STEM and Literacy Activities for Surviving Christmas and Winter in the Classroom

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We all know that the couple of weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas/Winter Break can be rough on teacher energy levels and student behavior. And then, the weeks after Winter Break are tough, too. In December, we are all just waiting for that next break, and the kids more or less mentally check out.  In January, its cold and dreary. Recess isn’t a for sure thing. All we want is to be back on break.

I have always found the best way to combat focus and behavior struggles in the classroom is to do more hands-on activities that spark curiosity and interest. This is always easy to do in Science! It’s one of the reasons that Science is my favorite to teach.

This year, I stepped up my game and updated my previous Christmas and Winter activities to include even more hands-on with STEM challenges! Filling your classroom with engaging activities throughout December and January are a sure way to save your sanity, while making progress in teaching those standards.

Let’s take a look at some things I do in my STEM and Literacy Unit to survive December and January.

–December–

Highly Interesting Science and Literacy Learning for each week

Make your students get curious about the world around them by connection real life wonders and phenomena to the magic of Christmas and Winter. This is a great way to build reading and writing skills as well.

I like to start my Christmas season off with a short informational text about how Santa chose his reindeer. Students are guided through some very interesting facts with science-based evidence to back them up! Did you know that all of Santa’s reindeer had to have been female? Students learn about why this must be true and about some neat adaptations that make reindeer perfect for the job!

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Holiday Spirit Skill Practice

To keep science skills fresh in their minds through this season, simple holiday spirit themed activities can be a super easy activity. Measuring ornaments (Providing real ornaments would be pretty cool, too!) and designing a Christmas light circuits can help build and practice skills while having spirited fun!

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STEM Challenges

And to top off a fun unit, I added a new STEM challenge section! Adding real Christmas lights to the house or the tree can make an amazing classroom display. My kids LOVED doing this! My kindergarten son’s Christmas tree circuit on his wall at school was a huge hit. (We used my upper elementary science to improve his kinder family project.)

Allowing students to plan their own design and show off their work is exciting and priceless. The desins can be as simple as lighting the star in top the tree, but could also be lighting the entire tree or house. You can cut apart a stand if chrismtas lights and just add tape and batteries to make a fun circuit! blog winter 3.png

–January–

In January, I  finish up this series with Winter themed activities such as Snowman Weather and Evergreen Tree Adaptations. The relevant topics to their current season helps drive student interest while preparing them for the science concepts they need to know more about. What’s more fun than learning about how snowmen are made and why they melt? To add a hands-on activity for the snowman text, give each student a snowman shaped icecube to melt at different temperatures. Take one outside or close to a cold window, put one in a mini fridge or a cabinet, and even put them in your warm hands. See how long a snowman can last in each temperature. Winter Christmas Science Pack Thumb3.png

Winter Themed Skill Practice

To keep science skills fresh in their minds through this season, simple holiday spirit themed activities can be a super easy activity. It always amazes me how interested students are in something so simple as tools and thermometers! Provide a variety of items for students to measure temperatures in real life to add excitement and hands-on learning. Maybe even set up stations for them to see the tools in action!

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STEM Challenges

The STEM challenge for Winter is a super fun way to end this series. I quite enjoyed it myself. I challenge students to design an igloo that can stay insulated in freezing temperatures. Thinking of materials that work as great insulators and then testing them out in the freezer is pretty exciting. Here is the template I built to put my insulation material around.

Allowing students to plan their own design and test their ideas is a great life skill as well as a science skill.blog winter 3.png

I hope that some of these ideas can help you plan an exciting STEM and Literacy unit to beat those Winter/Holiday classroom blues. Making it fun for the students always makes it more fun for me.

I would love to see pics of your students enjoying STEM and Literacy in your classroom! Feel free to tag me in your pics on social media 🙂 {Instagram} {Facebook} {Twitter}

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to all my teacher friends out there!!

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4th Grade Science – Planning and Prepping for NGSS (National) or TEKS (TEXAS)

I recently received hundreds of requests for infomation on planning and finding materials for 4th grade science lessons using NGSS. So many schools have been changing over the use NGSS the past couple years, and teachers are left without the proper help to make the switch.

I really like the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards). They cover most of the concepts I typically see for each grade level in other sets of standards, but do a very good job of encouraging a higher level of critical thinking.

