Saturday, September 3, 2011

Off My Planned Track, but on Irene's

The best laid plans...learned a lot about that over the last week or so. I took all that time in planning out my notebook and setting up the first few weeks of the school year and Irene made her appearance. While we didn't get any rain here in the Smoky Mountains, the Outer Banks of North Carolina really were impacted by the hurricane as was Lewes, Delaware where my mom and brother's family live. So, we did some hurricane work. We started with looking at the projections on Weather Underground and then we used the coordinates found on that site and a tracking map to keep track of the hurricane. We also graphed the central air pressure and wind speed that went a long with the coordinates. I did have my students put both of these into their notebooks as well as writing a key question.

I also have to use the Comprehension Toolkit Strategies even though I don't teach reading so I pulled some articles on hurricanes and used these as well while my students tracked their thinking. We also made some anchor charts. The students taped their tracking map and graph into their notebooks and also put their post it notes from the article into their notebook. We are just finishing up our conclusions and reflection. I will post photos then.

We'll get back on track this week. They were so interested in the hurricane, a lot of them followed it last weekend and have been looking at the storms developing in the Gulf and Atlantic this week. It was well worth it. When we get into air pressure and the water cycle in the next month or so, I'll be looking at how they make these connections back to Irene. So while this threw me off track, my students were really excited about science this past week.

We also worked on our notebook covers here and there. I did a lot of modeling, since I always make my own cover as an example of how to make a collage. We cut out a lot of the pictures during class time and then start laying out the full collage. This coming week they will be finishing them at home and have them back in class by Friday.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

And We're Off to Another Great Year!!

My blog has been slightly silent for the past few weeks due to a few workshops that I've had to prep and teach for AIMS Education Foundation  and starting to work in my classroom. I've put in a new survey about what you'd like to see in the blog and so as next week progresses, I'll work on some assessment things that I do and in the next few weeks, I'll have some student samples ready for you all. 

We go back to school in Haywood County next week and I know some of you have already started back. If you're like me and are making changes to your curriculum and/or pedagogy, this is the time to jump in and start it. I find that I have problems in making major shifts in my pedagogy if I don't plan and get it started right away. So now is the time, get those composition books, graph paper in binders, spiral notebooks, WHATEVER you want to you, plan it out and jump right in!! 

Here's to a fantastic year for you, the teachers and your students. I know you will be making a positive difference in the lives of your students this year! Happy New School Year!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Fish...View the Fish

I'm still reading a lot about math journals and making notes about what I think would fit with my math teaching and students. Kind of thinking of tabs so we have a few sections for a few different types of writing, this isn't 100% set in stone, just tumbling through my mind. I read another good article, 10  Big Math Ideas, and though writing in math isn't the main focus of this article, there are some very important things about teaching math in the article. So, I'm going to keep on working on what I want from my math journals.

So the fish...look at the fish a bit further down on my blog. They are very cool and interactive. If you left click in the white space, little yellow dots will appear, that's their food. Watch what happens when you feed the fish!!

Anyways, need to read more about math journals, finish prepping for two upcoming AIMS workshops I will be teaching, received my schedule for the year and am trying to figure out how my teaching partner and I will divide our days, and my class list will be here this week. Also, 22 of my @ 220 Children's Book Council/NSTA Outstanding science trade books are here and I've got to start reading. know these long summer vacations teachers always get where we don't even think about our classrooms...LOL!

Monday, July 25, 2011

What Works for You

For people just trying science or math notebooks for the first time my main advice is to do what works best for you, within the guidelines of making the notebooks student centered. Everyone has to find the best set up, meaning types of notebooks, what you want in them, and how they are used, that will work for your needs. Notebooks are not stagnant, so if the actual notebooks doesn't work this year, change it up next year.

I keep notes in my notebook as the year goes on, I make these notes bright and flashy so I can see them later, these notes are things that work and don't work for me and/or my students. If you are just starting and don't know what you really want your students to put into your notebooks, some suggestions. First, read some articles and books about the components of a notebook. There are some helpful websites and articles on my Live Binder about the various components of a science notebook. (I'm still working on my math notebook ideas). Make a list of the components you want your students to have in their notebook.

Once you have an idea of the components of a notebook, lay out a notebook. Take one of your lessons that you know you'll be using this year. Lay it out in the fashion, just like your students would do, and make it fit the lesson. See how it feels and works for you. Change it if you feel necessary until you have a working feel of what your notebook is going to be like.

