How Science PowerPoints Helped My Life (and My Students)

14 July 2018
This blog post is dedicated to all of the hard working teachers looking to improve the lives of their students and themselves!!! You are my people!

Last year was my first full year in third grade. It was a total game changer from being in second grade because - I HAD TO GIVE GRADES! Which meant - I needed to invent a way to fairly asses my students. We did this in second grade, but we did not have to use the grading scale to measure the success of our students' mastery.

With that being said, I was super stressed, began gaining weight, and to put it frankly, teaching began to suck! I wanted something that would help make life easier for me without taking away the fun and instruction from my students.

I didn't want to take out the hands-on and inquiry based learning because that is what drives my teacher heart. No, what I needed was a quick assessment that could also help them practice for their end of grades assessment. Something that they didn't know was going to be practice because it was going to be fun! That was the plan...

I tried several different things those first few months, and then in December, I hit a goldmine! I began creating Science PowerPoints for my students. Since our district has Microsoft OneDrive, I uploaded the lessons in our Teams account. This raised the cool factor on the lesson! What's even more amazing is that you can do the same thing with Google Drive.

The flexibility this allowed me and my students to have was incredible. We had a flex schedule last year, so some days we had enrichment for half of the day, which meant we only taught literacy and math. My students were able to work on their literacy/science every single day!

The expectations were simple. They had one lesson per week, and one quiz per week. They turned it in on Friday. They had a choice as to when they completed the assignment. That was it. I would stay on Friday afternoon to grade their assignment, and it took about 5 minutes of grading for a class of 22. No joke! #hellolife

I will say that this was not the only way that I taught science, and I had a variety of hands-on STEM and science lessons that I taught in conjunction with these science lessons. More on that later... But honestly, this was super helpful for me last year to find a balance in my teaching life, wife life, mom life, blogger life, etc. Perhaps it could be helpful to you to?

I created 37 lessons in total for my class. This was absolutely perfect for our 40 week year because we didn't take grades the first week, last week, or during testing. You can find the Science PowerPoints and Quizzes here.

What are some ways that you have cut time from grading? I would love to know in the comments below!

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    My 5 Picks for Summer

    22 June 2018

    I am so excited to be going back into second grade this next year! Third grade has been wonderful, but I'm ready to move back down to my happy place. My joy is overflowing this summer. I have some big plans coming soon so be sure you are keeping an eye out on some updates from Simply STEAM. All of my new resources will be 50% off for the first 24 hours they are posted. I'll be posting a lot in my store this summer.

    With that being said, I wanted to create a list of my top 5 resources for summer. I chose these resources based on their summer theme or things that I can prep over the summer. Check this out! 

    1. Fonts - Your parents will appreciate you using a fun font rather than comic sans. No offense to comic sans users, but remember that your parents are mostly adults. The tone of your message should be targeted toward them and not their child. By using adult-like fonts, you can connect to your families subconsciously.

    2. STEM Boxes - Now is the perfect time to prep for your classroom (and definitely take some time to enjoy yourself). I turned on an episode of Friends and prepped my STEM Boxes for the school year. It was good for the soul.

    3. Summer STEM - I enjoy doing activities with my kids and making sure that we are still learning throughout the summer. I bundled up my favorite Summer STEM activities that I have done with my kids. I treasure the memories and their artwork. These can work in a classroom as well. We did the Sea Turtles during our last week of school. Check it out on my Instagram.

    4. Multiplication Games - Now is also the perfect time to prep for your math centers. I created these for third grade this past year, but now my daughter and I use these during rainy days. It is a lot of fun and keeps her math skills sharp.

    5. Math Games - I also created this bundle for my NEW second grade classroom. I'll be adding more to this bundle. I absolutely love these games and my kids do too. They use this for their "Math with Someone" math round.

    The 6 W's for STEM

    03 June 2018
    I have been teaching, coaching, and having fun with STEM/STEAM for many years, I often get asked many questions about STEM. Those questions usually begin with one of the five W's, so I decided I would answer those in one easy post.

