Jun 17, 2018

Easy Ways to Assess Your Student's Earth Science Knowledge

As we near the end of the year, I want to share with you a new resource that I have been working on. It is a growing bundle of Earth Science Warm Ups or Formative Assessments.

Easy Ways to Assess Your Student's Earth Science Knowledge

I have written quite a bit already on how I use warm ups in my class, and how important I believe formative assessment is, for both the teacher and students. I also have several emails on the topic, so feel free to sign up for my email list, either by clicking here, or the sign up box on this page, if you haven’t already, to be sure you get those.

Some of my formative assessment posts:
With these in mind, I am most of the way through creating a year long set of Earth Science formative assessment task cards. They can be really useful to you for a variety of reasons:

They are aligned to my curriculum guide, and student learning objectives, which are also aligned to New York State.

They are available in different formats:
  • Google Slides to project on the board, if you want to have students record their answers on separate paper.
  • Interactive Google Slides so that students can type directly onto the slide, or move pieces around to answer the prompts.
  • Printable PDF’s so that they can be used as task cards.
  • Instructions are included to use with PowerPoint, and to use with several other digital platforms.
  • These have an emphasis on understanding diagrams and key vocabulary.
  • These work work well as daily warm-ups, tickets out, review activities, task cards, even an early finisher activity. Task cards have so many uses.
  • They are a full year set of 200 task cards, so you can use one every day, or pick and choose how you want to use them and have a big selection. 
I don’t know about you, but it can be hard to consistently come up with questions. It is a huge time saver, and sanity saver to have a bank of questions ready to go. I hope these Earth Science Formative Assessments are helpful to you.

If you have specific questions, or suggestions, please feel free to comment or email me!

Jun 3, 2018

Easy Fitness Tips for Extremely Busy Teachers

Why is fitness so important for teachers?

Fitness is important for everyone, but especially for teachers because we have a very high stress job. Fitness can be a big stress-buster, anti-depressant, enables you to have more energy during the day when working with your kids

On top of stress and depression benefits, we also know that fitness has benefits for our overall health (cholesterol, heart health, blood pressure and more).

Many people know that fitness is important, or want to lose weight but struggle to fit it into their own lives.


My own journey

I have developed some health issues, chronically over the last number of years. I have been diagnosed with what is called myofascial pain, or overly tight muscles, with trigger points and a lot of pain sensitivity. I have had particular trouble in two different areas of my body. Within the last year or two I have really made a commitment to work on them. Exercise and fitness has been a big part of this. I have been through physical therapy, trigger points injections, MRI, acupuncture, and several types of medication. I am not cured, but doing much better.

The end result is that these issues are all muscular, and are places in the body where people are likely to carry stress and tension.

I have had to build in careful types of exercise, both for my muscles directly, and also as part of a plan to better manage stress.

I have tried ‘programs’ and liked them, but they didn’t work well for me. I have had to build off of what I can do, without causing further injury and go slowly.   Then I felt frustrated when I couldn't complete the program.

However, I think it is beneficial because it caused me to really reflect on my goals (less pain), and my own progress (exercising 4-5 days per week, rather than 1-2 is progress, even if not exactly following the program).

As part of my ‘journey’ I have also gotten familiar with biomechanics, and the work of Katy Bowman. She studies how our modern lives (time spent at a computer, or other mostly sedentary lifestyles has affected our bodies, our health, and what we can do about it). One of the main distinctions that she makes is the difference between movement and exercise. I think this distinction is so important for teachers (and others) to keep in mind.

Both are important, and after reading much of her work, I think we need both. However, we have a tendency to discredit the idea of ‘movement’ that is not exercise, and this is a mistake.

Movement v. exercise

Katy Bowman proposes that 30 minutes a day of exercise is not enough to counteract a mostly sedentary day. In her book “Move Your DNA” (affiliate link) she puts out the idea that we do not, necessarily have to do 30-60 minutes of sweaty, strenuous exercise, but that we have to build in more movement throughout our day. This can be large and small. Walking instead of driving, squatting, changing our position, doing more work with our hands rather than machines, etc. Our muscles need constant changing inputs to function at their best. We tend to be in the same positions and same types of movements throughout the day.

Here are a few links that discuss this distinction

What’s the Difference Between Movement and Exercise?

Exercise v. Movement: What’s the Difference?

What are some ways to get more movement into your day

  • Walk more - this might be as simple as parking further away
  • Change how you sit - sit on the floor with your kids. Squat. Sit cross-legged. Sit on a stool. 
  • Carry things in your arms. Instead of using only a backpack, or a rolling crate, try to carry things different ways. 
  • While you are on the phone, walk! 
  • While dinner is cooking, or while brushing your teeth, do some stretches. 
  • Don’t use your food processor, or buy pre-cut veggies, but do the work yourself.
  • When you take your kids to the playground, run and play with them.
  • Build it little movements - arm circles, twists, reaching up, etc. 
  • I’m sure you can come up with many more!! I’d love to hear them!! 

