Monday, August 31, 2015

Interacting With Interactive Notebooks Helpful Hints

In our classroom, we have fun taking notes. Usually, note taking involves some sort of manipulative or foldable. The students get to color, cut, and glue. They also get to choose, in many ways, what they add to their notebook. We create an interactive science notebook. Why should you? Students spending so much time and effort working on their notebook, can give them a sense of ownership. They take pride in it. It is theirs. When students have that, we all know they will do their best. The interactive notebook then becomes a tool that they can keep and use to help them learn material. 

When we started creating interactive notebooks, test scores improved and so did student engagement and involvement. Our evaluation scores even went up. Other teachers wanted to know what we were doing. We became the favorite class of many and so can you. So if you're thinking about starting interactive notebooks with your kiddos, keep reading below for a few helpful hints we have for you. 

Helpful Hint # 1-You Do It Too
Think about those students who miss your class or are visual learners. Sometimes they just need to see it. When you do the interactive notebook with them, it gives your students a visual (and an exemplary example) and helps them to see what you want them to do. If they're absent, all they have to do is look at yours. 

Helpful Hint # 2-Keep a Table of Contents
Help your kiddos stay organized by keeping up with a table of contents. Put it near the front of the notebook. Organize it by "big ideas." The first year we did it, we listed every item by title. But when titles take on a more creative aspect, sometimes the students may not be able to look at the title and know the content. So, we now organize the table of contents by topics. When the students need to study lab safety or cell structures for example, they just find the topic in their table of contents and that will tell them where to go. 

Helpful Hint # 3-Display the Table of Contents
Simply get a piece of poster board and laminate it. Make it a large replica of your table of contents. Display it in your room so that your students can keep up. 

Helpful Hint # 4-Use a 3-Ring Binder
The first year we created an INB with our students, we used a spiral bound notebook. By the end of the year, only a few notebooks were intact. Covers were gone and pages were messed up and missing. We even created a drawer for our students to keep them in when the notebooks started falling apart. In a way, this defeats the purpose though. If they store their notebook in a drawer, then they don't have access to it any time they need it (only when they are in the classroom). Using a 3-ring binder provides more protection for your students' pages. It can also save you some time. To add some handouts to the spiral bound notebook, we would have to take time to cut and then glue. For the binder, some items we can simply punch holes in and put them in. 

Helpful Hint # 5-Grade It
Giving your students a grade provides another incentive for your students to do well. Sometimes some lessons take a lot of time. We like to give grades for those. Come up with a form that works for you and give a participation grade. We look for neatness, color, and completion, for example. To encourage our students to keep up, in addition to the periodic participation grades, we have notebook checks every other week. 

Follow these hints to be successful in your interactive notebooking. Seek help. Yes, sometimes preparing the lessons can take a little time but there are so many resources out there where you can find help. Turn to Pinterest or even TpT for some great ideas. There are so many resources and even FREEBIES out there. Be sure to check out my store at for some of them. So what are you waiting for? Get started today! 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Getting Into Groups

Group work has not always worked for our class. The students would take their time finding a group. When they found their group, they would waste time trying to figure out who would do what. It never failed that some groups would get off task. They would talk about what they did the weekend before or what they were going to do the upcoming weekend, a project or a test in their next class, or who broke up with who. I spent more time trying to keep groups on task than facilitating and guiding the lesson. What did I do to fix this? I started spending a few days at the beginning of the year teaching them and practicing the expectations of getting into groups. 

Practice Timing
Starting from their seat, ask your students to form a group of 3 for example. "Ready, set, go!" Time how long it takes them to do so. I like to practice forming different group sizes. I have them form groups of 2 and even 4. We also practice forming groups different ways. You can let them form a group based on their favorite color, give them a number and let them find their match, or tell them a song to hum and to find the person(s) that are humming the same song (one of my favorites). Practice different ways to get into the group and have them try to beat their previous time. Even better, tell them a time that another class did using the same method, and have them compete to beat it. Teach them how to form their group quickly. 

Practice Assigning Them
Although I let my students sometimes choose who they work with, the best groups are those that the teacher assigns. You put them in their groups. Pick a source of data and use it. One of my favorite tools is to give them a few questions to answer about the topic we are covering. That's their bell work. You can quickly check it as a class and group them according to how they did. Group them based on abilities if you need to focus on a group of students that are struggling. Or you can group them with mixed abilities if you need help teaching a concept. Let the stronger kids help those that are weaker. To practice this, I like to give the students a quiz about me. We swap papers and quickly grade it as a class. They have fun trying to guess the answers (especially how old I am). Next, we get into groups based on how many questions the student answered correctly. The group task is usually something simple so that everybody gets a job. Maybe ask them to pick and object in the room and to design a way to make it better. Have the group choose a leader, a writer, and someone to share. Everyone gets a role and to play a part in the group that you assigned. 

