“Giftedness is not what you do or how hard you work. It is who you are. You think differently. You experience life intensely. You care about injustice. You seek meaning. You appreciate and strive for the exquisite. You are painfully sensitive. You are extremely complex. You cherish integrity. Your truth-telling has gotten you in trouble. Should 98% of the population find you odd, seek the company of those who love you just the way you are. You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. You are utterly fascinating. Trust yourself!”

Linda Silverman~Gifted Development Center Denver

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Moving Onwards with Science Centres

Last week I wrote about how to set up your centres for science.  This week I would like to show you what they can look like in action.
Photo of Moving on With Science Centres @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Getting Started with Science Centres

Photo of Getting Started with Science Centres @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Where did September go?  Here it is October 1st and the month has just flown by.  I have met my new group of students, started to build a community of learners, had Meet the Teacher, ran Terry Fox and survived the school having a new roof installed during the hottest September on record.  

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Combined Grade Science and Technology

Combined Grades Science and Technology Centres

It's almost back to school time and most teachers don't want to even begin to think about going back. I have been thinking. . . but not about going back, but about combined grades. There have been big changes in my school this year and most teachers will have a combined (or split) grade next year. Once upon a time, years ago in my teaching career, I was referred to as the "Queen of Combined Grades". I had taught many years in a combined grade setting and wrote some curriculum documents for the Ministry of Education about how to teach in a combined grade. When I worked as an instructional leader/coach, I gave a series of workshops about teaching combined grades, and I often went into to schools to help teachers plan for their combined grades.

One of the strategies I always suggested when I was giving workshops or working in classrooms was to teach using centres. When I was teaching in the classroom, I realized that I could have students working at centres for math and science which would allow me to go around and observe, discuss and assess. I would find materials that would work in bins or tubs (often from my board's science kits) and then set up the centres. The kids would be given periods to rotate through the centres and experience hands on, minds on science. The hard part was always finding activities and investigations that would work for both grades, both topics AND work in centres.  

After spending at least the past decade thinking "It would great if someone would just go ahead and make combined grade centres for science and technology!", I decided to create my own. Below you can see some of students working on a centre from my Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms unit.

Combined Grades Science and Technology Centres

I am the first to admit that you have to put some effort into collecting the materials and putting the centres together, but once you have it done, your students (and you) will reap the benefits. Students can work at developing the same skills, while each group is investigating the grade level curriculum topic for their grade. The centres I have created include 10 different centres for each grade. These include a variety of hands-on, minds-on investigations and activities geared towards engaging students in the junior division.

Grade 5 Let's Explore Centre Card

Grade 4 Let's Explore Centre Card

Combined Grades Science and Technology Centres

I suggest that you introduce centres to your students early in the year. I do not use ONLY centres to teach my program.  A variety of approaches keep students engaged and learning. I like to show videos and often use powerpoint presentations to introduce a unit. I have also had presentations by groups such as Scientists in School to kick off or wrap up a unit. I also introduce and teach vocabulary as an essential part of student success in communicating their learning. The use of a word wall in a classroom can be a highly effective teaching strategy to improve literacy skills. Word wall activities encourage active student participation. Gestures, such as pointing to key words during a lesson, offer visual reinforcement which can be very helpful for students.  

Combined Grades Science and Technology Illustrated Word Wall
I created word walls to go along with all of my science and technology centres.  I know my students are more likely to use the correct terminology if I introduce it to them at the beginning of the unit. You can have students create their own visual dictionaries in their science notebooks, or you could print out the word wall cards and have them glue into an interactive notebook. The choices for use are endless.  I also find these vocabulary cards to be very effective with ESL and ELL learners.

Combined Grade Science Centres from Teachingisagift

If you are looking to try out some combined grade science and technology centres this year just click on the image above. Each MEGA BUNDLE includes SCIENCE CENTRES for BOTH grades and ILLUSTRATED WORD WALLS for both grades as well. These bundles are ready for immediate use in your classroom!  

Don't teach a COMBINED GRADE?  That's okay, all of my SCIENCE CENTRES and ILLUSTRATED WORD WALLS are available for individual grades as well.  

Illustrated Word Wall for Science and Technology from Teachingisagift

Ontario Curriculum Science Centres from Teachingisagift

Teachers Pay Teachers has declared that this is going to be the #bestyearever.  What are you doing to prepare for your best year? Leave a comment below and I will choose one winner who will receive an one Illustrated Word Wall of their choice.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

The End Is Near...

 I realize that I have not posted anything since Easter!  It seems as though this year flew by...so I thought I would show you how I am ending my year in my classroom.
Picture of Human Organ Systems OERB @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

These are our lift a flap bodies.  My final unit for science was Human Organ Systems and we used the OERB (Ontario Education Resource Bank) as an online, interactive way to learn about how our bodies work (see some examples of hands-on activities from the OERB below).  We also created these life sized bodies after reading about each of the organ systems.  The students took notes about each organ/system and then coloured the liftable flaps to match. The final step was assembling the completed bodies.  I think they turned out really well.  Like in real life, each body is different.

Picture of Human Organ Systems OERB @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Picture of Human Organ Systems OERB @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca
This is a finished "bionic arm" from the OERB unit on Human Organ Systems.  The students really learned in a hands on way, how the muscles and tendons work together to make the arm function.
Picture of  Human Organ Systems OERB @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

 One of the first hands on creations was the "neuron lab" from the OERB.  The students were able to demonstrate their understanding of how the neurons are created by making their own models.

Picture of Elementary School Graduation Ideas  @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca
As graduation is fast approaching, the students created these fantastic "pop-art" inspired pieces which will be used as decorations for the music room where we are holding the reception for family and friends.  Hanging 50 of these will be a challenge, but they will make an outstanding exhibit of student work!

