Thursday, March 3, 2016

Digging Up Some Fossil Activities...

What student isn't immediately entranced by the topic of fossils? It brings to mind digging in the dirt, finding amazing things, and dreaming of giant long-dead reptiles...Cool, right?

I usually introduce any new science or social studies topic with a vocabulary foldable. This way any topic specific language is dealt with upfront; this also benefits my students who are still picking up English and probably have never seen some of these words before. 

I mean, would you know the word for paleontologist in Spanish??

(It's paleontologo, btw)

Click here or the picture to grab this spinning Fossil Vocabulary Foldable!

I only give my kids three basic terms for fossils: Fossil, paleontologist, and extinct. Many fossils terms are technical and their little brains explode if I try to give them too many technical definitions at once! The fact that this foldable spins, makes it an instant crowd pleaser with my second graders. If you can find sparkly or gemstone brads to use, then its a real winner!

At my school, we focus on the different types of fossils: true form fossils, trace fossils and cast and mold fossils. For each of these, I designed a little craft to make the definition more memorable. You can see our trace fossil footprint craft above! That product isn't quite ready for unveiling yet, but look out for it in my TPT store soon! To help the kids remember the names of these different types of fossils, I busted out my set of plastic dinos and my ipad and whipped up this cinematic masterpiece! (If you want to check out any of my other educational videos, CLICK HERE to head over to my youtube channel or simply click the videos tab at the top of the page!)

That dino may have some moves, but the clear star here is my cat! 

In a perfect world, I would introduce the topic, do a little bit of learning and then hop on a bus and field trip over to a museum where we could stand, awestruck, in front of real dinosaur bones. Alas, living Guatemala City, there are no dinosaur museums to visit. As a result, I've become very good at persuading scientists from around the world to skype with my class... (Thank you random meteorologist from my hometown!)

This time I managed to find Adam Pritchard, through his website Past Time: A Paleontology Podcast Where the Past is the Key to the Present. Let me tell you, he did an excellent job! He often does skype sessions with classrooms around the world. If you're interested, you can find out more details and contact him by going through his website!

THANK YOU SO MUCH for skyping with us, Adam!

I love getting my kids all fired up about the science and social studies topics that we learn about! (chatting with a real paleontologist is one way to do this) I really love it when they take that enthusiasm home with them; and it makes my day when parents tell me that they got involved researching or talking with their child about the topic!

I try to keep parents updated on the things that we learn in class, and one way that I do this is through Take-Home Projects!!

Introducing the

I try to make sure that these projects are simple to complete and don't require too many materials. I also send these home a week and a half or two weeks before I want them to come back. If anything, I want to give families more than enough time to work on together on the project!

Another key aspect of assigning these projects is modeling. The day that I send them home, I basically do the entire project as the students watch. I take them step by step through the entire thing and then save a good chunk of time for questions.

I want these kids to be experts on what they need to do for the project before I send them home!

I also send an email heads-up to all of my parents that project instructions will be making their way home that day.

The key to these Take-Home Projects is the Parent Explanation Sheet. It lays out the project so there is no confusion or frustration at home.

In this packet, I also include a sheet to organize due dates, 2 rubrics (one that I use and an editable version) as well as a class book cover, and the actual project sheets.

For this project, students are researching a dinosaur, filling out an encyclopedia sheet, and finally writing a paragraph about the dinosaur using the information on the encyclopedia sheet. 

We had a looooong talk before I sent it home about how to research, remembering to use introduction and conclusion sentences and MOST IMPORTANTLY writing in your own words. When it came time to turn in projects, I still had a few that I had to have a little conversation with:

"Hmm, do you actually know what the words "theorized", "bipedal", and "biomechanics" mean? Are you sure this is ALL your writing?"

But all-in-all the projects came back great! My students loved the opportunity to talk about, and complete, the project with their parents and the finished products are now hanging with pride on our bulletin board!

Check out some pictures of the finished products below and if your interest was piqued by this Take-Home Project, check it out in my TPT store by clicking the cover picture above or RIGHT HERE! If you download the preview on the TPT page, you can see a mini version of all the sheets in the packet!!