What are some ways to get more exercise into your day?

For me, I am trying to build in more movement, but it didn’t seem like I could get enough within the demands of my job/life. I don’t live in an area where I can walk to a lot of different places, and that is a big difference. So I compromise. I do try to build in more movement, but I also build in exercise. However, I don’t try to overdo it. I don’t stress if every day is not the most strenuous workout. If may not be a program. I try to do one of the following and ‘count it’ as exercise for the day (in no particular order):

  • 30 minutes walk outside, or on the treadmill
  • A 30 minutes exercise video (either Beachbody on Demand, Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube, FemFusion Fitness on YouTube, or FitnessBlender on YouTube)
  • Going outside or to the YMCA to play with my kids, and actively participating
I can often do one of these either in the morning when my kids are getting ready, while dinner is cooking and they are doing their video game time, etc. They are short enough that they are manageable.

As I watch different YouTube channels, and read different books, one of the themes that keeps coming through to me is the idea that movement will make me feel better. Our bodies are designed to have much more movement than we are currently doing. Those movements don’t need to be extreme, but they do need to be occurring on a regular basis. Here is a very current article from the NY Times “Those 2-Minute Walk Breaks? They Add Up”

I hope some of these things helped you reframe the way that you think about exercise, and how you may be able to improve on your exercise and health situation.

Even if you take small steps, they will add up. Find what works for you. But mostly keep moving! Or get moving!

May 20, 2018

Tips for Successful Technology Sub Plans

Tips for Successful Technology Sub Plans when you have to be absent

**This post was written by Science in the City, and previously posted on www.technologytoolsforteachers.com. However, that site has been discontinued, and so my content will gradually be posted here **

Tips for Successful Technology Sub Plans

We’ve all been there – you have to be out for a day, but its nerve-wracking. What to leave for a sub? How to make sure it goes smoothly? You don’t want to waste a day of class, and you don’t want to come back to chaos the next day. Especially at this time of year, there seem to be more field trips, family events, and reasons to be absent.

Here are my suggestions (granted I have mostly taught secondary, but I think these suggestions would work even with upper elementary as well).

You can’t always guarantee who you will get as a sub, or how your students will react, so here are a few suggestions to minimize the stress.

LEAVE THE DIRECTIONS DIRECTLY FOR YOUR STUDENTS

Students are used to receiving direction from you. They are more likely to give a sub a hard time, or the have confusion. Give the directions to the kids. If you use a learning management system such as Google Classroom, Schoology, Edmodo etc this is very easy. they are already used to logging in, and can look for their work there.

If not, I have left the kids a very quick and simple set of directions of what they are to do for the class period, and what is to be handed in at the end of class. I sometimes leave the kids direction in the form of an official looking ‘memo’ with the assignment for the day, when it is due, and what to do if they have extra time. I photocopy either for each student (even a half sheet is plenty), either as a separate handout, or as a cover page with today’s work that explains their directions for the day.

This leaves the sub free to either tell students to login and read the directions, or the pass out directions, as well as take attendance, monitor behavior, and deal with questions and problems, rather than try to teach/lead a lesson that he or she may not be comfortable with. It also takes out the middle man. I don’t know about you, but I have heard some strange stories such as “the sub told us not to hand that in” or the “sub never passed that out, etc”

LEAVE THE SUB PREPARED

Make sure the sub is prepared to do the things that you really need him or her to do. Here are some tips:
  • leave attendance rosters
  • leave a class schedule
  • leave a seating chart, if you use one
  • leave directions and contact information for another teacher to ask in case of questions
  • leave directions or a phone number to call for the main office/security in case of a problem
  • clear directions of what work should be handed in
  • leave some type of feedback form, this helps ensure that you will get feedback on how the day way. There are numerous free versions available by searching for substitute feedback form. Here is a good resource from the National Substitute Teachers Alliance.

HAVE A BACK UP PLAN

As has already been mentioned in many other places, it is important to have a back up plan.

My go to backup plan is either a news article summary or a vocabulary activity. I keep vocabulary lists, and a vocabulary menu of choice activities for students to practice key vocabulary. I also keep a bunch of news articles printed out, with a generic news article response template (I just use the first page). Even if you don’t keep articles, you may be able to get a few copies of the newspaper or of magazines from the school library. Again, there are numerous current events summaries available with a quick search, so I would recommend that you find one appropriate to your students.

These are assignments that students can do for extra credit or early finisher activities but they are also great for emergency sub plans, or if the technology isn’t working. Sometimes there is a sub who isn’t comfortable with the technology or has an issue getting kids logged in. These are a perfect temporary solution.

Tips for Successful Technology Sub Plans when you have to be absent

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