Well, folks, our loooong humanities unit about civics and government has come to an end. Though I will miss our passionate discussions about rights and freedoms, and the children's general enthusiasm about the subject, I am excited to move on to our next conceptual unit: Economics. As a reminder, the idea behind these units is that when language arts skills are taught through a conceptual lens, the learning is more meaningful. Furthermore, when the concept chosen comes from the social studies standards, the students are able to use reading and writing as a tool to understand the world around them. When language arts and social studies are integrated, we call that humanities. All of our major units this year will be humanities units.
OK, now that we've gotten that out of the way, you may be wondering how the topic of economics will be anywhere near as interesting as the topic of civil rights and government. The long explanation has to do with creating a classroom mini-economy, starting our own small-businesses to earn extra money, designing our own currency, and shopping at a weekly classroom market. The short answer can be summed up in one word: play-dough.
Ah, play-dough. What can't it do? Last week, the students used play-dough to create a good or a service of their choice. This was a fun and concrete way for them to demonstrate their mastery of that day's learning target, which was "I can distinguish between a good and a service." Throughout this unit, concepts like productive resources, producers and consumers, and supply and demand will be made accessible to the 3rd graders with activities like these, along with many real-life experiences that they will gain in the coming months.
Many of my favorite activities that we've done this year have been a student's idea. The first of these happened way back in August, when the students were creating our class birthday chart. Different groups were assigned different months of the year, and were asked to create a label for that month. The decorations of the label had to depict various aspects of that month. Students referenced the Hebrew calendar for holidays, and considered the seasons and special school events. In creating these labels, the children got so interested in their month that one group came up with an idea: at the beginning of each month, the group that made that label should put on a skit that has something to do with that month! We decided that these skits should be optional, and that groups can recruit non-group members to help. We (I) also decided that all preparation and practice must occur outside of class time. And so we have been putting on these skits each month ever since.
This being our 4th month, it makes sense that the children have gotten more creative, ambitious, and organized with their skits. This month's performance included an original song, props, and a running joke throughout!
Part of the art of teaching (a huge part, really) is maximizing teachable moments. These are those unexpected occurrences that cause the teacher to pause, reflect with the students on what is happening, and pull out some new knowledge. They are spontaneous, they are connected to the now, and because of that, they are powerful.
Our new friend Mr. Smoky Rabbitson has provided us with many such moments. Just today we were able to connect Smoky to a previous lesson on the importance of feedback in writing. "See how Smoky left his pen and hopped around while we were working? He is giving us feedback that we are doing a good job of making him feel comfortable! What would the feedback look like if he were not comfortable? How would we make adjustments?"
The students are so fascinated by Mr. Smoky that I have transformed our independent study area into a rabbit research center!
If ever the students finish their work early, they can look through the non-fiction books about rabbits. If they come across new information, they can write it on a piece of scrap paper and share their knowledge on the wall. We've learned so much! Did you know a rabbit's fluffy tail is called a "scut?" Me neither!
Alright, so two people sit on a plane. They choose to sit in seats 1a and 1b. As the rest of the passengers board, the plane quickly fills up. Across the aisle, seats 1c and 1d fill up. Then, 2a, 2b, 2c, and 2d become occupied. The plane is at full capacity, seating 2 rows of 4 passengers each. How may passengers are there in all? How many would there be if the plane had 4 rows? 9 rows?
These are the types of real-life situations the 3rd graders have been using as a catalyst for multiplication. Understanding multiplication as a series of repeated additions is the first step. Before we can memorize our multiplication table, we must be able to see 4x2 as 4 two times.
To get more practice with visualizing multiplication, the students worked their way through a series of stations involving multiplication on a farm. Each station presented a situation in which a farmer needed to make a decision. If he has 8 rows of corn, with 8 stalks in each row, how much does he have in all? If he bought 24 bean plants on sale, how should he organize them? Is there another way? The repetitive nature of these types of activities allows the students to make connections and develop efficient strategies. We learned that if we figured out at one station that 4 groups of 4 equals 16, then when the next station asks us for 8 groups of 4, we can just double the total! Tricks like these will be put to good use when we work on fact fluency later in the year.
Last week, the 3rd graders worked to design a classroom community of their own. Considering what rights, laws, leaders, and other qualities they would want in a classroom, they created a book to display their vision. If you're interested in what your child came up with, check out the bulletin board outside of our room!
This week and next week, the students will work towards writing a paragraph or essay persuading someone to join the ideal classroom community that they've created. In order to do this, they must first have a solid understanding of what persuasion is. We built some background knowledge about persuasion when we studied campaign posters in October. We tried to figure out why certain colors, images, and words were on the poster, and what the candidate was trying to convince people of.
In trying to distinguish between persuasive writing and other types of writing, we played a game called, D, N, or P. I wrote a sentence on the board, and the students wrote either D for descriptive, N for narrative, or P for persuasive -- depending on the type of sentence. Students then posted their response on the board. Many times, we would get a variety of responses, giving students the opportunity to defend their reasoning and develop a more nuanced understanding of the different types of writing.
To demonstrate understanding, the students then wrote a descriptive, narrative, and persuasive sentence on a subject they know lots about -- themselves!
Examples of persuasion are all around us -- in commercials, advertisements, and billboards. You can take advantage of this by creating a learning opportunity for your child. Asking questions such as, "What are they trying to persuade us to do or believe?" "Are they using our logic, emotions, or beliefs to persuade us?" and "Does this (advertisement, commercial, etc.) persuade you?" can help your child transfer her knowledge into the real world.
Little people, big minds.