Integrating Science and Literacy

When I first became a teacher, I took the TEACHING aspect very seriously. I worked so hard to create engaging lessons and teach in fun, and new, and interesting ways. I still do. Reflecting back though, I don't feel like I spent enough time allowing my students to teach themselves. I just think that I did too much for them. Don't get me wrong, they learned and excelled, but I learned and excelled as well....

Welcome present day! 

There is so much value in allowing students to discover new concepts on their own, complete their own research, and teach others. New teaching methods might become the fad, but good ol' methods still work just as well. Cue: the jigsaw method. 

There is ALSO a whole lot of value in writing in the content areas. While writing about your weekend, summer, favorite memory, etc. is all good and well - writing good informational pieces is what prepares you for the real world. Remember that one time in college when you wrote about your surprise birthday party?! Me neither! 

Before starting my Electricity and Magnetism Unit this year, I gave each student a topic to research: 

1. Circuits
2. Electromagnets
3. Conductors and Insulators
4. Static Electricity
5. Magnets

Each student also received a research sheet and a planning sheet on their way to the computer lab to access the online research library. 

I completed this task with my fifth graders, and we all know what happens when students "research" information: they want to copy down I don't blame them - I did the same thing at that age! 

The research sheet that I gave them has bullet points, and I tell them to write down fragments instead of entire sentences. This helps them put it into their own words later on. 

Once their research was complete, they transferred their knowledge to the planning sheet. They were asked to come up with three different paragraphs. One of the easiest ways to do this is to have students write a 1, 2, or 3 next to each bullet point on their research list. 

Sidenote - yes, students will struggle. Yes, some of the information that they read goes way above their heads. It took me a long time to accept the fact that they SHOULD struggle a bit. It's how they learn! 

Yes, I did help the students that needed extra guidance, and I also allowed students that were researching the same topic to compare notes. Some chose to plan their writing independently, and some chose to work with a partner. 

I checked all of the planning pages and conferred with each student for a few minutes to make sure that they were on the right track. The better their planning - the easier the writing will be. Students understood this fact very quickly once they actually started writing! 

Once their research was finished, students completed their informational writing piece. They wrote neatly and they wrote in pencil (in case they needed to revise anything once they were finished). I did not have students complete a rough draft and a final draft because...

1. Time. There is never enough time. 
2. Kids absolutely HATE writing a paper and then REWRITING it again. I would too. 
3. If these papers were being typed, it would be a whole different story. :)



Disclaimer: not all papers looked like Autumn's. Some needed extra space, and some wrote half of a page. It's OK! They learned A LOT from this activity! After the class was finished, each jigsaw group member presented their findings to other group members. They made my teacher heart happy. 

After this activity, I taught them the unit. They retained the information so much better, and they were SO EXCITED to offer more input as I talked about each topic. You can also use this writing activity at the end of your unit as an independent learning activity. 

Here are the other cute final draft papers: 

Happy Teaching!

Top Wishlisted Items

Now that Thanksgiving break is over, it's time to get back to reality! 

Teaching is SO rewarding and I absolutely love my career, but it is definitely a time-consuming profession. I am so grateful for Teacher Pay Teachers and all of the amazing teachers who spend countless hours creating resources that help me be the best teacher that I can be. 

Since the sale is going on, I would like to share the top three wishlisted items in my store. Coincidentally, they also happen to be the top three best-selling resources! 

This Simple, Compound, and Complex Sentence Sort is actually my best-selling product. It is a fun and easy way for students to practice identifying and sorting the different types of sentences. Let's face it, if you let kids cut and glue instead of giving them a simple worksheet, they are immediately engaged! 

Like the customer that commented on this product, I created this Electricity and Magnetism Unit when I realized that the materials that I had available just did not fit the curriculum. Science is always one of my students's favorite subjects, so I wanted this unit to keep them engaged. 

The unit includes four different PowerPoint presentations that include pictures, video links, and interactive websites. The students love it because it keeps their attention! While you teach with the PowerPoint lessons, they follow along with guided notes or their interactive notes and then apply their knowledge with different labs and task cards. 

Interactive Notebook Activities

SCOOT Game and Task Cards

Assessments and Labs

A few years ago when I first started teaching adding and subtracting fractions with unlike denominators to my fifth graders, I quickly realized that they needed some concrete step-by-step directions. They also needed a way to organize their work. I racked my brain for a little while before coming up with this graphic organizer. My students loved it!

When we moved to multiplying and dividing fractions, they never again confused the steps. They simply responded with, “adding and subtracting – we use 4-square!”
Teachers love it as well! All of the teachers on my grade level are successfully using this method with their students.

As you teach this lesson, I suggest starting with the lesson and this practice page. After that – have the students create their own “4-squares” to show their work. I love seeing students use “4-square” on their classwork, homework, and tests.  

I hope that you find some amazing resources during this sale! Thank you for all that YOU do, especially all of those little things that make a big difference!

Check out other great wishlisted items and sales at Daisy Designs!

