Monday, April 29, 2013

Motivated in May

Thank you Jess over at I (Heart) Recess for inspiring me to write out some goals for this month.  We are expecting our second child in June and I'm feeling the 3rd trimester panic about getting everything in order.  Sometimes writing a few things down can help put things in perspective. (Deep Breath!)

Personal: I'm pretty sure this is some sort of nesting instinct, but I have an urge to purge things this month.  Those outdated winter boots that I never put on all season....the queen sheet sets that don't fit our king bed....etc.  

Health:   I stay up way too late!  I'm just so bent on getting as much done as possible every night, that before I know it, it is midnight and I need to be up by 6am.  On the occasional nights that I force myself to bed earlier, I have SO much more energy the next day for exercise and I tend to avoid snacking between meals.  Ugh...I just wish there was more time in a day! 

Blogging:  There is so much to be learned from reading the work of other teacher-bloggers.  I'd really like to spend more time exploring the great ideas posted on people's blogs and hopefully make a few new blogger buddies in the process.

School:  Preparing for a long-term sub is a pretty daunting task.  From organizing my cupboards to writing out plans, I'm trying to do whatever I can to make the new teacher's job as easy as possible.  

Fun:  I know that it will be difficult to have time with my husband once we become a family of four, so I've scheduled a "mystery date" for mid-May.  We've been planning mystery dates since we met years ago and they are SO fun! (For budget reasons, we only do them a few times a year.) Here's how it works:  Reserve a date and time (and babysitter if needed) and have your partner mark their calendar.  Do not provide ANY details about the date, other than appropriate attire.  Take them out for a night on the town but do not reveal each location until you arrive.  Some of our dates are simple, like a trip to the art gallery and wine tasting or dinner at a favorite restaurant and tickets to a hockey game.  I once told my husband to bring only his license and a credit card and I had a friend drop us off at the airport for a weekend trip to Florida! The look on his face when we pulled into the airport was priceless!

Wishing you all a May filled with motivation toward reaching your own goals!  Happy Teaching...

Sunday, April 28, 2013

10 Free Astronomy Printables for Teachers

Of all the topics I've Googled during my midnight lesson planning sessions, never have I found so many AWESOME (and totally free) resources as I have for the topic of astronomy!  Here are a few of my favorites...

I love the critical thinking challenge this activity provides.  Don't worry, there is an answer key provided by NASA!

2 Awesome Moon Phase Lesson Plans (and other topics too).  You will need to click on "Favorite Science Activities on the left side of the site, and then click on "Observing Lunar Phases."  If you teach any of these lessons and have an interactive whiteboard, then be sure to use these great visuals too: 

Click on the picture to explore three interactive visual tools for teaching your students' moon phases!

A visual for showing when and where we see the moon in the sky at night (and sometimes during the day).

Another great critical thinking activity!  This would make a great critical input experience or possibly a learning center station.

Grab a blanket, some popcorn and your star wheel printable for a family fun night of star gazing.

Perfect addition to day and night and seasonal change lessons.

My colleague found this one and set it up in the hallway outside our science rooms.  The kids LOVED searching for the facts, which was a great way to activate prior knowledge for my 6th graders.  She came up with the clever idea of NOT numbering the clue cards so that kids had to apply their reading skills to make connections between the facts and the 18 questions.  Genius!

Students compare, contrast and categorize different types of galaxies.  I love the middle school science lessons created by NASA.  They allow for such thoughtful exploration on behalf of the students!

(and a few links to other printable materials that go with the lesson) Another great NASA lesson, which uses some of the same materials as the previous lesson.

Here are the cards that go with “Group the Galaxies”- for some reason the link in the document doesn’t work:
                  Here is the teacher Q AND A background document
                  Here is the student reading about galaxies

This one seems pretty popular online.  There are quite a few lessons out there using the idea of addressing a "galactic postcard or cosmic letter," but I really like this one because of the small printable images that students can use to visualize their place in space.  These would fit perfectly into an interactive science journal!  The only thing missing is a more authentic looking postcard.  (No offense but the one included is a little plain for my taste!)  Here is one that I typed up to go with this lesson.  

I'd be happy to email the postcard pdf and or word document (in case you want to edit for your liking)  to blog followers who leave their address or who send me an email request for it.  Also, I have a graphic organizer that seemed to really help my special needs students with learning the vocabulary needed to understand the galactic address lesson.  The document includes the graphic organizer (see image below) and some matching cards to review the concepts.  

