There are many intermediate teachers who enjoy publications like Mailbox Magazine because it offers convenient, easy-to-incorporate seasonal ideas. Though I have never used many of their ideas, I thought a general post about February activities you can use in your classroom would be useful. From Thomas Alva Edison's birthday on February 11th to Valentine's Day to President's Day, February is a month full of learning opportunities. Today's post will give you ideas that you can incorporate to reinforce skills your students need to practice for state testing.
These are the ideas I will be using in my classroom for the remainder of February:
- We are currently studying electricity (Chapter 13 in Scott Foresman Science series). This mini-unit comes at an excellent time because Thomas Alva Edison, one of America's most honored inventors, was born on February 11, 1847. Design Squad has tremendous hands-on science experiments, particularly the Hidden Alarm experiment (see this post's featured picture). If you have time, check out the Dance Pad Mania or the Motorized Car experiments. (Note: Radio Shack will likely send you a $10.00 gift certificate in e-mail if you inform them you are an educator. Ask your sales associate if you are interested in completing electricity-related experiments.)
- Create PowerPoint presentations of famous American inventors, such as Thomas Edison and former presidents. Locate sound and video clips online that you can incorporate into your presentations. Tomorrow, for the slide show I have put together about Edison, students will listen to ragtime music from the 1910s, hear his recording of "Mary Had a Little Lamb", view a panoramic of the Eiffel Tower, and watch a short clip of The Great Train Robbery, the first narrative video ever recorded. Students will see photos from over the course of his life, read his biography, and be challenged to come up with their own inventions, which they will sketch and write.
- An exciting Valentine's Day activity: Teacher and creator of Teaching Resources, Laura Candler, has a great hands-on activity, Valentine Candy Fractions (pdf) for cooperative teams. Visit her website to view more valentine investigation pages. When students have to learn about fractions, these hands-on activities makes learning much more exciting.
- Make containers to hold Valentines: Oregon fourth grade teacher, Heather Renz, came up with an idea that I use every year with my students. Visit this page to read directions and see pictures of the containers her students make. (If you have not come up with an idea yet, perhaps you can try this on Friday in class. My students have tonight and tomorrow night to complete their containers.)
- Laura Candler encourages students to research presidents they admire. See President Character Bio (pdf). Laura's instructions state: You’ll choose one President, past or present, whom you admire. Then you’ll research facts about his life experiences and accomplishments and use this information to write a short report organized around his character traits. Following the steps below will ensure a dynamite report! Variation: If you have time, you can have students record Podcasts or even dress up as their president, making a "wax museum".
- Though Holocaust Remembrance Day is April 11, January and February is when I tell my students about what Jewish people and many others endured during World War II. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry is one of my absolute favorite books, and it provides many thought-provoking ideas for discussion. Using this book, you can introduce vocabulary, ask questions that focus on many different comprehension levels, and complete literature circles. This pdf file from Glencoe provides great questions, tidbits, and vocabulary. Yet even better, Scholastic provides many resources I plan to use in the future. These resources include an author's note, discussion guide, extension activities, vocabulary builders and writing prompts.
Here are some photos taken in the past week (some incorporating activities from above, others incorporating other lessons or ideas you may enjoy trying):
Students completing literature circles together in class this morning:
Student examples of different writing skills (completed Monday in class):
The game my students have been playing to reinforce science and vocabulary skills:
Students working together on electricity-related experiments (notice the kits; they cost between $9.99-$15.00 at Radio Shack):
Students posing with writing "diplomas" the day before the Florida Writes:
Next week, I will begin dedicating posts to reading strategies and soon you will see a post I have been working on called, "The Anatomy of a Mini-Lesson." You will also see videos of my students working cooperatively in centers and me teaching a few different lessons. In the month remaining before the FCAT state test (or the state test in which your students are preparing), I will try to provide as many useful resources as possible.