Sunday, April 28, 2013

Exploring Sound Energy

Our third grade sound unit it a tough one for eight and nine year olds to wrap their head around, so I try to do an many hands/on minds-on activities. As you can see the students love these activities! The key is to do a lot of activities and discussion. 

Sound Eggs

 The first activity we do is called  "Sound Eggs". This is an activity that uses plastic eggs as a way to try to identify sounds. You need 12 plastic eggs and it is nice to have an egg carton to store the sound eggs. The items I put in the eggs are as follows: a piece of thread, rice, marshmallows, beans, a key, corn, a penny, sand or salt, a tack, a cotton ball, beads, and sugar cubes. i have students work in groups of four and shake the eggs and have them discuss what they think is in each egg. There is a list of items that are in the eggs for the students to use as a way of helping the conversation. We take about 15 minutes discussing the choices and then students record their predictions. After we talk about the predictions we reveal the correct items to the students. The students then answer the following question in writing to assess the learning that took place: 1. Which item was the easiest to identify? Why? 2. What item was the hardest to identify? Why? 3. What is making the sound in each egg? 

Musical Bottles 
The next activity we do is called "Musical Bottles". This takes collecting a lot of bottles that are the same size. You need 5 of the same size for each group, water and food coloring. I had 7 groups of 4 four students. I like having each group having a different set of bottles to help drive home the concept of pitch. The best items I have found are the Snapple Ice Tea, IBC Root Beer, wine vinegar for cooking, small Coke bottles, large Coke Bottles, Lipton Iced Tea in Bottles, Peak iced tea in bottles and I had to buy serving bottles. The bottles need to be clear so the students can see the colors. Fill each bottle with different amounts of water. It varies depending on the size of the bottle. The fist bottle is almost full and you put red food coloring in the water, the second is 3/4 full and I put yellow and red food coloring to make orange. The third bottle has yellow food coloring and it is above half way full, but less then 3/4 full. The fourth bottle is half way full and it is green and the last one is blue and is 1/4 full. Have the students predict which is the highest pitch when they tap the bottle and which has the lowest pitch. After the students make their predictions the students get to tap the bottles, gently! This helps them hear and see the difference in pitches. Once everyone gets a chance we have each groups make a song and share it. The students notice, if each group has a different size bottles, that the pitches are different.

The next day we get the bottles out again and this time we blow into the bottles. The pitches are opposite. I do give each group a Clorox wipe to wipe the bottles after a student blows in it. We follow the same procedure we did the first day. Make predictions first and then try. This is again a great way to see and hear the difference in pitches. If you have time, students love to make up songs and share their songs with the class. Maybe a good Friday activity?!

Sound Thumpers
This is another activity that helps students understand the different pitches. These thumpers were made from the covers of florescent light covers. I bought these at Home Depot and if you give them the measurements, they will cut them for you. It was expensive, but I use them every year. The cost was $120 for 7 sets of the thumpers. This is an activity from AIMS and the link will take you to a place you can preview the activity: The measurements that the tubes need to be cut are in the preview. The students again predict which one is the highest and lowest pitch. Then the students get to test everything. If you buy the AIMS activity it gives you the cards that play "Mary had a Little Lamb" or I have found students like to make up their own songs. 

Pitch Versus Volume
Once we have studied pitch quite a bit we then move into volume. Students confuse these two concepts. I have found the best way is to buy each student a kazoo that is the same size. The students blow in them and discover that these are the same pitch. The students blow louder and softer to see what changes. Students discover that the more energy put into the kazoo the louder it gets. We then use clapping our hands to demonstrate this again. The last activity to help drive home the pitch is the same, just the volume increases it to buy "Sound Tubes", which can be found at the dollar store. These are the same pitch, so the more energy you put into spinning the sound tube, the louder the sound. The pitch does not change! Students will argue that the pitch gets higher, so this needs to be done several times! 

Sound Travels in Waves

You will need a Slinky for each group. I have groups of 4. We use the Slinky to show how sound waves travel. We have the students stand close together and then far apart and we talk about how different the sound travels. We also talk about what an echo is and show the echo with the Slinky. To understand how sound travels students need to know the phases of matter and how the molecules are arranged differently. We play a game I call the Phases of Matter Game. There are 5 stages of matter and I show the students this, but we just focus on solids, liquids, and gases. We have the students stand up and get really close together to show how molecules are packed in a solid, then we have the students stand arms length away and they become a liquid. For gas molecules I have the students run, yes run, and stay far apart from each other. Once we practice this I shout out a phase of matter and the students get in that arrangement. Then I have one student act like they are a sound wave and bump into the students. Students see that in a solid the wave bounces quickly off other students. The last activity I use to drive home that sound travels in waves and travels best in a solid is to line up about 10 tennis balls on the chalk ledge. Then line them up as a solid, liquid and gas. In each arrangement I have sound waves bump into the balls showing how fast the wave makes it through the solid.
 Glow Sticks and Sound Waves
To show sound travels in waves you can take a glow stick and place it in a loop at the bottom of the jar. Place 2 on the table and have one with a little bit of water and the second with a lot of water. Make sure the room is as dark as you can get it. When the students tap the jars you can see the waves in the water with the glow stick. It is pretty cool and it is easy to do...also cheap! I saved my jars from sauces I use at home and the glow sticks are 15 for one dollar at Target! 

