Saturday, August 22, 2009

Clock Partners - File Download

I get a lot of requests for the above clock partner wheel so I downloaded it to my file downloads.
This is modified slightly from a similar activity I did during a conference.

I introduced clock partners in my science class this past Wednesday and the students loved scheduling times with one another to meet as partners. My principal walked in while students were moving around getting their clocks filled up and he enjoyed watching the activity. Whew!

I have a class that requires some heavy differentiating. I choose to wait to introduce it to this group until I get a better feel for the students and their ability to work in small groups. I wrote about clock partners more in depth last January (if you click on "clock partners" under labels on the right it should take you to my original post on the subject).

I plan for the first month or so to have students meet as partners twice a week to work on an activity in the notebook. It is my hope that by doing that that students will quickly learn the expectations and how to work in small groups.

I gave them an activity to do right after they filled in their clock partners and the next day I gave them another activity (Safety Acrostic). I go over expectations for behavior each time and set the timer (I tell students they will never have longer then 10 minutes). If a group is unevenly matched I will monitor and help the group as needed but I will not rearrange groups. Students often want to sit on the rug to work but for the first month I will keep them at their desk to better monitor groups.

After about a month I will make it a point, when lesson planning, to put them in clock partner groups at least once a week.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Starter Pages - Part II

In a previous post I have links to a set of starter pages that are downloadable and just wanted to clarify. I don't use everything in those pages and they are not in the order I would put them in the notebook (although I wouldn't put them in the book next year except in booklet form to save my gluing sanity :) and space.

The page picture above is a perfect example. I don't use the sensory figure instructions. In my modified set of starter pages I have taken this out. It seemed more for social studies notebooks then science.

Also, a few posts down I noted that I changed my title page requirements to simplify. I changed my starter pages to reflect that and I included the number of lines students were to go down after experiencing problems last year.

The original starter pages that I received my first year of teaching had a TON more pages - my contact information, table of content, class requirements and textbook information, an overview of our topics of study, more detailed grading rundown with rubric, homework and inclass activity explanation, extra credit policy, missing work policies, information about John Collins writing (although I think the teacher changed that a year back to be Cornell note taking instructions), the school's Middle Years Program (MYP), a Personal Academic Data page where student record their MAP scores, and a signature page (which I renamed Science - Contact Page).

As you can see, you can have a ton of information in the starter pages or very few. You can tailor to the needs of your school or your team.

My suggestion is to print out the pages and really go through them. Decide what you like and what you don't and figure what order makes the best sense for you and your students. Each year review and decided what worked and what didn't and continue to modify.

Just as a quick disclaimer. I did not originate the pages. I have certainly added to them and tweaked, much as I suspect other teachers will do but they were shared generously with me in the spirit of notebooking and I am passing them forward in the same manner. Hope they help!


Thursday, August 13, 2009

File Sharing

I finally figured a way to store and share files on this blog (I think).

Click here if you are interested in downloading a copy of the grading checklist.

Click here if you are interested in downloading a copy of the notebooking starter pages.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this works :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Check System

There had been a request to post the check system that I use. This is one I received from a fifth grade teacher at our school that has been working well. I'll try and convert to a pdf so I can post for download.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Good Deal - August 9, 2009

Best Buy has these Flash Drives on sale this week. The 8G is only $20, which is a really good price. I like it because it slides in and out. I have one with a cap and I am PARANOID about loosing it. Last year I bought an 8G for school and I am always saving lesson plans, notebook pages, video downloads, pictures, and music downloads for school and I've never run out of space. Check to make sure that it comes with a lanyard, some of them don't (which is really annoying!). They do sell them separately.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Starter Pages

In my first year of teaching I was given these starter pages from my team teacher, Mrs. Gannon, who maintains a social studies blog for the Interactive Notebooks (IAN). There are about 16 pages of "instructions" on various notebooking activities from how to write an appropriate acrostic poem to how to put together a storyboard in the notebook. Students can use these instructional pages to refer back to how an assignment should be done. Over the years I have modified these instructional pages, deleting what I don't use, clarifying something I might use a lot, or simply revising it all together. I've seen some other revised starter pages that also include Cornell notetaking strategies.

I have always pre-glued these pages into the notebook, skipping the first page (which is the notebook title page). As stated above this takes up 16 pages of the notebook. It hasn't been a problem for me, as I have always had enough space.

Last year both Mrs. Gannon, and another notebooker in the district Mrs. Moore, moved their instructional pages into a booklet form, which I thought was very clever. Not only does it reduce the amount of space being taken up in the notebook, waste less paper, but it would be much more efficient to manage (just fold and staple). One could glue the booklet right into the notebook but I think the two teachers mentioned above used a small catalog envelope glued to the back cover of the composition book to store it in (students could take out as needed).

