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Blair Turner Paper Giveaway

Let me start off by saying that I'm obsessed!  Look at all these goodies I received in the mail today!  My husband got to the mail first and when he came in the house he asked, "Who is Blair Turner?"  and I instantly knew that my order had arrived, but I think my husband was probably equally as excited to see what was inside.  I'm not kidding when I say it felt like Christmas today when he opened the package.  It was funny watching him look at all the paper and comment on the designs.  Blair, if you decide to make any designs geared towards doctors, he would probably be your first customer.  :)

Take a look at this loot!  It's so bright and colorful. LOVE!

Now, Blair has generously offered to allow me to give away one free product from her store to THREE lucky people!  She has such a large selection of desktop planners, notepad planners, notepads, and notepads specially created for teachers.  What I like most of all is that she has such a wide variety of patterns that no matter your style preference, you will find something you will absolutely fall in love with.  Check out her website to see everything she offers.  www.blairturnerpaper.com

Let's get going with this giveaway.  There are a few different ways you can enter, which will allow you to gain multiple entries.  When it's over, I'll contact the winners to find out which product you'd like Blair to send you.

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Creating a Teaching Portfolio for Job Interviews

Let's face it.  Interviewing for jobs are nerve-wracking and intimidating.  Preparing by going over
possible interview questions helps, but it's also important to bring a strong portfolio of your work to help elaborate and show evidence to support your answers.

When I was student teaching in 2007-2008, I was fortunate enough to be a part of a special student teaching program through Illinois State University.  Being in the Professional Development School of education (a select number of students were selected every year) really helped prepare me as a future teacher.  I was able to student teach for a full school year and was in the classroom over the summer helping my cooperating teacher set up, and I was there when the students left on the last day.  Although my placement was in a third grade classroom, we also spent 2 months in a middle school, where I taught all subjects in 8th grade including freshman algebra.  One thing I was told by my university supervisors was to TAKE PICTURES and COLLECT EVIDENCE because that will make my portfolio pop!

So, that's what I did.  During every engaging activity, I snapped pictures.  I photocopied and saved original copies of student work, with the child's permission.  This resulted in a portfolio that was praised in all of my interviews.  I also continued adding to it throughout my first few years of teaching, knowing that I was going to get married and move out of state and was going to have to look for another job.

Here are some tips and tricks I used, along with some items I included.

This is what my portfolio looked like.  I included my name on the front and side, along with some education-related clipart.  I've really come a long way in terms of design and my use of fonts since starting with TpT and blogging!

One thing I did that I found extremely helpful was to put tabs on the BOTTOM of my portfolio.  When sitting in an interview, I sat with my portfolio facing TOWARDS me.  If I was asked a question, I was able to quickly skim the tabs, find the artifact, open it, and hand it to the interviewer.  The tabs were color coded by subject and had a short phrase on it that helped me quickly find what I was looking for.  One teacher who sat in on the interview commented on how nice it was that I didn't have to sit there flipping through pages to find what I wanted to show.  Please excuse how wrinkled my tabs are.  This portfolio has been moved to 2 schools, 3 states, and 3 homes.  

I also had tabs running along the side that were there for the interviewers to look at.  I had one large interview where all of the 12 principals from the district sat in a room along a large conference table and I was on one end.  I ended up passing the portfolio around the table and the tabs helped them look at areas that they were interested in.

Behind the tabs were outlines of what was included in that section.  This gives those looking at it an idea of what they will find if they keep flipping through the pages.

The next two pages shows pictures of student work that I had collected.  It's really important to not only include lesson plans.

And of course, include those lesson plans.  It's important for the interviewer to see how you plan and prepare for instruction.  

I had numerous pages of pictures that I took.  My cooperating teacher was really good at picking up my camera on my desk whenever she saw something memorable that I might like to have.

I ended up having some items that were in booklet form.  I just slipped the whole thing into a page protector and pulled it out during interviews.  It was much easier than taking it apart and putting each page in it's own sleeve.

Don't forget about classroom management!  Take a picture of everything you do to encourage students to be productive and have positive behavior.  I did so many things when I was student teaching that this took up a few pages in my portfolio.

Let Your Students Create the Test

test taking, students, teachingLet's be honest.  Tests are never fun, but they are necessary to check for understanding.  Teachers typically have a wide variety of resources when it comes to finding tests.  Some districts provide them based on standards and expectations.  You can even find them readily available to copy from whatever curriculum you use.  Many times, teachers generate their own assessments for their students.  Now, all these resources are definitely beneficial, generally well-written, and are expected to cover various standards.  Have you ever thought to have your STUDENTS create the test?  How does this even work?  Will their questions be acceptable?  How do they know what standards to cover?  Is this even beneficial to the students?

During my first year of teaching, this is what I decided to do.  With just a little preparation on my part, my students were excited to get started!  I was teaching third grade and at the time, was just a few weeks away from our state test.  Since the beginning of the school year, we went over test-taking strategies so they would be confident and prepared for the actual test.  One day, we were discussing different types of questions that they may stumble upon and generated an anchor chart with various types of questions - multiple choice - true/false - fill in the blank - short answer - extended response, etc.  Well, what better way to apply that knowledge to making a test of their own.  We were nearing the end of our Earth Systems unit and I decided that the students would contribute the questions.

