Saturday, December 31, 2011

Quick Checks for formative assessment...

I am on another vacation this weekend..this time to celebrate the wedding of my fourth grade colleague Joe Curtin! So, I peeked back through my posts and picked an oldie but a goodie that I posted back in December.  Enjoy!

I am all about authentic assessments. I want to peer into the child's mind and see what she or he really understands about a concept that I have taught.  However, one of the drawbacks to this is TIME.  It takes time to check work and make comments and provide appropriate feedback.  Right?

This fall I was introduced to a new element of formative instruction that will be implemented in all the FOSS 3rd edition NEW units.  I sat with my jaw wide open as I thought...this is what I've been waiting for. So let me tell you how it's done!

Step one:  When you are teaching a lesson, pick out one or two main concepts that you want them to understand.  Write them on the sheet I have provided for FREE in google docs. (right under the Teachers Pay Teachers link)

Step two: Design in your lesson a way for the students to explain what they learned at the end of the day.  Suggestions include:  answer the focus question based on what you learned today, do a 3,2,1 reflection, a reflection such as Today I learned.... (make sure you tell them to write about the concept you are checking) or a simple Quick Write to explain the concept.

Step Three:  After teaching the lesson, have the students turn in their science notebooks open to the page they were working on.  Research has shown that this saves 25 minutes of teacher time - looking for the correct page to check! I also make sure that I have all journals turned in before I grade.  This is important for the next step.

Step Four: Read the reflection pieces.  If the student "gets it", then you only need to mark with a check. If they do not get it, then you write down what they made an error on so that you can get in touch with them tomorrow and clear up the misunderstanding.

The Formative Assessment sheet will look like this:

Quick check Assessment for Science Notebooks


A force can be a push or a pull
Got it!
Needs support
Brian – forces can only be a push
Cindy – pushes cause the force

I absolutely love this formative assessment technique because it keeps me on track.  I am able to check in with kids who may not understand a lesson quickly instead of waiting until the final test to see they didn't get it at all. 

I have used this technique in Math, Reading, and Social Studies as well.  It is a great way to keep track of your student's learning in all subjects.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Clouds in the sky...oh my!

Product DetailsI just love to look at the clouds....laying on my back and staring overhead for hours at the shapes in the sky....One of my favorite books is It Looked Like Spilt Milk  .  This book take the imagination route of looking at white shapes and imagining they are a birthday cake, a tree, a bunny...but all in all they are just a cloud in the sky.  This book is a great hook at any age!

With my Seeds of Science Weather and Water unit, we spend a lot of time looking at cloud cover and analyzing what type of precipitation they create.  We learn where these cloud form in the sky and how much humidity is involved in each one.

But eventually, we need to learn the official names of the clouds for our Virginia SOLS.  So I created a matching game where the kids have to match the picture and name to the description of the cloud.

You can download it for FREE in the Google Docs page.

Also, one of my "fans" took the what do you wonder about weather and turned it into a PowerPoint.  You can also download it for FREE in the Google Docs Page on the side.

To find the Google Docs - it is on the side bar....scroll down....Under the Teacher's Pay Teachers link and above Education Journey. Good luck!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thinking about Humidity....

Have I said lately how much I love Seeds of Science?  We have been exploring weather in our classroom using this module for weeks now.  One of my favorite investigations is exploring humidity.  We set up five stations with humidity strips to test for humidity in the air.  Humidity is the measure of water vapor and is a major indicator of precipitation and cloud coverage. 

We place strips on the roof of a closed system with water in it... and with out water in the system.  If there is humidity in the air, the strips will turn pink or purple.

Next, we put humidity strips on a tray and wave it with a cardboard fan.  A real fan works better, but I didn't have one available. We also put humidity strips on the closed system of a plastic bag - that the students breathe into.  Yes, water vapor from the!
Our last investigation involves putting strips on a pencil that hangs over a cup of hot water that we have warmed in a kettle.  That was immediate and a lot of fun to see.
The students were able to record their data on a chart to see that they were able to get a positive result for humidity over warm water, in the closed system with water and in the closed system with breath in a bag.  The students them were able to understand why meteorologists measure humidity in order to predict precipitation. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

If you are wondering where I have been lately, well I am recovering at home from surgery. Today is the first day I have felt like looking at my blog and it is killing me that I have let it go "dormant" for the past few weeks. I decided to repost this from earlier in the year, because exit cards are always a great informational tool to use any time during the year. Enjoy!

Today I am posting a little resource I put together on Exit cards. I am calling it "Exit Cards 101" and it is geared to science classrooms...although it can be adapted for any subject.

It is available for FREE for all you guys out there to use and share with your colleagues.

These card are great to do with an assesment that I hope to share tomorrow for Quick Sorting. Stop by and check it out again...
Thanks guys!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

What's going on in my classroom now???

We are working on WEATHER!  This is one of my favorite units because I use a unit from Seeds of Science called "Weather and Water". 
This unit is so super cool because it takes children on an adventure through weather using excellent books as well as great hands-on experiences.   I can't give away all the "secrets"... I can only showcase a few moments from my classroom...

