Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Where Is Your Habitat?

We have been studying animal habitats for the past 3 weeks and having a blast. There is something about children and animals. They love talking about them. A few items in our Science and Social Studies curriculum make me tilt my head in wonder, but studying animals in first grade is not one of them. This standard is a natural.

We started out by comparing and contrasting forest habitats and grassland habitats. There is a great site called Africam that lets students view animals live! They love it. I used it one year and had to leave it on all day for them. Something might happen...you never know. You can get to it by clicking on the picture below.

After that we had some fun creating forest habitats using the resources from Mrs. Wheat's Forest and Habitat unit. You can click the picture to go check it out.

 After studying about the different animals and their adaptations, we created a forest habitat on one of the boards in my room.

Forest Habitat

 I loved the results so much, that I just had to first thank my teaching partner for the great find, and then used her desert habitat unit when we studied the arctic and desert habitats. Click on the picture to check this one out.

After visiting Brainpop Jr. to explore the arctic habitat, we used Mrs. Wheat's unit to study desert animals and their adaptations. Then we created cactus with the help of toothpicks and tissue paper and labeled them.

They even told me that cacti have glochids that protect them from enemies and their roots spread to soak up more water when it rains. Awesome! I had to put their thoughts above the board. We also did a little desert writing.

I was so impressed with their writing and the facts they remembered! Now we are studying ocean habitats. We started by reading A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle. This book is a classic and a must! Using the activity suggestions from Erin Sample's Ocean Habitat-An Arts Integrated Science and Literacy Unit, we discussed the story and created our own little hermit crabs. You can go to Erin's unit by clicking on the picture below.

I thought the hermit crabs turned out great! I literally raided my big black cabinet and pulled out whatever looked like ocean material. Floral grass became seaweed, pink pom-poms became sea urchins, macaroni shells became snails, and glitter became lantern fish. The glitter was a big hit! Then we went over the adaptations for hermit crabs and they told me all about the shell, the pinchers and the protruding eyes (their favorite part).

Now we are ready to study whales using the story Amazing Whales! a common core text exemplar. If you click below you can go to Watch Know Learn to have the story read to the students. I love this site. Many of the text exemplars are available here.

We are going to wrap up our study of habitats with a visit to the aquarium. The students are super excited about this trip because it is our very first field trip of the year. We can't take very many anymore because of budget cut backs, so we appreciate every trip we get.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Am I Doing It Wrong?

As I celebrated Labor Day working on lesson plans and grading papers a question kept popping into my head:


Am I doing it wrong???

When I say wrong, I mean planning, structuring, organizing, common core - time management. Let me explain with a sample of my "planning schedule" from last week.

During the Week
 Work Day is usually 7:30 - 5:00 so 9.5 hours
After school I plan after the kids go to bed so 1.5 - 2 hours
Friday, regular work day plus 4 hours

Saturday I visited family - an indulgence I know - so 4 hours
Sunday after church I put in 9 hours
Monday (Labor Day) I worked for 16 hours 
(I paid for the Saturday indulgence - usually I put in those hours on Saturday)

So to break it down - I spend 88.5 hours planning/teaching. If I assume 8 hours of sleep a night (ahhhh, a woman can dream) then that is 56 hours sleeping. That leaves me 23.5 hours a week to spend with my family and to eat.

So one day. Oh yeah, so that is why I don't sleep. I knew there was a good reason. My groggy mind just couldn't figure it out. Ha, ha!

This is why I asked my husband last night, "Am I doing it wrong?" (Whoa, ladies, out of the gutter, this is an educational blog!)

His advice was to ask the blogging community. Pretty good advice. So I'm asking you.


What is your time break down?
Am I doing it wrong?
Does your  planning time look similar?
Thematic planning? Does anyone do this? Does it help? How do you structure it? Does it change the way you plan to make it better or worse?
Can I get my time back OR do I need to put on my big girl panties and deal with it?

I would love to hear your thoughts because I fear I'm burning out and we're only 3 weeks in. Yikes! As a 12 year veteran I know the danger of that. I can't wait to hear your thoughts on this. Stress and time management are huge for teachers. I would love your advice.

Just to thank you for letting me pick your brain, here is something I made during that 88.5 hours. It is a Reading Response sheet for main idea. Thanks to Tracee Orman for the great frame! I hope you find it useful!