Using Discussion Chips for Science Discussions

I love having a scientific conversation in my room. However, I want to hold everyone accountable and contribute to the discussion. As I was researching ways to hold students accountable I came across an awesome Kagan Strategy called Talking chips.

From kaganonline.com

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So basically you give students discussion chips and each time they talk they place their chip in the middle. If they run out then they have to wait until everyone has run out of chips. This works great for small groups and with the correct set up the entire class.

I usually set a specific topic of discussion. Then, I use poker chips as discussion chips, but any math manipulative would work. How do you regulate discussion in your classroom?

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Task Card Games for Middle School

In order to not give my students drones of worksheets, I frequently turn to task cards. Basically, task cards allow me to quiz or question my students while getting them up and moving at the same time. It is more engaging, but I still get to see if my students learned key concepts in class.

I wanted to share with you the top ways that I “play” with task cards in my room! 🙂

1 The first way is probably the most used way – SCOOT! For scoot you print off your task cards and attach them to each desk in your classroom. Then, you give each student a recording sheet (or notebook paper). They start where they sit and then every 2-3 minutes you tell them to scoot to the desk question. This continues until they have completed all of them.

Recently, I found an awesome freebie to help out with playing scoot. Rachel Lynette on TpT created some mini-break cards. The mini-break cards can be printed out and used along with whatever task cards you are using. This is great if you have more students than task cards!

SCOOT

2  The second way that I use quite frequently is the Boom Game. I do a lot of stations in my room. This is a quick game that I can add to stations and the kids really enjoy. You simply place a set of task cards and boom cards in a container. Students take turns drawing and answering questions. The goal is to get the most correct, however, if you draw a boom card you lose all your points!

This was another product that I have used by Rachel Lynette – she is truly a task card guru! It is another FREEBIE!

BOOM! A Game to Play with Task Cards: FREE!

IF digital is more your style – you can use them online with a new website. Click the photo below for more info!

Boom Learning: A Fun and Effective Task Card App for Tablets, Smartphones, and Computers

3 The third way that I have used task cards in my classroom is by creating scavenger hunts. I just hid the cards in random places around the room and have students hunt for them and answer them. Students love this and really race to get the right answers in the shortest amount of time. This is even a way to introduce new content. Also around Easter, I hide cards in Easter eggs. This is super fun and easy.

Capture The last way that I use task cards is through board games. I found some awesome board games on TpT that you can use with any task cards. All you need for most of them is dice, some sort of tokens for students, the game board and task cards. What I have done is made several copies of the game boards and made kits. then when content changes I just throw in a new set of task cards. This is great for test reviews or stations (depending on the amount of time at each station).

Here are links to the game boards I have used (one if free and the more science-y looking ones are for purchase):

Game Boards

Earth Science Themed Board Game - Pre-Written & Editable Cards

You may be wondering at this point where I get all of my task cards. The truth is I find some on TpT, but most of them I make myself. What I have found is sometimes I want different questions than what is asked on the ones that I find. So I searched for a template on TpT and that is what I use to make my own cards. I will link it below if you are interested.

Task Card Templates - FREEBIE

I really hope that you found some great ideas to engage your students! Let me know in the comments below – until next time…

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Star Trek – Astronomy Room Transformation

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I grew up with a dad who loved – LOVED – Star Trek. Now that I am an adult that love of space travel and Star Trek translated over to me. I was ecstatic when the new movies came out and now I frequently watch The Orville (currently have a new episode to watch on my DVR). So, when I started thinking of a transformation to do for Astronomy – STAR TREK was it. I will be honest and say that I was torn between Star Trek, Star Wars and Lost in Space; but in the end, Star Trek won!

The Decor:

I was fortunate to get a Donor’s choose project funded for this transformation. Thus I got a lot of stuff via Amazon to decorate my room. I’ll show you the pictures and then list/link the things I used.

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I set up my desks in a ‘U’ formation -using groups- and I placed my captain’s chair in the middle. If you have seen the show, then you will get my vision. I borrowed some backdrops from our school yearbook staff – they did star wars at the last dance and had a space backdrop.

The scene setters and window backdrops were purchased on Amazon. I made my beam me up Scotty area using cake plates and table cloths from Walmart and the Dollar Store.

Links to Scene Stuff:

What Students Did:

Students were given a crew badge and this assigned them to a group – alpha, beta, charlie or delta. Then they completed a team activity to dock their spacecraft and board the ship. I then allowed them onto the ship with the theme music playing in the background. I showed them some videos of Star Trek missions through the ages (5 minutes max). We then got an alert that we had engine failure. Students had to work through a series of tasks to get the engines back online.  We called it our evasive action plan…

Procedure 1 – Calculate Gravity (Gravity and Inertia)

Procedure 2 – Identity which planet is most similar to… (Planets in our Solar System)

Procedure 3 – Identify the space objects headed to the planet (Asteroids, Meteors, and Comets)

Procedure 4 – Rocket Vocabulary Codes and Phet Lunar Lander (Astronomy Vocabulary)

If you are a Star Trek Geek like me you may want to try something like this with your students. It was very engaging and they really loved using the Phet Lunar Lander!

