Friday, November 28, 2014

Super Cyber Savings TPT Sale

 Teachers Pay Teachers Super Cyber Savings Sale
Teachers Pay Teachers is having a sitewide  sale on December 1st starting at 12:01 a.m. (ET) and ending December 2nd at 11:59 p.m. (ET). If you use the promo code TPTCYBER you will get a total of 28% off of everything in my store. Many other sellers on the site will have discounts as well. Make sure you check it out to get some great savings!

This sale is the perfect time to get some of the bigger items in my store like the Homeostasis Package, which will be on sale for $3.96, or the Human Body Organ System Assessment Package, which will be on sale for $6.48. Don't forget to use the promo code at checkout so you get the full savings. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Student Activities

I found a blog post today called "Ten Nonfiction Activity Ideas for Kids" by Loreen Leedy. In school there is a lot of reading involved in learning. The lesson plans of many teachers require students to read text and answer questions about it. That strategy has its role but gets boring when used too often. When students are bored they are not making connections with the material and are not learning as much as they could. There are so many great alternatives to have students show their understanding of the material than simply answering questions from the book or a worksheet.

In my class I often  have students do the activities listed below  in addition to or instead of answering worksheet questions. Some of the ideas listed below are from the blog previously mentioned.

  • Students can complete stations around the room individually or in small groups. The stations are basically just questions from a worksheet cut up and posted around the room. Even though students are still answering questions about the content, they are excited to do it because it is presented to them in a different form where they can move around and choose their own order.
  • Students can write the definitions of vocabulary words, use the vocabulary words in a sentence, and draw something that helps them remember the meaning. I use this for my most vocabulary heavy units, like genetics. 
  • Students can act out key ideas to help with understanding the information in a new way.  I am amazed how many boring subjects can be livened up with students creatively expressing the content in front of their peers. 
  • Students can write paragraphs about how the information is important to them and their lives. I always try to include why students need to know certain information, but it is even better when students can make those connections themselves.
  • Students can create a poster or comic to show the most important parts of the material. I have had success with using poster and comic creation in my science classroom. I always explain the rubric and expectations before assigning the project. The students come up with fun ideas and enjoy showing their projects to others, which is a great opportunity for students to learn from their classmates. Below are examples of poster and comic projects I've assigned in my classroom. 
The Changes in States of Matter Poster Project is suitable for middle school students. Guidelines and a grading rubric are included in the resource on my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Take a look at the example of a poster the students might create as part of this project.
 Changes in States of Matter Poster Project

The Density Comic helps my middle school students understand density. Density is something many of them take a while to understand and making a comic about it tends to help them master the concepts more quickly (while having fun).  The resource from my Teachers Pay Teachers store includes guidelines for students and how to grade the finished comics. The comic shown below was created using those guidelines.
 Density Comic
I hope this post gave you some good ideas about activities for your own classroom!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Differentiation of Instruction

During the fall of my first year teaching my mentor and I were discussing my upcoming parent-teacher conferences. He shared some questions parents might ask during the conferences and asked me how I would respond. One question that has always stayed in my mind was "How do you challenge your advanced students?" Until that point my main differentiation of instruction was catered toward reaching my lower performing students. I was good at reaching multiple levels of students, but the group I consistently left behind was my advanced students. I had very few ways of differentiating for my gifted students, and the methods I did use consisted of giving them more work, not more challenging work.

Piling work on gifted students is a common way teachers mistakenly differentiate for their advanced students. (I know I still make this mistake sometimes.)  Does this sound familiar? "Oh, you finished your work?  Great!  Here's another worksheet."

Since the conversation with my mentor five years ago I have always tried to remember to include all levels of differentiation in my class and provide a challenge for my gifted students.  It is something I am still working on, but I have made progress. Keep in mind, it isn't always the same gifted students every day. Oftentimes the students considered advanced change regularly depending on the subject matter.  Each student is great at something and I try to recognize his or her strengths in class.

