Monday, July 30, 2012

Almost Over

I have returned from G-camp. I was tested physically, mentally and emotionally. But I made some wonderful teacher friend in that two weeks. They became my family and without them, I would not have survived it.

Not only were they great friends, but fantastic teachers. The best part about being around other teachers is all the great ideas. I literally have pages of resources and ideas to look up and try out.

I was one of the newer teachers and it was refreshing to be around teachers who have 5, 10, 15+ years of experience and still love teaching. They are trying to improve for their students.

That's why we all started teaching, right? We want to impact the lives of children somehow. I am ready to get back to work, keep a positive attitude and work smart.

I am also better prepared to teach my students geology. In Texas, 5th graders cover sedimentary rock, fossil fuels and ecosystems. I collected samples of all types of rock, including some sedimentary rock with fossils in them! I am excited to share with my kiddos.

Me at White Sand Dunes in New Mexico

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Revolve and Rotate

I have created some interactive notebook pages which you can use to complete this activity with your students.

Here is another idea from my science notebook. Inside our notebooks we put models of the earth revolving around the sun and rotating on its axis. Just like reflection and refraction, students can easily mix up rotate and revolve.

The students glued an earth to the edge of a strip of paper. They used a brad to connect the strip of paper, the sun, and the notebook page. Then we wrote the definition for revolve, orbit and the length of 1 revolution beside the model. 

 This next year, I would like to add the moon to this model.

For the bottom part, the students needed to see a visual of the day/night cycle. We turned the earth on its axis and glue it down. Then drew the line where day/night meet. 

This page is meant to model rotation. Each student received a view of the earth from the top. We attached a brad through the north pole and marked which way the earth spins. We added the definitions of rotate, axis and axial tilt. There is also a line showing where day/night meet.

I had this all set up before class so the students could see what we were aiming for. But I also did another as we went through it together.

This corresponds with Science TEKS 5.8C and it is partly a review from early grades.

Next year a I need to add a page that shows how the sun moves across the sky during the day. If anyone has a page in a science notebook they think could work, let me know.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Things to Do in My Classroom

I have slowly but surely been trying the ideas on Pinterest that I have found.I am hoping that I can be more organized and in turn teach the students to be more organized. Isn't it amazing how students adapt to the room? I have noticed that the teachers who are really organized can get students to be more organized themselves. But the same student can go into another teacher's room and be completely different.

They are impressionable

I need a poster like this for my room. It comes from Middle School Math Rules Our school sets aside 10 minutes for dismissal procedures at the end of the day, and the way the buses work it can sometime be 20 minutes. To me, that is 15 minutes a day wasted, about 1 hour a week, 4 hours a month...  you get the picture. Training students in a procedure like this would mean more teaching time.

I love the Science Notebooking blog. There are so many great ideas there. I love the idea of putting colored duct tape on the notebooks at the beginning of the year. This past year I used garage sale stickers on the bindings to separate each classes' notebook. This year, I will have 6 different sets of notebooks. Science and Social Studies notebooks for each class.

This is also from the Science Notebooking Blog. I love the idea of putting up wall posters for each unit studied. The walls in our hallways can be pretty bare and kids walk by them everyday. Sometimes they wait in line outside. Wouldn't it be great to have them looking at something while they are our there?

And this is just adorable.(Cannot find where it originally came from.) Our district tries to support students thinking about college and career choices early on. This past year we had a field trip to a college campus and spent some time exploring other universities around Texas.

I would like to take pictures at the beginning and end of the year and see how they changed. My goal is to see more science based careers, especially from the girls.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Science Picture Books

At Half Price Books last week I ventured into the children's non-fiction section. Oh my! There were lots of good books there. (Did you know they give a teacher's discount.)

I have seen lots of posts with picture books lately. These are some good books I have found.

Energy Island: How One Community Harnessed the Wind and Changed Their World by Allan Drummond

This is a true story about a town in Denmark that reduced their carbon emissions and become almost energy independent. This is a perfect story to read when we get to identifying alternative energy resources in 5th grade.

The Magic School Bus at the Waterworks by Joanna Cole

Can you go wrong with Magic School Bus. In 5th grade, students have already learned the water cycle, so the basics of this but we add to it. This book goes a little deeper than water just circulating through clouds and the ocean while reviewing those concepts.

This is Your Life Cycle by Heather Lynn Miller

 This is a fun way to introduce metamorphosis. It might even be fun to act out this "game show."

I have read pictures books to my students as a class before. But I don't have a lot of experience with it. Does anyone have a great way they use picture books in the classroom?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

To Make Before School Starts

...Or Stuff I Saw on Pinterest and Really Want.

I have seen these buttons several place, but most recently on Life is Better Messy Anyways. It is a fun way to have students brag/celebrate how hard they worked. And since I am sure few students in my classes talk about school to their parents, it would be a good way to start a conversation at home. 

