Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Guest Blogger- Penny from Superlative Science

I am so excited to host a few of the awesome science bloggers over the next few weeks.  First up, we have an awesome K-3 STEM teacher: Penny Lundquist from Superlative Science!    I love her blog and all of her great ideas!  She was sweet enough to write a guest post for me and share a freebie...make sure you check out her blog (links at the bottom).
 I always start off the year with the nature of science. The students need to learn how scientists use specific skills and processes to explore their curiosities. The first skill we learn is observation. A great easy activity for observation is to line up your class in two rows facing each other. Have them turn around facing away and change one small thing about their appearance (a button, shoelace, hairbow, collar up, etc.), have them turn back around and guess what is different. Shuffle the line and repeat. You can also have the principal or another teacher stop by for something random. Have them leave, change one thing about their appearance and stop back by in five minutes. Have everyone write down what changed and turn it in. Give the winner a prize.

     Another important skill is working together and collaboration. I usually give them a challenge investigation to solve while learning how to work as a team. Something that is engaging and requires the use of inquiry skills is "The Bridge." Tell them that they will be engineers for the day and build a structure that must hold weight. A great picture book to introduce the lesson is "Iggy Peck the Architect". Now, give each group one notecard and a bunch of blocks the same size. The rules are that they have to keep two blocks as far apart as possible (under the outside edges of the notecard) and stack as many blocks as they can on the structure. The team with the most blocks on their structure wins. They are allowed to make one modification. Now the fun begins. They will try it all. I have seen it all! Don't tell them the answer! You can guide them, but it is important that they figure it out. The best way to build the structure is to make your one modification, folding the notecard accordian style.  A triangle shape is the strongest! This activity can cover a range of grades. Keep it basic for primary and for the older grades, add in some tools like the digital scale and level. You can also add the design process or the scientific process.
      I hope I have given you some ideas on how to incorporate simple activities that promote scientific inquiry into your day!
 A huge thank you to Ari for letting me be a guest on her blog! Please make sure to check out my science blog for more ideas on teaching primary science through inquiry.

Come visit my blog! :)

Here is a link for a freebie science signs and labels packet:

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Choice in the Classroom

Choice in the Classroom
One of my big goals last year was to add more student choice within my classroom.  How did that work out?  Actually, really well!  In my first couple of years teaching, I was afraid to relinquish some control to the students.  WRONG!  Little did I know, I had less control then that I did when I allowed students to make some of their own choices!

Academic Info (without citations)
William Glasser developed Choice Theory, a psychological theory that explains how and why humans behave.  According to this theory, five basic needs drive our behavior:
1. survival
2. love and belonging
3. power
4. freedom
5. fun
I really recommend reading The Classroom of Choice by Jonathan Erwin.  This book is FULL of great ideas for incorporating elements of choice within your classroom.  This book really gets to the heart of intrinsic motivation.  

Ideas for Choice
Here are some ways to provide students with a choice:
1. Complete odds or evens.
2. Work wherever you want in the room as long as you are on task.
3. Choose the order in which you want to complete the activities.
4. Choose your own partner.
5. Use Interest Inventories to learn more about how your students like to learn.  My science one is available for free in my stores.
6. Portfolio or Tic Tac Toe style assessments/assignments
7. Class Jobs/ Job Applications
8. Peer Tutoring
9. Class Constitution
10. Stations (my favorite thing in the world obviously)
11. Project Based Learning

The main thing I feel is required for giving these opportunities for choice is structured and clear expectations.  You can't just say "Go work wherever and let me know when you're done!"  Well, if you do say that, I'd love to be a fly on the wall.  When providing new choices, it's important to model, practice, and create written expectations.  

New Goal
My goal this year is to work on love and belonging.  Class meetings and relationship building activities should help with this!  :)

I would love to hear how you've used class meetings!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Science Graphic Organizers

Science graphic organizers are great tools in the classroom.  One of my favorite things is to have students web their ideas about a topic after a lab activity.  This is a 10 minute activity that helps your students make those necessary connections to truly understand a concept.  While labs are fun, educational, and necessary, students need to reflect on their experience and make connections!