Book Buddies: A Valuable Classroom Resource

I teach fifth graders. They are free-spirited, opinionated, hilarious, and often a mess all at the same time.  They still love their teacher (at least for the first half of the year) and they want to work hard to prove that they are ready for middle school. 

I have; however, discovered something interesting about fifth graders. They are amazing role models to the younger generation. If you have every taught fifth grade, I am sure you are about to roll your eyes at me, but hear me out! 

For the past eight years, a kindergarten teacher and I hold a weekly half hour book buddy session. 

Throughout the year, the students:

1. Read books to one another
2. Go on letter hunts on the playground
3. Draw pictures in chalk on the sidewalk to match their letter of the week
4. Create holiday crafts
5. Listen to a read-alouds together
6. When the Scholastic Book Fair rolls around, my fifth graders are there to help their book buddies write down book titles on their "wish list." 


Book Buddy time is not a break in the week, a time filler, or a "fun activity." Our time with our book buddies is meaningful for both the kindergartners and fifth graders.

Throughout the years, I have seen: 

  • My fifth graders quickly realize just kindergarten students actually have. 
  • When students come to me in fifth grade, they talk about the book buddy that they had when they were in kindergarten and still remember their name!
  • When they see each other in the hall, both sets of kids wave frantically as if they have seen their best friend. You would THINK that a fifth grader would be too "mature" for this, but everything goes out the window when it comes to that little 5 or 6 year old! 
  • I have watched the most challenging students in my class turn into different kids when they are with their book buddies. They treat them like a little brother or sister and want to teach and protect them. 

During a time that academics and testing take priority over anything else, 
this is one activity that I refuse to give up. 

If you are considering trying book buddies with another teacher, students do not have to be quite that far apart in age. A coworker of mine successfully held book buddies with a third and fourth grade class. They helped each other with academics and the older students tutored the younger class or helped them study. 

Try it! You will NOT regret it! 

Using Quizlet in the Classroom

Let's face it: kids just don't really know how to study. I teach my fifth graders different strategies, I give them all the notes that they could possibly need, and many of them still just don't put the effort in (especially if they are not pushed to do so at home). 

That all really changed this past year when a colleague introduced me to Quizlet - a website that you can use to create vocabulary study sets for kids. I was finally able to give my students a study tool that they were interested AND engaged in. I saw their social studies, spelling, and science tests scores improve dramatically! 

I am in no way affiliated with this site, but I found it so useful in my classroom that I wanted to share some of its features. I currently use the free version of the website. 

Quizlet Tips and Features:

Once your account is created, you can either search a quizlet that has already been created, or you can create your own.

1. Enter the title of your study set. 
2. Enter a vocabulary term and its definition. It's so easy! 

If you click on the picture icon to the right of the definition, you can also choose from several images that correlate with your definition. 

Once my study set is complete, I share the link with my students. You can either post it on your classroom or school website, email it to parents, text it to parents, etc. 

Students can access the link on a computer OR they can download the quizlet app to use on a phone or device. Woohoo! 

The first time I introduced students to this resource, we went to the computer lab and everyone tried it at the same time. Students can choose different ways to study the vocabulary set: 

Students can choose from: Flashcards, Learn, Speller, Test, Scatter, or Gravity.
Students can practice the vocabulary words and definitions. I really noticed students using this feature after they tried to take the test on Quizlet and quickly realized that they needed more review! 
When students use the "Learn" feature, they can type in the answer to the definition. The only downfall to this feature is the fact that some students cannot spell the vocabulary word correctly and it counts it as wrong. They find their way around it, though! 
The "Speller" feature helps students practice spelling the vocabulary words. I found this feature EXTREMELY useful when I started creating Quizlets for our weekly spelling lists. 
The "test" link is a great way for students to take a practice test. They loved this feature and I even used these as a quiz grade when we were in the computer lab. I walked around and recorded student scores. I did; however, write the vocabulary words on the board so that students could see the correct spelling. 
This activity was our FAVORITE feature! Using this game, students drag the vocabulary word on top of the definition to make it disappear. Their time is recorded and students quickly turned these games into a class competition. I joined in on the fun and completed the scatter game myself to earn the high score. I rewarded the student that could beat my score. Needless to say, someone in the class ALWAYS beat me! : )

When I told my students to study for their test using Quizlet, many would walk into my classroom excited to tell me their Scatter score the next morning. THAT is the reason I love this website so students are excited about studying!

I also used this feature as a science center in my classroom. Students in the group took turns playing the scatter game and recorded the highest score.
Gravity is probably the least used feature in my classroom because again, students have to spell the vocabulary words correctly which is sometimes hard for them to do. It is another great feature to use if you are creating spelling study sets. 

Quizlet also added a new feature called "Quizlet Live." My students go absolutely CRAZY when we play Quizlet Live! All you have to do is take one of your study sets and click on "Play Quizlet Live." You need students to be on six different devices or laptops to play. We have played in groups or in the computer lab and each student was on their own computer. 

The great part about "Quizlet Live" is the fact that it forces students to work together in order to answer the questions.  

If you purchased any of the following units from my TeachersPayTeachers store, feel free to use the Quizlet Sets that I have already created: 

Happy Teaching!