It’s that Time of Year Again…

I recently read a post from The Lettered Classroom about her transition from Kindergarten to 4th grade. In her post she mentioned the phases of a first year teacher:

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For me this has described most of my years in education. You see every year that I have taught I have changed grades, schools or subject areas. I have never taught the same thing for two years in a row. Therefore, every year I feel like I am going through this roller-coaster of my first year all over again.

It is not a terrible thing, but thankfully I am finally hitting the rejuvenation zone. I am finally feeling like being creative and planning better activities for my students. I am not saying that my activities have been sub-par, there is just a vast difference in feeling almost defeated like – why am I doing this and I am a horrible teacher – to a place where you truly love what you do all over again.

What was most refreshing about reading her post was the idea that I am not alone and that this is probably more normal than I could have imagined. As teachers, we constantly try to put on our best face, but in reality we are all human. We all have our crummy times and our joyful times! I guess it keeps us on our toes and makes life interesting.

The One Who Holds the Stars…

A while back I wrote a post about why I taught ELA and I cited that it was because of my granny. Every time I enjoy a good book I attribute it to her (and my mom) instilling in me the love of reading. However, For the past two years, and two years in China, I have been teaching science. Science is a new love of mine that has grown over the years.

When I was young I always had a great fascination with the stars and with outer space. I remember watching Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century and wanting with every part of me to live on a space station. My dad also has a love affair with the SciFi channel – which is something I only recently started to appreciate with all of the star trek re-runs! Star Wars and Star Trek were major players in my life and only helped to establish my awe of the stars.

With all of this love of intergalactic things I also had a love for something much bigger than the universe and that was my God, Abba Father! When I was going through a tough time my first year of college a dear friend encouraged me to look at the world around me. She said the beauty of the Earth is like God sending you his love notes. A STARRY NIGHT is like his box of chocolates for you. Wow! This made me look at the world around me differently and suddenly I loved the small glimmers of beauty that maybe others didn’t notice.

Fast-forward a few years to when I learned I was going to be teaching Science in China. My degree was in ELA and I had no idea how or why this was taking place. It turned out to be a God thing for sure. When I started planning my lessons I was reminded of how God is at work in science. From our cells to the black holes to the far reaches of the universe he is interwoven and his fingerprints are imprinted on it all.

Currently, I am teaching Earth Science and it is by far my favorite. Even though I can’t share with my students our awesome creator, I am still encouraged by getting to show them His awesome creation.

To close out this post I want to leave you with an awesome new song by Skillet – Stars!

Teaching Science with Cartoons!

I know that I am an adult, but I have a love for cartoons. I think this love comes from my dad – one of his all time favorite movies is Ice Age. He watches it EVERY time it is on t.v. (of course he also passed on his love of Star Trek, but that is for another post). Anyway, today I want to share some of the videos that I have used throughout this year to introduce or reinforce some concepts.

Ice Age – Continental Drift Scrat

I used this video to introduce the idea of continental drift and the Theory of Plate Tectonics. It is of course not factual, but a very fun way to introduce this idea. We also go back and analyze the video afterwards and replace the fiction from the video with our scientific evidence.

Lava

This has been my most requested repeat video this year. I used this after we studied the ocean floor. It of course shows in slow motion how seamount islands are created.

Finding Nemo – Angler Fish Clip

After learning about the layers of the ocean I used this video to discuss the dark zone in the ocean. We also discussed how animals created their own light using bio-luminescence. Nemo is always a winner with my students.

Finding Nemo – Crush

I didn’t get to use this clip this year, but we did talk about it while we discussed currents. I think it is neat to see what currents might be like inside the ocean.

That’s All Folks!

Those were all the ideas I have so far, but I am sure as the year continues I will have more to add. Do you have any cartoons you have used in your science class?

 

Teaching About Toilets and Thinking Outside the Box

With the beginning of this new semester we have started our unit on hydrology. This unit focuses on all the water found on the Earth and the water cycle.

I feel like as a middle school teacher I am constantly thinking of out of the box ways to pull my students into a lesson. It is something that is becoming more common in the Science classroom as we search for real life inquiry phenomenon to aid our students understanding. Usually some of my out of the ordinary ideas come up in the form of videos – I mean have you realized how many clips from kids movies can contain science??? I’ll share some of those ideas another time.