Group concept maps are also a great idea because students get a chance to see the connections that their peers are making.  Sometimes, I include terms that they must incorporate in their webs, then leave the rest to them.

Allowing students to choose their own type of graphic organizer to demonstrate learning is important and a great activity for the "output" part of science notebooking.

For example, after modeling the moon phases, reading a picture book, watching a video clip showing the appearance of the moon changing, and charting the phases of the moon at home, I would give students about 10 minutes to web their ideas about "Phases of the Moon".  Then, students would get into a small group of 3 to compare their connections and make a group concept map.  I would visit with each group to make sure they are explaining the connections on their arrows and can explain how the ideas are related.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Small Group Organization

I started to get things ready for working with small groups.  Below is my Small Group Toolbox.  It contains:
pieces of felt (to use as erasers)
dry erase markers in a variety of colors
glue sticks
10 sided "dice"
equation magnets
short sentence strips
dry erase sentence strips
foam footballs
  The footballs are for partner work within the small group.  They pass the ball back and forth to take turns talking or working or whatever!  They are flat for easy storage.
I made these dry erase boards a few years ago out of showerboard from Home Depot.  I recovered them in green duct tape.  These are to the side of my small group area.
These items are all in the Toolbox, as well.
 This sign is next to my small group area for "emergencies".  You can download the sign on GoogleDocs.
This file cabinet is covered in wrapping paper on the side and the shelf to the side will house the station work.  The pocket chart holds the station information.
 Here's another view of the work station storage area. 
What's your must-have for small group?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

11 Science Small Group Ideas

Small group instruction is hot in education!  We've been doing guided reading for years and math workshop is all the rage.  But what about science?  Science is often tested in elementary now and many of your students will require small group attention in order to be successful.  

11 ideas for starting out small group science
#1 Lab--If you have a lab activity where a group may require extra scaffolding (or in realistic land--you don't have enough materials), use it in a small group.

#2 Workbook--not quite as engaging, but many schools have workbooks like Measuring Up! available and this is a good time to try it.  If you do use the workbook, try to mix it up with a hands-on activity or game each time.

#3 Photo Cards--I have a tremendous photo card collection, but you can also show an image on the computer, print some pictures off, or grab some cards out of the dollar bin at Target.  Below I have my photo cards for Earth Science.  The pictures help engage the students and can be the basis for a discussion or vocabulary activity.  More about photo cards
#4 Experiment-- Complete a simple experiment together start to finish and record your results as you go on a small trifold.

#5 Knickknacks-- As we know, novelty is great for the brain.  Use a knickknack to start a discussion.  For example, give the students yoyos and then start a discussion on force and motion.

#6 Vocabulary-- Choose a few vocabulary terms you want to reinforce and have students complete a graphic organizer for a word in pairs then share their posters with the group.

#7 Game-- Be the game host of a quiz game with your students. You can make up your own game or even use a board game.

#8 Get Up!-- You can't necessarily have your group leave the classroom when you still have other students in there, but that doesn't mean you have to just sit at the same old table each time.  Sing a song with motions or act out natural occurrences. 

#9 Read Aloud-- Read a nonfiction or fiction book with science elements to your students and discuss the information or record important parts as a group.

#10 Sorting Activity-- creating a Venn Diagram using hoops and notecards to compare/contrast, sorting animal cards by adaptation, sorting states of matter, etc. are all great ways to reinforce learning.

#11 Task Cards-- See my post on using task cards for more ideas!

Question: That's great and all, but what's everyone else doing?
Answer: The other students can be working on SW5 Stations, doing learning activity centers, working on partner or individual projects, or doing a simple experiment or investigation.
(Feel free to ask questions and I'll answer here!)

Great materials for your Science Small Group Toolbox:
photo cards
science trade books
hula hoops or large circles
basic lab supplies (graduated cylinder, magnets, etc.)
graphic organizer blacklines
construction paper
dry erase boards/markers
Task Cards for ideas

My Small Group Toolbox
It's definitely different for every class when trying to figure out how to structure small group time.  Here's some different ideas:
~ Meet with your lowest group once a week at first (maybe 15 minutes), then more often closer to testing
~ After looking at data, pull a group that needs extra help on a certain objective or standard.
~ Meet with all students in groups once a week during stations.

