Observing Plant Cells

Onion Cell

Kids have curious minds and love to observe the world around them. When students walk into their science classroom and see microscopes out, they get really excited. They get to play with real science equipment and observe the tiniest parts of the world around them.

Learning about cells is the perfect opportunity to let your students use microscopes. Depending on the age and ability of your students, you may want to modify how your students use the microscopes. In fifth grade, I like to give each table a microscope set up with a prepared slide. I give step by step instructions for how to adjust make adjustments and focus. In addition to the verbal instructions, I have a digital microscope set up to show my students on the projector screen what they should be able to see in their microscope.  This also gives me their interest and attention when I explain the parts of the plant cell we are observing.

Check out the slide show below to see what the onion cells look like under the microscope.



Using the microscope to see what a plant or animal cell looks like is a great hands on experience for your kids. Its a good idea to provide your students with a variety of ways to learn about cells. The Cell Structure and Function Science and Literacy Lesson Set has a variety of learning activities for your students including an informational text with graphic organizer and summary writing. It also has an observation sheet for the onion cell lab and instructions for lab prep.

Have fun and explore the world around you!

Measuring Mass: Popcorn Lab

Here is a fun, simple, and yummy lab to help your students practice measuring mass.

Problem: Does the mass of a bag full of popcorn change after it is popped?

Hypothesis: Have students make a prediction. Example: “I think the bag of popcorn will have more mass after it is popped because the popcorn gets bigger when it pops.”

Complete the experiment.

popcorn lab long pic

Don’t forget to record the data and results!

Write a conclusion for the lab.

My bag of popcorn started at 101.5 grams, and went down to 98.6 grams after it was popped!

You could also tweak this experiment to observe the change in volume when popcorn is popped.

If you need materials for teaching matter, check out these resources.


Kindergarten Science Interactive Notebook with Word Wall S2nd Grade Interactive Science Notebook: Matter & Energy (STAAR)2nd Grade Science and Literacy: Matter and Energy (STAAR & NGSS)


Matter and Energy Anchor Charts with Student Pages (STAAR)States of Matter Science and Literacy Lesson Set (STAAR & Interactive Science Notebook: Force, Motion, Matter, and EClassifying Matter Lab Stations and Scavenger Hunt




(5-PS1-3) Measurements of a variety of properties can be used to identify materials. (Boundary: At this grade level, mass and weight are not distinguished, and no attempt is made to define the unseen particles or explain the atomic-scale mechanism of evaporation and condensation.)
Texas TEKS
(5)  Matter and energy. The student knows that objects have properties and patterns. The student is expected to: (A)  observe and record properties of objects, including relative size and mass, such as bigger or smaller and heavier or lighter, shape, color, and texture; and

12 Reasons Why You Are An Amazing Teacher

Halfway through the year really tests our teaching endurance. We have the holidays, finishing up a semester, and the planning and stressing begins for the end of year testing. It is so easy to get down about your ability and life calling as a teacher when you are so exhausted. I am sure you have seen the memes.

Teacher Memes Decemeber and End of Year Humor

If you want more memes, or to save these for yourself, I made a teacher humor Pinterest board. I like to scroll humor boards when i need a little pick-me-up.

And now for my 12 reasons you are still a good teacher, even when you can relate oh too well to memes like the ones above.

lost mind

Number 1. You have a sense of humor. You have to be able to find the humor in the little things as a teacher. Kids say funny things. You are so exhausted that you are losing your mind and put the milk in the cabinet. Just laugh at the silliness of stressful times. Maybe make your own memes! Please, share them with me if you do!! 🙂

Number 2. You believe in yourself. All teachers, including anyone in their careers outside of teaching, have setbacks and experience not-so-kind students, parents, and staff. You just have to realize that accidents happen and the attitudes and actions of others are out of your control. This is where your great sense of humor comes in. Laugh it off and try again.

Number 3. You believe in your students. Set high expectations for your students’ learning goals, and believe that with the individualized care you give, they can achieve it. You believe in them no matter what seems to be holding them back, and you can celebrate with them in their successes.

Number 4. Your ability to see different ways for students to experience the learning standard in their own best way. You are creative and innovative to think of different ways to teach the same thing to each of your students each year.

Number 5. You build a sense of community in your classroom. Your students feel like they have a safe place to learn and make mistakes. Your classroom community makes students feel accepted and they can embrace their individuality.

Number 6. You are not afraid to try new things. Being flexible is what keeps teaching new and exciting. You accept the new learning methods and try them out with your students. This is how you keep progressing to your best teacher self.

