Monday, November 12, 2012

Mrs. Knight's Jar of Knowledge

One thing I have already noticed this year is my students struggle with math and science vocabulary so I came up with a few different activities to incorporate vocabulary practice without taking a ton of time away from the foundational lessons.

Jar of Knowledge
First, I made a list of math and science vocabulary words that we have already discussed in class or specific words I have noticed  my students struggle with. I also included higher level verbs that might show up in test questions.
Then I cut them up and keep them in my "Jar of Knowledge". I have not decorated my jar yet but hopefully you can see the potential! This jar can be used in a few different ways:

- Pull one word from the jar and ask the students to write a sentence using the word. You can also specify if the word has to be used at the beginning, end or in the middle of the sentence to make the assignment a little more challenging.
- Pull a word for each student and have them give you a definition of the word in their own words to check for understanding. You can also ask for synonyms/antonyms or any related words.
- Pull 3-5 words from the jar and have your students write a story using each word at least once.

Vocabulary Charts
My students needed a way to categorize our vocabulary words that we can use all the time in class. I created Vocabulary Charts for all the main topics we will discuss this year in math and science. As we discuss each topic, we write related words around the main word. I post these around the room so the students can see the words all year long and hopefully created deeper connections.

Math example:

Science example:

These can also be used for written vocabulary practice. I choose one topic every Friday, have my students brainstorm ideas for 30 seconds and then my students write about it in their journal for 2 minutes straight. Their pencils are not allowed to leave the page until my timer sounds. You will be amazed how well this works as a spiral review along with improving their writing skills.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Science Overload!

 Last week was our 3rd and 5th graders took their annual field trip. They rotated through 6 stations where they reviewed several science topics they have learned about in class:

Bird Beaks and Feet
 Turtle Adaptations

 Bird Adaptations
 Pond Water and Protists
 Animals Skulls
 Seed Dispersal
 Tree Rings
 Animal Kingdoms
Of course, spending the day in nature there were endless questions to ask the students about what they had already learned in school: lab safety, measurement, kingdoms, life cycles, weather, photosynthesis, carbon dioxide-oxygen cycle, water cycle, to just name a few!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Thank You to the Donors!

Do you have a great idea for a classroom project but can't afford to fund it yourself? Or, do you wish to help out a teacher in need? If so, please check out Donors Choose! It is a website where teachers can request help for a classroom project and people can donate money to help make them possible.

I was introduced to this website last summer and decided to put in a request, not really thinking anyone would find it worth it. I have always wanted classroom mailboxes for my students so they could organize their materials and keep their papers private. Not only would this make my life easier, it would also be teaching the students valuable lessons on organizational skills.
I just received an email last week that my project has been fully funded and will be sent to my school soon!! The only thing I have to do is send thank you letters to my donors from my students and myself explaining how the project is being used in the classroom and the impact it is making - piece of cake!!

So before you give up on an idea that seems to far out of reach, check out this website. And there are thousands of teachers in need all across the country if you are on the other end and can send support! I can speak from experience that it has already been a huge encouragement to me to know a stranger realizes the importance of the work I am doing and is willing to help me!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Hectic Start

This week was the first chance we had to set up our classroom for this coming school year but I didn't get as much time in my classroom as I thought I would. Last week my husband and I closed on our new home. We spent all weekend moving and I had to stay home Monday to get all our services installed. I was late getting to school on Tuesday because my car died and I had to get another battery. Wednesday was my grandmother's birthday so I spent the day in East Texas. Thursday I met with my team to plan which was a productive day! By Friday, I finally had a full day to work!
With that said, nothing is finished and I still have A LOT of work to do before my classroom is ready for the first day of school but I wanted to share a few ideas for classroom management. Remember, these ideas work for my specific 5th grade math/science class, but they may not work for yours. Steal ideas if they work and if they don't, maybe next time! :)

