Monday, August 31, 2015

Science, Cat's In The Bag, & Being Quirky

The Scientific Method! Again! I'm in such a science-y mood! By the time kiddos get to me in 6th grade they can repeat it and know all about it. #thestruggleisreal to make it awesome and exciting by the time they are in 6th grade. And doing something they will remember and LOVE is such a challenge. Scientific Method Fun is found with a few centers and one lab that we do. The LAB is called "Cat's in the BAG". MEOW! I use it to setup my expectations for how I want students to complete labs (the detail, organization, and descriptions I expect). I think the first year I called it Mystery Bag but it didn't have the same allure as "Cat's in the Bag!" so thus the title stuck. 6th graders like quirky. And I do too.

The purpose of this lab is to get students to write detailed notes and describe things--science isn't just science--it's writing too! To make sure your students know what is expected and how detailed they need to be it's important to set the stage for that.  ALSO we make connections to the scientific method!

(bags can also be just plain jane lunch bags too!)

First I label all of the bags #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8 (I recommend no more than 8 otherwise things can get a little out of hand). I put one object in each bag and rolllllll it shut and then I got town stapling the bags sealed. I typically pick things that my students are familiar with and are around our classroom. Even the simplest objects can throw them for a loop!
I set up stations around the room and have those numbered as well.

Beginning with the kiddos I set up expectations for what I will be looking for (it is the beginning of the school year so brushing off those summer cobwebs is a struggle but it has to be done!). Sometimes I show past students examples of great labs or I make up my own (both good and bad). This is a really important part so they understand while yes, this lab is play, we are also doing science. It really sets the tone for the rest of the labs so I make sure I get it right the first time.

When the draw a super cool picture of what they think is in the bag...I encourage them to show their work with their groups and discuss together. This gets them excited and it also makes it so I don't get chicken scratch and lame-o work (I don't ever tell them this but you know the feeling after you've prepped and kids are doing awesome things and then you get work that is like :\ why did we do allllllll of this???). So I try and help them solve my teacher pet peeve problem without telling them about my teacher pet peeve. WIN!WIN!

We go over the lab rules. Students are to guess what's in the bag they can shake, touch and gently feel the bag to see what's in it (no shaking or doing anything crazy with the bag) then they have to discuss, draw and write a detailed description about what the think it is. Then do a final check of what is in the bag. The groups have to come up with a consensus as to what it is and fully fill out their lab sheets.

Students go from station to station trying to get this figured out!

The big reveal. We do the whole drum roll y'all. Make it exciting and meaningful right!?! Make it MAGICAL. We reveal and there is so much energy in the room from having correctly identified things in the bag, shock as to that really weird one was a staples, and its just all so FUN and SCIENTIFIC. I also have a prize if someone guesses them all correctly but it has never happened. Ha!

Then comes the discussion and connection to the scientific method (specifically about making observations, taking notes, and not guessing--have an educated guess). And they get it but you have to make these connections or else the whole lab was just play. And then the scientific method BECOMES REAL and your expectations become concrete. They weren't just guessing what was in the bags. Some are close, some are way, off, and some are spot on. And that's exactly how science works isn't it? Much like the bags the answer to our questions is hidden and we have to question, research, develop an idea, experiment, look at the data, and put the facts together.

Results? Data? Which side of the fence are you on? Or are you like me and use both?!?
(where's the monkey emoji covering it's eyes when you need it?!?)
ALSO...I have these so we can look at the parts of the scientific method.

Their exit ticket for the lab is to have a completed lab sheet. We work on a lot of this together. The question? WHAT'S IN THE BAG?, etc. So they put on finishing touches, write a reflection (how does this apply to science/the scientific method/experiments?), and turn in the lab. and TA-DAA! It's a fun one one and a great lab for the beginning of the year.

My students love this and they remember it. For some it's their favorite lab throughout the school year (over roasting starbursts and caramel popcorn scale models which is shocking to me ha! but I'm all about schnacks!).

If you'd like it all in a handy dandy PDF shoot me an email @ and I'll happily pass it along.