Number 7. You have patience (most of the time). Understanding that misbehavior, getting distracted, and not getting it are all just part of being a kid. You can understand where they are coming from, and help them work through it, while you work through the challenges with them. Take a deep breath and keep going.

Number 8. You love your students. Teachers have the biggest hearts of all. You care about those kids like they are your own. You are concerned about their health. How many times have you felt a kids forehead to check for fever, or monitored their lunch to make sure they are eating enough healthy food? You are interested in their personal life and hobbies. You can share in their victories with them.

Number 9. You collaborate with other professionals. You work with other teachers and leaders in your school to make sure you are providing the best learning environment for your students. You connect with teachers around the world through social media (I love Instagram) to see what new ideas you can “steal”.

Number 10. You are prepared and organized (at least half of the time- hehe). You at least scroll through Pinterest or TeachersPayTeachers to plan your lessons for the week!

Number 11. You have a passion for what you teach and share it with your students. You love to read, and it shows when you read to your students. You love experiments, and it shows when you set up a lab for your students. You love to solve problems and it shows when you walk your students through a problem. Your love for nap time shows when you fall asleep at your desk… Just kidding! You would never do that! Hahaha 🙂

Number 12. You have a love for learning. Reading up on new teaching methods. Reading books and articles about the subject you teach. Watching TED Talks about teaching, leading, or your content area. Taking classes and sessions to be a better educator. Participating in meetings and workshops at school. Scrolling blogs and websites for new ideas. However you gain new knowledge, you have a love for learning.


And if you really want to feel good about yourself, watch the movie Bad Teacher. It is so inappropriate, but so funny. If you are in better shape than Cameron Diaz’s character, then you’re probably going to make it. 😉

Hang in there teachers! The end of the year draws near and you have the endurance to make it!! I believe in you! You are a great teacher!!

hang in there.png



Teach So They Get It with 30 Interactive Ways to Check for Understanding

Teach so they get itWe teachers know that if we teach a lesson and then test without formative assessments, we have very few indicators of student understanding and if they can pass the test.

It takes an interactive method of asking those higher level questions throughout a unit, to identify the level of student understanding and assess the need for a reteach.

I like to think of teaching and checking for understanding as a 4 step process.

Step 1

Teach to your best ability. Put it all out there. Teach your heart out. Okay, you get the point. Cover every base on each topic by doing research. Know what the curriculum standards are for your students now, as well as how these standards will advance as they get older. If you understand where they are going with the standard, you will better understand why they need the information now. A vertical alignment of your standards will be a huge help in thinking ahead for your students’ learning. Ask your lead teacher or curriculum specialist if they have a vertical alignment prepared. I have found them through online searching as well. You can even make your own, if you have the time and energy.

Know what the common misconceptions are for the topic. Chances are someone in your class shares that same misconception. Have students complete some sort of pre-learning assessment. This can be as simple as the first two collumns in a KWL chart. A pre-learning assessment can tell you who has some misconceptions going into the lesson. You may even find out that your students already know quite a bit about the topic, and you can adjust your teaching to meet their challenge level of learning.

Teach using a variety of inputs and outputs for your students to see and understand the topic. Here is a planning page I like to use when planning my science lessons. The experience block is where you want action learning. Labs, Interactive Science Notebooks, Stations, and activities that get the students up and around the room.

lesson brainstorming img

Step 2

Never sit down. Sorry, I know its an unfortunate job description of teaching. But, during class time there is never a good time to sit at your desk. While students work, walk around and assess your students’ learning. Visit each desk or table for a moment and listen. Hear their progress first hand. Lead a discussion with the table and ask questions. These are easy ways to start the “check for understanding” process.

When I was very pregnant and could not stand for long periods of time, I would sit in my rolling chair and roll from table to table. There’s a trick to get around the “no sitting during class time” rule. * wink wink*

Here are some ideas of what to look for that might help you be more effective as you observe students as they work.

  • How involved/ engaged is the student in the task?
  • Are they using the correct process to complete the task?
  • Are they achieving the correct answers, solutions, or outcomes from their task?

If more in depth observation is needed:

  • Ask students to think out loud for you as they work.
  • Question the student on the topic/ content.
  • Have students explain what they have done so far.


Step 3

Formative Assessment

Here is where you can get creative and turn an assessment into a fun and memorable activity. When done properly, the formative assessment can even be a second chance at learning the topic, a reteach in itself.

I know it can be challenging to come up with ideas for a formative assessment and be creative about it. Especially halfway through the school year. You’re tired, and the kids are tired. We are all ready for a holiday break. Let me help your tired brain think for a bit here. 🙂 I have come up with a big list of 30 interactive ways to check for understanding for you! Print the list and randomly pick an idea for a formative assessment when you need it. Almost all of these ideas can be student creations on a blank piece of paper! No prep needed. Most of the time, I will write the learning goal on the board as a question, and use that question each day in one of these formative assessments to assess their learning.

