Groundhog's Day Ideas for an Upper Elementary Classroom

Recognizing Groundhog's Day with FREE activities for grades 4 5 6 upper elementary classroom

One way I am trying to motivate my students this school year is by recognizing the holiday calendar and designing activities that will authentically fit into our curriculum. Often, as students get older, holidays fall to the wayside because the connection to the curriculum is lacking. Students do not have the repetition of the holidays and then forget which holiday is which and when it is celebrated. To keep this real life information fresh in their minds, I have been trying to come up with ways to recognize secular holidays with my students while being conscious of state standards.

Read to find ways to easily include Groundhog’s Day into your curriculum:

Groundhog’s at Hoghaven


This is a free site but you will need to be able to run Flash Player in order to access it. On this site, students can take a tour to see what groundhogs look like and where they live. They have access to several videos that will give them information about groundhogs, the holiday, how and where they live underground. After students scour this site, they can take a test to see how much they learned and then feed Thor, the instructor on groundhogs, his favorite treat, a hotdog!  

I like this site and would use it in my classroom to give students more information about groundhogs and the holiday. Students love to learn information on their own and working in collaborative groups will help them learn from one another so the information sticks. 

         How does this fit into your curriculum?

Students are using 21st Century technology skills through accessing the internet to locate information about a specific topic.

Having students locate information from the text will check off CCSS RI 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.4 and 5.6 because they would be quoting from the text and drawing inferences, determining the main idea of the text, explaining the relationship between the groundhog, other animals and their interaction with the land, determine the meaning of general and academic words, and analyze the similarities and differences in point of view based on the different web links. 

In addition, this activity can also help you check off NGSS by learning about the groundhog. Learning the habits of the animal will lead you to NGSS 3-LS 4-3. 


Groundhog.org

         This site seems to be THE PLACE to go for all things Groundhog’s Day. In addition to all the happenings revolved around this holiday, there is an area on the site specifically for teachers. The activities that are included range from pre-school to high school and include reading, social studies, math, and English-language arts ideas. The materials are print and go and the ideas are limitless. Some ideas that I have:

  •          Use the vocabulary terms and definitions. Upload them to Quizlet (F-R-E-E) and have students play the assorted games on there to become familiar with the words. This will increase vocabulary skills and most of the work is already completed for you, so you have very little prep to do!
  •        Shadows: This activity can allow you to bring science into your classroom. Students can go outside or use materials like a flashlight and paper to make various shadows. Have them measure the length of the shadow and research what makes shadows have different lengths.  
  •      Number Plot: Students can get into the Groundhog’s Day spirit by making a graph of GH Day and coloring it in. This would then make for a great bulletin board display. 
    

   How does this fit into your curriculum?

    Depending on your curriculum, each of these activities very easily meets the CCSS or NGSS standards. Learning content specific vocabulary is a skill that is needed to help students gain background knowledge on different topics. 

    Science curriculums throughout the United States teach different topics at different times but learning about shadows would be part of an earth science or measurement curriculum as you are talking about animals, earth, the sun, and the angle of the sun to create a shadow. 

    While the Groundhog's Day website claims the number plot is a high school activity, any students studying graphing in the upper elementary or middle school could easily complete this activity. This would reinforce coordinate graphing skills.
Three FREE groundhogs day activities to use with grade 4 5 6 students


WebQuest

   Allow students to use teacher approved links to learn about the ins and outs of this holiday. This activity will have students access different sites to learn about the hibernation habits of animals, what a groundhog is, its lifestyle and habits, the origin and traditions of this winter holiday and use the information to decide whether or not this holiday is one is fact or legend. 

   I love activities like this because students can work collaboratively in stations or 1:1 depending on the technology you have available in your classroom. Either way, students are navigating websites and reading to explore information. When students are completing tasks in this manner, they tend to do a better job than when the information is presented to them.


How does this fit into your curriculum?  

   Like the other activities, this lesson incorporates and strengthens 21st Century technology skills. Students are using the internet to find information, write or type information, and compare and contrast different sources. 

   In addition to meeting technology skills, it also integrates important nonfiction reading and writing skills which are aligned to CCSS. Having students read different sources to gain information to decide whether they believe it to be fact or fiction is an important lifelong skill. (It specifically aligns to CCSS RI 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.4 and 5.6 - in case you need to know for lesson planning purposes). 

   Also, it can help you to begin to talk about NGSS 3-LS 4-3 as students are studying the life and habits of the groundhog. 

