October 29, 2011

Hands-on Water Cycle Fun!


Hands-on Water Cycle Fun! Create a mini water cycle using a rotisserie chicken container and demonstrate cloud formation in a jar.
Now that I'm retired, I often miss working with children; children are my inspiration and the classroom is my laboratory! Recently I accepted a position at a local school to work with kids during their year round intersession program, and I had the pleasure of teaching science to 5th graders for 3 days. I had a wonderful time teaching them about the water cycle and weather, especially since I was able to incorporate a hands-on activity and an exciting demonstration into our lessons.

One activity was adapted from a terrific idea shared with me by Pat Calfee, a former elementary teacher who is now an educational consultant. When Pat was teaching 2nd grade, she used plastic rotisserie chicken containers to have her students create mini water cycles.

Because 5th graders need to know the full water cycle including transpiration and run-off,  we modified our mini water cycles slightly. Each team set up their own mini water cycle by adding a rock to represent a mountain, grass for the vegetation, and a small pond made from aluminum foil and filled with water.

On a sunny day, the best way to power up the mini water cycle is to close the container and put it in the sun for several hours. As the water warms up, it evaporates and then condenses on the inside of the plastic lid. The water then "rains" on the environment inside the container and runs off to form little ponds. Unfortunately, the weather called for rain on the day we were doing this (Murphy's law!). So I brought a large lamp from home that gave off a lot of heat, and we put the containers under the lamp. Soon we were observing evaporation, transpiration, condensation, precipitation, and run-off!
Hands-on Water Cycle Fun! Create a mini water cycle using a rotisserie chicken container and demonstrate cloud formation in a jar.

Hands-on Water Cycle Fun! Create a mini water cycle using a rotisserie chicken container and demonstrate cloud formation in a jar.
Those containers were a super way to give students hands-on experience creating a water cycle. It was wonderful to be able to have something concrete to observe when discussing these concepts.

Another way to observe a water cycle in action is to create a Cloud in a Jar. This is a teacher demo since it involves boiling water and a lit match, but it's a fun way for students to observe how clouds form. You can find the directions for this activity in my Science File Cabinet on Teaching Resources. The directions include a set of follow-up questions to help students grasp the essential concepts.

A great way to help kids identify examples of condensation, evaporation, and precipitation in everyday life is with my Parts of the Water Cycle Task Cards shown below. I've even added images of all 32 task cards that you can upload to Plickers and use for assessment questions!

What are your favorite activities to teach the water cycle? Please share!

October 26, 2011

Daily Report Homework Solution

Do you have a few students who can't seem to complete assignments and turn them in on time? Yet when you talk to their parents, you hear the story, "But he said he finished all his homework!" Sadly, these students may feel they are telling the truth because they forgot they even HAD homework. The problem with this scenario is that the problem can't be solved without the parents and teacher working together closely for a few weeks to find out where the system is breaking down. Parents can't make sure kids are doing homework if they don't know about assignments until the end of each week or, worse, when mid-term reports come out.

I created this Daily Report to help me stay in touch with parents and to make sure that problems are caught right away. Each day the student writes his or her homework down in a notebook or planner and brings it to show me along with this Daily Report form. I complete the boxes by writing an S, N, or U to show how the student's day has gone, and the student takes it home his or her parents to sign. If parents will set up simple incentives, like allowing the child to stay up late on Friday for a certain number of Satisfactory ratings, this report works very well to stop problems in their tracks.

You can download this Daily Report by clicking on the image above or by going to my Odds N Ends page on Teaching Resources. It's not something you want to use all year, but it is quite effective for getting students back on track. I hope you find it to be useful!


October 25, 2011

Welcome to Corkboard Connections!

Several months ago I decided to create a new blog directly on my Teaching Resources website. I came up with a name, Corkboard Connections, because I want my blog to be a place to connect with other educators, and the "corkboard" theme was a reference to the corkboard background on my website. To make a long story short, I hired a web designer who is working on building a blog into my site with Drupal. We did a little work on it and played with some design ideas, and then the project stalled.

I hope to have my Corkboard Connections Blog working on my site before too long, but in the meantime I've created a blog with the same name on Blogger. This one will serve as a temporary blog until I get the one on my website working. I'm excited to finally launch my new blog!