Are you looking for children’s books that start great classroom discussions about character education? I start every morning with a family meeting. Our family meetings are a huge part of building our classroom community. I love reading picture books to my students! And yes, I teach 5th grade. 5th graders even look forward to our book a day! These books bring out different discussion topics that help build our safe classroom community. Here are a few of my favorites to use at the beginning of school. They are great Back to School read alouds…
How do you start off working in your classroom? Do you cannonball in or do you slowly emerge yourself into your work? Well, I barely get my feet wet and slowly edge in.
I started this year by thinking about the colors I wanted to use and how I could incorporate things I already have! Designing my bulletin boards and my Wonder Lab or Create Space has been my first steps into the pool!
My Imagination Station or Wonder Lab (I’m not exactly sure about the name), but we use it for more than just Makerspace Activities. For upper grades, I need it to sound really cool, maybe something like Geek Out Space! The chairs are so bright and one of my favorite things in my classroom! They are from Wayfair Dovercliff 24″ Bar Stool. Chalkboard paint is also a game changer! My sister was getting rid of this table and my husband painted it with chalkboard paint. Perfect!!!
The bright gear boarder was cut out by my daughter using her Circuit. I purchased the clipart from TPT from Glitter Meets Glue.
This shelf contains materials that students can use to explore science and create STEM Activities. It helps to stay organized and students can help with the clean up!
Supply Suggestions: playing cards, dice, yarn, straws, paper towel rolls, Keva blocks, magnifying glasses, pool noodles cut up, toothpicks, craft sticks, index cards, post it notes, cardboard, Jenga blocks, tape, paper plates, lids, model clay, marbles, pipe cleaners, batteries, rubber bands, wax paper, foil, cups, small cups, cotton balls, magnets, rulers, tape measures.
I still have three weeks of summer, so I will just keep swimming along. (little by little) Moving all the stuff around from table to desks, to table to another desk trying to make it look more finished. But I will get there!!! Have a great summer!
Testing is here! Like it or not! So why not make the best of it. Now is the time to motivate your students to do their best! Here are some fun ideas!!
All these things are cheap and easy, but definitely makes our students feel special!
Taking the time to write a little special note!! These things bring a smile to their faces!!
All these things show our students we care, and that we believe in them!! We want to motivate our students to do their best!!! SHOW WHAT YOU KNOW! We don’t expect perfect, just your best!
February is one of my favorite months! It is full of excitement and fun learning opportunities.
Candy hearts and making Love Boats are fun ways to get my students learning important skills while they are thinking critically and problem solving! Teaching students measurement skills can be fun, whenever you throw in some candy hearts.
Check out my STEM February Challenges: If you want to save money, purchase the Entire Year of STEM Bundle that includes Valentine’s Day STEM.
If you want to connect STEM with Social Studies and research, check out STEM Famous Landmarks.
Wow, starting another year! I always reflect on my teaching practices and how my students are learning.
Questions I ask myself:
- Are my students learning?
- Are they engaged?
- Are they enjoying learning?
- Are they loving school?
- Are they becoming lifelong learners?
This year while reading, these words stuck out to me:
Learning by doing!
I feel that STEM totally encompasses those words! STEM is doing the learning. So, as I plan for my students and a New Year, my goal is to plan for more STEM activities in my classroom. How can I incorporate skills (important TESTED SKILLS) into my lesson plans by having my students “doing?”
Some of the activities my students will be DOING:
I love integrating STEM into my classroom, especially during the Christmas holiday season. Students get excited and stay engaged whenever learning is made fun! Measurement and collecting data are important state tested math skills that can be reinforced using STEM Christmas Challenges. Here are a few of my favorite STEM Challenges!
Santa’s Sleigh STEM Challenge will engage all your students during the holiday season. Students plan, design, and engineer a sleigh that can carry toy presents.
STEM Elf Zip Line Challenge will engage all your students during the holiday season. Students plan, design, and engineer a zip line that can carry a toy elf across a line. This activity can also be used for STEAM Activities, STEM After School Programs, Summer Programs, Clubs, Maker Spaces, or at home.
- If you have purchased the Skelton zip Line Challenge, this is the same challenge except with an elf. I love doing an activity that is similar to another because students’ can build on their prior knowledge. It really helps me see how my students are learning the engineering process by adding new ideas and reflecting on what has worked in the past. Seeing students use their critical thinking skills while they communicate their ideas to their peers is what STEM is all about!
Christmas Binary Coding Do you want to introduce your students to coding? This is a easy way to get your students using and understanding binary code. Design and write a Christmas Code Bracelet using Binary Code. Students will pick a word to code. They will string the beads and then tie the ends for their bracelet.
