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Growth Mindset Goal Setting For Back To School

I think that growth mindset is always important to focus on when you teach, especially for back to school. I especially think that positive growth mindset is something that really shines through when a teacher has taught their students strategies for working through a road block! This summer was truly and eye opener for me in regards to the importance of teaching students those positive strategies.

Case in point, I taught summer school to students that were from other elementary schools in our district. A few of my own students that I taught in my science classrooms were sprinkled among the groups for STEM Garden Club...which changed to Environmental STEM Club after I realized that the new students I had weren't quite ready to head outside to master gardening.

So, inside I posed several STEM challenges. I would first pose a challenge, go through the constraints of the project and then let them go through the engineering process after a review of supplies and expectations. To my surprise, the students that I worked diligently all year with on growth mindset strategies could easily push through a challenge, find ways to problem solve, and remained positive when faced with an obstacle. Several times during our STEM challenges each week, we would have another student from another school cry, get angry, give up, whine...I would use the strategies that I used all year with that child, but they didn't have the tools to work through their issues.

What that showed me was that teaching positive growth mindset is key to helping our students have a tool box of strategies to road blocks they will have in any situation in their lives. I thought I would share several ideas that I will be starting off with as well as use in the course of the school year. As I work with a new school this year once again, (they like to move specialists around way too much) those ideas will be used on new students. I will also continue to use these strategies on the students at my base school!

We, as adults, also have beliefs about our own abilities and our own mindset which causes us to react in a certain way every time we are faced with a problem or experience. I start with my Growth Mindset Bulletin Board so that I can refer to it each and every time!

Here are my top goals for each new school year:

Goal 1: We must instill in our students a passion for learning. In your lessons, in the way you establish your relationships. That first day they meet you, rock it!

Goal 2:  We must teach ourselves and our students that failure is a springboard for growth, which we can always learn from. If they aren't ready or need a little help when they fail a task we must be ready with strategies to teach them. I teach one strategy at a time using my bulletin board as a guide.

Goal 3: We must learn that mistakes  are opportunities to grow and learn (build the foundation of what is mindset, so when growth occurs they can recognize it!) In science, mistakes are going to happen, results aren't going to be perfect, we must teach that in the moment so they hear it and see it from us.

Goal 4: We must teach mindset, use tools such as visuals to refer to, and help push through the negative feeling to learn something new, that means we can also teach what fixed mindset means, should we quit? (fixed) or work through a problem? (growth)...

Again I go to my bulletin board, find the poster that refers to what issue we are presented with and then we use it as a teachable moment. We connect that situation with a moment that we can relate to, ask others for ideas, walk them through the tough stuff, and keep going. Sometimes our kiddos shut down, I keep on going and push through it at times for them to model the correct expectation.

Goal 5: We must use the power of "YET" which is so very powerful! I use the word YET all the time! "No, you didn't get it YET." "We didn't find the solution, YET." "Our data isn't right, YET." What can we do to get it? Try again, ask a friend, find our mistake...They will need help, but in the end after time and consistency, you will see that more of your students will actually start understanding and practicing growth mindset. (and maybe even call each other out for fixed mindset)

Goal 6: Let's not forget the importance of positive reinforcement, find ways to rephrase how a child (or we) are feeling and teach strategies to work through our struggles. We all need to hear the positives! "I see you are really trying." "I like how you were observing the process." Even if they can't seem to understand the whole picture, we can always find a positive for them to hear!

Goal 7: Reflect on how one dealt with a situation or road block and how that connects to the feelings that happened. What I mean by that is when someone uses fixed mindset, it is okay to reflect back on it when the lesson is done, when time and anger pass, in the moment if it can be productive. Reflection is a great tool for us to grow! They can reflect on their participation, their understanding, their attitude.

Due to only seeing my students for an hour a week, I start off each class, kindergarten through fifth grade with an introduction lesson on whatever I am going to teach. After giving directions, I give an example of a time that I couldn't solve a problem. I show them my bulletin board, that we refer to each time a situation comes up where learning positive growth mindset can occur. I share a famous mistake with them...Play Do! Here is a link to an article of the top 10 Greatest Accidental Inventions!

