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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Titanic Lessons, Experiments, Activities, and More!


When I was young, I was never the girl who obsessed over boy bands.  I was the girl who obsessed over the Titanic.  Even before Titanic The Movie came out in 1997 and launched the world into a serious Titanic craze, I was fascinated with the ship and the disaster.  I even contacted another Titanic buff through AOL Message Boards (!!!) and received signed memorabilia from a survivor, pictures of grave sites and more.  



My fascination has never waned, and when I began teaching, I brought the Titanic with me.  Each year, I did a week-long study on the ship, and my kids absolutely adored it.  They were engaged every minute of it, and they felt so much compassion toward the lives that were lost.  It is such an amazing learning experience.

In my district, summer school is all enrichment based.  I designed a 3-week course on the Titanic, where we would do daily science experiments, literacy connections, and more.  I LOVED teaching this class just about as much as I loved learning about the Titanic.  I stopped teaching summer school when I had my girls, and unfortunately, I never took any pictures of the class back then.  I made it my mission this year to pull out my bins of materials and take pictures of some of the activities and experiments that we loved so much.  And here they are!  So many Titanic activities for you to do in your classroom.  Have fun and always, always, always Remember the Titanic!
Here are just a few of my Titanic buckets of supplies!  See that big metal rod on the top?  I use that to show students how thick the steel plates on the ship were.  It's HEAVY!  Not pictured are my dozens and dozens of Titanic books that we use throughout the study!
PLEASE NOTE: Many of the experiments I share came from a collaborative book that was offered online for FREE to educators.  The original site, Titanic Science, is no longer up and running, but you can download the FREE lesson plans *HERE*.  It is an AMAZING resource.  Truly phenomenal.

First, we make a Titanic waterfall book to record all of our fascinating information about the Titanic.  We keep this handy the whole time we are working on our unit.


Throughout our study of the Titanic, they fill in their waterfall booklets with pertinent information, glue pictures and maps in, write questions, then go on book and web quests to find their answers.  These are always well-loved and bursting with information by the time we are done.

Then, we construct foil boats and see who can make the sturdiest boat.  You can use marbles or pennies to see which boats can withhold the most weight.  We talk about what keeps a ship afloat and the characteristics of the sturdy and not-so-sturdy boats we built.


After we have had some fun with foil boats, we do a little water displacement experiment.  I fill a mini loaf pan full to the brim with water and place it into a larger foil dish pan.  It has to be RIGHT at the edge, or the experiment won't work. Then, I get a block or a piece of wood (the heavier the better) and place it in.  Of course, water pours over the age of the mini pan.  In theory, if you weigh the water that is displaced, it should weigh the same amount as the piece of wood that you put in.  This help them understand the science beyond water displacement and why ships can stay afloat.


Next, we talk about buoyancy and how it relates to the Titanic.  They start by dropping a ball of play dough (DON'T USE CLAY! It's too messy.) in water.  It sinks.  Then, they use the play dough to form a boat and make it float.  You can use the recording sheet for free HERE to go through the experiment  with your students.

At this point, the kids are getting excited to learn about the Titanic and have some good background information.  It's when I pull out the Titanic Passenger Tickets that they burst at the seems.  In that moment, they realize the gravity of it all--the fact that these are REAL people that this awful thing happened to, not just actors on a movie screen.

Each student gets their own ticket aboard the Titanic and we research our passengers.  Sometimes I wait for them to do their research until the end so that they don't know their fate.  I have done it both ways, and its a very powerful lesson, no matter when they research their passenger.

You can get the passenger tickets at my TpT store HERE.


At this point, we also start reading our books.  I have used several novels to teach the Titanic, but this Interactive History Adventure Book is hands-down a student favorite.  It is similar to a choose your fate novel, with different paths that can be taken.  We go through all the paths and they complete activities using a choice board.  You can see the choice boards at my TpT store HERE.


At this point, I usually have "tea" for all three classes.  I have parents donate food items that range from loaves of bread, cake, fruit, juice, and tea.  We have a first class and a third class tea/dinner.  I don't have any pictures of this, but this really drives home for the students the differences in classes.  I highly recommend that if you can get some donations from parents that you do this!  Sometimes, I tell the kids who have a 3rd class ticket (see above) that they can't eat the 1st class foods.  DEVASTATION!  Thankfully, they know I would never actually deprive them of the cakes and pastries, but the initial shock again shows just how different it was to be in 3rd vs. 1st class.