For about two or three years now, I have been writing all my lessons and curriculum plans to cover both my state standards (TEKS or STAAR) as well as the NGSS. The two sets of standards match up pretty well. But for the standards that don’t match perfectly, I plan to teach the extra in their own week and add enrichment to both sets of standards.

The first tool I use when planning my year is a scope and sequence, or a year at a glance. I already have an entire year planned for 4th grade science using the NGSS and the TEKS. Click on the link to take a look. It may be the tool you need to make planning easy least this year!!

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Year at a Glance Plan 4th grade science

The next tool I use to get my year planned out is my lesson planning format. I developed a format after many years of planning Science in a variety of grade levels. I call it Science in Perfect Portions. This lesson planning guide will show you what all types of materials I use to thouroughly teach each standard, as well as give give explanations for each portion and examples from an actual lesson plan. A template is provided so you can start planning your own lessons! This format has been a huge time saver for me and planning my science lessons! Click the link to get this free guide for yourself!

Science in Perfect Portions Lesson Planning Format

Science in Perfect Portions Lesson Planning Format

The two tools are what you need to start planning your 4th grade science.

I recently posted some tips and ideas with freebies here on my blog to help you plan.

Here are a few links to blog posts for planning.

https://teachersworkstation.com/2017/06/09/how-to-build-an-amazing-science-program-at-your-school-part-1-learninggoals/

https://teachersworkstation.com/2017/06/13/how-to-build-an-amazing-science-program-at-your-school-part-2-planninggoals/

https://teachersworkstation.com/2017/06/14/how-to-build-an-amazing-science-program-at-your-school-part-3-lessongoals/

https://teachersworkstation.com/2017/07/04/how-to-build-an-amazing-science-program-at-your-school-part-4-teachinggoals/

https://teachersworkstation.com/2017/07/05/teachers-matter-more-to-their-students-than-they-realize/

I hope these tools and tips make your switch over to NGSS easier for you.

As always, I am here if you have any questions or need help!

Feel free to email me at elementaryali[at]gmail[dot]com

Have a super amazing school year!!

 

 

 

 

 

$3 DIY Planner

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Planners are a super trendy, super necessary item. I looked at a few of the popular planners that everyone posts about on social media, and while they are very pretty, they are pricey. In the past I have always printed my own planner pages, which gives me so much more flexibility than a store bought planner. I put them in a binder, but binders can be bulky and not as pretty. Their angled shape makes them not stack as well when you’re carrying your folders and paperwork to a meeting. This year, I decided I wanted a custom planner like everyone else. However, when I saw the price tags, I couldn’t feel good spending that much.

Luckily, the Target Dollar Spot came to this teacher’s rescue once again! I found a pack for $3 that included 5 dividers, 78 weekly planning pages, and 18 calendar pages. I was able to turn that pack into a pretty amazing, and durable, planner!

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Here is how I made my new planner:

1. Take the two prettiest dividers to make into the planner covers. Cut the tabs off of those dividers. (The extra dividers will become the dividers inside your planner.)

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2. Print (or write) the label you want for the front and cut it out. I like to put my name on the front.

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3. Place your label where you like it, and put the divider inside a lamination pouch. Place the back cover inside a lamination pouch. Laminate both the front and back cover to make it more durable.

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4. Cut a hole in the hole punched places. Line up all your pages and dividers just like you like them. Put book rings through each hole Spot.

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I added notebook book paper to the back section for note taking. Here are some pics of the inside.

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Im pretty excited about my $3 ish planner, and I have already been using it! It stacks nicely with my other books and fits perfect in my teacher bag!

If you can’t find this $3 pack, you can make this with a $1 divider set from the dollar spot and print your own pages! Here is the planner I made with my own pages and dollar spot dividers.

I hope this little tutorial can help you get that custom planner you want for a much more affordable price! I would love for you to share pics if you make this, too!! Tag me on social media or comment here on the blog 🙂

Teachers Matter More To Their Students Than They Realize

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To top off my back to school 4 part Curriculum series of How TO Build An Amazing Science Program At Your School, I though I would end with a story from my teacher heart.

Here’s a look at my young self in our school pics my first year of teaching.

