Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pinewood Derby

For the last two weeks The Freedom School has been participating in its very own Pinewood Derby. This is the third year that students have made their own cars and then during the second week competed with other students in the school in preliminary and final races.

During the month of March, college students come from all over the country to spend their spring break on a mission trip through InterVarsity Christian Fellowship called City Lights. They come to work with different ministries of my church New City Fellowship, as well as other ministries that are working justice and mercy in the city of St. Louis. Since The Freedom School is one of the ministries we are blessed to have students come and work with us.

I have a special place in my heart for these students as I was one of them spring break 2000. As a result of my time in St. Louis spring break of my freshman year I learned of the injustice of differences in education between schools in St. Louis City and schools in St. Louis County. The statistics and my time tutoring kids inside one of the most failing schools in Missouri broke my heart for the kids. I went back to college and changed my major from Spanish and secondary education to elementary education - knowing that the Lord would be bringing me back to teach in the city ... some city ... at some point in my future. I returned to do City Lights again the summer of 2002.

Because so many City Lights students return to St. Louis in order to live out the justice and mercy they get a taste of during spring break or the summer, we at The Freedom School have decided we want to provide City Lights students with a project that they are involved with each year they come. We've had students request to come back and work with our kids each year they return. This year we had a whole new crop of folks helping us to cut, sand, and paint our cars. Our race is tomorrow and all I've heard about all week from my kids is "When do we get to do Pinewood Derby?" I've created a forces and motion unit to go along with our time and I'll be posting more on that unit when I find the time.

Pail Sort

This week I created an activity to help my students read words with a long a sound. I found small sand buckets at Dollar Tree and bought three. I labeled each bucket with a different long a spelling and then created shovels programmed with long a words. Students read each shovel and then place the shovel in the correct bucket. My first graders have loved this activity and many wait in line to be the next child to "play." Here one of my students is practicing his long a words.

Click on the picture below to download the activity to use.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

more word a day sentences

Some of my kiddos come up with the funniest sentences using our vocabulary words ... here's some more:

I would like to explore space.
I would like explore Chatunoogo
I explore the buker (I'm not sure what this is)
A undr watr kave
I would like to explore at the ymca.
at the zoo.
I explore at the jack in the box
I wil like isplo a Dog.
I wunt to iksploler the see.
I like to it explore the ploc. (park)
I would like to explore in the Jungle.
I like to explore My BirthDay preise's. (presents)
I like to explore in the Jungl.
I wud like to explore the Jugul

You can tell some of them get the concept of explore and some don't really.  This is also a good indication of who is having trouble writing a complete sentence consistently.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Doodle Bugs Paper Give Away Hosted by Primary Grafitti

Primary Graffiti is hosting a give away in partnership with Doodle Bugs Paper to enter click on the link.

Primary Graffiti

Doodle Bugs Paper

Unit in Progress: Forces and Motion

It's been a couple of years since I've created an integrated theme unit. I find I don't have the space to get creative during the school year so I usually create during the summer. Two summers ago I was changing grade levels so I spent the summer researching and discovering first grade expectations and management. Last summer I spent researching and learning about how to implement The Daily 5 in my classroom. I'm looking forward to this next summer being a great opportunity to make cohesive what I've already got going on for a few units and really get the ball rolling on a few others that I've flown by the seat of my pants for two years too long.

When we come back from Spring Break next week students at The Freedom School will have the opportunity to participate in Pinewood Derby. Here's a few pictures of our work last year ...

Students are sanding their cars to create less friction on the track.

Students plan a design and paint their cars before the big race.

In the past, the Pinewood Derby was right before Spring Break and was in itself an opportunity for students to succeed at something outside academics. This year I have decided to create a two week unit to teach alongside our work for the track. And since I've got Spring Break this week I have some creative space to make this unit before summer comes along. Exciting!

We're getting a Mimio to share at school next month ... I just wish we had it a little sooner so I could more easily share these science clips with my kids.

For some reason I'm having a difficult time getting the second science clip linked .... maybe I'll figure it out ... but if I don't all you have to do is click on what's next from the first clip and it will lead you to the second one which is for 6-7 year olds rather than the first one for 5-6 year olds.