Connecting the holidays into your curriculum shouldn't be painful. In addition to the motivation and engagement from the students, recognizing the holidays can also allow students to remember when the holidays occur. Still short on time? Have students complete a crossword puzzle. These activities are great for fast finishers and help to strengthen critical thinking skills. Who knows what kind of classroom conversations can be sparked from even simple activities like this. 


three groundhogs day ideas to use in the grade 4 5 6 classroom


Do you celebrate the winter holidays in your classroom? Let me know in the comments below. 

Five FREE Tech Tools for the Science Teacher


Science teachers use edpuzzle, brainpop, bbc, quizizz and nearpod to engage and assess their grade 4 5 6 kids


Today’s science students need a blended learning environment that authentically incorporates technology into their curriculum. Below are five of my favorite technology tools. Each of these has a FREE component, but you can upgrade to benefit from additional features.

Edpuzzle

Lately, students have been coming to me with limited background knowledge of scientific concepts. While we haven’t fully transitioned to an NGSS curriculum, we are making strides to do so. One way I try to stay within time constraints to do ALL THE THINGS is through the use of Edpuzzle.


What is it? 

Edpuzzle allows you to assign videos for your kids to watch. However, to allow it to be meaningful, educational, and make sure they are actually listening, you can embed multiple-choice questions, prompts, and comments throughout the video. Another cool feature is that it doesn’t allow students to fast forward through it. This ensures they are taking the time to watch and learn from the video.

         I like to assign Edpuzzles as homework assignments or at the beginning of a unit. This saves time in the classroom to allow for more exploration and classroom discussion of the concepts. Since all students now have an even playing field in knowing important aspects of a scientific principle, it allows them to take this knowledge and better understand hands on lessons and answer critical thinking questions. 


Edpuzzle allows grade 4 5 6 science teachers to assess student knowledge through watching videos. Great for sub plans and easy to implement.

         BBC

I love the simulations on this site. It’s free, easy to maneuver and allows students to learn important science concepts through bitesize content. They cover many areas of life science, the human body, physical science, and earth science. Some are my favorites are: 


Brainpop

I have been using Brainpop for probably my entire 15-year teaching career. The videos are short and to the point which is perfect for my students. Recently, I became a Brainpop Certified Educator which allowed me to learn about so many of their awesome features aside from the videos. Some of these features include:
-       Educational Games: These are games that were designed to work on specific skills that relate to the concept they are learning about. Many of these games are leveled to allow students to scaffold and build upon their learning.
-       Make a Movie: Students can show what they know about a topic by creating their own Brainpop movies. You can learn more about how they can do this by clicking this link.
-       Concept Maps: I like this activity to allow students to create a brain dump of their thinking and make connections within the unit. You can create the concept maps for them to fill in or have them create their own. 

Brainpop allows students to make connections to their science concepts with engaging activities that elaborate and work on critical thinking skills in science


Nearpod

Perfect for sub plans or just plans in general. Nearpod is always a fan favorite among my students. I usually search for premade lessons, although I have also created my own using premade Google Slides or MS Powerpoint presentations that are uploaded and enhanced using Nearpod’s activities. Like Edpuzzle, I like it because my students can be assessed on their work. You can also choose to teach the lesson live, whole class, lesson or let them go at their own individual pace. When using premade lessons, I like the fact that I can edit them to fit the unique needs of my classroom.
Want to know more about Nearpod? Click the links below to learn more.

Nearpod is the science teachers best friend because of its free features that are versatile for the science student.

Quizizz: 

I always switch around how I review with my students. One of my preferred ways is with Quizizz. This site is COMPLETELY FREE. Some reasons I prefer Quizizz to other sites is because Quizizz doesn’t take time into consideration during gameplay. This feature leads me to believe that my students are taking their time when they are playing instead of quickly choosing a choice like in other games. Also, the questions are on each of the students' devices so that they can easily view the questions on their screen. 


         I also like Quizizz’s music to be less chaotic, allowing my students to have fun without getting out of control. Like the other tech tools, you can search for premade games or make your own. You can even assign them for homework which is a great review or extra credit assignment before an assessment.

A new feature of Quizizz is that it can be created in many different languages. This is helpful for foreign language and ESL teachers as well as those who are around the world. 

Another cool feature for those of you who aren't tech-savvy or have students who don't have devices at home is that you can print the quizzes. This allows you to assign it for homework, print in a jam if you don't have access to devices like you thought you would, or for students who prefer paper to digital. 

Using free tech tools like edpuzzle, quizizz, brainpop, bbc, and nearpod in the grade 4 5 6 science classroom to spark engagement and assess understanding to differentiate instruction in the 21st century learning environment.


