Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Skyping with a Marine Biologist!

What an incredible opportunity we had today to Skype with Jillian Morris, marine biologist and native Mainer, while she studies sharks in the Bahamas. Sharks For Kids is an amazing non-profit organization that provides teaching and learning opportunities for students all over the world. Jillian showed us some incredible photos and videos from her own experiences and even let us ask as many questions as we could think of!

Jillian taught us a variety of different ways that she studies sharks and the types of methods she uses for collecting her data. She takes a very small skin sample from the shark's dorsal fin. From that she can study all sorts of information about eating habits and where the shark swims. She also taught us about how a sharks skin is not made of scales like other fish. Rather the skin is called dermal denticles. These are like curved or grooved teeth that make the skin very tough with a texture like sandpaper.

Jillian also told us about how to become shark activists. We learned that over 100 million sharks are killed each year all over the world!! Through the Sharks For Kids website there are many opportunities to be persuasive and write about ways to save sharks. We could also hang up posters in our school and teach people about the types of sharks in Maine.

Jillian decided to become a marine biologist when she was 8 years old and was scuba diving in Kennebunkport! She loved swimming in the tide pools and exploring the ocean at a young age. Hmm, sounds like many of our little scientists here as well!

Thank you all so much for your contributions to this great cause! It is never too late to donate: http://sharks4kids.com/donate-2/ Another BIG THANK YOU to Mr. Charltray for helping me connect with Jillian and this incredible experience!

Don't let the pigeon...

Stating an opinion is pretty easy for our writing enthusiasts. The trick is to offer lots of supporting reasons why in order to "convince" someone to change. In order to illustrate that point we used our good friend The Pigeon from the Mo Willems series Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. We counted over eight different reasons the Pigeon gives for wanting to drive the bus. We talked about how the Pigeon isn't really that polite in his delivery. In order to be persuasive we also must be polite. 

In the coming weeks we will be discussing letter writing and how to direct our writing toward an audience. We will also become activists for a cause! 

Sharing our first finished pieces. 

The Pigeon helps build our anchor chart. 

Providing lots of reasons why is how we become very convincing. 

Fish Life Cycle

We have been hard at work studying fish over the last month. As a transition to our shark unit we studied the ocean food chain. Starting with the all powerful sun, to plankton and plants, to the greatest predator we could think of, students acted out and then created their own food chain with their choice of "top predator". Our budding marine biologists certainly do know a lot about fish!

Acting out the ocean food chain. 

The Dory Story illustrates the food chain perfectly. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Persuasive Writing Takes Off

This week we began our newest writing unit "persuasion". We are focused on generating an opinion on something which, surprisingly enough, wasn't too challenging at all! We began by discussing problems we see in school, at home, or in our world. Students "turned and talked" with a partner about different problems. What a bunch of activists we have! I was so impressed by the empathetic conversations. Then we discussed how we no longer have to wish these problems would go away but we can write these problems away! We used a very handy planning sheet to help navigate our different ideas. Students took to their planning immediately!

On Thursday we discussed that in order to be a real problem solver it is not enough to just recognize a problem but we had to come up with some type of convincing solutions with lots of reasons why people should change. Students came up with a variety of things from not making their beds (sorry) to gun violence in our world. It is an incredible journey we are on and I look forward to the mentor texts I have to share with the students to continue to promote this awesome writing unit. 

The beginning of our anchor chat. 

Willa takes to planning. 

Willa beginning her activism.

The King of -ing

This week we took a break from our typical work with a sight word a week and worked on the chunk of "-ing". We used -ing in two ways: a word family and adding action to words. That tricky -ing can't be stretched out and is one of those things we had to "lock in to our brains". We began by brainstorming -ing words and creating a big anchor chart. We listened to a silly story that had lots of -ing words. We then used a a little reader to recognize different -ing words. On Tuesday we created the -ing word family on our King of -ing crowns. The students wore the crowns with pride all day!

Using -ing helped illustrate our Chunky Monkey strategy in reading group. We used highlighter tape to find -ing in our books and used magnet letters to blend -ing words. By making this a focus all week long students had a real hands on approach to chunking words in text.

As the week went on we continued to engage in scaffolded approaches to -ing in both reading and writing. It was a pretty excellent and important week in our reading and writing.

Our King!

Alex finding -ing chunks in his book.

Fish Defenses

As a part of our fish unit we studied the different types of defenses fish poses. We discussed some surprising traits like spikes, puffing their bodies big and wide, and camouflage. These tricky skills help keep fish safe from predators. We read Swimmy by Leo Lionni. This although fictional book teaches us about the power of schooling. We learned about this from Ms. Morrisseau and Mr. and Mrs. Fish as well.

In the book Swimmy we not only studied this fish defense but we also carefully examined the illustrations designed by Leo Lionni. We discussed texture and how Mr. Lionni depicts the underwater scenes. We then modeled our own school of fish with Swimmy at the helm. The projects turned out to be tremendous! I hope you have a chance to check out our hallway display.

Julia and Sam use our handmade fish stamps to create their school.

Alex uses bubble wrap to create the texture of the ocean background. 

Our Swimmy schools!