Friday, May 14, 2010

Guiding Young Writers Through the Research Process

It's been a very busy few weeks in 2D. The boys have really embraced our inquiry into endangered animals, and I am in a constant state of amazement at the connections they are making and the topics they are discussing about sharing our planet with animals. Our major focus in this inquiry has been developing our research skills. Each boy has been working on researching an endangered animal, working to find out about the animal's appearance, habitat, life cycle, why the animal is endangered, and what is being done to help protect/save the animal. Each boy is becomming quite a knowledgeable expert about his chosen animal.
We began the research process first by thinking about what we aleady know about the animal and endangered animals in general. We then focussed on using our PYP Key Concepts to write good questions that would help us facilitate our research(i.e. What does it look like? Why is it endangered? What is being done to help?). Next, we began to read about our animals and share information we were learning with each other. Once we had an understanding and some prior knowledge, we were ready for research. We use a model that has the boys select sentences from their source and then choose 3 KEY words (strong verbs, nouns and adjectives) to record in their research journal. The boys were responsible for selecting key words for 5 sentences/research question or area. Once the 3 Key word research was complete, the boys then turned their key words into their own sentences and constructed paragraphs. We created model topic sentences to choose from and then the boys added their own writing. Comments like, "The writing is so easy now that I have all my research" were commonly heard througout the process. Most boys found the research to be the most challenging part of the process. We then used google images to search for images that connected with our writing and used a text box to insert a caption about the picture. Now, we are preparing our writing and photos on a poster board so we can share all of our wonderful learning. The boys will showcase their posters at our celebration of learning in early June. (They will be posted up in the classroom next week as we finish them up. You are most welcome to come see them anytime, but we will formally showcase them in June.) Enjoy a few photos of our process below!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Write Way

Friday marked the end of a major project for the boys - their finished story masterpieces. Over a 3 week time span, the boys worked very hard to write stories that tell the journey of a water molecule as it travels through the water cycle. Writing stories is challenging work, and we tied many writing skills into this process. Very soon, we will showcase our stories and can't wait to have moms and dads come in to hear our young author/illustrators read their stories. The process to get to the final product took lots of commitment and focus:
1. Step 1: Read water molecule stories written by other authors and illustrators and discuss what was effective/not effective about them.
2. Step 2: Set the criteria (expectations) for our own stories - what must be included? How will it be laid out?
3. Step 3: Create a story plan, including characters, setting and a basic plot line.
4. Step 4: Begin drafting the story.
5. Step 5: Write, write, write! Learn some tricks of the trade (i.e. how to use quotation marks, other words to use instead of said, using adjectives to add detail and description).
6. Step 6: Proof read our own drafts for spelling, punctuation, and meaning.
7. Step 7: Trade with a partner and proof read their draft.
8. Step 8: Submit the draft to the "publisher" (aka. Mrs. de Hoog) for a final edit and proof read.
9. Step 9: Write the good copy.
10. Step 10: Create illustrations.
11. Step 11: Create a title page.
12: Step 12: Submit the final manuscript to the "publisher" for publishing.
13: Step 13: Share our stories!

The boys are very proud of their completed manuscripts, and can't wait for them to return from the publisher as bound books! Here's what some of the boys had to say when we reflected about the writing process:
"I had to focus and work hard to finish!" (Logan)
"You have to dedicate your time. Don't make rushes, and you have to be comfortable with what you are writing about." (Michael)
"You cant just stop half way and start again. You have to complete what you started. You need words that help create images." (Conor)
"You've got to be creative and make your words right. Writing has to be creative and detailed." (Sahaj)
"Be confident in what you choose to do." (Jakob)
"It's hard to write a story, and everyone's can be different. On the rough copy it's okay to make mistakes, but on the good copy you need to fix them." (Benjamin F.)
"You need to start a story and finish it, otherwise it's not even worth starting." (Sebastian)
"You have to fix mistakes and try not to make them again. Next time I write I'm going to try not to make those mistakes." (Cameron)
"Writing this story helped me understand the water cycle better." (Ben M.)

When students are completely engaged in the writing process, it's amazing what the end result can be! Many of their comments could be published in a guide for young writers! Hmmm, maybe I'll do just that! : ) It's great to be inspired by young learners!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Water, Water EVERYWHERE!

