Sunday, October 13, 2013

Unit 2: Alaska Exploration and Research-Based Learning

I am so excited that we started our new unit. Although I loved my last theme of kindness, and using the book Wonder, by RJ Palacio was perfect for it, I am really looking forward to more of an academic focus. I think that my students got a lot out of Unit 1 - Building a Community of Kind Learners, and hope that they do not forget what they learned.

Unit 2 is a focus on Alaska which is my platform for teaching them how to do research and to demonstrate how a person's environment effects the way of life. Here are the components of what I planned:

1. Whole Class Literature Circle: Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George

  • Have a group discussion about the book
  • Think deeply about what was read
  • Learn about Alaskan animals, land, and culture

2. Writers' Workshop: 5 Paragraph Informational Essay and 5 Paragraph Research Paper

  • Learn the structure of a 5 paragraph essay
  • Learn the steps to research
Students will first write an essay based on something they consider themselves an expert on. Right now, I have students writing about soccer, the Paleo diet, dancing, and taking care of pets. I am modeling with an essay on Running. The goal of this essay is to have them focus only on the structure of an essay rather than gathering information on it which is what they will be doing when they tackle their research paper.

When we start the research paper, they will be researching a US state of their choice while I model researching Alaska. They will have at least 2 "just right" books of their choice to use as references. They will not use the internet as part of research (too much to teach about how to do that at this point in the year!). 

3. Science: The Scientific Method


  • To learn how to use the Scientific Method

Project: Create a science experiment that answers a question you have pertaining to your state.
For example, an experiment I will do with the class will be about permafrost which is a landform found in Alaska. We will have a "State Fair" at the end that replicates a traditional Science Fair without awards. Everyone will share information on their state and their experiment. Students will share how their experiments relates to the state that they researched.

I have Science Journals for each student, and this is the place where they will take their notes from lessons and record all of our experiments. We started off with a Cloud Collection experiment to answer the questions if clouds determine weather, and do certain clouds produce various types of precipitation. 

4. Social Studies: 50 States and Capitals

  • Learn how to read a political map of the United States
  • Know all 50 states and capitals (and their correct spelling!)
  • Understand how a person's environment influences their way of life (this ties into the research they do of their state, and comparing the lifestyles across the country)
I have a lot of games and puzzles that I found online and made so that the kids are able to achieve this goal of memorization quickly. I am hoping that beyond memorizing the states and capitals, they are able to understand a bit about each region and how they are different.

We started this a last week, and so far the kids are really excited! I will keep you updated with photos if I get a chance to take any, and of course, with more blog posts! 

Happy Learning!! 

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