Sunday, December 27, 2015

Growth Mindset Activity: Learning Style Quiz and Hemispheres of theBrain

Would you like to get to know your students on a deeper level and discover their learning styles all at once?  How about a way to teach your students their learning style strengths while teaching them realistic ways to practice with the opposite learning styles.  Then this post is for you!


Growth Mindset Activity: Learning Style Quiz and Hemispheres of theBrain


We've been using Mindsets in the Classroom: Building a Culture of Success and Student Achievement in Schools by Mary Cay Ricci in our county.

One of my favorite activities I did in college was to learn if I was "right-brained" or "left-brained".  We've all heard the talk about how we are either one or the other. Turns out, most of the successful people in the world have more balance between the two hemispheres. So, I wanted to create an activity that would not only gauge students' learning style, but also give them strategies to create the balance that successful people have. 

First, we took a learning and personality style quiz. This consists of series of paired statements from which students had to choose the statement that sounded more like them. For example, 


Left-Brain/Right-Brain Learning Style Quiz


As the students answered the questions, they colored in the appropriate circle to indicate their answer choice. 


Chart for answering the left-brain/right-brain learning style quiz


After all questions were answered and circles were filled in, we discussed the patterns we saw. For example, were there more left or right circles filled in?  Were there equal amounts filled in on each side?  If there were more circles colored in on the left, that showed a tendency toward left-brain "logical" thinking and vice versa for the right side. If equal amounts were colored, that tends  to indicate a person that uses both left- and right-brained approaches, depending on the situation. In other words, this indicates a person that is willing to try things outside their comfort zone if the situation calls for it. 

We then talked about how to strengthen the side (hemisphere) on which there were fewer circles filled in. It basically boils down to trying activities outside your "comfort zone". Below are the examples we talked about for the students who were more "Left-Brained".  I have another list for strengthening the left hemisphere and one to help strengthen both equally. 


Ways to strengthen the two hemispheres/learning styles


If you'd like to pick up a copy of this packet, it includes:
~21 paired statements from which to choose.  The first statement of the set (labeled with A) indicates a tendency toward right-brain thinking.  The second statement of the set (labeled with B) indicate a tendency toward left-brain thinking.
~A "Brain Worksheet" for students to color in their answers to the paired statements
~Tips for strengthening the left and right hemispheres
~Tips for strengthening both hemispheres


Click here to pick up a copy.

We constantly refer to these lists and "stepping outside our comfort zone" when we encounter challenging situations so we can learn and grow. Do you do any activities to encourage students to think about how they learn?  I'd love to hear about them!









Sunday, December 13, 2015

Creating Food Chain Models

Anytime we can bust out the art materials   in science class is a good day. This is a simple activity that concretely models the food chain and uses some higher-level vocabulary at the same time.

First, we folded our paper into fourths (in half vertically and then in half vertically again).  




Then, we cut the strips on the folds (each student needs six strips). 



Then, we labeled our strips with the levels of the food chain. 


Students illustrated the terms. 




Then we looped the strips together and glued the ends to make a chain.  Each student's decomposers were linked to the next student's sun, thus creating one large food chain/food web. 





After every student attached their chain, it looped up and around my desk area.  We reference this anytime we are talking about consumers, food chains, or food webs. Since this is many food chains put together, it is actually also representative of a food web. It's a great physical reminder of the concepts. 

Do you have any hands-on activities to demonstrate energy flow in ecosystems?  I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Seasonal Sensory Writing: Winter Bakery

Now that the weather is a bit chillier and coffee shops everywhere are offering flavors only available this time of year, it's time to use those sensory experiences in your writing!



I love reading books with the students and picking out sensory/descriptive words together.  Some of my favorite mentor texts for this time of year:

Winter is the Warmest Season by Lauren Stringer
Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Equally as fun is brainstorming about the yummy holiday foods and decorations available this time of year.  Telling a friend that you had a "richly spicy gingerbread cookie with creamy icing on top while sitting by the crackling fire" really does paint a mental picture!

We also discuss their favorite place to eat. It can be everything from their own kitchen to Panera. I do try to steer them towards a place that offers an atmosphere unique to the season. For example, if their favorite place to eat is Burger King, they are not going to have as much to write about pertaining to the holidays. However, we work with what we get. Even Burger King offers some sensory experiences. 

