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

World War I has Begun

As I continue to share new products, especially the vocabulary packets, I want to highlight a different part of the packet each time. 

Today’s packet is over World War I and the piece out of each packet that I use no matter what is the interactive notebook pieces. 

I have used these two different ways. 1. I have students cut out the pieces with the word and definition attached. We then fold them and glue one side down. We write the word on top so that they can see the word, try to remember the definition, and then flip it open to see the actual definition. 2. I have students cut out the definition and put a post it note on top of it (like pictures). 

It helps the kids study their vocabulary. I have found many students turning back to the pages as we study, review, and discuss new standards. It’s awesome!

Check It Out!

I have added several new items to my Teachers Pay Teachers store! These items are all fifth grade mostly because of my new position in fifth grade…so if you are looking for:

  • Math Standards Posters: These simple posters are great for any classroom theme! Simply print and mount to any color paper, then laminate! Super easy and super flexible when it comes to matchy-matchy classrooms.
  • Social Studies Standards Posters
  • Science Standards Posters
  • Interactive notebook science standard, can do, and EQ: I love these interactive notebook additions! They include each standard with the achievement indicators (beginning learner, developing learner, proficient learner, and distinguished learner) so students know how to best learn the standard, and a place to write the essential question. I love to have students try to answer the EQ before I have taught anything, then draw a line (we call it the line of learning). After the standard has been taught I have students answer the EQ again under the line! This allows me and the students to see the growth of their learning, misunderstandings, and reflection of the week!
  • Interactive notebook social studies standard, can do, and EQ
  • Interactive notebook science set up kit
  • Physical science vocabulary: All of my vocabulary is interactive! Cut out the word and definition attached, then fold it into a little booklet with the information on the inside. Have the students write the word on top and quiz themselves on the definitions! It is super easy, and fun! Plus the parents always compliment this simple entry into the student notebooks.
  • Life science vocabulary
  • Earth science vocabulary
  • Characteristics of science vocabulary
  • Teach 5, 1st nine weeks: Teach 5! This was the first thing I began working on when I heard about my move to fifth grade…I cannot begin to emphasize how important Teach 5 is in my classroom! This is a spiral review of the math standards. It is leveled and easy to differentiate in the classroom. Plus I have a free Teach 5 Set Up kit that lets you know how to make your own Teach 5!

Yes, I have been busy creating, but I have also realized that with my first baby on the way I will not be able to make everything myself. I have purchased many items on TPT and found tons of FREE stuff to help me!

Teachers, what are you doing with your summer?


Spiral Review

As a third grade team we have started to discuss how we did on last year’s GMAS (If you aren’t sure what that is take a look at this). We have discussed how a great spiral review in mathematics really seemed to benefit the students and keep all of their learning in their minds.

I use Teach 5 to do this with mathematics. To learn more about Teach 5 read some of my older posts about it and take a look at these resources.

Teach 5 Sample

Teach 5 Bundle

One of my coworkers found this great resource for social studies today.

Social Studies Review is created by Ashleigh over at Ashleigh’s Education Journey.

We are still on the hunt for a great science spiral review for third grade Georgia Performance Standards. If you know of one comment with a link to the product. I am open to all things at this point. That or I am going to have to make one!

NEW Signature




Our students took the Georgia Milestones Assessment System (GMAS) last April. Most people would think that we would get their scores back within a month of taking the assessment, BUT that was not the case this year. After the test this past April we were told October would be when our scores would be released. October turned into January. Then, all of the sudden I receive an email in early November that my GMAS scores are in.

The results are ugly! I am used to 100% of my students passing the CRCT Mathematics portion. (the CRCT is what Georgia used to give as a standardized assessment). I knew the GMAS was going to be more difficult and I had been given a warning that the state was predicting that less than half of the students would pass the assessment the first year. Well, the state wasn’t lying.

I am not going to give my scores out because I have not been cleared to do so. I must say that although I am unhappy with the percentage of my students who passed, I had a higher percentage in my classes pass than the CES grade level average or state average.

