Sunday, May 27, 2012

Goodbye Math... Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow....

I love math.  I love the organization of it all.  I love that there is only one right answer but a countless ways to get to it.  The methodical approach of each step and the elimination of a number leading me to the answer.  I love my notebook filled with foldables, notes and knowledge.

But now after 6 long years of always teaching something different, I finally get a year where I am going to teach the same thing twice... but, it's not math.


And although I am sad to give up math (not the STARR test though...doing a little dance on the couch... literally.... are you dancing too?  you know that giving up that test is a relief :)  ), I am totally stoked about just teaching Science.  I love the creativity of it all.  The creation, testing, analyzing and justifying of each thing.  The search for the answer to why?  and the explanation of how you finally figured something out.  Sometimes people have a hard time being a Christian and teaching Science, and I totally can relate to some of that.  But so much of science justifies that there must be a God to create all of this... to make these systems work in such a specific way that if one thing went wrong something would die or cease to exhist.  How awesome is HE!!!

If you have read any of my About Me section, you know the journey I have been on for the last 6 years and how much God has led me, even when I wanted to pull in another way.  How I have taught something new EVERY year, and moved so often. 

This past year I have become the Children's Director at my church. and I have really loved it!  I would NOT be able to do it if I wasn't at the school I am at right now.  To just do Science next year not only means I can focus on one subject area, but I can spend more time doing labs, more foldables, and spending more time on my church kids.  This past year has been a huge blessing, and I just am so excited to see what God has for me next. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Linky Party: Music In the Classroom....Nay or YAY!!!!

YAY!!! I know yall know how much I like to search You Tube for school videos.... so I thought about making a little linky party for all those great finds all us teachers search high and low for.

Let me tell yall a little secret... I am not a fan of rap, hip-hop, or much of today's music.  I grew up on the alternative radio of the '90's (love it), but I now listen to Texas Country and Christian radio.  Obviously my taste in music clashes with what my kids like, but when it comes to learning, some of these rap songs couldn't be better I think.   Go to You Tube.... yes right now.... just open a new tab... type in Mr. Lee.  See all those different songs about Science?  My kids LOVE them.  In fact after I showed the one on the Rock Cycle a few weeks ago, tons of my kids went home and searched more songs of his.  Warm fuzzy feeling taking place:)

One of my students came in the following day and said, "Mr. Johnstone, can we please listen to the Phases of the Moon by Mr. Lee?  I love that one."  Wait.... you want me to play you a learning rap song??? Ummm YES!!

So without further ado... here a few that were my students favorites this year....
Meet Mr. Lee (also has lots of science and math songs)
Meet Mr. Duey (great math songs)
Meet They Might Be Giants (Science songs for all ages)

Do you have any songs that you love to play for your kids?  Link up and share! (this is my 2nd linky party... I hope it works right!)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The No Homework Binder: How to Document the Excuses!

Ahhhh  homework... the dreaded word that makes kids groan... not to mention teachers when we have to deal with the million excuses as to why the homework didn't get done the next day.  Read my post on why I think homework is necessary... but evil... here...

After 5 years of teaching and having to deal with the homework issue, I have found a way to document all those times it doesn't get done.... in one place... and can whip it out in no time during parent teacher conferences.  Yes... this idea has been one of my save-all's when it comes to conferences.

Behold.... The No Homework Binder.

Simple.... beyond simple.... yet it holds so much power!
 If you like the cover, you can download it from here.
All you need is a 3 ring binder... a 1 inch binder would be fine.
Get some of these dividers.

Give each student one of these sheets.

All they need to do is put their first and last name and their homeroom teacher.

Pick up all your sheets and put all of them behind to correct dividers.

You can find my download sheets also in the tab on the right at the bottom under "Files to Share."