***(update) After receiving requests for this activity from teachers all over (seriously! Israel and Zambia included) and my inbox being completely flooded (I LOVE you all!)  I have posted it in my tpt store here (and follow along too)!

And it is totally FREE!

Still feel free to email me for a pdf or to say hello!

Follow me on TPT for more school awesomeness! >>HERE!<<

>>>>>>>>>>>Wanting another fun scientific method activity? Click here!<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Over and Out!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Can You Walk On Water? (Scientific Method Awesomeness)

I LOVE SCIENCE. I LOVE SCIENCE. Can I tell you that I used to hate science? I was so nervous to teach it because a) I didn't like it b) I WAS totally not a science person! So I had no choice and I decided to set some science aspirations for myself. My goals were to be the science teachers that was FUN/ENGAGING, FULL OF EXPLORATION AND UNDERSTANDING, AND HANDS ON. If you teach science...I'm pretty sure we have that in common! Well, now science is easily the thing I look forward to almost and I may or may not say "hurry up and read for thirty minutes so we can do SCIENCE!" eeeeeks. I value reading too! I do! I just can't make up my mind which one is my favorite!

I just want to share a QUICK and FUN thing/activity/groupish thing that I do with my kiddos--I don't really know what to call it! (But if you do please let me know! ;)

By the time kiddos get to me in 6th grade they are Scientific Methoded Out. Have you ever seen this syndrome in kids? Like I get blank stares and I can't rumble any enthusiasm because there is absolutely none. SO. Nothing gets kids excited more than Bill Nye right??! WRONG! Episodes of MYTHBUSTERS! I watch and select edited episodes {without language} but it still feels so rebellious and AWESOME to watch them at school. And 6th graders just wanna be rebellious sometimes, so I humor them every once in a while (ha!). 

Let's start. We go over the scientific method and each group gets this handy dandy and cute speech bubble. Each group is to look for and recognize the steps in the scientific method but be the CLASS EXPERTS on a specific part--determined by their handy dandy and cute speech bubble. Si! So they are paying attention the whole time and are accountable by having to present!

So we watch this Mythbusters Video about walking on it possible??? The bonus is it's like 4 minutes long--so quick and easy and fun (I promised that...delivering). Sorry about the super weird screen shot. There are something's that I just can't make cute! My students have a recording sheet but I tell them not to write anything down...just watch! It's a quick clip and as a group they can all work together to fill out the information.

They are pumped and excited and gawking over that facial hair because mustaches are still a thing! They've watched and are discussing what in the awesome world just happened in this video. In groups, they discuss the scientific method and how they saw it in action.  They are also perfecting their part that they need to present--full of detail and information. Then I begin asking each group about their specific part and lo and behold...the SCIENTIFIC METHOD IS alive and well. They turn in their lab sheet, I check it, and then they keep it in their science binder and jot down the info in their note tracker.

I love this because they love it and see that the scientific method isn't this long drawn out process all of the time {it is sometimes kids!}. I try and pull clips of several of these (mythbusters or other experiments) so they can see the real process throughout the week and throughout the year. If I see something on the news, we discuss it! We also do lots of quick labs (there are two types of labs in my classroom--big labs and little labs :) that have them exploring the scientific process!

Anyways, SCIENCE IS AWESOME. And grab this handy dandy printable about the scientific method HERE. I couldn't decide on past and present tense or which pronouns I liked so I added them ALL. Sometimes I like my students to plan things out in advance but sometimes they also use these to reflect on things? It's in my store and as always I LOVE feedback "This is so cute!" "Can't wait to use this" "I LOVE SCIENCE TOO"...let me know and FOLLOW me too! I appreciate it all! So SCIENCE. YES.

Over and Out!

