Science, Coffee, and Chocolate

Science, Coffee, and Chocolate

Monday, July 20, 2015

Get Pumped!

Good Morning Everyone,

It's a beautiful sunny day and after a nice vacation with family and friends I am back to the grindstone. I only have 2 days of summer vacation left, and though I didn't get everything accomplished that I wanted to this summer, I am glad to say that I am excited for the new school year and the opportunities to try out my new ISN methods.

I am partnering with my cousin, Adam Suscheck, who is a graphic designer for the worksheets that I will be posting on my Teacher's Pay Teacher's store. Everything that I discuss in the blog will be available to you and will be made beautiful by my favorite cousin. I hope you enjoy.

Today's post is simple, I want to share two articles with you that I read this summer, and that I believe sums up my teaching philosophy. The first is an article called, "Great Teachers Don't Teach." It can be found here:

The article is about putting our students in the drivers seat of their learning and teacher's being, more or less, the backseat drivers. It's a great read and one that I strongly encourage you to check out.

The second article is about inspiring teachers to think outside the box on the first day of school. The article encourages teachers to stop the mundane talking at the students about rules, and instead starting the first day off with a bang. Why not make the first day memorable? Why not want the students to remember your class more than the others and have them excited to come see what you have in store for them for day 2. Learning can be fun. Let's start making it that way! The article can be found here:

Enjoy the rest of your summer vacation, soak up some sun, and eat some chocolate!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Interactive Science Notebooks

I started off the lovely cloudy day today (I say lovely because in Phoenix we do not get enough cloudy days) by creating my teacher copy of my Interactive Notebook. You are not going to be able to be successful using Interactive Notebooks if you do not keep a copy yourself of exactly what the student's should have and where. You are also going to need to model for them each step of cutting out and gluing, even in middle school. The important thing to remember is that the first few months of school you have to do a lot of hand holding and have the patience of a Saint, and that means that the rest of the school year "should" be smooth sailing. Here's how I set up my notebook...

I gathered all the necessary materials and flooded my kitchen table, including my chocolate peanut butter, and banana breakfast smoothie. If you look closely you might be able to spot my cat. Why would I be able to do work without him?

I use a 1 Subject 5 Star Notebook (100 Pages.)

The first Page I leave blank. This will be the student's opportunity to tell me about themselves and really personalize their Interactive Science Notebooks.

The next 5 pages are dedicated to the table of contents. I marked the page numbers for the table of contents as X, and have filled in the table of contents entries I have made in my notebook. I will be showing you the rest of those entries. 

Here is the front of my "Contract" that outlines the materials the students need, rules, expectations, and homework, make up work, and late work policies. 

This is the back of the document where the students and parents sign acknowledging the rules and expectations for the class. This is printed on 8.5 X 14 paper in order to be folded into the notebook.

I then fold the document and glue it into the the Interactive Science Notebook on Page 1. This way the students and parents always have access to the rules and expectations and during any parent meetings I can show them this document if they have any questions about my expectations. 

Pages 2 and 3 of the Interactive Science Notebook are the guidelines for the students of what goes on the left sides and right sides of the notebook. This way they know their options and have a reference tool in class. Students will ask you the same question 10,000 times, (not really but as a teacher it feels that way) so instead of getting exasperated, refer them to the guidelines pages. This will be available in my Teacher's Pay Teacher's store (soon) along with the other things I am posting today. 

Page 4 is the instructions for the writing assignment that all students will have to complete at the end of each unit. This will give the students practice at using their Interactive Notebooks as a resource and give them a chance to explain what they have learned in science using their writing skills. Page 5 is the rubric for the notebook. This is just a reference for the students. I will attach the rubric to each section I grade in class. These can be found free online here: 
They are from the book "Teaching Science with Interactive Notebooks," which is a great resource if you are new to teaching or note-booking. 

The last 5 pages of the notebook are dedicated to the science vocabulary word index. Each time the students learn vocabulary words and put them in their notebooks, I will have them fill out the index. That way, when a student can't remember the definition they have a very quick way to find the word they need to know and refresh their memory.  This will be available in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. 

The back inside cover of the notebook will be used for three very important things. The first is a Formula Reference Sheet. That is the paper above the envelope. The Formula Reference Sheet will be where the students record any formulas they learn throughout the year. For example, density. The envelope is to keep small cut out pieces if we didn't get to finish a project in class that day so the students can't lost the items, and the last is a periodic table. Gluing these items this way ensures that the students can use them while they are working in their notebooks instead of flipping to the back to refer to them. Once they are done they can fold the contents back into their notebook.

You glue the formula sheet down first, then the periodic table to the side, and then the envelope on top, and then you fold down the formula sheet. 

You fold the periodic table, (which is printed on 8.5 X 14 paper so it can be folded to fit this way) on top of the envelope. This ensures that everything fits inside the notebook, and it protects the envelope and it's contents. 

I will spend the first week of school setting this up with the students and doing a few activities that will get them to learn how to use them. I will share those with you in my next post. Please ask any questions or feel free to share your ideas about Interactive Notebooks! Now...for another cup of coffee.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

You're Out of Your Element

I moved to Arizona a year ago ready for a new teaching adventure. I had a dream job in a private school in Pennsylvania teaching 40 kids a day, taking them on field trips every month, and no need for all the crazy organizational skills of most middle school teachers. (I mean it was only 40 kids).

I arrive in Arizona, start my new job, and the picture above sums up completely how I felt. Besides the obvious of posting John Goodman in one of his funniest and most iconic roles, the statement is how I felt...out of my element. I reflect back on the hardest year of teaching I've ever had and see the mistakes I made. Working in an inner city Phoenix Title 1 school was hard...really hard, but not hard in the way you would think.

The students were great. Sure there were behavior problems, and the "I'm a tough guy" attitude while trying to intimidate his 5'3'' blonde teacher, but I loved the kids. They were funny, and interesting, and different from me in every way possible. Race, demographics, socioeconomic status, and culture. I loved learning from them. The problem wasn't them...

The problem was me trying to figure out how to teach them with the little resources I had. With no science lab, an almost non-existent budget, and no technology resources I was stumped. The other factor was this was a HUGE ESL population. They were almost all second language learners. They learn differently. I quickly figured that out, while I slowly adapted to it.

So...this school year I am in a new school, fully junior high, with a science lab and a few more resources for science teachers. However, the school is still Title 1, I still have a huge ESL population and I'm starting all over again as a teacher for third time.

In this blog I hope to share with you what I learn, my experiences, and create a resource for science teachers. I will be implementing Interactive Science Notebooks (I used to use binders, never again. DO NOT USE BINDERS!!), new differentiated instruction strategies, and hands on learning strategies.

I'm In My Element is the name of my blog because I realized I was never out of my element. I just needed the information to create a new plan of attack. Now I need some coffee.