Sunday, September 25, 2016

Growth Mindset, Art, and Science Activity: Brain Hats

Do you want to create or reinforce a strong growth mindset in your classroom?  Do you want to reach multiple learning styles, including artistic and logical?  Then read on to see how I use brain hats to do all this!

At the beginning of the year, we took a get-to-know-you Growth Mindset survey that let students know if their learning style was more right- or left-brain.

Growth Mindset Get-to-Know-You Activity: Are You a Left- or Right-Brain Thinker?

Adding on to the knowledge of the two hemispheres, we recently made "brain hats".   These were inspired by Ellen McHenry's activity

Growth Mindset, Art, and Science Activity: Brain Hats.

These hats have all the parts of the brain labeled and list what activities might be associated with each part.  There are different sizes from which to choose. For our middle-schoolers, we used the large/adult size.  There is an option to use smaller sizes for younger students as well. 

Growth Mindset, Art, and Science Activity: Brain Hats.

Students labeled, colored, cut, and taped them together.  

Growth Mindset, Art, and Science Activity: Brain Hats.

This was excellent to use for a Growth Mindset activity because we discussed  how you might have to move outside your comfort zone if you want to strengthen the neural pathways in your brain.  We reviewed what neurons are made of, which we learned about in an activity earlier this year that had us building edible neuron models.

Growth Mindset, Art, and Science Activity: Edible Neurons.

Yes, even middle-schoolers need some growth mindset education.  Actually, this is a crucial age to teach the concepts of neuroscience and grit. This was one of those unique activities that combined art, science, and Growth Mindset all in one. 

What are your favorite Growth Mindset activities?  I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

3 Kingdoms and 6 Domains Differentiated Foldable

Are you looking for an interactive, differentiated way to teach the 3 scientific domains and 6 kingdoms?  Then you need to read on to see how I make a taxonomic foldable for students' notebooks!

I created differentiated pages for students of various learning needs. The one shown below is the fill-in-the-blank version I distribute to most students.  
I differentiate in the following ways:
For students needing a challenge: I have them copy the notes by hand and/or give them copy of the foldable that doesn't have the kingdoms/domains written in.  They must use their resources to find the answers and fill in the blanks independently.  
For students needing extra assistance: I provide them with a completed copy (the answer key) to either copy the answers into the blanks, or to keep and highlight as we go over the answers as a class.

We start by folding a piece of paper in half vertically and hold-punching it (so it will go in our 3-ring binder).  The picture below shows how we cut, arrange, and glue the 3 domains information on the outside cover of the foldable.  

3 scientific domains and 6 kingdoms interactive notebook foldable.  Differentiated fill-in-the-blank.

After the domain pieces are in place, students use their textbooks or online resources to write the appropriate domain in the blanks

3 scientific domains and 6 kingdoms interactive notebook foldable.  Differentiated fill-in-the-blank.

Next, we work on the inside flaps.  
First, students glue the 6 kingdoms on the right.  Then, I have students rewrite the domains on the left and draw arrows from the domain to the kingdom under which it is classified.  

3 scientific domains and 6 kingdoms interactive notebook foldable.  Differentiated fill-in-the-blank.

Finally, students write the correct kingdoms in the blanks on the right side of the paper.

3 scientific domains and 6 kingdoms interactive notebook foldable.  Differentiated fill-in-the-blank.

This packet includes:
~Suggestions for how to use the foldable in differentiated instruction
~Step-by-Step directions for completing the foldable
~Pictures for completing each step of the foldable
~Answers written on the picture guide to serve as an answer key

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

Do you teach classification?  Do you have any foldables or interactives you would recommend?  I'd love to hear about what you're using!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Constitution Day Activities

Are you searching for meaningful activities for Constitution Day?  Would you like to be able to conduct your Constitution Day activities during multiple core subjects?  If you said yes, then this post is for you!

Constitution Day activities that can be done in Language Arts and Social Studies or Civics class.   Vocabulary graphic organizer for the Preamble to the Constitution.

To read more about the activities and tips I have for Constitution Day, click here to go to the Virginia is Teachers Blog.

Happy reading!

Constitution Day activities that can be done in Language Arts and Social Studies or Civics class.   Vocabulary graphic organizer for the Preamble to the Constitution.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Differentiating Instruction With Menus

Would you like to give your students a choice in what type of activities they complete while still covering all the content material?  Then you need to check out Differentiating Instruction With Menus by Laurie E. Westphal.  I'm not kidding when I say that this book completely changed the way I teach in the best way!

Differentiating Instruction With Menus: 6-8 Science

Practically every grade level and subject have their own menu book, ranging from K-12.  Below are only a few of the examples.

Differentiating Instruction With Menus: K-2 Math

Differentiating Instruction With Menus: 3-5 Language Arts

Differentiating Instruction With Menus: 3-5 Social Studies

Here's the one I want to check out next.

Differentiating Instruction With Menus: 6-8 Inclusive Classroom Science

I have a basic template that I've created for the choice boards/menus, based off of Differentiating Instruction With Menus.  It's a little different than the ones in the book, so you will still want to check out the book to figure out what works best for you.

The first things I decide are:

How many lessons/concepts will the board cover?  
1-3, maximum.  Choice boards/menus work best with fewer concepts.

How many points will the board be worth?  
I usually make all mine 100 points/percent, because they are considered a major project.

Gather/Copy all those unit materials that I've collected over the years:  Close Reading articles, worksheets, labs, PowerPoints, webquests, online games, etc.  
I choose them based on how well they cover the concepts and their level of challenge (I want a range of challenge, from worksheets that practically answer themselves to projects that require much more creative thinking.