First Year Teacher

My first year teaching, is an experience I will never forget. I learned how to conduct morning meetings with a group of ten year olds. I learned that these said ten year olds catch on very quickly to repeated idle threats. I learned how anxious a little ten year old heart can be about taking a test at the end of the year. And above all, I learned how much a teacher matters in the hearts and lives of each one of those kiddos.

I was hired in December to take over a 5th grade classroom. The previous teacher started the year out with her kiddos and then left abruptly in October. Just barely over a month into the school year, she decided over the weekend that she wouldn’t return. I don’t know why she left, but I do know what she left.

I came into the school to meet the staff and work around my new classroom the week before Christmas break. The sub was still teaching, and I was being prepped for the first teaching job of my career. I nervously watched as the class interacted with the sub. They smiled big, adorable smiles every time they looked over at me. The school’s reading specialist had been watching over the instruction of this class for the past couple months, and she showed me everything they had been working on and everything they would need to do to finish out the school year. She went over the district procedures for lesson planning, standardized test prep, and data collection. I had three months to get these kiddos ready for their reading and science state tests. It was all a little intimidating for me to take on a week before my college graduation, but I knew it was where I was meant to be. I couldn’t wait to get to know my new kiddos, and use all the best practices and instructional strategies I had been learning in college.

When we got back to school after Christmas break, I officially took over that fifth grade classroom. Each student beamed at me when I was introduced as their new teacher. Their excitement and anticipation was contagious. Over the next couple weeks, I was sent across town to district training sessions that caught me up on what the other teachers had sat through over the summer.

That was when I realized how much a teacher matters in the eyes of each of those kiddos. Kids have families at home and come to school to spend a little time with their teachers and classmates, before going back home to their families. They see teachers as a person in a classroom that tells them what to do. That’s what I thought anyways. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Each time I told my class that I would be at a training center the next day, I saw anxiety visibly raising inside those little ten year old bodies. They had barely gotten to know me, and already they were anxious to see me leave. I constantly had these sweet kiddos voicing their worries to me. “Will you come back to us?” “Will you be gone a long time?” “Please don’t leave us.”

My heart quickly filled, and grew, for these sweet little spirits in my 5th grade classroom. They already had separation anxiety. The person who they expected and trusted to love on them and guide them through their fifth grade year had left them and not come back. That hurt those kiddos deeper that I ever would have thought. My heart was broken for those little hearts, and I made it my goal to show them how much I loved them and wasn’t leaving them.

As the weeks and months went on, their anxieties faded. They felt like they had a secure reliable environment again. Those kiddos bloomed the whole year, and it was just caring that did it. I cared for those kids and encouraged them to be successful. I was a first year teacher, so my experience level isn’t what brought them to where they needed to be by the end of the year. It was my heart for those kids that lead to their security and success.

That teacher who left those fifth graders before I got there probably had no idea how much she meant to those kids. She may not have seen it while she was there, but I saw it when she left.

So, if you don’t think that a teacher is a meaningful figure that greatly impacts the lives of each and every student in their class, you need to rethink your perspective. Teachers matter even when they don’t realize it.

I hope you all have an amazing year this year and feel appreciated!

 

HOW TO BUILD AN AMAZING SCIENCE PROGRAM AT YOUR SCHOOL- PART 4 #TEACHINGGOALS

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The last post in this series covered #lessongoals. I talked about how to plan your lessons for each standard during the school year. The Science in Perfect Portions Lesson Planning Format (with free templates) has been a breakthrough in my planning, so make sure you didn’t miss it!

What makes an outstanding Science program that supports the teachers in your school?

Calling all teachers, specialists, and principals! Its not a daunting task. I am here to help!

Do you wish your current science program included engaging hands-on activities that helped your students experience each standard in a meaningful way?

Do you wish your current science program provided rich informational texts and literacy skill building for each standard?

Do you wish your current science program offered a multifaceted approach to learning each standard to reach every type of learner on every level?

Do you wish your current science program covered the latest standards and trends in science education?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then this post is for you!

Let’s take a look at choosing resources for your science program.

CHOOSING RESOURCES

Now that you have a lesson plan template to plug resources into, you will need to pick the most effective resources for teaching those standards. I’m sure most of you have a specified, limited time to teach each subject every day. You really need to make sure every resource you use gets the biggest bang for your buck. Whether you are scrolling through Pinterest, searching Teachers Pay Teachers, or digging through your school/classroom storage, you need to set some goals for finding quality teaching resources.

