Part II - Fundamental 5 (FSGPT)...

Hi again!

Last time I posted, I spent most of the time talking about one of the fantastic books I read this summer.  Specifically, I described how to implement two very important pieces of the Fundamental 5.  To read the previous blog post, click here.  

Today I will focus my energies on explaining the third component of the Fundamental 5: Frequent, Small-Group, Purposeful Talk about the Learning, or FSGPT.  So, I'll be honest, I am a task master in my classroom. I like to fill my students' brains up with as much knowledge as I possibly can while they are with me.   Since I do check for understanding in a variety of ways and because I like to spend more time explaining the content, it often leaves little time for anything else.  Well, the Fundamental 5 has helped me change my ways.  Teachers should take advantage of this strategy after they have taught an important concept or after 10-15 minutes of direct instruction.  

The strategy goes something like this: A teacher provides a "seed question" related to the instruction.  So for example, a seed question could be, "Compare the criteria used to distinguish a physical change from a chemical change."  Students discuss the answer to this question in groups of 2-4.  It's never a long conversation - 30 seconds to 3 minutes, tops.  This aspect of the Fundamental 5 allows students to focus on the learning as well as bring higher levels of understanding on Bloom's.  Of course, during the discussions the teacher must remain in the "Power Zone" to monitor insights or misunderstandings.

For years, one thing I always talked about with new teachers is how students have a type of "kid speak" that maybe adults are not so in tune with.  Allotting class time for your students to discuss concepts allows for increased learning because a student's peers can serve as a "translator" for a student who maybe does not understand "adult speak" as well.

So this is one practice that I plan to implement a lot more this coming school year.  Recently, my district has purchased a wonderful web application called Nearpod that can help.  My school is 1:1 - every high school student has a Chromebook.  It is my plan to implement this component of the Fundamental 5 by taking control of the students' screens and having them answer questions as a group in real time.  Nearpod allows students to diagram, answer multiple choice questions, and provide short answers to questions.  It even allows me to display student work anonymously on the overhead.  Truly, this is an incredibly engaging tool, and combined with my new knowledge of the Fundamental 5, I know my students will benefit immensely.

Next time I'll be finishing up this book review with the last two components of the Fundamental 5: Recognize and Reinforce and Writing Critically.  Until then... happy teaching!  :)

Karen (MsRazz ChemClass)

Teacher summers: Rest, Relaxation, and READING

Hello again!

If you have already started your school year, I hope it is going well so far.  If your year hasn't started yet, I hope you are enjoying your last few weeks of freedom.

Naturally, when summer rolls around teachers establish some high hopes for their summer breaks: Rest, relaxation,  and of course READING. This summer I indulged in quite a few books including:
Your Atomic Self: The Invisible Elements that Connect you to Everything in the Universe
Periodic Tales: A Cultural History of the Elements from Arsenic to Zinc
The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction

I thoroughly enjoyed each of these, but by far, I believe my teaching practices will benefit significantly from the implementation of The Fundamental 5.  While I include many of these practices already, there are definitely some things I hope to incorporate this year.

The whole premise of the book is that high quality lessons have five major components:
  1. Frame the Lesson
  2. Work in the Power Zone
  3. Frequent, Small-Group, Purposeful Talk about the Learning
  4. Recognize and Reinforce
  5. Write Critically
My plan over the next few blog posts is to discuss my implementation of these five aspects of quality instruction in my classroom.

1. The beginning and the end: "Framing the Lesson"
What knowledge and skills do you want your students to acquire out of your lesson?  How might your students demonstrate they have learned these skills?  Framing the lesson begins with stating the objective of your lesson in student friendly verbiage.  For example, objectives can be posted on power points and student note sheets in a "We will..." statement.
  • "We will identify and provide examples for the steps in the scientific method."
  • "We will identify matter as pure substances or mixtures."
When ending your lesson, your students will need to demonstrate they have acquired the necessary skills and knowledge.  To do this, the second part of framing the lesson uses a task-based objective in the form of an "I will..." statement.
  • "I will create an an experiment using the scientific method."
  • "I will complete an exit ticket that classifies matter as pure substances or mixtures."
Notice that the beginning lesson objective is low on Bloom's taxonomy ("identify") but as the lesson progresses to the ending objective moves to higher order skill sets ("create, classify").

Personally, since I teach older students, I prefer to list my objectives under the following heading: "After today you will be able to..."  I just feel it gives my lesson a little more of a young-adult-like feel to it.

2. Where you teach matters: "Work in the Power Zone"
Do you teach from your desk?  Most likely - no.  Why?  Because you know that when you are too far from your students, the less likely they are engaged in your lesson and classroom management issues will arise.  Positioning yourself right in the middle of all the action in your classroom will not only decrease poor student behavior, but will also allow you to instantaneously address misconceptions and increase student performance.  Furthermore, positioning yourself in this manner allows you to take a continual assessment of your students' understanding of the content.  It's a small change, bit it can yield some BIG results.