I write my objectives and homework every day for both subjects so my students know what they are expected to learn. I also maintain a Daily News poster for due dates and upcoming school events. Some of my borders and letters have disappeared so this is definitely a basic representation of the idea.
I have used many classroom helper systems but I have grown fond of this one. I place a colored dot on every desk that corresponds with the class helper wall. Whatever color their dot is, that is their job for the week. I rotate them every Monday so everyone gets a chance to do every job. I limit mine to four because we only sit four to a table, but you can change it depending on your classroom.
It is always best to label your room as much as possible. This allows the students to be more independent and not wear you out. I posted procedure signs all over my classroom at the locations the student completes that assignment. In this case, I have a basket at the front of my room where the students place all of their notes from home when they walk into the classroom. This also makes it easier for me to keep up with all the papers. I take them to my desk at the beginning of class to sort through when I have time.
This one is specific for math....Math Fact Poster. In 5th grade, we take Mad Minute quizzes every Monday to test their multiplication skills. Sometimes students will be on different quizzes if they didn't pass the previous quiz. This poster organizes the quizzes in numerical order so it is easy for the student to pick up whatever number he is on. Once they pass a quiz, they get to put a sticker on the poster and will receive a surprise once they have completed them all.
This year I have decided to relocate all of my independent reading books to a smaller bookshelf and keep my main bookshelf organized with our textbooks and science workbooks. If the students do not keep their books at their desks, it is important to have a designated location for them. I am also obsessed with crates which are great to keep floppy books in which can be color coded by class or table.
Once again you will see I have labeled these totes for their purpose of holding graded papers. Since they do not have a solid side, I attached the teacher labels to each basket with metal rings. This way the labels can't get mixed up or get in the way of the papers.
Again, labeled procedure. By 5th grade, I do not keep up with papers for students. When they are absent, all of their papers are labeled with their name and date they were gone and then placed in this folder for them when they return. I also keep extra copies of their homework in folders by weeks (we have 9 weeks in a grading period so I have 9 folders). It is also helpful when students lose their homework to know right where to get an extra copy so they can complete it before it is due.
I have shared this idea before {Ticket Item entry} but this year I am doing something a little different. Last year I used a white board to write each week's question. However, that meant I had clean the board and write a new question every Friday afternoon. This year I typed all the questions and I am going to switch them out from the page protector each week to save me time.
I cannot stress enough how labeling your classroom will save you from frustration during the year when your students want to ask you every day where something is located! If your students can read independently, use it to your advantage! If they can't, use pictures :)
I have my students turn in their work to a teacher/subject specific drawer. This keeps them organized for me when I go to grade them :)
You can read about how my Tic Tac Toe project works here {Tic Tac Toe entry} but I am using it again this year. Hopefully my students will enjoy it as much this year as they did last year!
I might be in 5th grade but I still love to put up personal and seasonal decorations! The kids love to watch them as they change throughout the year!
This is the beginning of my teacher space. This year I have a student teacher and I am trying to provide her with a space of her own but space is still limited. I normally use a kidney table for my desk so we will see how the round table works!

So whether you have started school, you are starting work week or you are lucky and still have a week of summer, have a WONDERFUL year and keep blogging!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

First of the Year Read Alouds

Yes, I teach 5th grade math and science but that does not mean that I don't LOVE children's books! I actually love to collect new books. I don't have kids at home but I am already working on a child's library :) With the first day of school approaching quickly, I wanted to share two books!

 I am sad that I never get to share this book with my students because they are veteran students by 5th grade but this is a great book for the younger kids. It is a play on 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and a great share time to have with students about their feelings on starting school. They can find others in the class to relate to whether they were ready to start the year or not!

This book is great for all elementary grades. Not only does it have BEAUTIFUL pictures, it has a powerful message. A grandfather teaches his grandson about the golden rule. He gives examples of how it can be used in school but also explains how people from every religion can relate to this rule. This book sparks another great discussion you can have with your students about the way they will treat each other during the year.

Any books you would recommend?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Back to the Basics: Classroom Management

I am an organizational freak! I love to sort and classify everything, including my school information! I have put together a collection of classroom management papers that everyone can use.

This collection includes:
  • Blank calender
  • Lesson planners for all subjects
  • Grade records
  • Homework records
  • Parent communication log
  • Staff development log
  • Student survey 
  • Warning Station sign in  

Graph Bingo

Between teaching math and science, I have noticed that students can struggle with something as simple as a graph. They see them all the time on assessments, but they don't necessarily understand all the parts and information being provided. The best way for students to understand graphs is to make them on their own!

I have put together a graph mini-unit to walk your students through collecting data, creating graphs and then playing a fun game of Graph Bingo! I have made it easy to use as much or as little as you need based on the level of your students and the time designated. You can create all four graphs or just stick to the basic graphs. You can play as a whole class, partners or small groups. This is also a great unit to allow your students to work as teams. Don't forget to allow your students to create graphs on the computer to integrate technology!

Included in this package:
  • Instructions on collecting data and creating graphs
  • Rubrics for Tally Charts, Pictographs, Bar Graphs and Circle Graphs
  • 20 Graph Bingo cards
  • Bingo Answer Cards

Friday, July 27, 2012

Take Home Bag Activities

Last year my students really struggled with the science vocabulary Texas wanted them to know to be prepared for STAAR.We would isolate words in class, talk about the definitions, but some students still needed more practice. I created a collection of Take Home Bag Activities that focused on two objectives -

1. Reviewing the material - Students were expected to remember material from August to April. I would try to review old material with spiral reviews but they didn't have another lesson on it until the month before STAAR. These activities allowed students cycle through the topics all year long.