I present students with my filled-in version of the "5 Senses Organizer" and provide them with a blank copy. 




I created a packet with all the pieces mentioned below.




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


Do you have any great winter mentor texts or writing tricks for winter?  I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Bold Beginnings and Catchy Conclusions: Taking the Tears Out of Writing the First and Last Paragraphs

In my teaching and personal experience, I find the first sentence of a piece of writing to be one of the most difficult things to create and perfect.  After all, an author really only has a sentence or two to gain the interest of their readers.  No pressure, right?  What's the next most difficult thing to write?  That would be the final paragraph in which the author has to wrap everything up in a pretty package with a bow on top.  That's no easy task, either.  So, I compiled some of my favorite openings closings to stories that I've either read or written.





Most of my favorite openings include figurative language because it can make any writing piece fun, in my humble opinion.  My top favs are:

Onomatopoeia is a fun word just to say.  Also, describing the way something sounds is appealing to the auditory learner in me.  Plus, students enjoy trying to describe the sounds to each other.

Foreshadowing is fun to use around Halloween.  It adds a creep factor to creative writing and mysteries.

Alliteration is a fabulous element to add to the title of a story.  For example, "Bold Beginnings and Catchy Conclusions" sounds much more interesting than "Opening and Closing Paragraphs".

Similes/Metaphors help your future Mark Twains party like a rock star while they are writing.  See what I did there?

Below is the first page of the model story I created to help students get into their writing.  I challenge you to see how many of my favorite story-starter elements mentioned above are included.  Spoiler alert:  I tell you how many and which ones directly after the photo.





I'll bet you guessed that there were two of my favorite story-starter elements in this part of the story: Onomatopoeia and foreshadowing.  

Below is an example of some of the other Bold Beginnings included in the rest of the story.





Conclusions don't have to be boring and routine.  My favorites are quotes and similes/metaphors.  If a summary is done properly, it can also be a good ending to a story.  However, summaries can be tricky.  If all a summary includes is the same sentences from the story, that can really put a reader out.




I print, laminate, and keep these sheets available for buddy editing and small group writing.  If you'd like to pick up a copy, click here.

How do you inspire your students to open and close their writings?  I'd love to hear how!




Sunday, November 8, 2015

Vocabulary Instruction and Assessment

One thing I've placed an emphasis on, regardless of whether I'm teaching elementary or middle school, is vocabulary.  I'm a believer in the benefits of vocabulary instruction in all subjects, not just Language Arts.

For example, my 7th Grade Life Science students often have 4-square vocabulary for homework prior to the instruction of those concepts.




They are responsible for filling in the definition and picture/graphic with the help of the glossary and pictures in their textbook. I don't like for them to use the Internet or dictionaries for this because there are usually too many different definitions and pictures out there on the World Wide Web.  The textbook streamlines that process.  I supply them with the example and non-example during class and they fill them in. This way, they've already been exposed to the key words twice before I even explicitly teach it in context.





After all the vocabulary has been thoroughly taught, we play review games from my Vocabulary Review Games Packet.





Finally, we take an assessment.  Half of it asks them to use the information from the 4-square examples, and half of it is matching the word to the definition.





I made a packet for the templates for the 4-square and vocabulary test. Click here to pick up a copy of my Vocabulary Instruction and Assessment Packet.





Do you do use explicit vocabulary instruction and review in all subjects?  I'd love to learn some tricks from you!



Sunday, November 1, 2015

Let's Talk (Figurative Language) Turkey!

The holidays are right around the corner! While they can be hectic, they can also be a great time to talk about figurative language in your writing curriculum.

First of all, almost everyone loves Fall food so It's easy to get the students to buy into it.  This time of year also makes it easy to experience all those Multi-Sensory experiences first-hand: Colors of leaves, touching a pumpkin, the smells of pumpkin pie, crisp Fall air. So why not tap into those experiences and practice some figurative language while you're at it?






I had so much fun creating the graphic organizer!



And the Wanted Poster!



If you want to pick up a copy, click here.

Do you have a fun way to get students to practice figurative language in their writing?  I'd love to hear how!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Growth Mindset, Art, and Science Activity: Edible Neurons

We've been using Mindsets in the Classroom: Building a Culture of Success and Student Achievement in Schools by Mary Cay Ricci in our county. It is honestly one of my favorite district initiatives because believing in yourself and perseverance are two of life's most important skills. 