Within the first week of school, I explain the "No Homework Binder."  I explain to the kids that
  • For the most part, I will only assign math homework.
  • Homework will only be given on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.  (Wednesday many of my kids have church, so I dont assign on this day.)
  • Homework assignments will not take students longer than 30 minutes to complete.
  • I understand if you once in a blue moon do not do your homework due to an emergency, but when you are consistently not doing it, that is when it becomes a problem.
  • When homework is not done, fill out the table in the no homework binder.
  • I give a Test grade at the end of the 9 weeks grading period.  If you did all assignments, you get a 100.  Each one you did not do is -5 points from that 100.  
  • Parents will be contacted if you miss 3 assignments in a row.
Now when the kids want to give me a million excuses as to why their homework is not done I just tell them I don't want to hear it and write it in the binder. I will look at it later.  While students do their warm up, I stop by the binder and just do a quick look to see that it was filled out by those who did not do the assignment.  The most popular reasoning under "Because..." is "I forgot."

And that's it.  Usually when a parent wants to talk to me about their child's work, I whip out my binder, and there..... in their child's own handwriting is the continuous confessions as to why they did not do their homework.

 I love having the students document this.  This binder has been so easy to keep up with, its been amazing and best of all I have the documentation for the whole year in one spot.
Do you hear that?? Its the sigh of relief!

Monday, May 14, 2012

MNM: Area of Trapezoids... WHY??


The most intriguing question that I ask and try to have an answer for.  So I was about to teach how to find area of a trapezoid, and I thought I could just teach them the formula and how to use it, but then the question hit me... Why??  Why is the formula like this???

My students had a formula chart we refer to as the "cheat sheet" (they get to use this on their STAAR test) and I knew I would not be a good teacher if I didn't explain why the formula was the way it was. 

My students already had figured out the formula to finding the area of a triangle: bh/2 because a triangle is 1/2 of the area of a rectangle or square. 

They figured that out all on their own... with a little jogging by me.  But I had NO IDEA why the formula to a trapezoid was (Base 1 + Base 2)h/2.  Why was the formula this?? And if I couldn't figure it out, how on earth could I teach it???  AHHHH....

So I sat at the kitchen table with my husband and drew, thought, scribbled, reassessed, guess and checked and learned all over again.  The divide by 2 made me think... somehow a triangle is involved here....Then it hit me.... duh... 2 triangles make up a trapezoid.... but they have different bases.  If I find the area of each one and add them then I can find the area.  And it worked.

So I used my jogging questions to help my students figure out the formula to a trapezoid. We started with a trapezoid cut out that I provided to all my students.  I told them that triangles and trapezoids were related.  Using one line, can you figure out how and draw it?  Gotta admit... it stumped some them... they really wanted to draw a square and a triangle(just like I did the night before), but soon enough the light started turning on and they drew a line cutting the trapezoid into 2 triangles.
I told them they already knew how to find the area of triangles, so what could we do to find the area of the trapezoid?  ( Find the area of each triangle and add them)  And so they did.  You can see the work in each triangle and the adding of the 2 triangle areas in the bottom right hand corner of the journal page.

Once they understood this concept, I told them there was an easier way then finding the area of both triangles and adding.  I asked what did the 2 triangles have in common? (the height) What was different in both triangles? (the bases) Well both the bases are being multiplied by the height. right... couldn't we just add the bases and multiply them by the height since they are going to anyway?  Lets test it and see what happens....
Sure enough... we got the same answer.  So why can we do this?  (both of the bases are being multiplied by the same number)  Then I asked what did they notice about the 2 bases? what kind of lines were they? (parallel)  So how can you always find the bases in a trapezoid?  (look for the parallel lines)

With much practice, they can do the formula in no time, but even more importantly, when I ask them why we add the bases, or divide by 2, they can tell me exactly why.  Warm feeling filling the heart now...

And on a side note.... didn't I learn all this in 10th grade Geometry???? When did 10th grade become 6th grade math!??!?!

Gotta get my warm heart feeling again after that blood pressure spike....

Happy Teaching the answer to WHY???

Sunday, May 13, 2012

SNS: Rock Cycle Rap and Lab

If you are a regular visitor to my blog, I am sure you know how much I love to use YouTube in the classroom.  This week I taught about the Rock Cycle (I love Earth Science), and played this song for my kids and printed out the lyrics.
After we listened to it and had fun laughing and singing along (even during the 1st time it played), I gave them a sheet of the lyrics and went through each line.  Mr. Lee (rap teacher) uses great vocabulary- compaction, cementation, elusive, intrusive, extrusive... and we used context clues within the rap to determine the meaning of some of the words we didn't know.

