Sunday, February 24, 2013


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Friday, February 22, 2013

Science and 21st Century Learning

I am SO excited about teaching the next generation science standards! They are so well written and it's refreshing to move from "kits" to actual science! I am a HUGE believer in guiding students through discovery over lecture by using the inquiry model. In my classroom, we use a very simple procedure to every science lesson and my students can't get enough!

First we begin with an engaging scenario. This is straight from the 5 e model to teach science. Basically, I plan puzzles, games, images or scenarios to excite children about the learning and set a purpose for the lesson.

Then I pose a question (or have them ask a question based on the scenario) and provide time for students to work collaboratively to come up with a hypothesis, a procedure, and figure out their method to collect their data. Since science time and materials are limited, I also give each team a bucket of materials and a time limit to conduct their investigation. Their thinking often amazes me! Sometimes they are right on target and other times I may need to offer prompting to get them started in a meaningful direction. They usually come up with a way to test the question that is unique. They are only allowed to start their investigation once they have completed (and I have approved) their question, hypothesis, procedure, and data collection method.

The testing begins! Since each group came up with their own procedure, I often have six different investigations going on at once. It's constructive chaos at its best! Students are working together, learning together, some are confirming their hypothesis, and many are revising their thinking based on their observations and data. It's unbelievable!

Finally, I bring them all back together to review the conclusion. We discuss groups who had a successful investigation and groups who learned from investigations that just didn't work. We review vocabulary and even read nonfiction books at this time.

Third grade teachers-- check out my newest product aligned with the third grade Next Generation standards!

Here's a freebie from my science pack for 21st century skills. Enjoy :)

Featured Teacher: Rebecca

Rebecca from Ladybug's Lounge is a third grade teacher from Texas and I am so glad I found her store! She says the best part of teaching are those moments when her student's make her laugh just when she needs it the most. Check out her great freebie on antonyms. I love a great opportunity for my students to learn through games and exploration and this product is perfect!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Student-Led Conferences- 21st Century Style

Like many teachers, we have student-led conferences coming up soon. Instead of a traditional packet, we like to teach our kids to work on this type of reflection as a meaningful presentation. Our kids used this story board that is available for free in my publishing pack.

Students looked at their strengths and struggles from each content area based on recent assessments and reflected on their own growth. It is so powerful to see nine year olds reflecting on how to improve academically! Check out an example below...

Feature Teacher: Leticia Gallegos

 Leticia Gallegos is a first grade teacher from Southern California. She says, "I love teaching first grade because you see so much growth in the kids, and they are so sweet and love to give hugs!" 

Check out her cute stamping freebie by clicking on the image below.
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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Non-Fiction Writing

I am so proud of my little students!  They are taking non-fiction and bringing it to life. This was entirely based on student choice, so it was a little overwhelming at first!  We had students choose everything from global warming to Golden Retrievers, to special effects. 

The best thing we did this year was ask them, "Why are you writing this?"  Kids could not reply, "Because my teacher told me to."  We wouldn't even accept, "To learn more about ___."  We wanted them to set a real purpose for their writing, an authentic audience.  We wanted them to realize that they truly have the power to change the world through their words.

Our student writing about global warming is sending her non-fiction book to President Obama to plea for a change in laws.  Our student writing about Golden Retievers is sharing his letter with a local pet shop to inform new buyers about the benefits of this wonderful dog.  Our student writing about special effects is sending his report to the directors at MGM studios to inform them about what kids look for in special effects for future movies.  We have never had a class so excited about non-fiction writing and I can't wait to see the final versions...coming soon to changed world near you!

If you are looking for a way to help your students organize informative writing use this FREE graphic organizer!

Saturday, February 9, 2013


Click on the image above to have the chance win some goodies!

