Thursday, September 29, 2011

Science Activity? or investigation?

Hmmm...when I see that title I think of one random activity that isn't really connected to a big idea.  Maybe it's because I spent many years teaching science that way...finding cookie cutter activities that were "cute" or "fun".  Things that kept the kids attention, but maybe didn't truly build their knowledge or understanding.  As I become more of an inquiry teacher, I am trying very hard to get away from this idea.

So instead...I'll talk about my next investigation that we will start on Monday.  We will be building terrariums to bring a school yard ecosystem into the classroom.  It will be a model of what happens outside.  On Monday the teachers will bring in:

4 glad ware containers (approx 6"x4")
grass seeds
potting soil

Each table group will build a terrarium with rocks, soil, and grass seeds.  Then we will put in a few worms.  Over the next few days we will watch it grow as a team and notice the changes in our terrariums.  We will attempt to capture some bugs from outside (crickets are fun!) to add to our habitat as well as some other factors such as sticks, leaves, etc..

The students will get to record data, take pictures, spray the habitat with mist (water) and learn about the components of a community, the role or niche of the worm, understand the population of crickets are carnivores and need other bugs to eat or they will die, etc... This is a great lead into the unit on Food Chains and Food Webs as well.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Science Freebies...

If you go to  my site with Teachers Pay Teachers you can get three FREEBIES!

  1. Science Rubric for Science Notebooks.
  2. Beach Artifacts
  3. How do animals adapt - structurally and behaviorally? 
  4. Mentos Experiment - today only!
But...if you want to buy a brand new unit...that is available too!  Check out my brand new unit:
Ecosystems in the Schoolyard. It is available for $3.50. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Links to Favorite Science Websites...

Gosh...don't you love good websites?  When thinking about this post, I decided to group the posts into websites for teachers (professional growth) and websites for students.  That way you can find what you are interested in quickly.

Teacher Sites:  I know I speak of this like I'm a groupie for the company (okay, I kinda am....) but this site is the BEST.  This has so much research based information on it that will, hands-down, make you a better teacher....not only in science, but in all subjects.

That being said:  the second one is .  This website has a ton of information on integrating literacy with science content.  I have used all of the strategy guides from this program and I love, love, love them.  The books, the philosophy, the questioning, the ideas for oral language....amazing to say the least.

Now, I will also share a few other sites that I go to from time to time to get information on science inquiry:

  • is a great place to watch videos of inquiry in action and to pick up some resources for your professional growth.
  • If you are not a member, this is a great organization to belong to. Not only are the conferences amazing, but the professional books and magazine (Science and Children) are awesome! There is a section called SciLinks that has some wonderful resources to use and everything is research based.
  • Where all the magic happens!  Go check this one out tonight.

Kids Sites:

Those are my six favorites! Enjoy!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Favorite Books for Science Units

In keeping with Science Week...I thought I'd post a few of my favorite science books as well. 

Here are a few of my favorite books to start off the year -

  •  Monday with a Mad Genius by Mary Pope Osburn is a Jack and Annie tale where they travel back in time to meet Leonardo Da Vinci.  That in itself is a cool idea - but what makes this book special is that they follow him throughout his day and see his ups and downs.  The book shows that even Leonardo made mistakes and yet he kept on investigating and learning.  The book also talks about combining drawing with science and even talks about his SCIENCE NOTEBOOKS.  It is a wonderful story and a great start to the year.

  • Boy Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs:  This is another great book for the start of the year because it talks about how scientists have changed their thinking over the years.  It talks about theories that were once univerally accepted that are no longer true! Great book!

