February 2013Science in the City: February 2013

Feb 26, 2013

What to Do When You Can't Do a Hands-On Activity

My first choice, of course is to do activities as hands-on, either in partners, lab groups, or individually. Sometimes this is not feasible.....this might be because of behaviors, scheduling, lack of money and supplies, time, space, etc....so then what.

I have been struggling with a lot of these issues this year, and struggling with how to adapt and improve my teaching.  I do not want to go toward doing a lot of book work and worksheets or notes.  I really don't believe that is for the best for anyone.

Soooo....sometimes I've done demos.  This is ok, except my attention, to some extent is on the demo and I can't re-direct kids, or handle behaviors as much.  Also, the demo usually happens once and some kids, inevitably, aren't paying attention and miss it, or want to see it again.  I am starting to really like showing a video clip of the demo.  I can focus their attention on certain things, refocus them, prompt them, and play it over and over.  They are also great for things that take time, but can be sped up or slowed down.

Here are a couple that I have used recently:

Feb 23, 2013

How to Help a Struggling Writer Want to Write

My son is in first grade.  I want him to work on his writing, which he hates.  He hates both the mechanics of writing (putting pencil to paper), spelling, etc.  We went to a local museum and he saw an ad for a kids writing contest, grades K-3.  He decided he was going to enter, and win.  Kind of a funny choice for someone who hates writing, but he was set on it.  He came home to start, and very very quickly got frustrated when he made mistakes, had to erase, the paper got messy, etc.

I had a small brainstorm.  Maybe he could type it on the computer, edit his mistakes, and not get so frustrated.  It would also take away the whole problem of writing (ok, so he doesn't get practice on that, but at least he's practicing spelling and making sentences).

I started him on googledocs.  I chose that because it automatically saves, saves edits (so things can be undone) and can be accessed from any computer.

He loves it!  After a few days, however, he realized that he had an email account associated with his google docs account.  Uh oh.  Ok, so gmail does not have parental controls, I've looked.  I've monitored closely.  He has been emailing me, my husband, my parents, his other grandparents.  He can't wait to check his email and write back.  He has used google docs to share the story with them, and keep adding to it.

So.....is that authentic practice?!!  How to make middle school level as authentic as that?  It seems to me, that for reading and writing are easier to find authentic practice.  Now I need to think about how to do that in my class.

And....has anyone ever used google docs, or a better kid-friendly website or application for kids?

Feb 18, 2013

This is What Happens When You Focus on Tier 2 Vocabulary

I posted earlier about my action research on Tier 2 vocabulary words for bellwork.  Some of my results are in, and I wanted to share....

I conducted a "pre-quiz" on a set of 5 words, worked with the words for 5 class days and then a "post-quiz" on the same five words.  It was matching words and definitions.  Don't forget....the post-quiz was the day before February break!  The 7A, 7B, 8A, and 8B  designations indicate the groups.  7A and B are 7th grade, 8A and B are 8th grade.  8A and 7B both have significant ELL students.  7B also has some IEP students.

Not bad...I was actually hoping for even a little better, but some of the words were similar, and they got confused.

The words were: property, component, factor, consecutive, and formation.

I also conducted a survey where I asked them if they were aware of the focus on vocabulary in bellwork, if it was helping them in science, in other classes, not helping them at all, etc. I also asked them what methods worked best for them.

Interesting results!

Feb 13, 2013

8 Important Reasons to Use Foldables With Your Students

Why do foldables work?

My high school students sometimes used foldables, and they seemed somewhat helpful, but for some reason when I got to middle school foldables were great!  Give the kids a chart or some other kind of graphic organizer and they are bored and don't seem to get as much out of it.  Give them a foldable and  they like it.  I wanted to find out why.

I like foldables because....

- They are a little bit kinesthetic.
- They get to be more creative
- They are creating a study tool
- They get to create something that they are proud of at the end.
- They seem to do better at pulling out information, not just copying from the text.
- They really help students organize information.
- Kids like to look back to them to study! They seem to remember where to find their information and find it more meaningful than other notes.

I also wanted to find some other information about foldables and why they work.  I found a lot of opinions, but not a lot of really backed up data.  However, here are some great resources that I found:

http://www.foldables.blogspot.com/ (discussion of using foldables)
http://getinthefold.blogspot.com/ (great information on foldables and the common core)
http://tothesquareinch.wordpress.com/category/foldables/ (great examples of middle school math and science foldables):
And of course, the creator of foldables http://www.dinah.com  with lots of examples

Here are my products that are in my TpT store that are foldables.  All have been used in my classroom.  These include:
 - circulatory system, excretory and digestive system, heat transfer, sexual and asexual reproduction, plant and animal cells, and more will be coming.  (Can you tell we've been doing human body??!)

If there is a particular topic you want to see, let me know!

Feb 11, 2013

5 Steps to Change Testing And Get Amazing Results

How do we making testing (even unit tests) a growth and learning experience, instead of just an exercise that frustrates kids and takes up time? Here is one thing that I do. I saw it from my amazing mentor when I was student teaching, and have since modified it for my own use, but I think you will be amazed at the results.  Here is what I do.  I don't do it too early in the year, as kids have to learn procedures and expectations/testing behavior, etc.  I also don't do it all the time.
  • On the day of a chapter test or unit test, treat it just like a regular test.  Make them put everything away and work quietly on their own to take the test. 
  • After some time (anywhere from 10-15 minutes, or as the first 1-2 people finish). Usually I like to shoot for when most kids are maybe 2/3 of the way through.
  • Have them work with a partner (either they pick or I pick - depends on the class). 
  • They need to go through their test, with a partner, and agree on their answers.  No copying.  As you walk around they must be discussing their answers if they have different answers, and why they think that's the best answer.  
  • Sometimes I leave it at that.  Sometimes I have a group where I really give them a new answer sheet, and that's what they turn in. 
Why do I do it?  Because as you walk around, you will hear kids having those valuable conversations that don't happen as well under other conditions. They take it very seriously because its for a test grade, and they listen to each other.  You hear kids saying "But it says NOT"  "what does this word mean?  Oh...."  "remember when we did this in class...."  "I think its this because I remember"  

Also, its cuts down the number of kids who just randomly guess, quickly pick answers, or leave blanks down almost to zero.  Maybe you don't have those kids.  I always have.  They get an extra scaffold as they really work through the test questions, and they look closely at the language and choices in a way they don't usually. It also gives them a lot more confidence to work with a partner.  

Try it. If you do, please let me know how it goes :) 

Feb 2, 2013

Science Resource Listing

Feb 1, 2013

Super TPT Sale

Teachers Pay Teachers is having a Sunday SUPER Sale. You will get 10% off sitewide, and most sellers are offering additional percentages off, up to 28% off site-wide.  You only need to use the promo code SUPER.

At my store (and many others) the sale prices are extending into Monday as well!

Spend a few minutes on Saturday to fill up your wishlist.  Look at your upcoming units and buy what you need now, while its discounted.

Or maybe you have been thinking about checking out the site, but haven't yet?  Looked at free items, but haven't purchased yet?  Now is your chance.

Enjoy the superbowl, and save yourself some planning and writing time later on!!
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