Friday, August 29, 2014

Matter Unit and Anchor Chart

One of my favorite science units to teach is Matter.  It's challenging enough to not be too watered down, the students make a bunch of meaningful connections, and there are so many fun activities for the students to do to enhance their understanding of various topics.

I really like starting off my unit on Matter sitting on the rug with an anchor chart.  There are so many super cute anchor charts out there, but I'm definitely not the most artistic person, and I really like to create them with input from my students.  To prepare for this one, I wrote the title on top of the page and Solid, Liquid, and Gas in bubble letters.  Then, with the students, we completed the rest.  First, we talked about the molecules in each state of matter.  With help from my class, I filled in each subtitle with molecules the way in which they would be arranged in that state of matter.  Then, we came up with definitions and examples for each.  It's quick, simple, and interactive.  I would display this somewhere in my classroom for students to refer to during the whole unit.

In the past, I've taught both third grade and fifth grade.  In Illinois, matter was a part of the fifth grade curriculum, while in Ohio, I taught it in third.  I created a unit on matter two years ago for my third graders to enhance what was in the science textbook.  For the past few days, I updated this unit to include over 30 more pages.  I really found that my students responded well to the posters.  I had them on a bulletin board in my classroom and they definitely referred to them multiple times throughout the unit.  In addition to the student pages and science investigations, I included 8 different exit slips that require the students to respond to a question.  The task cards are perfect for a center, playing scoot, or using as an assessment.  What I really loved the most is that most pages in this unit can be used for a grade.  I never seem to have enough grades for science and social studies, so this really helped me out in understand what my students had masters and what they were still struggling with.  If you're interested, you can grab this unit at my TpT store HERE.

 Matter Unit
Matter Unit 
Matter Unit

 Matter Unit
Matter Unit

Monday, August 18, 2014

Teacher Tips - Advice for New Teachers

With the school year soon approaching (or for those who have already started), many teachers seem to feel overwhelmed at the thought that they are now in charge of not only educating little minds, but with everything else involved with being a teacher.  Whether you are new to teaching, transferred to a new building, or are teaching a new grade level, tips for getting through the day are always appreciated.

What helped me survive was the book, The First Days of School by Harry Wong.  It was actually a requirement for my student teaching seminar, and I also received a copy when I was hired into my district.  There is so much that you can't possibly learn in college, and this book definitely opened my eyes to how I should be planning for the beginning of the year.

Well, it has been a few years since I've opened this book and it's currently buried in a box as I'm in the process of moving.  I still wanted to offer some tips, so I looked to some of my blogging friends and Facebook followers for help.  They put together a list of 35 tips to help you out.  These teachers have some wonderful blogs that you can visit for more great ideas by clicking on their tip. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Back to School Read Alouds

The first few days of school is perfect for read alouds.  It is important to start building a classroom community as soon as students enter your classroom. Read alouds, generally realistic fiction, will allow you to open a discussion and give students opportunities to make connections to your classroom.  They also lend themselves well to teaching behaviors and expectations that will be enforced throughout the year.

I went and compiled a list of 30 books that would be perfect to read throughout the first week.  Many of them deal with starting a new school year, while others focus on bullying, tattling, and the consequences of disrespectful behavior.  If you hover over the image of a book, you will be able to read a short summary. Click the pictures for a more in-depth description. I hope you find this useful!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Numbers Between the Lines

So, you're teaching math.  You have math problem on the board and would like the students to copy it into their notebook to solve.  As you give your students time to work, you're walking around to observe what your students are doing.  Then, you happen upon to this mess.  The student wrote down all of the numbers, but the digits don't align to the correct place value.  You can tell that the student's strategy was correct in solving the problem, but because the numbers were shifted, the answer is wrong.

So....what do you do?  Do you tell the student to rewrite it correctly?  Chances are, it'll end up looking similar to the first try.

Here is my little trick.  If you have your students turn their notebook, the lines magically turn into columns!  They can nicely line everything up since one number fits in each space.  When I discovered this during my first year of teaching 3rd grade, I was stunned at how well it worked.  If I walked around and saw a student's numbers misaligned, I would say, "Flip your paper and put your numbers between the lines."  Two years later, I was moved to fifth grade.  When we worked on multiplication problems, I saw students I previously had use this strategy.  As a teacher, I bet you could imagine how happy I was to see them still applying something I taught them.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sharpie Science

Let me take a minute to take you back to May of last school year. As you can imagine, the end of the year is hectic. My third grade team would meet for an hour twice a week to go over report cards, end of the year activities, field trips, class lists, and purchase orders. Because I was the chairperson for third grade, I was in charge of leading the meetings and filling out the necessary paperwork.