Some of the things I say in here may not be the most trendy, but you don’t always have to be trendy to be effective.

#1 Ditch the Textbook

If you must use it because it is all you have, I will list some options for making it work better for your students. But, textbooks are not engaging. I have found that they are too wordy and long. When a kid sees a book that weighs half as much as they do, it immediately overwhelms them. It is too much material to be handing to a child. They may not be able to focus on that one page or selection of pages because there are at least a hundred more pages that you handed them. Besides being generally overwhelming, textbooks are distracting. A student who struggles to focus is going to flip through pages looking for cool pictures, or find a way to make wind or noise by flipping through the pages quickly. And the biggest reason to ditch your textbooks is that learning needs to be hands-on and provide students with a meaningful experience. Don’t get me wrong, Reading is a must have! But, provide quality selections that give them the base knowledge they need without telling them things they could learn through experience in a hands-on activity. When selecting an informational text to replace textbook reading, I look for something that covers all the base knowledge and background knowledge they need to get the most out of the activities to follow. Does the text cover the basics of the standard(s) they need to learn through this lesson? Does the wording make sense to me and my students? Are the examples in the text meaningful to my students? Are the new, technical vocabulary words used in a way so my students will understand them? Does this text prepare my students for completing the “Experience” part of our lesson?

I make all my informational texts one page (occasionally they will be two pages when needed). This page will speak to the child on, or around, their level to give them the information they need. I place three key terms in each informational text in order to create a focus on new or important vocabulary that they will need throughout the lesson. With this informational text, give them a variety of ways to process and respond to it. I use a graphic organizer to record the important details from the reading, as well as a summary writing with key terms to process it. Take a look at these freebies to see what my informational text and processing activities look like. {Click the images for the link to each file}

science and literacy freebie FALL

science and literacy freebie SUN EARTH MOON

 

science and literacy freebie ENERGY

If you have to use the textbook:

One way to make reading a textbook more engaging would be to include movement. Give each student a graphic organizer to complete with the information. In each box of the graphic organizer, write the page number and section that they need to read. Place textbooks around the room, open to the pages they need. Students can travel around the room in pairs or groups putting all the pieces together of their reading. They can read the section that the textbook is open to, and fill in its corresponding box on their graphic organizer with summaries, important details, diagrams, timelines, definitions… whatever goals you want them to accomplish at each reading section. They are moving. They are not flipping through any pages. They know that it is a small portion that they read at each station.

Another thing you can do is write some meaningful quotes (or selections) from the textbook on the board. Give each group (or pair) a quote to read and share their thoughts among the group. Then, have each group share their conversations with the class. This will be giving students the meaningful information without having to take on the textbook. You can also type these quotes on card stock and make them into task cards for this activity.

Make this meaningful textbook selection activity even better by giving the kids a template for recording thoughts or drawing visual representations of each textbook selection. This could be a chart with two columns and a row for each quote. Write the quote in the first column and the response in the second.

#2 Meaningful, Hands-On Activities

The bulk of your teaching should be done in an interactive way. For science, this is easy. Labs are the best way to allow students to “experience” the standard first hand. They are memorable and exciting. Choose a lab, or experiment, that matches your standards. It needs to allow them to see how the standard applies in real life while combating any misconceptions students have coming into the lesson, as well as preventing any future misconceptions. Do your research if it is a topic you do not know extremely well. There are so many Pinterest experiments with higher level science titles that really aren’t the best example of that concept. I am always available by email if you need help with this. Kids LOVE labs and experiments, so use that excitement to really get them learning. Look at how my students got to “play” with sand and water to learn about weathering, erosion, and deposition.

Here I even modified it to let kids play while seeing high tide vs. low tide.

What about those concepts that just aren’t easily seen in a classroom lab? Or, what if you aren’t teaching Science? This is where we get creative. Think of all the ways you can bring that concept to the classroom in a new way. You could set up stations where students travel through a group of cards or images and respond to them. Put a part of the concept on each card with some activity or way to respond to that information. Always provide a recording sheet so they can keep record of their stations. Make sure that the concept is well demonstrated and correctly covered by the activity. I always look ahead to the similar standard(s) in higher grade levels to see where this knowledge needs to develop in the future. This will cut back on misconceptions and help prepare them for the road ahead. Make the activity fit as closely to the concept as possible so that it makes sense for that lesson. Look at this station from one of my biomes station sets. (I have a general one and a Utah specific one.)

