Monday, August 19, 2013

Just Simple Science Ways to Organize in 2013-2014!

I can't believe it is time to start another school year! I feel like I just wrote the blog post welcoming summer! Guess it is true that as we get older, time really does fly!

While I love teaching future teachers, I have to admit something. I miss decorating a classroom! Yep, I admit it. Decorating my classroom was one of my favorite things to do. If I was going to spend 183 days in a classroom, it had to be a place that I enjoyed being in. I wanted my students to love coming into our classroom. Creating the classroom space meant color, curtains, and personalized items from my life. I can still remember teaching Earth Science with my poster of Indian Jones proudly displayed for all my students to see!

Of course, I know my husband is happy I am out of that stage in my career. He always hated back to school because it meant our budget would take a huge hit. Who can't help themselves from buying all those cute bulletin boarders and neat letters from Michaels! You can check out the latest sales from Michaels here. And did you know teachers get 15% off each and every day! Just talk to a sales associate! Sorry-had to give a shout out to my favorite store!

While decorating my classroom was always the first item on my back-to-school to-do list, the second task had to be organizing my room! When I ask my pre-service teachers what they fear the most about teaching science, organization always comes up! Here are two of my favorite tricks!

Lab Role Cards!

The number one question I get asked when I conduct teacher training is this: how do you get students to work in groups? Simple. Give students responsibilities and put them in charge. These simply lab cards, while not new, really help me to facilitate group work.
Kids love when they have responsibilities!
Conducting labs are one way students learn how to do the work of a real scientist. With the cost of materials these days, it is impossible to have enough materials for every student to do his or her own lab. So group work in the science classroom is essential.  When I first started teaching, I  taught in a regular middle school classroom instead of a science lab. Just imagine 28, 8th graders crammed into a room with huge science tables in a space that would normally have desks. Add in the fact I love to collect stuff and let's just say space was always a wanted commodity!

One of the things I learned from my teacher education program was to always have everything ready to go when the students came in the classroom. By doing this, you minimize the loss of instructional time. Setting up labs always took place in the afternoons. By the time I left for home, each group's set of materials would be on their desk with any lab sheets or handouts stacked neatly beside the materials. Yep, you read correctly. I used to put materials on the student tables. After the 10th time of trying to get my students to not play with the materials until it was time for lab was a big mistake! Big, big mistake!!  I am sure you are shaking your head at me right now and saying "Jenny Sue, were you crazy?" I guess I was. Who would have thought my students would be so curious they would start messing with stuff from the moment they walked in? But they did!

This taught me to set up a materials table. Of course this presented a problem. Now, I would have students getting up and moving around an already small space. Solution? Have only a few students get up. Thus the creation of lab role cards was born!  I never knew creating 4 simple roles would make such a huge difference in how my classroom ran; but they did! Not only did they help to facilitate the distribution of materials, clean up process, and how we shared out data, but my students started to function as teams. Teamwork became a huge component of my classroom.

Over the years I have gone from using hats, to buttons, to cards, and finally created this version-which is my favorite! Using the Avery Badge Holders with the clips, students clip on their job at the beginning of the lab. I either allow them to pick the role they want to do or I assign roles. The front of the card shows the role and the back has the list of responsibilities.  When we start a lab, I always go over what each role will do during the lab. For example, I tell the Supplies Director where they can find the lab materials they will need to collect when the lab starts. Sometimes I meet with the Lab Director so they understand the purpose of the lab. The Communication Director knows they are going to have to post the data on our classroom data chart and discuss with the class their findings. The Safety Director is in charge of ensuring all materials are in working order.
Safety Director makes sure team members stay safe!
While the badge holders can be expensive, it is worth the investment!  I still use this idea when I am conducting teacher training.You might want to check to see if your school has some left over ones or get a couple of your friends to go in on the purchase with you.

So how do I store them? Of course I used a just simple cute ribbon and simply had the Supplies Director hang up the name badges for their group at the conclusion of the lab!

If you would like a copy of these for your classroom, visit my store on Teachers Pay Teachers. This download is free!

Storing Materials

When I started teaching, I had not clue what to do with regards to storing material. Let's be honest, classrooms don't always have closets! In my first year, I started using clear shoe boxes. But I quickly found those take up precious classroom space. Next, I started using zip lock bags. They worked for a while, but tearing became a real issue. You know students are never a gentle as we are when stuffing bags! Seven years ago, I came across the best product and have been using it every since!

Uline is a great company that sells boxes and a variety of shipping products. The best product they sell, hands down, has to be their reclosable poly bags! Just imagine a  Zip Lock on sterioids! They are thick and durable! You can get them in a variety of sizes and some even come with holes so you can hang them up!

So here is what I do. I first figure the materials I want to put in my science center or the materials each group will need. Then the quest becomes to find the bag that will fit all the stuff nice and neatly.  Again, be prepared-these bags are not cheap! But the investment is so worth the price you pay! One purchase will go a long way! Once the materials are in the bag, I simply store them either flat or in boxes in my garage. At the office, we have shelves and each center or class set of materials fits on the shelf. Now, instead of spending time finding materials for my class activities, I can spend the time developing my lesson plans!
Materials for Observation Center

Makes for Easy Storage!
Have fun this year with science and keep checking back for new ideas for your classroom this year!

Go Science!

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