Thanks for stopping by!  Be sure to follow my blog or find me on Facebook!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Science Vocabulary Strategy: Acrostic

One of the things my students have enjoyed in the past is creating an acrostic with one of the science vocabulary words.  It challenges them to think of new ways to describe a word by having a specific letter to work with.  
Here is how I would suggest introducing this idea.  I would suggest trying this over a period of several days.
Step 1: Model with the class.  Choose a short vocabulary term you have been working with and work together to come up with an acrostic for it.
Step 2: Split students into groups and assign each group a term.  Provide books and resources!
Step 3: Have students try one individually and share what they came up with for each letter.

This can seem daunting at first, but it is a terrific way to reinforce vocabulary and engage students' brains!

Update: You can get a FREEBIE of science acrostics here.  

Thanks for stopping by!  

Monday, August 13, 2012

Classroom Pics and Organization

I have some classroom pics ready, but my classroom is NOT ready!  No more thrown together classroom for me.  Nope, I have a color scheme that I love!  :)
 Since I have tables, I got these bookshelves ($16 each) and cubbies ($2.50 each) from Target.  They aren't "done" yet, but it will have a supply caddy of essentials, dry erase boards (::ahem:: showerboard they cut up for me at Home Depot) and privacy screens (::ahem:: tri-folds cut apart and covered in shelf liner).
 These are just little note boxes to leave things for me.  The "I know you're busy, but..." has a sticky pad in it and is for when I need to know something but I am working with a small group.  I have a little paper that has the situations when a note can be written to me.
 These are the 9 words I chose to begin Big Money Word$ this year.  I thought about putting all of them up, but it's a bit overwhelming.  I chose these to start.  I have stikki clips below for word wall words throughout the year.  
 This is an inspired idea.  I took 12x12 scrapbook pages, glued on calendar numbers, laminated them, put magnets on the back, then hung them up with a large paper clip at the top.  Perfect for displaying student work in the classroom!
 I know a lot of you use CHAMPS and have something similar to this.  I used a fabric background and then cute border.  Since I put it on my magnetic white board, I got those cool arrow magnets at Target (8 for $3).

Link up with classroom ideas at Sunny Days!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Classroom Pics and Back to School Sale Info!

I don't do many sales because I try to keep my prices low year-round, so I am very excited for the Back to School Sale!  

Now is the perfect time to get your Introduction to Science Stations, Science Weekly Five Materials, Vocabulary Resource Packets, Science Task Cards, Big Money Word$, and Rainforest Unit!

Now my in progress pics!  I'm in a new room in a new school, so I'm enjoying a blank slate!  There were tables in my room, so I decided to go with it and have a bookshelf for each table and cute cubbies for each student to store their things on the shelf.  I'll go into more detail about each area once it's done and I post *finished* pics (if that ever happens).  So far I'm enjoying the view out my 2nd story window (playground and a pond) and all of the new stuff in this room because my last room was so old!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Teacher Fashion

I love to teach and I love clothes.  I don't think I've joined a linky party so quickly before!  A Teacher's Fashion Linky?  Yes, please!
Here are the guidelines...
1. Tell me your favorite store(s) that you like to get your "teacher's fashion".
2. What are some of your favorite accessories?
3. What type of shoes do you teach in? (i.e. heels, flats, wedges, etc.)
4. Do you have a "go-to" item in your closet? (i.e. sweater you wear weekly, shoes you wear daily, etc.)
5. Have you ever had a fashion "uh-oh" at school? (i.e. heel broke, button popped off of blouse)

1. I love nice clothes and I am cheap!  So these are my go to stores for clothes...on sale.

2. I love infinity scarves, like this one I have from Loft.  
I also love headbands, like this one from J. Crew.
3. Mostly, I wear Toms...I scatter in a few other things for novelty...but it's Toms.
4. Go-To Items: cardigans (short and long sleeve) or comfy blazers or jackets (3/4 sleeve and long).  I love a layered look (thanks What Not to Wear!), but this is TEXAS!  I cannot wear a collared shirt with a shirt over it and a blazer.  That's just silly.  So, I wear natural fibers that are comfy in nature to layer over a tank top usually.
5. I haven't had any uh-oh fashion moments at school because I block things like that out!  Here's what happened to me at the airport not so long ago...about to go through security and I looked down...this is what I saw.  So I took a picture and put it on Facebook.  That's what you're supposed to do, right?
"'re on the right track, but not quite there.  Can someone help her?"

