Bannockburn Christian Academy - Austin Texas Private School

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Archive for March, 2016

What Catches Your Eye?

The Elements and Principles of Art are words that we use to describe and talk about art. Many of us are familiar with these terms, (like value, space, shape, balance) but may not know how they apply in the art room. As the school year progresses I have found that students are grasping a good understanding of most of these terms but not all. To that end I would like to discuss the term “emphasis”.

Emphasis refers to the place in an artwork where your eye first lands. It might be the swirling moon in van Gogh’s “Starry Night” or the setting sun in Joseph Mallord William Turner’s “Yacht Approaching the Coast”. The artist has purposefully moved your eyes to a specific area or areas.

Ask your young artist if they can find an example of emphasis in a painting, photograph or sculpture in your home and see the world through their eyes. 

Van Gogh's Starry Night - Engage Your Young Artist by Asking Them to Identify Emphasis In the Artwork that Surrounds Them

Van Gogh’s Starry Night – Engage Your Young Artist by Asking Them to Identify Emphasis In the Artwork that Surrounds Them

Rene Santoro, Art Director

Learning with Laura Ingalls Wilder and “Little House on the Prairie”

Little House on the Prairie is one of the four literary analysis units third grade enjoys each year. There are so many learning opportunities built into reading it. Students are able to compare their lives to that of children crossing the country by covered wagon to settle in Kansas in the 1870s. We discuss the difference between historical fiction and non-fiction, and we use Laura Ingalls Wilder’s excellent prose to identify the key elements of figurative language and to journal about her work and similar books in our Reader/Writer journals. We take our time, read the novel slowly, and use it as the launching pad for many discussions including American History and westward expansion, cultural contributions of Native Americans, tolerance, courage, and God’s abundant grace.
The culminating events of this exploration are our trip to Pioneer Farms, where students can compare their lives to that of early Texas settlers, and “Little House on the Prairie Day.” While Pioneer Farms gives us the opportunity to run around outside and possibly encounter lizards and snakes, “Little House on the Prairie Day” is perhaps the most cherished event for our third graders. They spend a day dressed in pioneer clothing and spend the morning and afternoon participating in a number of pioneer activities like washing dirty clothes with a washboard, making corn husk dolls, tasting molasses and cornbread, making butter, and playing prairie games. This year, out time in the garden may give the class a fuller understanding of what was involved in being self-sufficient and sustaining on the Kansas prairie. Our work on Little House on the Prairie begins following Spring Break! Watch for us as we learn.

– Melissa McDaniel, 3rd Grade Teacher

LHP2015.2 IMG_1697 SubstandardFullSizeRender

“I See, I Think, I Wonder” : A Lesson in Engaging Students Where They Are

BCA Students

About a month ago, while we were on the playground, our students became fascinated with collecting rocks. Day by day, students would run up to the teachers on the playground asking, “What kind of rock do you think this is?” This started a great discussion about rocks, geodes, minerals, and dinosaur bones. A few students emerged as “the dinosaur experts” and when a student found a rock that they thought was a bone, they would scurry off to find the expert and ask their opinion. (In case you were wondering, according to our kindergarten experts, we definitely have Tyrannosaurus Rex bones all over the playground. 😉 )

This went on for several weeks and our rock collectors grew in numbers. It seemed as if each day another student was discovering beautiful rocks to bring in to the classroom and thus began our rock inquiry. I cleared off our “math table” and students started adding rocks to the table. I placed a few scales, magnifying glasses, sorting circles, rock books, pictures, measuring tape, and clipboards on the table, and the table has been full of scientists investigating our rock collection.

Bannockburn Christian Academy Studying RocksScreen Shot 2016-03-10 at 6.57.21 PM

I also displayed my rock book collection in our classroom library.

Rock Book Collection

During guided reading, my young learners were full of questions so we took out our agates and practiced writing and using adjectives by creating a list of words that described them. Then we read an informational text that I wrote for them.

Studying Notes on Rocks

Studying Rocks by Reading

Studying Rocks by Reading and Loving It!

My students came up with so many wonders and questions about how rocks were formed and began researching this on their own! They would get books from our library and share facts with their friends. They also wrote about what they were learning.

During our read aloud time, I made sure I chose books that would answer some of my students’ questions about how rocks were formed. We also watched a few Youtube videos. This was one of their favorite videos (click here to watch)

After watching a few videos and reading a couple of books, we created an “I see, I think, I wonder” chart. To do this, I gave my students Sharpies and Post It notes and my students got to work.

Writing I Think Notes

As they were working, I projected an image of a volcano on my whiteboard.

Displaying Volcanoes on a Whiteboard

After they finished a Post It Note, they placed it on the anchor chart and got to work on writing a new one.

Studying Volcanoes

At the end of the activity, our chart looked like this.

