Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The One With M&M's.

Observations are very important in Science. We make them all time. One of the things I do at the beginning of each year is to help my students become aware of the observations they make throughout every day.

A favorite lab activity that I like to start each year with is M&M Observations. Students work in pairs for this activity. Depending on your class size, you could have students do this individually as well.

Each pair is given a petri dish and is asked to choose two different colored M&M's. This is part of the reason I like to allow students to work in pairs for this particular activity. They can each choose a color.

At this point, we state the question for today's activity. What will happen when we place two different colored M&M in water? Students write down their predictions as I walk around and fill their petri dishes with water.

Students are then instructed to inspect their M&M's to make sure there is a M on each one...or at least something, doesn't have to be the complete the M. If there is nothing there, I replace their M&M.

They then place the two M&M's M side up in opposite sides of the petri dish. All that is left at this point is to wait and watch. I ask students to draw with colored pencils what they are observing. We then talk about what happened and how different colors act differently. One of our favorite observations is that the M comes off and most often floats in the water. That is a big discussion. What in the world is that M made of? I let them make their guesses, but I never tell them. I have only had one student guess correctly in all the times I've done this activity. Their homework for the evening is to research what the M is made of.

I'll go ahead and tell you...it's wax.

It's a fun little activity. If you would like a copy of my lab sheet for this activity, email me and I will be happy to email you a copy.

The One With Teacher Talk

I'm linking up again today with Blog Hoppin' for Teacher Week. Today we are sharing advice for the new teachers out there. I'm not a new teacher, but even I have read some great new advice today. I think others have shared the advice that I have, but I'll go ahead and throw it out there anyway.

Organization...It's key! And in my opinion, it is a hard one. Check out this post about how I keep up with conversations/contact I have with my parents throughout the year.

One of the things I have found that help me keep up with student papers is to keep folders. I have two folders for every class. One folder is marked To Be Graded and the other folder is marked Graded. It helps me keep papers separate and makes returning papers much easier.

Make Friends... Make friends with your coworkers. Adult interaction is needed throughout the day. Everyone knows liking your coworkers makes any job better. Besides, you never know when you might need a favor.

Communication...Don't work in secrecy. Let people know what you are doing. This especially applies to parents. I have found that sending out weekly emails is a great way to do this. It doesn't take me five minutes to sit down on Monday and let parents know what we have going that week. Sure I have to stay ahead with lesson plans, but we should be doing that anyway.

Family First...There will be days when your to do list is a mile long. Sometimes you have to put it to the side and just enjoy life. Don't neglect your family so that you can grade papers. Those papers can wait. It's okay if you don't make it through your to do list. Some days you don't. Most days I don't. It will still be there tomorrow.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The One Where You Meet the Teacher

This week I am participating in Teacher Week over at Blog Hoppin'. I'm excited to meet some other blogging teachers.

Tell us a little something about you...
My name is Mrs. Weaver, but only my students call me that. To everyone else I'm Elaina. I'm married to my best friend. The husband is absolute the best!! We will be celebrating 8 years in January.

We have two furbabies. They are the loves of our lives. For right now they are the only children we have.

Teaching is what God has called me to do. I've wanted to teach ever since I can remember. I loved playing school as a little girl. My stuffed animals made for excellent students.

All my life I thought I wanted to teach 4th grade because I loved that particular grade so much. I had my favorite teacher that year. I also thought I wanted to teach English or History. God had other things in mind. I teach 7th grade Math and Science. I LOVE it! I wouldn't want to be teaching anything else.

How long have you been teaching...

This year is my 6th year teaching. I taught at a small private school right out of college. I taught a combination class of 7th and 8th grade with a total of 7 students. It was an easy first gig, but not what I went to college to do. The other years have all been spent at my current school. I could not have asked for a better school, a better principal, or better coworkers. I love my job!

You might not know... Math is not my first love. Nor is it my second, third, or fourth love. I'm not a math person at all. I was very hesitant about teaching math. It is definitely not my strongest area. Despite that I enjoy teaching math. It's a challenge and I like that.