  • I love just about any book from Seeds of Science Roots of Reading...but my favorite is definately Why Do Scientists Diagree?  I love this book on so many levels - first, it shows scientists in all forms - old, young, women, men, African American, Indian, Caucasian, Hispanic and Asian...second, it talks about how scientists must talk through their ideas together.  Sometimes they disagree and sometimes they even get mad. I also love this books because it is a story within a story - on one side it shows the historical conflict between Galileo and his colleagues and on the other side it shows modern scientists disagreeing. 
Another great Seeds book is Drinking Cleopatra's Tears.  This book explains the Water Cycle in a question and answer format that is fun to read and informative too.  It is also a little gross - like the part where we may be drinking a dinosaur's sweat.  Kids love it!

Oh I could go on and on with this post...but will stop for now.  I like the idea of showcasing books used in a unit.  Our next unit is on Ecosystems: Plants and Animal Adaptations.  If you would like, I can try to highlight the books we are using in class.

Gotta Run!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday...what's for dinner???

So...I know I'm a Science Gal...but I'm also a mom like so many of you out there.  This weekend has been crazy with running between baseball pictures and soccer games.  Who has time to think about dinner for the week?  I just found some blogs that I am loving and thought I would share.
  Mommy's Kitchen blog is all about making yummy, kid friendly comfort foods. Now, some of them are not easy...but they sure look delicious. I am attempting to make her Spaghetti and Meatballs as well as the Pork Chops from the September menu this week.

Well, now that I found that one...I searched for more.

Busy Moms RecipesBusy Moms Tips
So the next one I found is right up my ally - Busy Moms!  Yes that is definitely me. She has recipes and links to other busy mom blogs.
Besides...if I'm honest...I like her logo!

Busy Moms TipsShe also has a second blog called BusyMomTips which is great for the organizationally challenged as I am...She lays out all the things I never think of. Why is it that I am so good at preparing things for my classroom and so bad at it at home??? Thank GOD I have an amazing husband who does most of the thinking for me!  Love the logo!

A Busy Mom's Slow Cooker AdventuresSaving my favorite for last...this blogger is also a teacher!  I didn't know that when I found her, but as I read her blog I realized she teaches too.  So you know she knows our lives. She also has some super cute links on the side that I am going to check out ASAP... 

But that's it for now...gotta run to a soccer game, then over to WalMart for grocery shopping and maybe a little time to read a book just for fun....  Don't forget....tomorrow starts Science Week on TeachingBlogAddict.  I have prepared my own posts to go along with their themes since I am not a featured author ... yet!

Saturday, September 24, 2011 you assess science notebooks?

I know this is probably a personal choice for many of you...but I think the answer should be YES!  If we are expecting to see true scientific thinking in their notebooks then wouldn't it be the perfect place for a piece into their minds?  Granted...when I think of assessments I think of it in a standards based format.  My school division uses a rubric based report card for grades K-5. Therefore everything we do is assessed on the 4 point scale and science notebooking falls into that perfectly.

Today I have included my rubric for FREE at Teachers Pay Teachers.  I use this to help me assess the writing, data and reflection pieces of our notebooks.  For me this is not about neatness, grammar or spelling - this is about science thinking and content.

If you do grade on a traditional A,B,C scale...I think you could still use the rubric to help you as a formative assessment piece.  It usually gives me an indication as to what my kids still need practice on, what misconceptions there may be or what I may need to teach again. 

I also use a self-assessment piece..but I will save that for another blog. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sharing student work...try not to judge...

Boys Vs. Girls

I wanted to share with you some work samples from the variables/constant lesson:  Here you see one of my students drawing of the reaction with the mountain dew and the root beer with mentos. You may notice that he draws a slightly smaller "eruption" than we got with the diet where near as tall as Mr. Curtin, my colleague. The second journal shows about the same in the drawing, yet
you can also see a writing sample recording what was the same and what was different. Both of these samples are from some of my boys.  I wanted to share them today because they may lack color and may not be as pretty as my girls drawings - but they still include the important information and details.   As a mother of two young boys, I have often observed that most boys simply do not have the same fine motor as our girls.  And sometimes...teachers judge them on this.  Make sure that when you are assessing a student notebook entry you are assessing the content, the process and the scientific thinking - and not the ART WORK.

