Sunday, February 17, 2019

You Can Ignore This Post

My TPT store has been missing its quote box image for a while and I need to host it somewhere more reliable online to fix the problem. :)

If you're choosing not to ignore this post, don't click the image. It doesn't do anything. ;)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Why Use Experts in the Classroom?

When I was in the classroom I often had visitors from outside fields.  Some teachers loved this and piggy backed, having the visitor come to their classroom after mine or brought their class over to visit.  But some teachers didn't like visitors, citing lost learning time when the expert isn't good with kids or just the amount of time it takes compared to a lesson.

So then why use them?  Is it really that valuable?  Or was I just being lazy (as one teacher told me) by having other people come in and do my teaching work?  
Image result for guest speaker

Here's my case for using visiting experts in the classroom.

1-  A lot of organizations now have a person who's job is dedicated to the teaching outreach aspect of their organization.  We've had visitors from the dairy council (along with her cow), a local water conservation organization, education researchers from local colleges, health care workers and even our local police department now has a designated "educator".  These people specialize in working with kids and know how to keep them engaged.  And as experts in their fields, they also know what information is most relevant to the child's life.  The water conservation person knew kids couldn't vote, but they could turn the water off while brushing their teeth.  

Down below I'll address what to do if you're not getting an education expert, but for now let's continue with why you want outside experts to begin with.

2-  Students often get to use real tools or see tools in real life.  Learning about wire strippers and ammeters and what electricians to do is vastly different, and less likely to be remembered, than actually stripping a wire with wire strippers or watching an electrician use an ammeter to check the current to your classroom equipment.

Image result for science tools

3-  When an expert visits the teacher is usually learning something too.  Surprise! We don't know everything!  It's a great opportunity for students to see teachers as learners, for you to model how to appropriately ask questions, to show what it means to be a life long learner.  Modeling this is invaluable.

4-  It's like a mini field trip without having to go anywhere!  You don't have to collect permission slips or book buses or be on top kids about paying.  You enjoy a real life lesson from the comfort of your own classroom. Sometimes the information is even better than a field trip.  For example, say your class goes to the zoo.  There's a person there who presents an animal, maybe gives a small presentation, has time for just a few questions and then the kids are learning little bits here and there as they wander around the zoo in their groups.  They learn a lot for sure.  But let me tell you about my daughter.

   My daughter went to the zoo in first grade.  She's in 4th grade now.  She remembers there were monkeys and that aardvarks were bigger than she thought they'd be.  She remembers a kid misbehaving. ;) She also now remembers what most of those animals look like in real life.  That's about it.   But you know what, my daughter will NEVER forget the day she got to hold a baby alligator.  It was three years ago as well and she still talks about it.  She also still remembers quite a lot about alligators and reptiles from that presentation because she was so emotionally tied into it.  That was not at the zoo.  That was at school when a wild life rep from a rescue place came to her school.  The kids got to hold large snakes, baby alligators, and guess the age of a desert tortoise.  That was 3 years ago and those kids can still tell me the answer to just about any question I have related to reptiles.

Image result for baby alligator

5- With scientists specifically, kids learn how to give evidence.  They see it in action.  When the visiting biologist asks kids to guess what an animal eats and explain why they're thinking what they are and then kids get to see the teeth of the animal and hear about their native habitats to help further the validity of their guesses (or change their guess all together), students see how evidence is really used to drive what we learn.

6-  There's a different relationship developed with your students when you share the experience from their point of view.  Instead of you being on the presenting side of the memory, you are on the receiving side with them.  I've been having a hard time figuring out how to explain this, but the bottom line is there is some sort of comraderie that develops when you experience learning together.

7-  Students get to see a far wider range of careers.  Most students don't realize there are so many branches to each job.  A scientist isn't just a scient.  One is a rock expert who examines every detail. One performs research that helps other scientists.  One discovers new ways to generate electricity.  A writer doesn't just write kids books.  He/she can write magazine articles, novels, newspaper articles, travel for journalism, write cookcooks, and more.  An engineer can design and test new products that will later become used across the world every day or design freeway overpasses that are safer and alleviate traffic.  A doctor can be a foot doctor, a kid doctor, a researching doctor or even a teaching doctor.

Image result for career

So what do you do if you have a willing expert to visit your class but they are not one who specializes in working with kids?  There's a lot you can do to make their experience, and your classroom experience, valuable and smooth.

-Make sure you provide all the details the visitor will need.  Date, time, location, how long of a time frame they have, etc... You could even let them know your discipline policy if you think they'll feel comfortable using it.  You should also tell them how many students you have so they bring the right amount of materials.

-Ask them for what they will need and make sure it's ready.  Will kids need paper?  Do you need to move desks out of the way before hand for a wide open space?  Do they need access to water or electricity or something like that? Do you need to be able to make the room completely dark with no light at all?  Also make sure they know you're available for feedback if they have an idea they want to try with the kids but they're not sure it's the right level.

-Ask your visitor for any special instructions for your kids before the speaker arrives.  Do students need to be extra quiet to not scare a sensitive animal?  Do they need to have questions on a certain topic prepared in advance?

