Sunday, December 13, 2015

May your Days Be Merrrrrrry and Briiiiighhhht!

I am so excited to join in on this fun giveaway. I'm sure this time is hectic for everyone, but being a full time teacher and a parent to two (three if you count my husband) needy children, half of the time, I don't know if I am coming or going.

It sure seems like my students have been eating candy canes for breakfast and pure sugar at lunch because everyday is a crazy day in my classroom. Besides everyone being sick and spreading germs, we have been trying to cruise through our curriculum. We are onto Social Studies now and having fun learning about the different cultures in the United States. 
I will talk more about that in a later post, but for now I wanted to share with you the miracle going on in my classroom. How am I keeping sane? Well let me tell you about the amazing Dollar Tree.

Do you have a Dollar Tree around you? Well if not, you can order online and in BULK!

The best thing about this store is it is a true dollar store. Everything is actually one dollar.  This really helps me out when it comes to prizes. I love that I can get 12 pencils for $1. It makes buying for 75 students much more manageable. I am all for fun celebrations, but it is just unrealistic for me to fill gift bags for 75 students or buy them all presents, but I do love surprising my students every few days with a new pencil, a fun eraser, a finger flashlight, or even a gel pen. Something so little can make a huge impact on behavior, appreciation, and attitude.

My students know I have the prizes and they have to work together as a class to earn them. Of course it's extrinsic motivation, and probably not the best idea of bribery...but it is getting me through December...alive! Plus, let's face it, by this time of the year, everyone could use some more pencils!

Do you know what else would be great? How about coming back from Christmas break and having everything planned out for you? I am happily donating a Gingerbread themed ELA Unit to this raffle below. It is one of my best sellers, great for sub plans, or an easy no-prep lesson, and the students LOVE the new information!

Fill out the raffle copter below and be sure to check out the other tips for staying "Merry and Bright" around the holiday season!

This contest runs from December 13-15! Enter below:

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Scientific Explanations: The NEW Lab Report!

Are you still using the scientific method? Do your students create daunting lab reports that are carbon copies of each other? Sure some of those skills are important, but with times changing, technology taking over the world, and students being forced to think harder and deeper, we need to prepare them for more. You are probably wondering, how is this possible? Well, let me tell how science has changed this year for me. If you missed my past few post, go check them out in order here:

Force & Motion: Using Gradual Release to Foster Independence: Analyzing Data/Evidence - See more at:

 I've learned a few things over the past month of school
  • Students love to be challenged, no matter their level
  • All students love Science class
  • The more time and work you put into a lesson or concept, the better the outcome
  • If you have high expectations for your students, they will reach them 
  • Collaboration and discussion are powerful tools for all students
  • You can combine math, reading, and writing into Science without even trying students and I have grown so much in the past month by using the claim, evidence, and reasoning writing. They love doing scientific investigations as it is, but now it makes sense to them how they can explain their thinking. They are also excited to step away from the "lab report" technique and have a chance create graphs and collaborate with peers while showing their thinking.  Our district is using this response format throughout high school, so students will have a solid start on the process after fourth grade. I'm exciting to watch them grow in their writing and science throughout the year.

Does this sound like something you'd like to try? Check out my new product! This version focuses on Force and Motion, but others will be available shortly. In this product you will find everything you need to get your students completing scientific investigations collaboratively in groups, thinking of scientific principles, and explaining their thoughts like true scientists.
Force & Motion: Using Gradual Release to Foster Independence: Analyzing Data/Evidence - See more at:

Force & Motion: Using Gradual Release to Foster Independence: Analyzing Data/Evidence - See more at:

Monday, November 23, 2015

Force & Motion: Using Gradual Release to Foster Independence: Choosingand Understanding Scientific Principles

If you have been keeping up with our blog you've seen my progress in writing scientific explanations. This is post #3, be sure to check out post 1 and post 2, before reading below.

The reasoning section on the scientific explanation is my favorite section. It allows me to see if the students can make sense of the information presented or not.

One way that we have had success discussing principles is by working together in collaborative groups to illustrate the principles. One of my PLC members actually came up with this idea on a whim and it was brilliant! We gave each group a small white board and a dry erase marker. As we referred to our “Scientific Principles” anchor chart, I challenged each group to come up with an illustration displaying the principle. The creativity and collaboration was amazing! I set the timer for three minutes and was completely impressed with the results. (I wish I took pictures, but I was living in the moment and completely forgot!) After the timer went off, each group showed off their illustration and a member presented and explained to the class. There were definitely some “ah hah” moments created during this quick lesson.

Another activity that we completed that worked out great was using The Owl Teacher’s Causation Cards for Force and Motion. These fit into my scientific principle section perfectly and the students had a blast while working. These task cards are almost like playing an “I have, who has” activity, but combined with a drama, humor, and learning. They discuss scientific ideas, definitions, give examples, and are full of fun. My fourth graders enjoyed this activity so much, we ended up switching cards and repeating the activity at least three times per class!