Christmas Tree Challenges: Students will construct Christmas trees using Spice Drops and tooth picks. Students will have a limited number of resources and will have to make decisions while constructing their Christmas Trees.
Students will build the tallest Christmas Tree possible
using 5 sheets of newspaper and a limited amount of tape.
Christmas Tree Cup Challenge: Students will build a Christmas Tree using small cups. The goal is to build the tallest tree possible and to see how many pom-pom balls it can hold.
- Click here to check out STEM Christmas Activities.
Upside Down Christmas Trees STEM Challenge will engage all your students and get them thinking during the holiday season! Is this a new fad or a bad idea? Students work with a team to design, create, and construct the tallest upside down Christmas Tree possible. Students will also get reasons for each perspective for or against upside Christmas Trees.
I just want to share a couple exciting things with you!
The first thing is November STEM! I have several STEM products in my store that will engage your students during the Thanksgiving season. Check out these fun products! My students loved making Totem Poles and floating their tinfoil canoes. Keep your students excited about learning and thinking critically during the holiday season. I also have a fun STEM November Take Home Challenge. It get the entire family excited about STEM! Just click the pictures below to check out these products!!
Fun ways to teach matter!
Wow! What an exciting day. We finished up our Unit on Matter with a “Cookin’ Up Chemistry” Breakfast. It was a fun and yummy way to end our study of matter.
Over the last four weeks, students have explored, discovered, and questioned matter’s phases, physical and chemical changes, and the properties of matter. Through this exploration students gained an understanding of how matter can be described by its physical properties. Students took notes and went through labs learning about the different properties of matter.
I love using Robots in my classroom! I teach fifth grade and my students get so excited about learning with robots. Here are a few tips I have found useful!!
Tip #1 How to Get Robots for Your Classroom
I received most of my robots through grants from Donorschoose. If you are not familiar with this nonprofit grant organization, click this link to get started http://share.donorschoose.org/n7MnC
There are two different types of Ozobots and I have both. One type connects to your iPad and has Bluetooth, the other one is much cheaper and students can code on paper with it. I’m having a problem because I have several iPads that don’t have Bluetooth, so now I have more robots than iPads that they work on.
Tip #3 Give Students Time to Explore with Robots
Just like any new manipulative in the classroom, students need time to explore with robots. Giving students time to see how the robots work before giving them instructions is important. This saves time during instruction time, because students have already gotten the chance to “play” with them.
Tip #4 Activities for Ozobots
Students work in groups to create a maze for the Ozobots. Each person has a piece of white cardstock paper and designs a path with a different code on it. Students put their pieces together to create a huge maze.
Tip #5 Making Time for Robots
I don’t want these robots to still be brand new at the end of the school year, so I need to find time to get my students using them. That is the million dollar question every teacher always asks! How do I find time? I have to be creative with this, so I find ways throughout the year to add in time for exploring with robots. Rainy day recesses in my classroom look more like STEM Stations. I have different stations set up with different activities. One station always has the Ozobots with a huge sheet of bulletin board paper. Students can work together to create a huge path for the Ozobots to travel. Another station has the Dash Robots and Sphero. Students can use the app Blocky to learn to code.
20 Things I’ve learned in my 20 years of teaching!!
Wow! The saying is so true, “Time flies when you’re having fun!” I’m not saying teaching is easy or there hasn’t been days that I wanted to become a Wal-Mart store greeter, but when your passions meet your love you don’t feel like it’s work!! Whenever you love what you do, you don’t dread going to work!! Teaching is that for me! It’s my happy place! So thinking I have taught 20 years, scares the heck out of me! How can I be that old??? Is the next 20 years going to go by this fast? Will I get even crazier? So before I forget everything from my last 20 years, I thought I would journal about all the things I have learned. Here goes…
1. You can’t buy everything you want for your classroom! You will go broke, your kids won’t eat, and your husband will get really, really mad! So my solution has been to write grants. One of my favorites is Donorschoose.org. I’ve received LOTS of great resources from this non-profit site. Check it out! It’s easy, but don’t forget to write your thank you notes and take your pictures.
2. Ask~ASK! All people can say is no and that’s where you were to begin with. You’re not asking for stuff for you personally, your asking for your students. My husband always laughs at me whenever I start out by saying, “Hi, I’m Lisa Taylor and I teach 5th grade. I was wondering…” He knows what is coming next! I’m either asking for someone to visit my classroom to talk to my class or I’m wanting something for them!
