End of Summer Panic!

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So, I can now clearly see the end of summer! We go back to school for pre-planning on August 1st! Why do summers fly by so fast?

I will say that around my house we were a lot more productive, but I am still having that end of summer moment where I’m just flabbergasted that it is almost over! How are you feeling right now?

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Teacher on Break!

When I was a new teacher I would spend the entire summer – every free moment working on stuff for the next year. It was only when I had my daughter that I realized the importance of taking time for myself and my family. So, this summer I have spent relaxing, traveling, snuggling with my precious girl and every once in a while thinking about school…

That is truly what summer is for – to get refreshed and ready for the upcoming school year. I hope you haven’t missed my posts too much as I have taken time for myself. In the coming weeks, I plan to share some of my ideas for back to school and the upcoming school year.

For now let me share some of the pictures from my summer adventures with you 😀

I truly hope you are having a great summer! What have you been doing to refresh yourself this summer?

Rock Cafe Room Transformation

The inspiration for this room transformation came from an old lab/demo that my partner teacher and I did a couple of years ago (it had been done for years – the copies we had looked like they had been made using ms-dos…if you remember what that is…). Basically, in the lab demonstration, we would cook fudge, pancakes and use snickers to model the process of creating each type of rock. The kids always loved it because they got to eat yummy food while learning = win, win!!

This year instead of just doing the same lab, I decided to kick it up a notch. I donned my chef’s hat and transformed my room into the Rock Cafe!

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Set-up for this was super easy! I put my desks together and added a tablecloth. I also put flowers in the middle I found some cheap vases from amazon.  I then made some cute cafe signs and printed them 🙂

My favorite part of my set up was my cake display. I borrowed some cake trays from other teachers and put some of my nicer rocks on them. Similar to the cakes sitting on display at the counter of a cafe. I know I’m a Nerd!! Here is a picture:

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A few years ago I typed up all the directions and the student sheet for this activity and placed it in my TpT store. It does not have the cafe signs and such – if you are interested let me know in the comments below and I can send them to you!

If you would like to use this in your class, click the link below to be directed to my TpT store:

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Thanks so much for reading this post. Don’t forget to check out my other room transformations – linked on the sidebar!

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NewsELA (not just for ELA)

When I transitioned into the science classroom from ELA several years ago, I was very surprised how many science teachers didn’t know about NewsELA. It was a resource that I used at least weekly with my ELA classes. Naturally that did not change when I became a science teacher. I started pulling articles relevant to our topic of study, and found that students were very engaged with the current-ness of the articles.

How to find articles and What to do with them?

  1. Go to newsela.com
  2. Type in your topic (in my example below I looked for fossils)
  3. Find an article that may work for your group.
  4. Print it with the additional resources OR save the url to share with your students (there is also a pro version where you can create classes and assign articles)

Here is an example of the search and what comes up after you search:

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What I really like about newsELA is the ability to differentiate. You can give the same article but change the reading level. One thing that I do is ask for my students reading level when they take their reading level assessment (STAR or MAP) from my English department. That way I can pinpoint what level students need for their articles.

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Another cool thing is that, if you use BrainPop, NewsELA is now linked to Brain Pop!! Yay! That means it automatically pulls in targeted articles based on the topic of the brain pop.

So, if you have not explored NewsELA I highly recommend that you do so. You can pull in some close reading strategies and really engage students with real-world content! Let me know if you use NewsELA or try it out in the comments below!

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Close Reading in Science

Everyone is a reading teacher. This is an idea that I don’t think I understood in my early days as a teacher. Before I taught science, I majored in ELA and never thought about hos the strategies that I used in ELA were actually valuable tools for my colleagues in other content areas.

However, now that I’m in my eighth year of teaching, I realize that we are all reading teachers in some way, shape or form. Reading is the key to our content and we cannot teach without it.

A few years back I realized that my students needed a way to comprehend text. They would read an article and get to the end of it without knowing what they read. After a lot of research I found the close reading strategy, and it is a strategy that now frequents my classroom.

What is close reading? 

Close reading is a way of breaking down the text into bite sized chunks and then adding annotations to the side. The steps to close reading differ from person to person. Here are the steps that I teach my students.