-I liked to have my students wear name tags and I wrote their names on them myself to ensure the tags were large enough to read across the room.  It's just a lot easier for a presenter to call a volunteer by name or pick someone to answer a question by name rather than by pointing and going through the whole "Who me?" with every person remotely near the one you're pointing at while you're saying things like "You there. In the red shirt."
Image result for name tag

-Remind students about proper behavior for a visitor before the expert ever enters the room.  Always remind.  Yes, they already know.  Still, remind.

-Follow up with feedback.  Student thank you notes are always nice. I used to make my students be specific about an item they learned to make the notes more interesting to read.  (30 letters of "Thanks for coming!  We love you." get boring after about 6). Also, if the expert was fabulous and has a boss at their organization, sending a note their superior about how much the class enjoyed them and how influential their presentation was is always appreciated.

What about you?  Do you have any tips to add for using experts in the classroom? Is there a type of expert you think is easily available for most schools but is underutilized?  Share in the comments below!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Fall Classroom Ideas for Upper Elementary

Do you 3rd-6th grade teachers ever feel like k-2 get all the fun with the seasons and holidays?  Well not this year.  I'm determined to post every season and/or holiday with fun, valuable learning activities. 

Let's start right now with fall!

There are a ton of upper grade art ideas, but I think I'll do those last.  How about we start with inclusive units and then we can do separate subjects?

Products and ideas for multiple subject areas:

How about we start with a fall pretzel pack.  I love this because it is not "Halloween" specific so you can use it if you have kids who don't celebrate that and you can use it through November.  It includes math, reading, writing and art.  And learning with food is always engaging.

Here are the specifics about what is in the pak:
-Pumpkin shaped fraction book (equivalents, comparison, +/-, probability and percentages) The book is easy to alter for what your students have covered- just leave off pages of topics that haven’t yet been covered.
-graphing and data
-writing prompts (12 prompts, both fiction and nonfiction are included)
-nonfiction original reading selection about bats in the ecosystem
-Ratio art drawing project

I also love this blog post from Rundee's Room.  She has candy graphing, a blood model, and, my personal favorite, the candy corn math and pumpkin pie math.

Let's move on to Language Arts:

I've never read this book but it looks fun!  If you've read it, please leave us a review in the comments!

How about this $1 game with synonyms?

Let's not forget Science!

I have two STEM labs in my store that fit well into fall!  The Pumpkin Chuckin' Engingeering Challenge is one of my top sellers!

And what could beat learning about density through bobbing for apples?

A random idea:

Does anyone decorate their door to match the seasons?  We don't decorate the outside of doors around here because we don't have indoor hallways so weathering would be an issue.  I'm always jealous of teachers who can do this:

OK- On to art and the plethora of beautiful projects out there!

I love this lesson on abstract leaves.  They look so elegant.  And there's a step by step tutorial to go with it!

This 3D pumpkin and cat also have a step by step lesson.  You'll have to throw in the whole "blend different colors of orange and yellow to get the pumpkin looking right" lesson but it's the simplest 3D I've seen with this level of coolness.

Silhouette's are always easy but striking:

Pumpkin names!

And last but not least, I love the look of these pastel pumpkins on the vine:

There you have it!  A plethora of ideas from upper grade math, science, language, and for the 'maturing' artist.

Do you have any fabulous ideas for fall in the upper elementary classroom?  Tell us about them in the comments!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Free In-Depth Resources for Citizen Science from California Academy of Sciences

I did a quick Facebook post about this free resource last week and decided it was worthy of an entire blog post.  Not sponsored, I swear.

This is a free resource that is frequently featured in the NSTA (National Science Teacher Association) newsletter.  

So what is Citizen Science and what makes it worthy of a blog post?  The idea behind Citizen Science is that regular everyday citizens can get involved in scientific research in conjunction with scientists who are engaged in actual studies.  

I first came across this a few years ago when my kids and I were looking up the type of squirrel we were seeing in our neighborhood.  There was a Citizen Science study going on in New York that was asking for people all over the country to report in sightings of various types of squirrels for their research.  Upon further investigation I saw that there were other studies and a whole plethora of resources available to people, to teachers, to home schoolers, and more!

The toolkit itself provides some ideas for engaging in studies that are already designed (such as the ones below) or for creating your own studies.  The toolkit not only has directions, but scoring rubrics and all sorts of details and checklist to help you plan your project, big or small.

In addition to setting up or participating is studies, there are several other ways to use the website in your classroom and even a special section for homeschoolers.

-There are virtual programs for several topics ranging in levels from kindergarten through eight grade.  Those are paid programs but look awesome.

-Lesson plans (free) that you can search by grade level-all listing their NGSS standards.  Several of these include language arts connections as well.

-A video vault (I saw at least one Spanish resource in that section)- the "Renewable Energy: Powered by Poop" looks like an engaging video. ;). 

-Classroom kits your school can buy that all have literature, lessons, hands on supplies and more.

