Sunday, June 19, 2016

Class Schedule Cards

If there's one question students consistently ask ALL.YEAR.LONG.... it's "When is lunch?"  "When is recess?"  Etc., etc.

In an effort to help students read a schedule and an analog clock on their own, I put up a schedule.

This is a PDF that can be printed and laminated to use for showing your daily schedule. There are 15 different subject cards, ranging from "Arrival" to "Social Studies", and 20 blank analog clocks so you can draw the times in for each subject.

You can pick a copy at my TpT store.

What do you use for scheduling?  Do you think it's important to have something like this in the upper grades?  What about Middle School?

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Summarization Techniques That get Students Moving and FREEBIES

I just finished reading Summarization in Any Subject by Rick Wormeli.  It was a quick read because I found so many things that gave me a "light bulb moment".  It's all about different techniques to incorporate meaningful summarization activities into your lessons.

I just kept finding more and more activities that I wanted to incorporate into my curriculum next year!  In particular, I looked at activities that get the students up and moving.  All students need to move more throughout the day, especially middle-schoolers.  The following are my favorites:

Human Bingo:
In this technique, a bingo board of summary questions is given to each student.  They must try to find another student who can answer the question and sign their initials.

It got me thinking that this would be a great twist on that "get-to-know-you" activity that many teachers do at the beginning of the year!  I almost always start with a unit on the Scientific Method.  I decided to combine the two.

To pick up a FREE copy, click here.

Carousel Brainstorming:

  • Put up different pieces of chart paper around the room with Lesson Essential Questions (LEQs) or key concepts from the lesson.  I like to make my LEQs based on the language of my state's standardized testing.  For example, if the guidelines say, "The student will investigate and understand similarities and differences between plant and animal cells", I would write "What are the main differences between plant and animal cells?" on the chart paper.
  • Create student groups of 3-5.  I like smaller groups.  It seems to facilitate more conversation.
  • Give each group a different color of marker/writing utensil.
  • Each group either answers the question, adds something to what another group has written, or considers what another group has written.  They can also draw a diagram, concept map, or other graphic related to the question.
  • Set a timer for group rotations.  Even if the group is not finished writing, they move on to the next station.  You can always discuss later what they intended to write during group discussion.
  • After all groups have visited all stations, assign each group to a station again.  This time, they will summarize the information from all the groups that have visited the station and present their findings to the class.


In this technique, students line themselves up according to a set of criteria.

For example, Life Science standards state that students need to be able to name the major contributors to our understanding of DNA (Gregor Mendel, Reginald Punnett, Rosalind Franklin, and James Watson and Francis Crick).

I would divide students into groups of 5 (one student for each person previously named).  I would present the groups with cards with each of the scientists' names on them and ask the group to arrange themselves in the order in which the discoveries were made.

There are actually several correct answers, since Mendel and Punnett and Franklin, Watson, and Crick made their discoveries around the same time in history.  They just have to be able to explain why they have lined up the way they chose.

Partners A and B:

This is a great way to teach minilessons and then quickly have students summarize that information.  After teaching your minilesson, pair students up (Partner A and Partner B).  I like to use my Life Science Clock Partners sheet for this.

Set a timer.  Partner A talks nonstop for 1 minute, saying anything that comes to mind about the lesson.  If they get stuck, they may use notes or other materials to help.  During this minute, Partner B is only allowed to listen.

When the minute is up, the roles reverse and Partner B talks while Partner A listens.  The catch:  Partner B may not repeat anything Partner A has said.  They may use their notes and materials if they get stuck, as well as pointing out things that still confuse them.  This will be valuable feedback to the teacher as to the level of comprehension of the minilesson.

Share One, Get One:

This Cooperative Learning strategy asks students to fill in 3 of 9 boxes with information they recall from the lesson.

They then move around the room and ask their classmates to fill in new information from the lesson, until all boxes are filled.

As a challenge for students who need it, early finishers take the information and write a summary of it.  This written portion may also be assigned as homework for that day or as an opening/review activity the following day.

I created a board for students to write their summary information.  You can pick up a copy by clicking here.

Do you have any summary activities that get students moving?  Any other books that compliment Summarization in Any Subject?  I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Photosynthesis VS Cellular Respiration

Trying to teach the difference between photosynthesis and cellular respiration can be challenging!  As I was teaching this concept, I found the following: 
On the one hand, my students are fairly familiar with the components of photosynthesis, which helps a great deal. 

On the other hand, they have little or no experience with the parts of respiration, AND they have a difficult time explaining how respiration and photosynthesis are dependent on each other to exist.  

I found a solution to the problem:  A pop-up/Interactive Notebook page!  I was inspired by this product I found on TpT.  I had to add several materials and products to both sides of the equation and add extra symbols to make it more complete, but I knew this was what I was looking for!

When folded in accordion style, it fits nicely into a notebook for future reference.

The students had fun tracing, cutting, taping, and folding.  I love the art aspect of this assignment!  It makes teaching this concept a lot more fun.

Do you have any resources you like to use to teach the difference between respiration and photosynthesis?  I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sweet Treats to Inspire Learning from Pre-K-12

It's that time of year when students are imagining sleeping in, no testing, and days spent with no agenda.  So, what do you do to keep things educational and fun at this time of year?  Why, you pull out the sweets, of course!