It was a very WET week in Grade 2 Dynamite, and the forecast looks to be more of the same for the coming week. Rain gear is a must! Our inquiry into water and how it connects to air and soil got fully underway. The boys enjoyed thinking like scientist as they explored the properties of water (along with air and soil). Before spring break, the boys participated in daily book passes to explore facts about water, and pose questions about what they were wondering. Many of their questions were used to plan our inquiry for the next 3 weeks.

Ben F. finds a fact to share
on our discovery wall. (L)

John, Matthew and
Sebastian explore
water books on our
new rug. (R)

On Wednesday the boys measured capacity to see how many cups of water they could fit into different sized containers. They were reminded that water in its liquid state takes the shape of whatever container it is poured into. They then weighed the water to see how heavy it is. They began to understand that capacity is how much liquid fits into a container, whereas weight is how heavy something is (mass). A great home-school connection could be to continue measuring capacity with your son by having him guess how many cups (250mL) of water he thinks might fit inside a container and then measuring to check the exact amount.

Ms. Cohlmeyer gave a demonstration that showed the boys how the water on earth compares to an apple and it's peel. The boys were quite surprised to see how a very tiny piece of peel represented the drinkable water on earth. They quickly made the connection that we need to take care of this precious resource, even though there is so much of it on the planet.

We also began learning about the water cycle. Did you know that scientists believe that the same amount of water has been on earth for 5 billion years? A big number to wrap our brains around, but is sure makes sense once you start thinking about water as a part of a continuous cycle that renews itself. "Mother Nature" is so smart! We had a demo where I made it rain indoors, which the boys thought was pretty cool. They could see evaporation, condensation and precipitation occur within a matter of minutes and enjoyed the trickle of rain over their heads. If you have a kettle at home, a metal baking sheet, and some ice, you can ask your son to show you how to make it rain inside. Be sure to ask him the scientific words that he should use to explain it to you! We also made salt water paintings to explore evaporation. The boys created water scenes which will be posted on our display wall outside the room next week. Do come in and see their masterpieces!

Felix and Callum create their salt water paintings.

Part of our inquiry will take the boys through a series of experiments that they will complete in small groups. They will explore how we know air exists, whether items sink or float, how to tell the difference between salt and fresh water, and what the ideal conditions for evaporation/drying time are. We will also do many more experiments and demos together as a class over the next week, as well. So as you can see, water really is everywhere in our class and in the world!

Sink or Float: (L)
Jakob tests whether a
piece of cork will sink
or float while Logan
records the results.

Mystery Liquids:(R)
Olivier tests whether
he can feel the
difference between
fresh and salt water.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Learning Under Construction!

It's been quite a couple of weeks in 2Dynamite. The boys have been busy as we wrap up our inquiry into different ways and systems that people use to meet their needs. We end our inquiry with a comparison between Canada and rural Ghana. The boys donned their "anthropologist lenses" by watching a DVD about how people in Ghana meet their needs. They then compared this with what they know of how we meet our needs in Canada. After reflecting on their own learning strengths, they chose their own way to share their knowledge through the creation of a knowledge product. Our Canada vs. Ghana Needs museum is now on display in the room, and the boys are looking forward to telling you about the process and the product at their student led learning conferences next week. There are posters, books, triorammas, diorammas, a news broadcast, and a puppet show. These amazing products were completed over just 2 days! Our classroom was most definitely a construction zone as boys worked on their projects! Each boy then presented his project to the class, explaining what he created and what it shows about meeting needs. After each presentation, boys gave each other "stars". Here's some of what they said about each other's work:
"I really liked the effort and detail you put into that."
"You took a risk and it worked."
"I liked how you spoke clearly and knew a lot."
"You really chose images that show what we saw in the video."
"You put a lot of information in your project."
"Your work shows you were a real thinker."
and my favorite....
"I wish I was a judge on American Idol, because if I was, these projects are so good that we'd all be going to Hollywood!"

Friday, January 29, 2010

What a Week!

