Monday, April 10, 2017

Projects - Food Chain Reactions

The "Food Chain" is one of those topics that follows students from lower elementary science all the way up to upper elementary. For some reason, this is always an area where my students come in to 5th grade with little prior knowledge. I absolutely love teaching about food chains, because the students get really interested in their importance! Most students first think of "not liking" the food chain because it has to do with an animal eating another animal; however, when you take it from the standpoint of how IMPORTANT it is to keep all of our animals in population for the food chain to continue to work, the students really see a different side of things.

We reviewed the vocabulary for food chains: food web, food chain, producer, consumer, decomposer, primary, secondary, etc. 

After reviewing the vocabulary, we read a few of the books in the series like the one below:

Link to this book on Amazon: click here

There are many different books in this series. I have a few and tried to buy ones that take place in different ecosystems. 

After reading the books, we discussed other plants or animals we feel are important to the ecosystem because of the significance of food chains (the answer: all plants and animals!). 

Then, the students created their own books by researching an animal of their choice!

See examples below:

Take a look inside!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Studying Idea for Kids

Teaching students to study is an extremely important lesson. 

I remember when I was younger and my mom taught me tricks for studying. She taught me how to make up weird, quirky ways to remember certain facts. She taught me how to color code my notes. She taught me how to organize notes in a way that allowed for easier memorization. She taught me about flash cards. There are just so many ways! 

One of my favorite ways is to get everything important on to ONE page! Rewriting alone helps me study, but this studying technique includes rewriting AND makes for easy reviewing. 

I have my students use this mostly for science. I put up a list of the unit (example: "body systems" or "space") and ALL of its vocabulary words. The students then create a one-page, one-sided illustration or picture that includes all of this information. They can do this in any way that works for them. We discuss that if you are a visual learner, illustrations are a great idea. If you learn best by rewriting, then writing definitions and facts would work best for you. The kids come up with really great products. I like to laminate them and allow them to take them home as placemats before testing! They can use them under their dinner each night for easy reviewing and conversation with their parents!


Monday, April 3, 2017

Foldables for Full Unit Notes

Anyone else love foldables? I do, I do, I do! 

One of my favorite ways to use foldables is to pack the entire unit into one foldable. We then save them for the end of the year when we review. I hand them all of their foldables and the students are always amazed at how much work they have done and how much they have learned. 

I choose the tabs based on our state standards and what I need to be sure to cover. It helps me stay focused on the standards, while giving great organization to the kiddos!

See inside most of our ecosystem foldable below:

I also like to use the simple tri-fold foldables for smaller amounts of information. 

Below we used the tri-fold foldables for the inner and outer planets, as well as for animal adaptations. I just love how much students learn from illustrating and captioning. These tie in well with our text features lesson, as well. 

A student explains the animal's adaptation in the inside of the foldable below.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Space Project Based Learning Brochure

"To Infinity and Beyond!"

Safe to say SPACE is my favorite unit in science!?

My favorite part of the space unit is...well...everything. But if you forced me to pick one, I would pick the students' space brochures! 

I love project based learning in so many ways! I love the beginning, when the kids are so excited to choose their topic (in this case, their planet). I love the middle when they are researching, organizing, and paraphrasing content. I especially love the end, when they see their results and show off their final project! 

Below is my sample that I display each year. I did a brochure on Pluto, since no student is allowed to pick Pluto. This helps the students see my high expectations for neatness and organization. I get much better project results when I start with a sample of what I would like to see when they are finished. 

The students follow a project form to separate their brochure into 6 sections, including the cover. After that, the information collection is up to them. They are required to have an illustration on each panel, as well. 

Below is the recommendations section (Please excuse the misspelling below! You know how it goes!) I love love love this recommendations section because it allows the students to apply the factual information they learned from researching to a fictional panel on their brochure. They use the facts they learned to create ideas for things that people could do on the planet they chose (for example, ice skating on Neptune!). The "tourist attractions" they create always make me laugh and add a creative/fun element to the project. 

I love to let the students have a little fun being creative, too! This student needed more space for her illustration, so she got innovative and added fold down panels!