Practice Working In Groups
I teach high school. So when these students come to me, they've already had many different teachers. Everybody is different (that's why we differentiate, right?), so it's likely that some of the teachers your students had before, had different expectations of group work. We must teach our students what we expect and practice these expectations over and over. Practice makes perfect. My favorite practice assignment is a creative designing and engineering one. Each group is given stuff (like construction paper, cups, popsicle sticks, googly eyes, cotton swabs, fuzzy sticks, paper plates, etc.), asked to build something, and to work together while doing so. It's amazing what these kids come up with. Here's just a few creations from this year. 

Don the Drummer

Cookie Bug

Sam the Spotted Dog

Make it a competition to build the best and you will be amazed at how well (even your students that struggle) they will work together. It's perfect for letting them practice how you want them to work. 

Practice Giving Them A Grade
When we give a grade for an assignment done while in a group, participation is always a factor for determining it. If Susie, Bob, and John work in a group for an assignment, but John does the work (while Susie brushes her hair and Bob takes a nap), Susie and Bob don't deserve the same grade as John. To end our group work practice at the beginning of the year, I like to give the students a task to complete as a group and give them a grade based on how they do. Most of the time, their task is to put together a puzzle without talking. "Ready, set, go", and the students get into their assigned group quickly (just like we practiced). They work  as a group to put the puzzle together. We observe them and give them a grade based on how well they do, taking points off each time they don't follow one of the group work procedures or directions. Let them get used to getting a grade for their participation. 

Using time at the beginning of the year to show your students the expectations of group work can make things run much more smoothly for you the rest of the year. Teach your students the appropriate way to work together. If you do so, you will enjoy group work and they will too. 

Hope this helps and hope you have a wonderful school year. Happy grouping! 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Pinning on Pinterest

I remember the day that a friend of mine told me about Pinterest. She pulled it up on my desktop as she got ready to go to her next class. It was the beginning of my planning so I welcomed the chance to sit down for moment. To me, it looked like a clutter of disorganized and random pictures. What am I ever going to do with this jumble of mess, I thought as I hurriedly closed the browser and began to grade a set of papers. Everything, I think now.

Pinterest has been a lifesaver. It has been an organizational tool. It has been an inspiration. It has been a resource for information. It has been a way to manage things in my life. Furthermore, it has been a way to make me a better person and a better teacher.

A few months later the Pinterest topic came up again, so I made a vow to myself to give it another try. After all, if this many people are on the Pinterest bandwagon, there must be something to it. That day, I discovered there was and I have been pinning ever since.

If you haven't started Pinterest, start pinning today.  It is worth it. And don't forget to follow my boards For the Classroom, for basic educational ideas, Amazing Anatomy and Physiology, for things I do in Anatomy, Best of Biology, for all things related to life science, and Crazy for Chemistry, for ideas to use in your Chemistry Class.

Happy reading and happy teaching!  ;)

Friday, July 3, 2015

Something Old Something New

Something Old...

On June 28, 2015, my husband and I celebrated our 1st anniversary. What an amazing year! 

I've always heard that rain on your wedding day was a sign of good luck. I couldn't be any luckier. Although, I prefer the term blessed. And that, we are. 

I remember moments of that day just like it was yesterday. Looking at the time and thinking "it's about to happen", caused the butterflies to flourish in my stomach. Not because I was nervous about getting married, but because in a moment, all eyes would be upon me.

Something New...

My profession calls for me to stand in front of people almost everyday and speak. Everyday I teach, I can have over 100 eyes upon me throughout the day. And even though I've been a part of over 10 1st days of school as a teacher, I still get butterflies in my stomach, just like those I felt on my wedding day. 

In a few weeks, there will be another 1st day of school and the start of another school year. The butterflies will come again and go. But this year, I want to have a few more 1st. One of these is blogging. So here's to my first post. I've seen success and heard stories from many teachers. Fingers crossed it will work for me too. 

I've also turned to TpT for yet another 1st. Check out Science From The South on Teachers Pay Teachers for some great classroom resources.

Lastly, any advice, suggestions, do's, and dont's are certainly welcome. Happy reading and happy teaching! ;)