3. Build Relationships: This was something that took me a little time to understand the importance of. I didn’t come straight out of college knowing this was the most important thing I could do as a teacher! Get to know your students, parents, co-workers, ALL school team members on a personal level. It’s hard but make it a top priority. Start school with “Get to know you activities!” Send home parent surveys, make note cards on your students, find out their interest, but also find out who they are. I love the writing prompt, “What I want my teacher to know about me!” It is so powerful!
4. It’s NOT an EASY Job! Duh! Understatement of the year! But it’s the best. Whenever I hear the words, “It will make your job easier,” I’m always a little uneasy about what suggestion is coming next. This job takes a lot of hard work but there are times we can work smarter not harder! Having an easy job is not my main focus, my students are!
There are some ways I have found to make my job easier:
Organization is the key: this doesn’t come natural to me, but I’ve found some ways that work. STEM tubs, with labels, this helps my students find materials and put materials back whenever they are finished. Clipboards: I have several for different purposes. One is for important papers that need my attention immediately (Before this I would lose papers that I needed to turn back in). Checkoff list: I have several sheets with my students names so I can checkoff whenever they turn papers in. I also have a basket on my desk, where all notes from parents go. This helps to not lose picture or field trip money. I also have a turn in papers basket at the back of my classroom. Whenever students finish their work they know exactly where to turn in their papers!
5. Be flexible: Which has been hard for me! I’m a creature of habit. My Christmas trees are in the same spots. I don’t move my furniture much, because I usually just move it back. So my first reaction to change is usually, “NO!” I back up like a cow in a squeeze shoot (sorry for my farm girl analogy). I have to sleep on it. Then I start thinking it over, reading about it and envisioning it in my classroom. REALLY thinking about it! I know this has been very frustrating to my administrators and teammates over the years, but they know me and are very patient with me. This job is full of change, and I would have to admit I would have missed out on some truly great things if I didn’t learn how to embrace change. I’m still a work in progress on this, but I know it’s important!!
6. Bring extra lunches of field trips: I really hate being hungry whenever someone forgets theirs!
7. Read Books: How will you recommend books to your students if you don’t know kid books? Become an expert on picking the right book for the right student!! Read and they will read too! Be excited about the books!!! It will rub off.
8. Keep Learning: Always keep current! Read and research! Know why you are doing the things in your classroom.
9. Your teacher worth isn’t in what others think!! You can be on top of the mountain on day and get knocked right off the next. You will never make everyone happy. You will make mistakes and you will get called on it (sorry but you’re human, even if most kids think you have superpowers!). You can receive awards, then all it takes is one email from an unhappy parent to make you rethink your career choice. You have to know, if you’re doing your best then you can’t do any more! Be YOU! “Don’t Let Anyone Ever Dull Your Sparkle!”
10. Good teaching is GOOD TEACHING!
11. Make learning fun: You make the lessons, add some fun into them. It’s ok for our students to enjoy learning. It makes them engaged in the material, which then makes them learn more. Make Memories: What do you want your students to remember about you!
12. Keep yearbooks and journals
13. Take time to recharge: Enjoy your time off!! Go to the beach, read a book, and learn to relax. (I’m still working on this one!)
14. Learn to breath: One of the best things I have done!!
15. Learn to Laugh at Yourself (because they will laugh at you!). Sing and dance! Be funny!! It’s a long day if you don’t throw some excitement into it!!
16. Always be prepared for the unexpected and the unexpected happens daily!! Roll with it! Schedules will change, things will come up. If you get upset about everything that comes up that you haven’t planned for, you will be upset a lot!
17. Create a classroom that promotes learning: Make it a classroom you would have wanted to be in! Make it a place that inspires your students to learn and be creative.
18. Be transparent: It’s ok to let your students see you fail. If I don’t know something, I tell them I don’t know. I’m not the Giver of Knowledge in my classroom. We all learn together and it’s always ok not to know. It’s never ok, not to try!!!
19. Be positive: Even if you have to fake it!! Remember your on stage, not all days will you feel the best. You will have to paint on smiles somedays, do it!!
20. Teaching is the best job in the world!!! What else would I want to be doing besides teaching and creating teacher resources?~ NOTHING! (at least until summer, when I can go to the beach) Enjoy everyday, because we truly do make a difference!! We are preparing the future. I totally learn this whenever I went into the dentist and learned that my dentist had been in one of my friend’s class. I thought, “I sure hope he knows what he is doing?” Well it’s up to us, to make sure our students become productive citizens! We are an extremely important job. So go and have fun, 20 years passes by quick!!