Timelines, Story Mountains, and WeatherBug!

Our Proportional Timeline of Chinese History

Sometimes I just sit back and shake my head.  After about 50 days in school, I should know not to be surprised by my students, but they still leave me shaking my head at their love of learning.

First Head Shaker up:  a Proportional Timeline of Chinese History.  On a 50 foot pieces of clothesline, teams of two investigated one or two of the Chinese Dynasties.  Each inch represented 15 years.  We started at the Neolithic Period (which technically started around 12,000 B.C.E., but we started at 4000B.C.E.) and worked up to present day China, about a period of 6000 years!  The students were amazed when I pointed out where on the timeline the United States was formed in comparison to how long China has existed.  The students hypothesized why some dynasties were so short (things got out of hand and people started fighting more) and why some were so long(someone stepped up and wanted to rule).  This led into a conversation about whether dynasties exist in the U.S. (Students were responses were no because a president can only be in power for so long).  However, students did mention the Bushes, Kennedys, and Adams as families that were dynasty like.  A lively conversation followed about what were the ingredients of a civilization, before we headed into reading “Weslandia” a great picture book about a boy who formed his own civilization.

"Bud Not Buddy" Story Mountain

Head Shaker #2:  Story Mountains.  In Language Arts, we have integrated a character study in reading to a realistic fiction study in writing.  We spend a lot of time going back and forth between the two areas, talking about story mountains in our realistic fiction books while developing story mountains for the realistic fiction books that the students are writing.  We finished our reading books, and I borrowed an idea from a colleague to create a clay story mountain, consisting of an introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.  Sounded pretty straight forward until the students decided that they should integrate the setting of their story into their story mountain.  Great idea, so I said go for it!  What ensued were great conversations on not only the elements of a story, but also on what were the key plots of the setting that they needed to integrate.  I heard talk on how to integrate the weather, the types of plants, highways, and even how to make the fuscia color that was needed for the “Flush” story mountain.

Students Exploring WeatherBug

Head Shaker Number 3:  In science, we use a great program called “Weather Bug Achieve”. http://achieve.weatherbug.com/ There is so much great information and data on this site.  The students started a “scavenger hunt” of the site last week and went back on the laptops this afternoon to finish it up.  After finishing exploring the information I wanted them to look at, they could free explore the site.  The room was abuzz with excitement!   One group evaluated video resources and were quite animated explaining the mechanism of a tornado to me.  Other groups found games they could play.  One of the best features is called “Hurricane Tracker”.

Hurricane Tracker

Here you can select a specific year, click on a named storm, and watch how it developed.  As a weather junkie, I always find this fascinating.  Today however, the students discovered that they could display all of the storms over the five year period.  They were fascinated to see where the storms developed, how they traveled, and where they most often had landfall.  It was a great conversation, completely prompted by their own drive for knowledge.

So, I continue to marvel at this great group of learners and love to keep shaking my head at their love of learning!