Not Your Typical Biography Project

Each year, the school I teach at celebrates the arts by having a Night of the Arts.  Each specials class (art, music, GATE, PE, science) creates something unique to share with parents (choir concert, PE demonstration, science experiments) and all of the classes display art/writing pieces that center around a common theme.   This year the theme is multiculturalism.  This is my first year at the GATE teacher, so I want to do something special.  I have definitely spent a lot of time thinking about a unique project my students could create that would not only expose them to new cultures but would also provide a complex and challenging learning experience. 

Then finally the perfect project fell into my lap (actually it hit me on the head).  I was pulling some resources from the shelves in my garage when a box hit me on the head.  I looked down at it and realized it was the multigenre project I created when I was an undergrad at the University of Arizona.   I had reinvented the project and used it once before when teaching in sixth grade in Idaho.  This was definitely the perfect I had been waiting for.

Here is how it works:

Students research the life of a famous historical figure and choose six major events from his/her life.  Then instead of writing a typical research paper, they create meaningful and accurate primary source artifacts that they eventually present to the class.

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For Night of the Arts, my students will choose a famous historical figure from an assigned country.  This way kiddos have some choice about what they research (which is very important when you are looking for by in).  In addition, students will get the opportunity to hear reports about people and cultures from all over the world.

During the project students will create:

Authentic Artifacts 

Students will create long, short, and artistic artifacts to represent the different stages of their historical figure’s life.  Examples of artifacts include birth certificates, campaign buttons, marriage certificates, awards, invitations, newspaper articles, journal entries, portraits, photographs, or obituaries, just to name a few.

Portrail Example

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Campaign Button Example

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Transcript of Interview

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Container, Works Cited, and Rationale

My students will also have to choose a container to house all of their artifacts. The container must be important to the life of their figure.  For example, I have had students in the past use violin cases, luggage, medicine bags, brief cases, and cereal boxes.  In addition, the kids will create a works cited page listing their sources and write a rationale explaining the artifacts they created.  This is such an important part of the process because students must think critically about the reasons behind their choices.

I love this project so much that I decided to share with it with others in my TPT store.  You can find it here.

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Included in the packet are:

– Day by Day Lesson Plans

– Project Description Handout

– Sample Biography (2 levels)

– Research Graphic Organizer

– Student Artifact Samples

– Creating Authentic Artifacts Guide

– Project Completion Checklist

– Scoring Rubric

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My hope is for students to display and present their artifacts and containers at Night of the Arts.   I will definitely take pictures and share how it goes!

I know my students will love it and can’t wait to get started! ! !

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Owl Pellet Lab

What a hit! My third graders have had an amazing time dissecting owl pellets.  Instead of purchasing the small pellets, I paid the extra money and bought the largest pellets possible.  I am so happy I did!  Some of my kiddos found  1 – 1/2 inch skulls.  It has been incredible. I purchased the following owl pellets on Amazon.

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To begin the lab, students were given tweezers, gloves, googles (helps make them feel like real scientists), magnifying glass, pie tin, and construction paper.

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I always try to prepare everything in advanced so that we can spend as much time as possible on the lab itself.  My group is small enough that everyone had their own owl pellet.  If I had a larger class, I would ask students to share their pellets.  They were definitely large enough for two students to dissect.

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I asked students to turn in their lab packet to the bone identification chart from the very beginning.  The purpose of this wasn’t to classify the bones yet, but rather to give them a reference so that they could speak intelligently  about what they were seeing.  I loved the wonderful conversations I heard and the use of the vocabulary they had learned from previous lessons

Student #1:  Wow, I think I found a vertebrae.

Student #2:  No that can’t be a vertebrae because it is too small.  It must be a rib.

 

Here are pictures of my kids and their discoveries:

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2016-01-13 09.33.31 The next step is for students to identify each of the bones using their chart and then analyze and graph the results.  This week has surely been a lot of fun!

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Bone Disease – Spinal Column

Today my third grade GATE students learned about two different bone diseases: scoliosis and osteogenesis imperfecta. Both of these diseases cause curvature of the spine. To learn about the spine, students created a spinal column out of pipe cleaners and egg cartons.

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The pipe cleaner represented the spinal cord and the egg carton sections were the vertebrae.

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All you need to complete this activity is egg cartons, pipe cleaners, and a pen.

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This activity helped my kiddos visualize how the spine moves and its purpose. This was a great addition to the articles students read and the videos they watched.