You have probably seen the next demonstration before, but it's a must for any Titanic unit.  It's easy!  Freeze a large balloon filled with water.  Let it bob in a sink, fish tank, or large tupperware.  It shows just how much of an iceberg sits underwater and why the visible tip of the iceberg is probably not what caused so much damage--instead, it is what they couldn't see that wreaked havoc on the poor ship.  I usually do several sizes of the balloons so that they can see that it happens no matter how big the berg is.



The students are always ready to get right to the sinking.  After all, it's the part they know the most about and are most interested in.  This watertight bulkhead Titanic experiment is hands-down my favorite experiment.  You will need lots and lots of 2 liter bottles (3 per group) and large tupperwares, sinks, or fish tanks.  Again, parents are a great resource for this. For full details of this experiment, see the Titanic Science guide that I linked to at the beginning of this point.  Here are some pictures to show you how it works...


First, cut a 2-liter bottle as pictured above.  On the top, you will make a square that does NOT span the circumference.  A small enough opening that water won't pour in the sides when you weigh your bottle down to be half way submerged. 

I always use marbles (because I had a surplus of them), but you can use weights, too.  Anything to put weight in your boat.  Put enough weight in so that the bottle cap is half way submerged.  Then, open the bottle and time how long it takes to sink.  NOT LONG AT ALL!

Then, cut the bottoms off of two more bottles.  These are going to simulate your watertight compartments.  Let your students experiment with different ways of using your compartments to section the boat off into three different parts.  After a few tries, try to TAPE THEM DOWN WELL!  Tape is a good variable. ;) 



Use the same exact amount of weight as you used before and evenly distribute it between the three sections.  Now, open the bottle top again.  The boat will start to take on water, but I have had some kids successfully keep their boats afloat indefinitely!  Others sink after one compartment fills up and then water pours over the others.  HINT: The ones that don't sink are the ones that make full enclosures with their compartments, NOT the ones like I have pictured above.  Remember that one of the reasons the watertight compartments were not really watertight was because they weren't sealed at the top, so once they were full and the boat started to dip, they spilled over the tops and eventually filled the entire boat.  

Here is a recording sheet that I created to use with this experiment.  You can download it for free HERE.

One of the reasons that scientists suspect that so much damage was done to the Titanic was the weak rivets that were used in her hull.  There are a lot of great articles about this theory.  HERE is one that I always read to my students.  It is something that rarely gets mentioned, but it's so important!

This Titanic experiment is another that I originally got from the free Titanic Science resource linked above.  It explains the experiment in depth.

You will need angel hair pasta, fettuccine, and air-dry clay.  This is meant to simulate the different types of slag used in the rivets.  Most students will hypothesize that the fettuccine rivets will hold up better...They are wrong.  Again, read the Titanic Science description of this one.



Here are the rivets ready to be tested.  We put them between two desks and see which ones can hold the most weight.  The teacher guide will suggest that you use small cups from applesauce or fruit, but we found that we could often fill those up before our homemade rivets broke, so I started using 2-liter bottles.

Eventually, the rivets will break.  This is a GREAT experiment, and kids get all riled up about something so small that could possibly have prevented such destruction.

There is a really neat activity in the Titanic Science book on plotting ice bergs and ice berg warnings. The kids always thoroughly enjoy this, too, and it's an eye-opener as students question why they did not heed these warnings! It's a great geography lesson, too.



Next, we lead into the discovery of the Titanic and what is happening to the ship as it sits below the surface.

We talk about rust on the Titanic.  We put nails and a few other metal items in a small bowl with regular water and salt water.  They will rust within 24 hours!  Imagine what would happen to the Titanic after sitting under the ocean for 100+ years.


Then, we get into some pretty heated debates... What to do with the artifacts and the ship on the bottom of the ocean floor.  We call it the Great Grave Robbing Debate since some people call it as much.  Again, there is a detailed lesson on this in the Titanic Science book.


I print out letters that I find through Google and place them in salt and regular water.  In other containers, I crumple them and tear them up.  Then, we let them sit for several days.  The more time it spends soaking in the water the better.

We talk about the difference between conserving and restoring artifacts from the Titanic.  They do their best to conserve some of the soaking letters and then also do their best trying to restore the ones that I have crumpled and torn.  In most cases, further damage is done to the "artifacts" as they try to restore them.  They learn just how fragile a process this is and why it is controversial.


