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5 Ways to Keep Students Energized at the End of the Year

5 Ways to Keep Students Energized at the End of the Year
As another school year winds down, many teachers are faced with the same question: how do I maintain the energy level of my students as summer approaches? Keeping kids busy, interested, and involved is always a difficult task, but it becomes even more important as the view outside gets brighter. Try some of the five suggestions below to keep your students active, focused, and learning even as the sun shines outside of your classroom window.

#1 Get on your feet!

One activity that always gets the blood flowing is asking kids to move around the room to different learning stations. Each station contains a different task related to a conceptual or thematic assignment. After collecting data from each station, students craft a thoughtful answer using the evidence from each station. The kids get to move around for an extended period of time, allowing them feel more in control of the pace of their learning, while still reinforcing the skills of critical thinking. It also allows them to works in small groups in a more informal setting than the typical group activity.

#2 Today’s guest is…

A guest speaker can motivate students in ways that their everyday teacher cannot. Bringing in a dynamic expert in a field or subject that relates to your curriculum will enhance their content knowledge and also let them hear a different voice than yours for the first time in eight months.

Another method of bringing experts into your class is to use distance learning with programs such as Skype and Google. Skype in the Classroom lists institutions that offer speakers and lesson plans that can be scheduled in advance, such as the interviews and lessons with Minecraft game developers.

#3 Now Playing!

There is a plethora of easy to use technology that allows students to create videos, newscasts, and reenactments. A flip camera, tablet, or even student cell phones can also record video to be uploaded to a third party website, such as WeVideo, for editing and professional touches. Using video to replace a traditional project or formative assessment allows the students to express their knowledge in ways that multiple choice questions do not allow.

#4 Collaborate!

Bulletin boards contain up-to-date assignments and student work, but they can also can serve as marker where you’re at in your curriculum. Have your students create artistic representations of recent content to be put on display. Give parameters as to what they can create, such as posters, charts, cartoons and the like, and give them the time and freedom to generate something that represents what they have learned. Allowing students to choose the direction of a public display motivates and energizes them to take ownership and pride over their learning.

#5 Hit the road!

Unfortunately, many districts no longer have the funds available for large scale field trips, but that doesn’t mean that you are chained to your classroom. There are likely many attractions, exhibits, and activities close by  Local history is an oft overlooked aspect of education. Look into the history of your town or city, and embrace it as a learning experience. Local non-profits can also help you to organize community service outings that would serve as character education and go well beyond the curriculum. Many excursions like these would only incur fees from your district’s bus company and go a long way towards keeping your students interested and making them a more well rounded student.6

#6 Spice things up!

Spice up a traditional story by adding movement. Have students make up motions to go along with a story. Let them rap a poem. Or bring in text that incorporates movement, such as a movement story. Even just having students stand up when answering a question or making them recite what they’ve learned while walking around the room can give them a much needed energy boost.

It’s impossible to push your students full throttle every day, but knowing when to push their buttons and create some enthusiasm for learning is important as the year winds down. Use the ideas above to reinvigorate their love of learning. And to get students moving in between learning activities, try incorporating some fun brain breaks into the class period.

Ways to Use Poetry Outside of the ELA Classroom

Ways to Use Poetry Outside of the ELA Classroom
Whether it’s reading poems written by some of the greatest poets of all time or writing poems of their own, students spend a fair amount of time studying poetry in the ELA classroom. While the figurative language and eloquent verses found in poems may seem best-suited for ELA, their relevance extends across the curriculum. From science and math to social studies and foreign language courses, poetry can become an integral part of student learning outside of the ELA classroom.

Reading Poetry

Believe it or not, not all poetry centers around love and deep philosophical concepts. A lot of poetry has been written to explain the world around us, including mathematical and scientific concepts. Consider these lines by a famous poet:

This is now–this was erst,
Proposition the first–and Problem the first.
On a given finite Line
Which must no way incline;
To describe an equi–
–lateral Tri–
–A, N, G, L, E.

