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Custer State Park

Custer State Park

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Check for Understanding Graphic Organizers

We have been out of school for two weeks and I am already losing track of which day is which! Apparently, I need to consult my planner more than I originally thought.

There are so many types of graphic organizers out there! Here are a couple that I really like:

Connections, Points & Questions


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Online Practice

As a PLC, we have created resources for students to use to practice at home in preparation for tests.

The first one is Quizlet. The account is free for teachers to sign up and students do not need a login. It's great for vocabulary practice. Things your students can do with Quizlet:

  • Take practice tests and receive immediate feedback on performance
  • Play Scatter: version of memory where the student matches definitions to the term while a timer goes
  • Play Gravity: answer questions before an asteroid hits the planet
  • Flashcards: digital versions of flashcards that can include pictures and pronunciations, if you choose to add them

The second is a newer option to my school district. We have begun GAFE training for our students and one of the apps you can use is Google Forms. Google Forms is great for working like a review guide because students can practice both vocabulary, labeling and processes. We have it set up so students can use a Form as many times as they desire. When paired with Flubaroo, students can receive instant feedback on their performance after you have created an answer key.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Red, Blue, and Black Ink Activity

Something I have learned from my PLC is this pen activity for comprehension checks using different colored pens on a worksheet. In science, our review sheets typically have vocabulary, comparisons, and a little bit of analyzing. This is done shortly after the direct instruction piece, but never the same day as the material is introduced or assessed. It's a diagnostic tool.

The students are given anywhere from 8-10 minutes for a single-sided worksheet. (I usually allot one minute per question.) 
  1. Students work independently using the black pen. This represents what they know or believe they know. 
  2. Students go up front, where I have a cup of blue pens placed and partner up with the first person they see grabbing a blue pen. Together, they review their answers and help each other fill in any gaps.
  3. Students grab a red pen and work independently again. This time, they are allowed to use their book or notes to fill in the remaining pieces and double check their work.
I emphasize to my students that areas that are in blue and red should be fewer than the black ink. Their goal is to practice the areas of the blue and red ink.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Convection Currents

My cohort and I realized that our students were scoring low on a question about the relationship between density and temperature on our check point.

I created something similar for the students to draw in their notebooks and we viewed a couple things as we discussed, like this amazing convection current video and this animation of molecules and temperature from Middle School Chemistry.

I think it helped clear up a few cobwebs. We'll find out more over the next week!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

On the Fly Review

There are times when a teacher finds a couple minutes are left at the end of class. There's not enough time to start on something new, like tomorrow's lesson. These precious minutes should never go to waste. There are a couple games I have learned and invented to engage my students in review of our science material.

Sparkle (or Crystalline Reflection): This was a game that my students knew from language arts to practice spelling. I adapted it to fit a science classroom. I have the whole class stand up and I will ask students to spell out the answer to the question I pose. Going down the row of students, one at a time, each provides the next letter to spell the answer. If someone says the incorrect letter, they sit down and the next student restarts the word. Once the answer has been spelled out, the next student declares "sparkle" and the student after them has to sit down.

Last Scientist Standing: Similar to Sparkle, I pose a question to a student. If they know the answer, they stay standing and I give a new question to the next student. If the first student does not know the answer, they sit down and the question moves on to the next student. I don't repeat the questions so that all students have to pay attention.

Rock, Paper, Science: Students partner and listen for the trivia question. I count down from three and they shout the answer. If they are both right, they have a rematch. If they're both wrong, they sit down. If one student gets it right, they find a new partner and the student that missed it sits down.

My students have become so familiar with these games, that it requires little time to transition, but it did not require much explanation in the beginning either.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Review Game Templates

I had a co-worker ask today about resources for reviewing as a class.  That got me thinking about a couple resources that I downloaded years ago, but was not sure what I would find today, so I started to search. Here is what I found out:

Principal's Office

When I first started teaching, a co-worker introduced me to a fantastic show call "The Principal's Office". If you need a laugh, especially with the end of the school year. Enjoy! 

Monday, May 2, 2016


Last year, I observed a classroom using Kahoot! It is a free game reminiscent of when you play trivia against others at sports bars. You can create your own Kahoot games or find pre made games.

It works like this: you create questions (or find a game) that can have up to four answers with pictures. When your game is created, you launch it and give your students the game code. They create a nickname to play that doesn't require them to create an account. Once the game starts, you need to be able to project the question and the students can answer on their smart devices or computers.

My students absolutely love it! In fact, some of them have started writing their own review games and sharing them with me.

Feel free to check out my science and math Kahoot games! My user name is tmschield.

Saturday, April 30, 2016


ClassDojo is free data app. You create classes that allow you to track positive and negative behaviors, along with randomly selecting students and keeping attendance. There are inspirational videos and ways to upload photos of your class to share with parents. When you select a positive behavior, your smart device/computer gives off a happy chime. When you select a negative behavior, you hear a deflating noise. You can create reports of behaviors and attendance over any period of time.