Take a game that is simple to modify and change it so it teaches your students the concept. This is also a great way to get students active and having fun! Want to make it even more fun? Enlarge the game parts and pieces and  to make a life sized game! Take a look at this game I made for learning the life cycles. It could easily be made into a classroom sized game for more fun! This game guides the students through their game piece’s life cycle in order. They can research, reference an anchor chart, or look back at their informational text during this game to check for life cycle orders.

#3 Critical Thinking and Reflection

Okay… We read about it, we saw it in action, what else do we need to do? The most important part. 🙂 The next high quality activities you need are used to bring it all together, giving students the opportunity to draw conclusions and really think about what they just learned. What to look for here is higher level thinking, challenges, problem solving, analyzing data, drawing conclusions. This is a great place to have them answer the guiding questions (standards written as questions) from the lesson. They need to provide evidence to support their answer. I use a template called “Claim it! Support it! Explain it!” for students to make a claim related to the standard and back up that claim. Provide students with a graph or chart related to the topic and ask 3-5 higher level questions to guide them through analyzing that related data. This is the group of lesson resources that I find the most difficult to develop. It is hard to find critical thinking activities that are well qualified for the challenge level of my students and their expected level of thinking. I look at the released test questions from our state standardized test to get an idea of what rigor level they will see during state testing. I make sure that my critical thinking activities meet or exceed the rigor of those test questions.

Creative assignments are another way to get the critical thinking into a lesson. I always use the “student output” page of our interactive science notebook to bring in some creative thinking. What can they creatively write (stories, comics, or poetry) that will help them process this lesson and respond in a new, fun way. Give them a specific and meaningful purpose for this writing so they will reach those higher levels of thinking. Here is a look at a creative response with my kinder friends last year. They illustrated their own story map.

#4 Finding the Extras

Within your lesson resources for teaching any subject, there are some extra goodies that help you effectively teach your students. Look for quality writing templates to help you incorporate higher level thinking into any lesson. These should be open in format, yet guide students to reach higher levels of thinking in their writing. Poetry is also a great way to encourage creative thinking while processing information.

Interactive Notebooks are a popular tool to use in your classroom. There are many styles of interactive science notebooks. Some people love to use lots of cut and paste activities and make their notebooks really crafty and hands-on. Those notebooks are amazing. Not everyone has the time, student skill level, and copies available to do all this notebook crafting, and that’s okay. The notebooks in my 5th grade Science classroom a couple years ago did not have any cut and paste activities. All the work was hand written or drawn by my students. They were just as fun. They were just as engaging. They were just as meaningful. Whatever your style, the interactive notebooks will be as good as the quality of your activities. When I create interactive notebook sets for teachers, I make a variety of options so they can get crafty or get simple and still get the same information and same results. The activity below could be crafty, or just as easily be adapted as a T-chart students draw in their notebook.

Anchor Charts are a must have for me. I have taught 8th graders, 7th graders, 5th graders, and a blended Pre-K/Kindergarten class. Everyone of those age groups benefited from seeing and using anchor charts. An anchor chart can be anything from circle map of a topic to a detailed diagram. The quality standard for a good anchor chart is covering all aspects of the topic. Look at what your standards say about that topic and make sure it is well covered. Any extra visuals you can add to compare or connect the items on the anchor chart will make it even more effective.

Here is a simple anchor chart I made at the beginning of the year last year in my blended Pre-K/Kinder class.

And here is an anchor chart for 4th grade Science that I helped some teachers use last year in their classrooms.

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Introductory Activities can be a game, demonstration, or thinking page that gets the students thinking and curious about the upcoming topic. I love lab demonstrations for this, but read alouds, simple games or group activities using the lesson concepts, and video clips work as well. Make sure this activity gets them excited, curious, and activates prior knowledge.  These don’t necessarily need to be higher order thinking. Just something to get thinking started. Check out this fun glowing elephant toothpaste activity to get kids thinking about chemical reactions or light energy.

