Tuesday, September 8, 2015

How to Teach Good Procedure Writing: PB and No J Scientific Method Demonstration

I love teaching the scientific process
to start off the beginning of the year. It's the foundation for all other good scientific work that we will do throughout the entire academic year. I introduce the importance of good procedure writing with a fun and memorable demonstration called PB & No J.

Students are asked to write some steps for how to make a peanut butter sandwich as a type of pre-assessment. I usually walk around the room to observe the different skill levels of the students, since many of my students come to me with various scientific inquiry experiences. Then, I have a few volunteers to participate in the first part of the demonstration. Students experience poorly written procedures when trying to make a peanut butter sandwich. The student trying to make the sandwich in this demonstration automatically adds the unwritten steps since they have probably made a peanut butter sandwich before. It's a lot of fun for the class when the teacher polices this demonstration and calls the student out. "Did the instructions say to do that?" The classmates usually start shouting out ideas for what should be done, but as the teacher and facilitator, you want to get the point across that there is a lot of wiggle room with these procedures. You just
never know what should actually be done and need to do some guessing. That does not make for a clear and consistent procedure. I do allow students to be creative in opening the peanut butter jar and eating the sandwich - as long as it isn't with their hands. Always pick a student for this part of the demonstration who is generally outgoing and boisterous. You will know the perfect kid for each class who will help make this activity memorable.

The second part of the demonstration shows the students an example of well-written procedures. I usually try to over-emphasize on the detail, and then try to tell the kids that their procedures need to be a happy medium between the poor procedures and the extremely detailed procedures. Once the students have experienced both demonstrations, then I have them review the procedures they had written at the beginning of the activity. I ask them to self-assess on a rubric, and then have any super confident junior scientists try their hand at reading their procedure for someone to follow in front of the class. This is a great opening for a few other lab experiences that will provide the opportunity for students to continue refining their procedure writing skills. I can tell a HUGE difference in the student writing when I explicitly teach procedure writing with this activity versus years when I only mentioned how it was important to include detailed steps. PB & No J definitely makes an impression!

Do you love this activity but don't have a ton of time to think about writing all those procedures? Download the handout with a self-assessment rubric and t-chart as well as a corresponding PowerPoint on my TpT store here!

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

10 Back to School Ice Breakers Your Students Will Love

Ice Breakers.  The bane of a teacher's existence during the first week of school.  You have a bazillion things to cross of your list to get ready, you meet with your team, and you discuss which ice breakers you want to incorporate during the first week.  What did we do last year?  Do you remember?  Those are frequent questions tossed around in this first meeting of teachers who still are transitioning from summer to school mode.

Try these 10 Back to School Ice Breakers that your students will love!  These activities cover different areas of thought, so students do not feel like they are repeating the same information with each ice breaker.  Students have fun, they get to know each other, you get to know them, AND you save time to cross other things off your list.  It's a win-win for everyone!

Two Truths and a Lie is one of my favorite back to school activities!  It's always so fun, even as a teacher, to try to guess which statement is the lie. You can really find out some interesting tidbits about your students with this one.  You can also use this activity with clickers to have students vote on which statement they believe was the lie.

Would You Rather... can be conducted by having students get up and move to different sides of the room based on what they would rather do in each scenario.  This allows students to really visualize how many would pick one choice over the other.  The best part of this activity is the classroom discussion that will be generated.

My No Good, Very Bad Day is a spin on the classic Skittles Ice Breaker.  The student shares one of the worst experiences he/she has had based on the color of the Skittle.  Students can share in small groups rather than in front of the entire class to make even the quietest student more comfortable.

This Fear Factor Ice Breaker is a 4-Corner Activity.  Students are presented with different phobias in the form of the "Are you afraid of.." question.  Students then vote on how afraid (or not afraid) they are of the various things by moving to the different corners of the room.

The Marshmallow Challenge is a fantastic team builder that is great for any subject area or age group even though this is a STEM activity.  This activity does require some prep ahead of time, but it is so worth it!  Read more about this activity on this blog post.

Super Sleuths can be differentiated based on the grade level.  Students write down three personal characteristic clues that their peers could use to identify them.  Younger students can write down more obvious clues (color of shirt) while older students can be more detailed (freckle on my left cheek).  Shuffle the cards and allow students to be detectives to determine who matches the clues!

What Would You Do is another take on the classic Skittles Ice Breaker.  This time, students are asked to share what they would do in different situations - say, for example, if they were president.  This is a more introspective ice breaker that really encourages students to think!

