Creating Landmarks out of Marshmallows

During our previous unit of inquiry my first graders discovered the world of maps. As part of their studies we learned about landforms and landmarks. In order to create a more hands on experience for them I decided to bring in marshmallows and toothpicks. I got this idea because it was the 100th day of school and my PYP coordinator told me that once she gave students 100 marshmallows and 100 toothpicks to create something… and I thought, why not landmarks?

Did I give them 100 marshmallows and 100 toothpicks? Uhh… no. But the fact that Korea now has affordable marshmallows available at Diaso (kind of like and up-scale dollar store), is incredible. Good job, Korea!

The students worked in pairs to create a landmark. They attempted to recreate the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Great Wall of China, as well as make their own bridges, towers, and statues.

They loved every second of this learning engagement, even though I didn’t let them eat any of the marshmallows. (I am not a monster though, I let them eat some during snack.)

What are some of your favorite hands on learning engagements?

signature

Advertisements

“What can I do for my child at home?”

books-484766_1920

The title of this post is the most frequent question I get from parents during parent/teacher conferences. It is the question I hear from almost every single parent who has a child learning English as their second, third, or fourth language.

For the past six years, my answer to that question has remained the same.

Read.

Read to your child, have your child read to you, have a baby-sitter read to your child, have your child read to a baby-sitter (or a sibling!), have your child read on their own. Read. Read. Read.

I have never done an official study on this, but I can tell you what I have seen happen in my classroom. This is my sixth year teaching in an international school setting and every year I have at least one or two students who start the year with no knowledge of the English language (this year I had four!). I also have students who speak very little English, or speak English as their second language. Most of my students fall into those three categories: No English, Some English, Multiple Languages. The beauty of international schools.

I have never had a child in my class who has not been able to learn to communicate in English by the end of the year through speaking, reading, and writing. But I have noticed that the students who grow the most in these skills, are students who read (and are read to) the most.

Reading builds vocabulary and permeates into every other subject.

Because I am in Korea and we lack a plethora of English books, especially at the beginner reader’s level, I introduce my students and their parents to http://www.kidsa-z.com. (I am grateful that this is a supplemental program my school invests in.)

child-684572_1920

On the side… it is also important to note that being able to read doesn’t just mean you have the skills to sound out letters and blend them into a word. Reading is also about comprehension. It is essential to talk about what you read, and ask questions, and answer questions and all that jazz. When my students achieve a level of fluency where they have the skills of reading simple words and stories I  ask them what the book is about and encourage parents to get their child to talk about what they are reading at home.

If you have resources, such as websites, that work really well in your classroom or for your child at home, please share in the comments! We LOVE comments.

signature

*images courtesy http://www.pixabay.com

The Inquiry Cycle on Display

My new first grade teaching partner this year is going to teach me a lot of fun new things, I can already tell.

Here is a picture I took of her inquiry cycle board after our first six-week unit:

IMG_0107

Pretty amazing right? The students were able to see a visual fill up week by week as they journeyed through the inquiry cycle that is tuning in, finding out, sorting out, going further, making conclusions (reflection), and taking action.

I obviously had to create a board like this in my own room. Here is what it looks like after we  had our tuning in learning engagements for the first week of our Sharing the Planet unit with the central idea: Mini beasts play a role in our lives.

IMG_0125

While this is on the back wall of my room, my lines of inquiry, key concepts, etc. are displayed in front of the room:

IMG_0128

You’ll notice that under my central idea I have it translated into Korean, Chinese, and Japanese. I have students in my classroom who speak very little English, during this unit I had them guess what words they thought would be in our central idea, many of them said “mini beasts” and were very excited to hear what the central idea was, then when students heard it in their mother tongue they got even more excited.

The questions on post it notes are questions my students wrote when they came into our changed classroom atmosphere the first day of our unit. I love giving time for my students to ask questions!

How do you display your inquiry cycle in your PYP classroom? How do you have students ask and answer wondering questions?

signature

*Here is what my board looked like at the end of the unit!

FullSizeRender

How To Take Your Read Alouds Further

read aloud books image

I was at an amazing IB Workshop this past weekend called “Reading and Writing Through Inquiry” and I have many, many things to share. My workshop leader, Rachel, was fantastic and all of the workshop participants (myself included!) were excited to collaborate and really wanted to be there. Which makes a difference with professional development, you know?

One of the learning engagements Rachel led us through was a way add more language to your read alouds, or writing and reading workshop time, or ELA lessons, you get the picture.

She read the book “The Island” by Armin Greder, an incredible though slightly controversial picture book. I had never heard of this book before. After Rachel read the book she had eleven different writing prompts, differentiated for upper and lower level grades, as well as English Language Learners. She read the choices and let us choose which one we wanted to do.

Here were our options:

Theme- What is the theme of the book? Write about it!

Write a review of book 

Supporting character- choose a character you liked or didn’t like and write about why

Perspective- pretend you are a character from your book “the best life for me would be” from the viewpoint of character

Resolution- rewrite the ending of the story

Poem- compose poem

Plotline- draw plot line 

Setting- draw a picture or map of the setting and describe it

Emotional response- draw a picture of the funniest, most exciting or saddest part of the story write paragraph describing scene

Make a T-Chart- comparing physical and character traits through main characters eyes and in the eyes of others

Climax- write the climax of the story

Author- find four facts about the author and find titles of other books written by the author

I created a simple google doc with the prompts. The more language friendly ones are translated into Korean, Chinese, and Japanese for the ELL students in my class.

