Earth science

Lesson Launch–Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources

My 4th graders are starting a unit on renewable and nonrenewable resources.  I wanted to get my kids thinking about where the things around us come from and decided to try this activity as the ENGAGE part of the lesson.  I also wanted to know how much they already knew!  It turns out nobody has any idea where plastic comes from.  Back to the lesson…  so, I taped a photo of a school bus to some chart paper and had students sketch a bus in their science notebooks.  Then, we worked together to label what materials the bus was made of.  Simple enough.  Rubber tires, glass windows, leather seat covers (not really, but it worked for the lesson), cotton stuffing in the seats, metal engine, gasoline in the tank, etc.  I told them we must label everything!  While the gas isn’t actually part of the bus, I prompted that one.  I needed a launching pad for a future fossil fuels lesson.

Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources School Bus Anchor Chart from The Pensive Sloth

I guess since plastic looks like glass, several students thought it came from sand, too.

My next question was, “So where do we get glass for the windows?  Rubber for the tires?  Gas for the tank?  Cotton for the stuffing?” and so on.  Now this got them thinking.  Luckily we read about how glass is made before the holiday break.  SAND!  But what about the rest of the stuff?  This prompted great discussions and questions.  We returned to our chart.  Beneath each label we listed where that materials came from, and if we didn’t know, we made our best guess and put a question mark beside it.  We’ll revisit the chart and make changes after we learn where the materials actually come from.  Moving forward, as we explore renewable and nonrenewable resources, we can go back and decide which materials on the bus can be renewed in our lifetime and which can not.

–The Pensive Sloth


Jumpstart January Linky and Giveaway 2015–Tips for Keeping Vocabulary Instruction Fresh

Jumpstart January Blog Hop and Giveaway Lesson Deli

Learning new words can be tough and things have changed a lot since I was in 5th grade over 20 years ago.  I remember getting a list of words from my teacher and using the dictionary or textbook glossary to copy the definitions verbatim from the book.  Sometimes we would write the definition a few times or use the new terms to fill in the blanks.  If we were lucky, we got to write a sentence with all 20 words for homework on Tuesday night.  Now, those activities still have their place.  There are times when using words in sentences and locating definitions is necessary and important, but I’ve learned after several years of teaching that those activities alone aren’t sticky, meaning that they don’t help students get to know and use new words.

My goal when teaching vocabulary is to give my students as many real experiences as I can with new words.  Here are my top 4 things to do when teaching vocabulary:

1.  Maximum Exposure–If they can see it, use it, touch it, etc. they are more likely to understand it.  You and I know that a delta is a landform built up when sediment is dropped off at the mouth of a river, right?  But what does that look like?  How does the sediment get there?  Will I ever get to see a delta if I live in west Texas?  Simply showing a satellite photo of a few major deltas in the world can make this term come alive for students.    Pull up an image of the Lena Delta from the Nasa Earth Observatory and talk about it.  But, don’t just show them one delta.  Then pull up an image of a different delta and observe, discuss, and sketch a diagram in science notebooks.  Perhaps the Mississippi Delta in Louisiana.  That second photo will help the new word stick.  Why?  Because now they have enough background to really analyze the Mississippi Delta and start asking some questions.  They’ve seen one and can now make connections between the two pictures.

2.  Variety is the Spice of Life–And also the spice of vocabulary instruction.  If you use the same strategies for every word, every time, students get bored.  Mix things up.  The human brain perks up when something novel is happening.  Use actions to represent words like predator (show claws and fangs) and prey (hands together like saying a prayer “Please don’t let me get eaten.”).  Take student outside with hand lenses to look at the sediments in the sidewalk when talking about cementation.  Hold a debate about whether their are more magnetic things in the room or more non-magnetic things.

3.  Real-World Meanings–Sometimes giving an example or describing a word is more helpful than defining it.  When learning new words, I like to get students to record what they think will help them remember what the word means, and that isn’t always just the definition.  Model different ways to get to know new words and encourage students to write meanings that make sense to them, not just definitions.

4.  YouTube–If you’ve read some of my other posts you know that I love using YouTube in the classroom.  There are some things that can only be experienced live, and YouTube is the closest to live that we’ve got to observe such things as the tides coming in and out or a glacier moving over time.   Give it a try!  A 30 second clip can make a word of difference.

Looking to make vocabulary instruction come alive in your science classroom?  How about a freebie for teaching properties of light that includes a foldable, cut and paste activity, quiz,  AND teaching points for bringing vocabulary alive in the classroom!

Proprerties of Light Vocabulary Freebie

Click the image to download a vocabulary unit for teaching Properties of Light.

FREEBIE–Properties of Light Vocabulary Unit

Physical Science Vocabulary From The Pensive Sloth

Plus, from NOW until January 4th, 2015.  my science vocabulary units are on sale for only a dollar!

Physical Science     Earth Science     Life Science

Jumpstart January Next Stop Blog Hop and Giveaway

Next stop…Misty Miller of Little Room Under the Stairs!When you make it through the whole hop, you will land at The Lesson Deli page where you can enter to win a $50 Target gift card!  Best of luck and happy new year!

Learning About Alternative Energy and Coal Formation

As part of our Earth science unit we spent some time this last six weeks learning about the different types of alternative energy.  Since this is my first year teaching 5th grade science, it had been a long time since I heard the word geothermal!  Students spent some time defining and drawing each type of energy and we made an anchor chart to show what we were learning.

  • goethermal–energy from heat in Earth’s core
  • biofuel/biomass–energy from once living material
  • hydroelectric–energy from moving water (My students have a little song they sing every time I say this word, I think it is part of a commercial they hear on TV all the time!)
  • solar–energy from the sun
  • wind–energy from moving air (wind)
Anchor chart for different types of alternative energy.  (geothermal, hydroelectric, solar, wind, biofuel/biomass)

Anchor chart for different types of alternative energy. (geothermal, hydroelectric, solar, wind, biofuel/biomass) HINT:  Don’t write in yellow!  Write in black and trace over in yellow!

We also spent some time learning about how coal was formed deep in the Earth.

Anchor chart and slide showing formation of coal.

Anchor chart and slide showing formation of coal.

Now, as we prepare for our STAAR test in April, we will be reviewing vocabulary associated with coal formation and alternative energy.  I’ve put together a quick vocabulary review activity for my kiddos that involves cutting, pasting, and matching the words to the definitions and then symbolizing each term.

Vocabulary Snip-it! worksheet to review alternative energy.

Vocabulary Snip-it! worksheet to review alternative energy.  Click below to download the freebie!

You can download a PDF of this Alternative Energy Worksheet or get the Earth Science Vocabulary Snip-its! pack for $1.00 at my TPT store.   The pack contains 4 pages of vocabulary including sedimentary rocks and fossil fuels, fossils, landforms, and alternative energy. Thanks for stopping by and happy teaching!

Here is the almost finished product!  Students match vocabulary terms and symbolize or illustrate each word.   Great review activity for 5th grade science STAAR test!

Here is the almost finished product! Students match vocabulary terms and symbolize or illustrate each word. Great review activity for 5th grade science STAAR test!