We had a very busy and productive week in Grade 2 Dynamite! We started the week with "Barter Bags". The boys put into practice what they have been learning about barter and trade as they negotiated with each other to acquire items from a list of needs and wants. Some boys had lots of needed items, while other boys had lots of wants items, while others had a mix. It was interesting to see how they negotiated and came up with strategies to meet their needs. Conor and Benjamin F. ended up the two "wealthiest" boys at the end of the session, and their strategies of trade served them well. Statistically, there was a representation across the room that echoed what we discussed about distribution of wealth in the world.
On Tuesday, Mr. Don Lowen arrived with 200 eyed Chum salmon eggs. The boys were so excited to meet "their babies". We will be caring for them and tracking their growth over the next 3 months.
On Wednesday, we held Market Day. After reading a story about markets, we brainstormed all of the things that happen at a market and set the parameters for our own market. Boys then worked to create a product, decide on a price and begin producing the items they hoped to sell. We then set up market stalls, got our wallets filled with money, and went about the business of buying and selling. Items for sale ranged from "dead fresh salmon" to "webkinz" to "dragon eggs" to "carrots" and more! The room was bustling and humming as boys bought, sold, wheeled and dealed. Many boys learned that creative advertising and good prices mean good sales. Others were stumped by why there was not much demand for their product.
Today we made a rainbow with soil - who knew soil could be so colorful! Mrs. Besharah came to share some of her expertise with us and helped us to examine the layers of soil. We did a very cool experiment with soil and water and are now observing the results as we wait to see what happens as the soil settles into is layers.
Enjoy the photos - I think the pictures speak louder than my words!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Money! Money! Money!

Happy New Year to all of the families of grade 2 Dynamite (near and far)! We've started 2010 with a bang, exploring concepts related to money. We've begun our new unit of inquiry exploring the difference between needs and wants. The boys have determined that a need is something that is necessary and a want is something that is nice to have. We've sorted, classified and categorized different needs and wants. We've also begun exploring money and systems of trade as well. The boys webbed what they know about money, and we start our inquiry off with a solid base of knowledge that we can share with each other as we construct meaning.
Here's just some of the ideas they have about money:
  • not all money is the same
  • money can be saved in the bank
  • coins are made of metal, silver, gold, or bronze and some money is made of paper (bills)
  • money is used for buying "stuff" (including needs and wants)
  • money can be shared
  • some people only care about money
  • there are different types of money all over the world
  • some people think money is power
  • we get money by working and doing chores
  • special money can be collected
  • lots of money has people on it from history
As you can see, we have a very broad knowledge base about money and how it works. This past week we spent lots of time exploring Canadian money. We learned the value of the different coins and examined each coin for its special features. Then we rubbed the coins. The boys were fascinated that you could rub money, so we are creating art with money rubbings now. We also read about the history of money, and learned that the concept of money came from barter and trade and that money has developed to what it is today over a long time.

As always with our inquiries, the boys are encouraged to ask questions. One of the big questions that has come is "if there were people who don't have money, how would they get what they need?" This is a BIG question, and with recent events in Haiti, one that we will discuss and explore together. Please take some time to talk with your son, particularly if you are involved in helping others meet their needs through financial donations. Lots of boys are also wondering more about the history of money and money in different places. Their curiosity is definitely peaked, and it would be a wonderful opportunity for you to show your son that learning can continue beyond school by helping him search for some of the answers to his questions using books or the internet. Please do encourage him to bring his findings to school to share.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Are You a Shark? Turtle? or Owl?

As we round out our inquiry into how we can communicate our ideas, feelings, and needs, we've spent some time looking at how our communication skills can affect our daily lives and relationships. This week, we met "Sumbissive Turtle", "Aggressive Shark" and "Assertive Owl". These three animals are symbolic of the types of communicators we can choose to be. "Submissive Turtles" are usually shy and quiet, and as a result don't always get their needs met. Over time, they can become quite sad because they don't have the voice they wish they had to be able to speak up. "Aggressive Sharks" are more dominating and pushy. They tend to act without thinking first, and often put themselves before others. "Assertive Owls" listen and observe. They speak with confidence, state their needs clearly, and do their best to think before they act. In the ideal world, we would all be "Assertive Owls" with wise communication skills. The boys really responded to looking at interpersonal communication skills through these three characters. They immediately recognized that they are symbols used to help us understand the ways we can communicate. Through role play, we explored pretending to be these three characters in different scenarios that happen to us daily at school. It was very interesting to watch the boys explore and realize that they have choices when they communicate, and that sometimes we have to be risk-takers to have our needs met. Most conflict comes from not having needs met. We will be practicing "I need..." statements in our class as we try to become more and more like "Assertive Owl" in our every day interactions with each other.
Today we mixed borax and hot water and will see what happens over the weekend to the pipe cleaner snowflakes we've got suspended in our solutions. If all the scientific variables are correct, the boys should arrive on Monday morning to find that the pipe cleaners are covered in beautiful crystals. They sure are loving putting their inquiring scientist hats on. Next week, we'll spend some time changing the variables to figure out why borax and water make crystals (and will have some gorgeous ornaments for your Christmas trees to boot!).

