Category Archives: ESS 1: Earth’s Place in the Universe

Teaching Geography? 7 Hands-On Items that You MUST Have!

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Earth Science Strategies #2: Using Hands-on Materials

In the last post, I showed you how using models was an important way to teach earth science to young children. Now let’s talk about using hands-on materials as another earth science strategy. We’ll also see how teaching geography in your earth science lessons is easy, using the right materials.

Do you work in a preschool classroom or with young adults? No matter what age your students, you will love this list of models and concrete objects for the geography classroom. So, even if you’re not a Montessori teacher, you will see the usefulness of these items, for any grade. So let’s see which ones you need for YOUR classroom. {Then click on the links for more information.}

http://simplesciencestrategies.com teaching geography hands-on

Globes are useful for teaching geography through earth science work. {Photo via Creative Commons}

Teaching Geography Using Physical and Visual Models

Physical Models of the Earth and Its features

The more a material resembles the real object of study, the easier it is for students to understand it. So, start teaching geography and geology using models that are 3-dimensional images of the earth and its surface features.

#1 ~ Globes: There are many globes to choose from. First, use a physical globe with realistic colors for land and water , useful for all ages. {Always start with a globe that represents land and water using natural colors: green, brown, white, blue.} Maybe turn it upside down for a great conversation starter about “up” and “down” in space!

#2 ~ Land and Water Models:  Next, let students explore land and water features using water and models of basic surface features: island and lake, peninsula and gulf, isthmus and straight. Use these ready-made Montessori land and water forms, or make your own.

http://simplesciencestrategies teaching geography

Begin globe work that use two colors, only: green for land masses and blue for water bodies. {Photo Credit (c) Jason Wilson, 2006 via Creative Commons}

Visual Models of Earth features: Photographs

So, your students have an understanding of the way the Earth looks from space. Now it’s time to use 2-dimensional images (i.e., photographs) to study geography and earth science.

#3 ~ Photos of the Earth from Space: Because I subscribe to National Geographic Magazine at home, I like to use images from the National Geographic website.   But you can also use Bing to find amazing images of the Earth from space. Post one on your SmartBoard for students to see as they enter the classroom ~ use it as a discussion starter!

#4 ~ Land and Water Form Photos: Don’t throw away old magazines! Tear out images and begin creating a picture file ~ the high-quality images are great for so many learning tasks. Don’t worry too much about sorting ~ leave your filing system open and flexible. Magazine photos make great prompts for writing, too {see this article on using picture prompts with English Learners}.

http://simplesciencestrategies.com teaching geography models

Use real photos of the Earth from space to spark discussion during earth science lessons. {Photo Credit of Hurricane Sandy (c) NASA/Rob Gutro, 2012 via Creative Commons}

More Visual Models of the Earth: Graphic aids

#5 ~ Climates of the World: Colorful posters about the regions of the Earth are great additions to earth science and geography work. For homeschool, we use the map that comes in the National Geographic magazine. We hang it within view of our work table. These two-sided maps often address bigger issues. For example, this month’s issue visually presents the changing Pacific coastline. In my classroom, I keep these maps in a file for student use.

#6 ~ Geography Nomenclature Cards:  Students use nomenclature cards to learn important concepts. Once students learn these concepts, the teacher then adds the label with the vocabulary word on it. While you can always buy nomenclature cards online, you don’t have to buy them. You can also download these FREE Montessori continents cards, or check out this Pinterest board for tons of other Montessori nomenclature materials. Or, if you’re handy, apply the ideas to create your own card sets, using concepts from your own geography curriculum.

#7 ~ Outline Maps: Students of all ages love maps. The Notebooking Treasury has thousands of blank outline maps to jump-start your geography lessons.  Check out the continent maps and the world maps, for starters. {If you want to try the notebook pages out first, download some FREE resources first — you’ll be very happy, believe me!}

http://simplesciencestrategies.com teaching geography climate

Posters and maps showing the climate and culture of a region are helpful additions to your geography and earth science studies. {Photo credit (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2016}

Time to Get Teaching!

In this post, I’ve shared just seven teaching materials that you must have, if you want to be a great geography teacher. Using these materials, teaching geography, in your earth science lessons, will be engaging and rich, for all ages.

What classroom supplies do YOU want to add to this list? Let me know in the comments section, below.

{Please note: this post contains some affiliate links. It also has links to some free and wonderful stuff that other educators are offering to all of us!}



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Preschool Weather Observations

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In seed-time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy. ~William Blake

{This post is Part 1 of “The Weather Calendar:  Science Activities for Preschool, Elementary Grades and Beyond,” a 6-part series on weather observations as part of daily math and science teaching in the early childhood years, and beyond}

“What is the Weather Today?”

Are you looking for a way to hook your students in your daily lessons? Do you have some students who still struggle with number concepts or math and science vocabulary? Has winter weather disrupted your flow and distracted your students?