– From “A Mathematical Problem” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Throughout history, well-known poets have shared their thoughts about the world. Poetry has also been used to chronicle and commemorate many historic events. For example, many students can recite lines from “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow when asked to recall that infamous night during the American Revolution. Other references are more subtle. For example, these lines from the poem “O Captain! My Captain” by Walt Whitman were written about the death of Abraham Lincoln:

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck the Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

To find poetry to fit a specific time in history or concept in math or science, simply perform a quick internet search for poems in your subject area and you’ll come up with numerous examples. You may also check out books of poetry created to help students learn about science, math, and social studies.

Some of our favorite resources include:

Math

  1. Mathapalooza: A Collection of Poetry for Primary and Intermediate Students by Franny Vergo, a collection of poems related to basic math.
  2. Math Poetry: Linking Language and Math in a Fresh Way by Betsy Franco, a book of lesson ideas, sample poems, and math-related poetry activities for kids.
  3. Marvelous Math: A Book of Poems by Lee Bennett Hopkins, designed for students in grades 3-5.
  4. Math Talk: Mathematical Ideas in Poems for Two Voices by Theoni Pappas, a collection of poems on middle and high school math topics designed to be read by two students at once.

Science

  1. Science Verse by popular children’s author Jon Scieszka, a wealth of silly and informational poems on popular science topics.
  2. Joyful Noise by Paul Fleischman, a collection of poems about insects and nature designed to be read by two people at once.
  3. Spectacular Science: A Book of Poems by Lee Bennett Hopkins, questions related to science answered in poetic verse.
  4. The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science by Sylvia Vardell, helps K-5 teachers incorporate Common Core science into their curriculum through the use of poetry.

Social Studies

  1. The Watch That Ends the Night by Allan Wolff tells the story of the Titanic in verse.
  2. Harlem by Walter Dean Myers celebrates the people of Harlem in a book written in poem form.
  3. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson tells the story of a girl growing up in the South, and later Brooklyn, during the Civil Rights Movement.
  4. May B by Caroline Starr Rose tells the story of a young girl living on the Kansas Frontier and the struggles she faces.
  5. Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai tells the story of a girl who must flee from her home after the Fall of Saigon and shares what her new life is like in Alabama.

Writing Poetry

Writing poetry can be a way to assess students’ understanding of particular concepts, It also helps teachers  incorporate creative thinking skills into the math, science, and social studies classrooms. Students may write poems about particular concepts, people, or events related to the subject area.

Three forms of poetry that work particularly well outside of the ELA classroom are:

  1. Found poetry
  2. Concrete poetry
  3. List poetry

Found Poetry
Found Poetry involves taking lines from other sources and turning them into poetry. For example, students may turn words from the Declaration of Independence into a poem:

Life
Liberty
The Pursuit of Happiness
Truth.
All men are created equal
Truth.
Evils are sufferable.
Dissolve them.
Abolish them.
United.

Or students may take information from an article about space exploration and turn them into a poem:

What’s next?
Stepped on the moon.
Sent rover to Mars.
What’s next?
Retrieved pictures from Hubble Space Telescope.
Spent a year on the International Space Station.
What’s next?
We have laid the foundation for success.
Going farther into the solar system than ever before.
What’s next?

Concrete Poetry
Concrete poetry, also known as shape poetry, involves taking a poem and placing it into the shape of an object. Students may create poems to represent mathematical equations, specific shapes, or different areas of science. For example, a poem about photosynthesis may be written in the shape of the sun. The shape of the poem helps add additional meaning and ensure the content sticks in a student’s memory.

Consider this poem about a triangle:

3
sides
three angles
sometimes equilateral
sometimes isosceles or right

List Poetry
List poetry is simply poetry created out of a list. The list doesn’t just list items randomly. Instead, it’s a carefully thought out poem, often containing repetition, to cover a topic. A student may write a list poem about a particular concept, a person, or even an event in science or history.
For example, the following list poem might have been written during a unit on the Civil Rights Movement:

Martyrs for the Cause
George Lee
Emmett Till
Medgar Evers
Addie Mae Collins
Denise McNair
Carole Robertson
Cynthia Wesley
Jimmie Lee Jackson
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Paying Attention to the Words

Poetry is about more than rhyming a few words on the page. As you read poetry with students or have students write poems of their own, encourage them to pay attention to the words on the page. The figurative language, diction (word choice), and even the placement of the words on the page can help add deeper meaning to poems and encourage students to think critically and creatively about the content being taught.