Friday, November 13, 2009

As a Matter of Fact...

Over the last couple of weeks we've been conducting matter experiments in order to understand the properties of solids, liquids and gases. We started out by pretending we were the molecules inside solids, then liquids, then gases. This helped us to understand what the matter is like and how the distance between molecules helps to determine the state of matter. We've also been pouring liquids and solids and observing the differences in the properties as they "pour". Yes, you can pour blocks, but they don't change like water does to fit the shape of the container. This past week, we've been exploring mass through matter. We've discussed the properties of solids and put them on the scale to see which one is heaver (marbles vs. rocks). We also compared our heavy rock with water, and in the end, water won the day, proving that both liquids and solids have mass. The boys were amazed that a container of water could have more mass than a rock that beat out a bag of marbles. Today, we tried to determine whether air has mass. The definitive answer was yes, but when we put a packing pouch without air on one side of the balance scale, and a packing pouch sealed with air on the other side, our predictions did not all come true. This was the perfect opportunity to illustrate that a good scientist isn't always right when they make their best guess. It's all about what we can learn when we check our guesses. We also blew up a balloon with hot air (which by the way, I am full of), and found that it had more mass than the balloon with the cooler air in it. Hmmm, we wondered. How can this be so? So we googled, and yes indeed, cold air should tip the scales more than hot air, but in our case it did not. "Maybe the internet is wrong, Mrs. de Hoog," one of the boys remarked. Well, this led us to a discussion about reliable sources of information, and we decided that the U.S. Department of Energy should be a reliable source. So, we began switching the variables up a bit, and will continue to do so to help us understand the mass of air. We decided that for now, our results are inconclusive, which in the world of science, means we have more guessing and checking to do. Ah, the beauty of science...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Fine Art of Communicating

We are delving into our communication inquiry, and comic fever has caught on! Although I hadn't planned to examine comic strips as a way of communicating, that's exactly what we are doing. This is the beauty of inquiry based teaching and learning. Honoring student interests and harnessing the opportunity to take advantage of the "teachable moment" validates the boys' desire to want to know more about something that has caught their attention. We've spent time comparing comic books with picture books and thinking about how to tell a story with a logical beginning, middle and end through pictures, speech and thought bubbles, and exclamations. We even talked about "onomatopeoia"! The boys are very proud of their work and are learning important lessons about communicating clearly for an audience. On top of all this writing, we are also exploring communication devices, and learning about Helen Keller. Over the next two weeks we will explore braille, sign language, non-verbal communication, and world alphabets.
Thank you for coming to your son's learning conference. I was so proud of how well the boys shared their work with you. They were confident communicators who expressed their learning clearly. Student learning conferences are very important in helping the boys develop confidence and pride as they reflect on their learning and productivity. We will be looking at your "stars and wishes" and will work hard to make your "wish" come true before our next learning conferences in February.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

More Than Words Can Say

(Photos: top left - the completed city of "Glenboxen"; top center - disability dodge ball; top right: playing "Sleeping Queens" with disabilities; bottom center - eating lunch with disabilities; bottom right - communication "Heads to the Ground")

On Thursday, we began our inquiry into the different ways people communicate their needs, ideas and feelings. We started by engaging in an activity called, "Heads to the Ground." In groups of 3 or 4, each boy was given a corner of chart paper where he could sketch, list, web, etc. as many different ways of communication he could think of. The boys in each group then shared their thinking and wrote common methods of communication they all identified, or listed the ones they felt were most important. They came up with so many ways we communicate, from language, gestures, hugs, kisses, writing, maps, drawing, technology and more! We even noted that this very blog is a way that we communicate what goes on in our classroom. Those boys who have had the opportunity to look at the blog with their parents noted that we are now communicating with friends and family all over the world through our blog. "Have you noticed the map on the blog and how the little red dots on the visitor map are growing and showing up to represent visitors from other provinces, countries and continents?" I asked. Some nodded yes, some were amazed to discover that people in other parts of the world are reading about what is happening in our classroom each week. Isn't communication (and technology) amazing? So, this week the boys would like to say "hello" to all those family and friends from faraway places who are keeping up with the weekly events in 2 Dynamite through our class blog. We are so thrilled that you can take part in our learning this way! Feel free to send us a comment - I will be sure to share them with the boys!