Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cyber Monday Sale!

Who needs black Friday when you have Cyber Monday?!  In this case it will be Tuesday also!  Teachers Pay Teachers is throwing their annual Cyber Monday and Tuesday Sale.  Most of the top sellers will be on sale that day. My store will be a whopping 20% off plus the discount already given at the site.  You will get up to 28% off.  Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Some Thanksgiving Lessons

Normally I am too busy to spend much time on lessons about Thanksgiving in my classroom.  This year, however, I have hour and a half classes and I am way ahead!  Our district always works the day before Thanksgiving, much to my dismay!  This year I have vowed to do a little lesson on how Thanksgiving came to be using this short film:
Then I think I will have a nice fun day by following it up with a nice free Thanksgiving Anagram worksheet that I have discovered recently.  You can find it at this wonderful Teachers Pay Teachers store here:
Thanksgiving Anagrams
This is a great anagram sheet because it's free and written for the middle grades.  Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Class Dojo for Classroom Management

After sixteen years of teaching I have used the majority of classroom management techniques out there.  Basically most of them use a carrot and stick approach.  Students do the right thing and get the "carrot" or do the incorrect behavior and risk the "stick".  The "stick" could be anything from a negative to a detention or office referral.  More often the "carrot" is the more difficult thing to make appealing to a student. 

Enter "Class Dojo" a very interactive website and application for classroom management.  Class Dojo uses little monsters avatars for your students.  Your students can log in and change their avatar to a custom monster of their choosing.  My 7th graders liked this feature very much it was definitely a "carrot."  The program is very basic.  You choose positive and negative behaviors for your class and then reward or correct students during class.  You can project Class Dojo on a smartboard so that the class can hear and see when a positive or negative is received.  You can also have parents log in to Class Dojo to see how there child is doing or print reports which shows a pie chart of positives to negatives.

All and all, Class Dojo is a very smart techy way of managing the classroom.  I think it would would for very young children all the way up to middle school.  The website can be found here

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fun Summer Activity with Plants

It is very hard in Phoenix to actually get through the summer and figure out some fun things to do without baking too badly.  We function like you would if you were having a blizzard.  We basically stay inside all summer.  Unfortunately, the schools haven't figured out a better time for being on break around here!

My daughter and I were getting a little bored a few weeks ago and thought we should plant something in our planter.  We had some old pots that were left behind by the last people that lived in our house.  We basically turned the pot upside down and painted it to look like a little mushroom house.
We put this in our planter and planted an ice plant, sage, basil, and rosemary.  Then we made a little walkway out of polished stones, shells and sand.  I know this isn't really about middle school science but then you did want to know what teachers do with there summers, right?  Actually, I would say, using plants in a school setting is very powerful, especially if you have kids that are living in an urban setting.  They typically really love to germinate seeds and watch the magic of plant growth!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Word Wall Review

I was so busy at the end of the school year this year I couldn't blog for the life of me!  So I took a little break and I am now back at it!  I want to chat a bit about reviewing those words that are on our word walls at the end of the year.  In science we have about a zillion vocabulary words!  I keep a word wall up all year as we work through them.  At the end of the year, when I have no idea how to keep students engaged, we review these words using definitions and pictures.  My students did a book called The ABC's of Science this year to review our word wall.  Here are some examples of their work.

My 7th grade students seemed to like this review during the last couple weeks of school so I tweaked it a bit and made it into a product that could work for any vocabulary.  You could do the ABC's of Poetry, or the ABC's of The Hobbit!  I will be offering this in my store at a discounted price for the first week it is out so don't wait to grab this one!  It can be found at this link:

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Biome Dioramas

For my ecology unit this year I had a final written test and a final project.  The project was a biome diorama which we lovingly called a biorama!  Our bioramas were created from a shoebox like a normal diorama but instead of leaving the top open we cut a one inch hole in the side of the box and covered the open part of our box with tissue paper.  You could then look into the hole on the side to see the scene.  My class did some incredible work on this project.  Many used background photos or images to make the scene appear more real.  Still others used different colors of tissue paper depending on their biomes.  If they were creating a savanna biome they might choose yellow paper, or a deep ocean might call for dark green.