Here are some ways I have challenged my advanced students:
  • Let the students plan and teach a lesson.
  • Have students tutor others to help prepare for upcoming tests.
  • Have students tutor classmates who struggled on a test the first time and are determined to understand the content better and take the test again.
  • Work with individuals or small groups in class during a lesson.
  • Be the teacher's helper and assist with answering classmate's questions during individual work time.
  • Have different levels of stations around the room and point out the most challenging ones. Then have each student complete a certain number of stations of their choice. Generally each student chooses the stations he or she is ready for.
  • Create multiple versions of the same worksheet with different levels of questions and let the students determine which sheet to complete.
Recently I updated a set of worksheets I use to teach genetics and Punnett squares. The Creature Genotype and Phenotype Punnett Square Practice Worksheets include two worksheets about the same content. In the worksheets the students make Punnett squares to find the genotypes and phenotypes of the offspring of mythical creatures like unicorns, dragons, and werewolves. The worksheets have the same questions and the same answers, but what makes them differentiated is the phrasing of the questions. In Worksheet A the students are given the genotype of the parents, which allows them to focus on the main goal of practicing Punnett squares and understanding how the offspring get certain traits. In Worksheet B the students have to figure out the genotypes of the parents themselves before they can create their Punnett squares. 

 Creature Genotype and Phenotype Punnett Square Practice Worksheets

Below are examples of questions from each worksheet in the set with the differences highlighted.

Worksheet A: In werewolves, silver hair is a recessive trait and dark brown hair is a dominant trait. If a ww werewolf is crossed with a WW werewolf, what are the possible genotypes and phenotypes of the offspring and the percent chance for each?  You will have to choose the letter to use for this question. Use a Punnett square to help you find your answers.

Worksheet B:  In werewolves, silver hair is a recessive trait and dark brown hair is a dominant trait. If a silver haired werewolf is crossed with a purebred werewolf with dark brown hair, what are the possible genotypes and phenotypes of the offspring and the percent chance for each?  You will have to choose the letter to use for this question. Use a Punnett square to help you find your answers.

Tweaking the worksheets just a little bit can sometimes be all it takes to make the work more challenging. It is an easy way to reach all levels of students.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments for me about anything in this post. Thanks for reading!

The Sale's Last Day is Tomorrow!

 Look at the featured items in my store for the sale

Remember to check out the four most wishlisted resources in my store. Tomorrow is the last day to get these featured items on sale.

Hypothesis, Independent Variable, and Dependent Variable Worksheet Package: Save a dollar and get the three most popular worksheets in my store in this package for $2.50.

Science Lab Safety Package: Get everything you need to teach a short unit on lab safety for only $4.00 (previously $5.25).

Scientific Method Stations: Use these versatile stations in place of a worksheet. They are only $1.25 for one more day!

Properties of Matter Test: This thirty question test for middle school science is only $2.00.

Check out the sale before it closes Friday night November 21st!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Secondary Smorgasbord Happy Hour: Free Teacher Resources

A number of the secondary teachers on Teacher Pay Teachers decided to have a "Happy Hour" to compile a list of their free resources for teachers of sixth grade through twelfth grade. You can find the links to all of these free resources at the bottom of this post.


My free resource for this Happy Hour is for science teachers who want their students to learn about qualitative and quantitative observations in a fun way. The Qualitative and Quantitative Observation Activity gives students a chance to first review what they know about observations and then work in groups to make observations about every day objects. The great thing about this activity is that the supplies can be anything--the teacher doesn't have to go out and buy specific supplies to make it work.
 Free Observations Activity

Check out the blogs of the people who set up this Happy Hour: Desktop Learning Adventures and ELA Buffet.  Thank you!


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Wish List SALE: The Chosen Ones

The wish list votes have been counted and four of my resources from my Teachers Pay Teachers store are on sale from now until the evening of Friday November 21st. You can find them in the "My Featured Items" section at the top of my store or follow the links below. The resources you all chose to go on sale for my first ever Wish List Sale are as follows:

1. Hypothesis, Independent Variable, and Dependent Variable Worksheet Package: This package contains three of my most popular scientific method worksheets. The worksheets are suitable for students from 5th grade to 9th grade. It is now on sale for $2.50 (previously $3.50).

