Monday, August 30, 2010

Argh.....Where to Start?!?!


Want to try notebooking but are completely overwhelmed and don't know where to start? Here is what I do it....

Start with the standards and the title page. Move on to the vocabulary for the unit (for me it is the Bingo board). Those two either take up the first day or the first couple of days in a new unit for me.

Look over your standards and see what logically makes sense to you to teach next. Our inquiry standards end with safety but I bump it up to being the first thing I address, because it makes sense to me. Our weather unit starts with the water cycle as the first indicator but I bump the one up about weather tools, again because it makes sense to introduce the tools first.

I look at the resources I have for what I am going to teach - textbook, science kits, videos, etc. and decide what I can use to go on the LH (learning/lesson side). Then I decide what the student is going to do on the RH (reinforcing/reflection) page (foldable, notes, acrostic, illustrated outline, poster, etc.).

The first year is overwhelming no matter what but if you can break it up into manageable chunks instead of getting bogged down in "the big picture" you will do much better.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Short Class Periods and Notebooking


The other night I meet with a group of third grade teachers who are notebooking this year. They noted that this year they only have 30 minutes a day to teach science. In reality that time is reduced to 20-25 minutes when you factor in transition and settle time. The students do go to a science lab once a week, which helps, but the question was, "How do you structure your class to notebook with such a limited amount of time?"

My suggestion was to break up the lesson so that one day you would teach the lesson whole group (so covering that LH side) and then the next day you would do a short review and then the independent work on the RH side (or it might be a lab you do with the information the day before). Doing it this way you would cover two lessons a week. Friday would be a quiz, make up or video day. I looked at the standards and indicators and it could be done (it would be tight but possible).

My week might look like this....

Monday - Introduction of landforms. Create a flip chart for the lesson.

Tuesday - Review (see how many landforms your children can remember from the day before). Make a foldable where students have to draw and label examples of each landform.

Wednesday - Review landforms again. Introduce Earth's water features with a flip chart lesson, use the textbook.

Thursday - Review landforms and add in water features. Students make a second foldable (possible using blue paper) where they draw and label examples and characteristics of water features.

Friday - Mix and match quiz. Finish foldables if not done. If done - draw a poster for the classroom of one of the land forms and one of a water feature. (you could also play vocabulary bingo after the quiz instead).

In this structure you would really have to stay on top of your students who struggle getting started (or they will never finish). I would move those children to a table group, where I would sit and refocus/help children as needed. It would also mean that you would need to be hyper organized for the lesson...all material glued in before hand by you or a parent volunteer, all supplies at the ready, etc.

The third grader teachers at my school decided to teach science and social studies in four and a half week blocks in order to give them more time to teach science. They have the reverse problem. They would need to double up the lessons in order to cover the standards. I am curious to see how that plays out this year and how they manage their notebooking. I'll post once I get a better idea of how it works for them.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Experiment Idea - Water Weight II





I was watching a show tonight where a person was standing on ice that started to crack. They were told to lay down to spread out their weight more evenly and to start moving back to shore this way.

That got me thinking about the water experiment I posted the other day and I thought you could add a different question into the mix.

Does the shape of a container affect the weight of the liquid in it? So if I pour water into a cup and weigh it would it weigh the same as if I poured that same amount of liquid in a cookie sheet?

It would be fun to see children discuss it and then test it (recording results in their notebook). All you would need is three different size containers one that would spread out the water in a normal way, one that would condensed the water into a tight space, and then one that spread it out. You would also need a scale that could zero out the container weight prior to adding the water.

This is a simple, relatively inexpensive (I hope) experiment that could be done as part of any inquiry unit where you are introducing the scientific method to students.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Experiment Idea - Water Weight


I was at a Girl Scout camp training this weekend for adults and we had this discussion about how much a gallon of water weighs (I think we settled on 8 pounds).

That got me thinking....would an 8 oz glass of water weigh the same as other liquids? Milk, orange juice, orange juice with plup, tomato juice?

I thought that might make a fun classroom discussion. Students could see the different liquids being poured, make observations and then a hypothesis. They could test their weighing and measuring skills to come up with the answer.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Time Managment - Cell Phone


In my class last year we had a lot of transitions between teachers. It was becoming problematic at the beginning of the year getting the timing of the transitions down. I wouldn't know I had to line up my students until I saw the other classes line up in the hall. I looked for an alarm clock that had multiple alarms on it to help me out, when my son pointed out that my cell phone had six programmable alarms.

