First Grade- This year I tried a new book (to me!) called 11 Failed Experiments, by Jenny Offill and Nancy Carpenter. I wanted students to get excited about the Science Fair, but also to have fun and see that “failure” is OK in science experiments. This book matches very nicely with the Brainpop Jr. video on Scientific Projects. Both the book and the video emphasize key vocabulary terms important to the scientific process, such as hypothesis and conclusion. Both book and video cover the topic in a very fun way. We even did a quick compare and contrast as the book explored “watering” seedlings with perfume and the video “watered” them with milk, with similar results. This book was a big hit and I will definitely be using it in the future!
Second Grade- We read June 29, 1999, by David Weisner. We briefly discussed Weisner winning the Caldecott for The Three Pigs, and the idea that he is both author and illustrator. The Three Pigs was a nice way to stimulate prior knowledge as most second graders are familiar with this particular Weisner book. They were very interested in the story and made the connection on their own to Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (Judi Barrett). They seemed pretty fascinated with all the types of vegetables they had never heard of too! I then showed them the science experiment called Dancing Raisins, where we put raisins in carbonated water or Sprite and watch the raisins dance! The students were able to come up with excellent theories about why this happened. We also discovered that while raisins dance in both carbonated water and Sprite, chocolate chips only danced in the Sprite (much more carbonated!).
Third Grade- I read the first two chapters of I Was a Third Grade Science Experiment, by Mary Jane Auch. I was going to only “book taste” this book for the week, but students really enjoyed it, and the science fair is not till February, so I think we will finish it over the next few weeks. I also showed third graders the Dancing Raisins and they were very enthusiastic. Every science fair book from our school and two other district libraries have been signed out this week! I had to re-assure many more students that more science fair books are coming next week!
Fourth Grade- All of my fourth grade classes are in the middle of research projects right now, so we were not able to explore the Science Fair concept as much. I did book taste two of the classes on the Jon Scieszka series Time Warp Trio and they really enjoyed it. Several of the series are now in students’ hands- always proof positive to me that they really did like it!
Fifth Grade- In keeping with the science theme, I read them the book the Day Glo Brothers, by Chris Barton, a Sibert Award honor winner. We activated some prior knowledge on the Sibert award, the research we did on that, as well as the other book we read that had won (Balloons over Broadway by Melissa Sweet). I then had students take the survey found at sciencebuddies.org, to start thinking of what kind of project they might want to do. Students completed exit tickets that included their name and a recommended project that looked interesting.
Sixth Grade- I introduced the class to Jacqueline Woodson, and talked a bit about meeting her last year and how she talked about being a writer all her life, even though she was terrible at reading in school. I also mentioned to them that she writes a lot of YA books that are realistic fiction, frequently about African-Americans. I then read the very moving and powerful book, Each Kindness. This story always stops everyone cold, and these classes were no exception. After that, I did a first reading on a non-fiction news article about students who are turning to online classes to escape bullying. The students then did a second close reading of the article, marking the article up with notes for connections, confusions, etc. This lesson was adapted from the article entitled A Notable Process: teaching Critical Reading via Note-Taking (Making) by Teresa Diaz, in LMC, January 2014, pages 18-20. I found this article to be very powerful, as Common Core is really emphasizing non-fiction and close readings, but many students have not been given the skills unique to reading non-fiction (relative to fiction). This is tremendously important in the research process, as students are required to go much more in depth, rather than scanning for an answer to a question. We will be continuing our work on this informational text next week!