids found a tiny birds' egg in the yard!  We discussed the difference between baby chicks, who can jump up, walk around, and drink and eat on their own the day of their birth, and other helpless baby birds who require momma bird to drop chewed food into their mouths!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Spelling/Handwriting-  We began the day by discussing our new spelling list.  Some of the words on the list are related to what we will be learning in our classes this week.  Some of the words are to practice certain spelling rules.  In this list, we have many words that use the letters "au" to make the "aw" sound.  We incorporated our cursive handwriting practice into spelling today, as the group wrote some of the new words in cursive.  For those who were working on cursive writing last year, they specifically worked on transitioning proper size and letter structure on regular wide ruled paper.

Writing-  In writing class today, Ms. Bev began with a review on topic sentences.  The students took turns reading their topic sentences out loud and helping each other improve upon them.  Further, the facts within a paragraph are related, giving the paragraph a common theme.  Today was a day of slowing down.  Ms. Bev used the material that the class has been working on to help illustrate what the concepts they have discussed.  On a side note, Ms. Bev unknowingly backed up the lesson that I taught a few weeks ago on respect, behavior, and being kind in class and at home.  She got onto the topic of Mother Theresa.  She explained that Mother Theresa has three rules:  Be kind, be kind, and be kind.  Ms. Bev explained that you can be kind using your words, your tone of voice, and your body.  I was so pleased to hear the kids bring up my example of how our words are like shooting arrows from a bow.  Once they are out, they cannot be taken back.  They will inflict injury or give praise and lift a person up.  They listen.  They do.

Grammar-  In grammar class today, the class completed our review of common and proper nouns, pronouns, and capitalization rules (Lesson 34 in our book).  We will be moving on to learning about the four types of sentences tomorrow in our video lesson.  Be sure to keep practicing the poem, "Ozymandius".  We will record them on Thursday of next week!

Spanish- Ms. Rose has been working with the class on articles and feminine and masculine nouns.  They have been writing, speaking, and applying these grammatical concepts in Spanish and, as a mother and a teacher, I am thrilled! 

Social Studies- Through reading, discussion, and comprehension exercised, the class has been studying the Reconstruction period.  Today, after Mr. Dennis talked about their at home reading assignment, the class worked in small groups on a vocabulary crossword puzzle from the passages.

Art- Today, I was the art teacher!  I taught the class about the Ukrainian art of pysanky.  It is a tricky process, using a series of dyes and wax application.  In a nutshell, you begin with a white egg.  Hot wax is applied with a tool called a kistka to keep the parts white that you would like to keep white.  The egg is then dyed in the lightest color for your design, for instance, yellow.  Wax must then be applied to everything in the design that you wish to remain yellow.  Then, the egg is dipped into a darker color.  This process is repeated until you end with the darkest color, which is usually the background.  It is a hard process to master!  Today, we practiced using white crayons instead of melted wax.  The class did an amazing job and really got the hang of it!  With children, the disappointment of working on an egg only to have it crack can be heartbreaking.  I prepared them for the very real possibility, and probability, that one of their eggs would not make it.  I then explained that if their egg does crack, they get to go out and throw it at a tree!  Disappointment was replaced with excitement.  Problem solved!

Next week, they will be taking the designs that they worked on in class and creating new eggs with the use of kistkas.  It's a messy process, but it is always a hit with kids and adults alike!