How to make Teaching Science stress free

Science is everywhere. Remember, all Science lessons do not have to involve manipulatives and the “wow” factor. Observing the weather, collecting leaves, and growing a class plant are all excellent ways to teach science. In fact, these are the lessons that children tend to remember, and learn the most from.

Cross-curricular units are great. If you’re reading a story about dinosaurs, then study dinosaurs in Science. Taking a few weeks to learn more about a topic can be rewarding, especially if it’s a topic your students have an interest in.

• Get a Science grade from each lesson or experiment. When you teach hands-on Science lessons, it’s easy to get so caught up in the fun that you forget to get a grade from them. If your school uses a hands-on kit, you may need to do the experiment in the kit one day, and then have students complete some sort of assessment the next. Ideas for Science assessments include:

               • A graph of the data collected
               • A write-up of what they observed
               • A picture of what they observed
               • A KWL chart
               • Have students write down 3 facts they learned from the lesson or experiment.
               • Have students write down 3 interesting things that occurred during the experiment.
               • Grading their Science journal entry.
               • Grading their notes from the lesson you taught.
• Observational grades work for some lessons. There will be certain experiments or lessons that do not lend themselves to a formal assessment. Observational grades are perfect for these lessons. Take a clipboard with a class list, and walk around and give students a lab grade based on their effort during the lesson, and how well they worked with their partner or group.

• Don’t be afraid to supplement your Lessons. If you have a Science curriculum, you may find that your students need more or less of part of the curriculum. This is also a great way to extend the curriculum if you don’t have a full year curriculum of Science. Here is a link for an Air and Weather unit.

• Use parent volunteers for prepping your lessons. If you are fortunate enough to have parents who wish to work in your room, prepping for the next science lesson is a great job to give them. A parent can prepare the materials and set them aside in a spot in your room, until you’re ready to give the lesson – even if it’s a few days away.

• All Science is important. Make sure that your students understand that all Science lessons are important, whether they have the “wow” factor or not. Talk about famous Scientists and explain that the reason they are famous today is because they took the time to record their observations, and write about what they learned. Many people saw cells and micro-organisms underneath microscopes, but we credit those Scientists who published what they saw.

Teacher Time Savers

Here are some great tips to help you save time for what really matters with your students.

      Share responsibility with your district, or team members.  When it comes to turning in weekly lesson plans, grade level team members should be on the same page anyway.  Each week a different grade level member can be responsible for creating the plans.  Grade level teams can also divide the lesson plan work by subject - so one team member can create math plans this week, and another one can focus on Language Arts.  This will not only save you hours of time, but will insure that you and your team remain on the same page.

     Organize your files on the computer, and in the classroom.  While some things change from year to year, many things stay the same.  If you take the time to organize your plans, and lesson enhancers you will be able to reuse them.  Taking five extra minutes this year to organize your materials, will save you time and money next year.

     Save your creativity for your time with your students.  You want to be fresh and alert for what matters in the classroom - working with your students.  You do not need to spend hours creating curriculum maps, and rubrics if someone else has already created one for the publishers you're using.  This second grade curriculum map for Journey's and Everyday Math has served me well.

     Turn waiting time, into grading time.  If you have a hair appointment, or oil change, or any activity where you will be sitting and waiting, bring a stack of papers to grade with you.  By planning ahead, you will find ways to schedule essay due dates, and unit tests around existing appointments.  Sometimes juggling assignment dates by one day can make all the difference in the world.  By using your time more effectively you will be refreshed and have more energy for your students.

     Create a website or blog for your parents and students.  I know it sounds like this creates more work for you, however, in the long run it will save you time.  Your website becomes your "go to spot" for parents and students, and prevents you from having to answer the same question over and over.   Parents and students can use your website to find homework assignments, project descriptions, field trip money deadlines, etc.  I use mine so frequently now that when I forget a deadline, I find myself going to my website to check the dates.

     Learn the strengths and weaknesses of your volunteers.  A good volunteer can be a valuable asset, while a poor one can be a headache.  Experience has taught me, however, that everyone can do something.  While you're teaching, you do not have time to monitor tasks that your volunteers are completing.  Left unmonitored, however, and volunteers can end up creating more work for you.  When you have a new volunteer, start with a simple task.  Take a minute and show them exactly how you want it done.  If they do the simple job well, then move up to bigger ones.  After a while, you will figure out which tasks each volunteer is best at.  You will also learn, which volunteers you can rely on for important jobs.  This will save you time in the long run.
Images created by Lovin' Lit and the Public Domain

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How to Begin the Year Building Excitement for Reading

So it’s almost time to go back to school. The best thing about a new school year is the excitement around it. Students come back ready to learn, and it’s great to find ways to keep that excitement going. Each year there will be students who don’t feel confident about reading, and as a result do not want to read. Here are some tips to get even your reluctant readers excited about reading.

* Pick great read-a-louds for the first week of school. Start planning now. Think of books that have messages and themes you want to promote in your room. In the primary grades I recommend Chrysanthemum
and Wemberly Worried
both are written by Kevin Henkes. If you teach intermediate grades, find one great novel to spend the first couple of months reading with themes about community, team work, or respect. Intermediate students love read-a-louds just as much as younger students, as long as you choose appropriate books. Suggestions include The City of Emberby Jeanne Duprau, and The Giver
by Lois Lowry. Whatever you choose for the first read-a-louds of the year, make sure you focus on authors with other books students can read independently, or even a series (like the Ember series) that students can spend the school year reading. Remember students take their cues from you – if you are excited by read-a-loud time, they will be too.

* During the first week, give each student a chance to read to you independently. Remember, you don’t have to assess each child week one (especially if you have a large class). You can, however, give each child 1 minute to read something to you. This is a morale booster, not an assessment – so feel confident being positive and smiling as each child reads something to you. To make less confident readers feel better, let them read to you privately at a kidney table or at your desk. If you truly have a non-reader, have them tell you what is happening in a picture. Let each child know that they have accomplished their first reading task of the year.

* Let your students know how much you love to read. If your brand new students know that reading is something that you value, they are more likely to value it too. If you have favorite children’s books, share them with your students. If you see a student reading a book that you’re not familiar with, ask them to tell you about it. Better yet, ask them to let you know if it’s a book that you should read when they’re done with it.

* Introduce your classroom library as soon as possible, and let your students check out books. Make sure that you explain to students how your library works, and the procedure for checking out books. Let your students begin taking books out of your classroom library as soon as possible.

* Make time for Independent Reading each day. Although you will have to gradually increase the amount of time that students read independently, this allotted time is crucial to your students’ success as readers.

* Get your students excited to begin Guided Reading. You want your students to look forward to guided reading time. This should be a time they know they will get to read with you, and do their best reading. Although Guided reading time will not begin during the first few weeks of school, let students know that what a special time it will be.


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