I am not sure where these exact flip charts came from, but the idea circulated around my campus this past year. I never got around to making them, but I would love to cut down on the Miss, Miss, Miss when someone needs help. 

This is hilarious to me. I would love to have a large bathroom pass that says this. I'll need to figure it out!

I've seen this everywhere to, and unfortunately I can't find where this exact one belongs. (If it is yours let me know and I'll link it.) I think it started about as a tackle box from Lowe's and now it is a wonderful organization toll. Which I need desperately. The inside of my desk is almost as bad as the outside. (But not as bad.)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Campaign Buttons

I have the wonderful opportunity to be part of the Teaching American History grant. Throughout the school year, we (me and about 40 other teachers) read history books and attend lectures by professors from around the United States. At the end of the school year, we take a history trip. This summer we went to California. Two of our stops were the Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan Presidential Libraries.

There I had an idea for my class this year. I am excited that I get to teach American history in a presidential election year. (Even if I myself am not excited about either candidate.)

Each library had a collection of campaign buttons, bumper stickers and signs. I think it would be fun to have my students pick a candidate and create a campaign button to show their support.

I am going to have to think about how much I want to bring the election into a 5th grade classroom. (It can't be too much since I do have a strict schedule I have to stick to.) But I would like to end it with all the 5th graders "voting" on election day. I remember doing that in 5th grade for the Clinton/Dole election.

Once I have an actual lesson plan, I'll share it here.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

G-Camp Update

I have only been at g-camp for 5 days, but it feels so much longer. Each day is jammed with geology sites and activities which starts at 6:30am. Things most people might take one full day to do, we are doing several per day.

Currently, we are touring Colorado. The mountains are beautiful. There is nothing like them in East Texas. And now, I kind of know more about them. Before it was just a mountain. But now it can be a mountain surrounded by rock glaciers, with a few dikes or hogbacks and alluvial fans at the bottom.

Learning this stuff myself does remind me of how some things must seem to students in our classes. I came into this knowing very little about geology. And it has taken me 5 days to catch on to some things. Sometimes I feel like the professors are speaking gibberish.

But I am working hard, doing my homework, and reading the night before.

These are some things I have seen so far.

These are the Great Sand Dunes of Colorado. To me, they kind of seem like they shouldn't be there. And this picture does not do it justice. The highest dune is around 731 feet. People seem like tiny dots compared to them.

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado. The Empire State Building would only come up to about half of the cliff. This was the first real canyon I have seen. It was absolutely gorgeous.

Lake San Cristobal in Colorado. This lake is in a caldera. Which is a landform. Who knew there were so many different types of landforms. A caldera is a crater that occurs after the magma comes out a volcano. The magma leaves a void and then the crust collapses in and a caldera is left. This specific caldera is actually miles in length and width.

The Continental Divide. Something I learned about forever ago and now I have finally seen. 

There are still 12 days left in this and I don't think the "good" stuff has started yet. Although, I consider this good stuff.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Magic Trash

Sometimes my classroom can be a total mess at the end of the day. Especially if the scissors come out. Sometimes I just feel so embarrassed when the janitors come in so I try to make it looks as clean as possible.

I saw this idea somewhere last year, tried it and it worked so well.

At the end of the day when we are doing dismissal procedures, I secretly pick a piece of trash on the floor. Then I tell my class that whoever picks up the magic piece of trash gets a prize. (I use a piece of gum.)

Those who want to participate, usually most of the class, quickly get up and pick up every piece of trash in the room.

This works perfectly because if I wanted to reward someone who usually doesn't get rewards, no one has to know which piece of trash I really picked.

If I were a better teacher, I might be able to get students to pick up trash just because it is there. But that is an improvement I'll focus on further in my teaching career.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Science Homework

I am on a quest this year to create some science homework.

Yes, I believe in homework. Even in a school where parent involvement is low.

I believe in order for students to be successful, they need to devote some time outside of what is mandatory and PRACTICE. Practice reading, researching, multiplication, thinking...etc. (Most) students will not want to do that on their own. But maybe a few more will do it on their own if it is assigned. I know that not every student will return homework everyday. But I try.

However, usually my homework was math problems. I am not teaching math this year, but I still want kids to practice what they are learning.

So... I want to create science homework. I could give them practice multiple choice questions to prepare them for the 5th grade science STAAR. (One of the state mandated tests they will take this year in Texas.) Or I could make it more exciting. Something they might actually want to do. And something that won't get me in too much trouble with their parents.

Like, using water, create a mixture with another substance. What did you use and describe how you would separate it.

And maybe, just maybe, they ask a parent for help. Maybe the parent becomes a little more interested in the education of their child.