  1. Exit Slip. Have students write a reflection statement or question on a slip of paper to hand you on their way out the door.
  2. Thumbs Up. Hand signals for students to share their understanding about a topic. Thumbs up = I understand this and can explain it. Thumbs sideways = I am not sure I understand all of it. Thumbs down = I don’t get it. For added learning and assessment, have some of the thumbs up students explain their understanding to the class.
  3. Write a lab to test and explain the topic. Use the scientific method or a lab write up sheet to cover all the steps needed.
  4. Comic Strip. Students can explain the order of events from the topic through illustrations and text.
  5. Classroom Response System. Use sample questions that mimic the format of the summative assessment and have students answer using a clicker system. The clicker system can usually grade the students’ responses for you!
  6. Act It Out! Write a play or dramatic reading for the topic. Students can read their scripts and present to the class.
  7. “Got it!” Slips. On a note card or slip of paper have students write a summary of the lesson topic on the front. On the back, have them write any questions they have from the lesson.
  8. Teach It! Have students write an explanation to a new student about the topic. Technology bonus: they can record themselves making a podcast with an audio recording device or video with an ipad.
  9. Analogies. Have students write [The topic or key term] is like _____________, because ________________________.
  10. KWL. Students can start the KWL before the lesson and complete the “L” after the lesson.
  11. Doodle Notes. Students can write notes for the topic using creative fonts and illustrations that help explain the topic better.
  12. Summary with Key Words. Give students the key words that go with the lesson or topic, and have them write a summary using the key words. For an extra creative challenge, they can write their summary as a poem.
  13. Concept Mapping / Graphic Organizers. Have students complete a graphic organizer to organize the facts or processes of the topic. (Venn Diagram, Web, Timeline, Flow Chart)
  14. Misconception Mystery. Give the students a statement that is a common misconception about the topic. Have students decide whether they agree or disagree with the statement and explain their decision in a paragraph.
  15. Making Connections. Students can make connections between the topic and something else they know about. [Topic] reminds me of _____________, because _____________________.
  16. Write the Test. Have students write higher level test questions for a test over the topic and provide the correct answers.
  17. Theories T-Chart. Have students write new ideas and opinions on the left side, and reasoning and explanation on the right side. They can use facts from their lesson to support their ideas.
  18. White Boards. Ask a question and have students answer on personal white boards.
  19. Why? Ask students to explain why the topic is important for us to study. This will help students connect to real world applications.
  20. Quick Write. Give students a short amount of time to write a paragraph about everything they know, or have learned, about the topic. I usually do three minute quick writes.
  21. Travel Guide. Students can create a pamphlet to demonstrate and show off the facts about a place or process. Think habitats and parts of a cycle such as clouds or oceans in the water.
  22. Passport. Students can write the “places” something travels to in a cycle or process. Similar to number 21 above.
  23. Solve a Problem. Present a problem or issue associated with the topic and have students write or diagram a solution to the problem.
  24. Social Media Posts. Students can create a Twitter post or Instagram post to highlight or describe the topic.
  25. Hashtag It! Students can think of hashtags for the topic that would describe it.
  26. Talk It Out. Have groups act out a talk show scene and share thoughts about the topic with each other. They can write down the thoughts that are shared. Technology bonus: they can record their talk show with an audio recording device or video with an ipad.
  27. Advertise. Students can create an advertisement for the topic. Use illustrations and text to describe it.
  28. Collage or Poster. Students can create a poster illustrating and describing the topic. Tell them to show you what they know. (This is one of my favorites. It is also a great review before a test.)
  29. Interview the Expert. In partners, students can play the role of interviewer and expert. One can ask questions related to the topic and the other can answer and explain. Technology bonus: they can record their interview with an audio recording device or video with an ipad.
  30. Diagram It! Using a white board or dry erase markers on their desk, have students draw a diagram for a process or cycle you call out. Walk around and check. You can take pictures with a camera or phone so you can look back over it later, or share on classroom social media.

Step 4

Summative Assessment. Test their skills. I test at the end of each unit. If you have followed the first three steps in depth, your kiddos should be ready for the big test day! This is when you know how well your teaching, assessing, and reteaching went. Make sure your tests are thorough and challenging enough to meet the rigor of your state testing or standardized testing at the end of the year.


