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! 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Introducing Wild about Teaching!

My products and posts will mostly be focused on 3rd - 5th grade but if you are looking for younger activities, check out this great blog -

Wild about Teaching!

Ms. Yates is an amazing teacher and has a wealth of great ideas and information to share with you!

Ticket Item

Each week I posted a trivia question regarding science (that is all I taught last year). I tried making them questions related to the topic we were studying but something you couldn't find in our text book. Students would write their name and their answer on a piece of paper and turn it into the Ticket Item Box. Every Friday I would pull out the correct answers and the next Monday they would be given a ROAR Buck which they could turn in for prizes (our school's reward system). The students loved trying to figure out the answers and if what Texas wanted them to know was boring to them, they knew they would always learn a cool fact each week from Mrs. Knight!

Science Tic Tac Toe

With nearly 30 students in one classroom all at different levels, a lot of teachers what to know what to do with the higher level students or students who finish their work early. I created a collection of Tic Tac Toe boards for our main science topics (animals, plants, solar system, weather, forces). Each board has nine extension activities that students can work on independently.

I allowed each student to choose one activity each 9 weeks from the board that was turned in for a grade. I varied the type of activities so students could choose one that interested them while still reviewing our concepts. These were also amazing products to showcase in the classroom and around the school. You will be amazed at the creativity and effort students will put into these projects! I also included the rubric I used to grade the products.

You can get this collection of Tic Tac Toe boards at Teachers Pay Teachers

STAAR Review Charts

After teaching my first year in 4th grade, I created a collection of Math STAAR review charts that would help students remember major concepts and strategies we used in class. I posted the charts around the room as we learned about each topic and then I put them all back up at the end of the year as we reviewed for the TAKS (now STAAR) test. All it took was glance at the images for the students to remember what they needed to do for each problem. By the time the test came around, my students had the charts locked in their brains and no longer needed them posted. I also copied these charts for every student to study with at home the week of the test.

This first product is FREE, so if you would like to use them in your classroom head on over to Teachers Pay Teachers to check them out!


Welcome to the SHINING STAAR! I am a 5th grade math/science teacher who loves to create new lessons and build on each year. This is where I hope to share many fabulous ideas and activities that you can use with students in the STAAR testing grades. I am just beginning this new journey so I hope you will stick with me as I learn the ropes!
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