Because another thing I believe in, when parents become involved, it changes things. And parents don't need a college education or even a high school education to be involved.

I finished my first page of homework. An Energy Scavenger Hunt. Science TEKS 5.6A says a students needs to explore the uses of energy. (Mechanical, Light, Thermal, Electrical, and Sound) Last year we did a foldable where they looked for examples of each energy in the classroom. This year, I want my 5th graders to try it at home as well.

You can find the Scavenger Hunt on my Teachers Pay Teachers page. It is a free download. If you like it, leave a comment.
  5th - Social Studies - History, Science, Math -

Saturday, July 14, 2012

G-Camp for Teachers

Back in April I applied to participate in G-Camp for Teachers and was accepted.

G-camp is a 17 day hiking trip done by Texas A&M through Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico. It is meant to improve our knowledge of Geology, an area I could use some help in.

Today, I leave for G-camp. I am very excited for it, but it is very hard for me to be away from home for more than a few days at a time. Even harder to be away from my husband for a few days at a time. I am a little unsure of how I will deal with it at the moment.

This is where we will be traveling. We will see Capulin Volcano, sand dunes, a gold mine, drive through the mountains, Enchanted Rock, Canyon Lake Gorge and so many other sites. You can see a lot of geology in 17 days!

If you are a Science Teacher in Texas, I would suggest applying for it next year. I am sure it will be an amazing experience. I am supposed to have some internet access on the trip and I hope to post pictures as I go.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Mini Science Board

I have used a Science Notebook for my entire teaching career. (2 years) I love them so much. I attended a workshop this summer about them and have even more ideas to try.

This idea I found last year, probably on pinterest. I tested it out with a students a few times this year and it worked pretty well.

I always have an example to show my students first. My first year I didn't always have one. Usually those activities were the most frustrating for me and the students. This past year I saw teachers try to explain activities without giving students a visual of what they wanted. I know I don't learn well with someone just speaking to me. I have to see.

First, start with a shutter fold. It makes the construction paper look like a mini science board. Mini anything is already just adorable! After they finished the inside of the foldable, the students decorated the outside. (This is my teacher copy. I am not the best artist. But I try, which is what counts.) The back can be glued into a science notebook.

On the inside the students put the problem/question, hypothesis, procedure, data, graph, materials, and conclusion. 

For this lab, the students had to come up with their own experiment to test force on an object. (Which is Texas Science TEKS 5.6D) They weren't allowed to test the question I did for the example. So while they had a visual of what to create, all the content was original. They did work in groups on this. 

Some of the tests were as follows:

Does the number of books on a person's back affect the number of push ups he/she can do?
Does size affect the distance a paper football can go?
Does size affect how long a paper spinner will spin?
Will different size balls bounce at different heights?

And yes, I had an observation the day the groups were experimenting in class. So I had students flicking paper footballs, doing push ups, and bouncing balls when my principal came in. Luckily, she likes (productive) noisy classrooms. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

School Supplies!

I am linking with Fun in Room 4B on Fabulous Find Friday. 

It's July. Which means that school supplies start coming out and we all start stocking up. Well, I hope I am not the only teacher that might go a little crazy when it comes to buying it.

I have always had an (unhealthy and expensive) obsession with school supplies. In college I worked at the BYU Bookstore in the school supplies section. I loved it. Eventually I got to help pick out supplies and order them. And got free samples. It is hard to leave a gig like that.

So this was some of my winnings from tonight.

This is all from OfficeMax. For $1 each, I got 2 binders, 2 100 sheet spirals, 12-ct box of Sharpies, white out, 2 of the 2pk of mechanical pencils with replacement lead, 2 of the 5pk of dry erase markers and a cube of post it notes. The 4pk of glue was $.25 each and the 10 folders were free. 

I have to say I am just happy with all of that. I am tempted to go back and repeat tomorrow. At least for the Sharpies and dry erase markers. 

Then I stopped at Target for the dollar bins. I cannot resist any new sticky notes. I probably have at least 25 packs of them at home right now. Even more stored in my classroom. 

Then I found my perfect planner for the year. I absolutely loved it!

Head over to OfficeMax and get some cheap school supplies. Take your husband/significant other/friend, check out twice and double your winnings!

Last Year's Classroom

I am horrible at organizing and decorating. Planning a classroom does not come naturally to me and I am working hard to have my classroom feel welcoming to students.

This is what my classroom looked like at the beginning of last year. I felt comfortable in it and I felt the kids were comfortable as well. I haven't really had a problem with students feeling out of place in my room.

This is what my classroom looked like the first time I walked in 2 years ago. I have a Smartboad, although it is in the most awkward place. Now when our schools place Smartboards, they install it on the back wall. I have one tiny window. (But my school is so old, so I don't think they liked students looking outside back in the day.)