The project sheet - above

End of the Year Project Idea

One of my favorite parts of the end of the year is doing project-based learning to review old skills & content, or research new content. Before testing, my students are mentally exhausted from all of the new content we've been learning. We still need to review the content so they're ready, and below I am going to explain one of my go-to projects for this time of the year

Review books are one of my favorite projects because they do not require very much direction, you can grade them using a rubric depending on your goals, and the kids love them! 

I simply made a list of the topics in math we had covered so far this year and handed it out to the students with the simple directions to "create a book explaining how to do the skill to a fourth grader" (we are in fifth grade). I like this because they have to use their own words to explain the content, and they try to make it sound simpler since they know they are trying to explain it to a fourth grader. 

Some of the students got super creative, like the student who wrote "8 Little Geometric Terms Jumping on the Bed," while other students simply teach the skill in a more "textbook" way. 

(in case you caught the misspelling below - "fractionos" was 
an inside joke at school this past year...haha)

Below is a view at the inside of one of the geometric terms projects. She created hers to be more like a dictionary teaching the terms. 

The students got to pick their own content area they wanted to do their project on; however, I did go around the room and ask them their choice to make sure I ended up with at least 2 of each skill from the year. I wanted to make sure we reviewed ALL skills when we presented our projects. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Early Finishers Bin

Teaching more than one class makes it hard for me to keep track of each of my students' levels at all times. Because I am elementary, I still feel the need to be addressing all of my students at their different academic levels. I differentiate wherever and whenever I can. However, when you teach multiple classes (more like a middle school set up) it gets really hard to differentiate. So many things to think about! 

The early finishers bin has saved my life! My brain was in so many different directions when I was trying to differentiate for what felt like a billion different students. Especially because in math, some kids can be great in one content area, like fractions, but really have trouble in a different area, like geometry or algebra. Just because a child is good in one area of math, does not mean they will be good in all areas. The groups for differentiating are ALWAYS changing and it is ... exhausting!

That is where this bin comes into play...

I have hanging file folders in this bin I got at the office store. It is made for hanging files. The hanging files are numbered according to the students' assigned numbers in class (alphabetical). I have them numbered so that I can use this bin year after year without having to re-label anything. As you can see, this bin is set up for 2 classes: blue and yellow. Two classes seem like the best fit for each bin. Additional bins are used for additional classes. 

In the front, you can see the green hanging files. These are used for the students to communicate with me without interrupting class. Since this is an "early finisher" bin, the students who are working on items from their folder are working on them during a time when others are working on something else. Most likely, I am at the back table with struggling students. The early finishers can go to this bin and look in their file. In their file, they will find handouts or activities hand selected by me for their needs. They know they have to complete the work in their folder from front to back. They cannot skip around. 

The students place their finished work in the front file. I check these over. If they are mostly good-to-go, I keep it or give it back depending on the assignment. Sometimes I give them an additional grade at the end of the quarter for all of the extra work they have completed. 

They can write letters to me in the "requests" section. If they know they are struggling on something and they don't think I am giving them work on that topic, they can ask for it in this section by writing me a note. It is actually amazing how accountable this makes the students! They start to really think about their weaknesses and they care about correcting them. 

I added the "cannot complete: too hard" file because I would rather them notice their weakness is too strong than complete a whole hand out incorrectly. They have to try on some problems and they have to put their name on it...those are our rules! They do not overuse this folder out of laziness, which is what I was afraid of at the beginning. 

I hope this file system can work for you! I really love it and it has been really successful for me in the past. I can also put little projects, team work activities, and test practice in there.  There are just so many ways for me to use this because it is like direct communication with my students without any sort of class interruption. 

Let me know if you have any questions! :) 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

States of Matter Experiments and Fun!

As a guide for my states of matter experiments, I used Hope King's "As a Matter of Fact" pack! You can find it for yourself by clicking HERE 
(It is really great for lower elementary and upper elementary! I did some tweaking to suit the needs of my students this year, but it is expected that you will tweak something you get from another teacher because every class is different!)