Click on the image below to check out poetry read alouds I love to use in Science.

poetry in science

Word Wall and Vocabulary are huge in learning new concepts. A quality vocabulary resource will provide the students with an opportunity to think about possible definitions, see actual definitions, and restate the definitions in their own words. They need to see and use these words in multiple ways to really know, understand, and remember the word and its meaning. Check out this Science Word Wall template. You can make something similar to this for any subject! Science Word Wall fossil freebieScience Word Wall fossil freebie

 

#5 What is higher level thinking? How do I know I have found it?

You may be wondering how to recognize higher level thinking. Its a challenging task and takes some time, but will get you the biggest return on your time spent looking. I’ll list a few things to look for when getting kiddos to that higher level thinking.

Are they creating a new idea or product from their own take on the topic?

They need to be drawing conclusions and making inferences. Reading between the lines and coming up with new ideas from the information provided. This can be shown in a writing, debating, or illustrations. Analyzing information by questioning what they see, relating it to something similar, comparing it to something different will lead to them drawing an original conclusion. They also can be accomplishing this by designing something and possibly even constructing it.

Their original ideas need to be justified or supported with evidence (research, lab results, or informational texts) and explained by connecting the evidence with the idea.

Higher level thinking will not be straight responses that they can point to the answer in something they read. It is not retelling or recalling information or events. It is not answered with a simple yes or no. It is not something regurgitated from memory. It is not defining a word. It is taking what they see and making a new, bigger idea from that information.

Critical Thinking Guidlines for Lesson Activities

Hopefully you were able to get some good ideas for finding great, engaging resources. My goal over the past few years has been to create engaging resources for science teachers to incorporate into their curriculum, and hopefully save them some time and sanity. As always, let me know if you have any questions or need more help planning!

Feel free to contact me at: elementaryali [@] gmail.com

Watch for the next post in this series! Its one from this teacher’s heart 🙂

 

How to Build an Amazing Science Program at your School- Part 3 #lessongoals

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The last post in this series covered #planninggoals. I talked about how to plan a scope and sequence for your school year. A mandatory prerequisite to lesson planning 🙂

What makes an outstanding Science program that supports the teachers in your school?

Calling all teachers, specialists, and principals! Its not a daunting task. I am here to help!

Do you wish your current science program included engaging hands-on activities that helped your students experience each standard in a meaningful way?

Do you wish your current science program provided rich informational texts and literacy skill building for each standard?

Do you wish your current science program offered a multifaceted approach to learning each standard to reach every type of learner on every level?

Do you wish your current science program covered the latest standards and trends in science education?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then this post is for you!

Let’s take a look at lesson planning for your science program.

Lesson Planning

Now that you have a year long plan, you can quickly and easily organize standards and materials!

You need to find a lesson planning format that will help you cover each standard in the best way. You need a variety of “teacher input” parts of your lessons. You also need a good attention grabbing intro activity to ignite curiosity and to activate prior knowledge. Literacy and hands on learning opportunities are big players in student achievement and understanding. Once you have a great selection of “inputs”, you need to find meaningful student “output” activities such as analyzing data, interactive science notebook activities, and projects. End each lesson with a formative assessment, and end each unit with a summative assessment.

I know a lot of people love the 5E lesson planning format. I used it for years before creating a format that I feel works better for me. I use a lesson planning format that I have called Science in Perfect Portions. I feel it covers each concept in depth, while presenting material in an order that is easy for students to follow. Before coming up with this Perfect Portions planning format, I spent hours finding activities and plugging them into my lesson plans. Using this for each week has been a huge time saver!

Take a look at the explanation of my lesson plan format to see how I use it to develop lessons. Click the image below to get the whole lesson planning Science in Perfect Portions kit PLUS a printable template to start planning today. **FREEBIE**

Science in Perfect Portions Lesson Planning Format

Science in Perfect Portions Lesson Planning Format

With a simplified lesson plan format, you can simply go down the line and find activities to plug into each category.

I pull up my lesson planning format template to help me decide what all I need to find for each lesson and standard.

Where do I get ideas and materials? I have two places that I frequent. I absolutely love Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers!!! Huge time savers and a great way to connect with other educators and share ideas.

My pinterest boards are filled with ideas… I am an  idea hoarder, and I’m okay with that.

Since I have made it my career to create science programs and resources for schools and teachers, I am working to build a complete program for every grade level K-8! Big goals, I know, but I have 5th completed, 4th completed, and my Middle School program has many options so far. I plan to complete my K-3 programs this Summer and upcoming school year (2017-2018).