I obviously need to make some adjustments to my teaching, start going deeper into their understand, and evaluate what I am doing as a professional. But I am proud of how hard most of my students worked on the GMAS. The next few months are going to be a lot of work as I reflect on how I teach, what I teach, and why my students did not perform as highly as I would have liked for them to.

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Teacher Survey Today

We received an email today with a link to a survey. The purpose of the survey was to see why teachers were leaving the profession in such large numbers.

Look at questions 5, 6, and 7. I copy and pasted my answers to 6 and 7 as well. They are in bold.

5. In Georgia, 47% of teachers leave the profession within five years. Rank the following statements often cited as the predominant reason a teacher leaves the profession. Ranking a statement with a 1 will indicate the most predominant reason and ranking a statement as an 8 will indicate the least predominant reason that teachers leave the profession in your opinion. (required)

Level of benefits/compensation
Level of preparation when entering the profession
Level of teacher participation in decisions related to profession
Level/quality of ongoing support, resources and professional learning
Non-teaching school responsibilities/duties
Number and emphasis of mandated tests
School level/District level leadership

Teacher evaluation method

6. Look back at Question 5 and see which statement you ranked as number one. Explain why you chose this statement. (optional)

The statement I ranked as number one was “Teacher evaluation method”. I chose this statement because evaluators are unable to identify how I could earn a higher score. They cannot tell me how I could better teach my students or improve as a professional. If they are unable to point out ways for improvement then how can they score me anything but the highest ranking? The highest ranking is almost impossible to get because of the verbs used (continually verses consistently). Evaluators cannot be in my classroom continually so they cannot see that I am continually doing these things.

The TKES score is absolutely insane and does not show whether a teacher is good at teaching. It does not show whether they should be fired or hired. It is not a reliable, valid, or just way to measure any professional’s performance.

We do not see dentist evaluated on whether their patients have cavities or not. That is up to the patient to brush their teeth, floss, and take care of themselves. Teachers should not be evaluated by student growth. We cannot force them to pay attention, do their homework, learn the material. We can present it in 17 different ways, love them with all our hearts, and beg them to learn, but we cannot force them to.

7. Please list any additional reasons why you believe 47% of the teachers in Georgia leave the profession within five years. (optional)

Many reasons could be identified for teachers leaving the profession. The reason I have stayed so far is because I love to teach! I love my students! I have been called to be a teacher and know that. When my husband asks me how my day was, many times I respond with, “The teaching was great! The other stuff was a mess.” It is sad that my job is looked down upon in society. We are no longer respected and many people ask, “Why do you put up with that?” My answer: I love the students and someone needs to teach them. Maybe one day one of my students will grow up and make some much needed changes to the way education is viewed and run. Maybe my impact on little peoples’ lives will make a difference bigger than you and me.

Some teachers lose this passion and love for teaching. And when they do they leave the profession. Why don’t you find a way to ignite that passion in the teachers that are left?

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Science meets Art meets Writing

I love when a creative idea comes to mind. This one was inspired by Teach Like a Pirate (read more about that here). The “P” in pirate stands for passion. Dave Burgess says that you’re not always going to be passionate about the content you are teaching and when that is the case you should include something else that you are passionate about. I am not passionate about animal adaptations, but I do love creating, crafting, painting, anything artsy. So this lesson focuses on the life science standard of animal adaptations but includes art and writing also!

Prior to the lesson we learned all about adaptations and why they are necessary for plants and animals to survive. I also took photos of all of the students’ faces, cropped them, and put them into the Sketch Master app on my iPad.

sketch master

This app can take any photo and turn it into a sketch. There are many different versions of the sketch to choose. I simply chose the one that gave each students’ face some definition without too much shading.

Before the kids started the lesson I cut just their faces out from these printed sketches.

So we started the lesson by reading two books.

animal hair animal teeth

What If You Had Animal Hair? and What If You Had Animal Teeth?

We then talked about which adaptations they would pick if they had to choose. It was a great conversation and I wish I could have recorded it (hahaha!!!). I want rattlesnake teeth so that I can bite and kill anything I want to. I want reindeer hair so that I float all the time. I then explained what was about to happen by showing them my animal hair and teeth on my photo face.


