Jul 31, 2017

Back to School Sale


If you haven't heard, I don't want you to miss out! Here are the details: 

Who: Teachers Pay Teachers
What: Back to School Sale
Where:  My store 
When: August 1 and 2
How: Use the Promo Code BTS2017 
Why: So you can get all your back to school resources at a discount.  If I were you this is a great time to do one of a few things: 

Did you know??!  You can earn credit on TpT for leaving feedback!  Not everyone know that, but you can.  So any past paid purchases, make sure you leave feedback and you will get the credit to use toward your purchases during the sale, for an even better deal.  

If you aren't sure how to go about leaving feedback, check out this post

If you have any questions, please email me.  I want you to feel that all your questions are answered! 

Jul 29, 2017

5 Best Start-of-the-School-Year Experiments

Favorite STEM projects and science demonstrations, as well as discussion of what makes a good demonstration for science teachers.

Great Science Experiments and Demonstrations

One of the fun things about being a science teacher is being able to do hands-on activities and fun demonstrations.  These are the things kids remember when they get home, and remember years later. We've all been at some type of picnic or family function and heard someone talking about their crazy, wacky science teacher and the demonstration they did in class. Its multi-sensory, and different than other classes, and therefore more memorable! 

What are some of your favorites? 
What do you think makes a good demonstration or a good hands-on activity?

Requirements for a good demonstration

In my opinion, these are some things to consider to make a successful demonstration
  • It must use readily available materials. Materials that are too hard to get are unfamiliar to students and difficult for you to set up. It's also difficult to make up for students who might be absent 
  • Must work reliably! You don't want an activity that only works some of the time, or even most of the time, you need to be pretty sure that it's going to work.
  • It must clearly demonstrate the principle that you were trying to show. This should not be a leap for students to understand the science after they have done the initial activity or seen the demonstration. 
  • Sometimes I do an activity as a demonstration because I want to talk about it as we're working, it would be difficult for students to carry out correctly, or because I'm limited on space and materials for students to do it on their own or any variety of other reasons including safety. If it is feasible for students to carry out themselves, that is preferable.
Here is another source on what makes a good demonstration

Here's a secret for you

As a science teacher, demonstrations are fun, but I don't really like doing them! I get nervous! It's too much like a stage performance. I'd much rather have students run through stations or do activities. But some activities still lend themselves well to demonstrations. 

My Favorite Demonstrations 

(with accompanying videos; which can be a back up plan if you really don't like doing demonstrations)

STEM Projects

What about stem projects? What are some great stem projects to get your students thinking? Building and interacting? These can be great for the beginning or end of school or even for summer school, summer camps or those off days, such as those with assemblies. 

Stem projects and stem activities are such a broad category if you look them up you will find a wide variety of things. In my mind they break into at least two categories. Those that are chance for students to develop a hypothesis and test an experiment, and those that are a chance to build a product and work with a team to problem-solve and create something.  These may overlap, for example students may test something to make their product better.  However, students aren't really demonstrating the scientific process they're focused on working towards a goal.  This is more of an engineering project. 

  • One of my favorites is soda can cars. Students can even recreate this at home if they want to pretty easily.  
  • Another favorite is to see who's raft or boat can support the most pennies or paper clips.  

Image result for coin aluminium foil boat
From http://www.ramstein.af.mil/News/Photos/igphoto/2001055392/
  • There is a common experiment, which is very engaging with milk, food coloring, and dish soap.  Just be aware of the potential for a lot of cleanup, or any milk allergies. 
  • Static electricity activities can be easy, fun and engaging, such as bending water, and balloon races.  These are described in details here in my free static lab
  • A balloon car or a CD hovercraft are also a lot of fun, and can be a chance for students to experiment and improve their design.  
  • A solar oven can be a longer-term project where students can really experiment with the materials and the angle, or it can be done as a one time project. 
  • More ideas are available here and here.  

Some of these can be a chance for students to experiment and develop an experiment, hypothesis, and a procedure. Others can be a great chance to explore a new topic or new concept at the beginning of a unit.  They are also great as a quick station or engagement activity, as well as a jumping-off point to get further into the unit.  In my opinion, they should be something that can be carried out in a period or two, unless you really want to start a much longer project.  Otherwise you risk losing the flow of what you are trying to teach. 

Lastly, another way to go is longer-term projects such as factors that affect seed or plant growth, longer-term monitoring of weather, composting (conditions that cause garbage to break down) or even setting up ecocolumns.  

For more information on these type of projects, I would just looking into Problem based learning (more to come on that).  A couple great sources of information are available here and here.

I'd love to see pictures of your science activities!  Please share with me on facebook, instagram or by email
Favorite STEM projects and science demonstrations, as well as discussion of what makes a good demonstration for science teachers.

Jul 15, 2017

Free Training: How to Be In Two Places at Once


timesaving tips for teachers - get your grading and copying done while you are doing something else

A little summer professional development for you

We all like to learn something, especially if it's focused on making our lives easier and saving us some time during the school year.  I know we aren't thinking about school at the moment, but give it a chance....it's not so bad if you can sit in your living room, or on your deck, and learn some tips to make your life easier.

I want to focus on ways to limit your time at the copier, and also ways to save yourself time grading. This lets you be in two places at once because while your papers are being graded, you can be working with students, eating your lunch, or even at home enjoying your time with your family instead of grading. 

