Sunday, August 30, 2015

Time to get ORGANIZED! (Tomorrow is BTS for teachers...EEK!)

Let's get one thing straight.  I am NOT the most organized teacher/mom out there.  Type B all the way from the questionably old food in my fridge to the pile of receipts and bills in a shoe box on my office table.  BUT....I get a lot of really important stuff done by making daily lists and writing things on post-its all over my desk!

Here's a little monthly planning mat I created for my desktop  each month.  (There is a different one for EACH month of the year!)

It is a perfect place for my million "notes to self" and seems to be working quite well to tame the sticky note chaos.  Click here to download a copy for yourself for free!

NOTE: January-August are included free in the same file (but not pictured here).

BTS 2015 is going to by my year to become MORE organized.  To all my fellow type B teachers...Let's DO THIS!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Day and Night Mini Model

Kids LOVE mini models for learning science concepts.  They allow EVERY child in the class to physically interact with a concept, not just the teacher!

This is such a simple concept, yet SO many kids seem to forget it from year to year.  If you are teaching about day and night, time zones, sunrise and sunset this might be a fun addition to your classroom!

I've always modeled day and night using a lamp (sun) and a globe so that kids could see how the Earth spinning West to East causes only 50% of the planet to experience daytime.  However, I think the KIDS need to manipulate a model in order for it to be truly memorable.  Since I didn't have 10 globes available, I decided to get crafty and make some mini day and night models using globe stress balls! (These can be purchased online for dirt cheap.  Link in directions) 

1) The paper template (print it here for free) shows 12 am, 12 pm, 6 pm and 6 am.  
2) I glued it to a small piece of cardboard for each group 
3) I attached the stress ball using nail.  
4) The globe stress ball can be turned to model the Earth's rotation! 
5) The kids always welcome a chance to use their own devices, which worked perfectly to represent sunlight in our simulation!

For more detailed directions, student questions and the free printable template, click here! 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Work Hard and Be Nice to People

My first bulletin board for next school year is done...check baby...check baby...1234!  I know, I should be enjoying my summer and I AM, but I love to do classroom work in small doses so that I can stretch my summer with the kids as long as possible.  I've been thinking a lot about classroom "rules" and how they can go in one ear and out the other with most middle school kids.  Last year I found myself saying this phrase every time I sent my kids off to work in groups.  Why not make it our classroom mantra?

I posted this on Instagram and people have been asking if they can download it.  I'll have to see if I even saved it...Eeek!  It just typed the letters (thanks KB fonts) in powerpoint, printed, trimmed and mounted on black construction paper.  I'm not going to lie, it took all of 30 minutes start to finish.  

Off to do things like this for the rest of the day!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

My Eternal Quest to Get Organized!

Summer goal # 1....Get organized!  Clean closets, sort the kids clothes into totes blah...blah...blah.  Well, instead of doing all those productive things, I made these fun freebie printables!

Here's an example of how I use these: 

A little summer design therapy for me, and a little organization inspiration for you!  To download the entire year of fun note sheets for FREE go here:

 Happy Summer Organizing!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Did Someone Say Sale?

Teachers are Superheroes: Super Secondary Celebrates YOU!

Ever feel like you need super powers to accomplish your job?  Teachers Pay Teachers is here to help! Check out these super secondary teacher authors during the quarterly sale and save BIG! Make your wish lists and empty your carts for this ONE DAY super sale on February 25th. Most stores are discounted up to 20% off and with the coupon that adds up to 28% off already low prices. Don't forget to use the promo code: HEROES. Enjoy! 

Danielle Knight (Study All Knight) 
The Classroom Sparrow
Michele Luck's Social Studies 
Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy
Mad Science Lessons 
Juggling ELA
Krystal Mills - Lessons From The Middle 
Teaching High School Math 
To the square inch- Kate Bing Coners 
Charlene Tess 
Pamela Kranz
The Creative Classroom
Kristin Lee
Mrs. Brosseau's Binder 
James Whitaker's SophistThoughts

Darlene Anne
ELA Everyday
Lessons With Coffee
Teaching FSL
Room 213
Lindsay Perro 
Liz's Lessons 
21st Century Math Projects
The SuperHERO Teacher
Science Stuff 
Kate's Classroom Cafe 
A Space to Create
Addie Williams 
Created by MrHughes
Leah Cleary
Secondary Solutions
All Things Algebra
Tracee Orman
Live Love Math

Ruth S.