As it stands, I have copied all 16 pages (using the good side of a bad copy run the office made), cut them in half, and have started to glue them into approximately 70 books. In hindsight I should have modified the starter pages into a booklet but I'll just chalk that up to a "lesson learned" this year and make plans to do it next year :)

Check Lists and the First Week of School

As I am writing this, it is Saturday...two days before teachers go back to school. Most teachers know that the week that we go back to school our days are heavily scheduled with school meetings, team meetings, district meetings, technology meetings, curriculum meetings, meet-and-greets, etc. so the actual time spent in the classroom is very limited. I find it helpful to have some notebooking things done before that Monday. In my case I have moved classrooms this year so I really tried to be as organized as possible with the notebooks so I had one less thing to think about as I unpack and put away.

My checklist consists of:

___ Purchased composition books (students will replace stock when they bring in supplies)

___ Put name labels on each book

___ Developed a storage system for books (in my case purchasing bins)

___ Reinforced binding with clear masking tape (done in front of the TV one evening)

___ Glued in starter pages (will also do in front of TV this weekend)

I plan to start notebooking most likely on the second day of school. The first day I have some getting to know you activities and we run through practice fire and earthquake drills (along with collecting supplies and explaining classroom rules and expectations) If I find I still have time I will jump ahead to some of the activities for the next day.

On day two I'll have students set up clock partners (see January 2009 post with picture), number the pages (to 25 only), set up the first title page, and do a textbook scavenger hunt with a clock partner. Even though I rarely use the textbooks (I collect and place on our shelves as a class set so students don' t have to lug them around) I still think it is a good idea students know what is in it so they can use it as a resource. Last year I didn't use the clock partners on a regular basis and I should have because when I did split students in groups, that didn't included their "friends," they turned dysfunctional quickly. I think using clock partners more often might lead to better group skills. I'll report back on how that goes. My game plan is to try and do one activity a week that will use a clock partner (probably more often the first week or so of school to get them use to it).

On day three we will complete whatever we didn't finish from the day before and then I will introduce our INQUIRY unit. That means reviewing the standards and making the title page for that. If time I will show What is a Scientist powerpoint that is downloadable from this site.

On day four we will discuss safety as a group and students will be put into their clock partner groups to complete the "What Not To Do Lab" in their notebooks, we will regroup and discuss. Students will then have to label, draw, and color a safety poster, which I will mount and put around the room.

On day five (end of first week) students will be taught how to "smell correctly" (wafting) and will rotate between five table groups wafting various things from around my house (vanilla, vinegar, etc.). Kids love that activity and makes for some good pictures! Then we will go over the lyrics to the Lab Safety! song, highlighting some lab safety rules we see in the lyrics. Students will then hear the song, once for fun (it is an engaging rap song) and then another time but following the lyrics (which will be on the left hand of the notebook). Students will then have to make a SAFETY acrostic poem on the right hand side (will most likely model one of the letters so students know the one word responses!!!).

This is just a rough outline of my first week. I may change or tweak depending on the schedule, group of students, etc.

Revised Title Page

Last year I used the same title page as I had in the sixth grade (see earlier posts under December 2008). It was similar to the one pictured above but it was marked into six sections (3 bottom and three top...instead of a straight line it was a "V" shaped).

I am going to use the above model this year. I think it will speed up making the title pages, which tends to take students a long time to complete. I also found that fourth graders like having specific instructions regarding how many lines they go down before drawing the top line of the title box, so this year I included it in my instructions for them.

Our first title page is on the very first page and is titled "SCIENCE". Since we cover four main areas in fourth grade science the four blocks work fairly well - Weather, Astronomy, Organisms and Their Environment, and Light and Electricity (we actually have five areas with Inquiry but that is a short unit and is worked into the others).

When I do the first title page with students I walk them through the first two (SCIENCE and INQUIRY) and then they do weather and the rest on their own. Sometimes I might do one or two blocks as a group and the rest students would do on their own. That all depends on the class.

I'll have a copy of the diagram above on the board and talk about the units we will be engaged in for the year. I'll ask for suggestion on what we can draw in the block for weather and pick a student suggestion to draw in that block on the board. I'll do the same for astronomy and the rest. I have students copy and color what I have on the board into their notebooks.

I'll post student samples of the new revised title page once they are done.

Storage Tubs

Here in South Carolina we start school on August 17th so I am working like mad to get everything set up in the classroom (teachers go back on Monday). I found these bins doing a walkthrough at Wal-Mart in their campus supply section and liked that could easily fit 25 notebooks with room to spare. The bins I used last year were too small and it became problematic.

I am teaching three fourth grade science classes this year so I purchased three different colored bins to separate the notebooks. These bins would not fit on a traditional bookshelf but they do fit on a counter top or table. I have an ELA group and am going to try my hand at reading notebooks this year. I'll post some periodic updates :)

I use mailing labels placed in the upper right hand side of the book to put names so I can, and the students can, find their book quickly (see third orange bin).

For management I set my students up in groups of four and each table is labeled (wide blue painters tape) 1 through 4. On my job board I have a "table runner" position that I rotate every Monday. That table runner is then responsible for getting books from the bin, passing out papers, returning books to the bin, etc. It worked well last year and most of the time the books were grouped according to tables so it was easy for a runner to come up and grab their four or five books and pass them out.