I the have each student a plain sheet of paper and their sketched face. We glued them together and then they sketched in their hair and teeth. It was a blast watching them create these little details and explain to me why they picked them. The last thing I had them do was write two sentences about why they chose the hair they did. What adaptations does that give you? They wrote two more sentences about the teeth. Some of the kids wrote more which was awesome! They turned out so cute!

Next year the same authors are putting out another book.

animal feet

This will add another great dimension to this fun school craftivity!

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Professional Development for Teachers…Loved This!

I read this article over the weekend. Go check out the original post here.

10 things Teachers Want in Professional Development

Posted by on Aug 28, 2015 in PD, Powerful Learning Practice

sketch by @Sylvia Duckworth

While on Twitter today this graphic caught my eye. It was posted by @MindShiftKQED linking to an article on their blog. The sketch itself was created by Sylvia Duckworth and it definitely caught my attention.

I began to think about the kinds of professional learning we offer at Powerful Learning Practice and asked myself if we were honoring what teachers want. We are a small, intimate group here at PLP, but we have huge hearts and an extensive amount of combined experience both in and out of the classroom when it comes to pedagogy and future ready learning.

No one works harder and thinks deeper than the folks at PLP who selflessly plan and offer the coaching, professional learning, e-courses, and products available on our site. I am grateful for each instructor’s drive and ability to be self directed, conscientious and caring toward our clients.

But I was curious if what we do we aligns with this list of teacher wants? And more importantly, should we? Was anything important missing from this list?

1. Teachers want a voice and choice in the PD offered.

At PLP, we like to think we listen. We survey, evaluate and take feedback from those who have been through our programs. We are responsive and rework many aspects based on the feedback we receive each year.

But I wonder about the district empowerment of the teachers before they show up in our sessions. Have they had voice and choice? Are district leaders talking to teachers before they “sign up”? Or are leaders making those “one size fits all” decisions for teachers. I also wonder if teachers already have well developed voices and if they so, do they know how to use them to make their choices known. Have they sat down and thought deeply about their professional learning needs? Do they understand the trends, shifts and needs their students are bringing with them that will require new teacher skills and capacities.

It has been my experience that often teachers are too shy to speak up about their professional learning needs. I have also been told that even when they do share- no one is listening. Once teachers show up they are  often resistant and we find ourselves having to spend weeks getting to know them, building trust and getting buy-in on what we are going to learn. Rare is the learner who comes ready to immerse themselves in the relationship based, self directed, collaborative environment we provide. If teachers had more voice and choice before they came I bet that would change.

2. Teachers want PD that is relevant for their students.

This is so important. Professional learning should be aligned in ways that prepare teachers for what their students need most. If the goal is not to just teach students but to help them learn, then the focus needs to be on helping teachers become learners themselves. Often teachers see the relevancy issue through the lens of the “content and standards” they need to cover. Where we believe the focus needs to be on what will prepare kids to be successful in their future. Are the skills, techniques and strategies the teachers are learning going to help them find and guide student learning through passion, interest and personalized efforts?

3. Teachers want PD they can use right away.

Nothing is worse than to require the entire district to take a workshop on a tool or curriculum that is “coming” without any practical application in the now. And nothing is more frustrating than a workshop that tells, talks, and shows with little opportunity to enact, engage or apply what they are learning. However, on the other side, at PLP we find teachers sometimes miss the fact that they are applying their new skills in the activities, collaborations and blended aspects provided during the course. What some want is an “easy button” that will give them a lesson plan or tech tool they can use the next day. Learning that gives the teacher immediate use but not much depth.

Change is not easy. Teaching to multiple-choice tests is easy. It’s easy to try out a few web tools and put a check in the box next to change agent. Turning your classroom or school into a place where deep learning occurs and learners’ needs are being met is hard. Educational change is hard because it involves re-culturing and re-examining values and dispositions and letting go of what we are vested in.

We have addressed this yin/yang need by offering different types of professional learning. Some of the courses we offer are short, make and take courses designed to teach a practical skill that can be applied immediately. Others are job embedded, year long and coached and taught through the use of learning cycles and design thinking that results in deep, connected learning. One style of PD focuses on self efficacy of the individual teacher, the other focuses on collective efficacy of teams of teachers embedded in schools or districts together.

4. Teachers want PD that is conducted by professionals with classroom experience. 

All of us at PLP have been classroom teachers. Most of us have gone on to work in leadership positions at the school or district level. All of us have worked with educators around the world to rethink their classroom practice. We are very Google-able. We have large digital footprints and you can see our best pedagogy online. Most importantly we all have taught using the strategies we espouse. We also bring in classroom teachers or school and district leaders who are embedded now in schools to add their ideas to what we are offering PD around. We believe in collaboration in the most authentic sense in all our PD leveraging experienced classroom teacher’s voice in all we do.

5. Teachers want PD that is innovative and creative.

When you look at What We Believe here at PLP, you can see innovation and creativity at the heart of what we do. But even more importantly we think teachers should bring innovation and creativity to the learning space with them. Effective PD is not done to you. The learner is an active part in what is created and what is learned. Our mantra is, “None of us is as smart as all of us.”

In our relationship-driven learning environments, the syllabus is malleable and collaboratively created by teachers as their needs emerge. Personally, I expect and look forward to being both a learner and a teacher in the courses and professional learning experiences I lead. We all do here at PLP. And the collective learning strategies we use always yield better outcomes. Plus, teachers come out more confident in sharing their ideas and using their voice. They emerge as bloggers and social media users who understand how to connect and learn collaboratively (a skill that is needed in a teacher’s toolbox) as well as skilled at pedagogy and the content covered overall.

6. Teachers want PD that makes them better teachers.

Exactly! It is not just about some skill you can use immediately, but more importantly it is about growth over time, developing thick schema, making connections, building tribe, strengthening dispositions and values and reigniting fires and passion within each educator who participates.

7. Teachers want PD that is practical and not theoretical.

Hmmm. This one bothers me just a bit. Teachers are often treated as though they are the working class of the education world. The teaching profession is seen as a semi-profession. Why? Because we are one that does not police its own. That has to change.

You have to own something before you can evaluate it and before you can give it away to your students.  If we can’t find joy in scholarship, if we do not own the ideas we are using, how do we know they are in the best interest of the students we love so dear?

Again, skill building (how to use Google Docs or a set of math tools) may not require a deep understanding of theory behind the tool, but when we are working on becoming better teachers (#6), that demands you understand the theory and evidence behind what you are doing. As a professional, you need to be able to defend your pedagogical stance. Teachers should be most literate about the ideas, strategies, dispositions and values they are incorporating into their practice. If you do not understand and are not able to articulate the theoretical underpinnings- then how can you be sure you should be using them with children?

8. Teachers want PD that allows them to collaborate and speak honestly.

If your professional learning does not create a place of trust and safety then I suggest you run, and if applicable ask for your money back. This includes face-to-face conference workshops, webinars, Twitter chats, and blended learning activities.

You need to be immersed in communities of practice and/or networked spaces where you are driving the learning right along side the instructor. And the instructor should also be able to speak honestly without you pulling the “I am paying YOU” card.

Treating each other with respect and having an open and willing spirit – being teachable – is what will allow critical moments and honesty to result in meaningful change and growth. We know how to create the safe environment that encourages honesty at PLP.

9. Teachers want PD that will be relevant for a long time.

In a world that is constantly changing educators are looking for anchors. But let’s face it, we simply do not have it as easy as our predecessors in terms of change in education. The culture of schools remained unchanged for almost one hundred years. Teachers knew what they had to learn and once they learned it, they simply needed to refine their skills slightly. Not so today. Culture in schools is shifting. Our student demographic is changing. Technological advancements are requiring all of society to reinvent themselves or be lost forever (think newspapers, stores that sold albums and CDs, publishing, etc.). Teachers today need to be flexible, nimble and have adaptive expertise.

The good news is much of our content, at least for now, will remain constant. But the dispositions, values, tools, and techniques we need to use everyday will change. That means today’s educator will not only need to  embrace change but also understands how to manage change.

