Saturday, September 26, 2015

Using Body Movements to Teach Molecule Behavior in Solids, Liquids, and Gases

Students modeling the molecule behavior of solids
Students modeling the molecule behavior of solids

Learning is done best by doing.  This can be difficult in science when you are teaching a concept like molecule behavior to upper elementary students. I like to use body modeling for tough concepts like this whenever possible. The students are actively engaged and it allows them to 'SEE" the concept in a way they may otherwise be unable to. This particular body modeling lesson is a personal favorite of mine and I'm really excited to be sharing it.

Before you begin your lesson, all desks and chairs need to be stacked against the wall. The students need lots of unobstructed floor space for this activity.

Modeling Solids

I begin the lesson by arranging the students into an array that resembles a square or rectangle and tell them to stand with their hands by their sides. To activate prior knowledge, I ask questions about what they already know about solids.
  1. What happens to the shape of a solid if I move it from one container to another?
  2. What happens to the volume of a solid if I move it from one container to another?
  3. Are the molecules touching? 
  4. How are they touching? 
  5. Do they change places with other molecules? 
  6. Are they moving at all?
  7. How can we arrange ourselves so that we would look like the molecules in a solid?

The last question may be more difficult for some classes than others. If they have a lot of prior knowledge, then they will probably have lots of suggestions. I take their suggestions and guide them until we agree on an arrangement that works. It almost always ends up looking like the photo above.

  • The molecules in solids are organized. The students usually ask if that is why I had them stand in an array. If they don't, then I will ask if anyone can think of why I would have them stand that way.
  • The molecules in solids touch. The students connect together by placing hands on shoulders.
  • The molecules in solids vibrate in place. This looks different for each class. Some classes simply rotate their hips like they are using a mini hula hoop. Other classes shake their whole body like they are being electrocuted. That one is always fun.

Changing from a Solid to a Liquid

After having the students model molecules in a solid, I prompt them to give some examples of solids. When someone gives the example of ice, I ask how we could turn ice into water. I lead the conversation if necessary but it usually doesn't take long before someone says that we have to add heat.

Modeling Liquids

Using the same questions that are listed above, I ask students about molecule movement of liquids. The students make suggestions about how they should arrange their bodies and how they should move to model how molecules behave in liquids.

  • The molecules in liquids are unorganized. Students do not have to worry about staying in an array.
  • The molecules in liquids are touching. Students should use one hand to touch the shoulders of classmates as they move.
  • The molecules in liquids change places with other molecules. Students slowly move around while touching the shoulders of various students as they go. This is preceded by a very short talk about paying attention to how you move your body and respecting the personal space of others.

Changing from a Liquid to a Gas

After the students have modeled the movement of liquid molecules, we talk about what would need to happen in order for them to turn into a gas. Given that we just talked about adding heat to a solid to turn into a liquid, it doesn't take long before someone mentions adding heat. 

This is a great opportunity to see if they remember that the boiling point of water is 100 degrees Celsius. 

Modeling Gases

By this point, the students are really leading the lesson. They have enough prior knowledge that, by asking the questions listed in the Modeling Solids section, they can describe how they want to move their bodies with very little input from me. I make sure to list safety expectations such as walking fast instead of running or not bumping into walls/furniture. 

  • The molecules in gases are unorganized. The students do not have to worry about keeping to a certain pattern.
  • The molecules in gases do not touch and they will occupy as much space as you give them. The students move quickly around the room without touching each other. If they do not do it on their own, I will remind the students to spread out and use all of the floor space (even the corners of the room) to model the fact that gases take the volume of their container.

Changing back to a Solid

By now the students are comfortable with modeling the three states of matter and understand that you have to add heat to change from a solid to a liquid to a gas. I ask the students to line back up into their original arrays and let them run through the model so they can see the state of matter changes in action. I tell them to wait for me to call out "ADD HEAT" before they change from one state to another.

After they have run through the entire model, I bring up changing back to a solid. I allow a little think time before I start to take responses.

I'm looking for someone to suggest removing heat.  This may take a little coaxing from me because the students usually want to say to add cold since earlier we said to add heat.

This is where we talk about the fact that heat is really just a measurement of energy. The more energy the molecules have, the more heat they have. Therefore, to move from a gas back to a liquid you would have to remove heat. I also take the opportunity to question them on the freezing point of water.

The students then run through the entire process while I call out "ADD HEAT" and then "REMOVE HEAT". As an added fun bonus, I will record their final body modeling and let the students watch themselves in action. This is both super fun for them and gives me the opportunity to ask deeper questions if needed. I always have the students talk about the flaws of our model.

Closing the Lesson

Although this lesson has a lot going on, I can typically get through it in one 45 minutes class with time left for a quick exit ticket. Here are a few of the prompts that I've used in the past.

  1. Describe and illustrate the movement of molecules in a liquid.
  2. a solid.
  3. a gas.
  4. Why do liquids take the shape of their containers?
  5. Why do gases take the volume of their containers?

I hope that you and your students enjoy this modeling lesson as much as my students do. If you have any body modeling lessons you'd like to share, I'd love to hear them!!

Monday, August 10, 2015

8 Little Things That Will Make Going Back to School Easier - - - For Teachers!

So, I've had to come to terms with the fact that summer vacation is over. So sad, I know. That being said, I'm super excited about the new school year and all of the possibilities that come with it.  The biggest challenge is getting back into the routine. This is something that everyone thinks about for the students but what about us? We struggle with the transition from summer to school just as much.  To help with this transition, I try to remember the following 8 little things as I gear up for my first day back. Which, by the way, is this Thursday!

1. Shower at night. I know this can be a real pain for some of us, but it really shaves off minutes in the morning. I need my hair to be wet when it is styled so I just use a spray bottle and VIOLA! I'm good to blow dry.
Photo by Silke Remmery on Flickr

2. Pack your lunch before you go to bed. If you plan on eating leftovers, this is really easy to do as you are cleaning up after dinner. Otherwise, set aside time to take care of your lunch so that you don't end up throwing a bunch of junk in your bag in the morning. Or worse...going through the drive-thru.
Photo by Melissa on Flickr

3. Set your clothes out for the week on Sunday. This is completely UNREALISTIC for me but I try to at least set them out the night before. If you have a small area in your closet that works, having a week's worth of clothes that are ready to go makes getting dressed in the morning a breeze.
Photo by Steve Johnson on Flickr

4. Cook breakfast for school days on the weekends.  This is actually a lot easier than it sounds. If you are making breakfast on Saturday morning anyway, why not make triple the recipe and then package and freeze individual servings. If you do this every weekend you will have some variety during the week! My personal favorites are pancakes and sausage links or breakfast burritos, both of which freeze and reheat wonderfully.
Photo by Glenn Dettwiler on Flickr

5. I might be threatened for even suggesting this but here it goes...
                                                                                                          ...get up earlier.

I'm serious! Just do it and eventually you'll get used to it. I promise. By skipping the snooze button you can add 10 (or a lot more) minutes to your morning routine. This could also mean that you can leave the house earlier and get to work earlier. You might even be able to finish that one thing that you put off from yesterday! :) See, it all works out.

That also means saying goodbye to late summer nights watching Netflix until you crash.
Photo by Simon Shek on Flickr

6. Put your teacher things by the door. I used to run around the house trying to gather all my stuff while stressing out about not leaving on time. A few years ago, I took my dad's advice and starting putting everything I needed in one place so I could just grab it all and go. Thanks Dad!
Photo by Mira Pangkey on Flickr

7. Buy bottled water to keep at school. I'm cringing as I write this because I know it is bad for the environment. A refillable bottle would be a better option. Regardless, the point is to drink a lot of water. You will be talking a lot more than normal the first few days of school. Stay hydrated, your kidneys will thank you.
Photo by Steven Depolo on Flickr

8. And don't forget to socialize! We all spent the summer with friends and family. Now we are recharged and ready to tackle the next batch of kids. Our work relationships have been neglected for several months and need to be nurtured. We spend a lot of time as the only adult in the room and no one outside of teaching really understands what that is like. Take the time to build and keep these special relationships.
Photo by Parker Knight on Flickr

Here's to a great new school year. Best wishes to you and your students.  I'd love to hear about your little tips and tricks to getting back into the routine. Comment below.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

LOVE Back to School: Huge Site-Wide TpT sale!

It is that time of year again. School is right around the corner and we are starting to have dreams (nightmares?) about setting up for the new year. In addition to setting up our classrooms, we have to make time to organize our first few days with the students AND write lesson plans.

Swing by our store to see the super fun classroom community building activities that we have. They are a sure bet for setting a friendly tone in your room this year.

Data collection is a BIG deal. Pick up our print-n-go tools for easy, student led data tracking that will keep your kids on target all year long.

Hope you find everything you need (and more) on TpT's Love Back to School sale!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Student Goal Setting, Monitoring and Reflecting

As adults, we set goals all the time. I have goals for everything; from what I want my electricity bill to look like in August, to how much I want the scale to read when I step on it. Following through with the goals we set for ourselves can be difficult at best and downright impossible if we don't find a way to monitor our progress and make adjustments along the way. The habit of setting, monitoring, and reflecting on goals must be taught to our students since it is not a skill that is inherent in most people.

The district that I teach in embraces the Continuous Improvement (CI) model.  While there are many fantastic tools to help drive goal setting; the Plan, Do, Study, Act cycle is the cornerstone to using the CI model in the classroom. Every teacher uses this cycle a little differently, I'm sharing how I approach this cycle in my classroom for whole class goal setting, monitoring and reflecting.

I will also share a link for my PDSA for individual students and a link for an assessment tracker for district-level assessments.

Two Teaching Taylors Plan from PDSA

The plan is determined by your curriculum. You control how you want to present the lesson to the students but the overall concept is decided by your state's student expectations. I live in Texas, so my PLAN is usually one of the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills). On my PDSA board under Plan, I post anywhere from one to three "I can" statements that reflect the state expectations that will be covered that week. I have the students copy the plan on their personal PDSA sheets in their data folders as well.

You have a lot of flexibility for the DO in your PDSA cycle. This is where you describe what you and/or your students will do in order to achieve the learning plan. I use Marsha Tate's 20 Instructional Strategies that Work as the DO options for my students. I select 5-6 of the strategies (which I have on individual, laminated cards) and have the students complete a consensogram to select the four learning strategies that they want to do during the process of learning that week. In reality, we complete a dozen or more learning strategies but I make sure to fit in the four that the class chose. This gives the students a sense of ownership over their learning and ensures buy-in for my lessons. After the students have selected the DOs for the week, I post them on our PDSA board as a reference. They remain posted until we complete the PDSA learning cycle. Then the students select new DOs for the next cycle.

Other options that you can use for your DO learning strategies include: Marzano’s High-Yield Instructional Strategies, Rich Allen's Teaching Techniques That Accelerate Learning, Kagan Cooperative Learning Structures or a mixture of all of them.

Two Teaching Taylors PDSA for Success

Assessment is a necessary part of all learning in our classroom. We have to make sure that the students are progressing and that they ultimately meet the expectations set in the learning plan. Formative assessments allow us to tweak our lessons as we go so we can provide additional support for struggling students. However, summative assessments are where the data for the STUDY portion of the PDSA cycle comes from. In my classroom, I use a bar graph to display the results of the assessment each week. I make sure that my assessments are relatively short (5-10 questions) and that they are targeted to cover only the expectations of the PLAN for that week.

When graphing the results, I use the percentage of students in the class who passed the assessment to determine the value on each bar.  In addition to this measure, I also record the number of students who passed and the number of students who took the assessment, in fraction form. This allows me to model the same data in two different ways for the students. I really like using the fraction of students who passed over students who took the assessment. After a few assessments, the students start to see how one individual student can effect the results and it leads to a discussion on team work and helping others to be successful.

After studying the results of all the learning that has happened, the students have to decide what they will do to ACT on this information. We are looking at classroom data, so I group the students into cooperative teams and have them discuss what went well with the learning that week. They talk about whether or not the learning strategies they selected worked or if they should have chosen something different. They also talk about personal and group effort. After 2-3 minutes of monitored discussion, I pass out two post-it notes per team. One post-it note is for the team to record their Pluses (what went well and should be continued for the next learning cycle) and the other post-it note is for the team to record their Deltas (what did not go well and needs to be tweaked for the next learning cycle). I then take all of the team Plus/Delta post-it notes and post them under the ACT for their class on my PDSA board. 

Each step in the PDSA cycle should be posted where the students can easily see it during the learning process. I teach more than one class so I've adapted my class PDSA board to accommodate three classes worth of data.  The Plan box is one long box because all three classes will have the same learning plan.  The other sections are separated for each class so that their PDSA cycles are customized for them. This picture shows my classroom PDSA board all set and ready for school to start. As the year goes on, it will be filled with goals, graphs, and reflections. I'll post a picture after we've completed a few cycles.

In addition to our class PDSA board, I have each student keep their own PDSA learning cycles.  I've created a single sheet tool that students can use for an entire grading period. The PDSA cycle is designed for short cycle learning (a week or two tops).  The assessment data usually comes from short quizzes or other types of assessments.

These short assessments prepare the students for the many district-level assessments that are given several times a year to prepare the students for the state-level assessment. Whew! That is a lot of assessments!  The students keep their PDSA cycle sheets in their Data Folders. They also keep their district level assessment tracker in that folder. I've given links to both tools below if you would like to take a look at them.

I'd love to hear how you use Continuous Improvement or the PDSA cycle in your classrooms.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

How can I get every student to turn in their homework?

To give homework or not to give homework? 

That is the teacher's dilemma we have to answer for ourselves. There are great arguments on both sides. I'm all for giving homework as long as it is relevant and SHORT. I might also add in that the students should be able to complete the work on their own as not every student will have support at home. All students must be accountable for the assignment, even if you are not going to put it in the grade book. (That is for another conversation). We have to make completing the assignment "attractive" to the students. They have to want to do it. In a perfect world the students would be intrinsically motivated and not need any incentive to finish their work but there will always be a select few who cannot (or will not) get the work done.

There are a lot of options out there, so you have to find one that works for you. Here are a few that I've tried in the past. Some have worked great and some I quickly put in the NEVER AGAIN category.

  • Reward card: 
    • individual accountability 
    • initial the student's card when they turn HW in on time
    • works great but takes a lot of time to maintain the system
  • Behavior mark:
    • individual accountability 
    • tracks student's behavior to communicate with parents
    • results can vary, some students are very motivated by the behavior mark system but others are not and those are probably the students who have a pattern of not completing their work
  • Working recess/lunch:
    • individual accountability
    • no official consequence or reward
    • students stay in from recess to complete work or they complete work during lunch instead of visiting with friends
    • works great but takes away valuable socializing time from the students
  • Whole class incentive:
    • group accountability 
    • whole class earns points or credit towards a whole class reward each time EVERY SINGLE student completes the homework for the day
    • works great because students feel positive peer pressure, they don't want to let the group down by being the one to cause the class to not earn a point
    • every effort should be made to not advertise who didn't complete their work BUT the students will still feel the pressure

Although I like several of these strategies, I've found that using a combination of the last two works best for me and my students. When I assign homework, students can either complete it at home or study hall. We have study hall set up during recess for those students who did not complete their work on time, who need a little one-on-one help or  who want to get work done at school so they don't have to take it home. Our recess/study hall is 30 minutes long but if students finish before that time, they are released to go play outside. I tend to come to work really early so I never have an issue if a student wants to work in my room before school.  Ultimately, the goal is for the student to FINISH the work and turn it in on time.  It doesn't matter to me if they want to work in my room before school, or in study hall, or at home as long as it is finished.

...and finished on TIME.

I hate having to hound students to get work turned in.  If I can get them to turn it in when it is due, I save myself a huge headache.

In previous years I've used marble jars, brownie points and tally marks to track whole class homework completion.  On the day that an assignment is due, the class can earn a point if every single student has their homework finished on time. Once the class meets a certain number of points, we celebrate.

I ran across these key chain organizers at CVS and my brain started churning ideas for how I could use them. I knew I wanted them because of the ROYGBIV = white light lesson that I could tie into it when I teach light energy but HOW would I use it. I finally settled on an attendance and homework tracker for my classes.

A little measuring, designing, cutting and Mod Podging later and I have a new tracker system. I made one to track attendance for my homeroom and four to track homework completion for my classes.

Each day that a class has every student turn their homework in on time, they get to move another day down to the hanging position. When we reach the 8th time, we have a class celebration.  I usually assign homework 1-2 times a week so the celebrations end up happening about once a grading period. To increase buy in, I let the class vote on their celebration activity.  It usually ends up being five minutes of free time in class or a special lunch group in my classroom.  They really like being able to eat in the classroom. We play music and they get to visit outside of the cafeteria.

Thank you for taking the time to look into my homework management routine.

What are some ways that you get students to turn their work in on time?

Monday, July 6, 2015

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Teach Like a Pirate: Enthusiasm

Children want to enjoy being in our class. They want to engage with our content and with each other. We have to make sure that we encourage this desire rather than smother it. Our own enthusiasm is key in maintaining student enthusiasm!

The Commitment to being "ON".

Dave Burgess is not afraid to admit that he too has weaknesses in the classroom. It is difficult to examine our own shortcomings and I appreciate that Dave puts his out there for us to see. It is reassuring to see some of my own weaknesses reflected in his list. We ALL have things we can work on, right!

His point is that, despite having areas that could use a little polish, we all have the ability to transform our classrooms by stepping up our ENTHUSIASM level and keeping it that level all day long, for each and every class. Burgess says, "I refuse to cheat a student by delivering  a subpar performance." We have to "bring it" every time.

Dave's 2 ways to LIGHT your fire:
  1. "Act as if": Burgess points out that the phrase "fake it till you make it" is absolutely the way to go when it comes to enthusiasm. Lucky for us, you can pretend to be enthusiastic even if you aren't. The great thing about pretending to feel enthusiasm is that eventually your body believes that you really are enthusiastic and you no longer have to "act as if".
  2. Shift your focus: This is another way of saying to look on the bright side.  You have to find the frame of mind needed to have a successful day and then FOCUS on obtaining it. Burgess suggests that "This job is tough enough without having to fight through self-imposed negativity".

What are some of the things that help you find your right frame of mind?

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Teach Like a Pirate: Transformation

I think we have all been in that class or that PD session.  
The one that bored you to tears and no matter how hard you tried to stay on task, the instructor just couldn't keep your attention. This is a difficult situation for adults. I can't imagine being a child and feeling stuck in a BORING class with no escape.

Two Teaching Taylors blog post. Book study with reflections on Teach like a Pirate. This student is wishing that the teacher would transform their lessons to be more captivating.

So how do we avoid being that teacher? How do we have a class that kids get excited about and talk animatedly about when it is over? According to Dave it is really just about asking yourself the right questions (as discussed previously in Ask and Analyze) and then setting a firm goal for yourself. He points out that we feel disappointed in ourselves when we don't follow through with goals that we have set. I would add that you should set a goal and then share it with a trusted and supportive colleague as we are far more motivated to stick to goals that we have made public.  I think we need someone to check in with, discuss progress with and even vent with when we have a slip up.  We need someone to go on the journey with us.

The ultimate goal is to have a class that students can't wait to come to. We want our students to go home and have TONS to say when their parents ask what they did at school that day.

We want kids to experience a sense of WONDER as we spin our web of learning around them.
Two Teaching Taylors blog post. Book study over Teach like a Pirate.  Students should feel a sense of WONDER when they learn in the classroom.

Teach like a Pirate poses two questions for us to consider about our own classrooms.

1. If students were not required to attend your class, would they still show up?
2. Are any of your lessons worthy of selling tickets too?

I don't know how to answer this.  Of course, I want to believe that students would still come to my class but the reality is that I'm not sure. Can my class compete with visiting freely with friends or going to the snow cone hut? That is something to think about and work towards next year.  As far as selling tickets to my lessons, I think I have a few.  In particular, my lesson on states of matter and changing states is a winner.  

Two Teaching Taylors activity lesson over phase changes in solids, liquids and gases. 
Another lesson that my students really get excited about gets them outside learning about why the sun appears to move across the sky. My goal for next school year is to have at least ONE lesson each week that is ticket worthy. When I meet that goal I can move to two lessons each week.

What are some of your goals for making ticket worthy lessons?