Teaching Vocabulary in Social Studies and Science Part 2

Using new vocabulary words in our daily lingo is a fast track way to making these new words a permanent part of our personal dictionary. So how do we help students use their new vocabulary on a daily basis? The … Continue reading

Teaching Vocabulary in Social Studies and Science Part 7

I know by now at least some of you are starting to wonder how long I can drag this series out. But to be honest, I feel that we can always work on vocabulary instruction and making sure we are teaching our students the vocabulary they are going to need.


All that being said, this is the last part of my suggestions for vocabulary instruction (For now!). Do you use hand signals or movement when teaching vocabulary? If not, you should. It is powerful!


Just like a music teacher using hand signals to direct a choir or even to teach tiny children the words (they cannot read in Pre-K most of the time…so motions it is!), teachers should use hand signals or motions whenever possible to teach vocabulary.

Teaching weathering, erosion, and deposition was never fun for my learners until I added hand motions and funny phrases to teach the words. Now I can simply sweep my hands across my body and say MOOOOVE IT! and my students will scream EROSION!!! 

Movement is a powerful tool that requires the brain to plug in more and tie connections to everything! Think about a dancer whom has rehearsed choreography until she dreams about it. When she hears the song years later, more than likely the movements begin to run through her brain (and possibly body) as if she had rehearsed yesterday.

I love when on a test I see students arms shoot up into an obtuse angle because they are remembering what it looks like and possibly sounds like (because I attempt to sound like an overweight gravelly man when we make an obtuse angle). Students are using what they remember about these vocabulary words with their entire bodies and it is helping them!

Teaching Vocabulary in Social Studies and Science Part 6

Graphic organizer anyone? I love a T-Chart, KWL, Word Diagram, Tree Map, or Bubble Map in the classroom! Graphic organizers are a powerful tool for students to extend and deepen their understanding in the classroom. Graphic organizers allow students to … Continue reading

Teaching Vocabulary in Social Studies and Science Part 4

As a former reading teacher, I am always looking for ways my students can become better readers. One of the ways they do this is become exposed to as many words as possible and look for words everywhere! Have you … Continue reading

Teaching Vocabulary in Social Studies and Science Part 3

Do your students like games? Are they willing to learn without realizing they are learning because it feels like a game? I know my classes (especially the morning class) will do anything if it is a game. Vocabulary acquisition can … Continue reading

Teaching Vocabulary in Social Studies and Science Part 1

Vocabulary is one of the most important parts of science and social studies instruction. Students who do not know the meaning of words or have the background knowledge to make connections to, struggle the most with science and social studies. … Continue reading

A Review Championship

We have started state testing and after testing each day I wanted the kids to have fun while still going back over standards from the year, so I planned a mini-transformation. By “mini” I mean minimum amount of transformation— it is state testing after all. I have no decorations up in the classroom, but I have plenty of excitement!


Let’s start with my getup! I am wearing my husband’s referee shirt over my regular school clothes each day, a black baseball hat (Walmart for $7) and a whistle on my lanyard.


I found some old trophies under our new house and decided to clean them up, spray paint them solid gold, and give them to the winning team each day. They can take pictures with them, share them (who gets to have it on their desk), and I send a brag picture to the parents at the end of the day.

Then I needed to build the hype. I made a few short clips on Snap Chat using the filters and put them on Google Classroom for the kids to watch during homeroom. They were cheesy (me as an old lady talking about my grand kids telling me about a championship review at school, me as a girl with curlers in my hair talking about the latest gossip – something about a review championship, etc.). The giggles were contagious as they watched and re-watched the videos during homeroom.


Now, for the games! I picked a new game for each day. Some they had played before, some they hadn’t. Some games had a spin on them, but all were guaranteed to have each student working and able to earn points for their team.



This was the first game and had us all laughing. This idea came from Wade King of RCA (I follow him on Instagram and always get good ideas from him). How it works: Each team is assigned a color of paper to get off the floor. Students have Vaseline on their nose (you can add green food coloring to make it look like snot) and have to pick up the questions with their noses (NO HANDS!). After the entire group has answered the question and agrees on an answer, they can “pick” another question! The only problem I had with this game was the dependence on the whole group to work at the same pace…it didn’t work for some of my ESS students, so I will make adjustments to this game next year for sure! If you want to use my questions (adding fractions) or get the directions for the game for FREE click here.


They have team names with a running score board that continues to grow throughout the championship! We have had several different winners throughout the first week and all of them have enjoyed the trophy!


The second day, we played Jenga! For each correct answer students earned a point for their team and were able to move a Jenga block. At the end of the time, the team earned bonus points for how many rows high their Jenga towers were. If you would like my Jenga questions (subtracting fractions) for FREE click here.


The third day, we played corn hole! For each correct answer, students earned a point for their team and were able to toss a bean bag. If the bag landed on the corn hole board they earned one bonus point. If the bag went into the hole in the board, they earned three bonus points.


The fourth day, we played Trashketball! For each correct answer, students earned a point for their team and a shot at the trashcan. If they made their shots, they earned bonus points!


