Author Archives: krystalmills
I’m well into my second course of my MSED! As I suspected, time is going faster than ever before. Report cards are almost ready to go home and parent-teacher interviews are on Thursday and Friday of this week. It’s incredible that we’ve gotten to this point in the school year already.
I am enjoying my Master’s program even more than I expected. However, it has been a huge adjustment - I feel like I don’t have enough time to get everything done that needs to be done. Working full time, having 2 children, my MSED work, and maintaining some time for “fun” has been a balancing act. I’m trying to make it work, though.
I have been reading LOTS since I started this program in September. I am reading for my course work but I have also been reading beyond that as well. That is one thing that this Master’s program has sparked in me, already. The more I learn, the more I want to learn. Even though I don’t really have the time, I’ve been doing more professional reading over the last two months than ever in my career – by choice! I can’t help it!
One book that I am currently reading is not for my course work for my own information – Age of Opportunity, by Laurence Steinberg. It basically challenges many myths that we currently hold about adolescence and offers insight into the science behind why adolescents act the way that they do. As a grade 7 and 8 teacher, so many times I have found myself thinking, “Why did he do that? Why would she take that risk? Didn’t he consider what would happen based on that choice?” In his book, Steinberg offers new insight into the science of adolescence. But, the best part is that it doesn’t read like a boring text book! Yes, it contains information on neuroscience but in a way that is very easy to understand and digest. He includes great, real life examples, scenarios, and ancedotes making it easy to relate to, as well.
My own boys are only 4 and 7, but the teen years will be here before I know it! Steinberg offers an entire chapter for parents and how they can help their adolescents most effectively. There are tons of ideas that I have to go back to when my own kiddos hit this period in their lives. What really hit home, though, was the recommendations for educators. Steinberg definitely has some interesting suggestions such as spending less money and time on classroom based health education as it seems to glean little in the way of results. He also suggests preparing adolescents for psychological demands of college, not just the academic ones.
Working toward my Master’s has been a huge adjustment. I have less time for myself than ever before, I have huge commitments of course work – reading and writing. However, there’s also so much considering and thinking that I have been doing. If I wasn’t doing my Master’s I probably would not have been considering my teenage learners and how their brains work, and I wouldn’t have picked up Age of Opportunity. However, I am so glad that I am on this journey of life long learning. Yes, I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true! I’ve been reading lots of great books lately and this is just one of them. However, it’s also the kind of book that I know I’ll go back to in the future. If you own or teach adolescents, you should check into Age of Opportunity!
So your child is in middle school and is participating in the school science fair, and you’re now trying to help come up with science fair project ideas. Irrespective of whether your child was forced to take part in the science fair or even if science is a much-disliked subject, you can turn the situation around with a winning science fair project idea. Here are six tips to share with your child to ensure (s)he enjoys working on the project, learns a lot in the process and maybe even ends up with a prize!
- Begin Early
The science fair is a long way away, and you figure you have more than enough time to come up with a good science fair project idea and see it through to the end. Great! That’s no reason to put off starting on the project. You never know what complications may arise once you actually begin. Even the seemingly simple task of coming up with a good idea may take a lot more time than expected. The last thing you want is to find out that you have only one week left for the project, and an understandably limited choice of ideas to choose from. With more time in hand, you have the liberty of choosing a topic that truly interests you, spending enough time to do research and understand the topic in detail, and collecting the necessary information in a well thought-out and organized manner. And if you’ve got your eyes on the prize, each of these factors will help differentiate your project from the other good ones on display. Believe me, the judges can tell.
- Choose a topic that really interests you
The right way to go about finding a good science fair project idea is to begin with your interests. Don’t read through a list of ideas and see whether any of them appeal to you. Rather, take some time to think about what kind of topics get you excited. It doesn’t even have to have a direct link to science. What things make you sit up and pay attention? Sports? Cats? Building things with your own hands? Narrow your list down to a few of your favorite topics and spend some time thinking about them. Most probably you will have to do some additional reading on the topic to come up with a question that interests you. The Google Idea Springboard is a great tool to help you out in this area. You’re likely to spend a few weeks if not months working on your project, so having a topic that you love will keep you interested till the end.