Picture of Elementary School Graduation Ideas  @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca
These stars and silhouettes will be hung on the wall behind our stage.  They brighten up the gymnasium and make graduation a more personal event for each student.  The students look forward to taking home the silhouettes after graduation is over. 

Picture of Elementary School Graduation Ideas  @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

I like to give each student a personalized gift. This year I chose a framed poem.  I hope that my students cherish this gift as they continue on into middle school next year.

I also grabbed these lanyards at the local Dollar Tree.  I know a lot of the kids will be taking the bus or walking to school by themselves for the first time (bye bye school bus!), so I thought a lanyard would be helpful for their keys.

Picture of Elementary School Graduation Ideas  @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

On Friday when my students cleaned out their desks and took home their student planners for the last time, I sent this letter home to their parents as well.  It has been a pleasure teaching this class and I will miss them all!

Picture of Elementary School Graduation Ideas  @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

I know soon enough I will be in back to school mode, but for now, I need to finish out this week! What do you do for your classes at the end of the year?  Share your great ideas in the comments.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Happy Easter to my PEEPS!

Picture of Classroom Easter Egg Hunt from http://teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

School has been a whirlwind since I last posted but I wanted to share a quick and easy classroom Easter Egg hunt idea I had with you. Last year I purchased these adorable refillable, plastic Easter eggs from my local Dollar Tree. They have been sitting in my cupboard for over year. I knew I would find something to do with them!  

Classroom Easter Egg Hunt from http://teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

I decided to make up a little Easter egg hunt for my class this year. When they come back to school on Tuesday morning, they will find that I have hidden Easter eggs all over the classroom. Did I fill the eggs with chocolate? jelly beans? NOPE! I filled each egg with a math question. When the students find the egg, they will open it, complete the math question and record their answer on the sheet provided and bring it to me to check. If the answer is correct, they will hide the egg again and find a new one.  I have hidden 30 eggs, but you could make and hide as many as you want.

Picture of Classroom Easter Egg Hunt from http://teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

I made up a little editable PDF so you could quickly type in your own questions (they don't have to be math questions, they can be anything you want). Print these off, cut them up and put them inside the eggs you already have (or are going to buy on clearance tomorrow since Easter will be over!). Tuesday morning, quickly hide them around your classroom and be ready for the fun to begin. I am going to give each child some sort of small (think jelly beans) candy for each correct answer, and perhaps have a larger prize for those who manage to find and correctly answer all the questions. It will all depend on what I can find on sale tomorrow after Easter is over.

Picture of Classroom Easter Egg Hunt from http://teachingisagift.blogspot.ca
When you open the file you will see blue boxes.  Just type whatever you want into the boxes.  Be sure to save under a new file name so you keep your original clear, in case you want to create new questions next year.  

You can grab this FREEBIE by clicking on the image below.  

Picture of Classroom Easter Egg Hunt from http://teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Using Centers to Learn About Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms

I have blogged about using centers or stations for teaching science before.  I have used this method as part of my elementary science and technology instruction for as long as I have been teaching (that happens to be 25 years this year!).  Teaching a topic such as Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms (what doing what to what?) can be overwhelming to even the most enthusiastic teacher.   There is a constant struggle to find the appropriate balance between teaching content and letting the students experience hands on experiments and investigations.  Using centers to supplement your program will allow you to develop inquiry skills while still building student knowledge and understanding of content.  

I chose to create stations for the topic Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms because I just didn't find that using the materials I had was working for my style of teaching, or for my students.  

Why should you use centers?  

According to the NSTA (National Science Teacher's Association) "The Station Approach is a method of instruction in which small groups of students move through a series of learning centers, or stations, allowing teachers with limited resources to differentiate instruction by incorporating students’ needs, interests, and learning styles. The Station Approach supports teaching abstract concepts as well as concepts that need a great deal of repetition. Stations can cover a single topic such as density, or several independent topics such as reviewing the scientific instruments. Most importantly, using stations can increase students’ interest, keep them motivated, and eliminate many behavior problems while teaching all those lessons that you know will help students learn and be successful." (Denise Jaques Jones, Science Scope, 2007)

I started using centers (or stations) when I first began teaching because I taught split grades and I wanted a cohesive way to deliver hands-on investigations to two grades simultaneously.  I found that setting up bins filled with materials and instructions allowed ALL students to be working on science and technology at the same time, just not on the same content.  It allowed me to move around, to observe, to trouble shoot, and to assess students as they worked.  Students were engaged, and I wasn't worried about what the "other grade" was doing while I was delivering content one grade.  

Now I use centers as a way to keep students engaged, and to utilize minimal materials. Although there are many great science and technology programs out there, most of the investigations, if done by the whole class at once require copious amounts of difficult to find and/or expensive materials.  Using centers has allowed me to use far less materials, but all students get the benefit of using them.

Picture of Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms Science Centers

Picture of Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms Science Centers

Picture of Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms Science Centers

Picture of Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms Science Centers

Not all of the centers are as involved as the ones pictured above.  Some centers have students reading about content, some have them matching vocabulary words with pictures and other ask them to analyze and apply what they know from their prior learning about concepts.

Picture of Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms Science Centers

Picture of Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms Science Centers

Picture of Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms Science Centers

Picture of Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms Science CentersPicture of Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms Science Centers

I have found that after some introductory lessons I am able to have the students work on the centers over a period of about two weeks.  They record their work in a booklet format which I photocopy for them.  After I have "checked" over the work they have completed in the booklet, my students create a final copy of their "notes" in a blank science book.  They take great pride in their finished science notebooks when we are finished a unit.  

I hope to complete more center based science and technology units this summer.  Make sure you follow my store to receive updates as I upload new materials.