This is another topic that students get VERY opinionated about.  Some believe that it is very wrong that people are taking pieces from the Titanic and others understand the artifacts' educational and scientific value.  We have always written a persuasive essay using student opinions on the issue.  There are tons of articles and videos about it online.  The sheets above are from my Titanic Bundle Pack and outline both arguments.  You can see the bundle HERE.

That is most of the experiments we do!  There are a few others in the book, too.  One I always use is where you use a water jug to show water pressure.  Another activity I do each year is to have students or teachers come in your room as a surprise and put on a two minute scene.  Then, ask your students about what they saw.  Many can't remember what the people were wearing, what they were talking about, etc.  This shows how difficult it was to get eyewitness testimony from those that witnessed the sinking. 

I always like to connect our units across the curriculum, and there is SO much math involved in the Titanic!  Several years ago, I created these Titanic Math Printables for FREE.  You can download them HERE for FREE!

FREE Titanic Math!
I also always have my students make a newspaper.  Unfortunately, I don't have any examples, but I use the templates from Scholastic for this Titanic Newspaper Letter Writing Activity.   Here is a link to that free resource: HERE!

Here is a picture of my lessons plans when I introduce the newspaper...

We also write Subject Predicate Poems about the Titanic.  I am always blown away at home amazing their poems are! Here is an example...


Laura sent me these pictures of her students' marvelous Titanic models that they made!  What a great activity!

I love that this student took note of only three of the steam stacks being functional! 
Well, that's about all I have to share right now!  For even more Titanic activities and Titanic lessons and Titanic reading passages, stop by my TpT store and check out my Titanic Bundle!  It includes almost everything you need (minus books and a few videos) to teach a comprehensive Titanic unit.


Finally, here are a few more websites that have GREAT content and ideas for teaching the Titanic!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

{Peek of the Week} A Peek Inside REAL Classrooms


I am beyond excited to share my new project with you!  I am pleased to introduce to you Peek of the Week...a weekly peek inside REAL classrooms around the country!

I came up with this idea after realizing that I spent way too much time snooping on my teacher friends' classroom pictures.  If they posted any on Facebook, I would zoom in and look all around their classroom, trying to pick up a new idea for my own classroom.  It brought me back to when I first started teaching and I was always scouring the Internet for ideas on decorating classrooms.  I just absolutely love seeing inside other classrooms!  I don't think I'm alone in this desire. :)  Of course, classroom pictures are a bit easier to come by these days with the prevalence of blogs.  But what about all the teachers out there who don't have a blog?!  There are MILLIONS of classrooms out there! They still have wonderful spaces to share, so Peek of the Week is the place to do this.  

(If you are interested in submitting your REAL classroom for Peek of the Week, scroll down to submit your contact information.)

To get started, I contacted several of my teacher friends from around Colorado and asked them to be my guinea pigs.  I asked them to take pictures of their classrooms, no frills needed.  I told them not to clean up and asked them to not change anything in their room on account of my asking them to take pictures.  The point of this feature is to show off REAL classrooms in whatever state they may be in and to let other teachers look around for inspiration and to pick up an idea or two.  I also told them that I would love to see pictures of their room throughout the year, whether it was at the beginning of the year, or pictures of special activities they did.  

So, without further ado, I present to you your very first Peek from Aubrey, a 5th grade teacher in Denver who has an eye for art and such a lovely colorful classroom.  She shared some great ideas from throughout the year in her classroom that I hope you love, too!



I love how she has color coded her cabinets for supplies.  It brightens up the whole room, and that rug is so fun and functional!

This is Aubrey's Accountable Talk white board.  She said, "In my class I use accountable talk.  This helps students answer in complete sentences and establishes a norm on an effective conversation.  I also helps with academic language."  What a great use of the space around her board!


Aubrey called these "Bloom Balls."  She said, "We also did Bloom Balls for one of my literacy units and they can really fit anything.  They turned out so terrific I hung them outside my door."  I found a site that has the bloom ball template HERE.  They are so beautiful while still being a meaningful activity!


Aubrey's class made these All About Me Hot Air Balloons at the beginning of the school year.  She said, "We made hot air balloons the first week of school.  I hung them in my classroom and didn't take them down because my students honestly wanted to be part of the classroom.  Super easy yet promotes classroom culture."  Aubrey got the templates for this activity from Really Good Stuff.