Of course, most of you will answer yes, yes and yes – especially if you live in the Northeastern United States, where we (once again) are being buried in snow. If this is you, consider adding a weather calendar to your morning routine.

I once was working with a group of first grade teachers and recommended calendar routines as an important addition to the daily mathematics repertoire. One teacher balked, saying, “I think calendar routines are a big waste of time. There are so many more important things to do during that time than calendars.” I so disagree! While those of us who have taught kindergarten no doubt use a weather graph somewhere in our school year, weather observations and calendar routines can be adapted and used to teach important grade-level concepts from preschool through grade 3, and higher:

  • By keeping the number of data points low (under 31), weather observations on a calendar can be used for initial or remedial teaching of important concepts of number;
  • Through careful choice of what is recorded on the calendar, grade-level earth science concepts can be layered on and emphasized;
  • Because of the discussion format of calendar time, proper use of the content vocabulary of math and science can be practiced.
  • During conversation, students will have the opportunity to ask and answer questions, analyze and make predictions and statements about data.
  • By focusing on weather phenomena, students can practice new ideas using familiar, readily observable content (the weather).

With better understanding of the grade level math and science possibilities, preschool weather observations, and weather calendar work, can be incorporated into daily routines in all early childhood (birth to grade 3) years, and beyond.

Hip Homeschool Moms

 

Understanding Toddlers and Preschoolers

The preschool years are a time of incredible physical, social, interpersonal and cognitive growth. Babies step out of the familiarity of their home into the bigger world of preschool, daycare or play group. They take in and make sense of a seemingly infinite amount of new information, and begin to make sense of it all. The big advantage teachers (both homeschool and classroom) have when working with children at this age is their innate sense of wonder about everything. Using observations about the weather can be a great way to hook students on looking at the world like a scientist.

In order to make the most targeted use of preschool weather observations and calendar routines for your students, it helps to first note what important number and science concepts toddlers and preschoolers should understand:

 Toddlers to Preschoolers~

  • Understanding and working with numbers to 5
  • Observing and recording patterns in the weather
  • Sorting objects into groups based on one attribute
  • Noting the effect of weather on the environment

A “Circle Time” Staple: the Weather Calendar

Let’s break the concepts above into individual pieces, and see how your weather activities can address each. For each part, I will share some ideas for how to make the best use of this wonderful time of the day. For veterans, some of this information will be old news. But I will also tell you why these activities work with young children, and how they can be powerful ways to emphasize important math and science concepts.

Focus on School Day Observations, Monday through Friday

What to do:

In my classroom, I had one pocket chart that had spots for the date or weather cards for each day of the week: seven pockets in all. Because my preschoolers often didn’t really understand the difference between Saturday and Sunday (especially if they didn’t attend preschool every day of the week), I sometimes ignored the weekend pockets. Sometimes, we knew about an event (“Sarah, your birthday party was on Saturday, right? What was the weather on Saturday, do you remember?”). But mostly we used observations that we made right then, so we focused on the days of the school week.

http://www.simplesciencestrategies.com preschool weather observations

Use a weekly (rather than a monthly) calendar for weather recording with preschoolers. {Photo credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2015}

 

Why it works:

By focusing on Monday through Friday on our winter weather calendar, we can then practice counting within five: an important skill to begin with toddlers and preschoolers. Very young children learn to master the numbers up to five, because they can count them on one hand!

But understanding the idea of the numbers 1-5 is also an important skill for students to master before they work with larger numbers, which they will learn to break apart into the smaller, “friendlier” numbers of 1-5. For example, they will use tools, such as a ten-frame, to see that the number 7 is made up of 5 and 2 more. In fact, adults do this when counting large numbers of objects, or memorizing phone numbers (which are broken into series of 3- and 4-number sections, not by accident). So really understanding the meaning of the numbers 1-5 is a foundation for work with bigger numbers when they are four and five years old.

 

The Daily Weather Report

What to do:

As a preschool teacher, I taught in a co-op, where parents helped out with some of the daily tasks of running the school. The classes with 2- and 3-year-olds had two helping parents; the 3- and 4-year-old classes had one helper. If your parent was a helper that day (and everyone’s parent helped), you were the Weather Reporter for the day. {If you don’t have a co-op, or you are doing this in your homeschool, you can set up a rotating schedule for this job.}

We would all sing the “What is the Weather?” song, as the Weather Reporter(s) looked out the nearby classroom window, to decide what the weather was that day:

What is the Weather? {sung to “Mama’s Little Baby Loves Short’nin’ Bread”}

What is the weather, weather, weather?

What is the weather {clap} today?

What is the weather, weather, weather?

What is the weather {clap} today?

 

The Weather Reporters then either chose from a selection of pre-made weather symbols (that fit inside each pocket), or drew the weather symbol on the chart (when we used a hand-made version). Once the Weather Reporters came back to the circle and reported their findings, we finished the song:

Jesse says it’s sunny, sunny, sunny.

Jesse says it’s sunny {clap} today.

What a good job, job, job,

What a good job Jesse did!