In the next few weeks, I will be sharing strategies and resources to help you establish a growth mindset environment for you and your students! To start with grab these free printable posters!

Let's help ourselves and our students by providing the fundamentals of positive growth mindset. Setting up the new year with a fresh start ... positivity is key to a successful year! Want the whole pack including letters for the bulletin board, book marks, and reflection sheet, brain clip art and more? Let's put it all together, HERE!
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Back To School STEM and Character Building Ideas

When you have a new building or grade level that you are starting as the new school year begins, like me, or you need to find a way to refresh your back to school lessons, each year we have to try to find ways to not only build relationships, but make sure that our lessons are engaging and are student-centered! Most importantly, we want students to connect their learning to the real world.

I have been trying to find a way to make back to school STEM activities something that will get any skeptical new student walking into my classroom excited about the prospects of  a new teacher a positive thing! Why not focus on something that most kids love...PIZZA!

 I created some new stations for my students that I am really excited about! I am already getting the supplies ready for the first week of school...great thing is I can use the back to school supplies that they bring in to actually set up some of the STEM stations!

I also wasn't quite sure that I was going to be able to find the pizza themed books in our library right away, so I made sure that each of the books that I picked were available on You Tube!

Pete's A Pizza is great for showing how each one of us can stand for something! Pete's parents help him feel better when he is sad...each student can think about something they have to offer their class! Then...make a pizza stand!  I got some free pizza boxes from a local pizza place!

The second book I am going to use is The Little Red Hen Makes A Pizza! This is perfect for reviewing our personal goals for the year, setting new goals and reviewing school goals!

If we want something (like making a pizza), you have to have follow steps to take to accomplish what you want!

 I am using this next one that will help me connect our school garden! We grow a pizza garden, so at my garden school I will be using this book to tie in how to make a pizza! The anatomy of the pizza...the anatomy of goal setting! Love the connections! We will be able to go to our garden and pick basil, tomatoes, peppers, onions...unless the Japanese Beetles get them all.

Finally, I am going to be using this book to tie in the last of the STEM activities...building a broom bot that goes along with a part of the book, Secret Pizza Party! Perfect book for hosting your own secret pizza party! I want to have our kiddos masks just like raccoon!

Want a piece of the pie? Ready for your back to school with hands on STEM activities with integrated character building connections! This pack is a perfect way to build relationships with your new students...hands on and fun!
Looking for the whole pizza pack for your character building lessons and STEM connections? You can find it HERE! Happy Back to School!
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FOSS and Science Stations

For the 28 years I have been teaching our district has used FOSS as our science program. I am using these kits as I teach my kindergarten through fifth grade students. We have build a pretty solid road map that helps us determine what lesson we are teaching per week to each class. As our district adopted the WI science standards which are almost identical to NGSS, we had to create our new road maps to make sure that each of the standards were covered. That meant that we had to look at consolidating lessons, working them into stations, as well as cutting the FOSS lessons that do not meet our new standards.

We wanted to also make sure that we were adding engineering as well as find ways to study vocabulary, assess our knowledge, and gather grades when we only see our kiddos once a week, for an hour! That means we have to be really creative with our time and we had to learn how to make every lesson and moment count! (Not to mention that we are also needing to help our school math goal in science...I will be sharing in my next post how I am attempting to do just that).

I want to share with you a few strategies that we came up with as we kept the FOSS kits, learned to consolidate and create stations, and found creative ways to work in assessment and vocabulary.

Learning To Consolidate:
As we looked at the time we have with each of our students, looked at the fact that we needed to find ways to show their progress, as well as assess them, we had to find a way to create lessons that were meaty and created a way for our students to retain information.

I focused this year on the 5E model of writing my science lessons!

Using my FOSS lessons, I find a way to engage in what we are going to learn that day. I give them part of the experiment as an introduction or way to explore what we are going to be learning or I give them a way to start to investigate the "experiment" that goes along with the FOSS kit. When students are done with their investigations, some tables are done earlier than others, one method to adding other layers to each lesson is to find ways to have students explain their thinking, use a record sheet to write down what they learned and any observations that they made.
Variables and Castle Storming Station
One way that I use FOSS as an extension is to have students finish an experiment and then take it up a notch. We learned about variables for an example then we made castles to show what we learned!