The document is really simple, concrete and was a good fit for a few of my special education students.  Shoot me an email or leave your address in a comment and I would be happy to send it to you!

During my online quest for awesome astronomy resources I also stumbled upon a pretty interesting astronomy book.   Author Jeffrey Bennett has some children's books about astronomy, however I am particularly intrigued after reading the preface to On the Cosmic Horizon.  In the free pdf book sample (which you can read by clicking the image ), he uses a postcard to describe our place in the universe and then begins to introduce the background for the book's 10 astronomical mysteries such as "What is the universe made of?" and "Are Earth-like planets common?" This book has officially made my summer reading list!

The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
--Eden Phillpotts (1862-1960)

With all this astronomy fun, I've managed to map out my plans through the end of the school year....YAHOO...5....4...3....2...1 Counting down the days until we BLAST OFF to summer!  

Happy Teaching!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Free Product Linky Wednesday!

Happy Wednesday!  State ELA tests last week and Math tests this week...ugh....I can't wait until I can actually TEACH again!  I'm glad to participate in a Wednesday linky with some super free products hosted by Fonts 4 Teachers.  At least browsing some fun freebies can take my mind off these stressful testing days. Check it out and you might find some great materials to use in your classroom!

Since testing is front and center in many of our classrooms right now, check out some freebie materials as part of the
hosted by Kristy over at Two Peas and a Dog. Why not gather some free resources to help your kids do their best during testing season?

Happy Teaching...

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Miss Math Dork and the Magical Product Swap


Miss Math Dork makes Middle School Math Fun!

If you teach upper elementary or middle school math, you MUST check out the amazing work of Jamie, a.k.a....Miss Math Dork!  I was lucky enough to scope out some of her incredible products and I'm so excited to be able to post about it as part of the MAGICAL PRODUCT SWAP hosted by Jessica Stanford of Mrs. Stanford's Class.


If you look at Jamie's blog and at her products, you can tell she knows upper elementary and middle school kids.  It takes a special teacher to reach these unique creatures, and clearly Jamie has the creativity and energy to make her classroom come alive with engaging lessons and activities.  Browse her blog, and I guarantee you will leave with at least one great idea to use in your classroom tomorrow!

SO as part of the magical product swap.....I was lucky to have a chance to check out her product entitled: 

Figure that?! Finding AREA and PERIMETER of irregular figures BUNDLE PACK 


and it totally rocks! (Check it out here)  

There are certain things that I'm looking for when I search out classroom materials online.  I usually want something that is "print and go" and that is going to make for an engaging learning task for my kiddos.  What makes this product a great purchase for any math teacher?

1) It matches the common core requirements for geometry.  The questions are of appropriate difficulty and you can be sure you are giving your students the review, practice and rigor they need.  For 6th grade teachers, the perimeter cards make for great review and reinforcement (possibly a learning center) and the area cards can be used supplement new learning for 6th grade.  It is perfect that these two come together in one bundle.

2) It is professionally organized and super easy to print and use.  When I buy a TpT product, ease of printing is a big selling point for me!  The cards are included in black and white AND color.  The colors, font and borders are really cute (but not too cute for middle school kids), and if you don't have access to a color printer or need to make copies for multiple sets of the cards, the black and white cards turn out really nice.  

3) It includes an accurate, easy-to-use answer key. Hello....huge time saver for the busy teacher!

4) The task cards allow for TONS of uses in the classroom, so you are getting a lot of bang for your buck!  (learning centers, whole group and small group games, take-home reinforcement tasks...the list goes on and on)

Here is what one of the two sets included looks like printed out...


Task Card Relay Game:

My favorite way to use the cards is with relay teams!  The students get up and moving and I get a chance to assess the whole class understanding of the concept.  For this strategy, the class is divided into teams of 3-4 students.  Each team is given a whiteboard and asked to create a team name.  A set of cards is copied for each team.  (I recommend copying them on different colors so the team cards don't get mixed up.  I didn't have enough colors so I just used different color highlighters to outline each card.)  Since I'm not teaching math this year, I had one of my colleagues use the cards for a game with her class and her students absolutely loved it!

The way the game works by giving each team 1 task card at a time.  They must solve it correctly on the whiteboard (showing ALL steps) and bring it to the "relay captain" (teacher).  If approved (correct showing all steps with a label), they trade the task card in for the next card and race back to their desk to complete the next problem.   This is where the colored-coded cards can be helpful so that you give each team the correct card!  Each time a new card is given, a new member of the team must solve the problem on the whiteboard and race it up to the teacher, which helps encourage all students to participate. 