Have You Ever?  is an interactive game where students are presented with a range of questions - from common experiences to create bonds among students to uncommon to allow students to stand out and create discussion.  Students move to one side of the room or the other based on if they have or have never experienced the proposed scenario.

Find Someone Who... allows students to mingle with each other around the room to find people who fit each experience.  It's always fun to see who can gather the most signatures on their sheet or completes the entire sheet the fastest.

My Favorite Things is an ice breaker that uses M&Ms.  Students pick out three differently colored M&Ms that they will eventually find out corresponds to a favorite thing prompt.  Students can share aloud in small groups or as a whole class.

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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Classroom Expectations Cookie Lab

Most teachers have high expectations for their students.  But, how can you convey these expectations in a fun and memorable way?  I have found that this Classroom Expectations Cookie Lab is a fantastic back-to-school activity that makes a lasting impression on students.

This lab activity allows the teacher to discuss three important aspects:
1.) Effort
2.) Condition of the Work
3.) Quality of the Work

You will need two sandwich cookies per student, one piece of paper towel per student, and a lot of theatrics on your part!  The more dramatic you can be, then the better chance you have of students remembering your expectations throughout the school year.

You will want students to think this is a very serious lab.  They will need to follow instructions very carefully.  The first part has the student picking up the cookie - one hand on the top and the other hand on the bottom part - and then twisting it apart.  Ask students to lick the filling off of the cookie and then put the two sandwich pieces back together.  What's missing?  The filling.  Discuss with students how missing answers on assignments and quizzes is like missing the stuffing in your cookie.  You would expect the cookie to have stuffing as much as the teacher would expect you to make your best effort to answer every question.

The second part has students taking one of the sandwich pieces from the first cookie and really giving it a good lick.  Encourage students to really lick the cookie and get lots of saliva on it.  Of course, this receives lots of "yucks" and "eews" from the class...but it is a great set up for the next step.

Then, ask the students to turn to a neighbor and trade their cookie pieces.  Students might be a little hesitant to do so, but you can encourage them to only touch the sides of the cookie.  Once everyone has traded then ask the students to eat the cookie piece they just received from their neighbor.  They will look at you like you are absolutely nuts!  Pause long enough to garner some objections from the students...and then say "Just kidding!"

Most students will breathe a sigh of relief that they don't have to eat their neighbor's saliva-covered cookie.  And then you will probably have one student who is busily chewing his/her neighbor's cookie.  There is always one.  And, that student becomes what legends are made of around school!  Honestly, I have students who know that little Jimmy chewed the cookie three years ago.  I suppose they remember this story from when their older siblings shared what happened during this back to school activity.  But, we wanted a memorable back to school activity - right?  So there you go!

Talk about how disgusting eating a neighbor's cookie would be.  Then segue into how this is true for the work that is turned into the teacher.  Discuss how the work should be in good condition.  No stains, boogers, dog bite marks, etc.  You could really play this one up for the kids...and they get a kick out of it!

The last part has the students taking the second cookie and wrapping it up into the paper towel.  You want to make sure it's not wrapped too tight or else you will have a cookie crumb explosion everywhere when you give the next instruction.  Ask the students to make a fist and pound down on the wrapped cookie.  I usually give the kids around 30s or so - coaxing some to put some muscle into it or warning others to take it easy.  Once you think they have crushed the cookie enough, then say "Stop!"  Have the students carefully unwrap the paper towel.  What do they see?  Students should say how their cookie is crumbled.

Relate the crumbled cookie to the quality of their work.  They would expect a package of cookies to contain high quality cookies without being crumbled.  The teacher expects high quality work.  Discuss what you think constitutes high quality work in your classroom.

Close this activity by stressing how you know each student in the room can be their best and that you expect it!

Love this activity but short on time?  Click here to download a scripted lesson plan and a corresponding PowerPoint in my TpT Store. sig signup3 photo blog sig signup3.png

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Periscope: A Teacher's New Best Friend

Periscope...it's all the rage in the Teacher World this week!  Have you tried it?  No?  What the heck is that, you ask.  Periscope is a live-streaming video app that allows you to interact in real-time with your audience or vice versa.  You can download the app for free, take a deep breath, turn the camera around on YOU, and channel your inner Oprah to create a live broadcast that is available online for 24 hours.  Your followers get a notification that you are about to "go live" and can join you in real-time.