Unfortunately, I cannot take credit for this great idea!  I found this wonderful ecology unit complete with this great project on Teachers Pay Teachers.  A store called Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy did all the work and the unit can be found here.

Here are some great pictures of my student's project from this year.  The pictures were taken from the hole in the side of the box.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Science Outside of the Classroom

The benefits of field trips are important to student learning and provide memorable experiences that enhance what is taught in the classroom.  Many field trips offer students a more hands-on and interactive learning environment than the classroom.  Most students learn best this way!

I basically teach earth science in my classroom.  I can teach through hands-on labs, PowerPoint presentations with great pictures of the concepts, or informational text about what we are learning.  Unfortunately, I learned from my own experiences of getting pictures for a PowerPoint presentation, that going out to take photos of the different rock types or weathering etc. was probably more beneficial than the 
 presentation itself.
Here is a picture of mechanical weathering.  It is a good picture but to actually see it in person is to understand what is happening that much better.  You can touch the rock, see its size, and experience it in a totally different way than in the classroom.  This is a picture of how the granite in the White Tanks Regional Park collects water during the rainy season, hence the name White Tanks.

These catchment areas are stunning and memorable when seen in person, but not so much when only seen in a digital picture.  The entire journey of getting to the area, hiking, eating lunch out in nature, becomes part of the memory of the learning experience.  

I also teach about biomes in my ecology unit. I do use a lot of PowerPoint and photos to try and get my point across.  If you live in a particular biome and can take a field trip to actually see the plants and animals the way they live, your students will be taking away so much more from this experience!  Here is a saguaro cactus from the same area as the other two pictures.
The spidery plant at the right is called an ocotillo. It only becomes green after a rain, otherwise it looks like a bunch of dried sticks.  You can walk right up to these plants and see the little green leaves shooting out from the stick-like skeleton of this plant.  You can't really do that in the classroom.

Not only does this park have great geology and botany, it also has some great cultural features.  Never forget the cultural aspects of a field trip!  Here are some fabulous petroglyphs from this area.

Cultural aspects like these are fun for students to find and hunt for!  It reminds students how humans are a part of the ecosystem and how we used to live.  I would challenge you to find great areas near your school that can offer wonderful learning experiences that enhance your teaching.  Field trips are a must for students now days who don't venture too far from their front door.  How can they know about protecting the natural world if they don't know anything about that world?
View from White Tanks looking into Phoenix

Monday, February 18, 2013

Play Money for a Token Economy

I have used many incentives for good behavior, good work, finished homework, all of the above.  Right now I am using a very nice homework punch card that my students use to earn rewards.  I made it on Vistaprint which I also love!  My students actually ask when they will be getting homework!  Now that's amazing.

Another great idea for any classroom is a token economy and some great play money.  I give my play money out to my 7th graders when they follow the rules, use their social skills, and do excellent work.  Yes, 7th graders really do like it!  Sometimes they use their money for hints in a game we are playing.  Granted, we play very competitive games like The Amazing Science Race in my class so this is important.  Other times I just get a bunch of prizes and do an auction where the students raise the price on the prize.  This is very fun! 

I started making my own money.  I think I should have kept going with that idea and put the templates on sale at Teachers Pay Teachers!  Anyway, I made a printable money file and then put crazy pictures of myself on the money.  The higher the denomination,  the crazier the picture. I added a saying like "Collingwood's Cash"  or "In Collingwood we trust" or something equally goofy.   I like to mix up the money every quarter, however.  I find that middle school kids get bored of anything that is repeated too much.  Here is a free money template:

Here is a seasonal money that I like to use.  This one is not free but it is pretty cheap really at $3 and editable.
The Paperglitter site has many cute play money templates which would work in middle school and primary grades.  The Christmas money can be found here:
I actually use a circus theme printable money from Paperglitter at home with my daughter.  She really likes the cute designs. 