         Any questions? Be sure to click the links to learn more about each technology tool or ask your questions below!


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    Building Background Knowledge for Your Science Students




    What do you do with students who come into your science classroom without any background knowledge? This can be a real problem and concern in the upper elementary and middle school classrooms as science often falls to the wayside in the primary and early elementary years where reading and math are more prevalent.



    Having a master's degree in literacy, I realized that background information is necessary to bring students beyond the introductory level. In the science classroom, this is a concern because often we are building upon student’s background knowledge to delve deeper into a topic. So as an upper elementary or middle school science teacher what can we do for students that come in with little to no understanding of a topic?



    Here are 5 strategies to QUICKLY provide students with background information on a topic:


    Preassess before starting a unit

    Give students a preassessment before starting a unit. Based on the preassessment results, you can provide students with video links, articles, or a fact sheet on your teacher page, during extra help time, or as an extra credit assignment.




    Frame the readings in a different format.

             Instead of taking a class period to read through worksheets, I joined the digital age and created Edpuzzle videos using Screencast-o-matic. The videos feature me reading about the concept to the student. I also include explanations. These videos have been a game-changer in my classroom for my struggling readers. They take the pressure off of these students allowing them to focus on the content. Edpuzzle allows you to assess student comprehension through different forms of questioning throughout the video. This allows me to have a flipped classroom as this can be assigned for homework allowing students to come to class the following day with some background knowledge. Edpuzzle lets me skip the “boring” stuff and increases my ability to be hands-on in the classroom. I also use this as a grade in my grade book. Check out my States of Matter Edpuzzle here.

             If you do not have access to technology, you can provide students with a printable to read after a test or for homework the night before. This strategy can also be used for students who do not have access to working technology at home.




    Start making students responsible for their learning.

    Make students responsible and reflective by thinking about what they need to know to succeed in the classroom.

             As you are teaching or students are working collaboratively, keep post its around your room and encourage students to grab one and write down their areas of confusion on it. If you are using the first strategy, you can quickly point students in the direction of where they should go to clear up their confusion.

    Use misconceptions to help understand a topic.


             Every unit in science has misconceptions that throughout the years, people have confused and think it true. Take those common misconceptions and use them as teaching points. Put students into collaborative groups and give each one a common misconception. As they work together, see if they can figure out why it is not true. This allows students to learn from one another, which many theorize strengthens their learning and leaves a lasting impression with them to better retain the information. These misconceptions can be revisited throughout the unit and can also be used for assessments.


    Meet with your department to identify topics students need to know to be prepared.


    Teamwork with coworkers can help problem solve areas of concern for grade 4 5 6 science students

             This is probably the most challenging strategy because it requires other people to join you. The most ideal situation would be to have a working science model from K-12. Having schools buy into why science is so important for our youngsters is important. If schools are taking the time to allow students to observe and investigate in Kindergarten, as they get to your grade level, it should become easier and easier to build on their knowledge. A spiraled curriculum could benefit the entire school district.

    I hope these strategies prove to be useful in your classroom. If they are, I would love to hear from you in the comments. 


    students lack background knowledge in science to help them understand key concepts to learn


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      What is CER? Everything I Want to Know about CER and How to Implement it in My Classroom




      Claim, evidence, reasoning, also known as CER, is a strategy that many science teachers are now using to have their students write clear, concise lab reports that are filled with scientific evidence and reasoning. This strategy aligns with NGSS and Common Core State Standards so it is classroom win.

      Getting started with CER in Your grade 4, 5, 6 science classroom       It can be difficult to get started and wrap your head around how to implement this writing method into your science classroom. To do so and access graphic organizers, check out this blog post which will walk you through the steps of CER and examples of student responses for claim, evidence, and reasoning. Practice makes perfect. Sign up for my email list below to get a few ideas to quickly use in your classroom and access more ideas here.

      claim evidence reasoning to engage students in holiday learning       This science strategy can also be used to help incorporate the holidays into your classroom with fun and engaging activities. Read about how I integrate this strategy into my physical and chemical changes unit on Halloween.

      turn existing science lessons into ngss aligned cer activities       Don’t stress about using this method in your classroom. If you already have lab write ups for your science activities, use these science strategies to quickly turn them into CER NGSS approved activities. This will also allow you to get your students to partake in argumentation as they support their learning with data and evidence from the activity.

             Do you still have questions about CER; claim, evidence, reasoning? Let me know in the comments below.

      Join my science tribe to gain access to FREE graphic organizers to use in your classroom. 


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