- Come up with a good question that you can work with
A good science fair project idea begins with a good question. How do you define a good question? Firstly, it should not be a question that has already been answered by someone else. If you design a science fair project around the question ‘Which color light do plants grow best in?’, it is unlikely that you or anyone else will learn anything new from it. The experimental procedure and results for such a project can easily be found on the internet. Even if you do decide to do a project based on a science fair project idea you found online, make sure to change the question and ask something new so that you are experimenting and doing research on a slightly different area. Secondly, the question should truly interest you. Don’t adopt a question that someone else finds interesting or exciting. Use your ‘favorite topics’ list, spend time playing with different ideas in your head and only settle for a question that you would genuinely like to know the answer to. This interest will completely change the way you approach the project.
- Consider the experimental procedure involved
Remember, while trying to settle on your science fair project idea, you have to come up with a fool proof method for collecting data to answer your question. Consider the kind of time, energy and resources required to set up your experiment, and realistically evaluate whether it can be accomplished with what is available to you. Also check your experiment for any flaws. Is the data that you are collecting quantifiable? Is there any subjectivity involved? Have you considered and taken care of external factors that may affect your results? If you do not know the right answers to these questions, or how to design your experiment accordingly, you will need to spend some time understanding how to set up a scientific experiment.
- Feel free to change your question based on your background research
It is entirely possible that as you go about collecting the information you need for your project, you realize that your question isn’t a very good one, or that you think of a better and more interesting one. Feel free to change your question according to your findings. This is where point #1 becomes even more important.
- Make sure you understand all the concepts involved
Don’t worry about finding a topic that sounds highly complicated or scientific. In fact, the more simple your topic, the better you will be able to work with it. Nobody is expecting Ph.D. level research from you. More importantly, you will find the research and data collection far more difficult if you haven’t fully understood the topic yourself. Feel free to ask for help from an adult or the internet in order to learn more about the topic, but when it comes to the project, do all the thinking and analysis yourself. This will help you immensely when it comes to answering the judges’ questions about your project, and your in-depth understanding will show.
As long as you keep these tips in mind, you can be sure to come up with a science fair project idea that will win you over, impress your audience and maybe even tip the judges’ scales in your favor.
Catherine Ross is a full-time stay-at-home-mum who believes learning should be enjoyable for young minds. An erstwhile elementary school teacher, Catherine loves coming up with creative ways through which kids can grasp the seemingly difficult concepts of learning easily. She believes that a ‘fun factor’ can go a long way in enhancing kids’ understanding and blogs at http://kidslearninggames.weebly.com/
I LOVE cool school supplies! It is one of the ways that I know I’m meant to be a teacher – no one else really appreciates colorful tabs and post-its like we do.
Well, I have discovered my new favorite pens. Have you ever used those scratchy “erasable pens” that never really erased anything, but just tore up your paper and made a mess? These pens are NOTHING, I repeat NOTHING like those sub-par pens of years ago. Pilot FriXion Gel Pens are erasable pens that ACTUALLY erase. I know, mind….blown! I was skeptical before I tried them, but they really are fantastic! There is no “eraser” as such. When the erasing tip is rubbed against the page, it creates a little heat and the friction causes the thermo sensitive ink to disappear!
I often make mistakes when I’m quickly trying to correct or add comments to students’ papers, and I detest having to scratch something out that I didn’t mean to write. It just looks unprofessional – although I know that “everyone makes mistakes”. This way, I can still mark in pen, but it’s like my mistakes never happened!
These pens write smoothly, and are also re-fillable as well, which is a bonus!
Of course they come in lots of different colors which I take advantage of when I am correcting a students’ piece of writing multiple times – I use different colors of ink, so that they know which comment is new. And now, I can go back and erase comments, if I need to, so that a more reluctant writer can incorporate my comments into the piece of writing, but still use the draft without my hen-scratches all over the page. My students enjoy using these awesome pens during free writes, especially and they have been a bit of a reward as well, since they know that they are “Mrs. Mills’ special pens”.
