With state testing over here in Massachusetts, I feel like a weight has been lifted. Sure, I still have nearly a whole month left with my fourth graders (and reading all over the teacher-blogosphere about people who are out already) but at least now I feel like I can just relax and enjoy my class a bit more. And the way I do that without actually losing them for the last several weeks is to allocate extra time to the content areas! Math and ELA, you get to take a back seat for now. Make way for some science!
After our unit on vertebrates (which I blogged about over on All Things Upper Elementary) I delve into our unit on invertebrates. Although our book reverses the order, I think it's better to start with the familiar. And I'm sure kids have more experience with our furry friends the mammals than they do with sea sponges. Plus I enjoy getting questions from those deep thinkers who ask, as we are classifying animals into five categories, "What about ants. Aren't they animals?" It leads to great discussions when it comes time to rationalize why a sponge is an animal!That is, they learn about animals with and without an exoskeleton. To drive the point home, we use CLAY!!
The exoskeleton is represented with tin foil. It's not the easiest fine motor task, but of course the activity can be differentated by assigning certain kids the worm. They feel successful while the kids who like a challenge work with me on how to manipulate the foil.
Next I reinforced the concept of the T chart with kids. They were learning about how to compare and contrast in reading, and that was a perfect segue into how insects and arachnids are similar and different. Then finally we honed in on how to classify 2 types of invertebrates, insects and arachnids (below).
They used the T charts to create captioned pictures for our hall display (Top tip: Use paperclips to easily change out papers throughout the year! Although it worked better with 2 clips, not one center one because they droop over time).
The checklist of expectations appears on the left below, while a close up might look something like my example (below on the right) that I used to help students evaluate their own work: