#understanding elementary science

Teaching science @ elementary can be challenging for many teachers.  I include myself in that category!  For some it is natural but for me it wasn’t.  I refuse to be of the opinion that it is because boys are better at science than girls…so I am learning! It can’t be that hard?  Right??  

For me to do the best job I can helping myself and any of you become more effective in elementary science I started with the practices below and did lots of “Close Reading” to grow more dendrites.  I also started hanging around science people and listening and learning from them.

Straight from the Next Generation Science Standards are the “8 Science and Engineering Practices.”

  1. Asking Questions and Defining Problems
  2. Developing and Using Models
  3. Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
  4. Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  5. Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking
  6. Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
  7. Engaging in Argument from Evidence
  8. Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

Simple RIGHT?

I am probably dating myself with this post as many of you have had STEM training and developed lessons based on STEM.  So take the information if you want it!  Maybe an Anchor Chart for Kiddos?  Or a review for you?

Just remember Science can be our “ticket in the door” for many students that are struggling readers and writers.  Use that ticket as often as you can!

You are almost to Spring Break..Hang in there!

Susan

Perspective

I have been waiting for the inspiration to write my next blog, Perspective.

Today I was lucky to have some time in my office to go through all those “Action Items” in my email.  One of those items was an email from a friend and colleague with a TedTalk attached that was done by her granddaughter.  I wanted to watch it and I knew if it went in my action file then it would get done and not get lost.  I watched the video and found myself moved by this young person’s message and her strength.  I hope you will take the time to watch.  The video is about 10 minutes but well worth the time.  If you can’t watch it now file it in your Action File so it will not get lost.

Susan

https://m.youtube.com/watch?sns=fb&v=2CYn1UFDkFQ

Is Independent Reading missing from your day?

I was very fortunate this past week to attend a training with Kathy Bumgardner.  For those of you that have not met Kathy or attended a workshop with her I recommend you visit her website (which she herself says is a hot mess!)  because she has so many hands on ideas and materials for literacy instruction and it is all FREE! kbumreading.com

We know as Elementary Educators it is important that kids have time to read but we fill our time with so many things that we shorten or don’t ever get to providing time for students to read during the school day.  The part of Kathy’s training I that really had an impact on me was how to make Monitored Independent Reading happen in a classroom everyday.  It is my belief that test scores improve when this happens!

OKAY, here is what she has done in her own classroom and coached in classrooms around the country to make it work!  Procedures, Procedures, Procedures… of course it makes perfect sense that students have procedures for almost everything they do during the day so why would we assume that just providing the time for them to read but not providing a structure would be a successful implementation for Independent Reading.

Things to consider when developing your procedures:  

  • Start with a small amount of time and add more throughout the year.  There are several different opinions on how much a child should read at each grade but she suggests that we could expect at this point in the year our Fifth Grade students reading independently for 45 minutes and then shorter time periods of course for K-4 with each year building on the next.
  • Provide book boxes for all grade levels and develop your classroom libraries so that students have easy access to books of their choice but also ones that they can read independently.
  • Provide Reading Response Journals and a Reading Log for in school reading.  Having this allows the teacher to interact with the students by individually conferencing or checking in on students during the Independent Reading time.
  • Assign the students a Literacy Partner.  She recommends once you find a good fit don’t change them.  This provides the all important student collaboration.  Students need to be taught how to be the speaker and the listener. (She has some tools on her website for this type of task).

Now for the routine she shared with us…

  1. First students read a book of their choice for a designated amount of time. (She has some great ideas for the younger students on a procedure that is successful for Kindergarten and First Grade kiddos on her website).
  2. Next students turn to face their Literacy Partner and take turns being the Listener or the Speaker to talk about what they are reading.  This could be an open conversation or you could guide it with specifics like, today you will talk about the characters in your books and find examples to share that support your thoughts, or today make predictions on what you think will happen next, to something as simple as share your favorite part.  The ideas are endless!  But notice it is a routine the teacher sets up and practices.
  3. Then lastly students write in their journals.  They should have ideas for what to write from their conversation with their literacy partner.

Can this be done differently – of course it can!  But most importantly put a routine in place and you will have students reading independently (and not fake reading), in no time at all! Good Luck – I hope you give this a try!  Please comment on this post with your ideas for independent reading!

 

Classroom Management

First of all – thank you for participating in the latest poll!

The Results:

What word comes to mind when you hear the words Classroom Management?

60% Procedures

30% Relationships

5% Rules

5% Discipline

I attended a Learning Forward Conference this past week and went to a session on classroom management and new teachers.  The session was led by Tracey Garrett who is a professor in the Department of Teacher Education at Rider University in New Jersey.  She shared three Key Points that I would like to share with you.

Key Point #1

Common Misconceptions

  • Classroom management is synonymous with discipline.
  • A well-managed classroom is a quiet classroom.
  • An effective classroom management plan relies on rewards and punishments.
  • Engaging instruction is classroom management.

Reflect on these misconceptions briefly by answering which of the four misconceptions has influenced your beliefs about classroom management?

For me at the beginning of my career I was wrapped up in misconception 3 – rewards and punishments.  I learned that rewarding students for doing things they are already intrinsically motivated to do was a practice that I could let go of and hold on to more of my own money for those treasure chest items!  *However, I am also not saying rewarding students unexpectedly is always a bad thing.  Moderation and intentional are the words to remember.

Key Point #2

Goal of Classroom Management

  • Develop an environment conducive to academic and social learning.

Key Point #3

  • Classroom management is a strategic, ongoing process consisting of key actions that teachers must address to create an environment for learning.

She shared a model with us that she uses with her entry year teachers in New Jersey:

Prevention = Physical Design, Establishing Rules and Routines, Develop relationships, and Implement Engaging Instruction

Response = Addressing Discipline

One part of the model is not sufficient.  You can’t just build relationships and have classroom management without considering the other preventive pieces of the model.  It is not easy and it is an ongoing process so have faith and keep working on your strategies!

December 10th Poll

Holidays in the Classroom

As a new teacher and really every year after that I would get so excited about this time of year in my classroom and school.  Everything seemed so festive and classrooms were decorated with student crafts and lights. However, I did learn to be mindful of all celebrations this time of year and not just the one my family celebrated.  This often led to Holidays Around the World themes such as celebrating and learning about Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, St Lucia Day, Ramadan, and so many more.

This can be a tricky path for any teacher not just a new teacher.  Each year as different students entered my classroom with different backgrounds and celebrations I faced new questions on what to do during this month of celebrations.  Should I just not do anything at all and pretend it isn’t happening or should I find symbols and stories of every celebration to share with my students?

So the first thing I would recommend you do is talk to your school principal and be sure you understand the policy of your school related to holidays.  This can often determine your path.  Another recommendation is to talk to your media specialist and see what materials are available to you and your students.  And finally I recommend you take a look at your classroom community and honor those celebrations for sure and then include others if possible.  Ask your families to come in the classroom and talk about their celebrations and create festive art related to different holidays.  Remember though you will have some families who do not celebrate the Holidays at all so that is something else to consider and discuss with your principal.

I will tell you that each year as I decorate our Christmas Tree at home my favorite ornaments are the sweet ones my children made for me when they were in Elementary school.  Help your families make those memories no matter which Holiday or Celebration is appropriate for them and enjoy all your students and the unique gifts they bring to your classroom community.

Have a wonderful Winter Break and take some time to reflect on the first part of your school year as you prepare for the remaining months of the year.

Be Safe in your Travels,

Susan