This is how I use it:

  • Attendance: I keep track of who is in my class and who is not. There are often times that my students are present at school, but not in class. This allows me to keep track of students who are present for the lesson.
  • "Random Monster": This is what I call the random name generator. I use it to cold call my students so that everyone is accountable and no one feels picked on. It has made a huge difference in participation in my bell ringers. (Plus, then I don't have to grade the bell ringers. Peer pressure is a powerful motivator.)
  • Behavior: I use the "no homework" button to track when students forget their homework. This allows me to quickly see if there are patterns forming, because their monster will show how many points they have lost.
  • No sound/sharing: I keep the data just to myself. You can allow parents to log in to see how their student is doing, but I want it solely to be for me. I would rather communicate concerns in a more direct manner.
I believe this app can have a lot of power for making me more objective because students are randomly selected to answer questions and I can see numbers.

Friday, April 29, 2016


I discovered Plickers after an observation of a classroom last year. I have used clickers in my classroom, but have issues with batteries and can only retrieve reports after we are done reviewing.

Plickers uses a picture that can be scanned by a smart device. Depending on how the student orients their paper, they can have up to four different choices. Plickers is a free resource that you can create classes, question banks, and reports that show student percentages as well as question percentages. I use it for review. It offers real time data so you can see how your students are doing as you pose the question.

I am all about free resources!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Supply Tubs

I saw on the Teaching Channel with Amy Spies. She uses three drawer rubber maids for her students to hold classroom supplies and has a basket on top. Her students are seated in pods with the drawers in the middle. What a time saver!

Since I have a middle school science classroom, I had to modify her design to work for me. I repurposed salad containers and placed die cuts on each of them that correspond to tables in my room. The buckets contain highlighters, scissors, glue, tape, red pens, and a calculator. (At the beginning of the year, it was enough supplies for groups of four.) My students know to just grab the bucket when they need them and leave them tidy for the next class period. 
It was an easy thing to implement. Just a little training at the beginning of the school year and no extra cost since I was already purchasing the salad for my tortoise.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Respiratory STEM: Constructing Lung Models

We wanted to make the human body more interactive and more STEM based. I think all of us have seen the lung bottle made out of a water bottle, balloon, and straw, right? Rather than presenting the model to the students and have them identify the parts, I decided to challenge my students to building a working lung model. The problem they were provided was to inflate a balloon inside of a bottle without touching the balloon directly.

We spent a little time planning after they had read about the respiratory system. I gave them two days for construction. The first day, many students were trying to simply place a balloon in the bottle, attached to a straw. They thought it would be as simple as blowing in the straw. Boy, were they surprised!

I encouraged my students to think about how their bodies work, hoping they would think of the diaphragm. The picture below were the top contenders from each class. It was so cool to see their creativity and to help them conceptualize the respiratory system.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Teaching Channel

Another great free resource is the Teaching Channel. I used it when I was looking for ideas on teaching middle schoolers integers. On the website, I found a video and lesson plan for a scenario a teacher set up for her students to make it more tangible.

They email weekly with videos on various topics, like common core.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Teachers Pay Teachers

Teachers Pay Teachers is an addicting website! You can sign up for free and there are several free and cheap resources. The website sends a weekly email with 10 free downloads and usually two are science related.

One thing I have learned is that to be a good teacher I do not have to reinvent the wheel. (Not to mention the power of sharing ideas leads to greater things for the greater good.) I wish I had the talent of the contributors.

Anchor Activities

This year, I wanted to offer learning as it's own reward. I had originally created a binder of science-y extensions that students would look at when they're done. I learned quickly that it wasn't very effective. I was reading an article on differentiation and it suggested making extensions/anchor activities a requirement. I had an idea! I would create a tic-tac-toe board with options on activities related to our current topic. In my grade book, I have a "0" weight category for practice assignments, like checkpoints.

My students did a great job with our first go! For our physics unit, I created the board below. I wanted to incorporate different types of activities like review games, vocabulary posters, links, and quick labs.
To set one up for your classroom, choose activities for your tic-tac-toe board. 

  1. Create a tic-tac-toe board with titles, descriptions, a spot for their score, and your signature. Every student should receive one when you explain your plans.
  2. Create labeled folders with copies of any materials that students will need to complete the activities.
  3. Place the files in a crate that has instructions on the front. For example, I told students to choose their activities, complete them, and check their answers in the binder.
  4. Create a binder with answer keys for students to check their answers. I have mine in page protectors to help increase their longevity.
  5. If available, create a Google Classroom for students to have another mode to submit assignments.
It seems like the month timeline I have given my students was very doable for most. I broke it down and gave them reminders of where they should be by the end of the week.

I am so excited by the resources the students are creating. The posters are great for a colorful word wall. I can leave them up all year! They have created a couple Kahoot games and other review resources that I plan on using for stations to prepare for the unit assessment. Finally, the list of links have been phenomenal that they have found to delve further into the material. I have the list at the bottom because I think it's too great not to share.