Science Labs: An Intro to Safety

science wordle

Don’t you just love Wordle?  In case you haven’t used Wordle before it’s an applet that creates cool word clouds like the one above.  You type in a bunch of words (the more times a word appears, the larger the font size) and a word cloud is formed.  You can customize word directions, colour, font, and a few other things.  Don’t know how you’d like your cloud to look?  Just press “randomize” and it gives you a different cloud each time!

My first science class each year is just about getting the kids to talk about science…what does science mean to them?  It’s important to help students understand the science is dynamic.  It is ever-changing.  And we definitely do not have all the answers to our questions.

I’ve created a set of lab safety rules in student-friendly language.  Before actually getting into scientific inquiry (which I will post about soon) and designing experiments, students need to understand the importance of lab safety.

Click on the Science Wordle above for the lab safety rules and student contract!

I’ll be making these rules into posters soon, so if you have any suggestions please leave them in the comments below!

Here’s a link to an activity to help students identify unsafe lab practices: http://www.biologycorner.com/worksheets/safety.html

The Daily 5, a complete Language Arts Program

The Daily 5 is a series of literacy tasks that a group of students complete daily while the teacher meets with small groups or confers with individuals. This book not only explains the philosophy behind the structure, but also shows us how to carefully and systematically train students to participate in each of the five components.  Explicit modeling, practice, reflecting and refining takes place during the launching phase, preparing the foundation for a year of meaningful content and instruction tailored to meet the unique needs of each child. “The Daily 5 is more than a management system or a curriculum framework – it is a structure that will help students develop the daily habits of reading, writing and working with peers that will lead to a lifetime of independent literacy.” (http://www.the2sisters.com/the_daily_5.html)

As the title expresses, it is a combination of five different tasks throughout the two-hour literacy block. Each essential task is a foundational element in literacy for the K-5 grade levels. This program allows for a change to the atmosphere in the classroom and the role for us teachers. It is a change from trying to manage students, from rushing around the room, from putting out fires, to creating routines and procedures that creates independent literacy behaviours to the point of becoming habits. Read to Self is the best way to become a better reader by practicing every day. Children are allowed to choose books that interest them at their appropriate reading level. During the implementation and training stages, children are taught how to select books at their correct reading level. Read to Someone allows for more time to practice reading strategies. This essential task helps students work on fluency, expression, to check for understanding, to hear their own voice, and to share with their partner. Work on Writing works the same way as reading, the only way students can be better writers is to write each day. Listen to Reading is a task that allows students to listen to examples of good literature and fluent reading. This task allows students to expand their vocabulary and become better readers. The last of the essential tasks is Spelling Word Work.This task allows for consistent practice in spelling which aids in fluent writing and the ability to quickly write thoughts down on paper. These tasks are to be done daily and students are given a half-hour within each task. They rotate between the tasks, but what the most important factor of this system is the choice that students have. Eventually, when all is implemented, students will have the ability to select which task they wish to start with and which one he/she goes to next (as long as all five tasks are done within the day). In order for this system to work smoothly there are six core foundations to make it successful. Trusting students is the first. This is not a blind trust but a method to build behaviors gradually through lessons and guided practice. Providing choice is the second core foundation. Choice is extremely motivating and allows the student to be in charge of his or her own learning. Third is a nurturing community. This foundation will create a sense of community thus providing members (the students) with ownership to hold others accountable for behaviors of effort, learning order and kindness. Next is the core foundation of creating a sense of urgency. This foundation will empower kids by allowing them the opportunity to understand why we teach a certain idea or concept. A purpose along with a choice will give the student the motivation to keep persevering and keep on task. The next very important core foundation is the building of stamina. This correlates to the constructivist theory. For the program to be successful, children must commence slowly, a minute at a time thus providing them with a teacher who will lay the foundation for success, support them, cheer them on, and help them succeed. Should this not be done, students will become frustrated and failure is imminent. Last but not least is that the teacher must stay out of the way. This is extremely important because the teacher must display trust and must allow students the opportunity to make their own decisions and monitor him or herself.

I feel that the concept of the Daily 5 is greatly beneficial as students are really capable and if we work with them, we can truly empower them to be active participants in their learning process. The task is a great one, and there is a lot of preparatory work. The Daily 5 does allow for more control overall, and it does dissuade behavioural issues within a classroom. The program fosters a comfortable environment where desks are the furthest requirements. A couch and lounge chairs are more appropriate. This is a complete detachment from the current state of classrooms. It is a fresh approach which requires a 2 hour block of literacy. The five essential tasks are an excellent foundation to literacy. I must stress that this is a complete change in mindset but a successful one. Some school boards have begun to adopt the Daily 5, providing teachers the support and the resources to implement the program. Should you choose to take on this system there are many websites that support your implementation. I hope you find the Daily 5 useful and the following websites to help you start.

http://www.the2sisters.com/

http://www.thedailycafe.com/

http://k-5literacyconnections.weebly.com/daily-5.html

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Professional Development! Keeping Track of Your PD!

June is almost here and another school year is quickly drawing to a close!  Once curriculum expectations have all been covered and report cards have been written, it would be a great time to reflect back on the 2011-2012 academic year and record the various professional development activities in which you participated.  Each year, I say that I am going to keep better track of my participation in PD activities, but I never do! So, I decided to create a simple, one page Professional Development Log to organize past PD activities and to reflect on future PD interests.  Just click on the image below!

pd log

‘Helping Out’ – Roles within the Classroom!

One of the many first things we do as teachers straight from day one is create a job chart of one sort or another, providing students with responsibilities to help keep their classroom clean, as well as, to maintain a safe and healthy environment for all students to work within for the year.

There are many different jobs within the classroom for students to take part in. Here is a list that I used with my grade 7/8 class which seemed to work well. Students volunteered for roles, as well, I continued to rotate them throughout the year so that all students took share in taking on the many roles listed.

gif_book_32108

‘While you were absent’– A note for your students

Be a Buddy, Keep a ‘While you were Absent’ Folder!

On days that our students are away, it’s a great idea to keep track of what they missed so they can catch up easily the next day or when they return. Part of ensuring this is a smooth process for all, is for one, organize a buddy list so that each time a student is absent, there is a student keeping track of their work for them. Two, have a ‘While you were absent’ list (make plenty of photocopies) within a folder (you may want to have a few of these on hand, should there be more than one student absent) in a bin.

When a student is absent, their ‘buddy’ can get a folder and begin keeping track of what they missed under each subject. Within this folder, they can also collect and insert any handouts, worksheets or any other important information. At the end of the day, this folder can be placed on the ‘absent’ students desk. Upon return, your student can now transition smoothly into their day, making sure they catch up on all work!

Check it out! I used this in my Gr.7/8 class last year – it worked great! Be consistent and help your students be consistent too! Just click the link above!

‘A New Beginning’ — A Letter to be sent to your students each year.

Just as we are starting a new school year, so are students. Having said that, it is essential that we build an immediate bond with them from day one. Among the many ideas of welcoming students into our classroom and setting the grounds for a great year, sending home an introduction letter with general information for both students and parents is a great start. Not only does it welcome all students into your classroom, letting them know what’s ahead, but it also allows parents to feel connected with both you and their child!

Attached is just an example in which I used with my grade 7/8 class last year. Feel free to take this idea, changing information in order to best suit your goals, intentions and ideas of what it will take to start the year off great! You can also play around with colors, format and pictures!  Just click on the image above!