The finale...Making our own instruments.

To end the unit we take what we have learned to make an instrument that makes a sound and had at least 2 different pitches. I save trash, toilet paper rolls, plastic containers, boxes, oatmeal and anything else people send in for about 2 months prior to the unit. You do need a lot so the students have a lot to choose from. I do buy rubber bands, corn, beans, fishing line, tape, glue,  paper clips and balloons so the students do have things they can make vibrate to make the sounds. Students have to draw up a plan. Once the students have the plan, they assess what we have as supplies and make a list of items they may need to bring from home. Students also talk to a partner about their idea so another person can give their input. I would highly suggest you do this on a Friday! After the students create their instrument, they must play it for the class and identify the sound sources and the different pitches their instrument makes. It is a great performance assessment and you can see what the students grasped from the unit activities. It is messy, but so worth it!

There are some sources we use that help us that are on line. One resource is Brain Pop, but you do have to pay for this service,. If you do have Brain Pop, there is a great video and vocabulary ship for sound! A free source that we use is called Study Jams . You tube has a video of the Blue Man Group that shows them changing the pitch of their instrument that we use to show the changed in sound  There are also several on-line games my students play that I have on my class Wiki Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about these activities in our sound unit. You can contact me from this  link: Best of luck to you and your students! 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Evaluating Classroom Blogs

I chose to concentrate on third grade teacher blogs since I am a third grade teacher. I felt that this would give me a better idea of how to create my classroom blog and what I should include in my blog.

The first blog I chose is a Mrs. Yollis' Classroom Blog. I have seen her name on Twitter and thought she may have lots of good information. Her blog URL is: This site has a lot of links for teachers and students. It has videos and it has a visitor map widget that I really like. I do think the set up could be a little better. The links on the top could have an icon or something to make it more eye catching, but the information on the site it great!

The second blog I chose is Year 3 Superstars and it is from a classroom in Australia. It is neat that it has music that plays when you go to this site. Gorgeous layout makes you want to visit this site! This site is more like I would like my site to be. Each entry is about what the classroom is doing in the room. Each one has a video showing the students in action. This is a great way to let parents and other visitors see into your classroom! The URL is:

The third blog I chose to investigate is one from Canada. It has the greatest title: 3 Is the Magic Number, which makes me think of the School House Rock Video. Great site that is structured like the site from Australia  This site has a topic and then a video of what the kids have done. The URL is: I can see this class took part in the Global Read Aloud like we did! Very active classroom.

The fourth blog I chose to peruse is from New Zealand and they are called the SPS Superstars. The URL for this site is: I like this site because it is very colorful. The same format as the former two sites with a lot of videos of what the students are doing in the room. This site also has the newsletters, which is one thing I want to have available for my parents and students. This site is very appealing with all the colors it has. I also like the widget that has the pictures of the bloggers, the students, but I am afraid my district would not let us have pictures with the names on them.

The last blog I chose to look into was another American classroom. I love the title of this site: Third Graders, Dreaming Big. This site is definitely a site for parents to keep informed and every post has a newsletter. This appears to be a weekly entry of what happened in the room and of what things are to come. I like this format, but it is not as engaging as the others. Both of the blogs from the United States have giving the information as their main purpose. The blogs from other countries seem to focus more on entertaining the reader and drawing them in. The URL for this site is:

Looking at all of these sites had given me some inspiration on what I want to do with my site. I think looking at other sites is a great idea before starting your own classroom site so you can see what you like as a reader and what you do not like as a reader!

Saturday, March 9, 2013


My mother was an artist and created beautiful art work that adorned our home. I did not get my mother's talent, so I took to a craft that does not require drawing or painting. Scrapbooking has become my creative outlet. I love to peruse scrapbooking blogs such as, and offer many ideas to help a scrapbooker.

Scrapbooking is also a way I show my students to be creative. We use a Cricut Machine create our avitars for our classroom. Students, like me, that cannot draw are allowed to use the Cricut Machine to help him or her publish a book. This machine also helps me with many of the activities to do in my classroom. So my Cricut Machine is now in my classroom.

One danger about teaching is that it consumes your life! As I mentioned my Cricut Machine is in my classroom and no longer at home. So my hobby has now made its way into my classroom. I really only have time to scrapbook in the summer anyway! In the summer, my favorite site is the so I can become a student and try to become as artistic as my mother. I use paper and die cutters instead of pencils, chalks, brushes and paint, but it still makes me feel closer to my mother, and I remember her love of art.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Observing Rocks

Observing rocks and what makes rocks. 
Rocks are everywhere. There are few students that do not love to play with rocks, look at rocks and even make things out of rocks. Rocks are everywhere you look, but do we know why we have so many different types of rocks? Do we know where rocks even come from? Does every place on Earth even have rocks? These are some of the questions we seek to answer with our unit on rocks. 
Taking the rock apart by identifying the minerals in granite. 
Our rock unit is a hard unit for third graders to grasp all of the concepts. I find that exposing them to rocks as much as I can helps students see the properties that rocks have. We use the rocks several ways. We look at them for different reasons each time we get the rock specimens out.We use different tools to take this sample of granite apart. We have granite sand from the Upper Peninsula of the great state of Michigan. We have feldspar, mica, quartz and hornblende that make up this rock we call granite. We have magnifying glasses, tweezers and toothpicks to observe and separate the rocks. 