Next dive in with your students!!! You'll know what works and doesn't work for your students and it's okay to change your notebook components as the year goes on. The important thing is to model for your students what you want, your exceptions, and give them time to work with their notebooks. Look at them often and give them time.  My students have not used science notebooks when they enter my class at the beginning of the year, maybe in first grade, but that was awhile ago and in a different format.  I do spend a lot of time early on helping my students work through their notebooks, but in the end, this time pays for itself and my students become very independent in using their notebooks!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Math Journals

Today I've spent some time reading a variety of articles about math journals. While I'm really comfortable with science notebooks, math journals are a different story. I'm working my way through them. I have used a problem solving notebooks, but I'm not fully satisfied with that format. So, in my live binder on science notebooks, I've added a few more articles on math journals. I guess tomorrow I will try to lay out what I'd like to see when my students write about math.

If you have been using math journals or notebooks; whatever you call them, share your ideas. This is an area I need to really improve on in my daily math instruction. I'm also reading Class Discussions, Using Math Talk to help Students Learn by Chapin, O'Connor, and Anderson. Gene Williams (a MEMTA instructor) lent this to me in New Orleans and rereading Sherry Parrish's (another MEMTA instructor) book Number Talks: Helping Children Build Mental Math and Computational Strategies, Grades k-5. The reason why I'm mentioning these books in an post about writing in math, it's similar to writing in science, students have to be able to talk and discuss to clarify their ideas before writing down their thinking in math.

Not ditching the science notebooks, I think that I've go those settled to start the school year when I can get student samples posted. I do have a series of questions we used with the elective MEMTA notebook session that I will be posting on for the next week or so. until then, please share any math journaling ideas!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Designing the Notebook Cover - Making it their Own!

This is one of my kids favorite assignments, they love getting to design their own cover. We start in class by using magazines to find text and photographs they can cut out to put on their collage. I overly stress not to glue anything down until they think they have all of the text and pictures they want to use. We don't spend more than three partial class periods on this. They do take it home and work on it to finish it. In those three days we work on it in class, I try to model the process by making my own collage.  

Science Notebook Cover Assignment                          Due date: Friday, September 2, 2011

Parent signature: ______________________________________                                                                                              

·         Use of color
·         Use of pictures (photographs and drawings)
·         Collage style (covered with words/drawings/pictures)
·         Must relate to fifth grade science content (water, weather, landforms, force/motion,
      and ecosystems)
·         Title (Science Notebook) and name must be clearly visible
·         Be creative-make some lettering or pictures yourself
·         Use all of the space on notebook, no white space is acceptable.

·         Photos of self that relate to science content
·         Words cut out of magazines, other print sources, computer type, or written by hand

Grading Rubric - Please turn in this sheet with your finished cover.
Science Content
The student gives a reasonable explanation of how every item in the collage is related to our science content. For most items, the relationship is clear without explanation.
The student gives a reasonable explanation of how most items in the collage are related to our science content. For many of the items, the relationship is clear without explanation.
The student gives a fairly reasonable explanation of how most items in the collage are related to our science content.
The student's explanations are weak and illustrate difficulty understanding how to relate items to our science content.
Graphics are trimmed to an appropriate size and interesting shape and are arranged well, some in front and some behind. Care has been taken to balance the pictures across the cover. No white space.
Graphics are trimmed to an appropriate size and interesting shape and are arranged with some items in front and others behind. The cover, however does not appear balanced.
Very little white space.
Graphics have been trimmed to an appropriate size and shape, but the arrangement of items is not very attractive. It appears there was not a lot of planning of the item placement.
White space visible.
Graphics are untrimmed OR of inappropriate size and/or shape. It appears little attention was given to designing the collage. A lot of white space can be seen.
Several of the graphics or objects used in the collage reflect an exceptional degree of student creativity in their creation and/or display
One or two of the graphics or objects used in the collage reflect student creativity in their creation and/or display.
One or two graphics or objects were made or customized by the student, but the ideas were typical rather than creative (e.g, apply the emboss filter to a drawing in Photoshop).
The student did not make or customize any of the items on the collage.
Titles and Text
Titles and text were written clearly and were easy to read from a distance. Text varied in color, size and/or style for different text elements.
Titles and text were written clearly and were easy to read close-up. Text varied in color, size and/or style for different text elements.
Titles and text were written clearly and were easy to read close-up. There was little variation in the appearance of text.
Titles and/or text are hard to read, even when the reader is close.
Time and Effort
Class time was used wisely. Much time and effort went into the planning and design of the collage. It is clear the student worked at home as well as at school.
Class time was used wisely. Student could have put in more time and effort at home.
Class time was not always used wisely, but student did do some additional work at home.
Class time was not used wisely and the student put in no additional effort.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Getting Started with My Students

I introduce the science notebook on the very first day of school, if I happen to have a notebook from a previous student, I show the students that notebook. Since I have notebooks for everyone already, I'll hand them one that first day. I will let them know how important this one notebook will be for them during the school year. We'll start by setting up the table of contents and then I will tell them how important having page numbers in their notebook will be, since we will need to be able to look things up with their classmates and I'll need to find their work using their table of contents. I will get them started, but homework for the first night of school will be to finish numbering their pages (see Marcarelli's book).  I have always had them number pages in their notebooks, but as they went through the year, but she has her students do this first thing in the year. I like this change since it won't be something they have to worry about doing any other time, they'll just have to match it in their table of contents. The other thing is that they can't tear out their pages and it will help keep their notebook in order!!

