Sunday, November 23, 2014

Nonfiction Close Reading and Early Finishers

So, I'm settling into my middle school science home rather nicely.  I'm really loving this age group and this curriculum!  In the past few weeks, I've learned many new things about how the students think and learn.  Here are three that I decided needed addressing right away:

1.  Many students don't seem to want to "mix" reading and science.  They see them as two separate subjects that don't have anything to do with each other.  Uh, oh.  

2.  Students don't want to support their answers with the text or use it to do research.  Once again, doh!

3.  If students finish assignments early and others are still working, they want to distract the students that are still working.  Well, that one is the same for any grade level.

So.... I found some articles and books that are content-related that I will display in my classroom.  To go with them, I made some Nonfiction Close Reading Bookmarks.

The idea is to put page protectors over the text and annotate, then go back and clarify terms and ideas.  Finally, the student gives a one-sentence summary.

These bookmarks are part of an editable PowerPoint that includes:
~Directions on how to annotate the text using a page protector and dry-erase marker
~Directions that guide the student to read and reread the text 3 times
~Directions that guide the student to use a dictionary and/or ask for help with clarifying unknown terms and content
~Directions on how to summarize the text

I'm hoping this will encourage use of these strategies while we are reading the textbook, but also will enrich the students needing a challenge with additional text.

I'd love to hear how you keep your students engaged and ready to learn in science class!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Interactive Science Notebooks (ISN)

I've done my research and updating to my ISNs, and I'm finally ready to share the finished product!

Interactive Science Notebook Pack

I took some of my stations from my Language Arts blocks and included them in the notebooking experience.

I plan to use station activities on catch-up days.  This will be an opportunity for me to meet with small groups to catch them up on their ISN or enrich others.

I also brought back the Textmapping that helped out so much in my Social Studies class.

I included note-taking teacher "input" examples and student "output" examples (above).

I'm really proud of the how it turned out!

This 23-page editable PowerPoint includes:
~Materials suggestions
~Teacher planning sheets
~Suggested station activities
~Table of Contents pages
~How to make bookmarks
~Input activities: 
~Note Taking Strategies (PLAN and Cornell)
~Output activities:
~Thinking Stems
~Concept Map
~Compare and Contrast
~Vocabulary template

If you'd like a copy, click here.

How do you use Interactive Notebooks?  Do you use them in Science?  I'd love to hear your ideas!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Helping Students Recognize and Manage Distractions

At a recent PBIS meeting, we discussed methods of helping students get back on track when they are distracted.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized this process needs to start with the student recognizing what distracts them.

So, I came up with a quiz that differentiates between external and internal distractions and asks students to come up with plans of action to combat their distractions.

This editable PowerPoint includes:
~14 True/False questions that help students determine if their distractions are internal or external
~An answer key that has students create a plan to combat their distractions and get back on track when they are distracted

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

I will be using this with my middle-schoolers the first week as a get to know you activity, but I think it's could be used at any time of the year.  Do you have anything you use to help students combat their distractions?

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.