Here is a list of low-prep (or no-prep) end-of-year activities that will keep the kids learning and having fun that use candy.

State Testing


"Saving Sam": A team-building challenge to "save" a gummy worm from drowning
The end of the year is a great time to dust off those team-building exercises you used at the beginning of the year.

Growth Mindset

Edible Neurons 
This craftivity is so fun to show how you can strengthen your mind/memory.

Life Science/Biology:

Edible DNA Models

Gummy Bear Changes in Matter
This one was done by a Second Grade teacher, but it easily translates into 8th Grade science curriculum.

Gummy Bear Osmosis
I've done a similar experiment with my 7th-Graders.

Earth Science

Using chocolate chip cookies to "excavate" chocolate chip "fossils"
This one was written by a Preschool teacher, but you could easily make it appropriate for older students by having them count and graph the chips they found.  

Another great way to extend a unit on fossils/dinosaurs.  For older students, this can be tied into your evolution unit to show how we use fossils to prove change over time.

This was written by a Kindergarten teacher as part of her unit on the Moon, but Virginia students need to know the phases of the moon starting in 4th grade.  So go ahead and let those older kids play with cookies!

This was written by a 5th grade teacher.  What could be better, or more delicious, than Oreos, chocolate syrup, and M&Ms to demonstrate the layers of Earth?

Starting in 5th grade, Virginia students are required to know how each type of rock is made and the cycle it goes through to get there.  Here's a really cool way to have your learning and eat it, too!

Language Arts

This was written by a 2nd grade teacher, but ALL students could use practice with developing those words, phrases, and paragraphs that concisely and appropriately convey their opinion.

Even though this was written for 1st-2nd grade, I found that even 7th-graders need a reminder on how-to writing.  So, bust out those cookies for kids of all ages!

Even though this lesson was written by a primary teacher, I could totally see middle-schoolers getting into this!

Oreo Sight Word Recognition
Call out letters and have students cover them on their "bingo board" with cookies.  I would probably use a smaller print and different type of candy to make a true bingo board.


Sweet Fractions
Although this is a worksheet, you could recreate some of these sweet scenarios as a treat for completing the exercise.

Measure Oreos with Non-Traditional Sources of Measurement
For older students, Have them measure the Oreos in standard and metric.

The Great Cookie Election
Pick different types of cookies, let students vote on their favorites, and declare the winner.  Take it to the next level by having older students design their own poll, ballot, and graph to represent the results.

Oreo One-to-One Correspondance

Make Oreo Patterns

Social Studies

From dictatorships to democracy, this teacher had her students use gummy bears to represent the different types of government.  The picture below shows a "voting booth" for the democracy.  So clever!

Teaching Taxation Without Representation/Things That Led to the American Revolution

Another Alternative to Teaching the Causes of the American Revolution Using Smarties
This teacher gives ridiculous scenarios in which the King or Queen (of the classroom) would be allowed to tax the students.  Wearing white socks?  Fork over a Smartie!  So fun!

Not finding what you're looking for?  Check out this post by Carla at Comprehension Connection.  She shares a boatload of ideas across several subjects.  Happy hunting!

Any ideas you'd like to share about using sweets to teach at the end of the year?  I could use all the ideas I can get!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Virginia Studies and Grammar

Are you looking for some interdisciplinary end of year review activities involving writing and Virginia Studies?  Then this Virginia Studies grammar correction activity may be what you're looking for!

This activity uses the language of the SOLs and turns it into questions.  Each question has several grammar mistakes that need to be corrected.  There are a couple of different options for how to use this:

Option 1:  Have students rewrite the sentence/question correctly for a grammar/writing assessment.

Option 2:  Have students answer the question for a Virginia Studies assessment.

Either way, it gets them practicing and reviewing key concepts in both subjects.

It includes an answer key to make the activity self-checking, which is yet another way to have students practice with the information.

You can pick up a copy by clicking here.

Do you do any activities that help with the integration of Language Arts and Virginia Studies?  I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Using Sweets to Teach Mitosis and Meiosis

What better way to teach a complicated concept like Mitosis than to use candy!  I find that students are naturally more receptive to anything that involves the use (and consumption) of sweets.  This is a no-brainer, right?

To demonstrate the stages of Mitosis in the Cell Cycle (Interphase, Prophase, Metaphase, Anaphase, Telophase, Cytokinesis), this group used gummy worms to represent the chromosomes.  As an added bonus, gummy worms are perfect for talking about genes (the stripes) and alleles (imaginary letters on the stripes).

Another group used Oreos to demonstrate the stages of Mitosis.

I had them watch this video, which helps a lot for replicating the stages on the Oreos.

Other groups used sugar cookies, icing, and sprinkles to demonstrate Mitosis.  This required two sheets of paper, as opposed to the one sheet used for the Oreos.

This group used jelly beans to show the stages of Meiosis (Interphase, PMAT twice, Cytokinesis).

Another student went all out and made a stop-motion video. So neat!


Do you have any activities involving sweets that teach Mitosis/Meiosis?  I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

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...

The Important Book
This one is great to use at the end of the year as well.  I often have the students choose their favorite subject and write an "Important Book" of their own about that subject.  So fun!

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!