(On a side note, my students LOVE task card relays and are always asking to play again.  Today it is snowing...Blah! I'm hoping the weather gets nice in the coming weeks because as long as it is not windy, it is fun to get them outside to play task card relays to review for final exams.)

So, take a minute to check out MissMathDorkand all that her blog has to offer.  Each post is unique and leaves me thinking about how I can be be a better teacher.  Here are two of her recent posts that I recommend reading:

I love her March 3rd post "Sorting Through Tricky Situations," about how kids struggle to decipher between geometric situations.   She shares a great strategy and product for this common difficulty. I believe that great teachers don't just teach a concept, they observe closely how students apply the concept and relate it to their prior knowledge.  Clearly Jamie does this in her classroom. 

In her March 27th post she shared some great research from her experience attending a lecture entitled  "Understanding the Digital Generation."    This really got me thinking about how I approach planning for my students, especially when it comes creating note sheets and visuals.  I never really considered how the way our students approach new learning, may be been impacted by the digital age.  

I assure you, there is nothing dorky about Miss Math Dork....Her work is pretty awesome.  So check it out.  I think you will be as impressed as I am!

Happy Teaching...

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Pass the Torch

Get Ready for Bloggy Olympics!!!

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Join The 3AM Teacher, the Reading Olympians, and over 80 SUPREME education bloggers as we take you through a tour of the Reading Olympians Root Study Program!!

Ok...I really should have been teaching this all along.  It just makes sense, but to be honest I've never come across a well organized, easy to implement root word study with my students.  I've dibbled and dabbled with other root word but the Reading Warriors Program has a fun theme and feels more comprehensive than the resources I have used in the past. I'm so glad that this link-up gave me the opportunity to give it a run with my kiddos.  I can't imagine the impact that this program will have as the torch continues to pass from teacher to teacher!

This was an eye-opening teaching experience for me.  When I first read through the word lists for Reading Warriors program, I thought my students would know most of the words and so I planned on the lesson being mostly review and practice. About 5 minutes into my introductory activity, I realized that this is not the case!  What a valuable tool for a reader to have; the ability to recognize and apply root words to make meaning...yet most of my students could only match up 2-3 of the words from the Midas list at the start of my lesson.  Hmmm, looks like I had my work cut out for me!

I decided to pilot the Midas word list (even though it is not the first in the series) because a few of the roots related to our current unit in science.  While there might be some benefit to teaching the words in the proposed order, the program is organized in a way that allows teachers to jump around and to use the word sets as they see fit.  I'm personally huge fan of curriculum tools that have this type of flexibility.

So here is a snapshot of how I used the materials to teach the MIDAS word list from Reading Warriors Program.  There are so many possibilities, but this was how I decided to use some of the materials.  It was as easy as 1...2..3!

1) Reading Warriors Midas Lesson Part 1

My lesson starts by assessing student background knowledge using a card sorting activity.  Students are organized in groups of two and asked to use their prior knowledge to match each root to its meaning.  (My students this year respond well to card-sorting tasks, so I made this one up quickly to match the words provided in the program.  It was during my observation of their work with these cards that I realized that my students had a lot less background than I had predicted.  After watching them struggle for a few minutes, I gathered the group together and shared that we would be working together to study root words so that we would improve our reading comprehension skills. Although not part of my initial plan, the card sort helped students recognize their own knowledge and need to learn.)

Next, the Promethean Board is used to sort the words as a whole group.  (This proved more successful, as we tapped into everyone's knowledge base.  Students shared examples and their own experiences for many of the words.  I could see the light bulbs lighting up, as they made connections to the example words as well as other words they shared with the class.)

To deepen and extend understanding, students are assigned to become an expert about 1 of the roots from the list.  This provides an opportunity for some differentiation, as some of the roots are more well known (easier) than others. The graphic organizer sheets included with the program can be copied on card stock and cut into cards.  Each student is given one card to complete in as much detail as possible.  Students can use dictionaries and computers to complete their cards.  Depending on the amount of class time available, students are asked to complete and decorate their card for homework.