When having the students choose a principle that relates to their claim and investigation, the students have been able to pick one out pretty independently. I think they developed a deeper understanding of principles because we took time to read them, discuss them and even illustrate them. This in the scientific explanation can be pretty “gray” because sometimes students tend to add fluff or overlap the information they already stated in the evidence section. Sometimes my students feel so relieved that they are making sense of the investigation, they tend to write and write. I keep the space small on our worksheet to keep their answers concise. If you look at the picture of student work, you will see the student referred to our anchor chart and copied a principle down. I have the students start with a sentence starter: “This happened because in science, _______” and then state the principle. Sometimes students go a step further and explain more information or make a connection to the experiment. For example, on the reasoning section for the Box Push investigation, a student wrote, “This happened because in science, the greater the force, the greater the change in motion. The more hands that created force during the investigation, the father the box went in the given amount of time." I thought that was a great response and really showed student understanding by actually connecting the principle chosen to the investigation.  Sound interesting? Check out all of this and MORE in my new product!

Thanks for stopping by! Come back tomorrow to see how all three pieces piece together into a complete scientific explanation!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Force & Motion: Using Gradual Release to Foster Independence: Analyzing Data/Evidence

So in my last post, I talked about scientific explanation writing and the importance of teaching using the gradual release model. I talked about the first step, claim writing. You can reread or read that post <here>. Today I am moving on to the next step, evidence. teaching the format for writing Scientific Explanations, we complete one together for reference. We start with the claim and thinking about what we want to prove. Most of the time, the claim is directly related to the standard. Next, we complete a quick scientific investigation. I have the class do a lot of thinking on their own, partner talk, and whole group discussion. Most of the time we build on each others statements and try to put our words into “kid friendly/scientific” language. In the beginning, students copy down the information from the chart paper, each time I gradually take sections away leading students to complete independence in writing their explanations following this scaffolded frame. If you want to test this out in your classroom, check out my new product up on TPT. I've been working on it for weeks and wanted to test out everything in my classroom before putting it up for sale. It will have specific instructions for writing scientific explanations as well as four different labs that are easy, engaging, meaningful, and fun! It has been a life saver for my team and I and I am finally feeling confident, planned, and knowledgeable while teaching Science.

When looking at evidence I always try to have my students look at data, discuss it into groups, and put their thoughts into words. If a student does not understand what the data means, they will not be able to explain it in writing causing a larger road block in this scientific explanation process. This year I am trying to incorporate mathematical computation and data analysis into my Science class as much as possible, so we are using, creating, and analyzing graphs whenever we can.

When students record their data on a chart, I like to give them the opportunity to create a graph. It is a huge help for some students, especially my visual learners! Sometimes we even graph whole class data. Students love this opportunity because they can see how they compare to other students who preformed the investigation. Of course we then discuss that Science is not a competition and go back to the actually meaning of the investigation.

When students take their time to explain evidence, I want them to look at their data, make sense of it, and explain it…clearly. Taking the fluff out of scientific writing is a struggle with not only my students, but also myself, but we’ve been getting better. This is a sample of a student’s evidence section from the “Box Push.”

“Every time the investigation was tested, the data showed the more force, the greater the distance. I know this because both groups showed the distance increasing because there were more people pushing the box, which equaled more force.”

I was thrilled with response. The only thing that would have made this better was putting actual numbers in the answer from the data chart. Even so, this was a huge step for this group of fourth graders. #soproud

Come back tomorrow to read about using scientific principles in an explanation and also to see how to get students familiar and testing the principles. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Force & Motion: Using Gradual Release to Foster Independence: WritingScientific Claims

So as you know, if you've checked out my blog this year, I am teaching Science and Social Studies this year, while Robyn is teaching ELA. At first I was in shock and I think I actually cried about it, now I am SO thankful for the change. It is a whole different way of thinking and teaching and I love learning right along with the students. This subject area switch was a huge change for me since  I had to replan lessons, units, and my year. We teach Science everyday for a unit and then move on to Social Studies for a unit. This allows us to get the most 'bang for our buck'. ;)

So anyways...this year we started a book study reading the book, What's Your Evidence? Engaging K-5 Students in Constructing Explanations in Science and it has been super helpful. We are trying to get our students to write independent scientific explanations using data from investigations. We are focusing on writing using a claim, evidence, reasoning frame. My favorite part is writing about and understanding a scientific principle because it really shows student understanding. We started testing out some techniques in class last week and my students have taken off with the idea and are doing amazing. They are so engaged and it is showing in their awesome explanations.

Today I am going to quickly talk to you about claim writing. Now obviously I am no expert since this is my first year teaching this way, but after teaching my three fourth grade classes while using this method, I feel like I know a thing or two. So here is how my experience has been going. 

