Monday, August 18, 2014

Back to School, Back to School

Oh, back to school, back to school...
Tomorrow is my first day with students!  I can't believe that summer is officially over, and that I did not keep up with blogging (like I promised myself I would), but I am excited to get back into a routine and to meet all of my new students.  I am also going to try interactive science notebooks this year, so I have been working very hard preparing for those and hope to share a lot about my progress as the year goes on.
... and of course, it wouldn't be back to school without a HUGE sale!  TpT is throwing a one day sale, and my store will be an additional 20% off!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

6th Grade Camp and The Underground Railroad

Several years ago, we brought back sixth grade camp in our district.  For the past six years, we have been taking students for one overnight at a camp in northeastern Ohio called Camp Muskingum.  It is Ohio's FFA camp, and they put on a program called Nature's Classroom that is a wonderful experience for the students.  The staff does a phenomenal job and the students always talk about it for years.  (I mean, I still remember going to camp in elementary school).  Students participate in outdoor education activities, hikes and campfire.

 This year, we decided to take the students for two nights so that they could participate in a program called The Underground Railroad.  We were all a little hesitant about  going for an extra night (I think the teachers more than the kids because most of us have young kids at home), but we thought that we would try it out this year for the students.  It was a unanimous decision that we will be taking the kids for 2 nights from now on!  The Underground Railroad simulation was one of the greatest experiences I have ever had (as a teacher and a student).  The program was a simulation for students of what the underground railroad was really like in the 1860's.  A few other teachers and I decided to shadow a group, and could not believe how amazing this simulation was.  I was a little "scared" a few times, and the students were following every direction to a tee!  Everyone said that was their favorite part of the trip. 

The Underground Railroad at FFA Camp Muskingum takes an afternoon, and I strongly recommend it for any schools that are close enough to do it as a field trip (they will allow schools to come just for this), and or the entire camp for any schools in Ohio.  As always, it was a great experience!!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Last week was teacher appreciation week and our AWESOME student council, and our fabulous principal gave us these awesome gifts each day.  I love these ideas and definitely want to steal them to use with my students and my son's teachers some day! 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Peek at My Week

This week I am linking up with Jennifer for A Peek at My Week-

School is winding down here in Ohio, and the weather is finally starting to get warm.  Actually, we went from unseasonably low temperatures for the past several months to unseasonably high temperatures last week and this week.  Weird!  I love the warm weather though, so I'm not complaining.  We are officially down to ONLY 1 Monday of school left and with the nice weather, we are all starting to get little stir crazy!

This week is proving to be a challenge already with parent and district meetings regarding retentions and the fact that we are on normal schedule this week after being on an adjusted schedule last week for OAA testing.  Furthermore, students know that the test is over so they are starting to check out BIG TIME. 

Today, I am meeting with all of my students that are in danger of failing for the year to help them get a plan together for the last few weeks of school.  Many of them are only a few points away from failing or passing science for the year so I like to sit down with them and make sure that we are on the same page and help them get a plan together that will bring their grades up where they need to be.

I am teaching about the Atmosphere this week, and I have been trying to come up with engaging activities for the students that relate to the Atmosphere so that they will be learning, but also interested so that I do not have a ton of discipline issues.  On Thursday, we are doing a lab using a coffee filter and shop vac where students test our air quality.  I am planning on sharing about this later in the week (providing it's not a disaster).

In addition, I am also collecting and recording the last of the money from students for our HUGE, 3 day Nature's Classroom trip next week.  Students are very, very excited about it (All of the teachers are too). 

Finally, we have some rewards planned Friday afternoon for students that completed all of their Study Island (Math, Science and Reading) requirements.  This is a surprise, and we're not sure what we are doing yet, but we have been kicking around some pretty great ideas.  We try to outdo ourselves each year because it is hard work for the students and we like them to "brag" to the incoming sixth graders about how great the reward was!  Does anyone have any ideas?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Sparking Student Motivation: Fun with QR Codes Scavenger Hunt