Elaboration can be done at their tables or even as stations around the room! I love when my learners can get up and move around, get up and be responsible for their ongoing learning, and continue to focus on not only explaining, but elaborating! This might mean a quick STEM challenge, an extension of the experiment, qr code vocabulary games, digital review lessons that I made for each FOSS unit, or a quick game such as task cards or review!
Human Body Leg and Kick Ball Station

If students can get done early, I also add ways for them to continue their learning through games as well! We have to create something at times that can be used to create a fun competition or interactive game to utilize what we are learning at the time! We had to make legs in fourth grade Human Body, why not use what we made to see how our leg muscles react when we kick!

One huge incentive to get done is the ability to elaborate! I also can take the opportunity to help the groups that might need my time, a reteach, or even a way to evaluate their learning!

Setting Up Stations!

Creating stations while using a science kit like FOSS can be a bit time consuming at first, however once you create stations, they can be used over and over again! Check out my FOSS extensions on TPT if you want to find resources to elaborate!

Station Ideas:
1. vocabulary review
2. experiment sheets
3. assessment
4. ticket out the door
5. digital recordings and picture explanations
6. STEM connections
7. extension sheets
8. math connections
9. Book creator or adobe spark
10. digital activities and review
11. task cards
12. reading connections
13. writing connections
14. maker space
15. meeting with small groups

Stations can be used after your initial introduction lesson. They can also be used to consolidate smaller activities and experiments as well. Finding ways to add stations can help you find ways to meet with groups to check for understanding as well as guide them if they are struggling.

Assessment and Vocabulary Review Stations

A great way to add a quick review is to use games that incorporate vocabulary and questions that we have been asked during an experiment or that they will see on an assessment.

I love using qr codes for a quick review and assessment. QR codes are great because they can check what they know after trying to answer the questions first. They can also have a partner and see who can answer the question first. You can have them answer the questions then use the qr code to review what they know.

I also think ticket out the door is important as a quick way to check for understanding. I use digital sheets that they can place in our Itslearning site (like Google Classroom) or they can air drop their screen shot of their sheet for me to see where they are at. I also check it at the door if we are needing a quick check and go! Here is the resource that I created and use with my 2nd-5th graders!

Use FOSS in your classroom? Please share any ideas and strategies that you use for extensions, elaborations, and evaluations. We can all use some great ideas!

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Amazon Prime Day Finds For Teachers

Amazon Prime Day starts  today and will continue until through tomorrow.  That’s 2 days of awesome savings! Have you heard about Amazon Prime Day?  It’s a huge sale at Amazon with savings on 100,000+ items.

 It’s bigger than Black Friday for Amazon and I know they’ll be lots of savings on craft products and supplies. This year, I’ll be watching the deals for everything TEACHER related  and updating this post with my latest finds. I use these for my STEM stations and Science lessons so when I can get a deal, I am all for it!
 I've been sorting through the deals and have put together a list that I have here at this link: 
In order to take advantage of any of the deals, you need to be a Prime Member.  If you aren’t a member of prime, you should be!  I love Amazon Prime.  I use it all the time (probably more than I should) and recommend you try it, too. You can sign up for a 30 day free trial of Prime and get access to all of the Prime Day savings.  To try it for free, just click this link to sign up (and get access to the great Prime Day deals).

Happy shopping! If you find great deals, share them here and I will link them up for everyone!
This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission but it won’t cost you a penny more)!  Read my full disclosure policy.
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8 Moon Landing Anniversary Projects

July 20th is coming up next week! It's a very special anniversary...it is the 50th anniversary of the first spaceflight that landed on the moon!

Apollo 11 was the spaceflight that landed the first two humans into space. Commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin, both American. They landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle on July 20, 1969! How do we use this to springboard a great science and STEM lesson? Here are 10 ways to engage students in this celebration!