2) Reading Warriors Midas Lesson Part 2

Students return to class with their expert root word cards.  They are given the other blank cards to attach to their card using a hole punch and a binder ring.  Students are then organized to jigsaw their learning using an inner and outer circle.  Students press on clipboards as the experts share their knowledge with the novice students who record the information into their root rings (say that five times fast!).   Students are reminded not to just have the other student "copy" their work, but instead to explain and teach the other student about their root word.  (I notice that you have to circulate and support a lot during this part of the lesson, at least with middle school kids!  I also recommend setting a timer for sharing intervals.)

To ensure understanding, students work in pairs of two to use the word sort cards that were used to introduce the lesson.  This brings the process, full circle and students can instantly recognize that they have gained new understandings.  (Although at first some groups may need to rely on their root rings for support, repeated practice led to proficiency with my students.)

3) Reading Warriors Midas Lesson Part 3

Students are encouraged to study their root rings and to add to them as they come across examples in the texts we are reading.  The practice worksheet and quiz included with the program are used to assess student understanding.  (This is the part where I need to add some remedial options.  There are always a few who struggle and will need additional practice and reinforcement.  I guess I could send home the matching cards, but I'm in need of a few creative - and easy- ways to help those few kids who still don't get it!)

The lessons and short activities were appropriate for my 6th graders.  The Reading Warriors Program provides the word lists, worksheets and a quiz which is a nice framework from which teachers can customize materials for their particular class.  I'm going to work these root word lessons into my instruction in the future, so I have a few ideas of how I can improve.  
- I think the jigsaw works well, but I will have kids  become experts for more than one word and then group them by 3-4 for sharing/exchanging expertise.  I'm hoping that will expedite the process a bit.
- I plan to create a root word wall display somewhere in my classroom.  It can be a place to post some of the pre-made root word meaning signs included with the program.  (I know...I should have done this for the lesson, but there is only so much time in the day!)
- I'd like to continue the "root rings" and possibly make creative covers for each new word list.  By the time students complete the program they will have a ring full of roots to reference.  I used to have a pegboard in my classroom, which would be perfect for students to store their rings.  Hmmmm....I'll have to work on a creative storage solution so that those cards don't end up all over the place!
- The beads idea included with the program sounds perfect for the younger ones, but I'm still brainstorming an incentive that might match my kids this year.  One thought is to include a card on their ring that gets stamped/ hole-punched (kinda like the one I fill up for being a frequent coffee consumer) for each word list.  

So needless to say, I see a huge value in using this reading program with middle school students.  I'm thrilled that I was able to participate in this linky, as it has inspired me to focus more on root word instruction in my classroom.  There is a real need for explicit instruction that will enhance the way our students make meaning from text.  Reading Warriors provides a tool for teachers that is well-organized, concise, achievable and flexible.

Discover the program IN ACTION in more K-6th grade classrooms as you Pass the Torch!! Get ideas, discover the progression of the program, and enter the Raffle for a chance to win ONE of the three prizes listed below!!

First Place Winner : Gold Medal

  Prizes: Complete Reading Olympians Program
            $50.00 Amazon Gift Card
            50% off Discount Code for a 1-Day shopping spree at The 3AM Teacher's Etsy store!

Second Place Winner: Silver Medal

   Prizes: $25.00 Amazon Gift Card
              40% off Discount Code for a 1-Day shopping spree at The 3AM Teacher's Etsy store!

Third Place Winner: Bronze Medal

    Prizes: 30% off Discount Code for a 1-Day shopping spree at The 3AM Teacher's Etsy store!

Pass the Torch!!!
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Grade 1 & 2

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Remember to Pass the Torch for more linky fun!

Happy Teaching...

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Dragonfly Spring Freebie

I am so ready for spring, but as I look out the window there is SNOW whipping past my front porch!  Oh well, I'm getting into the spring mood by posting this dragonfly metamorphosis freebie.  This free printable is based on the wonderful picture book, Eliza and the Dragonfly.  In this fictional story Eliza finds a dragonfly and then travels to a local pond with her Aunt Doris to learn all about the dragonfly life cycle.  The watercolor pictures are gorgeous and the plot is engaging and believable.  It makes for a great read aloud that is packed with excellent science information.

The free printable activity includes a pre and post reading chart, a diagram for students to color and label, as well as some comprehension questions.  For those of you who use Promethean Boards, I also included a simple flipchart in the downloadable file for you to use as a visual with your students.
The freebie includes a possible lesson sequence as well as a teacher answer key.
This can be used as part of any ecology-themed unit, but I'm also thinking that this might be a nice addition to a butterfly unit because it will allow students to compare and contrast complete vs. incomplete metamorphosis.  


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