I set all six of those alarms to go off 5 minutes before we were suppose to line up in the hall. I explained the procedures to the children and I put the student who sat close to my desk in charge of turning off the alarm when it went off (they also had to make sure I heard it).

It was GREAT. All the children heard the alarm and knew they had 5 minutes to finish up and clean up. None of the other teachers were upset I was running late and the kids were happy they were never late for recess (that use to happen sometimes :)

Make sure if you are observed, and the alarm goes off, that you (or the students) explain to the observer what the alarm is for so they don't think you are getting random cell phone calls during the lesson.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hallway Behavior


Lining up elementary school children and walking them through the halls is always an adventure. I've seen teachers do it many different ways. Yesterday I observed a teacher telling her students that when they stop there should be a "pair on the square" (meaning one pair of shoes per floor tile). I jumped into the line between some kids when I saw it to see how tight a fit it was...since I teach older kids. I thought it was a bit tight (granted I am not a small teacher) but I liked the "pair in the square" concept.


Another one I've seen at a second grade and below level is "hips and lips". Students who start getting gabby and grabby in line have to put their outside hand on their hip and their inside (to the wall) hand on their lips. I often threaten my fourth graders with that one :)
Would love to hear any other fun ways that teachers control hallway behavior.

Dry Erase Desks







I saw this in a teacher's room and thought it was an interesting idea. I am very curious to see how the desks will look in December, at Spring Break, and the end of the year.
She said she used them the year before and it worked out great for her for the whole year. She only teaches our gifted and talented population (fourth and fifth grade).
She bought the laminate roll from reallygoodstuff.com as well as the colorful tape that is holding it to the desk. I asked her about students picking at the tape and she said that she is really strict about that from the beginning of the year and didn't experience any problems.

She teaches math and science and uses it in both subjects. In science they can take lecture notes and then transfer them to their notebooks. When she has them watching a science video they also take notes or mark down questions they might have. On the desks are caddies with dry erase markers and socks for erasing.

On as side note (mostly for new teachers) when purchasing dry erase markers for the class always purchase them in one color (black works best). I made the mistake of purchasing a variety pack one year and the squabbling over color choice just about drove me insane.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Experiment Idea - PLANES




I traveled to Oregon for a wedding this summer and flew Southwest Airlines. While I was at the airport I noticed that Southwest and Alaskan Airlines had wings that were bent up at the end. When I looked at the other planes they had the traditional flat wing style. That got me thinking...does the bent wings make the plane perform better? (Southwest had their website listed on the bent part of the wing so it could have just been an elaborate advertising ploy :)

I know airplane experiments are popular but I liked the idea of showing pictures of real planes with different design styles and having students test them against traditional ones.

One airplane experiment I did in sixth grade was to have students test to see if the weight of paper affects the performance of the plane. I bought three different weights of paper from Staples and we compared them, weighed them, and tested them. It was a fun experiment (can't remember the results...will have to do that one again).

Picture of the Day - Activity

I attended a training class and a science coach shared an activity that he does with his students to help them differentiate between observations, inferences, and predictions.

He puts a picture on the interactive white board as a warm up (he gets the pictures from a variety of sources but uses National Geographic's Picture of the Day a lot). The picture above is from the National Geographic site.

He has the students make five observations. Then he makes the students make five inferences. Finally he has the students make five predictions.

He does this every day and it really drives home the difference between those three key inquiry vocabulary terms.

I've done this activity with both my sixth and fourth grade science classes and the students really got into it and became proficient at telling me the difference between those terms.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Notebooking - First Days of School

I am helping a group of fourth and third grade teachers in the district get notebooking off the ground this year. School starts for students on Monday so one of the things we talked about was the first couple of weeks in notebooking (with the intent that that would get folks started and then we could meet again and talk about what they/we could do for the next couple of weeks).

I've had several teachers express interest in seeing what that two weeks looks like so I thought I would post the one for third grade and the one for fourth grade.

Please keep in mind while reading it that this is most likely how I would handle the first couple of weeks and I modify as I go based on the students, timing, etc. Your teaching style might be different from mine so feel free to adjust or abandon all together.