Interestingly enough, in 2012 I asked my Twitter network (educators) about what they wanted in professional development in the 21st Century. What they shared still stands in terms of relevancy but varies a little in focus from our list here.

  • “I can tell you it needs to be available any time, anywhere, on a variety of platforms . . . ” Steve Anderson, @web20classroom
  • “PD in the 21st Century? Highly personalized.” Beth Still, @bethstill
  • “Necessary, invigorating, available, active, connected, complicated.”
    Mel Hutch, @melhutch
  • “No more sitting in rows and chairs. It no longer comes to you, you MUST search it out and be involved in FINDING best practice.” Carol Broos, @musictechie
  • “I’d describe PD in the 21st Century as an integral and defining part of almost any job. It’s also part of being literate today.” David Warlick, @dwarlick
  • “PD in 21st Century—learning from a PLN, putting that learning to use and documenting it—sharing with others as you grow.” Leslie Maniotes, @lesliemaniotes
  • “PD in 21st C: targeted, personalized but communal, active, action research, transparent . . . ” Derrick Willard, @derrickwillard
  • “As personal pd—a shift away from state/district/school pd with the onus on accessing multiple inputs using variety of platforms.” Cory Plough, @mrplough07
  • “For me PD is customized, immersive, ubiquitous, self-constructed, community based, empowering, & connective (I know . . . many adjectives.)” Wendy Drexler, @wendydrexler
  • “It’s available 24/7 if one wants it. Its reach is regional, national, and global.” Hiram Cuevas, @cuevash
  • “21 Cen teacher PD is blended, ongoing, relevant, job-embedded, collaborative and a combination of self-directed + informed by data.” Tania Sterling, @taniasterling
  • “Unattached. No rooms, few boundaries. Blend of the old ways (for those that can’t let go) and the new ways (for those that need to jump ahead).” Tim Holt, @timholt2007

What will stand the test of time in PD is learning to be connected educators. Teachers must learn to model connectedness and enable students to develop personal learning networks, made up of people and resources from both their physical and virtual worlds—but first, teachers must become connected collaborators themselves. At PLP we develop PD that allows teachers to fully exploit the transformative potential of emerging learning technologies and to do it within a global framework.

10. Teachers want Admin to attend and participate in the PD sessions.

Research shows that educators need to attend PD together and reflect collectively on what they are learning. At PLP we bring teams of educators together with Connected Coaches who facilitate deep discussions around the projects they are creating. Principals and administrators are members of the teams and work collaboratively with the teachers on implementing what they have learned. We follow up and give feedback about team goals for the professional learning,  making it a meaningful experience for both teachers and administrators.

Traditionally, teacher professional learning has focused on acquiring new knowledge and skills through passive, system-sponsored workshops delivered on in-service days. In these workshops, teachers learn new pedagogy from an outside expert and then are expected to take the learning back to their classrooms and try it out. After the workshop, when daily routines and pressures take over, and teachers have no one to help them problem solve, they go back to business as usual. Bringing new strategies from theory into individual classroom practice is even more difficult when teachers try to implement innovation and change, since traditional professional development rarely offers ways for teachers to work together through the issues that emerge in practice.

Our model of teacher networking doesn’t replace the traditional network—it subsumes and transforms it. The connected teacher benefits from this traditional network and also has access to a much wider community that contains the knowledge of thousands of people, all connected to one another through technology.

PD the way teachers want it

We hope you will join us and experience PD the way “teachers want it”. Let us help you break through the traditional isolation in PD while you collaborate with your peers and leverage world-class experts- all to improve student learning.

What are your plans for professional learning this fall?

We have an exciting lineup of online learning happening this fall! Our popular instructor-led course lineup is back with a fresh round of practical courses for your professional learning. We can also customize year-long and other learning experiences for your school or district.

We are also thrilled to announce the launch of a brand new slate of self-paced courses. These courses can start anytime, anywhere. You’ll learn with video, audio, and written content from top quality instructors. Best of all, you work through the courses at your own pace, in your own time. The self-paced courses are practical, affordable, and convenient!

We hope you’ll join us for high quality professional learning this fall!

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