What are you looking most forward to this year? Last year was a very long and hard year for many reasons. I started my 2nd week of school today. I am loving this year. I have a great group. This year I am team teaching Science with a sweet lady. You can read more about that in this post.

What do you need to improve? I want to work on time management this year. I want to stay on top of my game and not be doing things last minute. I'm only a week into school and already feel behind. I've got some work to do if I'm going to get organized and on top of things.

What teaching supplies can you NOT live without? There are several things that I could not live without. I love my colorful pens. They are great for grading or writing notes. I'm loving my new iPad2. I think it's going to be a great resource this year. I love my mimio. It is down right now and I'm dying to use it. Great coworkers are a must too!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The One With Assigned Seats

School started yesterday. I'm two days in and absolutely loving it. This year's group is great! I'm really excited about the school year.

Late Sunday night, I realized that I didn't have a easy way to assign seats Monday. I like to set the tone by giving them an assigned seat right off the bat. Since I don't really know them yet, I do a random selection.

I fell back on an old trick I picked up from another teacher a couple of years ago. I'm told it is one of Harry Wong's great idea. I stopped by Wal-Mart on my way to school Monday morning and bought two decks of cards. At $1 each, this only cost me $2 and a few minutes of time.

When I got to school I opened one deck and taped one card to each deck in my classroom. I opened the other deck and removed the cards that matched those taped to my desk. As students walked in, I handed them one of the cards. They found their match and that was their seat. For example if a student received the ace of diamonds, he or she sat in the desk that had the other ace of diamonds taped to it.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

The One With The Parent Contact Folder

Tomorrow is the big day! School officially starts tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM. I have to say that I'm really looking forward to this year.

I wanted to share with you a little organization tip that I learned from my mentor teacher my first year of teaching. It has to do with parents. I don't know about you, but I am constantly in contact with my students' parents. It happens in many different ways, anything from email to a quick conversation at the grocery store. There is no way the parents or I could remember all the conversations we've had throughout the year.

To help me remember the conversations, I keep a parent contact binder.

Each student has his or her own page in the binder. They are organized alphabetically by last name.

Whenever I have any contact with a parent, I make a quick note of it in the binder on that student's page. If it is an email, I print the email and place it in the binder behind the student's page.

This notebook has saved me a time or two.

There are many other ways to do this exact same thing, but I have found this works well for me.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The One With Team Teaching

Something new is taking place in 7th grade Science this year. It is something that has me giddy with excitement. I will be team teaching with a very sweet coteacher.

The idea was first introduced by our principal and has been revamped several times over the summer. The idea came from my coteacher being new to Science. She is very nervous about it. The original plan was that we would divide the frameworks, each teaching half, and trade students at semester. I was thrilled with this idea. My coteacher, Mrs. C, was as well. She really didn't want to teach life science since it includes reproduction 7th grade.

Over the past few weeks, I've been at a workshop with other science teachers. There were two ladies there who started team teaching last year. They did thinks a little bit different. Their method raised their test scores a little more than 20% and helped with their literacy scores.

That's it. I was sold! I talked to my principal and Mrs. C and we are following in their footsteps this year.

We will be focusing on vocabulary. Let's face it, if a students doesn't know what asexual reproduction is, how can we expect them to answer a test question about it? She will have "her students" (those scheduled in her class) on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. She will have my students on Tuesday and Thursday.

Here is what it will look like... Her students walk into her room Monday morning. There are a list of vocabulary words and definitions on the board. They copy them into their notebook as their bell work. They then talk about those words and do literacy activities to help enforce the definitions.

On Tuesday her students come to my room. They take an open book quiz on those vocab words. The idea isn't to have them memorize 6-8 words the night before, but to get them to see the words over and over. After the quiz, we will do a lab activity that again reinforces those words. Mrs. C. is doing the same thing she did Monday, but with my kids who did this lab on Monday.

They copy down vocab words and quiz in both rooms.

Same idea happens on Wednesday and Thursday, but with a new set of words.

On Friday they take a test on the words and have AR time.

That's the plan in a nutshell. I'm pretty excited about it.

There is a word wall that goes with it as well, but I'll save that for another post.