Sunday, February 19, 2012

Change of plans...

Since I started this blog in January, I have had a hard time sticking to just one topic!  I have been doing some soul searching and have decided to end this blog and switch over to a new blog in which I can address any topic from my classroom. I decided to make it more open ended so that I can share infromation, tips, and anecdotes about my classroom in general.  I will still continue with my sciencegal blog OF COURSE...but am hoping to be able to share many more topics in this one place. 

This blog will shut down next, please join me over at the new blog....

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

King's M and M's on Smart Board

Have you heard of the King's M and M's?  I would never try to claim it as my idea as it is one that has been published by other authors.  However, for those of you who don't know about it...I'll give you a quick synopsis. 

King's M and M's is a way to let the children in your class feel a little frustration with "taxation without representation."  I found the pdf online taken from the book "American History Simulations" from Teacher Created Materials.

 I put the "cards" on the smart board as a fun way to reveal their taxes...  You can get it for FREE (as usual) at


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hooking the kids...with art

We are getting ready to start our next semester and the Revolutionary War.  Whenever you start a new unit, I think you need to HOOK them.  Find out what they know and what they are thinking and have their interest.  I use a lot of art work to evoke feelings, share time period clothing/culture and give them a peek into the world of 1776.

I start by showing them some paintings and asking what do you notice? What do you wonder?

Then I ask a few questions like...what were the sides in the war?  Who were some of the key players? (show pictures of Ben Franklin, George Washington)  Were there any spies??? (James Armistead Lafayette)

I embedded a video clip from United Streaming too that shows events leading up to the war to give them a good introduction and preview into what is coming...

I end the powerpoint with the big idea: 
Throughout history, many people have fought to be free and govern themselves….

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Making Vocabulary meaningful...

Everyday Words make more sense....
Have you ever noticed that it's the big words that stump your kids on their tests?  Of course you have....This is a strategy that I have used in science for years that I got from an excellent resource found from Seeds of Science -  

In fact, if you go on this website to the Teacher Resources section, you can find
over 40 strategies for teaching reading in the content area. 

This just happens to be my favorite strategy and it works for all content areas...

Today we reviewed for our social studies test and as we did I noticed a couple of times the students were still asking what certain words meant.  So I quickly created a T chart on the board.... I wrote down the word agriculture and said....agriculture is the social studies word but it really just means farming.  I was pleasantly surprised when my students said "what about architecture? exchange?"  We worked together to come up with a list similar to the one below - with some pictures of course. My good friend Sherrie wears "fancy glasses" to introduce her "fancy words." Kinda fun...but not necessary!

Social Studies Words
Everyday words






Trade or to barter


To move to a new place

Monday, January 23, 2012

You Tubing It...

Do you use YouTube at school?  I have just fallen in love with it this year as we finally got our projectors connected overhead and to the Internet. 

This is one of my favorites!  It will go along great with events leading up to the Revolution - my next unit.  It is a parody to the tune of "Too Late to Apologize" by One Republic.  Thank you Chrissie Lincoln for sharing this with me! 

You can also use...  Liberty's Kids.  My team loves these videos and now you can get them for FREE on You Tube in short 11-12 minute snippets.  What a great way to hook your audience.

And don't forget:  School House Rock....My favorite show from the 1970's...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Synthesizing information....Differentiation

Project TimeProjects used to be a bad word in my home.  They meant extra research, expense, fighting with my child to stop playing and start working...not anymore.  Read more to find out how we changed our mindset on projects.

My colleagues and I really believe that students need time to synthesize information....especially in Virginia Studies.  We have a large population of children from low-socioeconomic homes who don't exactly know how to study at home.  So, we decided to help them learn by creating projects. 

First, we teach the unit (duh!).  Then we spend about 2-3 days on projects.  How do we fit this in? Sometimes it is in our Va. History block (last 10 minutes each day) and sometimes it is in our writing blocks.  We have even asked kids to do this at home and believe it or not - it works!

Then, we pass out the study guide.  We specifically believe that the kids need the information to do the project because without this, the parents don't know what is supposed to be on the project.  This ranges from kids who do too little to kids (with parents) do too much.  I have had projects presented that were on a college level and yet the kid didn't understand the fourth grade material.  Sound familiar?

I created assignments for each of the five VS 4 sections:

Procedure: Choose one of the five sections from the study guide to do a project to review.

            VS4A – Agriculture:  Make a poster to show the reasons some Virginians wanted slavery to help with tobacco

            VS4B – Culture:  Make a brochure to show the five main cultural groups living in Virginia in the 1700’s  - show where they lived and how they changed the culture of Va.

            VS4C – Capital Moves:  With a partner, write a script to show why the capital should move to Williamsburg and Richmond.

            VS4D – Money, Barter, Credit:  Make a Jeopardy Game about Colonial Economics.

            VS4E – Everyday life in the colonies – write a diary entry from one of the Virginians – a slave, a freed African, a plantation owner, or a small farmer.          

Here are some pictures of the results:

Of course, the big hit was creating scripts. Oh I wish you could see them...they loved acting out for their classmates and sharing information that they had learned.  A great review and opportunity for speaking in front of a group too...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Money in Colonial Virginia

Everyday Life in Colonial Virginia

Day 6

Objective: Money in Colonial Virginia – as it related to the times.  Few people had paper money to buy goods and services.  Most people relied on bartering and credit.  Many people went into debt if they didn’t save. VS d

Procedure: Watch another PowerPoint on the money system in Colonial Va. and create skits to show what you have learned.

            I borrow a PowerPoint from this website: 
The one I like to use is Money and the Colony.  It takes the concept of bartering and connects it to trading video games.  It also talks about the use of tobacco for money, no banks and the idea of credit/debt.  By the way, my students want to say 'debit' - so make sure you clarify the difference between debt (owing money) and debit cards!!!

       When we finished, we made a four square in our journals with the four main vocabulary terms and a picture for each:  credit, debt, barter, savings.

      Another great activity that my colleague Lori Kania came up with this weekend was writing up scenarios for the kids to act out.  We printed them and passed them out to groups of three. 

  • Create a skit about bartering. In your skit, you will show bartering services for services.
  •  Create a skit about bartering. In your skit, you will show bartering goods for services.
  • Create a skit about bartering. In your skit, you will show bartering goods for goods.
  • Create a skit about credit.  In your skit, show someone purchasing goods on credit, promising to pay for them later.
  • Create a skit about debt. In your skit, show someone who has gone into debt because they purchased something on credit.
  • Create a skit about savings.  In your skit, demonstrate how you would have saved in order to buy something you need.
  • Create a skit about money.  In your skit, show what money is.  Make sure to mention that few people in colonial Virginia had money, so there were no banks.

The kids loved acting the scenes out!!!  A great review anytime....