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Custer State Park

Custer State Park

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.