Saturday, March 29, 2014

Spark Student Motivation with Hands On Science - and a Freebie!

I'm linking up with my BBB Joanne over at Head Over Heels for Teaching for Spark Motivation Saturday!

I wanted to share a quick post about what we're doing in Science lately! We've been studying Energy and Electricity, and a big part of that is understanding that energy can be classified as potential and kinetic. 

This Studyjams video explains it really well, and isn't too long.
There's also a handy little quiz included to do with your class after the video. If you haven't heard of Studyjams yet, it's a great free resource. There are lots of short videos that explain concepts in all the subject areas!

After we had a basic understanding of the difference between potential and kinetic energy, I showed my kids a couple videos of some amazing Rube Goldberg Devices. 

This one is my absolute favorite!

While we watched, I had the kids notice when energy was being transferred within the system, when energy was transformed, and when potential energy was activated.  Pausing at different points and quizzing my kids about what kind of energy transfers and transformation were occurring during these engaging videos really helped them understand. It was a lot of fun, and really help the kids see how energy can be transferred and transformed...but never created or destroyed!  

I think one thing I would like to do when I teach this next time is to teach the kids some hand motions to go along with potential, kinetic, transfers, and transformations. That way they could try to make the motions to keep up with the video!

This group is using a catapult from the
simple machines unit as part of their
And now that we've watched some cool Rube Goldberg device movies, and talked a lot about potential and kinetic energy I figured it's time for an assessment. So my intern and I gathered up a bunch of raw materials, and my kids have been building their own devices! They are working in groups. They are expected to plan out their device, build and test it, and finally present the device to the class. The devices have to perform a simple task in the end. The kids have to label where the potential energy is in their device, and where energy transfers or transformations will occur. 
Here's the first stage of this group's machine! 
As you can see, the kids are coming up with some great stuff already! And I joined in the fun and have been building one too! If you only watch one video in this post, watch this one because I'm proud of my machine. :)

I made this poster to put up in my room to help kids remember how groups should work. I've posted it in my TpT store as a freebie! Go grab it up! 

Be sure to stop over and check out the other link ups!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lifehack #3 and Poetry Month is coming!

Time for another quick lifehack! This one is for my Mac peeps! If you're a PC person, then your tip for the day is to get a Mac!  ;) 

Have you ever wanted to look up a word super quick, but didn't want to have to open another tab in your browser to check out, or go grab a real dictionary, or even worse...don't have internet access? Use your built in "look up" dictionary! It works offline!

I'm also linking up with my bud Jivey for Workshop Wednesday! 

So, April is Poetry Month, and it's almost upon us! But I couldn't wait to get started with poetry, so we've been working on it for a while now! :) I've been using AMC's (from Looking from Third to Fourth) Poetry Posters and writing frames to help along the way!
I like to have my kids create a Poetry Anthology that we share with parents at one of our big school nights. So over the course of the month I ask the kids to write lots of different kind of poems. 

My intern has been doing a lot of teaching with writing, and has been reading some great books to the kids. She just discovered one called A Kick in the Head by Paul B. Janeczko. It has an example and definition of most of the kinds of poetry that we study. But the definitions in the book are written as footnotes and are super tiny.

I love that AMC's pack comes with a colorful poster that gives the definition of each kind of poem, and another poster that includes an example. I have the posters printed out and laminated, but I think it's cool to project the poster for each type of poetry as it's introduced. No trouble reading THAT definition!
There are handy writing frame organizers included in the pack too! It's great for cinquain or diamante poems because the "rules" for those poems lines are listed. Once the kids have written a good one on the organizer, I ask them to write more on regular paper. 

AMC's poetry poster pack is just one of the products you can get in this new Educents bundle! I have all of the items in this bundle, and can say they're all top notch. For just $10.99 you can't beat it! That price is kind of ridiculously low if you ask me. There are 11 products for less than 11're basically stealing them! Click the image below to go grab it up if you haven't already!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Simple things to help with State Testing

Even though I'm jealous of her weekend Disney cruise, and her Florida weather in general... I'm linking up with my BBB Joanne over at Head Over Heels for Teaching for Spark Student Motivation!

Anyone who knows me knows that I don't love state testing. I'm a firm believer in the fact that good teaching will lead to my kids doing well on any test that is developmentally appropriate for them. I can't control what the state puts in front of them. And I refuse to teach to a test. So instead I challenge my kids every day at their individual levels. 

This is the first year in PA that the test is actually part of my evaluation. I won't get into the billion and one reasons that this is a's all been said before. But I will say this...I work exceptionally hard for my kids. I do what's best for my kids. I care about my kids. I hold my kids to high expectations. I teach my kids things that matter and things that will help them have a successful and happy life.  If that's not good enough for the state then I suppose they can...well, this is a family friendly blog.

