Thursday, May 18, 2017

Teaching About Life Cycle of a Butterfly

Students love watching the process of a caterpillar turning into a chrysalis and then hatching as a butterfly!   It is a fascinating process to watch!  

I usually order my butterfly larva from Carolina Biological Supply Company.  The ship the critters quickly and will let you know if the species you order can be released in your area.  (We do not want to release an invasive species).

Even young children can observe and record their observations.  We begin our observations while the insects are in their larva stage. This is a painted lady butterfly caterpillar or larva.
The caterpillars will feed on the food they come with and they will molt several times while they are growing.  
The students can record their daily observations in a butterfly observation book 

Soon the larva climb to the top of the jar and hang upside down in a J shape.  

This means the larva is about to shed for the last time.  A chrysalis will be revealed with the last molt. 
When the larva have all changed into the chrysalises, they cloth covering the top of the container can be removed and attached inside the habitat. 
The chrysalis will hatch in about 7-10 days and a painted lady adult butterfly will emerge.   The insect will need several hours to un wrinkle and dry their wings. 

If painted lady butterflies are native to your area, you can release them and they will do just fine.  Make sure it is a moderately warm day.

I like to have Kindergarten and other young students practice the concepts surrounding life cycle of a butterfly with centers.  

These centers can be purchased as a bundle or individually.

 For the older students studying butterflies, I like to use a CLOSE reading activity along with a nonfiction article on the life cycle of a butterfly. 

Butterflies are also excellent pollinators.  You can read more about butterflies and how important they are to pollination in my blog post Citizen Science and Monarch Butterflies

Check out my other great resources at

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Rabbit Life Cycle Close Reading of Nonfiction with Interactive Notebook Inserts

I have just had the delightful experience of watching baby bunnies grow.  This happened because a female rabbit made her next in a place where I had daily access for photographs.  I decided to take daily photos of the babies from Day One to Day 14.  The development if the babies was quick and amazing. 

Here are just a few of the photographs I was able to take. 

As I worked on this project an idea formed to write a nonfiction passage about rabbits that I could use in a close reading strategy.   I did the research and had lots of fun creating this resource. 

In about 16 days my rabbit kits transformed from little naked, blind and helpless newborns to little rabbits hopping around and eating grass.
I decided to use this Close Reading Strategy that I like.  Students will read the passage several times.  Each time they get deeper into the content.  I use the below procedure for the initial reading of the passages.

I also make sure to provide text dependent comprehension questions.  

And lots of Interesting Flaps and Folds for the Interactive Notebook.
Science topics addressed include:

Animal adaptations
Life cycle
Animal Babies
Food Webs

Nonfiction Reading and Writing Skills addressed include:

Main Idea and supporting details
Vocabulary development
Text features
Text structure
Author’s purpose
How graphics support the text
Making inferences
Answering text dependent comprehension questions
Paragraph writing: descriptive and informative

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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Wax Museum as an Engagement Strategy

I had the pleasure of visiting Sierra Bonita Elementary to see the sixth grade Wax Museum.  I visited two classrooms belonging to Mr. Peterson and Ms. Cope.  These amazing teachers told me that they:
  • Teach the students to write a 5 paragraph essay
  • Guide them in some research and selecting a person from history
  • Have the students write their essay.
  • Have the students create a display board.
  • Have the students write a 30 second speech as if they were that person.
  • Practice and memorize speech.
  • Dress up and present.

Visitors walk through and press a paper button and the wax figures come to life giving their speech.  

The results were pretty amazing!

Great job sixth graders!   Thank you to the teachers and Principal Andersen for allowing me to take photographs. 

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If you are interested in some fun and colorful science lessons check out this new resource: Bundle of Colorful and Exciting Science Lessons


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Make Lava Lamp and Learn About Density

We have all seen it!  The flashy science experiment that really is very exciting and certainly gets students to observe, but somehow falls short when it comes to actually teaching a concept.

I tell my beginning teachers, make sure you think about what concepts, skills or ideas you want to teach first and then come up with a great experiment to go with it.  

Take the Lava Lamp.  It is spectacular and easy to do.  The students love this one!  It is colorful! It happens fast!  It uses simple household materials!  But what are we actually teaching?

I think there are several great science concepts within this activity.  To me the most obvious one is the opportunity to talk about density.  Simply put, water is more dense than oil.  That is why the oil is on the top.  Another concept that you can teach through this exciting activity is polarity (why oil and water do not mix).

There are also skills that you can teach or have students practice:
Making observations
Making inferences
Reading informational text to learn new information
Arguing from evidence
Recording data
Comparing and Contrasting

Here is my procedure:
I have the students fill a bottle  3/4 full with vegetable oil.
I have them fill the rest with water.
(Even this much ends up looking really cool as the water and oil separate). Observe and Record Observations

Add three or four drops of food coloring.  Observe and Record Observations
Break up Alka-Seltzer Tablets into smaller pieces.  Add a few to the bottle. Observe and Record Observations
Give students a flashlight to shine on the bottle. 

Now that I have the students curious and excited.  I have them read some informational text to find out the science behind what is happening!  This works great.  They are suddenly interested in reading some technical reading because they have had this exciting hands-on experience and they want to know how it works. 

We have a great discussion and I then have them record their findings in their interactive notebook.

Here are couple of the folds I use.

Now I have really made sure my students did not just experience science magic!  I made sure they actually learned something and practiced important skills.  

This entire lesson plan including the Informational Text article that explains the science behind it and All the Flaps and Folds is available for purchase. 

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Magnets and Interactive Notebooks

You can have so much fun in your class with magnets.  There are many different lessons and concepts you can teach with magnets.  Students enjoy the hands on experience and are always excited to explore and investigate with magnets.

I like to give them a variety of materials and then have them sort them into magnetic and non magnetic.

It is also fun to teach them about poles.  
Like poles attract and unlike poles repel.  

I also like to give the students cute games to play.  These figures can be moved using attracting and repelling with magnets. Students discover that in order to move the figure they must have a push or a pull.

Students record their ideas in the interactive notebook. 

To learn more about magnets I have my students do some independent research.  They can read some articles, search on the internet or look at books I bring in from the library.  Reading informational text can be difficult so I like to provide some purpose to it (read to find out) and some ways to practice the skills associated with reading informational text (I like to use the interactive notebook for this).

Here are some folds and flaps for helping students process informational text. 

These are available along with many others in this resource.

Students also enjoy learning about electromagnets and making one!  

And then I of course follow it up with a cool interactive notebook fold for the student to draw their own design. 

All these lesson ideas are included in this resource. Magnet Unit  

The complete Magnet Unit has Eight 5 E lessons using magnets. 
The lessons include: 
What items attract to a magnet?
Attracting and Repelling North and South Pole
Reading Informational Text Lesson (With a three page article)
Creating an Electromagnet
Making a Temporary Magnet
Will a magnet attract through other materials?
Exploring Sand with Magnets
Push and Pull With Magnets

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