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Hey y'all!! 
Why am I so happy you ask? 
Because spring is just around the corner in my little neck of the woods. I know it's still February, but the daffodils are blooming, the trees are starting to leaf out, and the frogs are a-croaking. Pretty soon, the bluebonnets are going to start popping up on the sides of the road, which in my my book makes it official. 

Yep...it will be summertime! (Or, at least, it might  as well be.) I love, love, love me some summertime. I'm kind of like Buddy the Elf, except summer is my favorite.

I also love teaching life science topics at this time of year. I thought I'd share with you one of my favorite activities for teaching young students about plants.

Here in Texas, we use the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge Skills) for our curriculum standards. The second grade standards that are addressed are the following, and can easily be taught in tandem. 
(9)   Organisms and environments. The student knows that living organisms have basic needs that must be met for them to survive within their environment. The student is expected to:
(A) identify the basic needs of plants and animals;
(10) Organisms and environments. The student knows that organisms resemble their parents and have structures and processes that help them survive within their environments. The student is expected to:
(B) observe, record, and compare how the physical characteristics of plants help them meet
their basic needs such as stems carry water throughout the plant; 

So how do I do this? Well this is the activity that I start out with.


See this plant?


I cart this sucker to school every single year for it's annual trim. (You can't tell from this picture, but the vines reach almost to the floor!) 

I then talk to the kids about the parts of a plant. You can always do a good read aloud. I really like Oh Say Can You Seed?: All About Flowering Plants (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library) by Bonnie Worth. I usually just read the books in small sections, but once we have read about roots, I will stop and show the kiddos my lovely ivy. Then...I start cutting sections of the stems off. Like this:



I take cuttings that have two leaves and then give each student their own cutting. The kids can be pretty dramatic. Some of the them will gasp when I make the cuts, and others will make comments about how sad it is. Drama.  
Then I instruct them to remove the lower leaf (below).


Now, do you see that little brown bump that I have circled? Well that, my friends, is the beginning of a new root. These grow all up and down the length of the stem, but I don't even mention this to the kids. In fact, out of the forty-seven kiddos that did this activity, only one noticed them. The rest picked them off (imagine that).




Next all of the students are given a biodegradable pot that they fill (heaping) with potting soil and then flatten down with their hand. (I only use these kinds of pots because I had a whole bunch from some science materials that we already had on campus. You can easily use a small container with holes punched in the bottom for drainage. No need to get fancy-schmancy.) We poke a hole in the center of  the soil with our pencil and then stick our cutting into it, making sure to cover up the area where we removed the leaf (this is where the new root will grow). If your stem is too long, just cut some of the end off. You WON'T hurt it.

Here's what you'll have:




At this point, the kids draw, label, an describe their activity in their science journals. They also make a prediction based on what they have learned about plant parts. Usually they predict that the plant will die because there is no root systems. However, this year's group seems to be an optimistic bunch. Check out some of their predictions:




Then we place all of our pots into a tray and water them (if your potting soil is really dry, water from the bottom by pouring water into the tray and letting the soil soak the water up). At this point, I tell my kids that if they can get their plants to stay alive (which they will), then they can keep them (which they do...yay!!). In May, I send these home with the kids and they get to give them to Mom for Mother's Day! (One year a student brought me a picture of his plant to show me that it had survived the summer vacation...lol)

I then put the trays into the mini green house under the grow lights. If you don't have this equipment...don't worry. Just place them in a bright spot with indirect sunlight. You will have to check them more often to make sure the soil is moist. Kids love to water the plants, and this could even be one of your jobs.

 

Have your kiddos observe their plants about twice a week. They will notice that they are still alive and in a month or so, the plant won't yield as easily when they gently tug at the stem. That's because the plant is growing new roots!


I've made a fun foldable to help your students assimilate their new information during this activity. I like to copy this as a two-sided brochure and then have the kiddos glue into their journals. I even included little dots for the glue as a reminder that the page doesn't need to be soaked...dot, dot, not a lot!

WAIT!!

Kelly from An Apple for the Teacher is hosting a giveaway!! Come on and join in the fun!


GIVEAWAY DETAILS
Prize: $75 Teachers pay Teachers Gift Card


Giveaway organized by: Kelly Malloy (An Apple for the Teacher),  

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter form to enter.  
Giveaway ends 3/13/17 and is open worldwide.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Are you a blogger who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your blog?  Click here to find out how you can join a totally awesome group of bloggers!

Y'all have a great week!!


Yes... we are in for the long haul. Five whole months with only spring break and a few three day weekends for good measure. 

So...


Spring semester is the semester that we teach life science which is my favorite topic. We get to plant seeds, propagate plants from root cuttings, learn about composting, raise tadpoles, and hatch butterfly larvae and chicken eggs. Woohoo!! What's not to love about that, right?

But...

It's also field trip time (last year's field trip I was on the phone to a parent before we even walked through the zoo entrance), field day time (uck... poke me in the eye with a sharp object please), general spring fever (children and teachers), and that dreaded four letter word season. TESTing. 

Okay that's a seven letter word, but in my book the words 'test' + 'data' = 'suck'. And, those are all four letter words.

Check this out:

Photo courtesy of Katie Brower, Florida Unschoolers; Share via TimberNook Miami

I came across this little jewel a few days ago, and couldn't help but be amazed at the difference in the expectations we have for our little ones now. I personally think that this report card from 1954 is genius. Why? Because these are basic life skills that our little ones need. I have second graders that have difficulty with quite a few of these skills. Our educational system has become so focused on getting our children "college ready" (barf) that they are missing so much of these meaningful and developmentally appropriate learning activities.