2 Peas and a Dog
FisherReyna Education
Rachel Friedrich
Linda Jennifer
For the Love of Teaching Math
The Career Ready Teacher 


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Practical Interactive Notebook Strategies

Copy, trim, fold, paste...interact...REPEAT.  

Ever wonder if all that prep and paper is worth it?  The answer is YES.  Research shows so many benefits to interactive notebooks.   But let's face it, planning a truly engaging lesson and having time for input, output AND all those cute foldables is just not practical all the time! My science notebooks have grown a lot over the past 10 years.  Every year I learn a few new ways to help students use them to make real meaning as well as a few tricks to help save prep time and wasted paper.  So, this month's BRIGHT IDEA post is all about practical notebooking tips! 

TIP # 1:  Let it Go
Don't worry if your student notebooks (or your own for that matter) are not Pinterest worthy.  Real learning is a MESSY process, so be open to allowing your student output to reflect his. 

  Two tools I rely on for this "Let it Go" style of notebooking are sticky notes and a card-stock straight edge for each student.   

Sticky Notes plus Glue = INB foldable!  This saves time, copy expenses, and has students participate in chunking the information into manageable components.  WARNING:  Create an example in advance and make sure kids can actually see it, otherwise some goofball in the back of the room will be making origami figures with his post-its and totally missing the whole idea.   

If students are always given the chart and only asked to add data or read data, we are missing a key part of the learning process.  I try to have students organize information ON THEIR OWN on a regular basis and one way to "cut corners" is to have a pre-measured straight edge in each notebook.  I cut folders into strips that are exactly 1/2 page wide for each student.  After a little practice students become efficient little chart makers!   

TIP # 2:  Organization is a LEARNED skill!

I've come to grips with the fact that about 3% of my students are born with natural organizational skills.  The rest of us need tools, instruction, modeling and some daily nagging to keep things orderly and clutter-free!  INBs can be messy, so remember to model and teach organization as you use them.  One thing that can be frustrating are "renegade" foldables that stick out of the sides of the journals.  

Try using a stretchy hairband as a bookmark to hold the used pages together tightly.  Kids might be more likely to tuck in the papers and ensure that things are orderly when they have to stretch the band around them.  (The wider the band the better.)
Give students a place to store loose ends such as cards or foldables that just didn't get completed in the allotted class time.  This 2-pocket storage folder is glued into the front/back of a notebook.  

Here is one way to make a storage folder using one sealed manilla envelope per student:

TIP # 3:  Think Outside the COPY MACHINE
More copies do not mean more learning, but I still make A LOT of copies for my 135 students!  They are a necessary part of the instructional process, but I must say that I sometimes cringe at all the scraps in the recycle bin after cutting my science foldables.  Try being creative with the ways you utilize the pages in your notebooks.   Do you REALLY need to copy that foldable or can KIDS create something similar using what they have?  Here are some ways that you can CUT and PASTE right in student notebooks to create interactive foldables and tools:  
At the end of the unit, group all the pages together and trim off the top edge of the pages.  On the top of the last page of the unit, write the name and color it with a bright pencil or highlighter.  I use a table of contents, but this makes referring back to previous units even easier!

I hope you enjoyed this bright idea and that it inspires you to use your INBs in NEW ways!

Please browse the link-up below for more bright ideas from other teacher-bloggers.  There are ideas for all different grade levels and disciplines.