Many of the activities in its sister book, Ready-to-Use Resources for Mindsets in the Classroom: Everything Educators Need for School Successare geared toward elementary students or Language Arts, and I teach middle school science. So I decided to combine art and science in my first Growth Mindset activity: Edible Neurons. 

Since cells are such a big part of our curriculum in Life Science, I was able to tie this activity into cell parts when I showed them the following diagram.



So, we grabbed the Twizzlers and Fruit Roll-Ups and started creating our own edible models.  I did have them use hand sanitizer before beginning.







Finally, we got to EAT them!  This was easily their favorite part.

I created a document that gives step-by-step instructions and a materials list.  
This document includes:
~A materials list
~A procedure list
~A neuron diagram
~Pictures of partially and completely finished edible neurons

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

Do you have any Growth Mindset activities that mix well with science?  I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Math is Real Life: Setting Up a Fish Tank

It's that time again, time for Math is Real Life.



It's time to downgrade my big fish tank. I only have two of the original ten fish left.  They died of old old age, by the way. So I got out the little fish tank I use for transportation. 

It had been about five years since I last used it, so I didn't exactly remember how many gallons it held.  I estimated that it would take about three gallons to fill. I even put it beside my Keurig, which takes about a gallon, for reference. 



So, off to the cupboard I went to get the gallons of water usually kept in there, but my hubby apparently didn't tell me we were down to one gallon. Oh, well. I poured it in to see how much it would fill before running to the store. 

One gallon filled the tank almost halfway. 



So, I needed to revise my original estimate of it being a three-gallon tank. It would only take about another gallon to almost completely fill it, which is a total of two gallons. Still, the scientist in me was screaming, "Buy two more gallons, just in case!".  It's better to be over-prepared than unprepared. 

Turns out, 2 gallons did the trick. 




So, with a little estimation and trial-and-error, I got my math on.  It's true, Math is Real Life!  If you want to join the link-up and share your real-life math experiences, click here.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Slow Cooker Teacher Savior: Italian Marinara Sauce

As I am full-swing into the school year now, I rely more and more on kitchen gadgets to make life easier at home.  I mean, who has the time to work 12+ hour days and come home to cook and clean it all up?  Not this chick.

So, in my latest installment of the teacher saviors posts, I'm focusing on the perfect pasta topper: Italian Marinara Sauce.  My family loves it and it's far more organic than the jarred stuff on isle 6 (although I love that, too!).

Servings:
About 2 1/2 jars (36 ounces) of spaghetti sauce.

Ingredients:
8 cups diced tomatoes (1 average tomato yields about a cup)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 tablespoons McCormik Garlic and Herb Perfect Pinch Seasoning
4 tablespoons Italian seasoning
3 tablespoons lemon juice (I use the bottled stuff because I never have fresh lemons lying around)
1 tablespoon sweetener of choice (I have used Splenda, but I prefer Truvia baking blend for it's more organic nature)
2 tablespoons garlic powder


First:
Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker and give them a really good stir.  You want the tomatoes to be completely coated with the herbs.


Second:
Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  I do not recommend cooking on high for this recipe.

Third:
Take the lid off and turn the cooker off to let the tomatoes cool while you get the pasta water going.




After they have sufficiently cooled so that you won't get burned if they splash onto you, use a blender to puree them to the desired consistency.  If you have a stick blender, you can just blend the tomatoes in the slow cooker.  I used my Magic Bullet to make batches of sauce.  Warning:  If you use a Magic Bullet or other blender that has a lid, you need to make sure the contents aren't too hot or they seem to create excess bubbles that want to explode out.


Fourth:
I save my old mason jars so I can store the sauce in them, but you could just leave it in the Magic Bullet cup.  I only like to leave about 12 ounces out at time so it doesn't go bad.  There's no way I'm using 2 jars of sauce in a few days!


I like to freeze the rest in baggies.  I measure about 12 ounces into each baggie and lay them flat in the freezer.

Finally:
Enjoy over the pasta of your choice!

So, with about 20 minutes of prep, you can have a boat load of delicious sauce!  Do you have any slow cooker recipes that make a bunch of freezable meals?  I'd love to hear about them!


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Behavior Management Cards

I am a big believer in having a behavior management system that allows some flexibility for the teacher, as well as give multi-sensory cues to the student.

