Technology, For Sure! But Don't Forget Old Fashion Creativity!



My class just recently finished with our Solar System Unit.  In my district, which is in California, we are still operating under the old California Science Standards and still using a very outdated textbook.  Nevertheless, this is always a fun unit because it really is the culmination showing the Common Core Language Arts Standards in action!


The culmination of this unit involves the students researching a chosen planet, making a 3D model of it and then giving a presentation.  Why? Because it covers some very important CCSS:

  • W.3.7 which is conducting short research projects
  • SL.3.4 which is reporting on a topic 
But in reality, so many standards are integrated into this unit, that it is a good indication of how well the students have mastered standards for informative writing, opinion writing, punctuating, spelling, main idea and details, etc.  Not to mention all the science standards!


RESOURCES

To get started, I went into my closets and began taking out all the materials and resources I had.  Below is only a sampling.  




Believe it or not, I have giant inflatable beach ball sized blow ups of each of the planets, the sun and the Moon. I got those many years back through a local grant.  They are great for kinesthetic learners who need to move around.  Pick up a planet and rotate! Line up the planets and revolve!  But seriously, they're great for teaching the basics of planetary motion.




TECHNOLOGY

The main focus of this blog post is to show you that you CAN combine technology and creativity into a unit.  First the technology part: I created an interactive digital notebook on the solar system to use with Google Slides.  Each page was interactive in particular ways:
  • dragging and manipulating objects 
  • filling in information
  • links to research websites 
  • links to videos

My goal with the interactive digital notebook was to have students show understanding of basic science concepts, practice researching, integrate writing and learn to use the technology as a tool to further learning. Just to clarify, I am in a 1:1 classroom so all of my students have access to a Chrome Book and a Google account.

One of the first slides we worked on was using Google Draw to draw a diagram showing the layers of the Earth.  You can read my previous blog post on that part HERE.  Students did very well with learning the drawing tools and learning to copy and paste their drawing into Google Slides from Google Draw.

I also had the students write a 3 paragraph informative piece on the Earth.  They did that in Google Docs, then copied and pasted the paragraphs into the slide.  They also found appropriate pictures to enhance their writing.  See the sample below.





When studying the phases of the moon, I of course used good old fashioned demonstrating with a flashlight, inflatable Earth and an inflatable Moon.  I showed the students how the Moon's appearance appears to change as it revolves around the sun.  I also showed them this really great video on YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhhSmpFtg7k .  In fact, this teacher has produced an amazing amount of good quality videos for elementary students.  Check out Mr DeMaio's YouTube channel!  I used his various videos on the solar system to link them to the interactive digital notebook.

I wanted to make sure they knew the names of the phases as well as the order of the phases.  My students made a flap book for the Moon's phases:



In the interactive digital notebook, I had the students drag the different Moon phases to the correct position and label them based on what they learned from me and the video (the slide also had a link back to the video for reference.)  On the slide I also included an animated gif that showed the phases of the Moon.  




Then it was time to move out to the rest of the solar system.  Slides such as the one below involved the student clicking on links to go to a research website to find basic information about each of the planets.  






By now, we had also finished learning how to write opinion pieces.  So why not integrate opinion writing (W.3.1) into the interactive digital notebook as well!  Here's an example from one of the students:




CREATIVITY

Now it was time to get creative!  I believe it is very important that not all projects are done exclusively with technology. When do our students get to be creative with old fashion crayons, markers, construction paper, paint, scissors and anything else they can find?  

The Planet Project involves 3 parts:  researching a particular planet, making a 3D model and then giving a presentation. The Planet Project was assigned as a homework project in lieu of regular language arts homework.  The students had approximately 10 days to complete and turn it in.




PART 1:  RESEARCH BOOK

For the research, I used "Solar System and Planet Report Flipbooks" from Creative Classroom Lessons.  I particularly like this resource because the students must HAND DRAW all the illustrations for each page.  Of course, they also have to do the research.  I made sure they checked out a book from the school library on their chosen planet, gave them websites to use, and also opened up my own book resources for them.  Below is an example of a completed book:


The book is foldable like an accordion so it is easy to grade and to store.  They also had to design the cover. The resource is very complete and all I had to do was make copies of the pages for each student.  I also went ahead and cut black construction paper to the correct size and glued them together.  I folded the black paper in an accordion fashion and gave that to them as well.

PART 2: 3D MODEL

Part 2 involved making a 3D model of the planet that would be used as a prop for a presentation.  Again, I turned to another fabulous Teachers Pay Teachers resource from The Knitted Apple.  It is called:  Planet Research {3D Model and Planet Report}.  This is a wonderful resource that includes EVERYTHING a teacher would need to assign this project.  She includes the foldable box template in which to put the planet (small size is very much appreciated!).  She includes website links for kids to do research, as well as, a rubric for grading.  For this part, I only used the 3D model resources (but the research part is great as well!).  See below some of planets my students made!




On the outside of each box, there is also a panel to fill in with more information.  This is great because the students will be using the model to make a presentation on their planet.  Those panels help the nervous student when they forget the info!






It was quite interesting to see how creative they could get, especially if the planet had rings.  Here is how 3 of my students represented the rings of Saturn:




PART 3:  THE PRESENTATION

The last part of the project will be to make a presentation.   They will script out their presentation based on the facts they assembled in the flap book.  They will also use their 3D planet model as a prop to point out key features of their planet.  We are really working on presentation skills of eye contact, relaxed arms and hands, and speaking in a clear, understandable voice.   Students practice making their presentation at home.  They are then assigned a date to present in front of their classmates. 

Finally, here are some Pinterest Boards you may like to follow that have great tips, resources and ideas for using Google in the Classroom, Science resources and Arts and Crafts activities.  




I hope I've given you inspiration to show you how to combine technology with some good old fashion creative projects.  


  
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