Monday, March 20, 2017

Teaching Ancient China

You know what I love most about third-grade? Learning about Ancient Civilizations! There are a multitude of fun crafts and activities for each one that kids love. Does anyone's heart not go pitter-patter when kids are stoked to learn every day?!?

You can check out my post from last year about my favorite Ancient China activities!

Every year I slightly change how I teach. There are just so many fun activities to do - I like to mix it up and keep it fresh. Otherwise my life begins to resemble Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day leads to boredom. Boredom leads to feelings of unhappiness and confusion. An unhappy and confused me results in showing up at school in a velour sweatsuit, a pair of Uggs, two days of greasy hair, and a plastic bag full of $14 worth of Taco Bell. Wait... that sounds like my ultimate dream.

Hey, see these plates? Believe it or not, you can't put them on your wedding registry. They are paper! Who knew?!?!

Okay, so I did this last year. BUT I LOVE IT SO MUCH. Who knew that black and blue tempura paint and a white paper plate that has been sitting in my armoire for a year could result in such magic? The kids will also realize the superhero teacher that you truly are when paints appear.

Now, paints can obviously end in total and utter disaster. I have a lot of rules for the paint. NO ONE can move from their table. They must be sitting, or I will take their artistic creation. I have a few boys this year who constantly wanderrrrrrrrr away to another table to poke or prod a different boy in the class. Nope, not happening when paints are involved!

I also put up pictures of Chinese calligraphy on the projector so they can paint Chinese characters. Add in some Chinese music, and you are in for a relaxing afternoon! So perfect for a fun Friday.

In our state, we teach about the methods of Ancient Chinese farming, including terracing. Terracing is cutting into the hillside so that the water doesn't slide right down the slope. Terracing can be a tough concept for a third-grader to understand who knows nothing about hills or farming practices. To demonstrate what terracing is, I use clay models!

I give each table a tray, a cup of water, and a ball of clay. First, students are directed to make the clay a perfectly smooth ball. Then, they dump half the water over it. They observe what happens to the water (spoiler alert: it rolls right off).

Next, I instruct kids to create a staircase like texture on their clay (I demonstrate). Afterwards, we pour the rest of the water on. The kids observe, then we discuss why the water holds so much better. Why is this better for crops? Why do they think the Ancient Chinese chose to do this? Finally, we look at real-life photos and a video clip to connect their new understanding with real life.


Who doesn't love a foldable? I offer a product on TPT for an Ancient China interactive notebook. For some hands-on fun and learning, these are my favorite. I don't like foldables with intricate cutting, so all of mine are a quick cut. My kids love their interactive notebooks and touching all the fun folds and flaps.


Confession time. I am addicted to Google Classroom. My students adore it, which really just feeds my addiction. Due to this insatiable need to use Google Classroom, I created Ancient China for Google Classroom! It has lots of drag-&-drop feature to engage students, as well as fun colors and pictures. My school is not 1:1, so we complete these usually in table groups or in partners. Not only do the kids work on their understanding of Ancient China, but they work on their collaboration, communication, and technology skills - all those much needed 21st century skills!

No student will be confused about Confucius!

Do you study Ancient China in your classroom? What activities, crafts, or resources do you enjoy incorporating?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

What I Am Teaching This Week: Week of March 19th


  • Geometry: We are in the midst of our geometry unit! This week we are focusing on symmetry, congruency, and similar. I do stations in my classroom (a teacher time station, math center station, lesson work which is an independent worksheet, and a computer station). I do the interactive notebook foldables in teacher time for new strategies that we are learning, and I like the Google Classroom portion for the computer. 

I do rotations for reading. One station this week will be word study related, one will be independent reading, and one will be a reading passage/comprehension. The fourth station will be working on adverbs with me at my small table.

  • Literature Circle: We start new books for book club this week! My kiddos are assigned one of four books depending on reading level. This cycle we are doing A Single Shard, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Shiloh, and A Wrinkle In Time. They complete their roles during independent reading time if they'd like in class, quiet time, or at home. They do their roles via Google Classroom with my Literature Circle for Google Drive & Google Classroom

  • Word study: We do our word study on Google Drive! I use words from Words Their Way and have three differentiated groups. Each group has the list of words, and complete each daily activity with a computer during a literacy center. The kids get a choice of what activites to do. All the activities align with a reading skill that they need to know in third-grade. They have a choice of ABC order, dictionary search, story writer, thesaurus search, word origins, and word value.
Adverbs on Google Drive

  • Writing prompt: We are finishing up our folklore stories! We revised and edited last week, so they will now be starting their finals. I am a big proponent of making keepsakes, so the kids strive to do their best handwriting and make a beautiful cover. The final copy is stapled and made into a beautiful storybook!

  • Ancient Greece: This week in Ancient Greece, we are covering direct democracy, philosophers, architecture, and the Parthenon! 
    • Direct democracy lesson:  First we watch some video clips on BrainPop and Learn360 about democracy. We talk about how direct democracy is different from representative democracy. Finally, we do a direct democracy simulation! Table groups create a new classroom rule, then everyone votes on the new rule. 
    • Philosopher lesson: We first watch the BrainPop on Athens. Then we talk about what a philosopher is, and the three main philosophers that are remembered from Ancient Greece (Plato, Socrates, and and Aristotle). Next, the kids become philosophers! They come up with their own philosophical sayings and then present them to the class. 
    • Architecture lesson: We use a worksheet from my Ancient Greece worksheets to look at the various types of columns. 
    • Parthenon lesson: We are watching a video clip on Learn360, then discussing the Elgin Marbles. Should they have been removed from Greece? We go over the term "perspective," and brainstorm two main perspectives on this controversy. Then, the kids write their opinions on the Elgin Marbles. 
  • VIDEO: BrainPop on Athens
  • VIDEO: BrainPop on direct democracy

Yay, fun week ahead! Let me know if you have any fun ideas or good video resources for various lessons that you may be teaching too :-)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Review: Keva Brain Builders

Did you know that Oriental Trading is affiliated with a site that has mind & brain-building toys?! Yes, the Oriental Trading that is often used to buy party favors, pencils, and holiday crafts. I was ecstatic when Mindware contacted me asking if I'd like a sample of some of their fabulous products. The first one that I tried out in my classroom are these Brain Builders by Keva. And I must say, I was impressed and my kids are having the time of their life during math centers.

These Brain Builders by Keva are my new favorite quick math center. I use them now for math centers since we started our geometry unit. These Brain Builders are available from Mindware for $14.99.The purpose of the Brain Builders it to turn 2D models into 3D models.

I try to include lots of hands-on and interactive materials in math centers, so these definitely fit the bill. These use all parts of a child’s brain! They show a picture of what the structure should look like from the front, side, and top. There is a solution on the back showing what the finished structure should look like. The cards go from a beginning to expert level. It’s funny – so many of my high flyers grab an expert card first, and then move back down to intermediate. These are tough! However, the kids LOVE the challenge. Since I teach in a gifted, self-contained classroom, many of my kids break down from a challenge, they just aren’t used to it. Although we constantly discuss a growth mindset, many kids still can’t quite handle the stress of difficult math centers. The opposite is true with the Keva BrainBuilders. They love the challenge, and actually collaborate and cooperate incredibly well!

 These things are tough, but the kids are so excited when they finish one of the puzzles! We take photos on SeeSaw, or I take a picture with my phone to upload to our class Twitter page.

Although I use them in math for all the kids, they would work well as an early finisher station, or during a chunk of time put aside for STEM. Focus on those engineering and building skills while having fun!