If you are interested in more ideas to help improve your classroom instruction please to follow me at TpTFacebook or Bloglovin!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Modeling Molecules...Quickly

Timing is everything with teaching.  This week we got to the point in our curriculum when I usually model molecules using toothpicks and gumdrops.  However, the timing just wasn't right.  I needed something that helped students make meaning of the concepts with an emphasis on reading skills.  I knew the gumdrop activity, although a good one, was just not a good fit for getting MY kids to think about how molecules related to their everyday lives.   I decided instead to use short readings about a few common molecules along with some text-dependent questions.  To increase engagement, I used QR codes so that students could self-check their progress as they completed the short reading tasks.  If we didn't have another Periodic Table project in the works (and all the materials for that to consider), I probably would have added the gumdrop activity to each of the reading stations, but I knew my limits.  Let's face it, a happy teacher is a happy class.

 Here's what the gum-drop free molecule stations looked like in action:
Students checked their answers and searched for bonus information by scanning QR codes.

Each reading included a "take it further" type question where the students scanned a QR code to connect to a graph, chart or extension text to answer a bonus level question.

Students drew an example of each molecule from the readings after piecing together a puzzle.  It was a simple, but fun way to keep kids engaged as they work! 

Lots of movement, concise text, and some fun technology made this lesson work for my class.  I'm considering giving my students another day to revisit each station and build a model using candy or possibly play doh.  I guess it depends on whether the iPads are available for our Periodic Table project and what REALLY needs to get done before Winter break.  Do you ever feel like you could stay on the same topic for weeks going deeper and deeper instead of moving onto the next unit?  That's where I am right now.  Hmm...So it really is all about timing right?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Science Freebies

I don't know about you, but I love FREE stuff!  I'm not one of those super-frugal types, but I really like to test things out before I spend my money.  If you like to purchase time-saving resources to use in your classroom and want to get a glimpse  at some of the great work out there, these FREE ebooks are for you.

Brain Waves Instruction, Literary Sherri, Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy, and Lindsay Perro have worked to compile 4 FREE ‘Can’t Live Without It’ eBooks filled with 120 instant print-and-teach resources for all you busy teachers out there! The eBooks profile middle school and high school teacher-authors and include printable teaching resources from 30 TpT stores in each eBook.

The eBooks are categorized for ELA, Math, Science, and Humanities (Social Studies, Art, Foreign Language, and more ELA). In them you’ll learn things that each TpT teacher-author can’t live without and you’ll receive a 1-page resource they think YOU can’t live without! They’re made especially for all of you and you can check them all out here:

Science -


Humanities -

Math -

I'm pretty excited to have created a page for the science book.  Each page includes some fun "can't live without it" facts about the teacher-contributor followed by a one-page (free) worksheet that they use in their classroom.

Here's my "about me" page:

And this is the free worksheet that I included! 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Teaching Density with Visuals

Density is one of my favorite topics to teach.  Students can struggle with it, but there are so many great visuals and techniques for teaching it that often times I am witness to a very real AH HA! moment.  That's the best part of teaching right?

Introducing Density 

When explaining density for the first time to students, it is important to use an example that ALL students have background knowledge on.  Try this elevator example!

Rope off a pretend elevator in your classroom.  Review the meaning of volume as you explain to students the size of the elevator.

Slowly add students to the elevator and ask the class to consider how the ratio of mass to volume changes.

Most middle school kids have seen Star Wars, so why not use it to explain density?  The trash compactor scene makes for a fun example.  Consider showing this short clip and then asking students to complete an exit ticket answering the question:  How does the changing ratio of mass to volume endanger Luke, Leia and Han?

Star Wars Trash Compactor Clip:

I find that LOTS of visuals are key to helping kids conceptualize density.  Here is another one that might work well for your students.  Fill three equal-sized containers with 3 different objects.  Here I used 2 Liter plastic bottles,  cotton balls and dry black beans.  The third is "empty," which leads to a great classroom discussion about whether air has mass.  

In addition to classroom visuals, consider assigning some videos for homework.  If you use a site like you will be able to track whether your students actually watch the videos and you can even imbed questions to check the progress of their learning.  Below I list 3 Youtube videos that are perfect for middle schoolers and can be just the extra review students need!


5 Facts about Density

Eureka Density

Looking for more ways to make learning about density fun and engaging?  Here are some materials you might be interested in.  

Thanks for visiting Kate's Classroom Cafe!  Happy teaching...


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