National Park Service Centennial!

We recently wrapped up a study of the different National Parks in the United States. Since this year is the celebration of the National Park Service Centennial, it seemed like a great time to introduce our 4th graders to all of the amazing sites that are protected by the NPS.

To set the scene in our room, we had camping-style decor (that we actually “camped out” in!).

 

Our big project was creating a brochure about one of the National Parks.  Each student researched a different park (nps.gov is an AMAZING resource!!), and found facts to share about their park.  We created the brochures, as well as bookmarks and trading cards, to share with one of the 2nd grade classes, who were studying Yellowstone National Park.  It was a blast sharing our research with such a great audience.

 

As part of our research, we also created fact cards about our parks.  While working on our research, we were able to travel (via green screen) to our parks for a visit.  🙂

 

I definitely enjoyed this short unit, as the National Parks are some of my favorite places to take trips.  I hope some of our students were inspired to travel to a National Park someday!!  🙂

Are You Ready for Some Football!!??!

This past Wednesday, we had an entire day devoted to one of my favorite sports: football.  The students walked in to our classroom in the morning to find it set up like a football stadium.

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Our first activity was a football-style review game for an upcoming Math test.  The questions were displayed on the SmartBoard, and students answered them on their own dry erase boards.  If they got the correct answer, they advanced one yard line.  If they did not get the correct answer, they stayed where they were.  Any penalties would result in being sent back a yard line.  (Thankfully, no flags were thrown in our game!)  Questions were timed to keep the game moving.

Students were on two teams, starting in opposite end zones.  Once you reach the other end zone, you scored a point for your team, then turned around and worked your way back toward the other end zone.

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After our Math review game was finished, we did two sets of football-themed centers activities to round out our day, with roughly 20-22 minutes per station.  Students were put into three teams for these, and competed as a team to complete all activities.  These centers covered many different topics across various subject areas, some new material, some review.  We had centers in English (idioms, types of sentences, onomatopoeia poem/story writing), Reading (fact/opinion, vocabulary matching), Math (measurement in inches and feet), and Social Studies (map skills).  For early finishers, there were bonus Math word problems on the wall to solve for bonus points or additional long division practice for our upcoming test.  There was no time to be bored during this day, and the time limits kept everyone on their toes!!

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This was a fast-paced, high-energy day, full of learning and full of FOOTBALL!!  And perfect timing, too, with the NFL playoffs getting into full swing this weekend.  🙂

Are YOU ready for some football??!

Native American Projects

Yesterday all of the 4th graders presented their Indiana Native American Tribes project.  Students chose a tribe from a list of tribes that live or lived in Indiana.  They spent time researching their tribe, and on the project due date, students gave a 1-2 minute speech, shared a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting their tribe with another tribe from the list, and finally brought in one of three project choices.

Students could choose from a food their tribe would have eaten:

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(We had different types of bread, melon, different corn/bean/squash mixtures, and different types of venison!)

 

Students could also choose to make an example of clothing their tribe would have worn:

(“Miss Renzelmann!  Did you know that the Indians ONLY wore this! And nothing else!!”)

 

The final choice was to create a dwelling their tribe would have lived in:

(Lots of wigwam love in these projects.)

 

The students did a GREAT job with these projects!! Dwellings will be on display in the library until Christmas break, if you want to get a closer look.

Civil War & Underground Railroad Song Parodies

We just wrapped up our study of the Civil War and the Underground Railroad in Indiana.  As a wrap up activity, the students worked on some song parodies.  They chose a song that they knew well, and changed the words to the song, giving facts and information about either the Civil War or the Underground Railroad in their rewritten lyrics.  Here are the final productions, written, performed, and recorded by the students in 4R!!  🙂

Underground Railroad & Civil War Unit

Just before Spring Break, we wrapped up our study of the Underground Railroad and the Civil War.  This is definitely one of my favorite units to teach, and I think the students learned a bunch, and maybe even had some fun, too!!