If you want to use money that actually looks like real money you may want to check out this site:
These are free printable money sheets for US dollars and Euros which are very cool.
Here is another totally free printable money site:
You can print simple but colorful money that looks like this:
Hope your own token economy goes as well as mine has and you have just as much fun!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Science Notebooking

One of the best ideas I integrated into my science classroom is having students keep a science notebook.  All the science teachers in my district decided to adopt this concept a few years back.  The district now purchases a composition notebook for each science student.  Because they are set up the same, a student could leave one school in the district and take their science notebook to the next school.  It works very well. 
I will briefly describe how we set up our notebooks.  This is by no means the only way!  It is just the way we determined we would all set them up.  We start with an "About the Author" page.  Student my draw, doodle, write, paste pictures, etc.  It should be a page that describes them.  I think it creates ownership of the notebook.
We then set up a table of contents.  Every new assignment goes in the table.  A note here, I don't have students number all the pages.  I did that the first year and had students with larger handwriting on a completely different page.  Any assignment or notes, etc. that is new gets a page number. 

We then count five to seven pages from the end of the notebook and make a glossary.  There are so many words in science that it is great to have a place to put them.  We usually draw pictures to go with our definitions.
What can go in your notebook?  Well basically everything.  We of course put notes in ours.  Some are just regular old notes taken from one of my fabulous lectures, but some are fill-in-the-blank notes, or notes with diagrams and pictures.  Generally, if I give a paper for my students to take notes on they must somehow fit in the notebook.  We do this by folding pages in half and making little tabs to hold them closed or just folding them in half and gluing them in.  I also try to have them cut doors and flaps.  Here are some examples:

We also do activities in our notebooks.  Everyday I start with bellwork that I call a "journal".  It is entered by week in the notebook and continues everyday on the same page:
We researched an astronomer this year and made a cute little foldable to write our facts and draw a picture of them.
We also did a rewrite of a children's book Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me and made is scientifically correct using appropriate moon phases.  We constructed an accordion foldable to display our story.  Of course, it went in our notebook!
Thinking maps are also great to put into a notebook:

We also did a topographic map of mars and folded it in half and glued it in there.

Last but not least, flash cards can be stored in a notebook with the help of half of an envelope.

On a final note, I always have my students use liquid glue for their notebooks.  It just holds much better than a glue stick.  They have gotten very good at "a little dab will do ya!"  and "dot, dot, not a lot!"  Hope you can use some of these ideas in your own classroom.  I find it is an excellent learning tool, as well as, a great record for what I have taught throughout the year!  Some final pictures:
Reflection (self/peer)
Foldable glued sideways   

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Super Sunday Sale

We are throwing a huge Super Sunday Sale to coincide with Super Bowl Sunday February 3rd over at Teachers Pay Teachers. 
Many, many sellers will have their stores on sale that day.  On top of that, there is another discount that can be given at checkout.  Just put in the promo code: Super when you check out and you could get up to 28% off the regular price.  I for one have a huge wishlist and will be definitely shopping on Sunday!  See you there!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Valentine Clip Art

Well I made it through the holidays!  Our district went back to school January, 3rd, boy was that hard!  I have never gone back on a Thursday before and quite frankly I didn't know if I would wake up!  When I got to school today the heat wasn't turned on and it was freezing in our rooms.  I guess the people controlling the heat didn't know we were back supposed to be back either.  Now I know what you are saying out there.... who needs heat in Phoenix!  To be honest, Phoenix can get quite chilly in the winter....really!

Now on to bigger and better things... I have some cute little heart clip art for Valentine's Day that you might be interested in.  The images posted here can be snatched for personal or commercial use but please do not resell them in their original state without creating something with them.  The rest can be found here at my store:     Heart Clip Art
Here are some of the clips found in this product.  Make sure you snatch them right up:

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