-Live special events on various topics and for various grade levels

-Science notebooking resources and ideas

-Teacher workshops

-Live cams for watching various animal populations

I'm sure I missed something!  This site has so much to offer, especially if you need to beef up your own knowledge about certain science topics or you need new ideas and better ways to get kids mentally involved enough to retain what they're learning.

Head on over there and find something in your grade level!


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Indoor PE Freebie!

I saw this type of thing on a health and exercise board somewhere recently and I thought it would be a great idea for indoor PE and recess.  So I adapted it to fit younger people and made a freebie for you!

Here's how it works:

You make sure kids know how to do each of the exercises listed.  That alone could be an indoor PE day.

Then you give them a word to start with.  I was thinking it would be fun to start with their names.  Demonstrate with your own name.  You just spell the name or word and do the work out as you go.  For example, Bob would do 5 crunches for B, then 5 burpees for O, then another 5 crunches for the last B.

Then you can get creative.  Have kids work out their spelling words, or words from content study such as sedimentary, fraction, see where I'm going with this?! Even character traits would be good.  You can incorporate it into any subject.

As a little side bonus, I added a second page with a 2x at the bottom.  You could use that one to prompt kids to automatically do it twice, or you could use the plain one I have and write on it or put a sticky note at the bottom to tell how many time they should repeat.

For display:  You could use a document camera or similar equipment to project it for the class to see. You could also make it into a poster and laminate it if you think you'll use it a lot.  Or you could print one for each student to keep in their desks for whenever you tell them to pull it out.

Don't let the rainy days and snow days (or in my case high-heat days) keep those kids from getting their wiggles out!

If you have other great ideas for indoor PE and recess I'd love for you to post it for all to see in the comments below.

Oh! I just thought of another use- it would make a good center!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

My 18 Before 2018 List

I love this idea from Lisa Jacobs.  She makes a list in the second half of each year with as many items as are in the year number (not 2000!).  Last year was 17 before 2017, this year is 18 before 2018.  It's meant to be a time when you take a look back at your beginning of the year goals and recent items and to find those things that you feel like you really need to finish up to close out the year with a feeling of accomplishment.  I find it to be rejuvenating at a time of year when I need some goal revitalizing. 


These can be personal, professional, a combination (like mine), whatever.  While I didn't start mine at the beginning of the second half, I have recently realized that there are 18 more full weeks until 2018.  That means I can try to concentrate on just one thing a week.

I know we may not want to think about the year ending, and it seems like there's still quite a bit of time left, but this year I have some goals I really want to finish.  Things that need to be tied up.  Things I promised myself I would do just for me.  Things that will help me end 2017 with a bang.

I'm listing my items below.  If you do this feel free to link to your list in the comment section!

18 before 2018:

1-  Finish setting up my e-mail process for my TPT followers. (business goal)

2- Finish and publish my cookbook. (business goal)

3-  Set up another e-mail list for my foodie followers on my daily ration blog. (business goal)

4-  Clean out our shed in the backyard. (home and family goal)

5-  Clear out the garage and organize it. (home and family goal)

6-  Hit my goal weight. (personal goal)

7-  Clean out my clothes and purge. (personal goal)

8-  Complete a December Daily Album. (personal)

9-  Finish 2016 December Daily. (personal)

10-  Finish 2015 December Daily. (personal- seeing a theme here)

11-  Finish Project Life.  2016 (personal)

12-  Finished Project Life. 2017 (personal)

13-  Treat myself to massage and manicure. (personal)

14-  Actually send a newsletter to my foodie e-mails list. (business)

15-  Send a newsletter to my TPT followers. (business)

16-  Post the $50 in new products that I have on my "next projects" list. (business)

17-  Catch up on my One Little Word album. (personal)

18-  List stamps sets I cleared out on Etsy or let them go. (home)

And that's it!  A bit of work productivity, a little bit of healthy, a little bit of home and family service, a little bit of mental health boosting....

What's on your list?

Friday, August 4, 2017

Curated Back to School Ideas

It's that time of year!  It doesn't matter how many years you've been teaching, most educators are always looking for fresh ways to start the new year.  

Here are a few ideas I've been loving on Pinterest lately (click the photos to go to the pin).

You can peruse my whole Beginning of the Year Board here:

But here are my favorite top few:

I love these throw backs from Secondary English Coffee Shop!  They'd make a great 'time capsule' and review at the end of the school year.  It's a free printable too!

I love the snowball fight activity and this one is from Rachel Lynette.

This beautiful art project/social skills project from Mrs. Thomas' Treasures would be great in the first week or two! 

Working on growth mindset?  This book is fabulous and Kirsten's Caboodle has activities to go with it.

What about getting year-long project ready? Like emergency sub plans, a collection of art and poetry for the year, or or back to school ideas that connect to end of the year ideas?

I love this style of welcome letter from Mrs. Southard!

And last but not least, I really like this reminder activity of how to be a good classmate from More Thank a Worksheet.

I'd love to know what you're doing for Back to School. If you have a blog post or video with your special activities, classroom tours, or back to school organizing, leave a link in the comments below!