Idea 1: Virtual Race to the Moon

Virtual Race To The Moon is for you...the teacher! Keeping yourself healthy and your students healthy is important! Check out this challenge!

Idea 2: Show the Lunar Landing

Have your students watch the moon landing. Littles can start with Astronauts can, have, are... Bigs can discuss why some thought it was a hoax or they can even take a poll to see who would want to fly to space and why.

Idea 3: Read a Great Book
I love using the book One Giant Leap written by Robert Burleigh. 

Find that book here! 
I also like to use the book If You Decide to Go to the Moon by Faith McNulty. This is a great springboard for having kids really helps kids relate to how you would pack, how you would feel, and how you get home.
Find this book here!

Idea 4: Do a STEM activity

I love using toilet paper tubes to have the students create the moon landing! We use the tubes as a ramp system to get from Earth(a picture representation taped on the wall) to the moon (another picture) They must have three bends, and land safely in a bucket or on a tray. I use pompoms or ping pong balls as the spacecraft. 

Idea 5: Oreo Moon Phases

I love having my older students (bigs) create moon phase posters using Oreo cookies. They love this project! Gail Gibbons has a great book, Moon Phases that you can use, but I just love the rap to go with this project!

I use cheap dollar store cookies because they don't get to eat them and it saves some money. I give them plastic knives so that they can scrape off the frosting as well. I want them to take what they know and create a representation and then we analyze if their model is correct and if they can explain how the cycle works.

Idea 6:  Moon Crater Painting

Very simply, I cut out grey paper circles. I set out trays and white paint. We used circular objects to make the craters. You can use bottle tops like we did. This is a quick and fun little follow up on what craters on the moon look like and how they are made. We used our sentence strips to show what we know.

Idea 7: Moon Crater Ball Drop

I love this activity for my littles. Grab black paper and a plate. Add flour to the plate. Make sure you have plenty of floor covering so that you don't make too much of a mess. Grab different sized balls that can create different sized craters and you are good to go! Each ball represents a different sized meteors and asteroids that hit the surface of the moon and left a crater.

Idea 8: Moon Phase Games

I made this free resource for you to help with the phases of the moon! Grab your free copy here ! Use it as a memory game, a review, or even for an anchor chart!


Want to find these ideas, sheets, activities, and a few bonus activities all in one place ready for you to just print and go? Check out my moon phase packs by following this link: Moon Phase Science Pack and STEM Connections

Because I teach both primary and intermediate, I have packs for both age groups! Check out my pack I use with my K-2nd graders! You can find that pack HERE!
                                     Science Stations: Solar System and STEM for K-1

I love you to the moon and back! Let's make Science and STEM child's play!

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                       Some of the links are affiliated links, meaning in no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through to purchase.

5 E Lesson Planning Time

If you have seen my Instagram lately, you might have seen that I have been in Texas. I have been learning about how to utilize the 5E model within my science classroom! I love that teachers can incorporate this instructional model using any science kit or program you use.  This plan is an easy way for us to help our students gain a better understanding of the new concepts we are presenting them with. This is because this format is really an inquiry-based approach to learning.

The five E-Model lesson format that I am sharing with you today will help you focus on allowing your students to get a better understanding of your concepts because it is allowing you an organized way to establish a series of steps that include: Engagement, Exploration, Explanation, Elaboration, and Evaluation! This model will really allow you to let your students gain knowledge through experiences because it is active learning. They are discovering and experiencing because you have built in inquiry, the ability to explore and then assess their understanding when the time is finished.

What is different for me as a develop as a science teacher is I have to become a facilitator instead of a sage on the stage. I am learning this year, to really guide my students through the concepts I need to cover in class.

I created this 5E template that I will be using this year to guide me through this new approach. Grab your free copy here!
Grab the free 5E Lesson Plan Templates here!

If you are interested in some of the books that I have used for my professional development...here are my top three books! Press on the book to take you to the source I used! I love using picture books to get my students engaged!

Let's make science, child's play!