Limit your time at the copier, here are some easy tips

  • If you are copying something like a reading, news article, or even directions, make a class set or make a class at +10.  If you're a secondary teacher and have 100 or 150 students they don't all need a copy.  Chances are many of them will get left on the tables or thrown out.  You can always make some extra if students want to annotate them, or keep them, but you will still end up with much few copies. Fewer copies = less time standing at the copier!  They will get trained pretty quickly that you're going to re-collect the directions or the reading.  If anyone really wants to keep it or has marked it up a lot that's fine, but it will save a lot of paper and a lot copying time and frustration.
  • Secondly, try going digital! There are excellent resources on digital interactive notebooks.  Look into these, Google forms instead of quizzes, or start using Google Classroom.  All of these are amazing because you will no longer be spending your days standing in line at the copier, fighting with the stapler, or paper jams.  You simply make your assignments, assign it to your students and a copy is automatically made for each one of them it's a huge time saver!!!  Also, if they need a new copy, that can be done painlessly.  It's automatically saved so they won't lose theirs either! A few good resources for going digital are 
  • Thirdly think about how you can save some paper.  When you save paper you're also saving yourself time at the copier. For example can you copy something on a half sheet? I do bell work on a sheet for the whole week and make a box for each day. I have even done it for two weeks.  I collect the same paper every day for that time period. That means I'm only copying one bell work sheet once every two weeks or once every 4 weeks if I do them double-sided, rather than daily! 

Saving Time Grading


  • A lot of assignments can be graded simply on a check/check plus/check minus/zero basis. It's pretty easy to see whether the students did the assignment, they did it almost perfectly, they did a really poor job on it, or they didn't do it at all. You can give some quick feedback, but this saves you a lot of time checking every single word on their paper.  Over time, if you have a lot of grades like I do, it will become pretty obvious all of those checks and check pluses and check minuses will average out.  I enter them in my grade book as 100, 75, 50, and 0.
  • Let the computer grade automatically!  One of the best ways to do this is with a Google form quiz. You set up the quiz questions, and of course an answer key, ahead of time. It will automatically grade if they are objective questions. You can choose if students get immediate feedback or if their scores have to be 'released' by you.  

Bonus

  • Another option, depending on what type of devices that you have, is Socrative. This is easier for students to do phone or some other smaller devices that Google forms, and it also can give immediate feedback and automatic grading.
  • Lastly, I have never used Zipgrade, but I've heard amazing things about being able to grade objective questions on your phone.
What will you do with your free time, now that you are spending less of your planning period, lunch period, and after school time grading papers and standing at the copier?  


timesaving tips for teachers - get your grading and copying done while you are doing something else

Jul 2, 2017

Look Ahead: Less Stress and More Free Time Next Year


Image result for no tired like teacher tired

Give Yourself Less Stress and More Free Time Next Year

As you finish up this year you may be wondering what you can do to put yourself in a better position for next year, or to make things easier in September. I know you are tired now. It's true....there is no tired like teacher tired!

There are small amounts of energy that you can expend now, or even in the early part of the summer, that will make your life much easier in September! 

Exactly what those are depends on if you know what you will be teaching in the fall or not.  Here are some ideas to get you started. 

Easy steps to take to give yourself and easier September

If you know what you will be teaching you can really take a lot of pressure off those early fall days by making your photo copies for your first unit or your first week now! For example, the copier will be busy, probably jamming, running out of paper, and you'll be set with your copies already made! Finally, even if you don't know what you're teaching there may be some basics that you can photocopy such as a safety contract, a first day get to know you activity.  Even those will take pressure off in September. That leaves you free time to take care of all the other crazies that you know will be coming up in the fall.

If you don't know what you're teaching in the fall you can still save yourself time.  I am often in this position. In this case it is a matter of setting yourself up for success. For example, make sure all your materials are put away neatly, in an organized fashion.  Label them.  You think you will remember but 6 months from now you very well may not!  Decide if it will work better for you to put them away in kits, or if you want to put them away by type of material. Whatever you decide make sure they are organized. 

Another thing you can do is to do some cleaning now and maybe even set up basic materials. For example, I know that I have sets of materials that will be at each table.  I have a pencil box with a couple pairs of scissors, markers, tape, etc. I go through those at the end of the year, clean them up, throw out of markers that don't work, replenish the colors, etc.  When I pick them up again they are ready to go in the fall. 

If you have file cabinets or storage cupboards this is a good time to go through and get rid of things that you haven't used, or think you  may not use again.   Anything old, broken, really out of date, or just things that maybe where there when you moved in. This is your chance! Start off the year with a 'clean slate' so to speak, and ready for whatever may come!

Depending on your school and your department, you may be in charge of materials or chemical inventory, That's something you can do now!  You may be in charge of ordering new supplies, again that's something you can make a huge dent in right now.  Even if you don't place your final order, if you start compiling a list and getting prices, it will be easy to tweak and submit the order when the time comes.

On a different level, another thing you can do now to help yourself organize is simply to look back through your lesson plans and make some notes and reflections while this year is fresh in your mind. Its important during the summer to clear your mind, and really take a break. But at the same time you don't want to lose those ideas, memories, and reflections that you have now.  You know what things went well, and what you want to change for next year.  Are their units you want to reorganize?  Sequences you want to change?  A new strategy that you want to try? Or things that worked particularly well?  Activities or strategies that didn't work? Now is the time to make those notes and changes, or even to layout a skeleton of the sequence that you want to use next year.  I believe it's better to do that now while this year is fresh in your mind then give it some time to percolate over the summer. 

If you have big projects that you know you are planning, such as a science fair, or a committee or club that you're involved in such as National Honor Society, Science Olympiad, or any others, now is the time to get lay the groundwork for those. That's one thing off your plate when you find out what you are teaching.

Lastly, depending upon what your technology options are, look into using more tech. It really is easier on the teacher! It allows you to facilitate, rather than be on the stage, and again, less wasted time copying.  You may also spend less time grading if you use some automatically grading options (more info coming on those)

Please share with post with another teacher you know that could use less stress next year!! 

Easy steps to take to give yourself and easier September


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...