The second day I will give them the pages for the basics and we'll start putting them into their notebooks. Their homework will be to get the 5 pages of basics into their notebook. If a student doesn't have scissors or clear tape, I will loan them some. The second day is when I will have them make their sample vocabulary card to put into their notebook as well, even though it will be a week or so before they get their first vocabulary words (my students explore and we start our explain in a 5e lesson before getting vocabulary), I just want this in their notebooks since on Monday (we start school on Thursday this year), I'm ready to get into "Picture a Scientist." As they are drawing their scientists, I'll pull each student so I can get their photo taken and that will be ready for Tuesday when we discuss the idea that they are scientists too, they can ask questions, explore, investigate and find answers about the world around them.

On Tuesday, they'll start working on the page about themselves as scientists...and I'll introduce their assignment for the cover of their notebooks. I have an assignment sheet and rubric for them. I have a model for them to look at, plus I will make one for myself at the same time they are working on theirs. They will receive a piece of construction paper precut to meet the size of their notebook cover. I have a lot of old National Geographic magazines and other science type magazines. We'll spend a few days going through those looking for photos and cutting them out during part of class time and they'll have about a week and a half to finish it at home and get it back to class. Again, if a student needs some materials I will provide them. That is how I'm getting started this year. I'd love to be able to keep on the track that I have set up because that means with a week, I'll be ready to get started with my science content.

If you'd like a copy of the assignment sheet for the notebook cover, with rubric, let me know, I'll email it to you unless I can figure out how to add it to this blog.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Setting up the Notebook 2011-2012

I sat down this week and started planning out my notebook. This year, besides changing the format to an interactive notebook style, I want my students to have more ownership by being more creative with their notebooks. To do this, my notebook (I keep one similar to my students, though mine has planning notes) is going to model creativity by adding color and lettering.

To start, I've laid out my table of contents. You'll see that some of it is already filled in (planning) that helps me establish what is going to go where. I've started with a Notebook Basics section that doesn't fit in with the interactive notebooking, this is okay to me since these are all the formatting things my students will need to refer to during the year.

There are no dates on some of the pages...I'd love to be able to predict these dates, but I'll have to wait until I get students!

Next up, are the Student Guidelines that help my students complete the major components of their notebooks. These are the same guidelines that can be found on the flash drive that MEMTA participants receive.

The next photograph is the format for the interactive notebook, showing what goes on the left and right sides of the notebook. I have used the Marcarelli book to help me with this and modified it for my class. I have claims and evidence on both sides. Early in the year it will be on the input (right) side since I will start by modeling these and then students will work as a group and bring them to our class discussions. When they start doing these on their own with partners or individually, they will move to the output (left) side of the notebook because it will show their own thinking, not that of a whole class.
The next page covers two pages, this is the notebook rubric that I use to evaluate my students. Now, it looks enormous  and it is but I don't use it all at one time. I will talk about rubrics in another blog. In the past, I have printed this off and had my students keep this and the science notebook guidelines in a three ring binder to refer to as needed. I'm changing it this year, again based on the Marcarelli book. This way there is no, "I can't find it" excuse. The rubric can also be found on the MEMTA flash drive. For anyone else, email me and I will send both my guidelines and rubric. My rubric is based on Michael Klentschy's work in his book Using Science Notebooks in Elementary Classrooms. I'll get on my soap box and do a blog on him later on!
The following page is the final in my "Notebook Basics" section. It is call the WOW! Connections page, again this is a modified version of something used in the Marcarelli book. It is essentially a place that students come back to again and again during the unit to add evidence to that supports the key concept, big idea, main question that is being studied during the unit.
I've also added my vocabulary cards to this. I used to do vocabulary cards where my students put their words and the definitions, then I moved to the Frayer Model and had the vocabulary words in a separate notebook. This year I debated putting the vocabulary into the science notebook (always do) but I've decided to go back to the cards mainly because Marcarelli showed punching a hole in the upper right hand corner and then putting the cards on a ring. I like this and will incorporate it with the Frayer Model. I will make a hanging folder file in a crate for my students, that way they can keep them in class except when they need to work with them. If I don't, I know there will be some loss. I will go into more detail about vocabulary on another day.