As if erasable pens that really erase wasn’t enough…how about erasable highlighters? Yep! I found out that Pilot has those as well and they use the same “friction technology” to make the highlighting disappear! Now, would I give the highlighter to students and give the child free reign to highlight? Probably not. However, there are lots of applications for erasable highlighters – especially in middle school. For instance, I may have students work within a small group and each identify a certain phase in a novel by highlighting it for the purposes of a mini-lesson (and later erase the highlighting). Students could highlight key terms in a text book (and erase at the end of the chapter). Let’s face it – anything that helps kids note-take is a keeper. Kids like to highlight, in general, but to have the option to erase what they highlight really opens the doors for more activities involving text books or novels that we can’t have permanently marked.
I have been working really hard this year to try to differentiate a bit more effectively for my students. Last year I looked into Guided Math, and although I loved the way it sounded, I know that I fell short of actually following through with my well-intended plan. As part of a Master’s assignment this year, I actively started incorporating more small group time for guided practice into my classroom. Honestly, I can already feel the shift. The things that I thought would happen (a bunch of hands up in the air as I try to help those in the group) haven’t really been an issue, yet. Those who need help are with me and those who do not are able to move along and complete their work. It’s actually kind of simple. I also established some anchor activities for students to choose from when they do complete their work. I haven’t worked out all of the kinks, but knowing that I’m going to get to more students more quickly makes me feel as though I am teaching more authentically! If you don’t do much “guided practice” after your initial lesson, try it! For a week or two, try to build in more time to work with students in a small group. And keep it simple! Right now, I have it established that after my mini-lesson anyone who feels that they would like to work through a few more examples can join me at the back table. The students CHOOSE to come. What I love MOST is when the students who choose to join are the ones whom I was worried would be acting up and making it difficult for me to teach. They are CHOOSING to come back and work through examples with me. I still have a few students that I’d like to see join me at the back, however, I will give them time to decide if they need my help or not. If they should be going through more examples with me, I will ask them to join the group as well. I’m playing this part by ear, so far. What I’m also really happy about, is that my small group time has been with many different students. Initially I was scared that there may be a negative stigma attached to coming to the small group for more guided practice. However, this has not been the case. This small change to my teaching practice this year has been amazing and I’m looking forward to really harnessing the power of small group instruction.
As a part of this week’s assignment for my course I found a great blog post on Math Puzzle Apps and another on Incorporating Games into the Classroom . Math games and puzzles are simple options to use as anchor activities for students when they have finished the assigned work for the day. They keep the kids engaged while you can continue to work with those students who need your help.
I haven’t checked out all of the Math Apps in the article yet, but it’s on my to-do list for later this week!
Do you have any great Math Apps for middle school that don’t require internet? Please share if you do! I’m always on the lookout!
I have news! So, my school won the Aviva Community Fund competition a few months ago (kind of proud of that) which funded our Playground for All project. Monday morning, the next round of voting begins for new projects, and CTV News will be at our school in Souris, PEI to launch this next round of new projects and voting for Aviva. Pretty exciting! If you tune in on Monday morning, you may see us! The Aviva Community Fund competition is such an amazing opportunity to get projects funded and there are so many worthy causes – here is one project that will be looking for your votes in this new round: Autism Ontario, Niagara needs help to support parents. If you have a project that needs to be funded, and you’re in Canada, it’s definitely worth checking out the submission process, so long as you are committed to doing the hard work that needs to be done to get your project to the end and come out a winner!
As I gaze out at this beautiful August afternoon, I can’t help but wonder what kind of a year I will have. I feel like I’m standing in the line-up to ride a really scary roller coaster. I want to ride, even though it’s scary because I know that it’s also going to be exhilarating and I know I’ll love it. I’m sick of waiting and I just want it to be my turn already!