One thing we do during this unit is observe water as it evaporates in the classroom.  Such an easy experiment to do - just set it up and watch the water disappear!

We also keep track of the daily weather on a class chart and in our science notebooks.

Another cool thing...we keep track of the clouds by making sky observations... Real photos help the children key in on the weather terms so that we can not only learn the scientific names of the clouds, but the types of weather that they create.

And of course, DON'T FORGET THE WORD WALL...pocket charts are awesome!
This is just a peek into my classroom right now...I hope to share some literacy strategies with you this week using the books we are reading in class.  Our focus is on Text Features, using transition words in writing and taking notes based on reading a "section" of the book.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Worm Goo

Here's a fun activity that I did on Enrichment Day at our school.

My school has been reading Eric Jensen's book Teaching with Poverty in Mind.   In the book, Jensen talks about making sure that we are enriching our students minds - through art, music, woodworking, dance, crafts, etc... Our students were given the choice to sign up for two classes ranging from chess to hip-hop dancing.  I, naturally, taught a science course and had 20 eager second and third graders who were so excited to investigate. 

Insta-WormsI had bought some Worm Goo from Steve Spangler at You can buy all different kinds - blue, green, red, black...even glow in the dark for about $6.99.  Not a bad price for a ton of fun!

We started off the day watching some of Steve's videos on You Tube from when he was on the Ellen show.  The kids giggled and were amazed as we watched all the things he had to show us.  Trust me...some of the things he does are crazy!!

Then we explored:

As you can see, it is a very cool polymer....The students have so much fun playing with this amazing product and investigating with their senses. 
I have done this every year for the past six years...I have even been observed by my principal doing this activity.  I'm telling you ... you can't go wrong.  So if you are looking for something unusual to do for an enrichment actitvity...try the worm goo!

The activity is available for FREE as usual at :

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Have you seen????

Stranger in the Woods book coverI just love the website .  The author, Carolyn Wilhelmn has a goal to publish activities for a book a day for a whole year.  Recently, I came across one for the Photographic Fantasy Stranger in the Woods.   This is a book my mother in law gave me many years ago when I was first starting out in teaching and have used for many years since! 

She has published a great resource involving Inferring Questions based on the book and I would love for you to check it out.

She has many other science related literature connections such as....

Agate, What Good is a Moose?
Animals Asleep
Stranger in the Woods picture of PDFAre You a Grasshopper?
Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair
Baby Whale's Journey
BATS by Gail Gibbons
Beaver at Long Pond
Biggest, Strongest, Fastest
Bonny's Big Day
CATS by Gibbons
Chameleon, Chameleon
Do Tornadoes Really Twist?
Earthquake in the Early Morning
Everybody Needs a Rock
FROG OR TOAD Nonfiction
Frogs, Toads, and Turtles
Fun Facts About Pets
GATHERING A Northwoods Counting Book
Hawk, I’m Your Brother
Honk, Honk, Goose
Hummingbirds ZOOBOOK
I See a Kookaburra! Discovering Animal Habitats Around the World
Knut How One Little Polar Bear Captivated the World
Long Night Moon
Lost In The Woods: A Photographic Fantasy
Make Way For Ducklings
My Visit to the Aquarium
Night in the Country
On the Way to the Beach
OWL MOON by Jane Yolen
OWLS by Gail Gibbons
Rock Picker’s Guide to Lake Superior’s North Shore
Science Experiments & Amusements for Children
The Emperor's Egg
The Night of the Fireflies
The Pumpkin Book
The Sea House
The Vegetables We Eat
There is a Tree
Tracks in the Wild
Trees, Leaves, and Bark
Volcanoes and Earthquakes
Wait Till the Moon is Full
WETLANDS A Survival Story
White Owl, Barn Owl

Hope you enjoy her website!

What are you wondering????

Sorry I have been a little inactive, but I have been having a blast with my family for Thanksgiving, my friends at our VAST conference and my students...but now, I am ready to blog again! 

So as I sit by my computer today, I am thinking about wondering...

Do you wonder?
Do you ask your students to wonder?

Scientists wouldn't be anywhere without that magic word.  This magical time of year is the perfect time to wonder in your classroom, too.

 I have created several wonder sheets that are available for FREE on my Teachers Pay Teachers website that will help you implement wondering in your classroom.  This first packet will be the wonderings of weather and winter.  I have used photos to spark the creativity in us all.  You can use these as warm ups, morning work, and even homework. 

Check them out:

Also, I am really curious as to what you are wondering about science instruction.  I am about to be at home for four weeks as I recover from surgery and would love to be able to devote some time to answering your questions.  Please leave me a comment and I will make sure to read them and hopefully answer them.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Teacher Resources on FOSSweb

Okay so yesterday I walked you through parts of the website.  Today we are going to look at the most important part...Teacher Resources. 

Just to remind you...

1.  Go to your grade level band on the right side (grades 3-5)
2. Click on the module you want to explore - Magnetism and Electricity
3. Click on the Parent/Teacher resources section

Now we are here! 