 

I will not be lying if I told you that sometimes observing the weather took a looooonnnnggg time! If a child had a hard time doing this task (which often happens with the littlest ones), buddying up helped. Sometimes we would need to narrow down the choices for kids (“Is it cold or hot today?”) Focusing on one type of weather observation (sunny/cloudy, hot/warm/cold, etc) often helped the youngest children. This also helped later when we began to sort our observations.

 

 

Why it works:

When children are very young, our goal in science, and in all things, is to get them to LOOK. The patterned and predictable nature of a calendar routine helps define for little ones what observation looks, sounds and feels like. The song routine helps them to develop the content specific vocabulary around weather that helps them later ask and answer questions about the weather.

The Weekly Weather Report

What to do:

After a week of weather watching, my kids had between 5 and 7 weather observations on their weekly weather calendar. The Class Mathematician (a class “job” that I used in grades pK through 3, for attendance, calendar work, number line work… any time we needed to count anything) would remove the weather symbols from the calendar, and sort them so that like symbols were grouped together. {Note: Velcro or magnet dots on the backs of the cards enable you to use your felt board or white board as a place to sort.} Once sorted, we would chorally count how many were in each group.

 

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Make use of a classroom window to make weather observations in the winter months. {Photo credit: (c) Glenn Beltz, 2014 via Creative Commons}

 

Why it works:

Before children learn that a numeral matches a number name, and matches a quantity, they learn how to match one object with another: they put one plate next to each chair, one napkin on each plate, and one spoon on each napkin, while setting the table for snack. They also learn how to visually discriminate among objects, and match like objects with like objects. This 1:1 correspondence is an important concept that lays the foundation for understanding the meaning of numbers later on. Because we are limiting our observations to seven, it is easy for little ones to count the cards in each category, as the quantity will be a number within five.

What is “sunny?”

What to do:

As we studied new weather words, we began creating posters for each word. I used large butcher paper or chart paper, which I hung on an easel near our meeting area. An ongoing center in my classroom was the magazine center, where (in this case) students would be looking for pictures that show what sunny looks like. These pictures, plus students’ own drawings and mini-paintings, would be glued to the poster. Every morning, during the weather calendar, we would talk about the poster, and ask, “What does sunny weather do to the environment?” Children would use their own work to describe the effects of sunny weather on the environment: grass grows, snow melts, clothes dry, etc.

When we finished discussing a weather term, I laminated the poster and hung it on the wall as a reference tool for students.

http://www.simplesciencestrategies.com preschool weather observations

Let children express understanding of weather words in many ways. {Photo credit bberlin2015, 2010 via Creative Commons}

Why it works:

I like to tie language and vocabulary into all my teaching, because I want students to talk like scientists and mathematicians. Part of the process for little children is to connect words, images and the real world together, to build the vocabulary understanding in the child’s mind.

A child’s understanding of a concept is called schema. In the beginning, they have relatively little understanding of a concept (“I see a sun. It is sunny.”). With each exposure to the idea, they begin to build understanding of the idea. Sometimes, their schema contains errors or misconceptions. One thing I often had to clarify is the difference between “sunny” and “warm.” Children would see the bright sun in January and say it was “warm” outside, or see snow on the ground, on a sunny winter day, and say it was snowy. Taking kids outside for a brief nature walk on a sunny winter day, or having them look closely at where the snow was (“Is the snow on the ground? Or is it in the air?”), were needed to clarify this misconception. The iterative process of researching, visualizing and discussing the relationship between weather and the environment helps refine the child’s schema, or conceptual framework, related to weather.

Preschool Weather Observations Yield Mighty Learning Results

Weather routines do much more than give kids a chance to check the weather. As we’ve seen, with a proper focus, they can be a way to get daily practice with important grade-level ideas in science and mathematics. They also provide opportunity for students to discourse about their learning.

So let’s dust off those pocket charts and get ready for some weather reporting!

Weather – Watching Materials for Your Classroom

I’ve gathered some helpful materials for weather-watching and weather studies with preschoolers, all in one place. Click to order directly from this page.

http://www.simplesciencestrategies.com

Poem in My Pocket: Winter PreK-1 ($13.99 at Barnes & Noble)

 

Poetry + pocket charts = lively literacy lessons! Each book features five original poems. For each poem, the book provides word and picture cards designed for use in pocket charts, and much more! This Volume, “Winter,” is a perfect accompaniment to your winter weather observations.

 

http://www.simplesciencestrategies.com

COMPLETE Calendar & Weather Pocket Chart ($36.99 at Barnes & Noble)

Complete calendar and weather study pocket chart, with date cards, months of the year and days of the week, weather symbols, and more!

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.simplesciencestrategies.com

Emma’s Cold Day ($1.99 at Barnes & Noble)

In her latest escapade, Emma is one game hen with a big problem. It’s the middle of winter and the chicken coop is freezing. Learn about how farm animals stay warm in the winter in this zany tale of Emma, an adventurous chicken, in this award-winning children’s book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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