    Before I begin, let me start off by saying that STEM is a relatively new approach to education. Relatively "new" in the name, but educators have been doing this since Sputnik. STEM is the integration of science, technology, engineering, and math. I respectively include the "A" for "art" because I want to recognize the fact that anything created by a person is a form of art.

    So let's get started with the 6 W's for STEM! 

    WHO is STEM education for?  

    EVERYONE! In my experiences, STEM is helpful for gifted students because they are challenged to think on a higher level. Many academically and intelligently gifted students are perfectionists. It is very challenging, an often times frustrating, for them to complete these types of tasks and challenges. This is when I sit down with them and discuss how they could improve their design and offer helpful suggestions and encouragement.
    On the contrary, STEM education is beneficial for students with special needs because they are often times motivated to solve a problem based on the task at hand. The designs are concrete, and they can implement a variety of skills to solve a problem.

    WHAT do I do to implement STEM?

    STEM is probably one of the easiest things to implement in your classroom because literally, you just step back and let your students go. You literally become the coach as you walk around the room and watch them make their own discoveries. Research shows that when students create their own synapses, they are more likely to retain them.

    Although it may be hard to relinquish your control over the classroom (I know because it was for me) you will see that it is so much more rewarding that your students are learning on their own because you have given them permission.

    WHERE do I store everything? 

    The answer to this question is a little difficult only because every classroom is different. My current classroom is 91 years old. It was made with absolutely zero storage. If I had more storage, then I would definitely keep the supplies on hand. Since my storage is limited, I have found that keeping them in my garage and bringing a basket of what I need works best for me. This way it is out of the classroom, and out of the way. I also try to use simple materials (post-its, paper clips, etc.) to save money and space.

    WHEN do I do STEM? 

    Many teachers ask this question because it is not in their current schedule. I have heard from successful teachers that they do STEM every Friday. They call it STEM Friday. It's a day where students get to integrate all that they have learned throughout the week into one project. Lisa Taylor and I have created weekly STEM Challenges for grades K-2. This sets the tone for the week and gets students excited about coming to school! I cannot tell you how many of my students have said that they will remember me for the fun STEM projects I let them do in school.

    WHY should you do STEM?

    STEM allows your students to be creative. Students learn through play. In this way, students are allowed to use the skills that they have learned to create a masterpiece. They practice communication skills while working in groups. They develop a growth mindset when they fail. They make discoveries about how the world works. No one is born with creativity. We have to work at it. We have to practice it. Kids need to practice being creative as well. Why wouldn't you want to foster this type of critical thinking and creativity in your classroom?


    HOW can I implement STEM? 

    I love doing simple experiments or a read aloud before my kids complete a STEM project. Because my little ones see everything in black and white, they need just a little bit of guidance whether through experience in the real world or experience from a book. When I do this, it gets their creativity flowing through their little brains. Then, I introduce the challenge. The kids are competitive and usually like to have a classroom winner. Sometimes we do this if it is appropriate for the challenge. If not, then we just roll.

    Before the challenge I decide on whether or not we need to work in groups, pairs, or individually. If it is groups, then I assign roles such as an artist, presenter, researcher, and materials manager. They usually pick a captain to guide them through the process.

    To stay on time, almost always give my students a time limit. I display a timer from Classdojo on the board so that the students can keep track of it. If you don't use Classdojo, you can use a simple online timer.

    Once we are done with our projects, we present. I like a fishbowl type of seating for this so that all of the students can see. They really get in to it!

    Finally, we do the clean up. I always select a piece of mystery trash on the floor. I wait until the entire room has been picked up clean, and THEN I award the person who picked up the mystery piece of trash. My room is spotless every time we do this!

    Earth Day STEM Challenge

    26 March 2018
         Did you know that on March 24, 1989 an oil tanker struck the Bligh Reef in Prince William's Sound and spilled 10.8 million gallons of oil into the ocean? This major oil spill was one of the first that devastated Alaska. Wildlife was in danger - if not already dead. The people were also in danger of becoming sick. At that point in time, we had little experience trying to clean oil from water, but now we have learned special techniques and even developed new tools. '

    Earth Day STEM Challenge