“Giftedness is not what you do or how hard you work. It is who you are. You think differently. You experience life intensely. You care about injustice. You seek meaning. You appreciate and strive for the exquisite. You are painfully sensitive. You are extremely complex. You cherish integrity. Your truth-telling has gotten you in trouble. Should 98% of the population find you odd, seek the company of those who love you just the way you are. You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. You are utterly fascinating. Trust yourself!”

Linda Silverman~Gifted Development Center Denver

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Moving Onwards with Science Centres

Last week I wrote about how to set up your centres for science.  This week I would like to show you what they can look like in action.
Photo of Moving on With Science Centres @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

It is too overwhelming for students to have to choose partners and choose a centre to work at, so I help them out with that part. I have a can on my desk that contains wooden sticks which are numbered 1-25 (these correspond with the students individual student numbers) and I have a can with wooden sticks upon which I have written the names of the centres. I randomly choose two number sticks and one centre stick!  This can take some tweaking if either of the students have done the same centre before. Another way to tackle it is to have the students stay in the same pairs or groups for the entire unit, but choose the centres by pulling them "out of a can". I keep track of who is doing what on a clipboard, but you could also use a pocket chart or another method that works in your classroom.

Photo of Moving on With Science Centres @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

 Students can take their portable centre anywhere they want in the classroom. I remind them that safety is always a first priority. Keeping safety in mind, I have the students working on anything that is messy or might need more supervision, at the round table at the front of my classroom.

Photo of Moving on With Properties Of Matter Science Centres @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca
Students comparing two different forms of creations at the "Let's Create" centre.

Photo of Moving on With Properties Of Matter Science Centres @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

The "Let's Match" centre is always fun for the students. This centre is especially challenging as the items can be matched in different categories, depending on the explanation.

Photo of Moving on With Properties Of Matter Science Centres @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

The "Let's Read" centre helps build topic based knowledge the students can apply while working at the other centres.

Photo of Moving on With Properties Of Matter Science Centres @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Students using their critical thinking skills to complete the "Let's Analyze" centre.

Photo of Moving on With Properties Of Matter Science Centres @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Students enjoy working with a partner or a group, and they love the hands-on, mind-on aspects of the work in the centres we use. I find that most students need 1-2 periods to fully complete a centre. If they finish early, they work on the "Let's Inquire" research centre.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Getting Started with Science Centres

As many of you know, I have spent the past several summers creating science centres for a variety of grades. Having taught in combined grades for many years, I knew that there was a way not only for both grades to be active and engaged, but for the teacher to be able to deliver quality content for more than one science topic. Enter science centres. Back when I started teaching, I had to find or create the materials that would go inside the centres, and that made it really challenging. I used to say spending two weeks finding the materials and setting up the centres saved me several more weeks trying to use direct instruction for both grades. Using my knowledge of the curriculum, of instructional design and of having spent the last 27 years in education, I created centres that would make teaching and learning the science topics fun and engaging.

How do you get started with centres? It's easy. I start with teaching the vocabulary and terminology the students will encounter during the unit. I project the illustrated word walls cards I have created and have the students create their own mini-dictionary in their notebooks. I encourage them to copy down the definitions and add illustrations to each entry. 

Photo of Getting Started with Science Centres @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Photo of Getting Started with Science Centres @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Student also created a cover page for their notebook.  I think these are fantastic!

Photo of Getting Started with Science Centres @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Photo of Getting Started with Science Centres @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Photo of Getting Started with Science Centres @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

After discussions about the new vocabulary and what students already know about the topic and want to learn about the topic, we did some critical thinking and problem solving with the Save Fred investigation. I enjoy doing this before we start with centres the first time, so that I can see how the students work in pairs or small groups and how they approach hands-on investigations.

Photo of Getting Started with Science Centres @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Photo of  Getting Started with Science Centres @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Photo Getting Started with Science Centres @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

We are ready to start with centres on Monday!  Here is how I set up my centres in my classroom.

I got the bins at a local store and after printing and laminating my centre cards, I added the materials needed and students will be ready to work anywhere in the classroom.  They take the bin and materials, work with a partner and record their investigations.

This is how to print and set up the student booklets.

Printed booklet~ all pages folded in middle
Print pages back to back, double sided 

Printed booklet seen from back

I use a bulldog clip to hold all the pages together.
If you staple, some of the full sized pages are difficult to use.

My students use the booklets I have created to record their learning and then transfer the finished thinking into their notebooks. When we are finished the students have a wonderful artifact of all the hands-on, minds-on learning from the unit.

Before the students actually start working at your centres, these are some procedures you might want to consider teaching.  I find that once students know what is expected of them, they are able to work more efficiently and effectively, and I can use my time to observe and assist.