One of the first things we do in my class is "Think of a Scientist," I'm sure it's done in a lot of science classes. I have my students close their eyes and we visualize a scientist. I ask them to get pretty detailed and once they have this all thought out in their heads, they draw their scientist. They are required to show them in the setting in which they work with the tools they use. I then have them write about their scientist, explaining the basic information about what their scientist studies, what questions they are trying to answer and why they study or research what they do. Finally, they all stand up and I have them sit down by some of the common ways people think about scientists: mad crazy haired scientists, white males in a lab, white females in a lab, etc. Last is themselves, do they think about themselves as scientists? On the next page (though not designed yet) I'll take their photos, they'll be put into the notebook and students will brainstorm ways they might work like scientists.
Now, I'm getting to my content. I start with a unit on water quality, while not in my standards it's important to our location (NOLA participants remember what Dr. Mackey said, "Teach what is important for them to know about where they live.") Water quality education is really important to Haywood County and fifth graders learn a lot about our water, we test our water, and thankfully, it ties right into my weather unit and the water cycle. The following is the cover page for the unit, followed by a spot for the table of contents for the unit and a KLEW chart.

Finally is the WOW Connections page set up for the water unit. This will be worked on, at first, by modeling and working as small groups to whole class. Eventually students will be able to work through this together. As the school year starts and students start doing this work, I'll post their work samples. Right now, this is what I've done to start the year. Doing this has helped me think about what I want to start out with. Will I stay with this?? I don't know, we'll see. It's new and for me, something new has to happen at the beginning of the year, if not, I forget. Right after this page students will start with the interactive part of the notebook.

If you are just starting science notebooks for the first time, again, the Campbell/Fulton book is really helpful.

Choosing a Notebook

Every year I seem to debate what I am going to use for my notebooks. I stuck with regular spiral lined notebook for years. The problems with those notebooks were, while easy to get a hold of and cost is minimal, they fall apart, the spirals can be tangled, kids tear out pages, and they were not graph paper. Graph paper spirals came into my life with the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy. Our first notebooks were NOT graph paper, the second year we asked if we could get those and bam...there they were.

I love the graph paper notebooks!! It's easier for students to draw charts and graphs, it's makes it all so much neater. For a few years I stuck with the spiral graph paper notebooks. I would love to get the same kind that we use with MEMTA, but those tend to be quite pricey if you are not buying them in huge bulk. But, if price is not an issue, they are great. The hard covers keep them neat, the spirals don't seem to pull apart and you can have the cover designed with your school logo. Those are made by Journal Books. My all time favorite notebook is from Doane Paper Not only do they have graph paper lines, they have regular notebook paper lines! I've purchased a few, again, too expensive to ask my students to purchase, and have torn out a few pages just to have my students write with, they do so GREAT with the double type of lines. I guess these are my dream notebooks. If I could find a grant that would get me enough money to purchase one for each student (I've applied for a few), I'd use these notebooks.

So what do I use? I have been using the graph paper composition books for a few years. The pluses, they stay together better than the spirals and kids can't tear the pages out easily. The minuses,  the pages are smaller than regular sized notebooks and these notebooks can be hard to find. I get them at Staples and this past week I found them on sale for 77 cents each, yep 77 cents. That's $2.02 off the regular price. I bought 45 since I don't know who will be in my class and I know that will be enough for all my students this year (I hope). I figured each parent can use that kind of savings at this time a year and I can afford to get these so we are ready to go the very first day of school. So, if you have a Staples near by go and check. I don't know if the price is dropping for good, though I doubt it is.

If you need to refer to a book on the idea of science notebook selection and set up Science Notebooks Writing about Inquiry is a great resource. I think of this as the basic book about getting started with science notebooks with your students. Brian Cambpell and Lori Fulton take the time to explain the philosophy of notebooking, student samples, and what to consider when setting up notebooks with students. In my next blog, I'll write about setting up notebooks and what I've done to prepare for this coming school year.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Here I go again...

I have just returned from two great weeks with the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy and while I've been an instructor with them since the beginning, I always come home with new ideas. At our Houston and New Orleans academies, I lead an elective session on Science Notebooks along with three other great instructors from our academy. This year, since we added this, I did a lot of reading and went through a lot of resources about science notebooks. I've decided to make some changes, a bit more major ones than usual, to the the notebooks my students will be using.

I came home and spent two days at school working on distributing yearbooks and had a lot of time to read a few books, some articles and get started on redesigning my notebooks, adding a few new things, revising some things I already did and rethinking what I have done in the past. I thought, "I should do a blog about what I'm doing this year, add some resources and HOPEFULLY get some of the MEMTA participants to join in and give ideas, ask and answer questions and have a place for us to work through this task together."

My plans are to post resources through my Live Binder and post photos of student notebooks. 

Let's see how this works!!