Star Trek Room Transformation - Astronomy

Let me know what you do to boost engagement during Astronomy in the comments below! Until my next post…

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CSI – Scientific Method Room Transformation

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I grew up watching CSI with my mom. I remember getting stuff done in my room and hearing the theme song and running to the living room to watch it! So, as I was brainstorming a fun way to review the steps of the scientific method, CSI immediately popped in my head.

The Decor

 

Decorating for this was SUPER-easy and pretty cheap. I asked the custodians for some large trash bags. I cut those open to cover my desks. I purchased a backdrop from Amazon – it is a line-up. You can see it in the photo above. I then used some black paper and caution tape. Then the set that I purchased from TpT had some cute hand scanners and such (so I made all my students scan in).

Links (not affiliate links) to Decorative Items I Purchased:

The Content

When searching for content I actually purchased two separate products from TpT. It’s fun that we are able to find items on Tpt and we don’t have to always make things ourselves. I purchased two products but ultimately went with one of them. I’m going to share them both and then explain why I chose to use one opposed to the other.

Scientific Method CSI Science

 

The first one that I purchased was by teacher author EzPz-Science. I ended up not using this one, but I did love the setup. It has questions reviewing scientific method and then as you answer the questions you get clues about a suspect. In the end, you can put all the clues together to solve the case. If you want a less hands-on situation, then I recommend this. It is basically print and go! (click the photo on the right to go to snag this on TpT)

 

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The one that I chose had them go through a series of investigations. They had to complete a shoeprint and fingerprint analysis, a chromatography of pen inks and finally, they had to figure out what an unknown white powder was. The students loved it and were able to see how the steps of the scientific method are used each day in an investigation.

If you would like to see more about the product I used – click the photo below:

CSI Forensics Escape Room

My students loved CSI and so did I. As they came into the Crime lab I played the theme songs and set the tone for the day. I created a crime scene for them to observe and they had a real-life experience using the scientific method.

How do you review the scientific method? Let me know in the comments!

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Amazing Race: Destination Transformation

I had a blast yesterday sharing all of my passion for room transformations with awesome Georgia Science Teachers! In this post I am posting links to my session notes for you to look at – I will also be adding several blog posts about my room transformations over the next couple of weeks.

 

Amazing Race Transformation Session

Jenga Example

Spoon Directions

Room Transformation Ideas

One of the great things about presenting at GSTA is the opportunity to collaborate and bounce ideas off of fellow educators! The last link in the list contains all the ideas for room transformations generated during my session. If you have more ideas please share in the comments below!

Until next time 🙂

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Bonus – Okay so a few weeks ago I actually did the amazing race in my room for geologic timescale. Here is what I purchased for the GSTA transformation AND my classroom transformation!!

Jurassic World – Fossil Room Transformation

I have always been one of those people who find fossils and rocks fascinating. When I was younger I really loved Jurassic Park (even though I fast-forwarded or closed my eyes during some scary parts). So, when I was introduced to classroom transformations, I knew that I would transform my room into Jurassic World one day!

When I first started planning this room transformation I looked a lot at Hope King’s Jurassic World room transformation. She had the awesome idea of turning the desks into jeeps, and digging through dinosaur poop. I followed her lead with my transformation.

The Decorations:

  • I painted large and small easter eggs a black/brown color. And I made nests using greenery and moss from the dollar tree.
  • I purchased a set of vines from Amazon for around $15.00 and used those to drape around my lab tables.
  • Using google, I searched for posters and images from the Jurassic World movies. Because the movie was based on a theme park the movie promotion site has free posters. You can find them here.
  • I also found some cute posters like “don’t feed the dinosaurs” etc. that I printed out to hang around the room.
  • Student desks were turned into jeeps using black tablecloths, aluminum foil, and paper plate headlights. I also created some jeep tags using Etsy as my inspiration.

As students came in, I set the mood by playing the Jurassic World soundtrack. I also had the picture of the gate projected onto my smartboard.

The Tasks:

Students were given a ticket for the jeep ride that told them what jeep to board.

After all the students entered the room we had a brief jeep orientation. I really played up “keep all body parts in the vehicle” and so forth. I also played video clips from both movies showing dinosaurs and really getting them into the vibe for the day.

I then explained that as we journeyed through the park they would have several tasks to complete because they were brought in as fossil experts to help with some issues around the park.

Task One: Fossil Sort

Students were given a set of fossils (we had some fossil sets in our lab already, but you could also use pictures). Students then had to figure out which type of fossil that sample belonged to. The categories were mold, cast, trace, preserved remains, coprolite or petrified.

