We have reached the end of our first six-week session, and the kiddos did great! Here’s a glimpse into what we covered and a sneak peek at what we have coming up in our next six-week session:
Our day was divided into four main parts: Geography, Writer’s Workshop, Simple Machine Science, and Makerspace.
In Geography we learned that maps are pictures of places as seen from above and are meant to help us find our way to different locations. We talked about how a map of the world isn’t exactly accurate since the Earth is a sphere. I drew continents on an orange and peeled it and had the kids try to lay it flat like a map. This showed them the distortion that happens and how more accurate a globe is when looking at continents. For our littlest littles, the concepts of city, state, country and continent are still abstract. The book Me on the Map by Joan Sweeny is great for simplifying these concepts. After reading it together, the kids drew maps of their rooms with themselves in their favorite spot. I also love this activity which you can do at home to reinforce what was learned in class.
For Writers’ Workshop we split into groups. While some students worked on letter writing and recognition, others worked on sight words and simple sentences, and our elder kiddos worked on writing prompts to create their own stories. . One week we all wrote our own song, set to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. For our littles that are still working on letters, I had them tell me their ideas, which I then wrote out in highlighter and had them trace. This way no one misses out on the fun of writing silly songs just because they’re at a different writing level!
Students who finished early got bonus silent reading time. Some of our most popular grabs were the Where’sWaldo books that were generously donated to our classroom library. These books are great for building reading skills, and the kids think they’re fun! I know I loved Where’s Waldo as a kid. Did you? Do you have a copy at home? If so, I love these ideas for working on specific skills and growing a kid’s appreciation for reading using these books that they already enjoy.
Our Simple Machines Science unit got the most attention. The kids created science notebooks to collect data, take notes, draw and sketch ideas, and glue in foldables and manipulatives that went along with the day’s lesson.
Each six-week session’s science unit begins with an introduction to the Scientific Method. One of my favorite ways to introduce it is with the book Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty. After reading it aloud we go through each of the steps of the Scientific Method to see how Ada asked questions, came up with hypotheses, conducted experiments, how she then analyzed her finding and came to a conclusion. (Though in the book she actually does not reach a conclusion, the reader is left to analyze the data and come up with a conclusion themselves. Love it!)
The following class we read We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio. which is a fantastic book with a positive message about respecting differences, being kind, and showing empathy. We then discussed how we can apply these qualities when working with our classmates on a project. These qualities are especially applicable for our mixed-age groups, and I am so proud of how they all applied them beautifully the entire session long!
Another great book we shared was The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. This classic story about a little train that is delivering toys to girls and boys is always a favorite, and I loved hearing “I think I can, I think I can” throughout the weeks that followed ;-P Our discussion of Perseverance that was so encouraging for us all, with the older students sharing stories of when they’ve been afraid or hesitant to try something new and how they overcame that, and even some of our littlest students sharing what they’ve been hesitant to try, and being encouraged by their classmates to try again! I also found that repeating the little engine’s mantra “I think I can, I think I can” to a struggling student cut down on the whiny-from-frustration “I can’t do it” moments. Love this book!
Perseverance definitely played a big role in our Simple Machines lessons as the kids were encouraged to use simple machines to solve a problem or perform a task. We discussed what it means to Work (move an object using force) and how sometimes giving up is simply not an option. How can we work smarter, not harder and get more work done with less force? Simple Machines!
New to Spark this session was our Makerspace. I was hesitant to set one up, and now I wish I’d been doing it since the beginning! I was blown away with what the kiddos came up with! Makerspace was a half-hour to fourty-five minutes at the end of the day for the students to build simple contraptions or crafts out of toilet paper tubes, cereal boxes, food pouch caps, pipe cleaners, and bits of yarn. I was so impressed at the toys and games they made and played with, and how well they worked together!
Woven into our day is a Money Math component. Students can earn Spark Dollars by completing their work in a tidy and timely manner and by applying and interviewing for classroom jobs and performing their duties. Some of our more entrepreneurial kiddos used their Makerspace time to create crafts that they then sold to their classmates! They never cease to amaze me.
Our final Simple Machines lesson was an all encompassing project to build a Rube Goldberg-style contraption using each of the six simple machines we discussed throughout the session (Lever, Pulley, Inclined Plane, Wheel and axle, Wedge and Screw). We closed the unit by reading Rosie Revere, Engineer also by Andrea Beaty, and talked about how mishaps when building or creating are not failures, but an oportunity for reinvention!
I’ve gotten several texts and videos from moms telling me their child has been collecting their household’s recyclables and creating contraptions in their room! Nothing makes my teacher-heart happier! Here’s a great site for ideas to get your little one creating at home too!
There you have it, our first session in a nut-shell. Of course, this doesn’t cover all the things we learned that WEREN’T on my lesson plans! Our students have been totally rocking Show and Tell and teaching us about the latest toys, games, and shows, as well as sharing souvenirs from their travels which invariably leads us into great discussions and even more learning. We also had some super cool critter-buddies visit us when students asked to bring their pets in for show-and-tell. Thank you so much to the Moms and Dads that were willing to play taxi to these little critters since we couldn’t keep them in class the whole day!
Next up: Sign Language, Rocks and Minerals, Life Skills and Theater Arts! Along with a performance by all the kids!