Don't get me wrong...I believe that visual representations are a HUGE tool in our classrooms.  In fact, I often think boys retain more when they draw what they are thinking..but again, keep in mind...what is the purpose?  What are we learning?  Not how neat it is or how "good" the drawing is.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

one more thing...

I am also contributing to this Linky Party on the Clutter-Free Classroom blog!  Looks like fun!

Observations Vs. Inference

Have you ever noticed how hard it is for students to understand the difference between observations and inference?  Heck...I'll be even you have trouble telling the difference sometimes.... Last week we spent several days observing the interactions between mentos and sodas. Next we wanted to teach them the difference between what we observe and what we infer.   I went to one of my favorite units "Earthlets" from Picture Perfect Science Units.  

We read the story Dr. Xargles Earthlets.  This story is about a professor from another planet (I usually say planet X) who has spent several year researching and observing earthlets.  Earthlets are babies...and Dr. Xargle is way off!  He tells how the parents of earthlets must dry the earthlets off in order to stop them from shrinking! that true?  No!  We tell them that he is making an inference which is a guess based on what he knows. 

Picture Perfect then has sentence cards to sort based on observation and inference, has a practice sheet of a man with a broken leg, and even a quiz.  The students love it and it is an excellent introduction to inferences for the year. 

I love to show my students a picture of a wet dog and ask the students to list all the reasons why he may be wet.  This is what they came up with today:
  • He went swimming.
  • It was raining.
  • He was squirted with a hose
  • or a squirt gun! 
  • He jumped in a puddle.
  • He jumped in a pool.
These are all inferences based on our experiences and they may make senses....we need more details to know how exactly he got wet. 

I suggest you pick a picture a day and ask kids to infer what happened as well as make observations  on a class chart or even in your notebook.
 A T chart would work wonderfully:

Observations   vs. Inferences 
wet                           went swimming
 blue sky                   jumped in a pool

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Next week is Science Week

Hi!  I am actually in a rush to run to my son Jack's baseball game...but before I do, I wanted to share with you this info:

I don't know anymore than you do...but I thought I'd post it on my blog!

REALLY...gotta run!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Woo Hoo...I was nominated for an award!

I opened my blog this morning (with a cup of hot coffee no doubt) only to see I had been nominated for a Versitile Blogger award by Life is Better Messy Anyway! blogger Jordon (the Messy girl!)  Wow...what an honor and surprise.  Thank you Messy Girl!

Here are the next steps:

1) Link back to those that nominated you and thank them.

2) Share 7 things about yourself .

3) Pass the award on to 15 other blogs that you know and love.
Here are 7 things about me: 
1.  I love to read....fluff books! Especially books about shopping and silly, hot-mess women in England. 
2.  I am secretly a "slummy mummy" - my husband is the true "wife" of our family!
3.  I love to laugh and look at things from the bright side.
4.  I think that comes from having a son with with a high-functioning child with autism can be challenging at it is good to take a break and laugh!
5.  I love coffee - especially pumpkin spice latte!
6.  I have an adorable puppy named Peyton who is my pride and joy!
7.  I spent this weekend with my other son at his two soccer games and one baseball game - so I am a soccer/baseball mom on the side!
Okay now the fun part....I get to choose 15 of my favorite blogs!

Enjoy reading theses blogs...I know I do EVERYDAY!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Let's talk about exit cards...

Do you use exit cards?  I do  and I love them.  They are quick, easy formative assessments that can give you a quick snapshot into what your students are taking away from your lesson.  But just as with any good strategy:  Don't forget to model!

Last week, during our mentos experiment the students had a chance to present their wonderings for us to choose the next day's experiment.  We always collect the cards to see - who wants to try a different soda, different candy or different number of mentos?  This is our introduction to the terms variables and constants.  After the kids leave, my colleagues and I will sort them out and "choose" the best one to try the next day.  This year we tried it with White Lightening Mountain Dew and also Root Beer.  The Root Beer was cool because it made a lot of bubbles! But the white lightening was a dud - too much sugar I'm guessing....