Fourth Grade - First Two Weeks Download (if there are any question look at the sample notebook posted here on line)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Random Idea - Website Domain Name

For the past two years I have purchased a yearly subscription to a stand alone website (School World) which I love. I did this because our district was using a very nonuser friendly website for its teachers and I was tired of not being able to do what I want with the website they had given me.

I got the idea of a separate website from one of my son's teachers who had done the same thing years ago, she used a different teacher website then School World but it was the same principle.

The yearly subscription rate for my own website was $35 and was extremely reasonable. I simply provided a link on my district website to my new site. The district did not have a problem with this. Several teachers were doing it. I am one of these "don't ask...don't tell" teachers so even if there was a problem I wasn't going to find out about it :)

Last year the rest of the fourth grade team purchased subscriptions to the site as well. We also purchased our own domain names through godaddy.com. The website address the district gives us is cumbersome and by purchasing our own domain name we were able to streamline our address making it easier to communicate with parents, students, and other teachers (the domain names we use are mrsheatonsclass.com, mrswellersclass.com, mrsedwardsclass.com). The cost to purchase the domain name for the year was only $11.62....so worth the money! Once you have the name you simply link it to your existing website. So, if a person types in mrsheatonsclass.com they are directed to my School World site.

This year the district purchased a new website for teachers (School Fusion) and we have now been told officially we are to use it. While it is not as good as School World, and I am very sad to loose my site, I am a "team player" and have started working on putting together my new district website.

I still plan on keeping my domain name for the year but now I will link it to the new district site. I like the idea of telling parents and students to go to www.mrsheatonsclass.com verses telling parents to go to http://heaton.moes.beaufortsc.schoolfusion.us.

Random Idea - Class Sweatshirts

A few years ago I purchased some (6 total) inexpensive sweatshirts from the Goodwill and used a fabric pen (WalMart craft area) and wrote "Mrs. Heaton's Room" on both the front and back to keep in the classroom.

These are very popular with my students (from 6th grade down). Our classrooms tend to be cold and at the beginning of the year kids are freezing. These are loaner sweatshirts that are available on a "first asked, first come" basis. I bought them in adult large and have no problem if the kids stretch them out over their knees. I've never had any "fighting" over them and with my name so prominently displayed both front and back they never move to a different classroom (if the child wearing it forgets usually another child reminds them). I take them home every two weeks to wash and...KNOCK ON WOOD....I've never had a problem with lice :)

I'd like to take credit for this idea but it was something I had read in a magazine years ago that stuck with me.

Textbook Scavenger Hunt

I am working with some third grade teachers this year in setting up their notebook and proposed they add in a page, in the beginning unit "Inquiry", that covers parts of a textbook. It actually is not a bad idea for fourth grade as well.

I sort of assume when they get to fourth grade that they are familiar with the parts of a textbook and that is not a good assumption to make.

The jump from second to third grade is quite strenuous academically and initiating a lesson within the first couple of weeks of school on the parts of a textbook might actually be quite helpful in the long run. I proposed that they put together an interactive white board lesson (we use Promethean in our district), have the students go through the parts of the textbook as they go through the lesson, have a higher level textbook (grade 5 science) on the desks as well so that they see that the "parts of a textbook" apply to all grade levels, and then have them conduct a textbook scavenger hunt with their third grade science textbook.

I was looking online for some text to use that went over the parts of a textbook and cobbled together a LH page assignment that you can download HERE (please feel free to modify it, as it really was pieced together). The RH assignment is a scavenger hunt using our textbook, which I didn't include as a download since our textbook might differ from those used by others. I could have made the scavenger hunt longer but most of the third graders I have been talking to get between 30-40 minutes to teach science and I thought a one page scavenger hunt was doable with that time frame (including the lesson).

Starter Pages - Booklet Form


Last year I wrote that I would put together a booklet of the starter pages and glue it on the inside front cover of the notebook rather then glue in each individual page.

I put that together this week and have it available for download HERE. I kept the loose starter pages as well so if you want to download it in booklet form, you will need to open the publisher (pub) file (not the doc file).

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Experiment Ideas for the Classroom


When teaching the scientific method to students I say that all good science starts with a good observation....which in turn often leads to a good testable question.

The problem is coming up with easy, inexpensive, testable questions/experiments for the classroom to prove the point.

