Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Case of the Missing Cake: Using a CSI Lab to Teach Chemical and Physical Changes

Physical and Chemical Changes CSI Lab Activity for Middle School Science
Everyone loves to solve a mystery, so The Case of the Missing Cake CSI Lab gets students excited to observe and classify physical and chemical changes!

The CSI Lab Scenario will definitely engage the students and make learning about physical and chemical changes much more interesting.

But, if you want to amp up the engagement, then you may want to decorate your classroom as a crime scene.

Add the caution tape.  Have an empty cake plate with a trail of white powder on the counter.  Dress up as a detective or crime scene investigator.  The more you sell this activity, then the more excited your students will be about learning the basics of chemistry.

Imagine being a student in your classroom when the room is staged like in the photo above.  Exciting, right?  In an instant, you have already captured their attention.  Then, you can explain the case.  In this lab, a cake decorated by a famous baker has gone missing from his bakery overnight.

It is up to the students to solve the case!  

Physical and Chemical Changes CSI Lab Activity for Middle School ScienceThree suspects were found with white powder residue on their clothing.  So, the students must test samples of known and unknown substances to determine which suspect was the culprit.

The students will then observe what occurs when testing the known white substances with water, vinegar, and iodine.

Did it dissolve?  Did it fizz?  Did it turn colors?

Once the lab group discusses what was observed, then they classify the observation as a physical or chemical change.

Students will then be presented with unknown samples collected from the crime scene and each of the suspects.  They will then need to test these unknown samples as they did the known samples.

Once the results have been collected, then the data analysis begins.  You may have to walk through the data analysis with your students.  Help them be able to compare the known substance results to the unknown substance observations.

Can they determine which substance is which based on the observations?  Which sample collected from the suspect matches the observations made with the crime scene sample?  Who was the cake thief?

A photo posted by Esther Alvarez (@alvrze) on

The fun part, as a teacher, is that you can always have some tricks up your sleeve.  If you are conducting this lab with more than one class, then you may want to switch up the crime scene sample.

The different classes will yield different results as to which suspect is guilty of stealing the cake!  This will keep the students on their toes and avoid any spoiler situations that are lurking in the hallways or cafeterias.  There is always one student who can't wait to share the verdict with the others!

This lab helped students collaborate with others, classify the observations as either physical or chemical changes, and encouraged higher level thinking with the analysis of the collected data.  Plus, it got students excited about science!  Yes!!

Physical and Chemical Changes CSI Lab Activity for Middle School ScienceAre you interested in conducting this lab in your class but don't have the time to create the lab handouts or corresponding presentation?  Check this resource out in my TeachersPayTeachers store - it is available in PowerPoint and Smart Notebook formats.

Special thanks to Esther Alvarez!  She is a rock-star teacher in Texas who has conducted this lab in her middle school science class for a few years, and is always so nice to share the photos with me!  You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
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Monday, August 22, 2016

Back to School TpT Giveaway Winner and #BestYearEver Bonus Sale

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Back to School Blog Hop TpT Giveaway yesterday!  I enjoyed sharing some of my favorite Back to School items with you and reading your detailed feedback from the All About Me Freebie.  You guys rock!

Here is the winner of a $10 TpT Gift Card as selected by Rafflecopter:

Even if you didn't win...you can still score all your favorite Back to School items on your wish list for up to 28% off today during the #BestYearEver Bonus Sale on TpT.  Just make sure to enter the promo code: OneDay at check out.

You can save some more money today by collecting as many feedback credits as possible!  Not sure how? Check out this helpful diagram below!

A photo posted by Angela Willyerd (@angelawillyerd) on
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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Back to School Blog Hop TpT Giveaway

I can't wait to make this your #BestYearEver by giving away a $10 TpT gift card for you to use during the upcoming TpT Sitewide Sale on Monday, August 22!  You'll have a chance to win up to $250 in TpT Gift Cards with this blog hop.  Sounds good, right?  

So how do you enter?  Read about my Top 3 Back to School Activities, complete the Rafflecopter entry, and then click on the Back to School Blog Hop button at the end of this post to be directed to the next post in the hop.  

Hurry!  The giveaway ends at midnight on 8/22.  The winner will be notified via e-mail by noon (EST) on Monday, so you will have time to fill up your TpT cart with lots of goodies on sale day!

Here are my Top 3 Back to School activities that I've enjoyed using in my classroom:

10 Back to School Ice Breakers Your Students Will Love from www.mrswillyerd.comMy first day of school is spent with my team getting to know our new crew for the year.  Interactive ice breakers are a great way to get the conversation started.  My favorite ice breakers include Would You Rather or Have You Ever activities.  Students have to make a decision by moving to one side of the room or the other when presented with different scenarios.  It is always interesting as a teacher to see how the room divides for each scenario.  You can also learn a lot about your students to see which students make an immediate decision or which ones linger in the middle to decide which way to move.  It doesn't take much probing to get conversation going in the classroom as to why the students picked what they did or stories about experiences they have had.  It is a great way to start building a learning community!  Read a blog post about 10 Back to School Ice Breakers Your Students will Love. 

