Thursday, December 19, 2013

Critical Thinking

Students in fourth grade enrichment/library have been honing their critical thinking skills through a unit on media literacy.  We began by investigating advertising, and are now working to apply our critical thinking skills to our use of the internet.  Two of the fourth grade classes spent time this week creating posters which display some of the ways in which we can make sure that we are always thinking critically.  These posters are on display in the library, in the hallways, and in classrooms.  The Internet is an amazing resource....but using it wisely, being critical thinkers,we can make it even better!

Traveling with Tori: Challenge 3 and 4!

Students in Mrs. Ankerson's third grade enrichment class have been traveling around Europe seeking clues to answer riddles from our traveling friend, Tori.  We solved two more!  

I am a tower,
1,063 feet tall.
Take an elevator to the top,
From there you can see it all!
The Sienne River runs below me,
But there is much more in my city!
Here they say Bonjour to say hello,
And there is much more that you should know.
My neighbors are the Louvre and Notre Dame,
All of France knows my name!
I twinkle every hour at night,
Many people come to my city just to see the sights!
What and Where am I?

Answer:  The Eiffel Tower in Paris France!
We found it!

I am a country,

Close to Spain.
Fishing and Olive Oil
Bring my country to fame.
Ferdinand Magellan traveled the sea,
He was born in my country!
My sunsets are very pretty,
Especially in Lisbon, my capitol city.
From here you can see
That the Atlantic Ocean is by me.
What and Where am I?

 Answer:  Portugal!
We want to go here!


Traveling with Tori: Challenge 5

Students in Mrs. Ankerson's third grade class have been following our friend Tori as she travels around Europe. Tomorrow, we will try to find her latest clue!  Tori will return to the US in January!  We are really enjoying these challenges as a way to connect to geography in a meaningful way.

Can you figure out where Tori is? I bet our third graders will!

I am a country

In the United Kingdom

But right now my people are trying to get my freedom!

I am home to the highland cow,

And my bagpipe players often have to take a bow!

My people are known to wear kilts,

And Edinburgh, my capitol city, looks just like it did when it was built!

Some people believe I am the home to the Loch Ness monster,

Many people come to my country to spot her!

What and Where am I?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Technology Supports Learning

One of my goals as the enrichment teacher is to figure out interesting ways to incorporate technology into my classroom.  There are a variety of reasons that this is important to me, but primarily I believe that technology enhances student understanding and provides a medium that engages and excites students.  My classroom use of technology differs depending on what we are learning, but I typically try to figure out a way for work to include creation of content and development of items that can be celebrated and shared.

I currently have the potential use of five iPads, thus allowing me to have a maximum group size of four for projects.  

In first grade, I am working with classroom teachers to teach a unit on plant science.  I came up with the idea, through various web searches, to have students create claymation videos to express their understanding of the plant life cycle.  I liked the idea of using technology in the long Vermont winter when our visits to the garden would  be nonexistent!  In order to plan for this task I worked with my son to create a claymation video at home this summer.  We decided that it was pretty easy to photograph clay creations over time and had a great time telling a story!  But this technology rehearsal led me to worry that filming in my classroom, with multiple groups working at the same time, would make it challenging to ensure that photograph placement was consistent.  As teaching at my house is truly a family affair, I asked my husband to design an iPad holder that would allow us to fix the iPad in place and had a fixed location for students to place the objects they wanted to film.  The result was the holder shown below, which has been extremely effective!  

I really do love the technology component of these sorts of ideas, but I also love that students:  have to know the plant cycle very clearly (how else could they create a step by step image of a growing plant?), are working in teams (which have to compromise, share jobs, and make group decisions), and use creative materials like clay to express themselves.  

Technology itself is not always enriching, but the experiences and opportunities for learning that it offers when used to create and share are amazing!

(I would like to thank my family for all the support they give me to provide fun and different experiences to RES kids, without them many of my ideas would not become reality!)