I have to stop for a minute and tell you that when I sat down to type this blog post, I was actually planning to write about concept sorts. I have completely veered off course, but that's how it goes when you get on a roll. In fact, typing the above paragraph has gotten my blood boiling a bit, so I'm going to go get a cup of coffee.


I'm back. I really did go get some coffee. I also ate a grilled cheese sandwich and chatted with my son a bit about acne control and shaving. 

Anyways, back to what I was discussing. It's just my opinion that if we helped our little ones accomplish these very basic life skills then they will be so much more successful when they enter first grade. Is there room for more on the 1954 kinder report card? Of course there is. I just happen to see so many kiddos beginning school with a deficit. For whatever reason, they aren't ready even for kindergarten and yet we want them "college ready".

It just seems that we are putting the cart before the horse if you know what I mean.

Isn't it common sense that if we can get these little people developmentally (not to mention socially) ready then we teachers can actually...I don't know....teach? I mean, wouldn't the time spent with our students be more meaningful and productive in the long run?

Now, I realize that there are all sorts of societal issues that drive educational reform. I know that this isn't 1954, and I know that there are many sides (some quite valid) to this issue. 

But, something must give. 

Teachers deserve it, and more importantly...

our children deserve it.



I'd love to hear your feedback..

Y'all have a great weekend!
Hello blog. It's been a while.

You know, technology is a wonderful thing. Take the smart phone... it keeps us connected with the outside world. Everyday. All the time. 24-7 you could say.

One of the most helpful features of the smartphone is also one of the simplest... the alarm clock. I prefer a calm alarm, like peaceful birds chirping. On the other hand, after spending a number of years in the Marine Corps, my spouse enjoys a blaring rendition of reveille. It's awful.

I use my alarm throughout the day to keep on track. When it goes off at 8:25, my students pipe up to tell me to take attendance. Later the chirping  alerts us to switch classes, go to specials, etc... Since I rely on these alarms so heavily, I carry the phone with me most of the day.

Well...


About a month or so ago during rotation, I naturally had my phone clutched in my hand along with my class clipboard. Now let me tell you, I have three different sections that I teach each day, and each class has a minimum of two "fit throwers". And I mean tantrums. Well the resident tantrumee (is that a word?) from the incoming class was throwing a wall-eyed fit and refused to get out of his seat and line up. His teacher is a first year teacher, didn't quite know what to do, and was looking to me for help.

I had already dealt with difficult children that morning and was in no mood for nonsense.

I walked to his seat and began to fuss at him. What I really wanted to say to him could have gotten me into big trouble, and I'll be honest with you... I considered what I could get away with. But, cooler heads prevailed...thank the Lord.

He eventually got up, quit crying, and we walked out into the hallway. Right at about that time one of my coworkers (we'll call him Mr. S.) came running down the hall waving his hands at me in the air... He came up to me and whispered in my ear that I was live on Facebook!!!

Somehow I had managed to push all of the right buttons without even knowing it, and Mr. S's phone started transmitting all the wailing coming from my little friend. There was no video because the camera was covered, but still... I quickly closed all my apps, and Mr. S suggested that I put a screen lock on my phone, which I did.

Thank you Mr. S.

I hope you enjoyed my cautionary (and very true) tale. The moral of the story...use your technology for good...and use a screen lock!

Y'all have a great weekend!

It's amazing how I start each summer exhausted and end it ready to get back to school.

This year...not so much. I had a horrible school year last year. I won't go into details, but suffice it to say that if I had won the lotto, I would have been out of there quick, fast, and in a hurry.
I've spent my summer just relaxing. No vacations...just home and family. But summer doesn't last forever, and I have to go back in two weeks. I can't have a replay of last school year. I don't deserve it and the kids don't deserve it. So what am I going to do differently?

1. Work on ME: I intend to do my ding-dang-darndest to avoid power struggles with children. When you get so pissed that you feel your blood pressure rise...no bueno. Deep breaths...in through your nose, out through your mouth... proactive, not reactive.

2. Reach out to THEM: How? Character education. I've always had mixed feelings about character education. Maybe I'm old school, but it has always been my belief that this should be taught at home. But the reality is that many kids aren't being taught to be polite and respectful by their parents. I remember last summer I read a fantastic blog post by Sarah Plumatillo, and I thought that it sounded great. But...I didn't implement it. This year I'm going to...From day #1.  Yes, this is a product, but it is also a program,  and as is the case with all programs, the results lie in the fidelity of the implementation. No, I do not know Sarah and she has no idea that I'm sharing/promoting her post.  What really struck me about her post is her compassion for her kids and her passion about helping her kids be better. By making our kiddos better aren't we making.ourselves better. I encourage you to read her post regardless of what type of character education you may (or may not be using). It's worth the time.

So, my question for you is: What are you going to do differently this year? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Have a great week!


My poor neglected blog. I haven't done much of anything at all with it. No. I haven't done anything with it. In a long time. I've had ideas. I've taken pictures. I've come home thinking about it. And then....I'm T-I-R-E-D. Seriously, I came home last night and went to bed. At 7:00!!
Thank goodness I only have nine days left!!! That's right! NINE DAYS!
Okay, on to fun stuff.
Kelly from An Apple for the Teacher has organized a giveaway for a $25 TpT gift card. What perfect timing! Especially, if you need something to keep the little angels engaged during these last few days/weeks. 

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter form to enter daily. Giveaway ends 5/28/16 and is open worldwide. Winner will be notified via email.

Have fun, Good Luck, and....
Y'all have a great week!

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