Then came the labs.... get ready....

To engage the students I supplied each table with a set of rocks that I asked them to classify based on any physical property.  They had to journal how they classified the rocks and draw a picture.  My rock set had numbers on each rock which helped soooo much this week.  Then we took a "Rock Tour" around the classroom looking at how each group classified their rocks and the students talked about whether they agreed with the placement or not.  
Then we really got hands on... and created rocks.

Created rocks?!?!?!  WHAT??

Yes... out of crayons... and it was messy.... but my psycho anal organized behavior did detour some of the mess.
First we made a fortune teller with 4 flaps labeled as sediment, sedimentary rock, metamorphic rock, and igneous rock.

Now it was time to make some rocks. It  started with me buying 5 boxes of crayons (I bought the cheap stuff...this summer I am going to stock up when the back to school sale starts), 20 pencil sharpeners (0.47 each), and going to Lowe's (love them) and having them cut a huge board into 10 eight inch x eight inch squares.  I know its a little expensive, but the learning experience is totally worth it.

1. Each student sharpens 1 of 4 crayons (red, yellow, green, blue) down to nothing and put into a cup.

2. Students then used their fingers to make the shavings into fine crumbs.  This is important!!!
3. Place a small sample under the sediment flap of the foldable and place a piece of tape on top.
 4. Pass out 2 pieces of wax paper. You can cut a 12 inch sheet in half and give it to each table.  I had my
     students draw a 10 cm x 10 cm square on the wax paper with a permanent marker.  They then placed
     all their crayon crumbs on the wax paper square.

Crayon Sediments placed together before pressure is added

 5. Place the 2nd sheet of wax paper on top of the crumbs (wax paper crayon sandwich) and place it
     between 2 of the square boards.
  6.  Now have the kids step on top of the boards trying hard not to get the shavings on the floor.  Keep
      having them press on it for a few minutes.  Do not hammer it unless you want a headache, or press with
      their hands (I did this with my morning group and it did not turn out very well).
  7. The pressure has made the shavings stick together... now you have a sedimentary rock.  Have each
     student take a small sample from their crayon sedimentary rock and tape it in their journal.  They also
     wrote that pressure formed the rock on the top flap.

  8.  Now take the remaining sedimentary crayon rock and put it back in between the wax paper, and the wax paper in between the boards.  Using a C-clamp, apply even greater pressure to the crayon sandwich for a new minutes.

 9.  While the clamp was as tight as it could go, I had my students press their hands together as hard as they could.  I asked them what they felt.... they responded with heat.  I explained that while pressure increases so does heat.  What is going to happen to the crayon sandwich now?  The heat is going to melt some of the crayon making it stick together even better.  BOOYAH!

Metamorphic crayon rock
10.  Using a plastic knife, we cut small samples to go under the metamorphic rock flap in our journal and placed a piece of tape on it.  Then the journaling of how it was formed.
11.  The last rock is igneous, and I totally forgot to take pictures of it.  Sorry!!!  But you give each group a piece of aluminum foil and have them make a flat bottom bowl not much bigger than the left over piece of crayon sandwich.

12.  Using a wooden clothespin, attach it to the side of the bowl.  This is the handle.

13.  Carefully using a hot plate, have the students melt the crayon sandwich (metamorphic rock)- be careful that someone is holding the handle of the bowl the entire time.

14.  Using one of your boards as a trivet, place the bowl on it to cool down.  Have students observe what happens and journal about it.

15.  When it completely cools, have the students take a small sample and tape it into their journal.
Igneous crayon rock
The finished foldable
 The next day, we drew the rock cycle, and because we had already done the lab, they really understood the process and what the diagram meant.
Hope you all have a great last few weeks of school.  ROCK ON!!! (corny I know....) :)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Currently on this May Day...

is having a Linky Party for May!  Find out what other teachers are doing currently!  
I love grabbing a sneak peak into other teachers lives:)
Here is mine...
Oh May... how did you get here so fast??? Wasn't spring break last week, and Christmas 2 weeks before that??  Good grief... I am sooo not ready to tell my kids good-bye :(