How to get your work done during the school day (and leave on time)

how to work smarter

Hi teacher friends! Since school is starting back up, I want to share my secret to keeping my sanity while teaching. I am a planner, and I figured out very quickly that teaching was a job that needed serious time management. At first, I spent nights and weekends grading papers. It took me four hours on Sunday nights to plan my week’s lessons and write my lesson plans to turn in to my principal. I spend who knows how many hours online and in book stores researching the best creative and effective ways to teach my content. When you spend ten hours at school teaching, prepping, tutoring, and planning, the last thing you want to do (or need to do) it work at home.

We all need a nice, relaxing, enjoyable home life. I have found that having hobbies and date nights and family movie nights and attending church all help me live a happy life. Working long hours and continuing to work at home take away those joys.

I know that teaching is a demanding career. Never before did I have so much responsibility, diversity, planning, data, or training like teaching required. We teachers have a great deal of information and activities to cram into each day of the school year. I have worked in all exemplary schools with very high expectations on the teachers. So, I know the incredible stress of needing your students to pass state tests. I am hoping that sharing some ways I found to get my work done at school and leave on time will help you find ways to do the same.

  1. Get to work at least 30 minutes before the kids get there. This will give you time to make sure you have everything you need for the day, look over your plans, start the day quietly, and maybe even catch up or get ahead on copies or grading.
  2. Sneak in time to grade student work. I would grade while I ate, while I made copies, while I waiting on a meeting to start, and after school. Its never a good idea to grade while you should be monitoring or teaching. If the students are in your care, its probably not the best time to grade. Grading student work using a remote (CPS) system can be a huge time saver, if it is a multiple choice assignment. I used the remote system for grading homework assignments quickly. It also gave us a chance to talk about each question as a class, and give the class and me an idea how well everyone was understanding the questions.
  3. Make class time count. The more involved you are in assessing and redirecting and guiding student learning, the better they will “get it” the first time. As students work, walk around observing, asking questions, and assessing their work. If you can work with each student individually throughout the day on their assignments, then you may be able to tutor within each lesson. This just makes your time more effective. I am not saying this will replace your normal tutoring time, but they will be more successful with your extra attention throughout the day. For each topic, teach it and show it in a variety of ways. The more your students experience and re-experience a topic, the better it will “stick” with them. They say it takes reading or hearing something seven times to commit it to memory. How many times do your students see or hear the content? Repetition is a great method for helping students commit it to memory.
  4. Plan during your planning period. I know meetings and obligations come up during your planning period, but use that as much as possible to plan. I recently wrote a post about how I use a system to plan efficiently. Find a system that will work for most units, and you can just plug the materials in. Here are a couple examples of my lesson planning.

This is a planning page that shows my overall system of planning resources for a lesson. lesson brainstorming imgHere is an actual lesson plan that I have written for 5th grade science. It will show you how those resources fit into my week. Every week just about follows this plan. Same plan, new topic, new resources.Free science lesson- Structures and Functions of Plants and Animals

6. Prep. As part of my planning, I sort the copies I make and set up the materials for the next day. Here is an overview of my prep methods:

Make lesson plans at least three weeks ahead. Make copies at least one week ahead. Place labels on an empty counter space for each day of the week. On Thursdays, stack the copies and materials you need for each day of the following week on those labels. On Thursday,  you can also move your Friday (of this week) materials to your desk for easy access. When it comes to a lab or activity that requires a material list. I would set that up the day before. After school the day before a lab or activity, set out a basket for each table. Fill the baskets with the materials each group will need. You can either place a basket at each table, or you can have a group member pick up the materials when needed. This seriously would take me about 20 minutes after school. *As you write your lessons, think ahead to what materials you will need for those lessons to make sure you have them when that week comes around.

7. Make a Happy List. Okay, this is just a fun thing for you to do. What are ten activities that make you happy? Make your list and aim to do at least one of those things each week. Here is my happy list:

happy list

And, I could add chalk art while the kids play to that list. 🙂

Whatever your workload this year, make time for yourself. Love yourself, and I believe your teaching will be even more successful!

Best Wishes this year!

Why Elementary Science Matters (and How You Can Make It Happen)

why elementary science matters

Science matters in Kindergarten, just as much as it matters in High School. With elementary science teachers, high school science teachers have a huge helping hand in teaching and sparking scientific interest in our kids today as well as for our scientists and thinkers of the future.