Classroom Expectations Cookie Lab makes conveying your expectations fun and memorable!My next few days of school are spent laying out the expectations for the year.  This can be super boring.  But, instead of just reading a syllabus, I like to surprise the students with an activity called the Cookie Lab.  First, the kids are intrigued that they will be doing a science experiment on the second day of school.  Secondly, no one objects to the idea of getting their hands on some cookies during class!  The Cookie Lab relates my expectations for work quality, effort, and work condition to this hands-on activity that makes learning the classroom expectations fun and memorable!  Read a blog post about the Classroom Expectation Cookie Lab.
All About Me Graphic Organizer for Back to School from www.mrswillyerd.comAn All About Me graphic organizer is a wonderful resource to have in your Back to School Teacher Toolkit!  I liked to use these with my homeroom / advisory group.  The graphic organizer is a nice way for students to communicate additional information to the teacher at the beginning of the year without having to get up in front of the class.  It is a perfect activity to use to fill shorter periods of time, like when you are waiting to be called down to the gymnasium for a beginning of the year assembly, during homeroom, or before/after lunch.  As an added bonus, these completed graphic organizers  make awesome Back to School bulletin boards. Grab this All About Me Graphic Organizer for FREE in my TpT Store!

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Keep the blog hop going by clicking on the button below to visit
A Special Kind of Class for your next chance to win!
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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

5 Tips to Land the Teaching Job You've Always Wanted

5 Tips to Land the Teaching Job You've Always Wanted
It's the summer shuffle.  Veteran teachers may decide to retire, switch positions, or change districts.  Principals are busy searching through prospective candidates to quickly fill any positions that the summer shuffle leaves open.  So, if you are in the market for a new teaching home...how do you become the perfect candidate for the job?

Here are five tips that just may help you land the teaching job you've always wanted.

Tip 1: Create a Professional Online Presence

What would your social media accounts say about you?  Your social media presence will most likely provide the first impression to potential interviewers.  Make sure that you remove any posts or photographs that might be construed as unprofessional.  My principal always mentioned the "Front Page Test" when it comes to social media - if you wouldn't want your news broadcasted on the front page of the newspaper, then you probably shouldn't post it.

Any public accounts linked to your name should be used to communicate professional information - educational articles, teacher inspiration, classroom ideas, etc.  Your interviewer could get a quick idea of what interests you by just glancing at your nine tile grid on Instagram, so make sure they are good ones!

Do you have an online portfolio?  You may want to think about creating a website or wiki with a professional domain name to include on your resume or online application.  Upload artifacts, such as: documents or handouts you have created, examples of parent communication, a unit plan, a lesson plan, rubrics, and photographs of your lessons in action.  Good documentation with a well-written explanation might just get you a chance to interview face-to-face!

Tip 2: Do Your Homework

You get called to come in for a personal interview - awesome!  Don't forget the details - which position, who will you be interviewing with, and the interview style.  Will it be one-on-one with several different administrators or district representatives at different times?  Could it be a panel interview with several grade level or department representatives plus the principal?  These are all good questions to ask to help you be prepared.  Also, do your absolute best to be available whenever the interview committee has offered the interview - find a baby-sitter or switch shifts with someone.  Make. It. Happen.  A face-to-face interview opportunity is golden!

Once you can envision what the interview might look like, then start researching the school.  Read about the school on its website, twitter account, or blog.  Look into the grade level team's website(s) to see any interesting activities that were conducted during the last school year.  These activities will provide you with some possible talking points during conversation, which shows that you were interested in the district; and it also will allow you to start developing some good questions to ask at the end of your interview about the school and position based on what you found.

Another good resource for school district data is the state report card.  Demographics and test scores can help you have an idea about the make-up of your school and specific challenges students may be having in certain academic areas.  Although, testing might be just a little snippet of the school's reality, it may also be a potential question as to what you may bring to the table to help close any learning gaps, etc.

Tip 3: Be Authentic

It's interview day!  Even if teachers typically do not wear suits on a daily basis, the interview is the one time when you want to dress to impress.  You will definitely stand out in a positive way if you confidently walk into the interview with sharp looking business attire!

Present your authentic self during the interview.  You want to make sure this is a match for you as much as it is for the district.  Answer professionally yet honestly.  The principal will know if you are just reciting some kind of textbook answer.  Use your experience and personality to weave an incredible interview answer that will set you apart from the other candidates!

