Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Density Cube Lab

Do you have these Density Cubes in your school building?

My first year of science coach I found these density cubes in the science lab and in teacher's cabinets off mixed up. Some of them were easy to tell what was what, but for others I did exactly what I would want students to do. I knew what the volume was so I measured the mass and then calculated the density and labeled all the cubes with numbers. (It took forever.) Then I begged science teachers to keep them organized so we didn't have to do it again.

Here is a lab sheet for students to do the same process. They find the mass and volume and then calculate the density to identify what each cube is made of.

The measurements do not have to be 100% exact. (Well, volume can be, make sure they are measuring in centimeters)

If your triple beam balances are like ours, they may not be exactly calibrated. Things may be off by a few grams which is why the known densities have a range. 

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Monday, November 11, 2019

Magnetism Lab

I'm here to share an idea for students to explore magnetism.

Magnets are something that students have seen since kindergarten. By the time they get to 5th grade, most know that some things are attracted to a magnet.

The biggest misconception I've seen is students thinking that all metals are magnetic.

To set up this lab, collect a variety of objects. Make sure to included metals and nonmetals, and included both metals that are magnetic and non magnetic.

  • Some objects made of metal that are nonmagnetic: penny, key aluminum foil. 

  • Some objects made of metal that are magnetic: paper clip, an iron nail, iron filings

  • Also include various non-metal items: marble, rubber band, plastic toy, etc. 

This a is a lab where the teacher should do very little. You supply the materials, tell students to predict if an object is magnetic, and then test it.

Here is a lab sheet for students to fill out as they experiment.

After the students finish testing the items, ask them if they can determine if an object is magnetic or not without using a magnet.

You want the students to at least get to the point where they say only metals are magnetic--but not all metals.

Share with students what the metal objects are made of. Can they find a pattern and determine what makes a metal magnetic?

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Addition and Subtraction Doubles--Basic Fact Fluency

We needed some help with basic addition and subtraction. Any math teacher will tell you that when students struggle with basic computation, it is difficult for them to learn more advanced skills.

These two activities focus on doubles. It can be used as a station for students for student to practice together.

Download this for free here.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Free Subtraction with regrouping Tic-Tac-Toe

I was in a classroom this week and the students were learning how to divide with 2-digit divisors. Over and over, I saw students get wrong answers. As I looked over their work, the problem wasn't that they didn't know the steps to division. They were having problems subtracting, especially when they had to re-group.

Even though this was a 5th grade classroom, it is always necessary to fill in gaps that students have. If students can't subtract without making lots of mistakes, they can't divide. Even students who were dividing using the partial quotients method have to divide.

I made this quick tic-tac-toe game for the teacher to use so students can practice subtracting without using just a worksheet.

Download it for free here.

Are there gaps that you see in your grade level that you have to go back and teach again or have students practice? What are they?

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Science Coloring Pages to Use in Stations or Homework

The science teachers at my school started small groups this year and wanted things for students to do in stations as they pulled students into small group. I had a made a coloring page one and they requested more. So I started making some coloring pages for them. The students like doing them. There are something students can complete without interrupting the teacher at her small group and they enjoy coloring--even in middle school. Not every student likes to color...but that's okay. 

Here is a free coloring page  for students to differentiate between elements and compounds. 

If you are interested other science coloring pages. The topics there so far are calculating density, heat energy transfer, metals nonmetals and metalloids, rock cycle, classification of organisms, and plate boundaries.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Statistics--Finding Mean, Median, Mode and Range with Your Name

Statistics is one of my favorite units to teach. It is something every person should understand. It is used against voters and consumers all the time and we should be able to recognize when the statistics aren't really saying what we're being told they are saying.

In a statistics class in college I had to read the book Damned Lies and Statistics. It was eye-opening to see how bad statistics can be used influence people.

I explain all of this to my students when I start our statistics unit. We only spend about 3 weeks on it, and its usually the end of the year, but its a unit students usually enjoy.

I wanted to share a freebie with you today. I gave this to students for homework. Students use their name, turn the letters into numbers, and then calculate the mean, median, mode, and range to their names.