When I used to think about a science classroom, I thought about high school and college labs with experiments and triple beam balances and hot plates and lab coats. That picture I had in my head for older students, is exactly what I had to set up in order to teach science to 5th graders! I didn’t realize how crucial a strong science curriculum was for elementary, until I was teaching middle school and moved down to 5th grade. In 8th grade, we worked with 7th grade teachers to get students prepared for the rigor of 8th grade science. In 7th grade, we looked to the 5th and 6th grade teachers to prepare our students for building their skills and knowledge for mastery in 7th. In 5th grade, it surprised me. I covered pretty advanced concepts for what I expected elementary science to be. There is a huge jump from the simple observations and concepts in Kindergarten to what students need to know coming into 5th grade. Elementary science is where we build the schema/ background knowledge and skills that our students use in middle school and high school.

stem in the classroom

Why Does Science Matter?

Science Sparks Interest

The mind of a child is interested and curious. I know that at some point you have probably experienced a small child with their endless bombardment of questions. They are interested and want to know about the world around them. Use that curiosity and inquiry to spark a lifelong interest in gathering information, solving problems, and critical thinking. Kids are thinkers. All we need to do is foster that thinking, and grow them into the great minds of the future.

Science Builds Schema

Science is one of those subjects that covers just about everything. When a student has been given the opportunity to study the life cycle of an animal, they will be able to better understand a story about a caterpillar eating and growing and transforming. When a student has been given the opportunity to observe and identify signs of the seasons, they will better understand and imagine an author’s description of a season in a story.  And of course, it builds the schema students need coming into each new grade level’s science class. Learning about plants and watching a flower grow in kindergarten builds a background that helps them learn the life cycle and parts of a plant. The life cycle of a plant and learning the basic plant parts helps build that base so they can learn more plant parts and plant reproduction later on down the road. Knowing plant parts and reproduction will be knowledge they can pull from when learning about genetics and Punnett’s Squares in biology. This knowledge can lead interested students into future science careers and research. A student who wants to be a doctor will need a good base education in science in order to make it to med school. Ensuring the students experience all the building blocks of science education through elementary school will set them up for success in the future.

Science Develops Skills 

Teaching kids to think and process information like a scientist develops critical thinking, problem solving, and nonfiction reading and writing skills. These skills are cross curricular and will continue progress with the student each year. Science, Inquiry Based Learning, and STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) have become a major focus in education. I think that shift in education is wonderful for all content areas. Thinking like a scientist uses predicting, analytical thinking, research, planning, testing, and making conclusions. This way of thinking encourages recognition of cause and effect relationships as well as recording data, writing facts and opinions, and writing instructions when testing a hypothesis.  Research, recording data, and writing conclusions all helps with reading and writing in the non-fiction genre. Measuring and making calculations helps with math skills. Another aspect of teaching kids to think like a scientist is the social skills they acquire. Students in a science class work together, plan together, test hypotheses together, create together, and share opinions and ideas with others. Working together like this prepares students to work together in all the content areas, as well as in real world situations.

hands on science

How Can You Make It Happen?

Build Your Own Science Knowledge

I was fortunate enough to have a strong education in science during college. I changed from an engineering career to a teaching career mid-college, giving me some extra science and math classes. My education program at the university also packed science and math into my teaching degree. I have realized over the years that most teachers did not receive as much science background, and some claim to not even be interested in science.  First let me say that if you are interested in anything at all, you have an interest in science. 😉 Science is the study of the world around us. Do you have a hobby such as hiking? Then, you have an interest in nature and weather. Are you interested in cooking? Then, you would find some chemistry and health sciences interesting. A great place to find your interest in science and build your knowledge is by watching TED Talks. I recently discovered these, and they are fascinating. I have learned about social issues and problem solvers, space exploration, water purification, and my list could go on forever. TED Talks are quick, usually under 20 minutes. The speakers have passion and a world of knowledge to share. I highly recommend finding some TED talks that interest you or pertain to something you teach.  I have found them on Netflix, too! Thanks to  the internet, you can find endless resources to read, watch, and research topics that you teach. Social media has given us an opportunity to connect with scientists and organizations all over the world.

Here are my favorite resources for gaining more science background for teachers:

  1. TED Talks
  2. Open Yale Courses
  3. Discovery Education
  4. NSTA Learning Center
  5. Twitter – Follow scientists and organizations

Create A Knowledge Rich And Hands On Curriculum For Science In The Younger Grades

This is the part that can stress teachers out. Rethinking your curriculum?! I believe you can make science lessons informative and still make them fun for little ones. I have a selection of resource types that I find important in a science curriculum for all grades K-8. If you have resources like these and set up a nice system to follow, planning and implementing lessons will be a smooth process.