So, one afternoon, I dug out all of the sentence strips I had that contained all the standards for the unit that I typically had displayed on the board during my lessons.  As a class, we went through each standard and briefly summarized what they meant.  Then, I put up our anchor chart of the question types for the students to reference.  I let the students know that we were going to create a test as a class and everyone will contribute 3 questions.  Form those 3 questions, I chose one from each student to include on the test.

I then passed out 3 notecards to each student and instructed them to write their name on one side.  On the other side, I asked them to choose 3 different standards to create a test question for.  In addition to coming up with 3 different questions, I wanted them to use a different question type on each notecard.  Students were able to use their textbook and notes as a reference.  Once they finished writing the question and possible answer choices on one side of the card, I had them write the answer on the back.   Let me just tell you that they were SO excited to create a test themselves!  They worked so hard to come up with good questions that wouldn't be too easy to answer.

Now, I collected everyone's notecards and looked through them at home to find a variety of different questions, while making sure I chose one from each student.  After I selected the notecards I was using,  I just organized them and typed it up.  A few days later, I gave the students the test and let me tell you - you should have seen the faces they were making when they found their specific question.

This is something I continued to do every year for this science unit with great success and excitement from the students.  It was a great way to not only assess student knowledge, but to get them really digging deeper into how a test is made and the format of questions that they may encounter in the future.  

Teach States of Matter Using Orange Juice and Baking Soda - Tastes like Orange Soda!

Many of you may have already read my blog post about using ROOT BEER FLOATS TO TEACH STATES OF MATTER.  Well, if you liked that, I have another similar demonstration you can do with your students!

Using the same premise, let's make a mock Orange Soda using orange juice and baking soda!

For this demonstration, you will need some orange juice, a clear cup, baking soda, and a spoon.

What you need to to is pour about 2/3 of a cup of orange juice into a clear plastic cup.  I figured that I'd use the kind without any pulp to make it more like Orange Soda.

Next, I mixed in about a teaspoon of baking soda.  Using the spoon (or even a straw), the students can mix it a bit.

After a few seconds, they will notice that the acid in the orange juice (a liquid) reacts with the baking soda (a solid), to create bubbles on top (a gas).  You can have your students predict what the bubbles are made out of, and explain that this carbonation (or carbon dioxide) is similar to the carbonation found in soda.  As you can see it's important to not use more than 2/3 of a cup of orange juice because the carbonation will take up the rest of the space in the glass.

If they'd like, the students can even taste the orange juice.  There will be some foam on top, but once you get passed that, you can definitely tell that this is a carbonated orange drink.  You can even let them use a straw to bypass the layer of foam.  Now, this doesn't taste exactly like Orange Soda since it's not loaded with sugar, but it is very similar!

If you are looking for some more activities to enhance your unit on matter, I have Matter Unit Activities that you might want to check out!   It contains 75 pages worth of activities, reading comprehension pages, task cards, posters, and science labs!

Engaging Map Skills Activities

Map skills is a unit that is not in my standards and I'm not required to teach; however, I do think that it's important to refresh my students' memories as to what they learned in previous years.  Sure, they most likely know the cardinal directions, how to use a grid to identify a specific location, and what a scale on a map is for.  What I found was that my students knew certain terms, but were not able to apply them when actually working with maps.  I created this map skills unit to help my students take their understanding up a notch and dig deeper into various map activities.

Perhaps one of the first things students learn in a unit on maps are cardinal and intermediate directions.  On this page of the unit, I describe what a compass rose is, where the directions are, and students need to demonstrate their understanding of the passage by cutting out the directions and placing it on the correct space on the compass rose.  

Using a key or legend is typically one of the easier skills for students.  When they have a variety of different symbols, it tends to be easy for them to identify what exactly what they are looking for when answering question about the map.  What I did find was that when maps were shaded various shades of gray, like in this population map, students struggled a bit more.  On this particular page, a student is asked to identify populations of states, using both the legend and the map.  

Map grids are another skill that students typically understand, but are sometimes confused as to what comes first - the letter or the number.  I always tell my students to think of a grid on a map (or a coordinate grid in math) like an elevator.  You have to get in the elevator before you can go up.  I have my students imagine that they walk over to the elevator, then the elevator goes up to the floor they want to stop in.  With this activity, students are engaged because they are given 10 different pirate symbols and are asked to cut them out and glue them onto the grid within the island.  Then, students can either write down the location of each item, or they can switch papers and have a friend solve it.

Another way for students to show their understanding of a legend and a compass rose is to create their own map.  Students can draw their own map, complete with symbols that they identify in the key.  I always try to tell my students that the symbols do not need to be very detailed, but must somehow represent the object they are referring to.

These are just a few of the pages included in my Map Skills Unit.  You can click on that link to see a full product description in my TpT store.  In addition to the pages above, you will receive 19 posters with pictures and definitions, 4 activities for latitude/longitude,  5 activities for using a scale, 4 activities for using a key, 4 activities for using a compass rose, and 4 activities for using a grid.  What's nice about having multiple pages for each skill is that you can use one as a whole class activity, 2 for the students to practice on, and another to use as a quiz and take for a grade.