Ok, purchase orders. My teammates and I sat down and opened those gigantic vendor catalogs. They're kind of a teacher's dream. Teachers LOVE school supplies and anything that helps us stay organized. We thought we were holding back, only ordering the absolute necessary supplies when submitting the purchase order. I remember jotting down items like Sharpies, Expo markers, Post-Its, notecards, composition notebooks, pencils, erasers, folders, and flip charts, new electronic pencil sharpeners, among a few other items. Well, much to our surprise, not everything was approved.

Now, teachers are getting ready to go back to school. They are sitting in on staff meetings and professional development. They are setting up and decorating their classroom to make it welcoming to the students who will soon enter them. They are scouring back to school ads to purchase all of those items that the school couldn't afford to order. Let's face it. Schools are underfunded and teachers end up picking up the slack out of their own pockets.

Office Depot understands the struggles teachers have in the classroom and wanted to shed light on the amazing things teachers do in their classroom, despite the lack of resources. They launched an amazing program called Teachers Change Lives to highlight some very special educators' classroom successes. Many people don't realize how much teachers have to fund on their own. We don't simply snap our fingers and magically have all the supplies we need to make learning engaging. Sure, we could have the students complete workbook pages all day, but what will they learn? How will they problem solve? Will it be something they remember ten years from now? I just want to take a minute to share a few projects that I captured on camera this year. All of these supplies were purchased by me.

I'm sure you can understand how engaged the students were in those three above activities.  Those were just examples of three of the many projects where I had to purchase supplies for my classroom.

Office Depot, understanding teachers' struggles, contacted me and offered to send me some valuable classroom supplies, wanting to see how I would use them in my classroom.  Of course, just by looking at this loot, I thinking necessary...knew exactly how I'd use them since I've found myself replenishing some of these exact materials every year.

So, some might be wondering exactly where I might keep all of these.  I could very well throw them in a cup on top of my desk, or shove them in my desk drawer.  Nope.  I created this awesome little Teacher's Toolbox last year to keep all my supplies.  The slots are the perfect size for those Sharpie Clear View Highlighters, Sharpie Fine Point Markers, Flair Pens, and Ink Joy Pens.  Now, I have all my supplies at my fingertips, without having to clutter my desk drawers.  It also makes it easy for students to grab what they need (after they ask) without going in my desk.

Since I showed you what I had to buy for those science lessons, I thought I'd use the Sharpies that I received to have some more fun.  Let's see how we can use these Sharpies to teach some basic science principles.

Using Sharpies is an easy to create tie dye products.  I remember when I first started teaching, we tie dyed shirts in class for an upcoming field trip.  DISASTER.  Never again.  All you have to do is buy a few packs of Sharpies and let the kids do the work....and better's not as messy as the dye.  All you need is a package of Sharpies, rubbing alcohol, a t-shirt, bowl or cup, and a rubber band.  So, are we going to waste precious class time doing this?  NOPE.  Let's get a little lesson about solubility in there.  Permanent ink is what they call hydrophobic, which means it's not soluble in water, but it is soluble in rubbing alcohol.  This means, the ink molecules are able to spread out and be carried to other locations.

Chromatography?  Yeah, big word, but pretty easy concept to understand.  Chromatography means "color writing" in Greek and is a way of separating mixtures of chemicals by using a liquid.  Using a Flair pen, Expo marker, Sharpie, and Crayola marker, you can see two different things.  The first is that the Expo and Sharpie are not soluble by water since the ink doesn't spread.  The second is that you can see that the Flair pen and Crayola marker are not made up of entirely black ink.  The Flair is difficult to see in the picture, but it had some pigments of purple, while the Crayola has some orange, blue, and green in there.  

How easy is it to get a permanent marker like a Sharpie out of your new shirt?  If this were to happen, what might you use to try to remove the stain?  This experiment is great for teaching students to make a hypothesis or for teaching scientific variables.  You can use various liquids to add to each black spot on an old t-shirt.  After a minute, use a toothbrush to try to get out the marker.  I waited about an hour and then went back to observe the spots.  I was shocked that hairspray took out the marker better than stain remover.  I also noticed that rubbing alcohol appears to have lifted the marker, but the bleach actually spread out really far and made that stain lighter.  

Again, I'd really like to thank Office Depot for sending me these products.  I had a blast going through them and figuring out unique ways to use them in my classroom.

Now it's your turn!  Would you like to take advantage of some special Office Depot offers?  They are showing their appreciation by providing my readers with special deals for all of the items I received in the mail.  You can click on the Teacher's Change Lives image below to be directed to this generous offer!

You are DEFINITELY going to want to check out the Clear View Highlighters.  Although I didn't feature it in my post, the see-through tips makes it so easy for me to see where I'm highlighting.  When highlighting for my students under my document camera, I always found myself going past what I needed to highlight because I couldn't see the end of the sentence or phrase.  The clear tips on these really make it so much easier!

“I received these products to help facilitate this review and was compensated by Office Depot for my time. For more information about these products please visit: Office Depot