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The first day of our study, students entered the room to find the desks divided onto two sides.  There was a line down the middle dividing the sides, and there were pictures of states on each student’s desk.  We soon learned why certain states were on certain sides of the line, which states were the “trouble makers”, and how the Civil War often divided friends and family.

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While studying the Underground Railroad, we read a book called “Follow the Drinking Gourd.”  It told of how runaway slaves were able to escape to Canada by following the North Star.  They were able to find the North Star in the sky by using the Big Dipper, also known as “The Drinking Gourd.”  They also used songs to learn directions they needed to follow.  We also learned that some directions were taught through different designs on quilt squares, passed down through families.  We created our own Freedom Quilt, and our squares had both patterns and pictures depicting the things we learned about the Underground Railroad.

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We also studied the Underground Railroad a bit more in depth by using http://www.mission-us.org, an amazing site where you are a runaway slave, and you have to make certain decisions as you try to escape from slavery and reach Canada.  (You can play this at home by clicking the “Register” button at the top and creating a name!)

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When we had finished our unit in the book and were preparing for our unit test, we broke into teams for a Jeopardy review game.  Naturally, it was the Union vs. the Confederacy.

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As a unit wrap-up activity, we explored what it would have been like if the people we learned about had used texting back in the 1860s.  Students chose one or two people we studied and came up with a fake text conversation between them.  Then, using http://www.iphonefaketext.com, we created a screenshot of the conversation.  Everyone did a VERY creative job with these!!

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Well, That Was Messy!

We’ve had quite a few different activities in 4R lately that would definitely be found on the “messy” list (if there is such a list…hmm…).

First up, last Friday we had a very tasty lesson on the geography of Indiana.  After a search through our Social Studies books, we were able to locate the 3 (that’s right, 3!) different locations of Indiana’s state capital over the years.  We also found Fort Wayne and Lake Michigan, because, well, those are important!  Once those were found, we marked them on our “maps”…aka, our Indiana state shaped cookies.  It was quite the tasty learning experience.

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Then, today in Science, we learned about earthquakes and volcanos.  To help reinforce the ideas we talked about in our book (and to get a little messy), we did two different activities.  The first activity dealt with volcanos.  With a partner, we built a volcano out of toilet paper.  Then, the “magma” (baking soda) inside the volcano was placed, ready to rumble.  Finally, we added the “shifting plates inside the earth’s crust” (vinegar and food coloring) to our volcano and watched it erupt.  It was messy, smelly, and fun.

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Our second activity today dealt with plate tectonics.  We used some food items to demonstrate how shifting plates beneath earth’s surface affect the ground around them.  Taking a graham cracker, some marshmallow fluff, and two pieces of chocolate, we were able to show how the space between two plates can be filled with magma and other rocky items as the plates shift and move!

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Then, of course, we were left with a yummy s’more to munch at the end.  We also took to graham cracker pieces, dipped them in water, and pushed the pieces toward each other to demonstrate how colliding plates can cause damage to the surface of the earth from underneath.  (No pictures of this, unfortunately.)

Social Studies and Science you can eat?!  Making a mess is ok?!  What is this world coming to?!  😉

Underground Railroad and Civil War Unit

We are wrapping up our study of the Underground Railroad and the Civil War with tomorrow’s unit test.  It’s one of my favorite units to teach as there are so many cool projects and activities that go along with it.

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First, we split the room in half: North/Union and South/Confederacy.

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Each student was assigned a different state.  Some we will never forget.  For example, Samuel was the first state to secede from the Union (South Carolina), Justin and Elly can’t make up their mind (Missouri), and so on.  🙂

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We read the story behind the song “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” which led thousands of slaves to freedom.  After reading the story, we made a Freedom Quilt.  Each quilt square was designed by our students, and had something to do with either the Underground Railroad or the Civil War.  It turned out really neat, and tells a story about the things we had been learning about.

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Our last event of our unit was our review game for the test.  In true Civil War fashion, the teams were the Union…

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…vs. the Confederacy:

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(In case you were curious, the review game ended in a tie.)

Such an exciting unit, and I’m sad to see it end.  I guess this means we’ll have to move on to more exciting things after Spring Break!  🙂