Task Two: Pterodactyl Poop

Students were told that the Pterodactyls had been eating rocks to aid in their digestion. They needed to figure out what types of rocks they had been eating because it was causing them issues. How do you figure this out? You did in their poop 🙂

I also projected the video of dinosaur poop from the original Jurassic Park movie. I edited the video for language.

 

The set-up was brownie mix for the poop and cards with rock type vocabulary on the cards. Students had to dig through to find all the cards and then figure out the rock vocabulary. This was prior knowledge for my students as we start this unit with rocks and minerals.

 

 

 

 

 

Task Three: Trace Fossils

I found some animal footprint tracing plates on Amazon. I explained to the students that local animals had been getting into the dinosaur enclosure. They needed to create rubbings of the footprints to figure out the animal type.

Task Four: Cast and Molds

For this one students used molds “that scientists made of native fossils on the island” and created their own casts.

At the end of the day…

At the end of the day we all had a blast at Jurassic World and my students were asked to do tasks related to their learning. This brought their lessons about fossils to life and not something out of reach. When I was in school we just read about fossils, and I love bringing real experiences to my students! 🙂

Have you ever done a room transformation? Tell me about it in the comments below!

 

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Want to bring Jurassic World to your classroom? Grab my complete resource from Teachers Pay Teachers. It includes all the handouts you need, the ppt that I used to guide the lesson, and student badges, tickets and jeep signs. Simply click the image below:

Jurassic Fossil Room Transformation: Fossils and Rocks Stations

 

 

First Classroom Transformation! – Beach Day

To end our study of the ocean floor and the creatures that lie therein I decided to try a classroom transformation (this is where you make your classroom into a new place i.e. a beach, Jurassic Park, etc). At first I was a bit skeptical, because I had seen things like this done of youtube and on teacher blogs. However, I never thought I would buy into this “madness.” Especially to go through all the work for only one or two days! Ugh!

After trying classroom transformation – I am a firm believer that this brings magic into the classroom and definitely increases student engagement! If you want to see some of the awesome transformations that have inspired some of mine head over to Elementary Shenanigans!

Here’s what I did to transform my room into Isle de OCMS!

First, I told my students to bring a towel on the day of the transformation. I would not tell them why. I just told them to bring a towel. This automatically sparked their interest (Quicknote: if you are ever interested in doing this you may want to specify – BEACH towel or else you end up getting dish towels and so forth).

Next, I gathered all of my beach stuff from my house – beach umbrella, boogie boards, spare beach towels, sand buckets etc.

Then I set out to transform the room. I moved all of my desks behind my back lab table and then set to decorate everything.

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On my board I wrote “Welcome to Isle de OCCCMEEESS” and I explained to the students what to do. As they came in I had ocean waves and beach music playing. It is amazing what sound can do to create an ambiance.

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Students then traveled around to several beach themed stations to go over information about the ocean floor!

The first station was called BEACHED! – For this station students had to dig in the sand to find different ocean creatures that had washed ashore. They then had to put them back in the zone where they belonged.

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The next station was called SEA CREATURE FEATURE. At this station students investigated different sea creatures and had to think of adjectives that would describe them. I had mollusks, sea horses, sea urchins and other preserved creatures for them to look at and feel.

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CUP CASTLES was the third stations. This is where students had the opportunity to build sand castles. Each cup had either a word, definition or picture on it. Students had to match the word to its definition and picture in order to build each castle.

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Students then had the opportunity to relax on the READING BEACH and read about their chosen sea creature.

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The last station was the BOOM GAME. This is an awesome game you can use with any set of task cards. It can be found on Teachers Pay Teachers by Rachel Lynnette  – BOOM GAME FREEBIE!

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This was an amazing day for me and my students. They were 100% engaged in the activities, even students who normally cause issues did great! If you are apprehensive, I suggest trying it at least once!! Here are a few pics of my students in action:

 

 

February Finds!

I cannot believe it is already FEBRUARY!!! January flew by in all its winter glory. Here in Georgia we got several threats of snow, but no snow days 😦 I know, I know I shouldn’t even need a snow day yet. However, the longing for snow is more for my two-year-old than anything 🙂

The month of February is going to bring the study of plate tectonics to my classroom. I am excited to try some new tools that I recently found.

The first tool is an interactive map. Students can plot their address and watch as it changes through 750 million years of Earth’s history. Students are actually able to see the plates move and all the changes the land around them has gone through. This is going to make it more real for my students and I cannot wait to use it. (Click the image to check it out yourself)earth-permian.jpg.653x0_q80_crop-smart

I honestly wish that I had used this with my geologic timescale lesson – but I am going to use it for that next year.

The second item I want to share with you is a collaboration. I have collaborated with over twenty other teacher-authors to bring you a bundle of seasonal resources. I cannot wait to use the science resources included in the bundle. Check it out by clicking the image below:

ig pk-5 winter bundle

For some more awesome February Finds, check the Linky List!

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Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

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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