Anyway...when it was time for the exit card I wrote on a model:

I wonder what will happen if....

I hope you can read the responses of several of my students.  They were excellent and detailed.  You can see my model that is in the middle of the stack.  The more I model, the better the students responses are.  I truly think the model helps to take the guesswork out of how should I start and what should I say?

Anyway...this week, we will be designing our own Mentos and soda investigations and will (hopefully) blast them off on Friday.  I am hoping to take some pictures to post of the explosions!

For more information about the Mentos experiment, check out some of my "older" blogs!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Clarification....Where is that pesky folio????

Some of you have asked...where is the new FOSS science-centered language folio.  I'll is hard to find, until you know where to look.  So today...your homework is to find it! :)

1. Go to
2. Click on the third edition section
3.  You may have to register as a guest - it only asks you if you are a teacher, from what state and what grade.
4.  Then...once you are in...go to any module that is completed.  For example under 3-6 you can go to Measuring Matter. 
5. Once there...scroll down to Teacher Resources.
6.  Viola! It is there - click on Science-Centered Language and you will see the PDF.  You can not save it at this time...but you can read it and print it!

Have fun exploring!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Show and Tell

Today was our first day of the Mentos Experiment (which you can find at my TPT store - I'll put the link at the bottom just in case you want to check it out)!  I thought I would show you some examples of my teacher journal:

You can see that I wrote the focus question, the Prediction (P in the triangle) sentence frame, and then drew an example of my observation.

Now, let's look at what the students did.

I hope you can read this...I am currently having a love/hate relationship with my scanner and the Internet.  She copied the focus question and then wrote her own prediction:

"I think that the mento will sink and dissolve over a few days.  When a teacher drops the mento in the diet coke I think it will fizz then sink."

She had obviously seen the experiment before!

Next look at her observations.  First you can tell she put a lot more detail in the pictures than I did.  The man next to the soda is my colleague who is about six feet something and the kids used him as our measurement.  Was it taller than him?

Her written observation stated:

"I observed that...
1. When the diet coke erupted that it was a light brown.
2. Before it erupted it fizzed up then the fizz erupted first.
3.  After the eruption it smelled like a candle to me.
4.  During the eruption at the top of the erupting soda it sort of flattened and then fell to the ground."

Needless to say...I am pleasantly pleased with the way our class journal helped her format her own journal entry without it being a "cookie cutter" fill in the blank approach to science.

Any thoughts out there? If you want to see the whole unit, it is available for $5 at my store:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sentence frames make for richer discussions....

We can use as many structures and routines laid out by the experts to facilitate group discussions, but if your students don't have the language background...the discussions may be futile.

I know from which I speak.  My school is a wonderful school, but over the years we have increased in our low socio-economic population. With this population, comes deficits - most notably in language acquisition.  Now, don't get me wrong...I absolutely adore this population of students in my classroom! I learn as much from them as they do (hopefully) from me.  One of the things that I have learned from them is that best practices do work - but they need scaffolding. 

From my work with FOSS and SEEDS of Science I have learned just how important language scaffolding can be to truly understanding science vocabulary.  We know this is true and so we model when we write in our notebooks using sentence frames such as "I noticed...."  BUT have you ever thought about using sentence frames for discussions???