Last year, this is how I decorated. I made lots of tissue balls and hung them from the ceiling. I felt it really brightened the room and made it seem inviting. At each group, there were a few boxes of supplies. That didn't last long. It wasn't a priority to me. I am trying to decide if I should try again next year.

I love my absent folders. It is one thing that helps me stayed organized. I have a Silhouette die cut machine and use it a lot. 

I try not to waste any space. The cabinets were turned into my permanent word wall. I used the Silhouette to cut all the letters and laminated all the cards. Surprisingly, they made it through the year. 

This year, I am completely lost on what to do. I am trying to spend as little money as possible to add to the room, but decorating is hard to do on no money. Plus, I may be moving classrooms. If anyone has a suggestion for anything, let me know. The other classroom would look the same, except the Smartboard is on the wall instead of the whiteboard. 

I am linking the Teaching Blog Addicts "There is no place like Home."

There's No Place Like Home

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


I have been looking for a digital plan book for while. Something I could share with other teachers. Last year I used Google Docs, but it did not have all the features I wanted.

Last week, I found There is a free version, but to use the features I want it cost $25 a year. Unless I find one that does the exactly the same thing for free, it looks like the one.

Most importantly, I wanted to be able to attach documents to my days. This does that. I can also share it. But I am guessing those teachers will need have a subscription too.

So far, this is the best option. If anyone knows of another digital plan book, please let me know. But, I have started making plans, which makes me happy.

Monday, July 9, 2012

What is a Scientist?

I saw a poster like this on Pinterest. Unfortunately, I have no artistic talent. So I had my sister draw it for me. I love it hanging in my classroom. And I plan on having her make me lots more!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Scratch-Off Cards

I saw this tutorial and this tutorial on Pinterest last summer and loved it. When I introduced it to my students, they loved it also. 

Last year I had two classes and on most days I gave at least one ticket out for each class. I looked for students who had followed all of the classroom expectations, including being engaged in learning. I told them sitting there being quiet was not always enough. They needed to answer questions, offer responses, and contribute ideas to our lesson. 

The tutorial says to use contact paper but I used Scotch tape instead. 

I tried to stick to rewards that didn't cost any money. Who has that to spend?

  • 5 minutes extra recess for the class
  • Choose a song to listen to at the end of the day
  • Gum at the end of the day
  • Use markers for the day
  • Sit in teacher's chair for the day
  • Swap seats for the day
  • Use markers for the day
  • Sit at the teacher's desk for the day
  • Eat lunch with Mrs. Stowe and a friend
  • Homework Extension (I don't like Homework Passes)
  • Five points extra on a test
  • Double a Daily Grade
  • Draw on Whiteboard at the end of the day
The students really looked forward to seeing who got the ticket every day. For my students who had difficulty following classroom expectations, I would wait until a day they seemed to be more on-task. Then I approached them and offered them the ticket if they could continue the rest of the period. Usually they worked it out the rest of the class. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

New Teacher?

I am linking to Fabulously First blog on Teacher Advice. 

I only have 2 years of teaching under my belt. But my first year I took in every little bit of advice I could get. Some was good. Some didn't work for me. But I still craved it all. 

My first year was the hardest. I came home from work physically drained and could barely make myself get off the couch once I sat down. I expected every year to be like that. When my second one wasn't, it took a while to realize what was different. I had stopped internalizing every bad thing that happened, especially student behavior. I was able to laugh about it later and tried to start every day fresh. The faster that happens, the easier life goes. Here are some other things I do to get through the day.  

  • Make friends with the teachers you work with. School is so much better when you can laugh at the end of the day. That said, try to stay away from negative ninnies. They will corrupt your year. 
  • It is okay to cry! 
  • It is okay to make mistakes, just learn from them. 
  • You will not be perfect. Do not try to do everything perfectly the first year, or any year really. Focus on a few things to perfect every year and build your teacher toolbox  year by year. 
  • Try your own thing. What works for teachers who have been doing it for 20 years, may not work for you or even be the best way to do it. Don't reinvent the wheel for every lesson, but don't let anyone make you feel guilty for wanting to be different.
  • Have high expectations for your students. It does make a difference in what they are willing to do for you. 
Finally, remember why you became a teacher. It is easy to forget in a world of 504s, IEPs, documentation, and the state tests. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Organized Mess

It is summer but I can't stop thinking about my classroom for the next year. I have about a month before a officially go back but I already have so many plans.

So... this blog. I need my teaching fix. 

Why organized mess? Well, this is a picture of my desk from the past year. 

But I know where everything is! Most of the time...

I sometimes I wonder how much time I would save if I could just get organized. 

So in addition to the journey to organization, I love looking for new ideas and lessons. 

Join me. An imperfect teacher making it one unit at time. 
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