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Sunday, June 26, 2016

How to Answer EVERY Student's Questions

How do you acknowledge and answer every student's question, every day?  You may be thinking it's impossible with all the time restrictions and curriculum requirements, let alone the sheer number of questions students ask each day. Believe me when I say it is possible, and I'm here to share how!

Allow me to present my "Burning Questions Board". This one bulletin board has single-handedly cut down on unrelated comments/questions and helps nurture student wondering/creativity.  

Students write their name, date, and class period on a slip of paper, along with their question or comment.  Then then put the slip of paper in one of the library card pockets.  

I check the pockets on a daily basis or each class period if I have time.  If it's in relation to something we're currently discussing, I try to answer it on the spot with the whole class. 

If it's a question I don't know how to answer, I might assign it to my student researcher, who will use an approved device/search engine to find the answer and share that information with the class. 

If it's a totally unrelated/inappropriate comment or question, I may discard it or put it aside to address later.  If I keep it, I will write a comment on it that lets the student know why it wasn't addressed publicly. 

Do you have any tips on how to make students feel validated when they ask questions without taking up to much time?  I'd love to hear about them!

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!