I’m always excited to begin a new school year, and this year is no different in that way, but very different in many other ways. I am in our new/renovated K-12 school – a huge change what with a new build and combined staffs. And, I’ll be starting my Master’s in just days. I know it’s going to be a year of changes, flexibility and stress, but also one of learning and growth. We go back on Tuesday and the kids come on Thursday, and I’m going to enjoy this last weekend, but I’m very much looking forward to my turn on the roller coaster!
That being said….
I need to start this year on the right foot – with a Back to School Giveaway, of course! And this is going to be a great one! I have ONE “grand prize” that will be given out to one lucky teacher and it could be you!
In total, the prizes are valued at approximately $200, depending on your choices from my TPT Store and your choice of wall decal.
A little more about the prizes…
5 TPT Items
Get browsing! I have lots of resources in my TPT store and the winner will get to choose any FIVE of them. I’ll simply email them the files that they choose!
Lunch Thermal – the perfect lunch bag! You’ll be eating in style this year, for sure! (No monogramming on your lunch bag)
Wall Decal From Wise Decor
You have your choice of 3 wall decals! (I can’t wait to get mine up in my new classroom, and I’ll be sure to post a picture when I do.) You can choose your size and colors to totally personalize your wall decal. And, they go on looking like paint – no see-through film like some of the cheaper versions of wall decals. Your three choices are: a Student Encouragement Wall Decal, Classroom Rules Modern Wall Decal or a Whimsical Classroom Rules Wall Decal. They are pictured below – but keep in mind that you can personalize your colors to match your room!
The Red Sun – A great read for your classroom this year
“The Red Sun is the first book in The Legends of Orkney, the spellbinding series of adventure fantasy novels by Alane Adams. It follows Sam to the realm of Orkney where witches, wraiths, and other menacing creatures cause serious peril to the unsuspecting Sam. Now, it’s up to him to save his friends and all of Orkney from a cursed red sun. Can a young witch girl named Mavery help him?”
The fantasy genre is so hot right now – the kids love it! What grabbed my attention about this book right off the bat was its accessibility to my boys, especially. Within just the first 2 pages, we learn that the main character Sam is a self-professed “non-hero”. He’s not perfect, his family is not perfect, he’s disconnected from his father, he has a temper and sometimes gets into fights. I know that certain students in particular will relate to his imperfections and the fact that he’s “real” just like them. The action starts within the first chapter really, and definitely is underway by chapter two. I feel that this element is super beneficial to my more reluctant readers who find it difficult to “hang in there” and continue to read to get to the “good part” of some texts. There’s conflict essentially from the beginning and that paired with a mysterious new teacher with an attitude, and a dwarf in his garage, you can’t help but be hooked into learning more about Sam and what’s really going on in his life. This would be a great first read, for students new to the fantasy genre!
I think your students will truly enjoy “The Red Sun” and it’ll be a wonderful addition to your classroom library.
I wish you all a wonderful school year with your students! Thanks for entering my Back to School Giveaway, good luck to you all! Feel free to share my post with your teacher friends!
Happy to be a part of this awesome free resource for teachers! All of the contributing authors are Canadian and there are amazing resources included in this e-book for all grade levels. While some content is really just for Canadian teachers, there is LOTS of content in this e-book for teachers from other countries as well.
It’s not QUITE finished, but I just couldn’t wait to share! You know WAAAAAAY back when I was harassing you about voting for my school in a competition to win $100 000+ for a new playground, through Aviva Community Fund? Remember that? Do you also remember when we won? Well, the playground is up and will be finished SOON!
I have to express my gratitude once again to all of you who voted and shared. This playground is AH-MAZING and the kids are going to LOVE it! I highly suggest you check out the Aviva Community Fund competition if there’s a project in your community that needs a boost! You just never know!
Just found this video - (it’s not new, I saw it a while back) and I thought I’d share. Too funny and lots of applications! I’m going to show it to my math students in reference to tackling challenging problems – like word problems. They have to try, they have to take a step…and then another and they’ll get where they’re going. If they don’t try, it’s like they’re allowing themselves to remain stuck on the escalator!