I love this alternative to Classroom Jobs!  She has a "Class Contributors" board with the classroom responsibilities.  "Over the summer I painted popsicle sticks with different things and my students got to select one and put their name on it.  Fun activity to get to know their personality.  I use these popsicle sticks for sorting class jobs."


Right away, I noticed the sign that says "Silly Goo No Tissue"!  I had to ask her what it meant, and she explained that her kids were always trying to throw used tissues into the recycle bin.  Eew!  We have ALL been there before.









How much fun are these classroom doors!?  The first one was from the beginning of the school year and the second from Thanksgiving.  She is SO creative.

Thank you, Aubrey, for letting me share pictures of your beautiful classroom!

Would you be interested in sharing your classroom on Teaching With a Mountain View and letting people around the country have a little peek into your room?  Please fill out the form below, and I will contact you!  Remember, we want to see REAL classrooms with REAL ideas!  It would be ideal to feature a wide variety of different types of classrooms, so YOUR classroom is just what I am looking for. :)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Quick and Easy {Differentiated} Review Activity

This will be a quick blog post, but it's something you can use in like... 5 minutes if you need to!  Last year toward the end of the year, when I was reviewing a standard strand with my students before a test, they were getting pretty sick of the content.  We had done a lot of work with it (inequalities) because it is an intense concept for little people, but I needed to know who still needed more work and in which areas.  I grabbed some of Lindsay Perro's review activities, printed one copy of each standard review, and hung them in the hall.  (Lindsay only creates for middle school, but you can find these types of assessments ALL over TpT with one page reviews for each standard strand.  If you don't want to do that, you could do it with any worksheet or set of task cards you have.  If you want to adapt it for task cards, print them and don't cut them out into four separate cards.  Just hang the 8.5x11 sheets on the wall and it will serve the same purpose!)

You can also use this to review on concept with different task cards or worksheets.  I just happened to be reviewing an entire standard when we did the activity.




Here is how it worked...  Students had both a colored pen and a pencil.  They went to each sheet and completed a problem in pencil, careful to show their work.  They wrote their initials next to their work.  Another student then came and checked their work using a colored pen.  If they agreed with their work and their answer, they put a big check mark and their initials.  If they disagreed, they showed their work and their answer in the same box, then added their initials.

Here is a page that has been mostly completed and is waiting to be checked by other students. 

I put the sheets out in the hallway so that we had a lot of room to work.  Two kids could work on one page at the same time.
Each student needed to do one of each type of problem.  There were eight problems on each page, so with each person completing one problem and then checking one problem, there was enough for 16 people per page.  If you have more than 16 students (which you likely do), you will need to divide your students and classroom in half and have two separate areas completing the activity OR you can differentiate it and have some students working on one concept and others working on a different concept or level of the concept.

Here is an example of a completed sheet.
My students were SO much more engaged than if I had made them sit down and complete each of these worksheets individually, they still got the review they needed, and I was able to see where students were still struggling.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Great Big Collection of Test Prep Resources


It's that time of year...whether you dread it or just deal with it (or do a little bit of both), state testing time will be here before you know it.  Let's face it--nobody looks forward to administering hours of tests, and there is absolutely some valid controversy surrounding standardized tests. However, for many of us, it is a fact of life, and something that we need to prepare our students for.  I took some time to curate a collection of some of my favorite blog posts and resources to help you and your students get ready for the big tests.  I hope you can pick up an idea or two!  If you need even more assessment ideas, pop over to my Pinterest board for tons of ideas!


I have separated the post into Ideas & Activities, Anchor Charts, and Motivators.  Click each image to be redirected to a blog post featuring the idea.

