Wednesday, August 29, 2012

6th Grade Math CCSS Posters and Wall Words

It's finally done!  The download was nearly finished at the end of last year, but when I learned of my new position, I really needed to focus on new curriculum.  Today, as I was looking at the file, I decided it was time to finish it off.   The Big Idea Posters for 6th grade are still free, but I priced this 97 page download since it was something that took such a large chunk of time.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


I know that I've been a little MIA lately, but I've said since I began this position that my classroom takes priority.  I needed to take a second in my way too busy life to tell you about a powerful lab that I did in the classroom that really brought understanding stars to life.  Project SPICA is a hand me down from my hubby who used it when he also was teaching.  I even remember helping him to set up this lab, thinking at the time what a pain it was. Now that I've had students do it, I see why he set it up year after year.  The impact this simple activity has is mind blowing.  Not just for me as a teacher, but for the students themselves.  I did a notebook check today, and read all the reflections that followed last Friday's lab.  Students wrote things like, "I never really thought about constellations being 3D since from my perspective they seem flat."  and "I'm starting to wrap my brain around the vastness of space after looking at the big dipper from multiple points in space."

Here is a pdf online that basically sets up this lab, but gives more detail.

Tomorrow morning students that were absent on Friday will be in to make up the lab.  Placing eye hooks in the ceiling, I hung the "stars" according to the directions in the download.  I will take a picture of my set up then.  I used Christmas ornaments and rigged lights that could be turned on and off.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Back to School at Teacher's Notebook

In the spring I "attended" the virtual intermediate online put out by Teacher's Notebook where several teachers offered up great teaching ideas. It begins August 25th, and well, they've really outdone themselves this time!



Same idea, more presenters and a giant goodie bag!!  For $10 you can "attend" the PD and idea central as you prepare to go back to school.  Why, oh, why was this not around when I was first in the classroom??  I've offered up my "S'more fractions card game" as part of the goodie bag.  Students can practice matching improper and mixed numbers in multiple formats.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Next week marks our first quarter midterm.  Junior highs have conferences, and I'm already learning that I like these much better than the 85 I had last year.  I was telling my new team about it, and the day from hell that pretty much sealed my fate in moving out of elementary.  This year...we meet with those we need to, the remainder of the students come in with their parents to the library, go through their reflections, goals and select pieces from the last several weeks.  Sounds nice, but we shall see!

I'm also coming to the end of our study on genetics, and like most first years I'm contemplating how it's been going and what I will change for next year.  My question for those of you who teach genetics/heredity is, "Do you have a preferred order in which you teach it all?" After a brief cell review, I began with inheritance, but I'm not so sure that's how I will do it again.  I'd love to hear any feedback!!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Back to School Sale begins tomorrow!

Beginning tomorrow, I'm running a sale in my TpT store through Monday.  20% off anything, plus Sun. and Monday TpT will throw in another 8%.  Check out my popular Classroom Labels download ($3) or pick up your 7th grade common core math posters, vocab word wall cards, and student "I can" statements (free)! Hope you will stop and support your fellow teachers as you prepare to head back to school!!  

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The O'Smithsteinski-Akim-Garci-Chan Clan

The 8th graders are finishing up an activity that began on Monday.  This lab helps reinforce ideas of how family trees and formed and how traits are shown.  I came home looking to see if I could find a reflection for this lab, and found the entire lab online!  For my students, I changed the directions so that they didn't get bored with the repetition.

After introducing punnett squares, dominant and recessive traits, and genotypes, and phenotypes, we began this project about a kooky family and their bizarre traits.  More than a few times students asked if these were actually traits that humans can have.  "How many people do you know with 2 arms on the same side?  How about that are cyclops?"

I had students create the actual family tree.  If you are looking to really push those high kids, this is a great activity.  I think next year I will use butcher paper so that the kids have enough room, even though I can get the tree on a regular sheet of paper.  Once the students created the tree based on the family information sheets, I gave them one trait that the people in this family have. The traits are off the wall funny!  Students had to shade the traits and code them by genotype.  This reinforces finding genotypes by viewing family trees.

Once they were all done, I had them get my copied sheet of the tree and they filled in a tree for each of the 11 traits.  Tomorrow, students will be creating a family portrait for a small branch of this family.  I can't wait to see what they will look like!

(pictures to come)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

What a feat for JPL, NASA, and Curiosity!

I've been so jealous that my husband, through Arizona State University, got to go to JPL in Pasadena this past weekend and join in the science festivities as they prepared for the landing of Curiosity.  The good news is that he brought me back all sorts of goodies, including labs.  You can get some of these on the ASU website.  They are well done and a wealth of information. I plan on using all of these goodies at the end of 1st quarter with my 7th graders.  It is a nice bridge between our unit on astronomy and 2nd quarter's unit on geology.

Today for the excite activity, I took and modified one of the PBS Design Squad activities.  Students were given a Play-do container and told that this was their rover.  They had to drop it from the top of the lab table and have it land without falling over.  They were also given 4 large index cards, 2 pencils, tape and 2 rubber bands.  With only 10 minutes to work, students diligently create, tried, refined, and tried again.  Once they were done, I listed some of the many other things that the scientists needed to take into account when designing the rover: weight, speed, timing, drag, dust, rockets, bungee cords, etc.  Next Monday, the gifted classes club on design begins with tasks just like this.  They have so much for teachers and students alike!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

I can finally breathe!

Two weeks down and I think I might actually know what I'm doing!!  Starting over, finding the right timing, getting into my's finally all beginning to fall into place.  I know all four classes first names, personalities, and I already know who turns in work and who's organized!

Last week in 7th grade, students covered "Why are there seasons?"  It is an objective for 7th grade...who knew?  When I began putting together the work, I found the "Private Universe" clip on YouTube.  This clip was from a study done on Harvard graduates.  They asked "Why do we have seasons?" and most of those surveyed missed it!  There are so many misconceptions surrounding this seemingly basic concept.  I used and followed the GEMs book on seasons, and it is FABULOUS!!  It has a self assessment that all the activities build around. By the end of the week, the students had squashed their misconceptions and completed daily labs in addition.

Bad Astronomy was a helpful website as I tried to help students learn about misconceptions.

In 8th grade, students began to look at the idea of heredity.  Students started with a game I call "Crack the Code."  It's something that my husband made back when he taught junior high science and I just updated it and loaded it on my TpT site.  Students receive the DNA of a bug and the picture of what it looks like.  They must then work together to figure out which colored bead in the code goes with which trait.  We have 70 minute periods, and they were engaged and on task for all 70!  We then moved into family trees, traits, and punnett squares.  This week students will be participating in an awesome activity where they incorporate all of these into a lab to find out what the family looks like!

If you are studying genetics, the Learn Genetics website at the University of Utah is amazing.  It has tons of free lessons, downloads, and interactive pages for all ages!