After teaching procedures, I often use the Let's Read! centre cards to do whole class reading.  I project the cards onto a screen and we read and discuss the information together as a class. I find that this helps to build prior knowledge before students work at the other centres.  Students record what we have discussed on their Let's Read! recording page and now all of the students have completed one activity.

Teachers have asked me how do I assess the work completed by the students and what do I use for culminating assessments?
I assess the student work using a notebook rubric, and a variety of other tools.

For culminating tasks, I usually assess the Let's Inquire investigation and the Let's Create! hands-on task.  I introduce the Let's Inquire! task to the class before we start the centres, so that when they finish a centre, they can work on their Let's Inquire! task independently.  I provide books, iPads and classroom computers to facilitate students research.  

These are pictures of my friend Jeff Laythorpe's students as they delve into inquiry projects which are part of the 
Hands-On, Minds-On Science Centres.

I sometimes keep the Let's Create! centre out of the rotation, and use it last for a culminating task.  This way students will have already gathered a the prior skills and knowledge needed to complete the task with greater confidence. I have allowed students to work in pairs and small groups to complete the Let's Create! challenges, and I record my observations of them as they work towards solving the problem posed.

Let's Create! from Grade 5 Forces Acting on 
Structures and Mechanisms.


Sunday, 31 July 2016

Combined Grade Science and Technology

Combined Grades Science and Technology Centres

It's almost back to school time and most teachers don't want to even begin to think about going back. I have been thinking. . . but not about going back, but about combined grades. There have been big changes in my school this year and most teachers will have a combined (or split) grade next year. Once upon a time, years ago in my teaching career, I was referred to as the "Queen of Combined Grades". I had taught many years in a combined grade setting and wrote some curriculum documents for the Ministry of Education about how to teach in a combined grade. When I worked as an instructional leader/coach, I gave a series of workshops about teaching combined grades, and I often went into to schools to help teachers plan for their combined grades.

One of the strategies I always suggested when I was giving workshops or working in classrooms was to teach using centres. When I was teaching in the classroom, I realized that I could have students working at centres for math and science which would allow me to go around and observe, discuss and assess. I would find materials that would work in bins or tubs (often from my board's science kits) and then set up the centres. The kids would be given periods to rotate through the centres and experience hands on, minds on science. The hard part was always finding activities and investigations that would work for both grades, both topics AND work in centres.  

After spending at least the past decade thinking "It would great if someone would just go ahead and make combined grade centres for science and technology!", I decided to create my own. Below you can see some of students working on a centre from my Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms unit.

Combined Grades Science and Technology Centres

I am the first to admit that you have to put some effort into collecting the materials and putting the centres together, but once you have it done, your students (and you) will reap the benefits. Students can work at developing the same skills, while each group is investigating the grade level curriculum topic for their grade. The centres I have created include 10 different centres for each grade. These include a variety of hands-on, minds-on investigations and activities geared towards engaging students in the junior division.

Grade 5 Let's Explore Centre Card

Grade 4 Let's Explore Centre Card

Combined Grades Science and Technology Centres

I suggest that you introduce centres to your students early in the year. I do not use ONLY centres to teach my program.  A variety of approaches keep students engaged and learning. I like to show videos and often use powerpoint presentations to introduce a unit. I have also had presentations by groups such as Scientists in School to kick off or wrap up a unit. I also introduce and teach vocabulary as an essential part of student success in communicating their learning. The use of a word wall in a classroom can be a highly effective teaching strategy to improve literacy skills. Word wall activities encourage active student participation. Gestures, such as pointing to key words during a lesson, offer visual reinforcement which can be very helpful for students.  

Combined Grades Science and Technology Illustrated Word Wall
I created word walls to go along with all of my science and technology centres.  I know my students are more likely to use the correct terminology if I introduce it to them at the beginning of the unit. You can have students create their own visual dictionaries in their science notebooks, or you could print out the word wall cards and have them glue into an interactive notebook. The choices for use are endless.  I also find these vocabulary cards to be very effective with ESL and ELL learners.

Combined Grade Science Centres from Teachingisagift

If you are looking to try out some combined grade science and technology centres this year just click on the image above. Each MEGA BUNDLE includes SCIENCE CENTRES for BOTH grades and ILLUSTRATED WORD WALLS for both grades as well. These bundles are ready for immediate use in your classroom!  

Don't teach a COMBINED GRADE?  That's okay, all of my SCIENCE CENTRES and ILLUSTRATED WORD WALLS are available for individual grades as well.  

Illustrated Word Wall for Science and Technology from Teachingisagift

Ontario Curriculum Science Centres from Teachingisagift

Teachers Pay Teachers has declared that this is going to be the #bestyearever.  What are you doing to prepare for your best year? Leave a comment below and I will choose one winner who will receive an one Illustrated Word Wall of their choice.