2. Properties of Matter Test: This newly added test surprised me by getting so many wish list votes so soon. The test has thirty questions (mainly multiple choice) over atoms, states of matter, changes in states of matter, physical and chemical changes, the law of conservation of mass/matter, homogeneous and heterogeneous mixtures, elements, and compounds. The test is for students in 6th-8th grade and is in Microsoft Word form so it is fully editable. It is now on sale for $2.00 (previously $3.00).

3. Scientific Method Stations: Stations are great to use in the middle school classroom because students can move around the room and work at their own pace which allows the teacher to give specialized instruction to students who need it. These stations are easily used for different scientific method concepts. An answer key and thorough instructions for the teacher are included. It is now on sale for $1.25 (previously $2.00).

4. Science Lab Safety Package: This lab safety package contains everything I use to teach my short safety unit at the beginning of the school year. It has a PowerPoint with objectives and notes for students, a list of safety rules, a safety activity, and a safety quiz with a key. The package is suitable for 5th grade to 8th grade. It is now on sale for $4.00 (previously $5.25).

Enjoy the Wish List Sale and please let me know what you think of the resources by leaving me a comment and rating on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Thank you for checking it out!

Friday, November 14, 2014

My Classroom Rules and How I Enforce Them

The educational strategies I use in my classroom are things I continuously reflect on and develop. The behavior management of my middle school classrooms is one of the things I’m most proud of with my teaching.  I generally had a happy classroom that was under control and focused on learning, which wasn't always easy considering my classes each consisted of 30+ seventh graders at ALL possible academic levels working out of their seats on science experiments and activities. My biggest pieces of advice for a well behaved class are to keep your rules and consequences simple, clear, and consistent.

I only had three rules in my classroom and they were broad enough to cover just about any out of line behavior. At the beginning of the year we went over these rules thoroughly and acted out examples and nonexamples so there was no room for confusion or purposeful misinterpretation.
Rule Number One:Respect yourself, your peers, your teacher, and your surroundings.” This rule is meant to cover all interactions in the classroom. Students who respect themselves value their education and learning time and get their assignments completed to the best of their abilities. Students who respect their peers understand their classmates need a safe learning environment free of distractions and impolite communications. Students who respect their teacher recognize the importance of the education opportunities being presented in class and allow the teacher to facilitate lessons and help all students learn.  Students who respect their surroundings acknowledge the resources, furniture, and equipment in class are used by others for the pursuit of education and need to be kept in good condition. 

Rule Number Two:Raise your hand silently to speak.” Having strong student participation is important for learning, but entering chaos territory is so easy when middle school students are allowed to interject whenever and for whatever. Students need to know every voice is important; for everyone's thoughts, ideas, and questions to be heard there needs to be an order to the sharing process.

Rule Number Three:Follow all directions quickly the first time they are given.”  It sounds basic (and it is) but so much educational time is saved with this rule, especially in a science classroom where there is limited time to complete time-consuming experiments. 

After much trial and error, and some great advice from an administrator, I developed a list of consequences that worked perfectly to enforce the rules of my classroom. The key with consequences is they must be followed in order every single time for every single student. 

Consequence Number One: "Warning." This was in place so I could let students know their behavior was unacceptable in the classroom and needed to be changed. I gave the warning in different ways to communicate with the offending student, depending on what worked the student’s personality. Sometimes I would approach the students discreetly and quietly tell them they had a warning. Other times I would catch the student's eye from across the room and show a number one with my finger. If I had a particularly easygoing class where the students were all comfortable with one another I'd pause in the lesson to tell the student they had a warning.