Name Mean, Median, Mode and Range

Students like it because it is their own name so it is a little less headache to get them to complete it. 

If you are interested in other statistics resources I have some in my store. 


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Sunday, July 14, 2019

10 Grading Tips for Teachers--How to Keep Grading Manageable and Fair

When I was younger, I loved grading papers. It was one of the things I was looking forward to when I become a teacher. I would have one of those sliding grading things and some cool pens and grading would be so fun!

That got old real quick. I like going through student work to get an idea of what they understand and where to take my instruction based on that data.

However, the process of collecting work, grading it, entering grades, passing back assignments...not something I enjoy.

Over the years, I improved my grading process so that it didn't consume so much of my time but still provided students with feedback that needed.

Here are my tips to make grading work for you without causing you unnecessary stress.

Know your district/school/department grading policy

Most schools will probably tell you at the beginning of the year. It should tell you how many grades are required, how many should be test/homework/daily, if students are allowed to redo work, etc.

Know when progress report and report card grades are due

...and don't wait until the last minute to enter grades. Not only will it be stressful at 4 pm to enter grades on the day they are due at 4:30. That will certainly be the day your computer starts acting up. I had a goal to enter 1-2 grades per week. Students and parents probably have online access to their grades and parents especially expect grades to updated regularly. It also isn't fair to a students who had an A the first week of grades to now be failing after a teacher waited 3 weeks to enter grades again. So, keep on top of it. 1-2 grades a week isn't unmanageable.

You also should wait to long because you are depriving students of feedback. One purpose of grades is for students to know how they are preforming in your class. If you only do two batches of grading in a grading period, students are not getting the proper feedback they need. (There are other ways to give feedback (I'll discuss later) If you are doing those other forms, use them as grades!

Don't grade students on responsibility

Some teachers won't agree with this one. I don't count off for late work. That's grading responsibility. There can certainly be other consequences: call home, lunch detention... but if a students doesn't turn in an assignment, I am not going to count off because it is late. I grade to know if they can do the work.

Let students fix their grades

You can let them make corrections of work you have passed back OR let them replace a grade with another assignment on a similar topic. For example, if a student got a 50 on an assignment about order of operations but then a week later did another assignment on order of operations and got an 80 -- I replace the first grade with the second grade. If the purpose of a gradebook reflects a student's understanding of the subject, that 50 is no longer an accurate reflection.

Find ways to make grading quick

Use SeeSaw, Quizizz, Self-Checking Assignments (like coloring pages), shortened assignments. Spot check assignments too. If a student can do the first 10 problems correctly, then possibly that's enough to know if they got it.

You don't have to grade everything. 

You just don't.

Don't take formative assessments as a grade

...unless you are willing to give students a similar assessment to improve their grade. The point of a formative assessment is to see where students are at and then to adjust your instruction. So students might not be ready for assessment and it isn't really fair to base their grade off of it.

Differentiate the assignments you take grades for. 

We have to standardized our state testing--but not in the classroom. If you only take grades on multiple choice assignments, you aren't letting some students show their potential. Have a variety of ways for students show what they know. Including verbal responses! If I pull a student for small group and they do a wonderful job explaining how to convert from a fraction to a percent -- I'll take a grade.

Try not to take grading home. 

If I took grading home over the weekend, it usually sat in my bag and made me feel guilty for not touching it. So make time to do it in 10-15 minutes bursts during the week.

Have student helpers

The worst part of grading for me was remembering to pass it back. I would always remember as students were leaving my room. So I created a file folder for each student and would give stacks of graded papers to students to file before or after school. Then I could just hand each student a stack of their papers. This also made it easy to make copies of students work that I was tracking for RtI or their IEPs.

My opinion on grading throughout my career has changed and I am sure it will change again before I finish. To be quite honest I think we should get rid of grades, reduce class sizes to 12-15 and have report cards be like Kindergarten ones that explain in words how a student is doing in class.

What are your thoughts on grading? Anything you agree or disagree with?
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