Last night I was reading from the folio on "Science-Centered Language Development" available on the new FOSS website and sat up in my bed and said .... DUH!  (really loud too)  On page 9 they suggest when leading a discussion, give the students the sentence frame as a model for discussion.  Did I just hear you say duh too!Why did I never think of that???? time you have a discussion and you want the students to talk with a partner or in a triad write a sentence frame on the board to facilitate even richer discussions.  I would start with only one or two (depending on the class make up) and then gradually add to them on a chart or poster. 
  • I think______________ because_______________
  • I predict ______________because________________
  • I claim________________ my evidence is ______________
  • I agree with _______________that ________________
  • My idea is similar/related to __________________'s idea
  • I learned/discovered/heard that__________________
  • (Name) explained ____________ to me
  • (Name) shared _______________ with me
  • We decided/agreed that _______________
  • Our group sees it differently, because ________________
  • We have different observations/results.  Some of us found ____________ while others think__________________
  • We had a different approach/idea/solution/answer _________
I think you will agree that this would benefit ALL of your students...not just a few. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Speaking and Listening in science

   Think about this:  If your students aren't talking in science, chances are they aren't fully processing what they are learning either...hmmmm....

Good science instruction should start with a discussion - not a lecture.  Teacher pose a question to review a concept or vocabulary word presented in a previous lesson or simply introduce the focus question for the new lesson.  The conversation begins...

Let's talk about whole class discussion protocols:

  • Think-pair-share:  when I want the whole class engaged (and not zoning off) I will pose a question for them to answer. First, give them a minute or two to think - then they share their answer with a partner. This can be as simple as turn to your neighbor or visiting a clock buddy (cooperative grouping strategy).  Why I like this:  I have noticed that this allows my quiet, less outgoing students a chance to express what they are thinking in a safe and meaningful way.  Many of our students need to talk through their thinking for meaning connections and this is a perfect way to provide this structure.
  • Pick a stick:     Write every students name on a craft stick and put in a cup.  Some teachers even put their own name on a stick so that they can express an idea!    One new suggestion I saw was to put tape across the middle of the cup so you can store the names you have called on one spot...Why I like this: This is a great way to keep you honest!This allows you to call on names randomly and give everyone a chance.
  • Whip around: Each student take a quick turn sharing a thought or reaction in a circle or at their desks.  Questions are phrased to elicit quick responses that can be answered in a few words.  Ex:  Name an animal that lives in a pond ecosystem...Why I like this:  It's quick and fun!
  • Group posters:  Have the small group record their ideas on a poster and do a quick share or gallery walk.  Why I like this:  It allows kids to work together and it is a quick snapshot into the group's, it is a tangible record you can display in your classroom!

PS:  Tomorrow: I will discuss Partner and Small group discussions...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Science-Centered Language Development

Have I told you how much I love the FOSS 3rd  edition revisions? Oh my goodness...the more I explore, the more I love it.     I have been invited to attend a special session for FOSS consultants at the Hartford, CN NSTA regional conference in October.  I will get more extensive training which I can not wait to share with you! 

 Today I want to talk to you about a brand new component - Science-Centered Language Development.  To download the whole folio please go to my documents section and download it for FREE!!  You can also find it and more on the new and improved website:

The new folio is divided into sections:
  • The role of language in scientific practices
  • speaking and listening domain
  • writing domain
  • reading domain
  • science-vocabulary deelopment
  • english language support
Let's talk about the importance of language in science...if you don't know the correct terms to describe what you are doing, you are significantly impaired.  You may actually understand the process and the concept but will not accurately be able to express your writing, conversations and dare I say...on state mandated tests????

The Role of Language:

The Framework for Science Education (National Research Council 2010) laid out these seven key practices and language functions essential for best practices in science education:
  1. Asking questions
  2. Collecting, analyzing and interpreting data
  3. Constructing explanations and critiquing arguments
  4. Modeling
  5. Making predictions (devising testable hypotheses)
  6. Communicating and interpreting science
  7. Applying and using scientific knowledge
Wow...sounds kind of like the process we are using in our science notebooks, doesn't it????  Here's another tidbit to keep in your head:

 "Research supports the claim that when students are intentionally using language functions in thinking about and communicating in science, they not only imrpove science content knowledge but also language-arts and mathematics skills."

This week I will highlight one of the domains listed above and try to make it come alive in our classrooms. 

I hope it will help you grow as a professional this week!