Follow me on this blog, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to see the progress I am making and the ideas I share for science education!

Keep an eye out for the next post and I will cover selecting high quality resources.

How to Build an Amazing Science Program at your School- Part 2 #planninggoals

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Last week we started off this series with #learninggoals. I listed some must have’s for learning goals.

What makes an outstanding Science program that supports the teachers in your school?

Calling all teachers, specialists, and principals! Its not a daunting task. I am here to help!

Do you wish your current science program included engaging hands-on activities that helped your students experience each standard in a meaningful way?

Do you wish your current science program provided rich informational texts and literacy skill building for each standard?

Do you wish your current science program offered a multifaceted approach to learning each standard to reach every type of learner on every level?

Do you wish your current science program covered the latest standards and trends in science education?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then this post is for you!

Let’s take a look at planning your school year out for your science program.

Scope and Sequence Planning

The first step I take in planning is to look over the standards I need to cover for the year, and figure out how to organize them into the weeks of my school year.

Your scope and sequence will give you a starting point to plan for the year and plug in the lessons you have or find for each week. This will simplify your thought process and help you move through the year smoothly.

Try to find a way to group the standards into units by finding which standards are similar or can build off each other. Your scope and sequence may be planned for you by your district, but this template may help you add more focus to their scope and sequence.

Take a look at the first page of my scope and sequence in 4th grade science to see how I separate standards into lessons. My lessons all follow both NGSS and TEKS (Texas) to make sure all topics are well covered. Click the image below to get the whole scope and sequence PLUS two printable scope and sequence templates. **FREEBIE**

Scope and Sequence Page

Year at a Glance Plan 4th grade science

 

Keep an eye out for the next post and I will cover lesson planning for each week of the year.

How to Build an Amazing Science Program at your School – Part 1 #learninggoals

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What makes an outstanding Science program that supports the teachers in your school?

Calling all teachers, specialists, and principals! Its not a daunting task. I am here to help!

Do you wish your current science program included engaging hands-on activities that helped your students experience each standard in a meaningful way?

Do you wish your current science program provided rich informational texts and literacy skill building for each standard?

Do you wish your current science program offered a multifaceted approach to learning each standard to reach every type of learner on every level?

Do you wish your current science program covered the latest standards and trends in science education?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then this series is for you!

Before we get into my list of must haves for building an amazing science program, lets look at some goals in learning.

#learninggoals

Here is how I see the most effective learning plan in a classroom.

A well structured curriculum will offer your students a stimulating learning environment which provides hands on opportunities to see their standards come to life in real world ways. Throughout the learning process, students need to experience each standard with a literacy-rich, multifaceted approach which presents the concepts in a variety of ways that reaches every learner at their level and style. Teaching with this higher level of engagement will help them reach higher levels of understanding.

Creating a learning environment which is curious and constructive will make a huge impact in student engagement and comprehension. The goals of an engaging learning environment are simple, but effective classroom

#1 Above all else, have fun!

learning games

Test Scores, Schmest Scores is what I say. If you provide fun learning in an interesting and meaningful way, they will learn. I had to do very little intervention in my 5th grade Science classroom to get low level students up to passing our lovely standardized tests. I just found a new way to make learning like play. Think about it. Would you rather go to staff meetings and professional development where you played games like Taboo with your teammates, or sit and take notes and hear someone talk? I know which one I would pick!! By the way, can we start playing game in meetings? Pretty, pretty please. Insert begging emoticon here 🙂  Games, movements, and investigating are key to fun, effective learning. Look at every standard as you are planning and ask yourself, “How can I turn this into a game?” It works every time! Take the simple games like Candy Land, War, and Go Fish. Turn them into a game for a table to play together, or even better, turn it into a life sized game for the whole class to move around and play! This isn’t just for review, it works for learning a new concept as well. Look at this game I made to teach students the parts of life cycles in order.

#2 Get Moving!

I know adding movement into your classroom is a good way to help get those physical activity hours they need for the week, but it also works wonders for the brain and learning. I read article after article about how little movement kids get in their day, and it makes me sad. I don’t want to sit in a meeting all day, do you? I might even get up to go to the bathroom during a meeting just so I can stretch my legs and back and move around some.

Adding movement into the classroom is probably the least expensive way to take your lessons up to higher level learning. I have a blog post coming up later this month with the many ways you can add movement into your classroom, so be watching for it!