  1. Science Wall. This is a focus point in the room that starts and ends each day. Post learning goals as questions for the students to work for an answer throughout the lesson. Post diagrams the students are learning in each lesson. Post the word wall words of the day. The freebie I linked to here provides students will a recording sheet that they can use to answer those guiding questions and turn in as an exit slip.
  2. Something fun to get students interested and help access their prior knowledge. This can be an activity, a game, a simple experiment, a video clip of the science topic in action, a read aloud, or a craftivity. I don’t usually make this a big, time consuming event, just something fun.
  3. Word Wall. This is a place to focus on science specific words and can help guide students through understanding the new words from each unit. I not only have the cards on the wall, but I have a series of activities that help students process and practice the words.
  4. The Informative (Input). I love using the reading passages and processing pages from Science and Literacy lesson sets to give students the basic knowledge they need before they can experience each topic hands on. With Science and Literacy, they have the opportunity to read informational texts and process them with graphic organizers and writing. Interactive Science Notebooks are another piece in my Informative lesson part. Interactive Notebooks are fun for kids and allow you a place to give them information in an new way. Interactive Notebooks have an Input and Output page, allowing students another way to process the new information.
  5. Exploration. My favorite part of every lesson! And, the students’ favorite part as well. This is the hands on part in which students can observe and explore the topic. These can be activities, games, observations, experiments, labs, teacher directed or student centered, hands on activities. My favorite ways to allow students to explore each topic are in the Science and Literacy lesson sets.
  6. Anchor Charts. Make these with your students as a reference for the information you have learned. Post them around the room, and have students draw their own copy in their notebooks.
  7. Assessment. Formative and Summative assessments are great ways to see how well your students grasped the learning goal of each lesson and unit. I give a formative assessment, which I give as a challenge/ critical thinking assignment, at the end of each lesson. I give a summative assessment, or unit test, at the end of each unit.
  8. Review. Reivew the concepts you covered throughout the year to refresh students memories and give them a deeper understanding. Stations are a fun way to review in the last semester of school. You can also have some review pages and diagrams for the students to work on. Review resources can also work for tutoring lessons.

Set Your Students Up For Success

You may look at an informational text or a lab and worry that it is too much for your students in your grade level. Students are more capable than we realize a lot of the time. We just have to set them up to be able to work  at that level. A gradual release of responsibility is necessary for getting students to higher levels of thinking and production. Start off the year by modeling the work that you will be expecting your students to be capable of handling on their own in the near future. For example, read the first informational text to the students while they follow along. Model how you think and process new words and new information. As you fill out the graphic organizer, think out loud showing them how they might get the answers in their own thinking. Students can follow along with you and copy what you are writing. Use this same modeling process for writing a summary about the reading. If students seem to be understanding the process, allow them to share input as you work through the next informational text. Allow them to share their thinking and contribute to completing the graphic organizers and writing. Repeat this process with the next couple informational texts as well until you can tell the students are going to be successful on their own. Once they are ready to try out the informational texts on their own, allow them to work with a friend and walk around helping the students. Provide feedback and guidance. Eventually, the students will work independently and be successful.

The idea of a gradual release of responsibility is useful in science activities and labs as well. Model working through the scientific process and following directions, ask for student assistance and input while modeling,  provide feedback and support while students work on their own or with others, allow students to work independently or with others without much help or redirection needed. If you provide the right amount of guidelines and boundaries, you will have a classroom of successfully independent scientists.

Modify and Accommodate Learners

When choosing modifications and accommodations, I like to stick to the ones the students will be using on their standardized tests and that are listed in their IEPs. This will help them to be successful when using the modifications and accommodations on those tests and in the classroom the following school years. Additional assistance and lingering a little longer with the gradual release of responsibility with those students will help them to be more successful in the classroom. Here are some of the modifications I use in the classroom based on the needs of each student:

  •  Reminders to stay on task and for behavior
  • Amplification devices and Screen REadiwer
  • Enlarged print – and more space between questions
  • Oral administration of reading passages, assignments, test questions and answers – teacher read or prerecorded onto an audio player
  • Transcribing – writing answers for the student on a variety of assignments and levels
  • Supplemental Aides – blank diagrams students can use in science
  • Extended Time – maybe even an extra day
  • Fewer Questions
  • Fewer Answer Choices
  • Modified Rubric
  • Breaking up assignments into manageable chunks

Thank you elementary science teachers for all you do! Your hard work matters!!

Back to School: 3 Steps to Streamlining Your Lesson Planning

3 steps to lesson planning

July is almost over already?!?! Summer goes by faster and faster each year I think. July is the month I always scheduled my CPE and professional development workshops to prepare for the upcoming school year. I also get organized and set up for my school year in July. I am a bit of a planning nerd, so a good deal of my lessons and classroom were usually set up by the time I left the previous school year. But, I always used July to really get it together.

