I found an excellent article that explained why the leaves change colors (and why each color is produced), so I had my kiddos read it with me and learn a little science. Here is the article.
Then, we went outside to collect one leaf of every color (green, yellow, orange, red, and brown). The kids were in heaven, as it was a beautiful afternoon and the leaves were everywhere! It only took a few minutes, but our enjoyment level was sky-high!
As soon as we got inside, I had my students take pictures of their leaves with our laptops (using PhotoBooth). They then created a blog entry that included the picture and explained in general or specific terms why leaves change into the colors that they do. I only asked them to make sure it was in their own words. Here is a sample blog entry.
It has come to my attention that not all of our blog entries have been up to my high standards, despite mini-lessons that show them what I expect, so I have enlisted a new website to help motivate my little rugrats. We are now using ClassBadges.com, which is a start-up in beta at the moment. They are still working out the kinks, but the developer has been very receptive to my requests and my students have really enjoyed the site so far!
Class Badges is a website that allows a teacher to assign "badges" to their students as a reward for some sort of accomplishment. I have decided to award badges to students who complete blog entries according to the requirements set in class. The requirements I set are similar to a rubric, in that they list what the students need to do in order to achieve success.
I have asked my students to be slightly competitive about earning their badges! This is a departure from my typical stance on collaboration in the classroom. The way I figure it, all students should be earning all badges because everyone is expected to complete blog entries according to the directions set in class. So being competitive about the number of badges everyone earns would only promote students being responsible and finishing their work!
Below is a look at a few of the badges I have created for my students. Notice how the badge itself, relates strongly to the topic. That's because teachers are able to email the website artists and they will make the requested badges for you within approximately 24 hours! All three of the badges were requests I had made!
One thing I really like about using classbadges.com as a motivational tool is that it has gotten me to focus on what it is that I am looking for in each of my students' blog entries! I have now written clear and descriptive requirements that students can refer to in order to achieve success on their work. Once they complete their work, I look it over and decide if they have earned a badge or not. If they receive the badge, they feel successful and have the feedback that they need. If they don't receive the badge, they know that there is something missing from the requirements. They will then go back to the assignment and make the necessary changes. This process is making students more critical of their own work, and more responsible for following the criteria set by the teacher.
I recommend that you give it a try!