I am always on the look out for things I can turn into science experiments which I can then have the students design and/or execute.

I like to do at least three hands on experiments within the first couple weeks of school. The problem I am experiencing this year is that our third grade teachers want to start notebooking and I am helping them out. Obviously we don't want them to duplicate anything we would be doing in fourth grade so I started the great internet hunt for questions I could turn into science experiments (which lasted about 3 hours...which was all that I was good for last night).

Here are some questions that I have that could be turned into experiments:

1. Do aqua globes really work? I actually know that our AP has a set of aqua globes that I can borrow to do this experiment (when I saw her set I started wondering if they really worked...she said "no" :) I love the idea because you can also show the fun "informercial" that goes with it. It would also be fun to have the students film the experiment and post it on a website or blog.

2. On the Steve Spangler site he shows where Taco Sauce can clean pennies. This lead me to wonder if the the "hot" taco sauce would be better at cleaning pennies then the "mild" taco sauce.

3. Over the summer I dropped a neoprene coozie in the water and put a soda into it for my husband. He rejected the wet coozie saying it wouldn't keep his drink as cool as a dry one. Is that really true?

4. My son and I one time put a grow animal in the bathroom sink and the animal grew up the sides of the sink. I was wondering how big it would have gotten if we had grown it in the bathtub. This lead to an experiment I did one year which started with the question, "Does the size of the container affect the overall growth of one of those grow animals?"

5. We are located close to the ocean and most of my students have been swimming in the ocean or rivers in our area. I tell them that I often see women whose mascara has started to run. Most women use waterproof mascara if they know they are going to be in water which led to my question, "Does the salt content of the water affect if a mascara is waterproof or not?"

6. On Food Detectives....a great show for experiment ideas...they asked how much water is contained in the food you eat (this was part of their 8 glasses of water a day episode). They put a days worth of food in a dehydrator and compared the before and after weight. We actually have a food dehydrator at our house and I thought it might be fun to dehydrate different kinds of apples to see which one contained the most moisture. If you live in a big hunting area I bet at least one parent has a food dehydrator you can borrow.

7. I've seen this done in another fourth grade classroom and thought it would be a great start of the year activity. "Does the size of the watermelon affect the number of seeds found in it?" On this one students would have to collect data about the watermelons - length, girth (great vocabulary word), weight, etc. Then you would cut it up and the students would eat and spit their seeds in a cup to count later. This can also be done with pumpkins around Halloween.

8. This one I am retaining for the fourth grade since it ties into our light unit. Does dark fabric really absorb more heat then light fabric? Get a couple of bowls of ice. Put black fabric over one and white fabric over another. Observe what happens.

9. In another Food Detectives episode they show that tapping the top of a soda can is not effect in reducing the explosion of a shaken up soda. They go on to prove that tapping the sides of the can is affect. As I watched this episode I wonder, "Exactly how many taps do you need?" and "Is it more affective to tap in one spot or in more then one spot?" If you do this experiment you might head to Walmart and get an inexpensive plastic travel poncho from the backpacking area so kids don't get too wet.

10. In another Food Detectives episode they tested various methods for cooling down a burning mouth after eating hot wings. I thought this experiment could easily be done in the classroom with some willing parent volunteers (if I were still teaching 6th grade I would get student volunteers but with parent permission...SIGNED :) The show made me think back to a time I was with my husband and all his brothers at a wing place and they all ordered the SUPER HOT wings as a test to their manliness. The waitress said that if it got too bad for the men that they should open up and eat sugar packets to cool down their mouths. I had never heard of that. My question would be does sugar packets really cool down a super hot mouth?

So there you have 10 science experiment ideas that all started with some observations or another that lead to questions that could be tested in a classroom.

I would LOVE LOVE LOVE it if visitors to this blog can share any other testable questions they have or have done in the classroom.

Fun Observation Exercises







Here are three "observational" tests I give my students when I start talking about the importance of making good observations in science.

The first picture students have to find the arrow on the FedEx truck. I give them 2 minutes.

The second they have to find the hidden tiger.

The third they have to count how many "F's" are in the sentence. That is a fun one because they have a minute to count them and they all secretly write down their number and then I have them read them out loud and rarely does anyone get the same number.

The kids love being fooled. For the answers check the comments section.