Okay, so where do I begin planning an entire year?

Evaluate, Simplify, Plan

step 1 evaluate

First, I evaluate what I need to cover. Your state and district standards are always a great place to start. Some schools provide a scope and sequence to let you know when to cover each standard. If you don’t have a scope and sequence, break up your standards across your year. I use a calendar like the picture below to organize the standards in a logical order and take into account school holidays.

planning calendar

2 simplify

Second, I simplify by planing out my system for teaching. I like to begin with a learning goal based on the standard(s) I have planned for the week(s). Having a specific method for teaching in your classroom will help you organize and streamline the planning process of each lesson. Here is the planning method I use:”IDEA” Introduce, Details, Experience, Assess.

lesson brainstorming img

Click here to download my lesson brainstorming pages! My gift to you to help get your school year off to a low-stress start 🙂

If you would like to see a whole year of my lesson planning, check out my Science Lesson Plans freebie on Teachers Pay Teachers. This might help give you an idea how I use resources to cover each part of my teaching process. Mondays usually cover the Introduce lesson, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the Details, Thursdays are the Experience and the formative part of the Assessment. Fridays are a day I use to spread out a longer lesson, or to complete comprehensive Science Stations to review the concepts from the year. This gives you time to work with small groups for extra learning or provide a reteach if the formative assessment doesn’t show the mastery you wanted. A week from my Science Lesson Plans freebie is shown below. I make sure to provide links to any resources I use for each lesson.
Free Science Lessons: Complete and Incomplete Metamorphosis

3 plan

Third, I plan. I look at each standard/ lesson and decide which teaching materials and resources will be the best to cover it. I have a collection of resources that I add to and update each year as I go along to meet new standards or new methods of teaching. I suggest storing your collection of resources in binders. Depending on the amount of resources you have, you can put everything for one unit, or one standard, into its own binder. I started my teaching career using filing cabinets. I swear I had a troll living in my filing cabinet because papers were always all over the place and I had a hard time finding anything. I soon figured out binders were much better for me 🙂 When building your collection, Pinterest is a great place to start! So many great ideas. I can get lost in my Pinterest “Planning” time for hours. It just sucks me right in! I have many education and science boards already set up if you need a place to start looking.

I also have a blog post for each week of the school year for my upper elementary/ 5th grade lessons.

Once you have a good collection of materials and resources, go ahead and start plugging them into your lesson plans!

Here are the big collection bundled resources I have been recommending to the teachers who have already been emailing me for planning suggestions this summer.

Everything 5th Grade Science

2nd grade interactive science notebook bundle

Creating a Science Lab for your Classroom

How to create a science lab in your classroom

Lab Basics

Science Lab Basics

Need help creating a lab in your elementary classroom?  Some schools provide all the supplies you need, some reimburse you for your purchases, and some leave it up to you to fund your classroom supplies. Which ever is your situation, let’s look at a basic cost-effective list of equipment you can use to create a lab for your students. *Prices below were based on my shopping cart on Amazon.com.

1. Group desks together or use tables (Free)

2. Safety Goggles (Set of 6 for $24) Class set

3. Metric Rulers (Set of 36 for $17) Class set

4. Triple Beam Balance ($61) Either one for class demonstrations or one per table

5. Graduated Cylinders (3 for $7) Either one set for class demonstrations or one per table

6. Glass Beakers (3 for $7) Either one set for class demonstrations or one per table

7. Hand lenses ($5) One per table

8. Hot Plate ($15) One for demonstration purposes

9. Electric Circuit Supplies: Wire ($4 a roll), batteries(20 for $8) and holders ($4 each), light bulbs (10 for $5), switches ($14 each); ( a single group set up kit for $14) Have enough supplies on hand for each group to make a circuit with switches

10. Magnet Bar ($4) One per table

11. Microscope – Celestron Digital Microscope ($43) One for class demonstration is probably enough – This one has an attachment so you can put it on the projector or TV screen through your computer!

12. Prism and lens set ($19) One for demonstration purposes

13. Flashlights (4 for $8) One per table

14. Thermometers (10 for $13) One per table

15. Notebook – add to the student school supply list

As labs come up throughout the year, collect and reuse any items you can. Put out emails to friends and staff to collect items you need for labs. Watch garage sales and store clearance sections for good buys. You can also ask local stores and businesses to donate supplies that you need. Most places are happy to help out!

Keep in mind that some of the equipment can be used for class demonstrations, so you will not need to buy multiples. You can look at my list and modify it to your needs. These items are the fundamentals that I use when designing my lessons and labs. If you need lessons, activities, and printables to complete your science class, check out my store!