In my classroom I like to spend time in the center and the two furthest corners of the room.  Students in these areas are often inadvertently overlooked during lecture-based teaching.  During small group guided inquiry, I tend to move about the room from the perimeter to observe student interactions.

Try implementing these easy changes into your lessons and you will certainly be amazed with the outcome!  And if you haven't already done so, pick up The Fundamental 5 and read about #3 in preparation for my next blog post.

Until next time...
Karen (MsRazz ChemClass)

Super Secondary Science Giveaway! 8/9-8/14


Hello! Today I have some exciting news!

Myself and some of THE TOP secondary science teachers are teaming up for some fun giveaways! Enter mine for a chance to win a $30.00 shopping spree in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Have you been eyeing up my new set of nuclear chemistry power points? Or how about my First Days of School bundle?


Maybe, the Next Generation Science Standards are on your mind. My design your own experiment is sure to cover the science and engineering practices.


OR MAYBE you're focused on making this year's Mole Day your most memorable one yet!  My mole day celebration bundle is sure to please!  These products and many more could be yours by participating! Click the box below to enter the giveaway. The winner will be chosen at random on Friday, August 14th.




a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want to know what my friends are raffling off? Make sure you "blog hop" to enter their giveaways too! Good luck!


"Happy New Year!"

Today's blog post is about these three little words.  To most, these words are used at the stroke of midnight on January 1st.  Heck, even my own students look at the title on their bellwork the first few days of school and question, "Happy new year?"  As if to say I got the date wrong or something.  For myself and my colleagues of course, it means the start of a new school year.

I really think these two times of year have so much in common.  Think about it.  There is such a sense of renewal for me when I meet my new little chemists each September.  I'm simply a ball of excitement and nerves as I walk into my classroom and anticipate the upcoming year.  Not only that, but my resolutions are always the same: "Eat lunch every day," "go to the bathroom during your prep," and "exercise at least three times a week."  And of course, you can't forget about the science teacher related resolutions: "I will do at least one guided inquiry activity per week," "incorporate more engineering activities," oh, and the good old: "I'll never take longer than a week to grade lab reports."  Like the resolutions I make in January, it's not so easy sticking to these but I do the best I can.  Depending on what is going on in my personal/professional life at the time can really dictate how well I hold up my end of the bargain.

I really loved this article that Edutopia published:  Excellent Habits of an Excellent Educator.  If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend reading it now.  In short, the article asks you to examine your habits and reflect on things that you can improve upon both in and out of the classroom.

It is my hope that as you begin your new school year, you are filled with much of the same excitement, anticipation, and dedication to not only your students, but to yourself.

Happy new year!
Karen (MsRazz ChemClass)


It's that time again...

...the Teachers Pay Teachers back to school sale is here! I have been hard at work all summer adding even more creative, professionally done, and engaging lessons to my store. So while you fill your days with sun and fun, I've been hard at work posting many of those products I've had a few requests for.


Take at look at the newest addition to my store: Nuclear Chemistry Lesson Plan Bundle  (Click on the picture for more details!)

I've organized the lessons into 45-minute intervals for easier teacher-prep and student understanding.  Bellwork, power points, student note sheets, exit tickets, a quiz, and test are ALL included.  Help your students differentiate between nuclear and chemical reactions, balance nuclear reactions, study transmutations, and relate the uses of radiation to every day life with this AWESOME lesson plan bundle!
Or how about some help implementing the NGSS?  Try my Design Your Own Experiment Lab using Magic Capsules! (Click on the picture for more details!)

Students will pick from three variables to study.  The activities is highly organized with sections for students to record their hypothesis, experimental variables, data tables, procedures, and conclusion.  You'll love it because it's a cinch to grade!  Perfect for reviewing experimental design in high school or reinforcing experimental variables in middle school.  My students had a blast with this experiment last year and I know yours will too!


Maybe you don't teach chemistry, but need some help with classroom management?  My First Days of School BUNDLE is sure to please!  (Click on the picture for more details!)

Perfect for anyone who is looking to tidy up their transitions in between activities, ideas for rules, policies, and procedures, or any new teacher who really has no idea where to start with their classroom management plan.  Many of my policies are adopted from Wong's book, The First Days of School.  If you haven't read it yet, I HIGHLY recommend you pick it up asap and read through the sections on classroom management.  But hey, if you really don't have time to read the book, this bundle will at least summarize how to start you school year off on the right foot!

No matter what you're looking for, I firmly believe my store has something for everyone.  Best wishes on a wonderful back to school season and sale!

Happy Teaching!
MsRazz ChemClass