If you are doing a broadcast, you can see who joins in and what comments or questions they are posing so you can respond.  You can also see how much love your followers are giving you with the flow of hearts on the side of the screen, which is generated by tapping the screen with your finger.  Followers usually give you love if they like what you're saying, want to encourage you to keep doing what you're doing, or if they are watching with a four year old by their side...which is typically the case in my scenario...she likes to give lots of love to whomever we are watching!

Nervous to create your first broadcast?  First of all, I don't blame you.  It's intimidating to think about turning the camera phone around on yourself and having to speak without losing your train of thought or stammering.  But, guess what, most people start out that way...you are definitely not alone.  My first scope was a few nights ago around midnight in my newborn daughter's nursery.  I was rocking her to sleep after a rough day from immunizations.  It was definitely not my most glamorous moment, but it was authentic.  People connect with being real.  And, I'm sure that you will be surprised about how much support you might receive on this platform by being yourself.

Want to just be a "creeper peeper" on Periscope first?  Go ahead...I mean within reason, of course.  Explore on Periscope and see what's being posted around the world.  I watched a scope from a woman who was touring the Greek ruins along the Aegean Sea a few days ago.   That was so cool.  I didn't comment or even tap the screen to give her love, but it allowed me to explore a little before getting started on my own.  Plus, broadcasts are available to watch on replay within 24 hours of posting, so even if you don't catch one live you can always replay without worrying about the interaction factor.

There are tremendous possibilities of how to use this app for professional development and in the classroom.  Stay tuned to a future blog post that discusses some ideas on what you may be able to do with this app! sig signup3 photo blog sig signup3.png

Monday, June 29, 2015

TpT Seller Challenge: Week 2 Dare to Dream

So, I've joined the #tptsellerchallenge, which is a 4-week challenge to enhance your TpT Store (find mine here) and boost your presence on social media (find me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram).

It also appears to be a great way to connect and learn with other fantastic educators.  I joined a few weeks late, since I've been busy with my newborn daughter, but I have learned a lot from just reading what everyone else has been doing!  Week 2 challenges us to dream about what we want from our TpT journey.  If you never dream it, then how can you achieve it - right?!?  So here goes...

I taught seventh grade science for five years before becoming a work-at-home mom.  For me, it was tough only spending three hours of the day with my own child.  I knew that I would regret not spending time with my children while they were young when a traditional teaching job could, theoretically, always be available.

I have been blessed to stay at home for a year now and have added a new daughter to our crew in that time.  My oldest likes to play school as she readies for preschool in the coming year.  She likes to call me "Mrs. Mommy" when we pretend to have calendar time.  TpT allows me to be Mrs. Mommy and for that I am very thankful.

College loans stink.  It was a great idea to attend a private liberal arts school when I was 18.  Oh, and then again for my masters...until you realize you will be paying off your loans for what seems like forever.  Although my alma mater was a great fit for me, met wonderful people (husband included), and enjoyed every bit of the experience...post-collegiate life would be so much better for our generation without being shackled to so much student loan debt.  As my store blooms, I hope to be able to take on this monster before my own kids start college themselves!

Financial freedom also means that my hard-working husband can then dabble into projects that he loves.  He has always been a huge supporter of me being a work-at-home mom.  He knows that working on creative curriculum materials puts me in my happy place...and whose husband wouldn't want their wife to be in their happy place?!?  Earning financial freedom with the development of a successful store will help me return the favor.

We also like to travel.  I hope to be able to show my children the world - even though I will be explaining the weather, the biomes, or plant/animal adaptations as we go to, I imagine, eye-rolling teenagers.  Oh well - once a science teacher, always a science teacher!

TpT allows me to support all those teachers who are fighting the good fight out in the trenches of everyday classroom life. The demands on a teacher are extreme in the current environment.  Teachers must continuously assess students then analyze the data, alter their plans to remediate or enrich the students based on the data, track how much value is being added to each student's education as the year progresses, connect with parents over various social media platforms, participate in and prepare for school leadership meetings, and the list goes on and on.

So, what happens when your brain has been moving at a million miles an hour with only time for a 15-minute lunch/restroom break?  You lose all creative juices.  Lessons get boring.  Students tune out.

My TpT store allows me to provide carefully crafted resources to supplement the teachers who find themselves in the same position.  Eliminating those extra demands has allowed me to be creative again!  I can work on engaging and challenging materials for the students that have a polished appearance beyond what I would have had time for while working everyday in the classroom.

My hope is that teachers can relax a little more, spend more time with their families, and know that TpT has them covered.  Maybe a little tweak here or there to fit their own classrooms, but they never have to start from scratch!

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