  1. Circle the Title and make a prediction about what the article will be about.
  2. Chunk the Text and number your Chunks.
  3. Underline or Highlight key words (could be words you don’t know or vocabulary words)
  4. In the Right Margin – write the main idea of each chunk
  5. In the Left Margin – make connections (what does this remind you of, do you have a question about this chunk, etc)
  6. Central Idea – at the end of the article tell what the article was about in 1-2 sentences.

Now, I don’t just give my students the steps and let them loose. Usually I model this process several times before allowing them to do it on their own. Check out these pictures of what articles look like after close reading:

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When I finally let my students try this on their own we read the article once as a whole class and then they go through the article with annotation task cards. The more students interact with a text – the more they comprehend!!

Want more help with close reading? 

FREEBIE – this is my quick guide to help you launch close reading in your classroom. Includes an example, the steps mentioned above and a foldable to use with any article!

Close Reading in Science Quickstart

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Thanks so much for visiting my blog! What are some strategies that you use in your classroom to aid in comprehension? Leave your ideas below!

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Feild Day 2017!

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We had a blast at field day this year. The weather was absolutely perfect! It wasn’t too hot or too cold. Last year, I remember it being very cold and we had to beg students to compete in the water games. Thankfully that was not the case this year.

A “Rock”-ing Autobiography

Recently there has been a push to add more writing in all content areas. Being from an ELA background I have welcomed this with open arms. I love writing and being able to see the creativity of my students through their writing.

We just finished a unit over the rock cycle, and to close our unit I created an assignment. My students had to pretend they were a piece of sand at the bottom of a river and write about how they became a rock and went through the rock cycle. They had an option to write a story or create a comic strip. I am very impressed with what they came up with. I had some stories about the sediment floating by SpongeBob’s pineapple and others about the rock being crushed in Super-Mario.

Here are a couple of examples that I thought really displayed their understanding of the rock cycle!

Story Choice

Comic Choice

If you think you would like to use this in your classroom, I made a downloadable product on TeachersPayTeachers. Just click the picture below:

Rocking Autobiography - Rock Cycle Writing Task

 

Where do you grade papers?

With the start of a new year comes many new students for this teacher. I thought about it the other day, and for every year I have been teaching the number of students has went up. In China I started with around 60 students, and that went up to 80 in Mississippi. Then my first year back in Georgia it raised up to 100 students. This year I have almost 150. For me it is a huge learning curve in how to grade, what to grade, when to grade, etc.

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I came home this weekend with two assignments to grade. One was a quiz, which students self-graded in class. Another was a writing assignment about “What is a Scientist?” I am sure most teachers who grade their papers find a comfy place in their home, perhaps around the kitchen table. However, I am not your typical teacher. This week my papers were graded at the drive-in movies under the light of the moon, meteors, and truck lights. I didn’t get them all done there, but it was nice to be productively relaxing.

SO my question to you is – Where do you grade your papers? Do you take them to exotic locales or stick to home/school?

 

 

This Year Has Flown By!!

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Where did the time go? At this time last year I was still ferociously searching for a teaching job and now I have just completed one of the best years of my career as an educator. I work at an extremely supportive school and I cannot say enough about how wonderful it is.

This year was not without its stresses and craziness. For the first time in two years I was able to teach science and truly fall in love with that content all over again. It was a challenge getting back into that mindset. Another challenge was having two classrooms, teaching two grade levels on two different halls. Through all the bumps, twists and turns I made it through.

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I taught 8th Grade Physical Science during the afternoon and I had planning with the eighth grade team. They are a spectacular group of people. I was able to experience a field trip with them to Calloway Plantation and The Kettle Creek Battlegrounds. I was also able to experience an OCMS tradition – the 8th grade lock-in. Yes, I stayed up ALL NIGHT with a group of 8th graders. I had more fun than I thought I would despite being very tired for a few days afterward.

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My year would not have been complete without my precious 6th graders. I truly adore sixth grade. They are still new to the middle school and are working hard to figure out what it means to be a middle school student. In the sixth grade I taught ELA. We completed many activitites, but my favorite was an oldie – the body biography project. We created character projects for the novel The Cay by Theodore Taylor. As our end of the year project, students wrote scripts for Asian Stories, created puppets and performed puppet shows. Both projects were lots of fun and thought provoking for my students!

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What a wonderful year! I cannot wait for next year after a much needed summer break 🙂