2. Immersion - Students were continually seeing the science vocabulary in the classroom and then at home with the activities. They were able to see the function of the word along with other words and topics to associate it with.

So, how do the Take Home Bags work?
Each activity is created on a file folder and all the pieces are kept in a zip lock bag labeled with the activity name and topic. Every Monday I would assign a student an activity bag that they kept for the week. They were expected to complete the activity each night that week and return the bag on Friday. I was also able to use these activities in the classroom as warm up reviews the weeks leading up to STAAR.

What are the key points to making the activities?
I made sure to title each file folder with the activity name. This allows the student to know what they will be working on and it made it easy to organize the activities. I also laminated everything for durability.
Inside I would include simple instructions and the activity board. Most of the activities were matching so I kept all individual pieces in a smaller zip lock bag. It was important these activities were simple enough to do at home and quick so they weren't dominating the student's afternoon. Some of the activities were ones we had done together in class and others were originals I made specifically for this assignment.
I had answer keys on the back of the folder so the student could instantly check their work on their own.
All of the pieces of the Take Home Bag Activity were kept in zip lock bags labeled by topic. These are hard to find but Target has always been a successful trip! I kept all of the bags in a tub in my classroom over the weekend till they were checked out on Monday.
Before I began the system, I sent home a letter to all my parents explaining the expectations for the students and for the parents.
I kept a log each Monday of which student checked out which bag. Then on Friday I would check off each name as they turned their bags in. This made it easy to find a missing bag if someone forgot to bring it.
I also sent each student home with a signature page. They were asked to get a parent (or whoever is at home with them at the time) to sign the slip each night once they have completed their activity. This was turned in each Friday with their bag and used for a completion grade.

At the end of the year my AP asked if I would do this whole process over again. YES!! I actually have now created 40 Take Home Bag Activities for the upcoming year. The students were responsible with the bags and many improved after the start of the system.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Pickin' Place Value

One of the objectives that most of my students struggle with and plays a huge role in math is place value! I don't think you can ever have too many activities to practice these skills so here's another one!

I created a collection of five stations you can use with students to review place value. The lessons include standard form, word form, and expanded form. Station cards, a vocabulary anchor chart, a unit assessment and answer keys are included.

You can use these activities to review each lesson as you teach them or you can let students rotate through them as groups to review before the assessment. You can also adjust the lessons to fit the level of your students. If you partner students up, they can compete with one another to see how many answers they can get correct to earn a classroom prize! I hope this unit will be as helpful for your students as it has been for mine!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Need Fresh Ideas!

One thing I love about blogging is it is not all about people reading your ideas - they get to share with you as well! Today in my professional development I came up with an idea to start a science club at my school. I did a research project with my class two years ago and my administration wants to take it school wide. However, as you can imagine, that is a huge take to go from two classes to a whole school. So I came up with a solution.

Our science club will meet once a month for one hour. Each week I will discuss a new step of the scientific process and then they will use that information to conduct their own experiment. By the end of the year, we will have gone through an entire investigation and they will present their findings at a Science Fair with a product they have created.

In order to have some connection between the experiments and to keep the students focused while still allowing them to be creative, I want to assign a theme for the Science Fair. I was considering "Change." They can go in a number of directions - change in temperature, change in direction, change in physical appearance.

Anyone have any other ideas for themes for a Science Fair??

Monday, July 9, 2012

Marshall's Boat Contest

When I was interning in a 4th grade classroom I wanted to create a science project that the students had never done before and hopefully one that would excited them all. I pulled it out of my old files to share with you because it ended up being a huge success!

I created Marshall's Boat Company who is in need of a new boat design. The students work in teams to design and create a boat to enter into a contest. At the end of the project, the students see how many marbles their boat can hold without sinking in a tub of water.

Materials included:
  • Challenge instructions
  • Mock challenge letter from boat company
  • Plan of action worksheet
  • Boat design worksheet
  • Letter to parents
  • Team score card
  • Letter to the winning team
  • Project reflection

This project must be used after the students have been presented with a unit on the states of  matter including topics such as mass, density, buoyancy and water displacement. I have also simplified this project by limiting the students to using only a piece of foil to build their boat. The materials you use on this project to build the boat is up to you so you can always make it more challenging! 

Designed by L. Yates ( Powered by Blogger.