Monday, December 16, 2013

Plant Life Cycles

In first grade enrichment we have been continuing our study of plants by thinking about the plant life cycle.  First students drew sketches of the life cycle in small groups.  After studying the butterfly life cycles and the economic cycle of farms in their classrooms, students really understood the idea of cycles and were able to apply this thinking to plants.  Next we watched a video put together by Williston Vermont first and second graders as the culmination of their plant learning. You can check out their great work here:

Next we watched some real life stop motion videos of plants growing.  These videos, some made by professionals and some by amateurs,  were a great way to really watch the plant cycle. Students favorite was this one:

As we watched, students exclaimed things like "plants are really alive!", "they look like aliens", and "could we do this?"  This technology was an amazing way to enhance our plant understanding.

With all of this background information students were ready to create their own claymation videos to show the life cycle of a plant.  Students created backgrounds that included things that plants need (soil, sun,water, and room to grow). These backgrounds were mounted onto an iPad filming tool and then students used clay to photograph their plants growing. Some groups began editing these movies in iMovie and soon we will have some awesome videos to share!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Creating Books

Students in second grade enrichment are currently writing books based on kindergarten interests.  Students plan to gift these books to a kindergarten friend once their work is complete.  Students began the project by brainstorming ideas for a book based on the interests that were listed for a kindergartener that they chose.  Next students spent time with a partner sharing ideas.  Students are currently sketching their stories and writing, writing, writing!

Choice and Space Drives Learning

In the enrichment room I try to provide opportunities for choice in learning,  I have a curriculum and goals that we are working towards, but I strongly value space to let students drive their own learning through exploration and choice.   Since these opportunities are often undervalued in a test driven society....I like to take time whenever possible to share the great things that students decide to do when given  space!  The below pictures capture some of these moments.  Students  decided to measure the classroom.  Learning about measurement in math they wanted to use these skills on a task.  This was self initiated, the only role I played was to help them find tools to take the measurements.  Other students decided to create a display on Asian culture.  They collected materials and set them out for peers to check out.  Another student examined foreign coins....getting a magnifying glass, he examined things in detail and made some sketches.

Choice and space are a valuable addition to learning and their value is demonstrated in these few examples of self driven student learning.

Underwater Tent Worlds

In kindergarten enrichment this week we took a break from our typical exploratory centers to design and create an imaginary underwater tent world.  For the last few weeks we have been talking about oceans and ocean animals, and including ocean choices in our center based approach to learning.  We began our imaginary adventure by creating a group story.  Sitting in a circle, I introduced students to a story beginning in which a kindergarten girl and boy begin an adventure to explore the ocean.  Next, students each took turns adding to the story and our group adventure began!  We had sharks, ships, whales, all kinds of fish, mermaids, underwater sea cities, castles, fairies, and more!  Next each student was asked to make a sign for our underwater world.  Signs included words and pictures.  Next students built our tent world! With ocean creatures in hand (plastic animal figures) students played and explored.

As one student left the room he cried " that was so fun, you can't even imagine"!  It was fun, but the activity was also filled with opportunities for learning!  First, students had to actively listen as we built the story.  They had to focus on comprehending, connecting, and sequencing events that made sense to our story.  When students wrote they sounded out words and worked hard to make sure their signs could be read by others!  The authentic peer audience for their signs made them excited to excel in their writing clarity.  When students built the tents they had to work together, because tents were too big for one student to pop up.  Connecting tents meant students needed to plan and decide how to best build for everyone.  Learning is fun and I love these opportunities to explore with students in a meaningful and engaging way.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Look Out for After School Enrichment Sign Ups!

In a change to our after school enrichment program sign ups, we will be sending forms home for the Winter session 2 (January/February) next week, Monday December 9th!  Sign ups will be open for one week, so be sure to check your home school folders on Monday and get those forms back to school!

Session 2 offers a great selection in classes, including some new community members and teachers!  Check out the selection and then sign up students!  This program is a great way to try some new things or participate in something you know you enjoy!

Crafts and Games with Your Doll (K-2)
Story Time and A Project (K-1)
Ballet (K-2)
French Culture (K-2)
Winter Arts and Crafts (2-4)
Drama (3-4)
Jump Rope for Heart (3-4)
Knitting (3-4)
Cooking Asian Cuisine (3-4)

Please contact Andrea Greeley with questions.