Friday, August 28, 2015


I can't deny that at our house there are some major sweet tooth's hanging around. Are Friday's a weakness for everyone? We do our best to not indulge too oftenand I don't really bake. BUT while blog browsing I found a video of someone making slutty brownies and we were done! We had to go to Target for Chocolate Chips (they deserve capital letters), Oreos, and cocoa powder, and these slutty brownies were amazing. I've see pictures of them a million times but just watching that video got us!
Do you see those layers of cookie dough, oreos, and brownies? Lots of veggies tomorrow! ANNND we are hoping that this silly storm (Tropical Storm Erika)  doesn't leave us stranded without power. We've got gas, cash, water, and granola bars--so we are good, right? Oh, a leftover brownies! I'm plugging through some posts and products to get things posted. If you don't hear from me--send a cold diet coke to South Florida because chances are I will really need it ;)! 
It's the weeeeeeekend! Hope yours is fabulous! 

ps. These are from What's Gaby Cooking (whatgabycookin on insta). She pronounces her name (gah-by)--not "gabby" which I think is so cool. ANNNNND put on your stretchy pants because everything she makes is delish.
pss...I'm noooot a food blogger. I just like good food.

Officially over and out.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Teachy Essential

I LOVE makeup. Does anyone else? I can spend a paycheck at Sephora like nobody's business but my husband doesn't always appreciate it--nor does he understand it. In one of my Target shopping trips I needed foundation or something just as a "thin base coat" on my face. So I found this!

Y'all. I love these things so much. I'm no make-up professional by any means but I know what I like! I really hate foundations because I feel like my skin can't breathe but this stuff is magic. It's light and smooth. It goes on evenly and gets rid of those awful dark spots under my eyes--it blends them in. And I feel like it camoflouges my blemishes really well #stillgotteenageacnegoingon #notateenager #sooverit. I've tried other brands of BB creams but this one is THE BEST. So don't bother trying the others! Ha!

Anyways, teachers need make up that is easy on the pocket book and does the job! And this BB Cream by Loreal does the trick!

Over and Out!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Reading Blogs and Stuffs I ADORE

This blog post has taken a lot of twists and turns! So hold on tight!

I love reading. I grew up reading all the time and would go to the library and stock up on books and call Barnes and Noble to order books that my city library didn't have. YUP. Prior to the internet I was the 10 year old that called Barnes and Noble to order books. I'm not that old! At least that's what I tell myself.

As a teacher there is thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis much to do and you have this much time. If I'm incorrect just holler and let me know. I always felt so overwhelmed by reading especially with the upper grades and guided reading. Having 5-6 groups which equals 5-6 novels is a lot to wrap anyones brain is circles, knots, and bowties. It's HARD! My first year that I taught I was so frustrated with the amount of reading on top of the regular work load that it really dulled my enthusiasm for reading. I learned a lot and spent the summer reading and marking up books like nobody's business.

Pinterest wasn't really a thing. Blogging wasn't really a thing. Common Core wasn't even a thing. So there weren't these networks to spread the word about fantastic new reads. BUT NOW because of the INTERNET and PINTEREST and BLOGS and COMMON CORE there are all these amazesome (amazing and awesome) blogs and resources that not only connect readers but the connect teachers to books that their students will not just love but DEVOUR.

SO. If you've made it this far you are the best. I am wanting share some of my favorite tried and true reading blogs, websites, and resources that I love. I can't share them all in one post and I'll probably pop in with a new one-because I'm a giver and I have to share my favorite things with you!

So.So.So if you are a reader and a teacher. Or a teacher that's notsomuch a reader. Or a newbie teacher that a little overwhelmed. Or an oldie goldie teacher. Look up these awesome sites and get all the inspiration you have been searching for!

This blog is just that. A Hoot. I love how Emily (a librarian) reviews books and all of the things she posts. I love the variety of picture books because all big kids love a good picture book. Hey! I even enjoy a good picture book.  There's a short and sweet synopsis of the book and a quick blurb about why she loves the book or maybe a few things she's not so wild about. You're the same way right?! You want to know a book that's cover hides amazing illustrations. Also there a tons of trendy books that aren't always the fabulous and she lets you know! I appreciate a blog like that. Provided in the posts are cover pictures (me likey pictures), all the info you would need to purchase it.