When will the entire menu be due?
I wait until I've introduced all materials before setting a due date.  I'll teach a mini lesson each day, introduce some more materials, and let students start choosing assignments/gathering materials before setting the date. 

How to create and use Choice Boards/ Menus to Differentiate Learning.

Once I've chosen all the unit materials, I assign a point value to each assignment, based on the level of challenge.
For example, a 10-question fill-in-the-blank worksheet with a word bank might be worth 5 points, while a 4-page article for which students must use Close Reading annotations would be worth 20 points.  

Next, I decide whether an activity will be "work alone" or "work in pairs" for each assignment.
5-point worksheets are best done individually, while a major poster project might be better assigned to pairs.  I always give students the option of working alone, even if it says "work in pairs".  While one of the goals is certainly to encourage collaboration, some students really do produce the best results when working independently.  I also tell students that they may only work with a particular classmate once on each choice board, since I want them to work with a variety of people.

Finally, I assign a different "category" for each concept or lesson I will be teaching.
For example, cell types (plant and animal) would be Category A, while prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells would be Category B.  This is important because I specify that at least 10-20 points must come from each category.  That way, I know students have spent the right amount of time learning each of the concepts.

How to create and use Choice Boards/ Menus to Differentiate Learning.

The Final Steps

Make sure the class understand what each assignment entails and what materials they will be responsible for gathering on their own.  I always introduce each assignment to the whole class.  That way, students are free to change their minds if one assignment isn't working out for them and they need to switch to a different assignment.  Sometimes I will ask students to bring in materials on their own if they choose a particular assignment.  Modeling clay, for example, for building a cell model.  The reason I do this is because I can't go buy clay in bulk if only a handful of students choose to build a cell.  It makes more sense for them to buy it if they want to use it than for me to try to guess.

After I've gone over the expectations for each assignment and answered all questions, I have students put check marks beside what they plan to complete.  It's at this time that I check to make sure they are choosing assignments from each of the categories listed.  I have a requirement that each student needs to complete 10-20 points from each category.  That way, I know they get the proper practice with each concept.

Finally, I check students' progress each day and I grade each assignment as it is completed.  It's AMAZING how much more I'm able to interact with EACH student every day while they are working on choice boards.  The majority of the work is done in class, but if a student is not producing at a steady rate, they may need to take it home to complete.  

How to create and use Choice Boards/ Menus to Differentiate Learning.

I hope it's clear how much I love using choice boards! I don't feel like I can adequately express how much it helps both me and my students.

Do you use choice boards?  Do you plan to use them?  I'd love to hear about your ideas!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Close Reading Bookmarks for Nonfiction

Do your students need a visual reminder of how to do a Close Reading every time they read?  Are posters and pieces of paper with the steps of Close Reading lost or ignored while students are reading?  Then you need to check out my Nonfiction Close Reading Bookmarks!

Close Reading bookmarks for nonfiction

I use the Nonfiction Close Reading Bookmarks most often during my core classes, particularly science. I recommend that you print and laminate these bookmarks for each student to keep with them as they read a number of nonfiction texts.  It works particularly well as a bookmark for your classroom textbooks.  

Option 1:  Copy a textbook page or article for each student in class.  Have students mark directly on the page with colored pencils.

Option 2 if you have a copy limit: Laminate enough articles for a small group or put them in a page protector.  That way, you can use dry-erase markers to annotate “on” the text, but not have to make so many copies.  You can easily reuse the same article or page many times until all students have been able to have the Close Reading experience with that article.

Option 3 if you want to annotate a textbook:  Clip a page protector to the book using a binder clip.  Again, this allows students to use dry-erase markers to annotate “on” the text, but not damage the textbook.

This file includes:
For the teacher:
~Different options/directions for using the bookmarks to annotate texts 

For the student:
~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 

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

Do you use bookmarks as a reminder for your students while they are reading?  I'd love to hear some of your ideas!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Best Year Ever Bonus Sale

Whether you've already started your school year or are preparing to go back, you won't want to miss this ONE DAY sale on TpT!

August 22 One Day Sale on TpT

Stop by my TpT store for a 20% off sale!

The sale is Monday, August 22nd ONLY and then it's gone!  

Check the main page on TpT to get a special code that will give you an additional 8% off.   Use the TpT bonus code to get a grand total of 28% off!

Here's hoping you find some things to brighten your day and make the beginning of the school year go more smoothly!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Alphabet Sensory Box

Want to practice alphabet/letter recognition skills?  Then check out this easy sensory box made with materials from the Dollar Tree!

I like to use an all-black backdrop when I make my sensory boxes. To do this, I like to use a combination of smooth stones and black beans from the Dollar Tree. It really makes the materials stand out!

Setting up a sensory box with black beans and rocks from the Dollar Tree.

  One of my favorite sensory boxes is the Alphabet Box.  All you have to do is add magnetic letters to the rocks and beans.  I like to use both upper and lower-case letters so my son is familiar with both.  These are Melissa and Doug magnetic letters, but any letters will do.  

Beg, Borrow, and Teach!: Alphabet sensory box.

When the letters are mixed in with the beans and rocks, I call out a letter. My son finds it and places it in the metal cake pan.

Beg, Borrow, and Teach!: Alphabet sensory box.

Yes, the activity and child are in a box. This is for two reasons:  First, he loves playing in boxes. Not. Even. Kidding. Secondly, note that all the stray beans and rocks are contained. It makes clean up a snap and spares me from slipping on them later. 

Do you have any alphabet/letter sensory boxes that you just couldn't live without? I'd love to get some more ideas!