Sunday, April 13, 2014

Making Student's Thinking Visible

Sometimes when students are learning a lot of new information, it is difficult for them to organize it, or keep the parts together that go together. They know the terms, and have some of the links, but don't quite have it all straightened out in their heads. 

Also, as a teacher, it can be difficult to sort out where they have misconceptions. Here is one tool that I used to do just that. Concept maps. 

I gave the students a list of 20 terms (with definitions) related to weathering and erosion. I told them they need to use 15. I showed some examples of concept maps on the board and the linking terms.   I had them write the words they chose on post-it notes.  I had them organize the terms on the large paper, then add linking words to explain how they were connected, and then add at least 5 pictures (I had many pictures available for them to choose from).  

For my higher students, this was really an opportunity for them to tie together their knowledge, and organize it.  They felt like they benefited, and caught many of their own misconceptions as they were trying to connect the terms.  

For the lower students, I was able to see their errors or confusion when they laid out the terms, and help correct those, or talk through with them how the concepts could connect, and which didn't make sense.

I think it was a beneficial exercise to wrap up a unit, and they love seeing them on display in the hallway.

If you are looking for complete vocabulary lists, and concept lists for Earth Science, a good place to look is in this product, or your district curriculum.

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
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Sunday, March 23, 2014


You may be wondering why I haven't been posting much here.  I still hope and plan to get back to posting regularly, but I got invited to be part of a collaborative secondary blog, and have been posting there.  Its a bit too much right now to do both.  But once things settle down, I promise I will be back to posting regularly here!

In the meantime, check out the collaborative blog.  I am really excited about it.  We have an excellent group of secondary teachers, in diverse subject areas that are posting about strategies and projects useful across many subject areas.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Regents Analysis and a new test prep strategy

I don't  know if you are in a state that has Regents exams, or if you are in a state that has other state exams instead.

Here in NY, we have Regents exams.  They are exams given at the end of the course, in most high school courses, and passing a certain number of them in each content area is a graduation requirement.

I teach in an urban district, where the passing rates are fairly low.  I am always looking for ways to help students be successful on those tests.  I have tried many other things (which I may write about in other posts).

A colleague and I are trying a new strategy now.  Here is our plan (really, it was my colleague's plan first, and then I have adpated to my class):

 - Analyze the past few years Regents exams, correlate them to the NYS standards, to determine which topics are the most heavily tests, and what those test questions look like.  In other words, which standards are emphasized on the exams, and how are those standards translated into test questions. 
- Starting about now, give students weekly 10 question quizzes.  The quizzes will be made out of the most commonly tested standards.  

- As students get questions right, the quizzes will adapt to include the next most commonly asked questions.
- The quizzes are being done on  This allows me to add an explanation to the questions.  Students can take the quiz, know immediately how they did, and as they see their answer, see an explanation of why the correct answer is correct.  I am encouraging them to take  notes, and study those notes.  If they are getting questions wrong, there is a good chance that they will see the same questions next week.

- As I see a question that the class as a whole is not progressing on, I can go back and target that for a quick 'intervention.' 

So far, students are enthusiastic.  One of my top students even said "So we are starting review now?!"  
Me: "Yes, a little bit of review"
Student: "That's a good idea, then when we get to June it won't be so overwhelming!"

That's the idea.  Those students who advance faster through, will get more review, but those who advance slower will still review and hopefully "get" the most commonly tested concepts.

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Sunday, March 2, 2014


I don't know about you, but I am SOOOO sick of winter, and a little stir crazy.  And my students are too.  If you are tired of hammering on routines and expectations, this might be one way to break up the monotony.

They can help monitor themselves and each other.  I have had really good, honest, team-building responses by using this teamwork checklist

Classroom freebies
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Monday, February 24, 2014

Upcoming Sale!!

In case you didn't hear -- Teachers Pay Teachers is having a giant site-wide sale Thursday and Friday February 27th and 28th.  Everything in my store, and many things site-wide will be up to 28% off!

Get your wishlists ready, and plan ahead. This is your chance to make the upcoming stretch of the school year easier on yourself.

Click on the banner above to go directly to my store.
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Friday, February 21, 2014

Teaching with Poverty in Mind Chapter 3

I have shared my previous book circle discussions for Chapter 1 and 2.  Here is my discussion for Chapter 3.

As the book progresses, it gets more specific on suggestions that teachers can implement, or schools as a whole can implement to improve success rates for students.

This chapter was about IQ being fluid, rather than static, which is dramatic if you really think about it.  It also talked about other factors that are critical such as self-discipline, and teaching problem-solving skills and social interaction skills.

I went to a PD recently that dove-tailed with this.  It was actually on classroom management, but the presenter touched on research by John Hattie, as well.  If you have never heard of John Hattie (as I haven't), he is an educational research who did a meta-analysis of thousands of other research studies to look into what practices actually have a positive effect on student achievement.

He found that some of the most important factors are feedback, and student-teacher relationships (rather than many of the other things of which we constantly hear discussion.

If you are interested in more details on his research, look at this link  or simply google John Hattie or Visible Learning.
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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

New Secondary Resource

I wanted to share a resource with you!  I am honored to be part of a group of secondary teachers who are creating a group collaborative blog on a variety of secondary topics.

There will be daily (or almost daily) topical posts.  Most will be education related.  There will be monthly themes, such as formative assessment, technology, etc.

I hope you will stop in and check it out! I think you'll like what you find!

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