You will loooooove all of the compilations she does and fun flow charts she has (she just posted one specifically for middle grades teachers). These are great snapshots of books that are recommended. You will find yourself coming back to this blog time and time again! Visit Literary Hoots asap!

This one isn't a blog. It's a fancy pants website database of tons of movies and books called Common Sense Media. I go to it mainly for the books. I LOVE this site because with the upper elementary grades your students might be getting into some YA reads and even some children's books that have leery content. Where I taught my school served a very conservative community and I had parents asking me all the time about what their kids were reading independently and wanting to make sure the content was something they felt comfortable with their kiddos divulging in.

I always recommend this site because it maps out Educational Value, Positive Messages, Positive Role Models, Violence, Sex, Language, Consumerism, and Drinking, Drugs, & Smoking. I especially love the positive messages and positive role models part! I can't handle downer books. As a teacher I appreciate the "heads up" instead of having a surprise when reading and parents also love this website because it gives a snapshot of the book without them having to read it. It's a good one!

This is a longtime favorite. It's kind of a hodge lodge of a blog that weaves reading and lifestyle and parent posts. It's fun and I love her BIG pictures and I love that she reads books from an actual library. So classy! This is a great blog for adult books, children's chapter books, and picture books. I love hearing about fun picture books because sometimes my upper elementary kiddos just need a break! When I get a chance to read books of my own choosing I always look to see what Janssen at Everyday Reading recommends...because anyone who loves "The Selection" Series and "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" speaks my language.

And just a side note--she had a great recipe for banana chocolate chip muffins.

What are some of your favorite books sites??!? Tell me! Tell me!

Happy Reading!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Let's LOG ON & Breaking Up and Branching OUT from that Book Series

Let's talk reading logs, shall we? In an effort to stay organized this is my tried and true method to keep up with reading logs. You will love it. And I swear by it. So you're going to love it even more. I hope. Thanks for reading by the way. Whether you are a co-worker, friend, pinterest pal, or instagram instafriend, or blog stalker. Thanks for reading!

Every summer I re-read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. I really like her ideas about reading and how to get my students excited about reading and that they can read anything they want with just a few goals attached to their reading to keep them accountable. I love her idea of genre goals and getting kiddos to branch out. I LOVE series of books...don't get me wrong. But after 10 "Series of Unfortunate Events" books I think it's time to move ON! I said it! Move on child! There are bigger and better and happier reads out there. There are more genres and you won't know if you like it until you try it!

The trend in children's lit for the last 10 years or so are series (Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Origami Yoda, Fablehaven, Insurgent, 39 Clues) but the tides are changing and I'm a tad bit excited. Most publishers are wanting one book stories. I love series' (how does this grammar work...I struggle) for the fact that one can change a child from a reading hater to bibliophile in a page turn...BUT sometimes the series becomes a crutch...and I love the genre goal to help my kiddos out! It throws in some self-competition and goals that they set themselves and achieve.

Hence the reading log--it's one of my organizational tools that helps me assess how my students are moving along. I can see trends and when it's time to have that DTR (determine the relationship) with a series so my students can move on, breakup, and branch out. They're only 11 so they need assistance with this. Along with that, I like them to visually graph their progress on a Reading Genre Tracker. I L.O.V.E. this to see what genres students love. It helps me to recommend things in that genre as well as other books in different genres so they can try something new.

You should see my readers! We read all the time! I love those moments when students find something they love or discover something new. Don't you? It's a goosebump moment that we teachers live for! So try it! Try the genre goals and try the visual tracker. I have my kiddos use colors for each term or grading period (whatever you call it) so I can see how they are progressing with their goals.

YOU ARE AWESOME. So grab a free download of this in my teacherspayteachers shop, leave me some lovely feedback, and follow me on instagram! And GOOD LUCK. School is right around the corner!

Reading Log and Genre Tracker HERE

Friday, August 21, 2015


This past week was crazy crazy. We up and moved--packed-move-unload-unpacked (well, sort of unpacked) all in one day. My husband and I can't believe we did it! He had a weekend off (which is rare around our parts) and my mom was in town to help with our little girl so we just moved in one big swoop! I've been setting up and organizing things this week and with family in town I never got to my computer.