Printable Version of Prompts 

What are ways that you extend your read alouds in class? 

signature

Guest Read Aloud in Jee Young’s Class

In my previous post, I mentioned visiting Jee Young’s classroom in Singapore this past fall.

Not only was I able to observe a science lesson, I also got to read aloud ish by Peter H. Reynolds. During the read aloud, Jee Young prepared questions for me to ask her students based on things they were already discussing as a class.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Each student sat with a pencil in hand and their Reader’s Notebook opened. Since I am used to working with younger students, I tried my hand at a few jokes, loving it when the students not only got my jokes but responded back… Or even when they didn’t get my jokes because of cultural differences, meh, it happens.

Throughout the reading I paused to ask questions and give the students time to “Stop and Jot” their answers.  It was great hearing their responses and listening to them connect what they wrote to what another classmate said.

This is something I do with my first grade students, only it looks a little different. Instead of them writing I model it for them during our read alouds, stopping to jot my thoughts on sticky notes. During their independent reading time is when they get to “Stop and Jot” on sticky notes which they keep collected in their Reader’s Notebook.  Since they don’t stop and jot during read alouds, I have them do the good ‘ol “Turn and Talk” with their partner. Then, they have to share  with the class what their partner said, to help them listen to each other better.

After my read aloud I took my own mini-tour of Jee Young’s classroom and here are a couple of things I really liked (out of the many!).

Jee Young giving her students book recommendations (thumbs up Jee Young!):

IMG_3869

The baskets she uses to organize her books, I love them!

IMG_3870

When I arrived back in Korea I shared the same book, ish,  with my class, and they loved it. A few other favorite read alouds of mine are:

the dot by Peter H. Reynolds
The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems (I mean anything by Mo, you can’t go wrong…)
Press Here by Herve Tullet (Jee Young and I did a project using this book with our classes years back and wrote about it here!)

Read about Jee Young doing a guest read aloud with my class a couple of years ago here.

What are some of your favorite read alouds? I would love to know, leave a comment!

signature

Seeing Scientists at Work in Jee Young’s Classroom

For those of you who follow us, you know that Two Apples A Day consists of two elementary teachers, collaborating on one blog. We started this adventure in the same country, at the same school, with the same vision (haha, okay reeling it back). Since then, Jee Young has left Korea and moved to Singapore. Melody (me!) has stayed in Korea, but worked for several international schools. Jee Young was able to come back to South Korea and visit my classroom a couple of years ago and shared her experience here.

This past fall, I was able to visit Jee  Young’s fifth grade classroom in Singapore during one of my holidays. I observed one of her science lessons and took mental notes of things that I thought were so on point.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Here are the top 3 ideas I took away from Jee Young’s lesson:

1. Wear a Lab coat. Jee Young instantly turned scientist when she slipped on her white lab coat. Such a simple thing to do that made a big difference. As an additional bonus to this look could be protective goggles, yes?

IMG_3866_2

2. Call your students “Scientists”. Every time she spoke to them as a whole, or to an individual, Jee Young used the term “scientist(s)” and you could tell it made the students take themselves more seriously… they felt like scientists, they were scientists.

IMG_3875

3. Use lesson/learning time wisely by setting up routines.  In the course of 45 minutes, Jee Young gave the students their task, had the students observe their experiments and discuss their observations with their small groups, create a post on their blog using their iPads (pictures included!), and then had a couple of students share a few posts with the class as a whole. While this was happening she moved around to answer questions, mentally made notes of students’ work, and gave instant feedback. It was amazing. Yes, it takes time to set these routines up at the beginning of the year or at the beginning of a unit. But the effort is well worth it.

IMG_3878

Observing colleagues is a great way to share ideas and grow as a teacher. I know we all get busy, but take the time to do it and you will not regret it.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Thank you for welcoming me into your classroom Jee Young, I hope I can come back soon.

signature

Telling Time in First Grade

Learning how to tell time. We’ve all been there.

Since telling time is something we do throughout the whole day I wanted to integrate it throughout all of my lessons. The way I decided to do this was by having my students create their own clocks and keeping it on their desks. Randomly throughout the day (at the beginning of a lesson, right before or after lunch, etc.) I asked the students to look at our classroom clock and mirror the time on their desk clock. Then they have to tell me the time.

When first creating our clocks I  used our classroom clock as an example  and explained how the numbers are placed in order around the circle, I used a template from this website (which I found on Pinterest!). Some students started glueing the numbers counter-clockwise, which I found interesting and made sure to correct quickly. The clocks were laminated and the hands attached with an envelope pin. Having each student color and decorate their clock gave them a sense of ownership and pride and they absolutely love having them on their desk. I thought it might be a distraction for them, but most of the time they forget they are there. Then they will randomly ask me if we can change our clocks as a class when I haven’t done it in a while. I started to encourage them to do it even when I don’t bring their attention to it.

IMG_7738

signature

Sidenote: I am currently teaching New Zealand’s math curriculum called, The Numeracy Project. If you teach this at your international school I would love to hear from you! It’s completely new to me and I am curious if other school’s outside of New Zealand are using it.