Monday, July 29, 2013

Mickelson ExxonMobil Teacher Academy

I have been MIA for at least 2 weeks now. My husband and I took a vacation, our last before the baby comes and probably our last big one for a few years.

I mentioned a few months ago that I was accepted into the Mickelson Exxonmobil Teacher Academy in Jersey City, New Jersey. Our trip was based around that academy. We flew out a few days early, visited DC, and spent a few days in NYC before the Academy started. While I was in class all day, my husband would explore the city and I would catch up with him at night.

This was the view from our hotel room at the Academy. Absolutely amazing!

What is even better than that was the Academy itself. I spent a week stretching my brain and my way of thinking about teaching. I don't think I was a bad teacher before, but this academy has made me see many ways where I can take my teaching to the next level and help my students grow.

I don't remember anything from elementary science. And I don't expect that all of my kids will remember forever what I teach them. But there are a few skills or practices I have always wanted them to walk away with. The ability to question, argue, find evidence, reason, problem solve, etc. I would love if all my students walked away from my classroom wanting to be scientists, but even more important I want them to have those critical thinking skills that can be applied in all subjects and aspects of life.

This is the first professional development I have ever walked away from where I feel prepared to help my students develop these skills. My teaching and my classroom will never be the same.

We spent a week doing inquiry-based lessons. We actually went through lessons that will have our students go through. I got to experience frustration, amazement, disequilibrium, and those "ah-ha" moments that our kids might experience as they go through some of our lessons. It is always a great reminder to feel what students might go through during our own lessons.

And we were treated like royalty. Those who run and fund the academy, made sure to emphasize the appreciation they have for teachers. It felt good after hearing "What do you do all day?" all summer long.

I cannot recommend this academy enough. If you are a 3-5 grade math or science teacher, you should most definitely apply!

Go to Send My Teacher and apply. If the experience isn't enough to motivate, remember that the academy pays for everything. Plane ticket, hotel and food. Because my husband went with me, we paid for his plane ticket and the hotel and food for the days before the academy. Once the academy started, he had to find and pay for his own food. But he got to stay in my hotel room.

Monday, July 8, 2013

States and Capitals

I try to make my students learn the states and capitals every year. The standards say they are supposed to know major cities, landforms, regions and capitals in the United States.

The problems is, I don't want to spend so much class time teaching/studying it. I prefer it to be an activity that the students complete in their extra time. So I am creating some Social Studies Centers this year that can focus on learning and practicing the states and capitals.

Rumor has it, that we are going to have mini Ipads actually set up on our campus this year. They were delivered to our campus around spring break, but we never go to use them. I am going on the assumption that I will have access to them and want to create lots of centers to go with them.

I created one that uses QR codes. Each page starts out by looking like this:

Then I will cut the paper in half- right through the QR code. Then the students have to match the capital with the correct state. To check their answer, they only need to scan their QR code. If it is correct, text will pop up that says "Austin Texas." If they are wrong, nothing will happen. A great way for them to practice on their own and get instant feedback of their work.

What I hope to do is print on colored paper and laminate them. I am hoping that after I laminate them that the QR code will still be able to line up. I'll let you know how it goes.

You can find this States and Capitals QR code activity in my TpT store. Just click on the picture!

I have already introduced the students to Quizlet. You can just search for almost anything and get virtual index cards. I have found states and capitals, multiplication facts, science vocabulary words, and I even used it to study for the GRE. You can also create an account and make your own set of cards.

My favorite part is the game at the bottom of the index card called "Scatter." We play that on the smartboard sometimes. The students have to match the two pairs together. Anything that is competition, they love. Even if they are competing with their own time.

Saturday, July 6, 2013


Pinterest Top 10

I am linking up with Upper Grades Are Awesome top 10 Pinterest. I spend time everyday just browsing the Education label on Pinterest and have found so many great ideas this summer. Choosing just 10 is going to be difficult!

1. Every year my sister comes and helps me set up my classroom. And every year she comments that above my bulletin board it is too plain. This should help with that and give me a better space to hang student work.

2. Last year, we had a character education class once a week. By the end of the year, I was running out of lessons and ideas. I love this idea of "How do you want to be remembered?"