So I took a break and it was great! A whole week with no computer! BUT!

I am so excited to share and post all sorts of things next week that I wanted to share this week. The suspense is probably killing me more than anyone else but I'm excited to get somethings all posted and some FREEBIES up on teacherspayteachers. Here's a sneak peak that I posted on my instagram:

Anyways! Happy Weekend Y'all! And I'll see you next week!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Not Gonna Burst Your Bubble!

Ah! These speech bubbles are seriously rockin' my world. I love 'em and can't wait to use them in groups and with kiddos...I may or may not have a few other speech bubble irons in my fire right now. BUT these science ones! Can you tell, I'm on a science kick this week!--and last week--and the next week!

Isn't that just one happy cover. Rebecca from RebeccaBDesigns doesn't know this but we are seriously best friends. Do you have a friend that doesn't know your actually friends? Good. I needed someone in the same awesome club as me!

I have TWO versions--a white version and color version--both included! You can just pick your poison as to which ones you print--or print both if it makes ya feel good! OR be like me and print mini-ones--4 to a page like task cards. If you come up with a different printing combination let me know!

That is all. ...Bueller???! Happy Last Weekend before school starts friends and enjoy your weekend so much if school has already started for you!

Over and OUT!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Working on PROJECTS

What are Friday nights for right? Well, we are moving and I should be packing but I can't stop staring at my new favorite creations! Ignore the crazy lighting--because it is late at night! ;)
Are you already imagining your students clamoring over these awesome speech bubbles and being scientific method experts? I am planning on attaching them to dowel rods or paint sticks and contemplating making just posters of these because they are SO FUN. 

Speaking of the scientific you have any fun things you love to do with your kiddos? Share please! I'll be sharing some thoughts and resources next week but I had to pop in with these cute bubbles!

Happy Friday/Saturday Friends!

Reason 563 Why I Will Miss Summer

I LOOOOVE fruit and I live right down the road from this super awesome farmer's market/grocery store! I'll have to snap some pics of it because it is truly amazing. One of those places where they cut the fruit up for you to sample before you buy. Also, I live in a town that a ton of people retire too--so the pace is slow and sweet! After living in Miami for a two years we were surprised by how much we LOVED the change of pace. Anyways,  I will miss my beautiful cherries, yellow cantaloupe (have you ever had one? It is heaven), and sweet and juicy pineapple. It's true that all of these are available year round but there is something so wonderful and perfect about eating them in the summertime!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Showing Your Work {BOX} #thestruggleisreal

Here's my tip and trick for keeping students organized when testing or quizzing in MATH. It's all about back to school right now and we are all up for trying new things right?!? So...We have work boxes! I've found that no matter how organized or disorganized that my students all need some DIRECTION and GUIDANCE on how to show their work! #thestruggleisreal Without students showing their work it's impossible to figure out where their misunderstandings are and what they need to fix them! 

At the beginning of the school year and on major tests we use work boxes! Now these can be hand drawn, paper folded, or printed boxes to help my students have an allocated space for their work. My 7th grade teacher (Mrs. Drewnowski...I think that's an awesome math teacher last name!) had a phrase that really stuck with me "Kill A Tree For Math!"...meaning, show your work, take the time and space needed, and grab an extra sheet a paper if you need to! Every time she told us this we would all giggle but we knew exactly what it meant! And guess what...she was right! It all works out so much better when students show their work but whenever it is organized they are even more successful!

From small hand writing to no work to unorganized scribbles and scratches, I have seen strange efforts to show work and I'm sure you have too. #pleasetellmeimnotalone To change this, I have my students show their work in work boxes. That way there is no question if they have shown their work and we are all on the same page (ha!). Work boxes keep them organized and it's easier for me to spot places where mistakes are made. It's a winwinwin (for me, for them, and for everyone).

