30 December 2016

Take the Polar Plunge Challenge!

Are you ready to take the plunge? THE POLAR PLUNGE!  

Well, we're not taking a full on body dip into icy water, but an icy hand dunk does just fine to incite squirms of anxiety and squeals of excitement from your students.  We talk about what the Polar Plunge Challenge is, I play this video clip to really gauge their interest, and then explain our activity!

A quick scroll through Pinterest last year, and I knew I had to give the Blubber Glove experiment a try to supplement my science curriculum! I renamed it, "The Polar Plunge Challenge" because what kid doesn't love a challenge?  Basically, it's an engaging lab experiment where students use the scientific method to answer the question, "How do polar bears survive in arctic waters?"  This leads to a hands-on discovery of the arctic animal adaptation of blubber (a thick layer of fat that keeps animals warm in icy waters).  Students are able to compare and contrast the difference in hand plunges into the icy water (one is gloveless, while the other is protected in a blubber glove).

To do this, I prepped the Blubber Gloves (using these directions) beforehand because I wanted to make sure the ice would stay as icy as possible and didn't want to deal with a greasy mess.  Once you've supplied each lab group with a bucket of ice, a blubber glove, and a stopwatch (I don't have enough of the old-school ones, so we just time them using our tablets - far away from the water), let the POLAR PLUNGE CHALLENGE begin!  You can get this fun resource at my store!

29 December 2016

Upper Elementary: Read Picture Books to Determine Theme

Want a fun & hands-on way for your students to access theme?  Well, if you're like me, then you have a plethora of quality picture books available in your class library.  (If not, go raid your school library ASAP!)  Why not put that engaging text to good use and in the hands of your students in a meaningful way rather than only utilize it as early finisher silent reading time?  No desire to stand in line at the copy machine?  For me, this activity is a great way to cut down on running copies since the students can easily create their graphic organizer on lined paper!
Teaching the literary skill of Determining Theme through picture books is not a new idea, but putting the picture books in the hands of my students is something new I'm trying out this year.  I don't know why I haven't thought of it before.  (Typically, I just read aloud a cherished text, we discussed the theme, and I called it a day and moved on ...)

For this activity, you can choose to have students work in pairs or independently.  My students are social butterflies so they thrive in partner reading!  As we get more practice with the skill, then they will move to more independent work.

Before setting them free with the picture book (predetermined by me), we review the graphic organizer they will be using.  Students will write the title of the book they read.

I teach at a Thinking Maps school, so we use a one-sided multiflow map.  If you want to save on time, consider purchasing my "Determining Theme" pack filled with what you need to teach theme successfully to your students.  A printable graphic organizer is provided, along with a planning sheet for this picture book activity so you can select which students read each text.
Followers of my blog have free access to a similar planning sheet in Google Drive.

To differentiate for my advanced learners who will finish before time is up, I challenge them to consider another theme the text shows.  As always, they will need to justify why, so they just write a couple of sentences explaining how they inferred the second theme.

 Determining Theme