Just a buck in my store! Click
the picture to check 'em out!
Now, I've done my best to give my kids the skills they need to make it in the real world. Despite that, sitting in front of a booklet full of questions for 2 hours a day for 6 days can be a little trying. So I've done some simple things to help the kids make it through. The first is that before we even take the test I'll be handing out our newest brag tag, as seen to the right. As far as I'm concerned, not flipping their desks in revolt is enough to prove that they are Champions.  :)

I'm not convinced that as an adult I could sit there for 30 minutes of instructions being read aloud to me and THEN have to keep sitting there while I worked through the reading passages, extended responses, word problems or whatever for another hour and a half without a little pick-me-up. It's bad enough that I have to walk around and "actively monitor" my kids while a pile of work sits on my desk/laptop that I could be doing. (I mean if I can't be teaching I wish I could at least get something done besides walking around and not looking at my kids' top secret test booklets...)

So as another quick little motivator/built in brain break I've prepared this little set of notes for my kids. Each day they'll get a new note, with a little treat. When they get to the point where they feel like they need to take a break and get a little pick-me-up they can eat the treat!
This set of notes is just a buck in my store too!
I know some teachers really go all out with themes and all that for the state tests. And I admit that I'm envious of them sometimes. But, I have to be honest in the fact that right now I really don't have the time to put together all of that when I have so many academic things I could be putting that energy into. After all, the school year continues for 2 months after these tests end! Maybe as time goes by I'll make a little more stuff each year to make a testing theme one day that is awesome...this year? Nope! But buying some candy, printing off some notes, laminating and cutting some brag tags...I can handle that! 

It's hard to believe that it's going to be two weeks before I can get back to full days of real teaching! And on that note, one final someecard!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tunes Tuesday - Science Edition

I'm super excited for the return of Tunes Tuesday! Today is the science edition! My hope is that lots of other bloggers will link up their ideas for how they've used music to teach science! If you don't have a blog, but a have a cool idea to share, just share it in my comments section!

In my class we've just begun our study of Energy and Electricity! I am trying out a new way of teaching Science this year that incorporates showing the kids a "phenomenon" and then having them ask all the questions (inquiry!), make claims, and back up their claims with evidence and reasoning about just exactly how that phenomenon happened. It isn't just magic after all, it's science!

So first I showed them this picture:

Cool, right?!

Then I showed them the first half of this video:

The kids could hardly believe I showed them a "What does the fox say?" video! I couldn't believe they knew all the words...

But when I asked them, "How did this happen?" they realized that beyond knowing that there are lights strung in the trees that must be hooked up to some kind of timer and all of that was plugged into an outlet...they really didn't know!

So I had them think of all of the questions they had and we kept a running list. The great news is that most of these are questions we will be answering in our studies during the unit! Throughout the unit students will be making claims, and supporting those claims with evidence and reasoning. I can't wait to see the "lightbulbs go off!" (Pun intended!)

As a bonus, we watched this Bill Nye video about Energy, which has a rap music video about energy at the 20:00 mark! 
 And later in the unit I'll be showing them this Schoolhouse Rocks video about Electricity:

How have you used music to teach Science? Link up below! Be sure to check back and give everyone else's posts a look!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lifehacks for Teachers #2 and a Made It Monday!

I'm back for another quick tip to hopefully help you out and make the little things in life a little less tedious!

I don't know about you, but up until I learned this trick a couple years ago, every time I have to take a key off or put a key on my keyring I'd end up hurting my fingertips or at least struggling with it. My wife would break or chip a nail. Now we just keep one of these little staple removers handy in our "junk drawer" and there you go! If you're like me you probably have a couple in your classroom already. Problem solved!

I wanted to share a quick St. Paddy's Day Monday Made It! I saw this adorable leprechaun drawing blog post from Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin' and had to try it with my kids.

I think they came out pretty awesome!
I hope you'll join me tomorrow for our Tunes Tuesday linky party about how to teach science through music!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Must Read Mentor Text - Max Axiom

Howdy all! I'm linking up with the Collaboration Cuties today for their Mentor Text Linky. Today's topic is Science, which is perfect because I have a couple science related posts coming up soon. Tunes Tuesday's topic this week is Science, so be sure to come back then for even more science-y goodness!

I'm going to share about a set of educational graphic novels. The main character is named Max Axiom. There's one for just about any topic in science. Max is a superhero science teacher that explains how the science in each graphic novel works. 
There isn't really a made up plot or storyline beyond the fact that Max is teaching about science, but he does use several super powers throughout the series similar to those of the Magic School Bus (shrinking down to size to see a cut get infected, traveling at super speed, etc). 
Here Max enters the human digestive system!
The facts he relates throughout the book are all true and at a perfect level for upper elementary kids. The bright colors, and comic style format is a great way to get readers engaged. 

In other news...

If you didn't win in my giveaway, no worries, the giveaways aren't over yet! My BBB Jivey just announced her 1500 follower/Birthday Giveaway! I've donated my Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes Novel Unit. So if you're reading this that means you've already earned an entry! And it would be pure foolishness for you not to go and follow the other amazing contributors!

See you tomorrow for another "Lifehack for Teachers!"

Giveaway Winners!

I'm so excited to announce the winners of my One Year Blogiversary Giveaways! There were a whole lot of entries! So I hope that means some of you either already follow or maybe even discovered some great blogs, Facebook pages, and TpT stores! So, without further ado...

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