This past week I was teaching the kids about ocean currents and more specifically the Coriolis Effect. (Just in case you forgot what that is – it is the concept that water rotates clockwise in the northern hemisphere and counter-clockwise in the southern hemisphere) In the middle of class I immediately thought of toilets flushing. I mean as a kid I had always heard that toilets flush one way and another way in Australia. I mentioned this to the kids during our lesson and then set out to find information.

Now many people claim that this is not true. For example in a fact check  I read that this was false because toilets contain such a small amount of water and so forth. Plus with the way toilets are made today it really depends on where the valve is placed inside.

I did not stop there, because there has to be a glimmer of truth behind this tale. My digging proved to be true. On The Guardian – Speculative Science I found many accounts about toilets and their flushing on the equator. One man even said that while in Ecuador he saw an experiment that proved this phenomenon.

Well this was all the encouragement I needed to add this to my science tool belt. I created an info-graphic for my students to color and add to their notebooks.

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You can find this in my TpT store if you are interested. I know that adding a toilet to a handout seems a little weird, but as a middle school teacher the stranger (and sometimes grosser) things are the better!

Happy Teaching!!

A “Rock”-ing Autobiography

Recently there has been a push to add more writing in all content areas. Being from an ELA background I have welcomed this with open arms. I love writing and being able to see the creativity of my students through their writing.

We just finished a unit over the rock cycle, and to close our unit I created an assignment. My students had to pretend they were a piece of sand at the bottom of a river and write about how they became a rock and went through the rock cycle. They had an option to write a story or create a comic strip. I am very impressed with what they came up with. I had some stories about the sediment floating by SpongeBob’s pineapple and others about the rock being crushed in Super-Mario.

Here are a couple of examples that I thought really displayed their understanding of the rock cycle!

Story Choice

Comic Choice

If you think you would like to use this in your classroom, I made a downloadable product on TeachersPayTeachers. Just click the picture below:

Rocking Autobiography - Rock Cycle Writing Task

 

Police Scanners

I am currently in the midst of UGA graduate school. I was sitting in my room earlier today working on an assignment for class. It brought chills when I read a quote from one of our books. It reminded me so vividly of my granny. Here is what I wrote for my assignment:

The section – A Scene from My Life really spoke to me. The specific part is from page 58 in the book Girls, Social Class, and Literacy by Stephanie Jones. “When the shadows lengthen and darkness falls in my hometown, my grandma makes her way to the bedroom and her beside table where the honeywood surface is neatly occupied by a Bible, a book (Why Bad Things Happen to Good People), a lamp, and a police scanner – the trusty gadget from where the static-filled voices come to keep her informed of the happenings on the street. She goes to bed each night selectively listening for familiar names of people and streets that might signify someone she loves is in trouble and in need of her help.”

This quote brought me back to my childhood where my granny would do the exact same thing. How two people can have this same experience in completely different worlds is awe-inspiring. My street from the quote was called a road because I grew up in a rural agricultural county. The book my granny had was – Two Week Women and God’s Amazing Grace. She wanted to do whatever she could for anybody and she wanted to know everything that was happening. She is the one who inspired me for several reasons.

1. She encouraged me to be better than she was and I became the first one to graduate from college.

2. She taught me to accept everyone no matter the color of their skin or the amount of money in their bank account.

3. Lastly she gave me a sense of pride in being who I was – because after all the only person I could be was ME.

I wish this for all of my students. I hope that they know someone has their back!  I want them to feel loved, supported and cared for – even if it is only for 90 minutes out of each day.

What is a Scientist?

As one of our beginning of the year activities we had students write and draw about their idea of what a scientist is. It is very interesting to see how many students get specific, how many automatically draw a man, and so forth. I really like this activity because it is a glimpse into who my students are and their style of writing/drawing.

Here are two examples from this year:

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I loved that one is a typical mad scientist and that another has a girl as the scientist. If you would like to see what your students come up with download this product from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

What is a Scientist? Writing and Drawing Activity