Featured Teacher: Darlene Anne

Darlene Anne is a middle school English teacher in the New York area.  She loves her wonderful students and their capacity for learning.  She said, "Being part of those light bulb moments lights up MY life!"
I love her FREE item on answering text-based questions and I look forward to using it with my students soon!
Check it out...
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Monday, February 4, 2013

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Top Ten Teacher Time-Savers

Imagine leaving school while it is still light can happen.  Since I had children of my own, I had to figure out some ways to organize my classroom so I am no longer spending hours upon hours after school preparing lesson plans, making copies, grading, and even cleaning up.  This post is my favorite ten tips to keeping a classroom organized so teachers can actually spend some time during the school week outside of their classroom :)

1. Create your own lesson plan template.  I know this seems like a minor change, but it saves probably 15 minutes a week which adds up to 450 minutes for each school year!  This way you don't waste time writing in your daily routine and times etc.  It's also a huge life saver if you have emergency sub plans because the times are always ready to go.  Here's an image of my lesson plans:

2. Plan for units at a time instead of lessons.  I try to plan for one unit each week (for example maybe reading the first week of the month, writing the second week, science the third, etc) This way I can get all copies ready to go.  When all copies are ready to go, I file them into the subject drawers so all I have to do is pull the materials I need.  Easy-peasy :)

3. Make planning for the week easy.  Just pull from the subject drawers into the daily drawers on Fridays.  This way, when it's time to plan for the next day most of the materials are ready to go.

4. Simplify the day-to-day planning with routines. I use the workshop model so the structure of each lesson is pretty much the same.  Whether it's reading workshop, writing workshopmath workshop,  or word work time I just need to plan for the quick lessons and rotate the groups.  To make it even easier, I use post-it notes instead of vis-a-vis for quick directions for the students.  It takes almost no time at all!

5. Get help!  There are so many things that others can do.  It's hard for the perfectionist in me, but sometimes we have to let go of the small stuff (ex. hanging bulletin boards that are perfect) in order to make room for the big stuff (more time with my family). I have a volunteer bucket in my room and determined weekly volunteers to help .  I keep this bucket filled with copies to make, things to hang up or take down, lists of materials to collect, lists of books to check out, etc.
6. Make collecting papers easy!  My students sit in teams of four and each student has a team number.  When it's time to collect papers, I will say something like "Student number 4, please collect papers for your team."  These students know to turn in all papers so that they are all facing the same way, they only collect papers with student names at the top, and any students who are not they immediately report it so I can make a note on the Oops Board.  Students are on the Oops Board until their work is turned into the Oops Box.  They might need time during study hall/ Friday fun to finish.  Here is an image of my Oops Board:

7. Put the kids to work!  This is their classroom too and it takes a whole group to make a classroom work effectively.  My students each have a classroom job to do everyday.  They love it because they get paid (and can spend their money at our quarterly shops for an economics simulation).  While every job is important, there are some I depend on more so those jobs are on the right side of this chart so it's easy to know who is responsible for those jobs.  On Friday afternoons, I rotate the jobs so kids start fresh. Download this FREE chart here!

8. Determine one day a week to either stay late or arrive early.  Commit to it.

9. Make time for student reflection on their work.  I believe that the person noticing the mistakes (doing the grading) is the person fixing the mistakes.  I work with students during mini lessons, focus groups, and whole group lessons to grade their own practice papers.  This is a great time to collect formative data too.  I always cringe when I see teachers bring huge piles of papers home to grade because I know students won't even look at their mistakes and teachers spent their entire night doing work that students should be doing for themselves.  I still take tests home to grade so I can collect data on student achievement, but practice work never comes home with me. NEVER.

10. Last, use technology wisely.  I love technology and use it daily.  There are so many tools out there-- too many.  It's important to know what tools exist so I have several websites that I use to stay current, but I don't teach (or even learn) all of them.  When I think a student could benefit from a specific tool, I let the student explore the tool and become the classroom expert.  This directory has a list of our classroom experts on everything from scanning, to uploading documents, to working on Web 2.0 tools.  I don't need to spend time after school scanning in documents for my students for their digital portfolios because my classroom expert can teach any student (and many times other teachers) how to use a tool. 

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What is your favorite time saving tip?

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