Laura Candler has this great test prep activity freebie for making test prep fun by studying with a buddy!  Kids always enjoy working with partners, and this activity is no exception.
Try Test Prep Rotations from Teaching in Room 6!  She has six different stations that the students rotate through.  Great rotation examples!
Stinky Feet!  How super fun is this game, and everyone is always into it because they never know who gets the sticky note with what value on it.  So much fun!
Using this fun multiple choice foldable is a great idea for keeping kids engaged!  You can put a passage and a question on the board and quickly see who got the answer right.
How about this super motivating ticket  system from the Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher?  She checks each answer as the students work, and if they get it right, they get a ticket.  Not only does it motivate them, but it also helps you to see which kids are missing which problems and intervene immediately.
Test prep motivation using student names!  They each write an acrostic with excellent advice for doing well on the test.  The text in this example reads: Get a good nights sleep. Read the questions very carefully. Always eat a good breakfast. Come to school on time. Influence others to do good. Encourage yourself to do good. (Source Unknown)
This is a blog post I made after doing a big rotation with my students using task cards!  It's an older post, but it still explains how my students use a passport to work on concepts and prepare for the tests!  If you need task cards, look no further!  I have hundreds of sets HERE.
Test prep graffiti style from Jennifer at Teaching to Inspire in 5th!  I love how she adapted this popular activity to make it into a test prep activity.  
Here is a great idea from Blair Turner about working in groups to make test prep meaningful!
A huge part of taking a standardized test is understanding what is being asked and being able to read the questions.  Preparing students for the vocabulary they will find in state tests is crucial to their success.  Grab this freebie from The Science Penguin and see how she prepares her students by explicitly teaching test prep vocabulary.
How many times have we told students to PUT THE QUESTION IN THE ANSWER!?  We practice and practice, and Tessa from Tales from Outside the Classroom offers even more help on this essential part of taking tests.
When I originally created these task cards, it was not with the intent of using them as test prep task cards, but simply to review all of the standards in the springtime.  But when I started using them, I realized it was the perfect way to prepare for tests and see which students needed extra remediation in which areas!  You can buy these task cards at my Teachers Pay Teachers store for grades 3-5. 
Jen from Runde's Room came out with this great four corners sticky note activity for test prep!  She has some other great ideas in this blog post as well.
We made these Types of Comprehension Questions foldables in my class last year just days before test prep.  My students benefited so much from reviewing each of these and talking about identifying characteristics of each type of question.
Students LOVE Jeopardy type quiz shows, and they are the perfect way to review and prep for tests!  Here is my take on them, and I use pre made task cards to make it easy for you!  You can adapt this to just about ANY topic.


A test prep olympics!  Wow!  What an engaging, fun, and meaningful idea to get kids really into preparing for tests without knowing just how much work they are doing.  You could do this with task cards, too!


This is something that could easily hang in a room all year long, but I particularly like it to prepare children for the types of questions they might find on a standardized test.
Here is a wonderful anchor chart for test prep!  You can apply this to any subject areas, and it will remind your students to relax a little bit. :)  This blog post also has a great post explaining the different levels of proficiency on state assessments.
This test taking tips anchor chart from Scholastic Teacher Kristy Mall would be extremely beneficial to create together.  You could absolutely have your own ideas that need to show up on the chart, but also let students add their own! 
I ADORE this test prep anchor chart, particularly for students who have never taken a standardized test.  It answers their questions and calms many fears.
I love this anchor chart to go right along with the rumors anchor chart...if students get stuck, they need to have a plan of action other than selecting a random answer.  Here is a great one to walk through with your students before testing begins!
I like this reading test prep anchor chart because students should be figuring out whether something is fiction or nonfiction RIGHT AWAY.  Then they can narrow down some of the questions by paying close attention to these key details...
What kid doesn't love video games?  They could each have their own video game controller and show that they are in control of the test!
If you haven't already begun teaching your students strategies for problem solving, now is definitely the time to do it.  Students really latch on to strategies like CUBES because they can remember it and walk through the steps each time a problem shows up on the state tests.  This is a great post that explains it!

How sweet is this acrostic with Smarties?  
How much would your kids LOVE this assessment survival bag!?  Easy to have a parent volunteer put together, and guaranteed to bring a smile to your students' faces.
I love Tessa's treats for each day of the week of testing!  She has the labels for free on her blog, too!
SO incredibly cute.  (Source unknown.  If it's yours, please let me know!)
I know that kids would just love seeing these good luck wishes as they came in on testing days.
And finally, one of my favorite ways to motivate students... Assign parents "top secret" homework the week before state testing. Their homework is to secretly send in a letter of encouragement to be given to their child before they start! Great idea!  Parents are a child's biggest fan!
Do you have any great ideas for test prep?  Please feel free to share them in the comments or send me an email at teachingwithamountainview@gmail.com so that I can add them to this list!

If you are looking for a test prep math project, I have them for 4th-6th grades!  They are designed to prepare your students for the rigor that comes with state testing, but they are engaging enough to keep your kids crunching numbers all day long!