Floating teacher? Helpful tips to keep your sanity when teaching in more than one classroom.

Hi again!

If you are back to school already, I sure hope you started the year off on a great foot.  For those of us who head back after Labor Day, I hope you are enjoying these last days of summer.

Three summers ago, I made the decision to change jobs and begin teaching chemistry at another high school.  Looking back, it was very scary to leave my tenured position, but in the end it was the best professional decision I ever made.  Deciding to leave was easy, but it was hard making my decision of which school to go to because I was offered two positions; one where I would have my own classroom and one where I would be moving from room to room.  I went with my gut, and chose the school that I felt would nurture my talents and help me grow as a teacher.   Today I am far more competent with student-centered learning and have grown to be very well versed in the Next Generation Science Standards.

So for those of you who are starting the school year at a new school, without having your own classroom - this post is for you.

Yes, moving a cart from classroom to classroom can be a complete drag (get it?), but here are some positives that come with being a "floating teacher":

#1 - You don't have to set up a classroom for the first day of school.  I remember spending weeks in the summer unpacking my room to make sure I was ready for the year.  One day of professional development simply wasn't enough to put everything back where it was in June.  (Same is true for packing up your room for summer vacay!)

#2 - Collaboration is so much easier when you go into your colleagues' classrooms.  I love being on a cart for the simple fact that I get to collaborate with my colleagues more.  I get to see in action what they are doing in their classrooms and share materials.  It truly has helped me keep better pace and has cut my planning time significantly.

#3 - Teacher clutter is at a minimum.  Every year I spend so much money on supplies.  Between my Expo markers, whiteboards, cleaners, post-its, etc. it's no wonder my former classroom was so filled with stuff.  Not only does being on a cart force you to be selective as far as what you bring with you from class to class, but it also causes you to stop buying that cutesy stuff from Target.

Here are some tips and tricks to help you stay organized on the go:

First and foremost, you will need a great cart with at least two shelves.  I absolutely adore this cart I purchased from Amazon.  It's so sturdy and the wheels move in all directions making for easy
transport.  Truthfully, I loved it so much I got a second one last year so I could transport my large white boards and lab equipment on it.  Totally worth the investment - and if you live in New Jersey it is tax-deductible.

Second, you may wonder what exactly I have on my cart to keep me organized.  The first thing I cannot stress enough is getting a file sized plastic bin capable of holding file folders.  I organized my hanging folders by the classes I am teaching.  So this year I have both college prep and honors chemistry.  I put a set of file folders in each hanging folder for each day of the week.  I instruct my students to get the work that was missed from the file folder for that particular day.  If possible, I put any materials I copy in advance in the subsequent folders.  This strategy works for me, but I have seen other teachers use accordion folders instead.  I don't find those as sturdy though, so I don't use them.

A third tip to keep you organized is to have a bin on your cart where the daily warm up will go.  I call my warm ups do nows.  I use a letter-sized stack able bin (shown in the picture above, on the bottom shelf) and I made a sign that says "Do Now Assignment."  The kids always know to get their assignment from there at the start of each class period.  It also helps give me a few extra minutes to get my activity set up for the day.

You may be wondering if I allow my students to use the materials on my cart - and yes I do.  I tell them that they are encouraged to use my stapler, hole punch, or my awesome USB powered pencil sharpener.  I also place a cup filled with miscellaneous pens or pencils for students to use.  Another thing I find helpful is to use little containers for things like rubber bands, stickers, and paperclips.  The rubber bands are especially helpful when students forget their hair ties during labs (pictured on the right side).

To give my cart some more pizzazz I purchased that "DO YOUR BEST" light box.  I actually like this one a bit better because you can change what you want it to say.  I'll be putting that on my Christmas list!

Here are some items that are not pictured that I have recently added to my cart:

  • Bathroom sign out sheet
  • USB pencil sharpener
  • Clipboard for checking homework (usually placed in the back of the big plastic bin)
  • A pair of safety goggles
  • Document camera (this thing is amazing - it's so teeny tiny!)
  • Tissues
  • My classroom information binder
I'm also thinking about adding some growth mindset quotes to my cart since that is one thing I am trying to focus on this year.

I truly hope this post has given you some inspiration as you prepare to teach from a cart this year.  It won't be easy, but staying organized and planning ahead will make your travels from room to room much more bearable.  

Wishing you a wonderful school year with your new scientists!

Back to school, back to (NGSS) lesson planning + GIVEAWAYS!


With the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in full swing in my district, I thought it would most helpful to share how I plan my lessons to coincide with its three-dimensional learning requirements.

DCIs, CCCs, SEPs, oh my! So many acronyms, it is no wonder most teachers do not know where to start. But my hope is that this blog post will help you to not only make sense of the meaning of these, but also give you some idea of the process I use to devise an NGSS-aligned lesson.

The DCIs are most similar to the science content that your students need to know, therefore this is the first place I begin my lesson planning. I start here because if you do not know what science content to teach, it is impossible to plan for the science and engineering practices and crosscutting concepts the students will use to learn this content. Here is an example of a DCI that I teach to in my atomic structure unit:

“PS 1.A - Each atom has a charged substructure consisting of a nucleus, which is made of protons and neutrons, surrounded by electrons.”
 
Some DCIs may need to be broken down into smaller lesson objectives, for example the previous DCI could include lesson objectives for both learning about the history of the atom, ions, isotopes, and atomic mass. However, it is important to note that the NGSS now focuses on depth and not breadth. While it is important to paint an accurate picture of atomic structure, that can be done without necessarily teaching every single concept that the DCI may describe. Ideally, the students would be engaging in their own research and Q/A to uncover these concepts.

Which brings me to the second step in my lesson planning: selecting the crosscutting concepts. When you look at the DCI you must ask yourself, “what theme present in all of science can be used by your students to make sense of this content?” For example, if you are teaching about isotopes – patterns, structure and function, even stability and change are appropriate CCCs.

The final step in my lesson planning for an NGSS-aligned lesson causes me to ask myself, “how can my students act like scientists while learning this content?” Whenever possible I try to introduce a new unit by using some sort of phenomenon. For example, to teach about atomic structure I introduced the unit by using static electricity. Students constructed models, analyzed data they gathered from a simulation, and evaluated and revised their models based on observing the models constructed by their peers. When I am unsure what SEPs to include, I always try to plan my lesson around data – either data that I construct for the students, or data that the students compile. I have found this is the easiest way to ensure my lesson incorporates some sort of SEP and CCC.

Thanks so much for reading! I wish you the best of luck as we head into our second year of NGSS implementation. Please be on the lookout for more NGSS aligned lessons in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!

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