OK ... I must get back to work. I'll post this unit when I finish.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Act Justly

This week is Spring Break and I've already had a chance to regroup a little.  I really enjoyed hanging out with this week's City Lights group at my church to study the passage in Isaiah 58.  This is one of the passages that I've studied that the Lord has used to call me to the work I'm doing, that of teaching in the context of the Kingdom values described here.  True worship being loosening the chains of injustice, freeing captives as seen in this passage.  I think of other passages that tell what it looks like to Act Justly (Micah 6:8); to care for the orphan and the refugee among you.  I haven't yet seen the movie Waiting for Superman. But am looking forward to when it comes up on my netflix queue. 
Giving students a great education when they are otherwise caught in an unjust education system in which the schools are failing is a great passion of mine.  Giving students who are among marginilzed populations a great education when they're otherwise caught in an unjust education system burns within me even more.
It was really good to be reminded Monday night why it is I do what I do ... why I diferentiate instruction to meet a wide variety of students' needs.  Why I labor to shepherd my students in reconciliation and relating well to one another over their many differences: ethnic, economic, academic, and cultural. 

It made me smile today ... I received a phone call from two of my students who were obviously spending time together over Spring Break.  They actually called twice to leave me messages.  The first time went something like this ... "Hello, Ms. Balek .... This is __________ and ____________ calling to see what you're doing.  When you get this message will you call me back and I'm not playing.  Call me back soon.  We're just trying to talk to you.  Bye."
Second time around they used my first name -- there's going to be trouble when we get back ;) --
They wanted to know all of the kids in the class' phone numbers.  Crazy girls miss the community that we have in our classroom.  This is just a testimony to what God is doing --- that these two beautiful children would want to talk to not only the other African American children over break but also the white children and the Burmese child.  They listed out everyone's names, asking about how to get ahold of the rest of the class.  I'm not giving first graders all those numbers and I'm not so sure how I feel about my students calling me but their hearts were good.  This is really good stuff!

Thirst for First: Let's Get Poppin' GIVEAWAY!

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tower Stackers

I started my math rotations today by stressing the importance of students doing the math work when playing games and not just playing twister, darts, or stacking cups to make towers. As a result I received many many papers in my turn in tray today with all kinds of facts written down. Yea for kids listening and following directions!!! I also spied one of my girls laying out all the cups across the table and searching for facts that she already knows as she began this tower. When it started becoming trickier, other students came along side her and practiced the harder facts themselves. They ended independent math time with this long tower of completed addition facts. And they were so proud they wanted to be included in the picture. One student told me that its like the Great Wall of China. Wow check out that schema!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Math Fun

Lori commented on my blog about math olympics wondering if we do math olympics every day and what exactly it entails. 

I have my math block right after lunch and it lasts about an hour.  We have a routine we follow during the first 10 minutes.  When the kids come in from recess they do their "calendar job" right away.  Each kid has a job on our calendar wall.  These jobs rotate every day. 

8f1a2902.jpg image by baleklandHere are two jobs: the Today is, tomorrow will be, yesterday was chart and the calendar which we add to with patterned numbers.
28ad24d2.jpg image by balekland  More jobs: calendar application questions, problem of the day, writing the date, day tallies, and time
21a4fe39.jpg image by balekland  Adding and counting straws, temperature, weather graphing, counting chart, money, and graphing question of the day.

The students all do their jobs and then head back to their seats before the counting chart person and the graphing question of the day person lead the class in skip counting and a graphing excersize. 

After calendar, every day we have math olympics.  The kids make their way through addition and subtraction facts.  I use Easy Timed Math Drills by REMEDIA Publications.  The pictures below are linked to a TpT site where they can be bought.
Easy Timed Math Drills: Addition      Easy Timed Math Drills: Subtraction

I give students 3 minutes to get as many facts as they can.  If they get 34 out of the 36 problems they move forward the following day.  From +0 to +1 to +2 all the way to +9 and then it begins to mix the problems together.  +1 and +2, +2 and +3 and so on to +8 and +9.  Then mixed up even more +1, 2, and 3.  and following and then finally +0-9.  When they have moved through all of these facts.  They are awarded a medal.  I print out medals in black and white and give the child a medal to decorate with paint and glitter.  I then use red, white, and blue ribbon to finish the medal.  The kids are so proud of themselves when they finally get the medal.  They have to work really hard to get there.

Here's my kids today working hard at math olympics!

After math olympics students rotate through independent math work, practice sheets, and time with me to learn the new lesson.

Here's a couple of pictures of my kids today experimenting with cups, pints, and quarts.
fbbbf538.jpg image by balekland2542b392.jpg image by balekland