The fifth day, we played Connect Four! The teams were given the same color post it notes, but were assigned to play on different Connect Four boards. The students were given 10 word problems. They had to write the question number and answer on the post it notes and place them on the Connect Four boards. They were only allowed to place one post it note at a time, couldn’t move any post it notes on the board including their own after it was placed. I was going around checking answers on the post it notes. If they had the correct answer, the post it note stayed on the board. If it was incorrect, I would take the note off the board and throw it away. Teams earn points for correct answers and bonus points for having four post it notes in a row.


As a closing for each day, we do a Number Talk with the points they earned for the day and the previous day’s total. It is a great way to keep our mental math sharp and bring everyone back down to reality from the awesomeness of the games!

I cannot wait for the second week of games! it is going to be a BLAST!!!

NEW Signature

Physical and Chemical Changes

I LOVE this standard! Georgia has changed this standard slightly this school year, but for the most part it is still the same.

Day 1, I introduce the standard and talk about the achievement level descriptors so students know what they need to learn in order to get a 3 on the standard. Then I give them some vocabulary! The vocabulary packet I use can be found here. I also use Quizlet to help them study. This set of words can be found here. After that, I do a short activity with paper. I give each student a plan piece of white paper. I ask them to tell me the attributes, or characteristics of the paper. Then I ask them to cut the paper. We talk about what the substance is…it’s still paper. Then I have them tear the paper. What is it? Paper! I have them crumple the paper. Guess what it is still…PAPER. I think you get the point. We do a bunch of physical changes to the paper and talk about at the end of the day it is still paper.

On day 2, we do 4 rotations. I give five minutes per rotation. I have four different mixtures for the kids to sort. One bucket has toys (Lincoln Logs, LEGOS, and K’Nex), another has coloring supplies (markers, colored pencils, and crayons), the third has Chex Mix, and the last has baking soda mixed with iron filings.


At the baking soda and iron filings rotation, I give them magnet wands to help them sort after they suffer for thirty seconds trying to figure out what to do. TIP: put the magnet wands inside zip loc bags for easy clean up. Before each group moves to the next rotation they have to remix their mixtures! At the end of class I did pull out a fresh bag of Chex mix to snack on as a class (food makes everything more fun)!

Day 3 was a longer lesson. I normally only have 30 minutes for science, but we did an hour. I could have split the lesson, but chose not to because I knew I had a shorter math lesson that day. On day 3, we set up our states of matter bags! Groups got to pick a name and design their bag. Here is a picture of mine:


Then I put a cup of ice and they placed a thermometer in the bag. They zipped the bag mostly closed, blew some air in it to fill the bag, and then closed it up! After a few minutes they recorded observations, temperature readings, and the date and time on the table below:

Screen Shot 2018-03-05 at 9.49.07 AM

They continued to keep data into the next school day. On the third school day, I had placed the bags in front of a space heater. In a warmer season of the year, simply placing the bags outside in the sun would do the same thing. What you want students to connect is that with the change in the states of matter, the temperature changed also.

On the same day we set up the states of matter bags, we did a solution experiment. Now I must admit before moving any further that when I did this next activity last year it was a disaster. This year it was perfect though! I used a hot plate in the classroom to bring a pot of water to boiling (I did 200mL of water). Then I put about two tablespoons of table salt into the boiling water and stirred. I allowed the science groups to come observe throughout the dissolving and boiling. While doing this I showed a fun youtube video about how heat moves. I boiled all of the water out of the solution and am left with the salt.


I then take two petri dishes and put some salt that has not been boiled into a solution in one, and some salt from our solution in the other. We look at them under a microscope and talk about the differences, which one was a part of the solution, how can you tell, the uniformity


Next we started observing actual chemical changes. I found most of these activities on this website and modified them up for my students. This first one is a HUGE favorite because the kids think they know what is going to happen. It is vinegar in the graduated cylinder and baking soda in the balloon. Then you hold the balloon up so the baking soda drops down and you get see hear the fizz, see the bubbles, but also the balloons expands with the gas that is released!


We also watched a temperature change with some yeast and hydrogen peroxide. This one fascinated the kids and caused for some fun gasps in the classroom.


We also do elephant toothpaste and a color change, but I forgot to get pictures. Sorry 😦

Below is the table from my state of matter bag. The kids enjoyed this one and realized that as the temperature rose the state of matter changed. The especially liked the condensation at the top of the bag when the bags were hot (we used a space heater, but setting in the in the sunlight will do the same thing).


Some things I learned for next year:

  • Let them measure the ingredients that cannot hurt them. It gives them good practice and makes less prep work for me.
  • Print them a copy of all of the lab instructions. Even though I had them posted on the ActivBoard, it is good for them to have an up close copy and read, hold, check off. (I hope to get these prepped and in my TPT store soon)
  • It is okay to get messy! The kids loved it, and we had a blast! Keep doing the hands-on lessons.

I hope some of this has helped you! My kiddos loved this unit and want to do more of these chemical reaction lessons after state testing!

NEW Signature