1.  Module Summary - gives you a basic description of what you will learn during this module
2. Home School Connection - gives you access to the family newsletter, math problem of the week, project ideas and home/school connections
3.  Teacher Resources:
The Resource Database has a collection of non-fiction and fiction books that complement the unit as well as recommended videos, websites and software.
Module Teaching Notes:  This is a forum where people have added tips, background knowledge and information about materials.
If there is a change that needs to be made post publication date, this is where you would find it.
Duplication_mastersThis is where you will find copies of the worksheets that go along with every investigation in both full size and half-size sheets.  You will also find them in Spanish.
updatesThis is where you can find the MSDS on all the materials for the unit.
notesLOVE THIS!  You can watch a teacher do a lesson as well as learn how to get the materials ready for each investigation. Great for a refresher to see how to teach the lesson.
science outdoorsIf you see this, then that means there is an activity that you can do outside that matches the content you are teaching during this unit. These were designed for teachers in any school setting - urban and rural.
audioYou can listen to each of the stories from the readers read aloud.  Great for your students who may read at a lower level.
phot cardsActual photographs of the equipment needed for each activity.  Great for ELL learners!!!

Hope this helps you explore .  Enjoy!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Navigating the FOSS website....

This weekend I had the great opportunity to work for Delta/FOSS at the Virginia Association of Science Teachers Workshop.  I was able to present on Science Notebooks as well as how using Inquiry Science has helped raise my Reading Scores. 

While there, I talked to several teachers who wanted some help navigating the FOSS website.Right now we are in transition from the current website to the newer third edition site.  The third edition site is available for free right now, but will soon be only available to teachers using the new program.  I will talk about that website on another day.  Today I will talk about the current website and all the FREE resources.  So, here it is...

First, go to

Wow - there is so much to see!  On the left hand side, you can find all the current news, newsletters and professional development activities available.

At the bottom of the left hand side is a box that says: Beyond the Classroom  This is where you can find a lot of good information about Outdoor Education.
 Outdoor Biology Instructional Strategies     Taking FOSS Outdoors  These are both really good initiatives that are research based and full of information.  FOSS feels very strongly about outdoor education and use "Last Child in the Woods" as it's research base. 

On the right side is the grade level section. It is broken into K-2, 3-5 and Middle School. 

Once you open up your grade level, you will see icons that match all of our modules. There are so many wonderful, research based units developed by the Lawrence Hall of Science and Dr. Lawrence Lowery. 

Okay, so now - pick a module.  I will walk you through Magnetism and Electricity - but all the modules have the same components.

imagesOn the right side you see...Activities, Media Resources and For Parents and Teachers.  The Activities section has interactive computer games that you can use on your smart board, projector or individually on the computer.  My students love these games and we even play the ones in the K-2 section as well...

Media Resources includes images, movies, audio stories, at the library and websites. This section also has vocabulary resources in Spanish and English as well as an Ask the Scientist section that answers many content related questions you may have.

Tomorrow, I will explore For Teachers and Parents.  There is so much there I need a whole blog to describe it all. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Descriptive Writing in Science?

I don't know about where you live, but here in Virginia the foliage is in peak season.  It just seems like the perfect time to get outside and do some observations.  It's time to touch, smell and notice! So how can we turn our observations into descriptive writing? 

In the new "Science-Centered Language Development" research developed by FOSS ( authors suggest that through observations of living organisms, an environment, an object or phenomenon we can recapture the sensory images clearly into very descriptive writing. 

So how do we start?  We start with a walk outside to observe a particular object or area.  Have the students take note of what they see, smell, hear, notice, etc... I have created a worksheet based on the suggestions by FOSS and the scaffold that they suggest. The frame sentences look something like this:

I observed ________________.  When I touch the _________ I feel _______________.  The ______has ____.  I noticed _____.  It feels ________.  It smells _________. It reminds me of ______ because ____________.

You can find a printer friendly version at Google Docs on the side bar for FREE!

When they come in, they take these notes and turn it into a paragraph.  You can remind the students to show, rather than tell, through the use of active verbs and vivid details.  I have found that by providing the scaffolded structure, the students know how to set up the paragraph better and end up spending more time on the descriptive wording. 

I'd love to hear what you think!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Another Vocab Strategy...cloze!

Here is another technique that I knew...but may have forgotten.  Back in the days when I taught k-2, I always made charts and used color.  I still do...but then, I was more interactive. I would often give students a word card and have them place it on a big book page, or in a pocket chart or even on a chart.  Why did I never think to do this with upper grades? 

Here is another strategy I "re-learned" at the FOSS embedded language workshop.  Why not take the information from your study guide and make a review chart on it?  Then hand out the vocab cards and have the kids tape them in the right spot? You can use it more than once...simply take the cards off and do it again. Our students with limited language knowledge really benefit from the repetition, the color and the concrete application. 

Next, I stepped it up a notch and added one for a scientific diagram.  Here in Virginia, we have to teach the students all the names of the part of the flower.  It is REALLY HARD for me to remember, much less, the students.  So, I made a diagram with the terms on them to practice several times as a warm up or review.

Let me caution,,,this does NOT take the place of the hands-on activity.  I wouldn't use either chart until the kids had had multiple exposure to plants in a hands-on way. Active engagement is KEY to understanding.  However, review and practice is too...