Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Wild about Food Chains and Food Webs!

I'm really excited because I just finished working on a WILD about Food Chains and Food Webs activity that I used with my class last week.  Two different sets of cards allow students to build food chains and then create a food web.

One of my students said "This is really hard...but really fun!"  Since I'm just getting started in the land of blog, I'm going to offer this 24-page document FREE (I have it for sale at my TpT store) to the first person who leaves their email in a comment about this post.  Happy teaching!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Super Easy Photosynthesis activity!

3 plastic cups
Potting Soil
Grass Seed
A dark closet and a window sill that gets some sunlight

Plant all three cups of grass seed using the same amount of soil and seeds.  Water them throughout the experiment as needed.  Place two of the cups in a dark closet and one on the window's edge for one week.  (I did this the week before my photosynthesis lesson so that I could show the kids the results immediately.)  After one week, observe the differences in the vigor of the plants growing in the two different locations.  Move one of the plants from the closet to the window.  (I spend two days teaching photosynthesis, so it worked out to be a Friday and a Monday. It worked out perfectly to reveal the plant experiment on Friday and discuss how it relates to photosynthesis and then make some predictions about how the plant being moved might change over the weekend.  Checking the plants was a great springboard into Monday's lesson.)

Update!  Looking for an INB printable to go along with this? You might like...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Science Conclusion Discussion Rings

Sixth graders can really use a boost when it comes to discussing lab results! I created these conclusion discussion rings that can be used following any lab or experiment.  I'm really pleased with how they are working out.

I reused a Pepperidge Farms cookie container to hold them when they are not in use.  It is the perfect size!  

My students enjoyed discussing the results from their lab, and I really feel that they were better prepared to participate in whole group sharing after having time to chat in pairs.  If you like this idea, you may be interested in my scientific processes unit on TpT.  It includes every lesson that I use to help my students build scientific writing and thinking skills.  Check it out here:

Happy Teaching! 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Ecosystem Splat Game

My students loved this! We played ECOSYSTEM SPLAT last Friday as part of an introductory lesson for our upcoming ecology unit.  The purpose of the game was to activate student prior knowledge about ecosystems.  I intended to post this as a Freebie Friday item, but I decided to take the weekend to spend with my family and not my computer! Anyway...here it is: 

Just in case you are interested....
Here is a little more information about how I used this in my classroom: I started my lesson with an Activote (electronic clicker) survey that asked the kids how confident they were about having background knowledge for our new unit on ecology.  As I predicted, many students rated themselves very low!  I wanted to encourage them to think more carefully about their elementary science lessons and other background experiences relating to ecosystems.  During the game many students had “ah ha” moments as they recalled things they knew about the ecosystems.  To enhance the game for one of my high functioning groups, we turned and talked after each round about the ecosystem that was SPLAT during the game.  It was amazing how many things kids recalled from their grade 3-5 reading and science experiences!  (Way to go elementary teachers!!) After this 10 minute game, I asked students to define what an ecosystem was…and they nailed it!  Examples do wonders for helping kids conceptualize science terms.  After the lesson, students reassessed their readiness to start the unit and there were major changes in student responses.  We often use games for review, but in this case it was a great way to activate prior knowledge.  I hope you find it as useful as my students did!

Download the teacher directions and ecosystem clues for FREE at 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Homework Coupon

I just finished making 8 new incentive coupons for my students this year.  Here is the homework pass, which is probably the most popular amongst the kids!  Feel free to use it in your classroom, but please do not use it for personal profit!  If you like it, consider some of the other coupons I have created at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Middle-School-Coupons

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Battle of the Bathroom Pass-Managing Middle Schoolers...

Middle school kids LOVE to use and abuse the classroom lavatory pass, leaving teachers frustrated with the revolving door.  I've tried  "is it an emergency" and the typical sign out sheet, but neither seem to reduce the requests.  SO... This year I've started a new policy and I want to post it because it is working wonders.  Students are issued 3 departure tickets per marking period (10 weeks).  In order to use the lav pass, they need to rip a ticket out of their science journal (kept in the classroom) and hand it to me.    At the end of the marking period, all unused passes are put in a drawing for prizes (homework passes, bonus booster points, redo coupons…etc.) Before this policy, I had on average 3-5 kids per 40-minute period asking to use the restroom.  Now I have less than 5 kids per day.  More time in the classroom = more learning…VICTORY!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bulletin Board Idea...

I was going through old classroom photos and found one of my favorite bulletin boards!  The flip flop challenge tasks were a hit with students.    I used this for higher-level thinking tasks that related to ELA or Science.  It served as an "enrichment" station for my students and had activities for students of ranging abilities.  It worked well for keeping kids on-task after they finished a lab early or while I did reading or science notebook conferences with individual students.  I think I'm going to have to dust this off for my class this year!

The gift of science...

I've been breaking my students up into smaller groups (2-3) this year and have seen much better group work results.  Although more time consuming when it comes to preparing materials, the level of student engagement is without a doubt much better.   I was finding it difficult to organize and distribute group supplies for 14 groups quickly using my old baskets, so here is my latest strategy!  I purchased 14 identical gift bags on clearance at Target (30 cents each).  I labeled the group number on each with bold permanent marker and then filled each bag with the supplies for a group work activity.  I could hold and distribute all 14 bags at the same time!  Late in the day my classroom flooded due to plumbing/drainage issues and my class needed to move quickly to another location.  I was SO glad that I could grab and go easily.  Also, many students commented on how colorful the bags made the room look so I'm thinking about getting holiday-themed bags for the winter season.  So...not only did I give the "gift" of science today, I made my life easier!


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