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Spring Cleaning Sale and Giveaway

As March comes to an end, spring is in the air.  The weather is getting warmer, the sun is out longer, and we are spending more and more time outside.  Another thing I know I look forward to is spring cleaning!  I love to open the windows in my house to air it out.  Putting away my winter clothes and straightening up around the house just makes me excited for the nicer weather that's just around the corner.

The bloggers at Upper Elementary Snapshots have decided to let you all do a little spring cleaning, too - but without actually picking up cleaning supplies!  We want you to clean out those TpT wishlists!  The best part is that we are going to help you get started!

We are giving away 6 $20 TpT gift certificates.  Use the Rafflecopter below for a chance to enter on March 25th and March 26th.

Then, on March 27th and March 28th, our individual TpT stores will be on sale.  This is the perfect time to grab some fantastic resources to finish up this school year!

Here is a list of our stores - get up to 20% off all of our resources for 2 days ONLY! (Friday/Saturday) Happy shopping!!

Our TPT Stores:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Blogger Widgets

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.  


"Rock Sandwich" Science Lab

Demonstrating processes of the earth can be a valuable way for showing students things that take place over a long time.  This "Rock Sandwich" science lab helps students to visualize the process of sedimentary rocks turning into metamorphic rocks.

two slices of white bread

one slice of wheat bread
wax paper
pen cap

To start the lab, students are to lay a sheet of wax paper on the desk and place a piece of bread on top of the wax paper.  Then, students are to put a piece of wheat bread on top of it.  You can explain to students that this represents layers of sediments or sedimentary rock building up over a long period of time.

Next, have the students place a penny, nail, and pen cap on top of the piece of wheat bread.  These objects represent animals or plants that have died.

Now, you can have them place another layer of white bread on top of the wheat bread and the objects.  This piece of white bread represents another layer of sediments that have collected over the years.   At this point, students can measure the height of the stack of bread and record it on their lab sheet.  Students can also sketch a picture of what they see and describe their observations.

After observations are drawn and recorded, you can have the students place another sheet of wax paper on top of the stack of bread.  The students will take a thick book and press down firmly.  They can take the book and top layer of wax paper off and draw and record their observations of what the stack of bread looks like now.

Students can then measure the height of the bread and record it on their lab sheet.

Finally, have the students remove the top slice of bread and draw and record their observations.  They can take a few minutes to explore what happened and finish filling out the rest of the lab sheet.

This demonstration leads to a good conversation about what type of rock this model represents.  Students may say sedimentary, because that is where fossils are found, but more importantly, they should understand that this demonstration showed them how sedimentary rocks and changed to metamorphic rock when heat and pressure is applied.  Fossils might still be found in metamorphic rocks, but could be moved and stretched from the pressure in the rocks.

The lab sheets for this activity, along with over 50 pages of additional resources to explore rocks and minerals, can be found in my Rocks and Minerals science unit in my TpT store.