Follow on Bloglovin

Saturday, February 28, 2015


Delving into the colorful pasts of fifteen famous Americans brought the mid-1800s to life! To complete their abolitionist research projects, my fourth graders worked in pairs to discover not only biographical information, but also what caused the person to get involved in the abolition movement (or the Underground Railroad) and what made them famous.

To publish their work, students used personalized stationery featuring the abolitionist. While these could be compiled into a class book, we chose to hang ours on the wall.

My class also read By Freedom's Light, an action-packed historical novel that explores one girl's moral dilemma regarding runaway slaves. A free 55-page novel unit by Nicole Meyers provided me with a list of vocabulary and bingo game, guidance and questions for literature circles, and more!


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Organelle Trail

Introducing basic cell structures has never been more fun! Last month, my students created these wanted posters for organelles (and my student teacher did a great job with the cacti for this display in the hall).

cell structures, science display

This teaching idea has been around for a while, and you can find ready-made instructions and rubrics online. If you'd like to present the project digitally, try this unit by Mariana Garcia. Or, if you'd rather have hard copies to distribute to your class, take a look at this pdf. I also found several similar files created in editable versions. Simply search the term "organelle trail," and you'll find lots of possibilities!

My favorite website for organelle research is Cells Alive! Their interactive cell models allow students to explore organelles, their names and functions, and where they are found.


P.S. Would you like more ideas, activities (and a freebie) for teaching cells? Check out this post at my new blog, Enjoy Teaching!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Germination: A Living Bulletin Board!

Look what's growing in my classroom right now! Not only educational, this bulletin board is fun (and a great pick-me-up as we experience the cold, gloomy days of February).

My students grew their own "baggie gardens" (taped them onto their desks). They kept track of the plants' growth with this page. Want to try this in your classroom? Just click on the image below to download the observation sheet.

germination observation sheet

Helpful Hints:
  • Lima beans grow quickly. You can buy them in the bean section at your local grocery store!
  • Use sandwich bags that have flaps, not zippers.
  • Fold a sheet of paper towel in fourths. Get it really wet (but not dripping) then put it into the baggie.
  • After the beans are in the baggie, use an eye dropper to water instead of removing them every day.
  • Keep the top of the baggie open to the air to avoid rotting and molding.
  • To compare moncots and dicots, grow both bean and corn seeds.
  • Ask students to measure seeds each day and include on written observations. This gets them thinking about the importance of numeric data.
  • Ask students to label seed/plant parts on their diagrams. This image from Britannica provides terminology.
  • Plant Life Cycle Clip Art  on the bulletin board was created by Whimsy Workshop Teaching.

P.S. Additional ideas, activities, videos, and a freebie can be found on my new blog, Enjoy Teaching.

Informative Writing (In Science Class!)

Every year, students in my class wrote research papers. Some were short; some were long. But was I doing a good job of teaching informative writing? After an honest appraisal of what informative writing could be, I realized that the answer was no.

I decided to integrate expository text with my next science topic, plants. Much to my surprise, these five nonfiction text structures fit beautifully!

informative writing in science

When my list of possible writing topics was complete, I had so many great choices:
  • Description: parts of a plant, parts of a flower
  • Sequence: germination, pollination
  • Compare & Contrast: monocots/dicots, angiosperms/gymnosperms
  • Cause & Effect: results of virtually any plant experiment
  • Problem & Solution: too much or not enough water or sunlight
The authors of our science text switch text structures often, many times even from paragraph to paragraph, based on the topic. That told me that my fourth graders would benefit from writing shorter pieces, so I decided to focus on paragraphs.

The standards guided me to a clear set of criteria:

To introduce all of this to my students, I developed a PowerPoint presentation. The modeling piece surprised even me! Check out the difference between the initial piece and its polished counterpart:

Wow! I was so excited about the possibilities presented by this merger between science and writing! If it were feasible, I would have liked my students to write using all five text structures during my plant unit. But that would have been overkill. Instead, we tried only a few (and will do more with other science units). Check out our pollination writing! 

Would you like to try this activity in your class? Simply click on the stationery below to download. 

Plant Life Cycle Clip Art was created by Whimsy Workshop Teaching. This set of graphics was perfect for my worksheets, PowerPoint presentation, and bulletin boards. Check it out!