The most important resource to use when deciding what materials you need for your science classroom is your state and district standards. In Texas, the first section of the standards for Science (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills – TEKS) explain the learning goals for scientific investigations and reasoning. They include a list of lab tools students should be comfortable using.

science standards for lab tools


Storage Solutions for Classroom Science Labs

Group the equipment and supplies by the unit they are most often used for, so you will know where to find things. Have cabinets set up for Physical Science, Earth and Space, and Life Science. Keep supplies that you use for labs in gallon freezer bags stored with the corresponding equipment. Most equipment will fall into the Physical Science category, so that will need to be the biggest cabinet. The other two categories will probably contain more supplies than equipment.

Another option is storing lab tools out in the open. Using lab tools as a display serves a dual purpose. You can put the supplies on the top of cabinets around the room with a large label for each one or set. Hang your thermometer on the wall, or hang multiple thermometers in different areas/ temperatures in the room. It would be like a 3-D anchor chart for lab tools. And, it leaves your cabinets open for storing more supplies.

triple beam balance

Science Classroom Decor

I never used anything too fancy to decorate a science classroom. Science is an interesting subject and kids like it. Use that to your advantage and use science as your decor. As you cover topics throughout the school year place anchor charts up around the room. Your walls are prime real estate for learning and anchor charts give students a place to refresh their memory. With bright or bold colors and drawings or diagrams, anchor charts can be very decorative. Science news articles and images can be placed around the room or on bulletin boards for added interest. Like I said in the organization and storage section, storing science tools around the room provide visuals for students to become more familiar with the tools and they make the classroom shelves a little more interesting.

anchor chart1


Week Thirty Science Lessons: STAAR Test Prep and Review Week

Week Thirty Science Lessons: STAAR Test Prep and Review Week

The time has come. They have learned it all. Now, it is time to help them refresh their memories and get ready to show what they know!

The big focus this week needs to be “refreshing”, not “stressing”! Help bring all they have learned to the surface. Practice those diagrams. Recite science facts. Re-experience science standards. Students should know this is important, but shouldn’t be in tears or sick to their stomach. Make review fun and meaningful and they will get where they need to be 🙂

Here are some things to help you this week.


STAAR Review Stations

STAAR Review Activity Pages

Review Game Ideas

Ideas for STAAR Test Prep

Lesson Ideas:

Make this week fun and help students recall science knowledge for their big test.

Work on one Reporting Category each day with the class. Have students complete the pages from the reporting category, then go over it as a class. You can have them work on the pages for homework the night before Monday-Thursday nights, and then go over in class. This will give you time for review games Tuesday-Friday.

Have fun. Don’t stress. Prepare them for what to do when they get their test.

Best wishes this week!

STAAR review stations

STAAR Test reviews

Ideas for reviewing for the STAAR test

Week Twenty-Nine Science Lessons: Organisms Unit Test

Grade 5

Week Twenty-Nine Lessons

This week we will be reviewing, testing , and goal setting! Make the review fun and the memories will stick! Unit Test reviews are just as important throughout the year. The goal is not to memorize for the test, but to refresh their memory and help make those memories permanent.

Organisms Unit Test

TEKS/ Standards:

(A) compare the structures and functions of different species that help them live and survive such as hooves on prairie animals or webbed feet in aquatic animals; Readiness Standard

(B) differentiate between inherited traits of plants and animals such as spines on a cactus or shape of a beak and learned behaviors such as an animal learning tricks or a child riding a bicycle; and Readiness Standard

(C) describe the differences between complete and incomplete metamorphosis of insects. Supporting Standard



Science Wall Complete each day with your choice of word wall words.

Organisms and Environments Interactive Science Notebook

Science and Literacy Complete and Incomplete Metamorphosis

Science and Literacy Inherited Traits and Learned Behaviors

Plants Structures and Functions Science and Literacy Lesson Set

Science and Literacy Animal Adaptations

Science and Literacy Plant Adaptations

Organisms and Environments Anchor Charts

Life Science Vocabulary

Organisms Unit Test

Science Goal Setting Sheets

Lesson Ideas:

(Monday – Tuesday)  Review using games and activities for the test

Review activities: quick writes for students to show you what they know, quizzes, games, review the labs they have completed, study their science notebooks with a partner.

Reviews can be games

(Wednesday)  Administer the test.

organisms unit testc

(Thursday – Friday) Go over the test and set goals for future tests

goal setting

Lesson Notes

I grade tests without marking the correct answer. The students use a pen or colored pencil to review the test when we go over it as a class. They write down the explanations we have for each test question.

5th grade Lesson Plans