I teach sixth grade science for a majority of my day.  However, for ACE (named for our mascot) Period, used as an intervention period for reading and math, I teach math.  As a former math teacher, I really enjoy teaching math one period of the day.  Last week, I designed a scavenger hunt using QR Codes and our new IPads to spark student motivation for our upcoming math achievement assessment.  I used this web-site to design the scavenger hunt.  It was VERY easy to use, and created the QR codes for me to print.  All  I had to do was print them and then "hide" them around the school.  Our wonderful tech coordinator downloaded a free QR Code Reader to all of the IPads for me (this would be time consuming if you had to do it yourself, but would only need to be done once).  When students scanned the QR code for each question, it took them to the Math Mania Scavenger hunt question for the respective number.
I turned the scavenger hunt into a competition for my students, and split them into pairs.  Making it a competition made it really exciting for the students.  We didn't finish it the first day, and students were talking about it all afternoon and the following morning.  Students loved searching for the codes (some of them were in plain sight and really easy to find, and others were hidden from view and took them quite a while to find).  Additionally, students were not allowed to move on to the next question until they had successfully solved the question that they were working on (and I made them explain how they found the answer and show work to prevent cheating).  This made the hunt even more exciting, because the lead changed between several different groups over the course of the two days.  Students were so focused on the scavenger hunt, that they didn't realize they were working on some very challenging math problems.  It was great to see them working/ learning and having fun at the same time

Be sure to check out more great ideas to spark student motivation here:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Coaster Creations Continued...

Our coaster creations continue in the sixth grade!  I was very proud of my students last week with all of the amazing coaster designs that they were able to come up with.  It was one of the best weeks I've had in my teaching career.  I love teaching science for those rare moments when students don't even realize how much they are learning because they are having so much fun!  However, like everything else in the world of education, it could use a few tweeks for next year.

Coaster Creation Lab

  • Very inexpensive 
  • excellent lab to use with groups; also worked excellent with my inclusion class and students with disabilities
  • video taping- students loved this, and it allowed them to identify design errors
  • labeling the actual coasters with potential and kinetic energy
  • discussing potential and kinetic energy (and completing interactive notes) before beginning coaster designs
  • need. more. time.  We only have 40 minute periods so students had to rebuild their coasters the second day which wasted A LOT of time.  I am kicking around the idea of buying a lot more pipe insulation for next year and then using an empty space where groups can leave their coasters set up for day 2.
  • A few groups got carried away with their designs at first and had a very hard time correcting all of their mistakes in order to create a successful coaster.  I was able to help most of the groups get on the right track, but a few of them slipped past me at first and then struggled toward the end.
This week, we are working in teams of 2 using the BrainPop Coaster Creator activity.  It is also our OAA testing week, so I thought using the coaster creator would be great this week because the students are usually fried after the test and it is very hard to keep them interested.  However, they love BrainPop and they love anything that they perceive to be a "game".

In this activity, students get to design a coaster.  They get to choose everything from the shape, color and number of cars, to the coaster's track.

After creating their designs, students can play a simulation of their coasters in which it either succeeds, gets stuck or crashes  They can go back to the design process and tweak their coasters as many times as necessary.

 Additionally, they get a final score for their design based on the coaster's difficulty, which I of course turned into a challenge for them to see who can get the best score.

So far, they are loving this!  What I love about it is that the activity includes fun aspects of the design process for the students, but it also shows the formulas for kinetic and potential energy, and the transfer between the two throughout the coaster, so students can see where their coaster was gaining and/ or losing energy.

We also used an app on the Ipads last week called Coaster.  I believe it is $0.99, and these two web-sites:

After having such a great experience with this unit, my head is buzzing with possible ideas for next year.  I am thinking everything from a Physics Day at school to a Physics day at an amusement park.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week, and a HUGE TpT Sale!

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!  We are testing this week, so it is not going to be that great around here this week. Everyone is usually a little stressed out during this week!

However, looking on the bright side- at least we will be done with state testing by the end of this week.  That is definitely something to celebrate!

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, Teachers Pay Teachers is throwing a HUGE Sale!  Many TpT stores (including mine) are offering 20% off and TpT is giving an additional 10% off with the code below.  The sale runs 5/6-5/7.  It's a great time to stock up on some new materials for next year, or get some great resources to finish the year strong.  Have a great week everyone!