3. One thing I want my students to walk away from my classroom knowing, is that it is okay to fail. It is part of life! They understand that in sports it is okay to miss a basket every once in a while, but in the classroom they will easily shut down. I try to share with them things that I have failed at, messed up, etc.

4. For class discussions! No excuses for not knowing how to start!

5. Anyone else hate hearing "I don't know." So many more useful responses.

6. I want more student work on the walls and in the hallways. Just everywhere! I want to make more anchor charts this year and this is a great way to have students do it! And they love markers!

7. For the Social Studies lessons. Primary source documents!

8. I am not a reading teacher, but we can all agree that reading is important for every subject. I want to encourage my students to read a lot this year. I want to have a bulletin board dedicated to their reading progress.

9. I am definitely making one of these! No more rushing through work!

10.  I love this vocab activity! I also think it is a great way to get less confident students up and talking.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Science Notebook Resources

I think my favorite thing about science are the science notebooks!

The student's worksheets, lab sheets, observations, foldables (lots of foldables) all go in there. This is my 4th year doing the notebook and it just gets better every year.

I always hope that by the 3rd day of school, all students have their composition notebooks purchased and brought to school. If not, I always buy extra and they replace mine later on. (Sometimes, but I am particular enough about it being a composition notebook that I will pay for it. My first year, composition notebooks weren't even on our school supply list, so I bought them for the entire class.

For those who do notebooks, you probably already have a process that you use. I want to share some of the resources I have found that might expand what you already do. And get those of you started who haven't done it yet.

Middle School Science has lots of ideas for the Science Notebook- and the actual worksheet to add to the notebook available for download. The page I linked to is mostly 5th grade resources, but I believe I saw 7th grade notebooks there as well. And everything can be adapted to fit what you need.

Another website I found was from the East Bay Educational Collaborative located on the east coast. There are several resources for activities (especially science process skills), rubrics, setting up notebooks, etc. I haven't explore the whole thing yet, but I've already added several things to my lesson plans.

My favorite things here are the Index Master (because after 3 years, I still have not mastered the science notebook index) and the the "Let's be a Scientist" Checklist that students can make sure they are hitting all their steps in reflection and experiments.

Are there any other websites you've found that are great notebook resources? I would love to hear about them!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Science Safety

There is one thing all science classes teach the first week of school: Science Safety.
There aren't many dangerous things 5th grades get to do in science quite yet. The most dangerous thing they face can be their own behavior. I am sure some teachers have seen some crazy things! The worst I've had so far is some pencils poking eyes (mostly their own).

Yet, building good habits now will help when they get to that dangerous stuff later on.

As part of my "Plan-a-palooza," I have finished the lesson on science safety.

We'll begin with the science contract. It is the first grade of the year and it is an easy one. Just a parent signature!
My students have a hard time communicating their thoughts. After we go over the science contract, I will give the groups some scenarios of students breaking the rules. As groups, they will discuss what is going wrong and how the students can fix it. An easy intro to all the talking and writing about science they will have to do this year.

Both the contract and the science safety cards are available for download in the TpT store. Just click on the pictures.

One thing I discovered last year, was this video. The kids love it. 


I am debating giving additional homework. I am definitely a teacher who believes in homework, especially if it involves the parents somehow. I might send home a blank sheet of paper and asking students to create a safety poster choosing one rules from the contract. I did this in class last year, but I just don't think I'll have the time with this lesson. 

How are you sure your kids are safe during science?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Back to Work and Prepping for Baby

I took the month of June off from any school work. But now I am back.

For the next two weeks, I will be participating in my own "Plan-a-palooza."

With a baby on the way and beginning grad school in the fall, I feel like this is one way I can stay on top of things.

The month of June was all about cleaning. I have begun to realize that bringing home a baby also means bringing home a bunch of stuff to go with this baby. There was absolutely no way this stuff would fit nicely with the way I had things (un)organized now. I threw away loads of stuff and donated boxes of things. There is room in the second closet, our bedroom is clean, and the living room looks a little more livable.

Our second bedroom went from this...

To this...

It still isn't perfect. I really just need one more shelf, then I can get rid of the second table and there will be plenty of room for baby's stuff.

Now, I just need to know what is expected of me by my school and district during maternity leave. I realize it must be different for every school. Is there anyone who has done maternity leave that can tell me how it was like for you?
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