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The 5 E Model In Your Science Classroom

If you are just joining me, welcome to the Science School Yard. I have been teaching for 27 years. For the last 7 years, I have been teaching Science and STEM to K-5th grade students here in central Wisconsin. Our district uses FOSS to guide our road map and lessons, however adding STEM has always been important for me because of the amazing benefits that I see in terms of thinking differently as well as growth mindset! Last year, we adopted the WI Science standards that are almost identical to NGSS. This change comes after having to use standards that were developed in 1994.

When something new comes my way, I try to look for ways to learn all I can to be able to be the best science educator I can be. This year's focus was on learning the 5 E method of planning my science lessons. I watched countless videos, read a ton of articles, and even did some professional development classes to really get a grasp of this student centered approach to planning my science lessons.  The 5E Model of Instruction was exactly what I needed to help me learn a  more inquiry-based learning method. Let me help explain what I learned!

What is the 5E Method?

In the 5E Method of Instruction there are 5 key components that help the teacher guide and facilitate a lesson, starting with the foundation ending with assessment. The role of the teacher and student work in tandem. The teacher's job is to facilitate by eliciting responses that allow students to use their background knowledge to learn a new concept. By posing questions, observing and listening to student responses the teacher is also able to ask inquiry-based questions that will not only generate curiosity, but also interest. Following the lesson format allows for deeper understanding of key concepts because you are engaging students in a systematic activity based approach.

The 5E's

Engage: During the first part of the lesson, students are introduced to the concept. This is a perfect opportunity to motivate learners and create interest!

Teachers ask questions and engage them in making connections and helping generate prior knowledge making the connections between past and present which leads to a new learning experience. Teachers take note of any misconceptions, but at this time are not corrected. It is the framework for the new concept they are learning.

Explore: It is time to discover new skills, probe, inquire, and even examine their thinking. As teachers generate interest, students now explore the new concept that was presented.
Investigations and experiments are explored by the students at this time. Probing questions are asked so that students can make observations and collect data.

 This can be done in small teams for as a large group. As the team creates a hypothesis, they start to use the scientific method to use inquiry based questioning. Answers may not yet me established. Our role is to not provide answers yet, but to guide.

Explain: During the explanation stage, the teacher now asks probing questions that will help encourage the students to find patterns from the data they collected and start to verbalize their understanding of the new concepts. They also put together what the vocabulary means.   Students use their words to explain what they observed again either in a small or whole group.

This phase allows for students to connect their prior knowledge to their new discoveries through explaining what they now know or observed.

Elaborate: In the elaboration phase of learning, students start to make connections and apply what they learned to the world around them. As teachers, we provide them with ways to apply their knowledge so that their is a deeper understanding. We can do that through STEM connections, other experiments that extend what they already learned, or do research to explore more on the topic.

 As they gather new data they can start to draw new conclusions as they share what they learned through writing and connecting with others.  This step is where they learn about the world around them and get a deeper understanding and skill set.

Evaluate: This is such an important phase because it is an opportunity to evaluate learning. Students prove their own learning by writing, conversing, or demonstrating what knowledge they acquired through the 5E process.

Students can not only demonstrate their learning, but they can pose new questions, and even through formative(ongoing and dynamic) and summative (end of lesson final test or product) assessments show what they know. This is a way for students to self assess, peer assess or be evaluated by their teacher. I love to see evidence of accomplishment as they demonstrate what they now know. Not all of my students make huge gains in understanding, however where they started and where they are at the end is much more substantial now that I use the 5E method.

Now that I am the facilitator to their learning, it allows for larger growth in accountability for all students to learn and take part in that learning!

I made these 5E posters that I hang in my classroom. It helps me remember my role and it really helps my students know the process that they will be taking during a science lesson!

 If you would like a free copy you can find them here! If you haven't already signed up for my newsletter, it is a great opportunity to grab more free resources in my member's only free resource library!

I will be continuing to share what I learn and implement along that way. It is certainly easier to adapt and find ways to integrate something new in what you are already doing when someone tests it out for you! Try the 5E model as you plan your next science lesson. Watch for the next blog post...
the 5 E lesson plan for your next free resource!

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