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Chicken and Vinegar Lab

My third graders are currently the middle of their skeletal system unit.  I have tried to make this unit as hands on and engaging as possible.   To teach my kiddos about the nutrients found in bones and the importance of keeping your bones healthy, I had them conduct an inquiry based lab where they soaked chicken bones in vinegar.  THEY LOVED IT!!!

Why vinegar?  Vinegar is a mild acid which will dissolve the calcium and other nutrients in the bone.  As a result, there is nothing left to keep the bone hard so eventually the bone will bend in half like rubber.  This simulates what happens to bones over time when people do not consume enough calcium.  The body will take calcium from the bones to help support the heart, nerves, and muscles.

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To begin the lab, students gained background knowledge by breaking a bone in half and identifying the different parts of a bone (bone marrow, compact bone, periosteum,  cancellous bone).    They were so inquisitive as they looked at the bone marrow and squished it between their fingers.  I don’t think they ever realized that bone marrow was soft and paste like.  They then researched what nutrients are found in bones and ways to keep your bones healthy (weight training, calcium and vitamin D rich diet, and not eating a lot of acidic foods).    Most of them knew that calcium was important but they never realized that weight training helped their bones too!

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Next, students identified what question they would like to ask by doing the lab and came up with their hypothesis.

 

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Now it was time to strip the meat off the bones.  This was probably the best part of the whole lab.  I have never seen a group of kids so excited about touching chicken in my entire life! Students loved having to wear safety goggles and gloves, but found that cutting the meat using scissors was a lot harder than they had initially thought.

 

At that point, students wrote their observations of the chicken bone.  They looked at the color, size, smell, texture, and strength.  When they were done, each group measured 1 cup of vinegar and poured it into a plastic container.  They then placed their chicken bone into the container, closed the lid, and recorded the color of the liquid in their lab report.  It was definitely a busy lesson!

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The next day, students put on gloves again and checked their bone’s smell, strength, texture, color, and size.   The bone hadn’t changed much but the color of the liquid was brown.  Students concluded that the deposits were from the bone and must be the nutrients escaping.

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The third day was the last day of the lab.  Students put on gloves again and recorded their observations after taking the chicken bone out of the vinegar.  One group was able to break their bone in half.  They couldn’t believe how weak the bone had become in just three days.  The bone was definitely more opaque and the liquid was browner than the day before.

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The class concluded that the bone did lose nutrients due to the acid in the vinegar.   When asked what modifications they would make to the lab if they had a chance to do it again, the unaminous agreement was that they would like to do the lab for two weeks instead of three days.  Several students wanted to change out the vinegar each day because they were afraid the vinegar became less acidic over time.  I thought this was very clever because it is honestly a variable I hadn’t thought of.

I decided to continue the experiment by leaving out one one container with the chicken and vinegar for two additional weeks while we were on winter break.  Today, I took out the chicken bone in front of the class and bent it completely in half.  The whole class was so happy that their conclusion was correct and amazed that the bone actually folded into two.

This was such a great experience for my students and allowed them to determine on their own what bones are made of and the importance of keeping their bones healthy.

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Multiplying Fractions

I love teaching fractions.  I remember years ago when I would teach my students a jiggle to remember to the steps to multiplying fractions.  They would chorally sing the chant together and then solve the problem. What could be better, right? All my students got the answers correct and could do any problem I threw at them as long as they sang the song. However, after taking a life changing professional development workshop, I realized that my students didn’t understand the REASON behind the steps they were singing.  They couldn’t visualize what they were actually doing. WOW! ! !

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Teaching this concept using visuals can definitely be challenging.  My gifted learners often wonder why they need to draw a picture when they know how to solve the problem using the standard algorithm (often times in their heads).  I always explain that it is important to know WHY the steps work and to be able to PICTURE it in their minds.  This way when the problems become more complex, they will have a better understanding of what they are doing.

20151123_131307 I have been working on a unit that teachers could easily implement into their classroom to help students grasp these sometimes challenging concepts.    After months of working them, they are finally available!

You can grab each of these practice packs by clicking on the links below:

20151208_212950 Each unit includes

  • Pre and Post Assessments with Keys
  • Objective Poster
  • Interactive Notes and Foldables
  • Student Samples and Instructions
  • 3 Different Practice Pages and Games with Answer Keys

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  These practice packs are also available in a bundle. You click here to find it on TPT. Slide01

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