In middle school, I knew a clip chart wasn't going to fly. So I created a card reminder system. 



While creating the cards, I thought of three main behaviors I wanted to see. These were: Teamwork, hard work, including staying on task, and evidence of higher-level thinking. I named these "Praise Cards". 



Then, I thought of the three main behaviors I wanted to curb. These were: Talking at inappropriate times, off-task behaviors, and leaving the group or their seat at inappropriate times. I named these "Reminder Cards".  


If I see a desired behavior, they get a Praise Card to keep for the period.  At the end, they write their name on a slip of paper to be entered into a drawing for prizes.  I plan to draw names about once every month or so.

If I see negative behaviors, I give a verbal warning first.  If the behavior continues, I give the Reminder Card.  If it still continues, I give a written referral (our school policy).  I find that having a reminder in front of them usually curbs the behavior for the period.

I made a PowerPoint of the cards so I could print as many as I needed.
This editable PowerPoint includes:
~4 "Reminder Cards" for talking
~4 "Reminder Cards" for off-task behavior
~4 "Reminder Cards" for being out of seats
~4 "Praise Cards" for teamwork
~4 "Praise Cards" for hard work
~4 "Praise Cards" for higher-level thinking

If you want to pick up a copy, click here.

Do you use a card system in your classroom?  I'd love to hear how!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Virginia is for Teachers!

I am proud to be part of a new collaborative blog known as Virginia is for Teacher Bloggers!

This is just a lovely group of teachers from Virginia with diverse backgrounds and skills.  We share tips, resources, and (my favorite) FREEBIES!

Come check out the prizes and resources we are offering by clicking HERE.  Can't wait to see you there!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Secret Sale!

TpT is having a secret sale for TODAY ONLY!




Don't miss it!  Click HERE to go to my store and see what's on sale!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Life Science Cooperative Learning Clock Partners

I've always liked using Clock Buddies in my elementary classroom.  I love how quickly it can create pairs and quads for cooperative learning.

I've been wanting to create something specific to Life Science/Biology that functions the same.  So I use 12 of the key Life Science terms and used them in place of the clock numbers.




I will give this to the students on the second or third day and have them attach it to the front of their science notebooks.

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

Do you use a clock partner system?  I'd love to hear how!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

It's Time for a Sale!

I am beginning to get my lessons ready for the start of school in a couple of weeks. So I was excited when TpT shared that they would be having their Back to School sale on August 3rd and 4th (this Monday and Tuesday)!






Everything in my TpT store will be 20% off!


So, stop by my store to get 28% off on August 3-4th!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Slow Cooker Teacher Savior: Pork Roast

I love my slow cooker!  It lets me avoid the stove and spend 30 minutes or less to come home to a hot meal.  This saves my life on long days, not just those school days.

This time, I'm making pork roast, noodles, and gravy. Even my 16-month-old and picky-eater-husband love it!  Even better:  There are few ingredients and dishes to clean up after the prep.  

Ingredients:
2 cans Cream of Mushroom Condensed soup
*1 packet brown gravy + 1 beef bouillon + 1 soup can of water cube OR 1 can condensed French Onion Soup
**1-3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup water


3 pound pork roast
Whole wheat egg noodles or mashed potatoes

*I have used both.  Here's the difference:

  • The gravy + bouillon + water will give you a creamier texture and slightly saltier taste.  **You will also need to add more cornstarch to the final gravy to make it thicker than you would if you use the French Onion 
  • The French Onion Soup adds a lot of onion chunks to the gravy.  If you don't like onions in your gravy, you need to strain them out before making the gravy.

First:
In the slow cooker, mix together the soups OR gravy + bouillon + can of water (see above for how to choose between the two).  Add the roast and flip a few times to make sure it's coated.  

Do NOT add the 1/4 cup of water yet.





Second:
Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-6.

Third:
Remove pork and let it rest on a cutting board or plate.  Mine is almost so tender that I don't need a knife to cut it!



Fourth:
Turn the slow cooker on high, put the lid back on, and let it get good and hot while you start the water for the noodles or potatoes.  After the cooker is hot, add the cornstarch and 1/4 cup water and stir until it's thickened to your desired consistency.  



Finally:
Pour over noodles or potatoes and enjoy!

Do you find your slow cooker to be a teacher savior?  I'd love to hear how you use yours!