I am a firm believer in that the more effort you put into explaining a new concept, format, or expectation, the better your students will preform when completing a task independently. Basically, the more time you put into your teaching, the better quality work you will see. Therefore, I started teaching the scientific explanation over a number of days. I want to make sure my students actually take the time to understand what a claim is. I want them to be able to put Science into their own “kid terms” and use evidence and scientific principles to back up their investigations. did an investigation call the Box Push, which an be found in my new product. It includes three different scientific investigations on Force and Motion, lab write ups, explanation answer frames, scientific principle lists, and example anchor charts! I am super excited about this product because it has changed my life as a science teacher making me feel more confident and successful while teaching.

For the Box Push Scientific Explanation, we started with groups of students developing claims. We discussed the word claim and came up with a definition of- “Your own words of what the investigation was trying to prove.” I created a list of all the claims the groups reported. After listing each group’s claim on the board, we talked about them. Were they in kid friendly terms? Were they directly related to the investigation? Were they too similar to a scientific principle (scientific principles are on a bulletin board in my classroom, they change depending on the standard we are working on)?
Each group then had a chance to vote on a claim to use and explain why they would use it. I was happy to see that most groups even changed their answers after they listened to the others. In the example above, the most popular claim was: The more people applying force, through a push on an object, the father is should travel, in a given amount of time. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Once students felt comfortable with a claim, they wrote it down on their answer sheet. They then started to analyze the evidence. Although we completed this investigation a few weeks ago, I gave them fake evidence, so we would all have the same data.

I hope this helped you think about Science in a different way. I always tell my class, "Great scientists need to write down their data and information clearly and specifically so other scientists can repeat and learn from their investigations." My students LOVE Science class and come in ready to explore, investigate, collaborate, and learn.

Come back tomorrow to learn how we use data, inferences, and collaboration to write about our evidence! 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Sharpening pencils in style!

It's here! It's here! I am super excited to be posting about my new classroom addition. This little device has made my mornings flow smoother, quieter, and brighter!

I was so exited to be chosen to test out the new color, but when I found out it was PURPLE, I was even more thrilled! My students absolutely love these sharpeners! I've bought one for the past two years, so the purple added to my collection. I now have three different pencil sharpening stations (my purple, red, and blue). Students don't even use my loud and obnoxious electronic sharpeners unless there is a line at one of these guys. My custodians are happier because there is much less of a mess with these hand sharpeners compared to the electronic pencil chompers and the kids are happy because not only are their pencil tips wicked sharp, but it doesn't eat half of the pencil in the process!

Check her out! Isn't she a beauty?!

I've even had students from last year's class stop by my room in the morning to sharpen their pencils because they miss the sharpener! They were thrilled to see our new addition! Honestly, if you don't have one of these, you need one!

Want to see it in action? Check out my Instagram post or my Facebook page for a video!

Would you like some more information? Check out Classroom Friendly Supplies! It is owned and operated by a teacher! Couldn't get any better than that! Thanks again Troy for my new purple present!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Consistent Roles for Students to Understand and Use! (Freebie)

I have a million and a half things to blog about, but I haven't had a free second. Now that I got the
kids in bed, turned up the heat, and can relax while smelling my lovely apple candles I am finally sitting down to write a blog post in what seems like FOREVER! So my apologies for being gone for so long, but I've been living life, creating Social Studies and Science lessons, and running around after my kids.

I've written this post at least ten times in my head, but I am finally typing it out because I am so excited to share a new routine we put into place this year. For those of you who do not remember, I am teaching Science and Social Studies, while Robyn is teaching ELA this year.

We just finished a month long unit of map skills, which the students LOVED. We used my two Map Skill units that I put on TPT this summer. They were fun, informational, and entertaining for my fourth graders. I never thought I'd actually enjoy Social Studies, but I sure did have fun teaching the first month of school. If you teach map skills, you will want to check these out!

So we started Science in October and our first unit is on Force and Motion. 

I knew I wanted the students in cooperative groups, so I changed the room around. I put desks into groups of four and assigned everyone a role. The first day of our new unit, I explained the roles and had the students record the different roles in their Science Notebooks, as a place of reference.

I also used Velcro to attach a laminated, color coded, role to each desk. I wanted them easily removable because roles will change with each investigation. The students were excited for their new responsibilities and ready to get down to business. Talk about motivational! There is no arguing about jobs. Before class, if we are starting a new investigation, I simply change the Velcro roles myself. The students love knowing their role and I am really enjoying them take on their tasks so seriously! I buy my Velcro dots in bulk from Amazon. I also use Velcro dots to attach my name tags to the desk. Teaching THREE classes of students daily gets crazy sometimes. Velcro allows me to move students by a simple change of a name tag instead of dragging a desk around the room.

We are using an adapted version of the 5E model for Science and so far, I am really enjoying it. I LOVE seeing the students use self discovery during investigations and I am so excited to be able to give my students hands on/creative opportunities. I cannot wait to share more about our Science lessons.

Want to try out some group roles in your classroom? Click here to grab these for free! I printed them on colored paper and made the poster's color correspond to the same colored shapes.

Thanks to my sweet friend, Joanne, for hosing this motivational link-up every Saturday!