The first experiment we did this year was putting Pop Rocks in various sodas. It was actually crazy how many of my students had NEVER had Pop Rocks, so I first gave each of them some in their hand and we all ate them at the same time! I told them to keep their mouths open so we could all "listen" to them pop!

Their faces were priceless! You can definitely tell who had never had them before in this picture!

As you can see in the photo above, the students are writing in their science journals. I have them following the Scientific Process as we go through our experiment. There are also many great options of worksheets to use in the pack I posted above by Hope King.

Below are our results. I had teeny tiny balloons, which messed us up a little bit (I blame Publix) but it still got through the concept to the students: The Pop Rocks emit gas and the gas rises to escape the bottle into any free space...hence, filling up the balloon! 

After our experiment, we wanted to have some fun with solids, liquids, and gases so we made root beer floats! This was super fun because this is one of the few ways you can actually EAT solids, liquids, and gasses at one time! The kids had a blast! 



The second set of experiments came when we talked about the properties of the different states of matter.

The students received a recording sheet for the different properties we were testing: odor, density, mass, volume, color, etc. The students received these random items in cups on their trays for their group. They then had to test each item in order to record information about all of their different properties.

The students below are checking for odor by wafting!

These students are measuring volume using water and a graduated cylinder.


Lastly, we talked about separating mixtures. I gave them a bunch of various materials in cups (similar to the experiment above) and they had to use their recording sheet to record how the mixtures were separated. I gave them tools for separating, too; however, they didn't know which tools would work for which mixtures. I also gave them a few random things that looked useful, but were not, to test them!

Remember, the key for separating mixtures is that there may be more than one way to do it, but you need to know which way is the best and most efficient for separating!

Below you see students using a magnet to quickly separate paperclips and M&Ms!

The students below are using a screen (sieve) to separate sand and pebbles.

Here is a group that tried to prove to me that the easiest way to separate sand and pebbles would be using their hands.... What do you think happened?

We then discussed ALL of the different ways that we found useful for separating mixtures and posted them to our discussion board you see below. This stayed up for a while and we were even able to add a little bit to it when we talked about other mixtures in science as the days passed.


Let me know if you have any questions!

Electric Circuits Activities, Experiments, and Reasoning Pack

New pack posted! Being pregnant has definitely caused me to be a little "slow" in getting the things I want to post up on Teachers Pay Teachers. 7 months...I posted something! Feels like a major accomplishment...I'm not going to lie!

The two major things I am addressing in this pack are:

1) that in order for a circuit to work, it requires a complete and connected loop
2) that some materials act as conductors of electricity, while others act as insulators

We also get to play with series and parallel circuits in this pack!

The pack starts off by having your students experiment with simple circuits. They get to play with the wires, lights, batteries, etc. This allows them to gain the understanding of why a circuit works the way it does, and what happens when it is an open circuit. 

Each classroom handout/recording sheet/activity comes with a description page before it. This page explains what will be happening when your students do the following activity. It also explains what vocabulary and concepts they should have prior knowledge of before doing the assignment or experiment. This pack is not meant to fully replace anything you've used to teach in the passed, but meant to ADD "hands on" activities to your curriculum, in a STEM-like way. 

These students figured out how to get their light bulb to light using the materials I gave them!

When it comes time to play with the series and parallel circuits, the students are able to follow the pictures on the recording sheet in order to build the circuits. This is because by the end of the pack, they are so familiar with the materials that they don't need very much direction! The last parallel circuit was a bit hard for them to build on their own, but with little help, they were really successful! It was really great because they did not expect it to be parallel, but when they unplugged one of the lights and the other one stayed ON they were SO SHOCKED!

The students answer thought-provoking reasoning questions on their recording sheet after each circuit they build.

Cut and sort activities, as well as experiments with the wires, for conductors and insulators are also included. Below you can see a student working with the cut and sort activity. The item that shocked most of them? Concrete is a conductor!

I love how this student got creative when we glued our cut and sort activity pieces to construction paper. The word "conductors" allows electric charges to pass through it, while the word "insulators" does not!

For the link to the pack again, click HERE
Feel free to let me know if you have any questions!