Saturday, January 26, 2013

Taking Care of the Animals in Winter

The kids noticed during the reading Lois Ehlert's book Snowballs that there were birds eating things off of the snowman so the next day I read them Stranger in the Woods.  This book is about children who build a snowman and decorate it with food to feed the animals. 
It is a beautiful book with the most beautiful photographs of animals who are debating on checking out this "stranger in the woods."  You will enjoy it just as much as the kids for its beauty! 
This caused the kids to start asking questions about what animals do for food in the winter if we don't feed them.  They started discussing that some animals don't need to eat because they hibernate.  One mentioned that some "go west" when it starts snowing.  They started wondering what whales, snakes, turtles and other animals do during the winter.  I think I know what we will be inquiring about next!  
After reading this book they wanted to feed the animals around here.  The next day, I read another book called The Night Tree about a family that decorates an evergreen in the middle of the woods with food for the animals to eat.  
This gave us the idea to use the giant evergreen in front of the school to put out our feeders. Each child took a piece of bread that we had left out to dry.  They spread peanut butter on their bread and dipped it in bird seeds.  They pushed a pipe cleaner through the bread to hang them up.

We walked outside and hung our feeders on the giant evergreen, dropped some seeds on the ground and added a corn cob that one student brought in during our fall inquiry for animals that could not climb or fly.  
Here is the whole gang!  They were happy to help out the animals.  We will check out our tree and see if the animals were happy with our food!  

Lois Ehlert Inspired Snowmen

This week we read a book by Lois Ehlert called Snowballs.  She used a beautiful collage method to create her illustrations.
The kids thought it would be fun to create snowmen out of materials that we could find around our homes and our classroom just like she did!  Here are some of the things that we collected!
The kids sat down and created plans to show what parts they needed when they created their own snow people.  They drew a picture of how they wanted it to look, then labeled the parts.

Next, we mixed equal parts glue and shaving cream and the kids went to work!
Here are the snow people that they created!  I think that they are amazing!!!  The kids had a lot of fun with this project!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Snow and Water

One of the things the kids wondered about snow was: What would happen if they put snow in water?  We had one small problem.  All of the snow outside had melted! When I pointed this out, they told me what I always tell them.  We can solve problems!  So... I brought in my snow cone machine to make our own!  Some predicted that it would turn to ice and others predicted that it would melt.  The kids each took a spoonful of "snow" and dropped it into their own cup of water.  They observed what happened and recorded the results.  The snow melted!   We discussed why.  They came to the conclusion that the water was warmer so the snow melted and turned to water!  Smart Cookies!!  This was an easy and fun experiment to do with the kids and gave them more practice for documenting results.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Jan Brett Author Study

When we came back from winter break, I noticed that the kids were more concerned with finishing a book, than they were with making one with quality work.  They were rushing to get their books done and not doing their personal best.  I decided to use a fabulous author named Jan Brett to help them out! Jan Brett is a best selling author and illustrator of children's books.  Her books are filled with beautiful detail and color!  Here are a few of her best known books:

We started out by watching some videos of Jan Brett that showed how she was inspired and how hard she worked on her illustrations.  We read books by Jan Brett, then watched videos that showed how she researched the animals and settings of her stories.  She worked very hard to make sure that her illustrations were as accurate as possible.  We even had an art lesson by Jan Brett (in video) that taught us how to draw one of our favorite characters, Hedgie the Hedgehog.  They were concentrating so hard, you could hear a pin drop!  Like Jan Brett, they did black line drawings, then used watercolor.  Here are some examples of their work!

The kids created a list of things that they learned from Jan Brett:
1) Use a pencil to draw your pictures first, then add correct colors.
2) Take your time when you are drawing your pictures.
3) Add a lot of detail.
4) Show where your story is taking place with your pictures.
5) Do your personal best.
6) Research and use what is in your schema to help you draw pictures accurately.
7) Slow down!

We are still reading Jan Brett books for inspiration!  One student wrote a book about African animals, based on a book Jan Brett wrote called "Honey, Honey, Lion!"  They enjoyed watching the video that showed her on an African Safari researching the animals and environment before she wrote that book.  The kids realize that we may not be able to travel to far away places like Jan Brett to research animals and places, but we can use books, the computer and our own experiences for our research.

I have noticed a huge improvement in the kids work since they have been inspired by Jan Brett. They are working very hard and are taking pride in the books they are making!  I am so proud of them!  Our key words in Writer's Workshop are, "Slow down!"

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Investigating Snow

Last week we took a winter walk.  Right away the kids started noticing the snow.  Here are some things that they noticed on our walk.
Pine cones 
"That tree is still green!"
"Look at all of the pine cones at the top!"
One child exclaimed, "Look!  That tree's dead!"

They noticed that the snow was melting and making puddles of water

They noticed that the melting snow was also creating a lot of mud!
When we came back inside, we used the promethium board to create a chart that showed our schema about snow and what we wondered about snow.  This sparked an interest in taking a closer look at snowflakes.
We watched a video on the promethium board that showed individual snowflakes in detail.  The kids were amazed at the detail!
This answered some of our questions.  We learned that snowflakes are all different and have 6 sides.  They noticed that each branch of a snowflake was a copy of all the others.  To reinforce our new learning, we created snowflakes out of paper pattern blocks.  
We then read a biography about "Snowflake Bentley" who was a man who dedicated his life to photographing individual snowflakes.  The kids were thrilled to see that we had the book he created with all of his photographs.
A biography of Snowflake Bentley
Snowflakes from the book Snowflake Bentley created.
Lexie came up with an idea to use coffee filters to make a book like Snowflake Bentley to show that we learned from him that all snowflakes are different.  Here are some of the snowflakes they created!
 They turned out better than the one I made!  One of our students, Jeremiah, is a master snowflake maker and he has been teaching the other kids in our class at our snowflake making station.
We found out through our research that snowflakes are made out of ice crystals.  This sparked the question, "What are ice crystals?"  So we did some art and science together to find out!
We disolved salt in hot water, then the kids used the solution to paint a snowflake on black paper.

When the water evaporated, the kids could see the salt crystals on the black paper. 
We observed the crystals with magnifying glasses to get a closer look!

After all of our research, the kids felt like snowflake experts!  Here is a list of things they came up with that they noticed about snowflakes during our investigation:
1) All snowflakes are different.
2) All snowflakes have 6 sides.
3) Snowflakes are made of ice crystals.
4) Some snowflakes have a hexagon inside of them.
5) Some look like flowers.
They decided to document what they learned by drawing a real snowflake and writing something that they learned about snowflakes.  They used a snowflake photo as a model to document what real snowflakes look like.

One of the questions (about snow) the children wondered was, "What would happen if you put snow in water?"  Since all of our snow has melted, I will have to get creative to help them find out the answer!  I have a feeling, this may lead us into an inquiry about solids, liquids, and gasses!  We will have to wait and see where it takes us!
Of course, we had to do some of this during our investigation!  Making snowballs!