Using tools to separate the minerals into categories. 
Finding the pieces of mica in this sand sample. 

Sorting the rock samples. 
In this activity the students are identifying the minerals that are in the sand. These minerals are also what makes up the granite that was weathered and eroded on the shores of Lake Superior. This is a way for students to see that rocks really are made up of different minerals and that they are weathered and eroded. The students are starting to see that minerals make up rocks, much like eggs, sugar, and flour are needed to make a cookie. Separate they are just eggs, sugar and flour, but together they make a yummy cookie. Just like mica, feldspar, hornblende, and quartz make this beautiful multicolored rock when they are put together. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Adding Gadgets

I am taking a blogging class and one of the assignments is to add gadgets. Before I took on this task I looked at several of the blogs I follow to see what gadgets my favorite bloggers used. I then went to the gadget section on blogger and found some cool ones I have never seen before. My favorite is the PDF maker. Because I am an educator, I often have to create PDF's to send to parents. I also like the rhyme gadget. I teach elementary and this would be a useful tool for my students as long as my students do not ask for words that rhyme with chuck, I think it will be a useful tool. Calendars and clocks are something I am always looking for, so I added those as well. Lastly I added a way to follow by e-mail and a stats page that shows how often this blog is read. I added the last two because these gadgets were on all the blogs I looked at in one form or another! 
 The gadgets do add to my blog. I think the gadgets make my blog look more official and appealing. I have always wondered how these gadgets are added. I now see how easy this is to do, I will be trying this on the other blogs I have started for my class. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Learning the Rock Cycle Using Doritos

     Our third graders in Michigan are charged with learning the rock cycle. Several parents complain that this is a subject that is very difficult for their child to grasp. Many teachers in my team hate to teach this unit for the same reason. I, however, LOVE this unit. It costs me a lot of money to teach it, but it is worth every penny. I use what every child or any person for that matter loves to teach the rock cycle. That item that we all love is...FOOD!
      One activity I love to do is what I have phrased "The Dorito Rock Cycle Experiment"! Students are given a handful of the yummy Doritos to use as their "Boulders". I chose this chip because of the shape, which reminds me of a boulder, and the cheese, which represents sediment quite well. We start by taking one Dorito and breaking of a little piece and sketch the new look our "boulder" has. We take another chip and take our hand and press on it crushing it into many pieces. We then sketch this boulder. We take the next "boulder" and place it in a baggy and pound the living daylights out of it...this will be our sediment. We repeat that in another baggy and then we add water and watch how the sediment clumps together and when we add a little pressure to this it becomes a layer that will eventually become part of a sedimentary rock.
    Having the students keep each stage of our Dorito weathering and erosion process helps my third graders see that a rock goes through many changes. When all the sketches are finished and we write about what we just did at each step the students are allowed to eat all of the Doritos left. This is one of the most popular experiments I do in my room. I think it is important that you give the students more than one Dorito so they can see the process, but I also think you need to give them enough so there are a few they can eat as well! When students are asked to describe the rock cycle this experiment helps them remember what the process is and it stays with them forever. Way better than any worksheet I can think of to use.

Monday, January 14, 2013

  I believe blogs are an essential component of the classrooms that want to encourage our students to use twenty-first century skills. Students will need to learn how to express themselves and blogging is a great way to allow students to engage in meaningful communication.I also see blogging as a great tool for teacher sharing and reflection   I would like to use blogging in two ways in my classroom: one for reflection and one to showcase student's thinking and projects.
      First I would like to use a blog to communicate what is going on in my classroom through the teacher's point of view. This blog would include lessons and how I feel the lesson went, ideas that I used from other sources, such as Pinterest, to allow other teachers to see how these "Cute ideas"a actually work in a real classroom setting. I also see this as a way to communicate with parents. Parent communication is essential and often the are not privy to what lessons you do in your room and more importantly why you chose to do this lesson. Having a deeper look into the classroom will help parents see their children are in good hands. 
      The second way I would like to use a blog in my classroom is as a place for students to share their work. Blogging gives students an authentic audience and I think writing for "real" will have a profound effect on students even as young as my third graders. I also think the ability to comment on posts will be very powerful. Having peers and parents comment on a child's work will have a huge impact on that student. The teacher reading your paper and telling students what is a strength or weaknesses in the writing will never be as effective as what a peer or a parent has to say. I see blogging as a way to strengthen my instruction of writing by making it authentic and accessible to others to read and critique.