Sunday, October 26, 2014

Organizing Mail and Absent Work

I am so excited to be moving into a middle school Science teaching position!  Two of my biggest passions are Social Studies and Science, so I feel especially blessed with this change.  Of course, with every new classroom and grade change, there comes new organization challenges.  So, that's what I've been working on this week.

I gathered inspiration fro the image below:

I thought the hanging file folders were brilliant to file all those graded assessments and mail for each student in all four blocks of my classes.  Then I would just need another crate to hold materials for absent students and one to hold extra papers, since someone seems always to misplace papers and need new ones.  To make it my own, I wanted to make the images on the labels be those that make me happy.  Thus, the chocolate and coffee.

I just have to use my rosters to assign numbers to the students and label all the file dividers with the numbers.  Then, students will know what papers belong to them and I don't have to spend precious instructional time handing out papers.  Then I can hang them on the front of the file crate with binder rings.

If you'd like to pick up a copy, click here.

I'll be working on more things to brighten up the room and make it feel more like home.  I can't wait to share more!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Teaching Equal Versus Inequality

We have already learned the algebraic properties of addition (commutative, associative, zero property) and we have been practicing our addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts.  Now we are practicing understanding the connection between all these inverse operations.  While learning all this, we also are solving equations to see if they are equal or inequalities.

To help mix all these concepts together, I came up with a sort.

The first page is addition and subtraction equations and the second page is multiplication and division equations.  Students solve the equations and determine if the statement is true or false.  If it is true, they glue the equation under Equal.  If it is not true, they glue it under Inequality.

The editable PowerPoint includes:
~A cut and glue sort that has students solving equations and deciding whether they are equal or inequalities
~The first sort is addition/subtraction equations
~The second sort is multiplication/division equations
~Answer keys for both sorts that allow for quick or self-checking work

If you'd like to pick up the whole packet, click here.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Reading Comprehension Strategy: Determine Importance

We have been using the "Determine Importance of a Text" reading comprehension strategy.  I found that this was easier for students when the selection was nonfiction than it was for them with a fiction text.  So, we started by focusing on the nonfiction text features in our Science and Virginia Studies textbooks.

We focus on heading, bold/italic print, pictures/captions.  Then we turn the heading into a question:  What are the five regions of Virginia?  We use the nonfiction features to answer the question.

After we've practiced just finding the features, we start completing the graphic organizer for this strategy in our Reader's Response notebooks.  This is part of my "Determine Importance of Fiction and Nonfiction" packet.

Next, we dive into fiction texts.  I prefer to tackle this during read-aloud time with chapter books of different genres, but there are a number of great picture books that fit the bill as well.  Some of my favorites:

Tops and Bottoms


And of course...

While we are reading, we record what's important on the Determine Importance: Fiction Books organizer.

If you want to pick up the packet with more mentor text suggestions, click here.

This packet includes:
~Suggested uses and directions for the graphic organizers
~Suggested fiction and nonfiction mentor text suggestions
~One organizer for determining importance in nonfiction texts
~One organizer for determining importance in fiction texts

Do you have any go-to texts or organizers for determining importance in texts?  I'd love to hear your ideas!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Constitution Day Activities

Our district requires us to celebrate Constitution Day and do activities related to it.  I actually enjoy it.  For one thing, The Constitution is one of the most important documents our country has ever written.  For another, we will be discussing this document in depth in Virginia Studies.  If I take the time to front load the vocabulary and basic understanding of the Preamble, it makes studying the document's history go much more smoothly.

First, we read We the Kids: The Preamble to The Constitution of the United States by David Catrow.  It's a really cool book that uses kid-friendly images and language to explain the Preamble.

There's also a video with the same title as the book that can be used as a refresher later in the year.  It has the exact information and language in it that the book uses, but it's just a nice visual reminder for the students.

We use a graphic organizer to break down the robust vocabulary of the Preamble.

We also do a writing activity that incorporates the vocabulary and talks about the students' personal freedoms.

I have an extension activity set up for students needing a challenge.  These students work in small groups to take a sentence or phrase, rewrite it in their own words and illustrate the main idea.

My complete lesson plans for Constitution Day include:
~The Virginia Reading and Writing Standards and objectives associated with the activity
~Mentor text/video suggestion
~Prewriting activity suggestions (anchor chart, graphic organizer)
~Graphic organizer of robust vocabulary from the Preamble
~Journal prompt
~Challenge/Extension activity

If you'd like to pick up a full copy, you can do so by clicking here.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cooperative Learning Groups

I use the Guided Model for most subjects, which means students spend a lot if time in small groups.

In Reading and Math, the groups are determined by preassessments and individual needs. In Science and Social Studies, it's a different story.  I randomly assign groups by pulling Popsicle sticks. I do reserve the right to change group members if the dynamics are off. 

After groups are together , I have them quickly and randomly choose group jobs. I do this with the spinner included in my Cooperative Groups packet.

I then pass out the group job description sheets.  I really focus on the Words of Encouragement part of the group Booster's job description (below), especially at the beginning of the year to build a sense of community.

This editable PowerPoint includes:
~Directions on how to create the groups and job descriptions
~A spinner to randomly choose jobs for students
~Job descriptions and checklists for the following jobs: Guide, Booster, Materials, Recorder, Reporter

If you'd like a complete copy, you can pick one up by clicking here.

Do you use Cooperative Learning Groups?  If so, do you use the same jobs?  I'd love to hear how you use them.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Building a Classroom Community Using Author's Purpose

I have always used author's purpose (PIE) when teaching reading and writing. We talk about the "slices of pie" (persuade, inform, entertain) that authors use, depending on what they want their readers to take away from the text.  We practice these same techniques in our own writing, carefully choosing our words to fit our purpose.  I have posters displayed around the room and in reference guides at group tables.

There are a ton of great visuals and practice activities out there, but here are just a few of my favorites:


This is a great board game for practicing identifying author's purpose, not to mention it's FREE!

Then there's my favorite visual of Author's Purpose from Mrs. Gilchrist:

I do these things every year but THIS year, I'm turning the lesson around for the students to take charge.  After teaching the basic pieces of the P.I.E., I am going to open up the journaling to my student authors.
 In order to build the classroom community aspect of the journal, I will be including story starters and examples that support social problem solving in school and the classroom.
If you teach author's purpose AND you want to work on student journaling AND building your classroom community, then check out this packet on my TpT store
This editable PowerPoint includes:
~Teacher's directions on how to use the product
~Student directions on how to use the product
~Persuasive story starters and examples
~Informative story starters and examples
~Entertaining story starters and examples
~The examples for each section are geared toward building your classroom community and fostering deeper thinking

Do you have any other ways to use P.I.E.?  I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Scientific Method Foldable

I usually start off the year in Science with a mini lesson on the Scientific Method.  I have always used a foldable to show the steps of the Scientific Method in the past, however, I edited it this year to include the steps in the order in which we practice them in class.  I also added descriptions that better describe each step.

This editable PowerPoint includes:
~Directions on how to cut, fold, and glue the foldable.
~The 6 steps to the Scientific Method (Problem, Hypothesis, Experiment, Observation, Results, Conclusion).
~Brief explanations of each step to guide students in their thinking.
~Space for students to write their thinking for each of the steps.

You can pick up a copy by clicking here.

Do you have any graphic organizers or foldables that make teaching the Scientific Method easier?  I'd love to see your ideas!