Tip 4: Showcase your Potential
Teacher Interview Portfolio Dividers - Freebie - Be one step closer to landing the teaching job you've always wanted!
Use your portfolio to help you explain how you might handle a situation or how you have planned a prior unit.  Show photographs and artifacts that can support how you may have incorporated collaborative learning or technology in the classroom.  Be prepared with either a hard copy of your portfolio in a well-organized binder with tabs under the general categories of: classroom management, assessment, differentiation, unit planning, collaboration, technology, policies and
procedures, project-based learning.  This will help you quickly flip to that section, so you may utilize your experiences to visually support your answer.

In lieu of a binder, you may also choose to share your artifacts on an iPad, but you would want to make sure it was not dependent on wireless internet to access your information as that may not be dependable or accessible in all schools - especially during summertime.

Tip 5: Close the Deal

Whew!  The interview is coming to an end, and you should have a good idea of how it went.  Just to make sure you end on a positive note, have some questions ready pertaining to the district - like:
  • What are some ways that the school ensures the community is involved in education?  
  • What are some professional development courses that are offered since I like to grow continuously as an educator?  
  • What kind of technology is available to students and teachers on a daily basis?
  • What is the hiring timeline for this position?
Be prepared for a closing statement.  How would you answer the question: Why should I hire you?  This question may cause you to stumble around a bit if you aren't prepared for it.  But, this is your opportunity to recap all the positives that you would bring to the district (making sure to include anything you specifically touched on during the interview) and how you feel like you are a good fit for the position.  This might be a good question to practice beforehand so you can pull off a smooth and confident, yet modified to fit the situation, response as you exit.

Thank everyone for their time as you shake their hands on the way out.  Make sure to grab a card, if available, or jot down their names as soon as you get in the car so you can handwrite - yes, handwrite! - a formal thank you note once you get home. 

Reflect on your interview.  What went well?  Which area(s) made you feel uncomfortable to address?  Think about how you could research or improve your portfolio for any future interviews.  The wait between the interview and a decision can drive one crazy, so continue to stay positive and patient.  There is always a large number of candidates who apply for any one position, so even making it to the personal interview stage is a huge accomplishment.  Good luck!
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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Christmas STEM Challenge: Jingle All The Way

Christmas STEM Challenge: Students make a new sleigh for Santa for middle school grades 5-8 and upper elementary grades 3-5.You just might have a few days in December where you've finished up a unit but don't want to start a new one.  This is the perfect time to do a STEM Challenge!  Harness all the students' energy into an innovative and productive project.  The kids will have so much fun that they will forget they are practicing math, science, and engineering skills in the process!

This Christmas STEM Challenge called Jingle All The Way asks students to design a new sleigh for Santa out of common household items within a limited amount of time.  The new sleigh must meet Santa's certain specifications and will be tested by adding pennies, which will represent presents.  Students will go through the design process to create Santa's new sleigh that meets his specifications and test the sleigh using pennies to represent the weight of the presents Santa needs to hold in his sleigh.  Students will make improvements to the sleigh after the first trial to yield a stronger sleigh for the second trial.

Your classroom will be buzzing with positive activity throughout this challenge.  Students get excited to sketch and share their ideas with each other to make the strongest sleigh.  The element of limited time also causes the students to have a sense of urgency that keeps this activity at a high energy level!

The middle school kids in grades 5-8 are expected to identify the need, research the problem, design a solution by writing detailed procedures and sketching prototypes, build and test a prototype, and troubleshoot.  The younger students in grades 3-5 are asked to follow the same steps - but in a simpler way.  These kiddos will Ask, Imagine, Create, and Improve.

The most awesome part of facilitating a STEM Challenge, for me, is to witness the extraordinary creativity that your students will exhibit during this type of an activity.  As adults, we have lost a lot of our imagination - so when we see a handful of random household objects listed as materials, we think: What do you do with these???  We think there has to be one certain way to make whatever it is we are being challenged to design. But, the kids will be able to come up with design ideas beyond what we could have ever imagined!  There might be a couple kids that need a few minutes to grease the wheels of innovation, but once they get going there will be no stopping their enthusiasm!

Starting STEM in elementary is a fantastic way for kids to fall in love with science.  The kids learn how to cultivate their thinking by following the STEM Design Process during a time when they already think outside of the box!  These steps will help them create even more advanced prototypes and troubleshoot at a higher analytical level as they get older - hopefully leading them to successful career paths!

Love this activity but don't have the time to design it yourself?  A student handout, corresponding presentation, and detailed lesson plan is available in my TeachersPayTeachers store for grades 3-5 and grades 5-8 in either PowerPoint or SMART Board formats!

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