Thursday, August 25, 2016

Classroom Culture

One of the most important things that happens at the beginning of each year is the setting of expectations. I like to put my students in charge of how our classroom is run (with some limits, of course!), and want their input on what will make this a successful year.

We began with a Classroom Culture Gallery Walk. The students answered answering six prompts - What do I hope to learn this year? What can Mrs. May do to help me be successful? What do I have to do in order to be successful? School should always be ________. School is important because _________. What should students in our classroom be doing to make our classroom run as smoothly as possible?

After every student had answered the prompts, we did a gallery walk around to look at the different responses. These responses led to the creation of our Classroom Culture Code. I got this idea from a teacher blog several years ago, but cannot remember whose in order to credit it. If you know, please let me know!

Later this week we worked on center expectations. Each student wrote five ideas regarding effective center time. After they wrote their ideas, they got into groups and tried to categorize and title their ideas. When they were finished, we combined them into our Center Time Rules. This idea came from my summer professional development with Anne Davies and Sandra Herbst.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Happy New Year!!!

Here's to new beginnings! One of the biggest perks of being a teacher is that every year is a fresh start! Everything is shiny and new, and it's a great time to reinvent ourselves and remember why it is we do what we do. My personal goal is to get better and better. I never want to stop growing, both as a teacher and as a person. So my "New Year's Resolution" every year is simple - be better than you were last year.

Four years ago I created this blog, as my resolution was to become an even better communicator. I keep this blog and send the link, along with class information, every Friday in my weekly e-mail to parents. A great deal of what we do is in our journals, so this blog has been a great way for parents to see what we're doing in class. I'll post picture examples of our activities every week. So please enjoy the picture evidence of the amazing thinking going on in the 4th grade!! Happy New Year!!!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Forms of Energy

As we discussed different forms of energy, (we focused on Mechanical, Sound, Electrical, Light/Solar, and Heat/Thermal) we decided to make a foldable to hold all of our information. Inside we put the definition of the form of energy, and on the outside we added a picture example as well. Here is an example of our foldable - one picture is the outside view and the other picture is inside the flaps.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Fighting a Dragon with a Cannonball!

About to release marble from 4 cm
Yesterday we fought dragons with cannonballs! The children built ramps using a ruler and a Styrofoam cup. They placed a paper dragon in front of the ruler, and started their "cannonball" at differing spots on the ruler to see the results. They placed the cannonball at 4cm,8cm, 12cm, 16cm, 20cm, 24cm, and 28cm. The distance the dragon was pushed was documented, averaged, then graphed.

After the marble was released from 4cm

About to release marble from 12cm

Table of our results
Graph of our results

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


Lately we've been working with three types of force: gravity, friction, and magnetism. We started an investigation in which we made three pendulums of different lengths. We timed how long each pendulum took to make 10 swings, then looked at our pattern. For our pendulum with a string 10cm long, it took 5 seconds to swing 10 times. For our pendulum with a string of 20cm long, it took 6 seconds. Our pendulum with a string of 30cm long took 7 seconds to swing 10 times. We then predicted how long it would take a pendulum with strings of 40cm and 50cm to swing 10 times.

We discussed the forces involved in our experiment. We talked about the gravitational pull, which was responsible for making our pendulum fall. We also discussed the friction of the air rubbing against the string, which was responsible for slowing down the pendulum to an eventual stop. There is also friction found in the string rubbing against the pencil. This, too, helps slow our pendulum's swing.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Insulators vs. Conductors

Our journal sheet for this activity
Using a door hinge as a conductor
Today we explored insulators and conductors. The kids were given a baggy of 7 items - a binder clip, a dime, a penny, a Popsicle stick, an eraser, a pen, and a brad. They were also given the circuit supplies of a battery, wire, and a wire with a light bulb attached.

They were to test the items to determine if they were insulators or conductors. They did this by adding them to their circuits and observing whether or not they light came on. When they finished, they were to go around the room and find other things to test. Here are some pictures of the items they tested.
Using a metal letter as a conductor

Using a metal desk leg as a conductor

Figuring out the eraser is an insulator

Measuring Angles

This week we have worked on measuring angles. Measurement is still a very abstract idea for 4th graders, so we began by discussing measurement as a whole. What do we use different measurement tools to measure? I posed the question, "Would a ruler work when trying to measure angles?" In the beginning of our discussion, many kids believed it would. After trying it out, they came to the conclusion that we needed something that measures in degrees. They understood the unit wasn't correct, but weren't sure what degrees actually are, though we had discussed degrees when classifying angles as right, acute, obtuse, and straight.

We went back to everything we already know about angles. Going in a complete circle means we have gone 360 degrees, while only going halfway around means we have gone 180 degrees. We already know that a right angle is 90 degrees. We already know a straight angle is 180 degrees. We know an acute angle measures between 1 degree and 89 degrees. We know an obtuse angle measures between 91 and 179 degrees. Once we illustrated that, we decided we could half each 90 degree piece and figure out where 45 degrees and 135 degrees are located. After we discussed all this, I challenged the kids to come up with their own tool (we hadn't learned about protractors yet) to measure the degrees of an angle. Some actually did really well and got pretty close!

We measured some angles with our student-made tools. The next day we worked with a real protractor, and compared them to ours. The kids were pleasantly surprised at how close their tools were to the real thing!

Student-made tool

Student-made tool

Student-Made Tool