I’ll go ahead and share my all time favorite way to add movement into learning: Science Says. We play Simon Says with our Science Terms. The kids would know their science terms and movements so well through this game, that I would see them acting out those movements while working on the STAAR test. Be still my teacher heart!

Grab a printable sample of my Science Says game by clicking the image.

science says

 

#3 Get Talking!

Yes, talking to partners and tables makes for a loud classroom. However, it makes for a better classroom! Kids learn well by sharing ideas with their peers. Kids are naturally talkative creatures. Think about all the kids who follow you around telling you their long-winded stories about what happened on their favorite TV show, or what they did after school yesterday. They love to talk and share, so use that to your advantage. Find ways for them to work together to problem solve, present a concept or creation to the class, or even debate some ideas or predictions on an upcoming lab. When we share ideas as an adult, we learn so much more about the world around us. Think about all the amazing ideas you find and can improve upon in the teacher social media world. Teachers share great ideas from their classrooms on instagram , pinterest, and facebook. It gets me thinking of new ideas for my own classroom! If you aren’t following teachers on these platforms, click the links and do so now .

Most of the learning and “ah-ha” moments I have ever witnessed in the classroom, came through group work and group sharing. Looking at the students in this end of the year  STEM challenge, they are engaged. They are focused, and thinking, and enjoying what they are doing. They may not even know that they are learning!

group work

#4 Use Trends to Your Advantage

What is it the kids are excited about? What is the newest obsession? Use that in your lessons and have instant engagement. I saw so many super amazing things posted on social media of teachers taking advantage of that Pokemon-Go hype last year.  Think about those oh-so-annoying fidget spinners. I know you want to chuck them out the back door, but they are so hot right now and you can find a use for them in your lessons. You could put one on the front table and tell students to race the spinner to draw the carbon dioxide – oxygen cycle diagram as fast as they can. They are playing with a toy that they love, and you are getting in that review that you love. Its a Win-Win!

Watch my fidget spinner go while my kids clean their room. It worked!! They never clean their rooms this fast!

A few of the topics I will be covering in this series over the next couple weeks are:

#2 Organizing Your Thinking – A great place to start! –with FREEBIES–

#3 Planning – Choosing an effective lesson planning format and filling it with the best types of high quality resources. –with FREEBIES–

#4 How to Pick High Quality Resources – This may be the most important part. You don’t have to break the bank, either!  I will share my favorite resources here! –with FREEBIES–

#5 Classroom Setup – This is a big one. I will cover interactive notebook storage, word walls, seating, prep time savers, and much more! –with FREEBIES–

#6 Why I Absolutely Love Teaching – Having the right perspective on your classroom, materials, coworkers, and students will turn your job into something you love! Let’s slightly modify that cliche work quote I see all over the internet and posters into saying: Love what you do, where you’re at, and you’ll never work a day in your life.

All these posts will come out over the next few weeks, so keep checking back and don’t forget to sign up to get my email alerts for new posts! (You can sign up to follow my blog by email by clicking the “follow” button on the right.)

I hope this helped get you thinking about a few things to work into your curriculum! The next posts will be full of good information [and freebies!] you won’t want to miss out!

 

 

 

Food Chain Puzzles

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We made some food chain puzzles, and they were such a big hit with the kids! I used them as an intro activity for the unit, but I have teachers using them in their classrooms as a review.

Students color and cut out each organism in the two food chains. They place them on the habitat mat in the order of energy flow. Producer –> Consumer/ Herbivore –> Consumer/Carnivore –> Consumer/ Bigger Carnivore.

Then, they write the food chain at the bottom of their habitat mat. The ocean habitat is shown above, but there is also a savanna habitat food chain puzzle.

Check out the video below to see one of these puzzles in action!

 

 

 

 

Life Cycle Slider Books

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My kiddos are LOVING slider books! What a better way to introduce or review life cycles than an interactive coloring book with sliders?!

Here is a look at the sliders we made today to introduce our unit on life cycles. I even made a slider that is continuous by taping the ends of the sliders together! Now it really shows how a cycle continues from adult back to egg or baby.

These were easy to make and just take coloring, cutting, and a few staples! These books are available to buy if you want to print and go!

Feel free to email me for any special requests to make this better for your class!

elementaryali[@]gmail.com