Volcanoes Chart

Many of the “wonders” included questions on HOW and WHY volcanoes blow up. So, we had to go outside to learn more about this.

I partnered my students up and gave each group a funnel, baking soda, and an empty water bottle. 

Experimenting with Baking Soda

They worked together to add the baking soda to their bottle, and then used our playground pebbles to “hide” the bottle to make it look like a real volcano.

Some of the baking soda got stuck going down the funnel, but my scientists quickly fixed the problem.

Scientist Fixing the Problem

After the finishing touches were put in place, we prepared for an eruption!

Preparing for the Eruption

Students added our vinegar mixture to their volcanoes and watched in anticipation. They ooooohed and aaaaaaahed over the eruptions and eagerly discussed why they thought volcanoes erupt!

Volcanic Eruption 1

Volcanic Eruption2

The next day, my students began documenting what they were learning. Some of my students chose to do this using clay.

Making a Volcano

“I am making a cinder cone volcano.”

Cinder Volcano Cone


“Look, mine looks just like this one in the book. I want to make sure I get the top just right.”

Volcano Making

Other students documented what they were learning by making extra large posters in small groups.

Volcano Posters

This encouraged collaboration and teamwork. I was very proud of how well my students handled this task!

Volcano Posters

“Miss Smith, this is a cutaway painting. We are showing the inside of the volcano. “

My students are still hard at work on these art projects and are now at the stage where we are labeling them and writing out teaching points so that others can learn about what they are making.

To continue helping my students answer their wonders, we read the book, Rocks: Hard, Soft, Smooth, and Rough. This book has taught us SO much and is always in the hand of a student when they are in the book corner!

I stopped reading after we read the two pages about sedimentary rocks and showed my students a few pictures to help them better understand. We then created a “craft” to better illustrate that sedimentary rocks are made up of layers.  To do this, I bought 7 jars of colored sand from Michaels. (If you ever need art materials, I HIGHLY recommend them! They always help me out with coupons and teacher discounts! This last shopping trip I saved over $35 thanks to the kindness of the checkout lady!)

I gave each student a clear plastic cup and they got to work making layers out of the different colored sand.

Experimenting with Layers

This activity really helped them learn the word “layer” as they practiced using it over and over. 

More Experimenting with Layers

They carefully scooped each color on top of the previous one making sure that they could no longer see any of the previous color.  They loved checking out their sedimentary rocks throughout the process.

Examining Layers of Colors

When they got picked up, they could hardly contain all that they had done that day! 

Excited to Share their Progress

We are still knee-deep in our inquiry, but I wanted to share part one of what we have been up to! My students are LOVING this unit especially because it means frequent trips outside to find, explore, and discover new types of rocks!

Exploring Their World

If you are interested in any of these activities, lessons, posters, and more, feel free to check out my Rocks and Geode pack available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. You can get it HERE!

Come back soon to read about Part Two!! (Monday we are cracking open geodes!!)

This blog post contains an affiliate link for your convenience. 

– Kristen Smith, Kindergarten

Taking Kindness Outside of the Classroom Has Its Rewards

We have been looking for ways to show kindness in our classroom and I have been thrilled with what these little scholars have come up with – even down to giving a classmate a little Lego arm because “I knew he would like it.”  In conjunction with talking in Pre-K about ways we can show kindness to others, we have also been talking about pride. 

We have found out there are 2 basic types of pride:

  • the version we experience when we can rejoice in a job well done
  • the version we represent when we compare ourselves to someone else to try and make ourselves look better (remember – this is the Pre-K version). 

We decided to expand our “Let’s find ways to be kind in our classroom” to “Let’s find ways to show kindness around our school.”  As we were on the playground we noticed there were a lot of dead leaves and broken sticks on it. 

The question was asked,” Could we be kind and start to clean up the playground so it would look nice for everyone when they came to use it?”  The answer was a resounding YES!  We began spending a little time during each recess picking up leaves and sticks and before long we had bagged 7 big black trash bags of leaves and a trash can full of sticks. 

BCA K4 students extend kindness outside of the classroom and clean the campus.

BCA K4 students extend kindness outside of the classroom

Along the way we were able to feel the pride of accomplishing what at first looked like an enormous job as well as pride in how our playground now looked so nice.

What a great lesson to be able to learn when you are 5.

– Barbara Hammel, K-4 5 Day Teacher

BCA Students Take Kindness Outside of the Classroom and Clean the Campus and Experience the Pride of a Job Well Done

BCA Students Experience the Pride of a Job Well Done

BCA Students Experience Pride in a Job Well Done When They Helped Clean The Campus as Part of the Kindness Initiative

BCA Students Work Together To Clean The Campus as Part of the Kindness Initiative

BCA Students Working Together to Clean the Campus. The Kindness Initiative.

BCA Students Taking Kindness Outside of the Classroom to Make The Playground More Enjoyable for Everyone.



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