Consequence Number Two:Complete a Behavior Think Sheet and move seats.”  If students continued to disregard the class rules they would get this consequence that served three purposes. First it removed the student from the situation, making it easier to revert to proper behavior. Second, it allowed them to reflect on their behavior and analyze its effect on themselves and others.  Third, the BTS provided me with documentation of misbehavior that I could save and keep on file. I realized completing a BTS takes time out of learning, and so did the students. My lessons were fun, engaging, and rigorous; the students did not want to and could not afford to miss part of the lesson by acting out and completing a BTS. In addition, if the misbehavior was allowed to continue it would distract others from learning the content. Occasionally I would have a student test me by not completing the BTS. For those students I gave them a choice: They could complete it in my class and be late to their next class (without a pass), or they could leave it incomplete and move on to the third consequence. The Behavior Think Sheet (with English and Spanish copies included) is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Consequence Number Three:Parent or guardian contact.” If the first two consequences were not effective, consequence three often curbed the desire to misbehave. Sometimes I would have the student call home with me right after class. Sometimes I would make the contact immediately after school. Rarely, and only after exceptionally poor misbehavior, would the family be contacted during class.

Consequence Number Four:Referral.”  I was lucky enough to teach in a school with a fantastic dean of discipline. The fourth consequence involved me contacting the dean about the student’s misbehavior and it would then be handled in a fair manner.  In other schools a similar consequence might be used with the principal or other administrator instead.

As I said earlier, the consequences should be followed in order every time for every student. There are exceptions to that, and I was always upfront and honest about the exceptions with my students. My students knew that if one student punched another student in class that a simple “warning” would not happen. That just wouldn't make any sense. The steps can be skipped for serious breaches of the classroom rules. The only other reason I would skip a consequence was for repeat offenders. If the same student had the same problem over and over again I met with that student privately to make a plan. Usually that plan involved skipping one or two steps in the list of consequences until the student was able to demonstrate appropriate behavior consistently over time. All of my classes knew skipping steps could occur in such situations, so there was never any backlash of “that’s unfair” if I went out of order.

I hope this post provided you with useful information and gave you ideas for rules and consequences in your own classroom. The classroom rules and consequences are in poster form in my store. You can get them in the Classroom Management Rules and Consequences Poster Pack. Remember to check out the Behavior Think Sheet if you think it’ll be helpful for your classroom. Thanks for reading!

 Behavior Think Sheet
 Rules and Consequences Poster Pack

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wish List SALE

Three months ago today I opened an account with Teachers Pay Teachers. I decided now is as good a time as any to have my first sale. For my first sale the buyers will choose what will be discounted. Here is how it will work.

Four resources from my store will be on sale between Monday November 17 to Friday November 21. Anyone with a Teachers Pay Teachers account (don't worry--it's free to have an account) can choose what goes on sale by visiting my store, finding any resources you like, and clicking on the "Add to Wish List" button. You can do this for as many or as few resources as you'd like. My four most wish-listed items from my TPT store will be displayed at their discounted price in the "My Featured Items" section of my store website on Monday morning. I will also post the links to the discounted items here on my blog.

I can tell you right now the Hypothesis, Independent Variable, and Dependent Variable Worksheet Package will be on sale because it has been added to numerous people's wishlists already. 

Please let me know if you have any questions about this. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

New Properties of Matter Worksheets

This week I created two matter worksheets for middle school science classes. Both worksheets have fifteen questions and are broken down into three sections.  The first section requires students to answer questions after reading an informational text. The second section has students classify examples. The final section involves explaining rationale for classifications in sentences.

Heterogeneous and Homogeneous Mixtures Worksheet: Students understand mixtures and practice classifying the two types.

Physical and Chemical Changes Worksheet: Students learn about physical and chemical changes and differentiate between the two.


First Post

Hello!

For my first blog post I figured I'd tell you a little about my teaching background and why I decided to create a blog.

I've taught for five years in a variety of states (South Dakota, Minnesota, and Oklahoma), subject areas (science, English, reading, PE, and social studies), and ages (K-8). My favorite age to work with is middle school, and I was fortunate enough to teach 7th grade science for the past three years.

This summer I moved to South Korea--of all places--to be with my husband who is in the army. While I'm here I decided to keep my education skills fresh by editing the teaching resources I made in the past and creating new resources to use in my future classrooms. My Teachers Pay Teachers site shows all of the materials I've worked on since I got to Korea in early August. This blog will allow me to share more information about those materials and how to use them.

Thanks for checking out my blog!

Elly