Check out From Blood to Books to join in!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Fun Pencil Sharpener? It's true! :)

Number of heavy-duty electric pencil sharpeners broken in my classroom last year: 2
Number of silver wall pencil sharpeners replaced last year: at least 4
Number of tiny pencil sharpeners I had to leave around the room so pencils could get quietly sharpened: at least 10
How many functioning pencil sharpeners were left on the last day of school? Zero.

As you can probably guess, I hate pencils and I hate pencil sharpeners.  In Bloggyland, I've seen posts about the amazing Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener... you've probably seen it too, right?
I went to the site to check it out and saw I could get a free one for writing a review about it.  It showed up about 10 days is my experience.
Overall impression: Quite impressed!  It leaves small bite marks on the pencil when sharpening, but I'm not one to get crazy over something like that...especially when I've dedicated so much time and money into trying to find a great sharpener!  
I love the pointy point, the simple and entertaining way it sharpens, and it really is quiet!  The videos and clip to attach it to a table are super helpful!  After I test drive this on my students, I may have to get one for each cluster to keep at the shelves by their table!

I will update after a few months of letting my students use this sharpener.  I almost want to keep it all to myself, but I will share!  

Check out the site.  It's sold by a fellow teacher and there's a special deal for teachers when you buy 3!  Just in time for the new school year!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Nature of Science Task Cards

Howdy!  Like most of you, I've been a busy, busy girl getting ready for a new school year.  I can't believe some of you are already back!  I've got a versatile new product for you: Nature of Science Task Cards.  These are ready just in time for a new school year!
These cards appeal to multiple learning styles and skill levels!
The 52 cards can be used in a variety of ways!
-in a science center
-stations during science
-early finishers
-small group
-quick whole class activities
Task Cards on my table
Check it out in my TpT Store.
Check it out in my TN Store.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Product Swap: Graphic Organizers Review :)

I'm super excited to share some amazing graphic organizers for reading created by April form The Idea Backpack!  Since I will be teaching 4th grade this year, I took a look at her Reading Graphic Organizers for both 3rd and 5th grade.  Both are correlated to Common Core Standards and even have the standards listed on each activity's page.  I'll be reviewing each one separately.

I used the book, Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts, to complete a sample graphic organizer for both 3rd and 5th grade.  
The 3rd Grade Reading Graphic Organizers has 22 pages for Literature and Informational standards.  The specific standards are listed on the Product Overview.  Below is a graphic organizer I completed for Analyzing Characters and Events.  This was helpful for me as an adult to identify how a character's traits affected the events of the story.

The 5th Grade Reading Graphic Organizers has 11 pages for the Literature standards.  Again, the specific standards are listed on the Product Overview.  Below is a graphic organizer to help students identify the theme of a story.  These skills are increasing in difficulty and organizing one's thoughts in a graphic organizer simplifies the process!

I'm a SCIENCE Penguin, not a READING Penguin.  I love to read, but have never considered reading instruction to be my strength.  The great thing about these graphic organizers is that they really help students build step by step to make connections and identify difficult themes and ideas in a variety of texts.  I will definitely be using these next year!  :)  
Show April some love...go check these out and make your life easier and your instruction more rigorous!  This is going to make teaching reading so much easier!  :)

Here's when I plan to use them:
-response to social studies text
-response to science text
-Reader's Workshop
-Literacy Stations
-reader's response
Get yours now!
3rd Grade Reading Graphic Organizers
5th Grade Reading Graphic Organizers
Visit The Idea Backpack Store!
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