I posted a free collection of work boxes in my teacherspayteachers store! Whether your students are doing 4 problems or 30 problems there is a format for all of them. Some are half page, full page, front/back, portrait, and landscape. Theres a title box (just make that up!) so your students can write what they are showing their work for a Percentages Quiz, Area and Perimeter Task Cards, or Expressions and Equations Test...just some examples. I just like having a generic set in one place (in page protectors in a binder) so it's easy to find for copying purposes.


The change that I saw was phenomenal and my students actually showed their work. Sometimes on quizzes I give a grade grade (meaning what their score was for their answers) and a grade for how they showed their work (I call that an "easy 100!" or "easy full credit"). It's a good check-up and reminder for my students that their work matters just as much (or more) as the answer. Also just a PSA that I love colored copy work boxes...a lot!

Do you love being organized or will try anything to get to that point? ME TOO! You might also be interested in: How how I teach my students how to keep their desks organized HERE and how we keep track our our notes HERE.

Stay tuned for my NEXT ORGANIZATION idea in my Upper Elementary Organization Series!
If you liked this! Pin it! Share it! And FOLLOW me on Instagram!

PS. How awesome is Gabby from Gabby's Classrooms? I seriously can't visit her store without buying something {from clipart to teaching tools}. These pencils--can't stop won't stop using them!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Insta LOVE

Are you on instagram? If you are, seriously stop by and say hi! My name/handle/username/whatchamacallit is hibethvan! I love to see all sorts of teachy friends doing teachy things like putting up bulletin boards, room prepping, and favorite school things...but I also love to see your Sonic stops, #widn (hashtag what I'm doing now), flashbacks, and all the fun things going on. Because teaching is great but so is LIFE. So seriously. Come by and say hi!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Few Time I've Been Around That TRACK!

Hi All! Before the new school year starts I wanted to share some of my smooth sailing organizational tips for the upper elementary grades. You can read about the first one here--all about desk organization happiness. Today, I want to share how my students keep up with their notes.

We use binders. I've never jumped on the interactive notebook wagon even though I definitely try and make our math binder as interactive as possible. We take notes and log them in our handy-dandy note tracker! This is the reference guide that students can use throughout the year--when they are working on homework, reviewing, or needing a quick refresher. We simply log our note info on the tracker (date, title of notes/subject, and the number of note) and make sure that the "note number" is in the top right corner of their notes. Everything is kept in order and I have surprise binder checks throughout the grading period and a graded one at the end of the term.

WHY? Do I Do This??? Sometimes I ask myself why at the beginning of the school year. There are several reasons and it makes for such a smoother school year.

Organization. I really feel students need some solid organizational skills--even the brainiacs. I've found that sometimes my most gifted learners struggle so so much with organization and their brains think so much differently. It's a good skill to have and we work on organization for the real world. Another bonus is having a note tracker keeps me organized.

When students are absent they can get information from each other instead of hounding me for every little thing (WIN!). My students who are absent will find a friend and we will make copies of notes and go over the lesson the missed during a spare moment. It's a great way to not fall behind!

We all need those pat-on-the-back do-a-Beyonce-dance kind of moments and looking at a full note tracker at the end of a term definitely qualifies. Sometimes when I need to brush up on tips and tricks I model looking back in my binder and guess what my sixth grader's do when they have a questions--first they look in their notes! It saves my sanity and they are using tools, skills, and resources to answer their own questions! Cheers to everyone!

Just some pointers:
I refresh my reference pages every term. It's nice to have a blank slate every once in a while. BUT still keep track of your numbers--it's cool to see how much you accomplish in a school year!

I love using colorful paper--it makes it stand out from the notes-and it's just another tool to keep things organized. Also, this isn't science but I've found my kiddos LOVE colored paper and treasure it more than plain old white paper. But I'm crazy, color-biased, and I tend to influence my students on this factor so I can't call it fact but I can call it a pretty solid observation.

HOLE PUNCH. Invest in a good one. I've also found that at estate sales (dead people have the best things!) I can find really sturdy office supplies and hole punches are one thing that I scoop up. So if you have an estate sale loving mom, aunt, or second cousin have them grab a couple 3 whole punchers for ya! This is keep to keeping things together.

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