3 Ways to Use Music in the Classroom

how to use music in the classroom


Music education plays an important role in schools. Music classes help students build focus and discipline, rhythm and coordination, and creative language and thinking skills. With all the benefits music offers, it shouldn’t just be relegated to the music classroom. Teachers in all grade levels and subject areas can reap the benefits of bringing music into their own classrooms.

1. Music in the Classroom Jogs Memories

In the 70s, 80s, and 90s, elementary students learned how a bill became a law by listening to “I’m Just a Bill” and learned the purpose of words such as and, but, and or with “Conjunction Junction.” Schoolhouse Rock songs were a staple in classrooms and helped kids learn a lot of fun new concepts.

Today, lots of musicians have branched out into the world of educational songwriting. Even popular groups such as They Might Be Giants and Barenaked Ladies have albums written designed to help kids learn. Other popular educational music collections include:

A YouTube search will likely produce even more educational songs from amateur artists. For example, you may find a song to help you teach digraphs or short vowel sounds.

If you can’t find a song that fits your topic, make one up on your own set to the tune of a popular children’s song.

In the classroom, you can use educational songs to spice up the content and give students a way to remember important concepts. If you can’t find a song that fits your topic, make one up that’s set to the tune of a popular children’s song. For example, this song uses the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell” to teach students about long vowel sounds. Singing about the planets to the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus” or rapping the parts of speech may not win you a Grammy, but it will likely help your students tell the difference between a noun and a verb or remember the order of the planets.

2. Music as an Example

From language arts to social studies, music can be used to help spark discussion, provide illustrations, and enhance your discussion of a topic. For example, if you’re studying the Civil Rights Movement, bring in some protest songs. Often songs from a particular era or related to a particular topic can provide more specific examples and convey deep emotions. They’re also a great way to open a lesson and hook students from the very start.

3 Ways to Use Music in the Classroom


Even popular music can serve as an example in the classroom. In the language arts classroom, you can pull songs with lyrics to represent different types of figurative language. You can also find songs that relate to particular themes. In math and science, you can also pull lines out from songs that have to do with particular concepts students are learning. You might be surprised where you’ll find a reference to isosceles triangles or the periodic table. Steven Galbraith, a member of the Mathematics Department at the University of Auckland, has even put together The List of Unintentionally Mathematical Songs to help you start finding songs to use in your classroom and Scientific American and NewScientist have highlighted a few pop songs inspired by science.

Encourage your students to bring music into the classroom too. They’re likely to notice a lot of references to what you’re learning in the songs they like to listen to. For example, rap songs are chock full of allusions and clever one-liners, pop music is full of metaphors and similes, and country music offers a lot of imagery. While a song may have nothing to do with what you’re learning, one or two lines may fit perfectly in a lesson. Just be sure to preview a song before playing it in class as some music your students enjoy may not be entirely school appropriate.

3. Music for Energy and Relaxation

If you want to keep students’ minds sharp for a particularly important lesson, put on an upbeat tune and have them get out of their seats and dance before getting to work.

Beyond helping students learn specific information, you can use music to help improve the learning environment. Both upbeat and softer music play a role in stimulating students and improving their focus. If you want to keep students’ minds sharp for a particularly important lesson, put on an upbeat tune and have them get out of their seats and dance before getting to work. This will help wake them up and increase their attention before getting down to business. An upbeat song also works well as a way to transition between two topics or to re-energize students after they have been sitting for a long time. You can even play upbeat songs as students enter the classroom to get them excited about learning or play farewell songs at the end of class as a creative way to end the day and signal to students that it’s okay to start packing up.

When you want students to feel calm and relaxed, try playing softer music. Classical music has been shown to be as effective as Valium for heart patients and has been attributed to lowering crime rates in dangerous neighborhoods. With these examples, imagine how much it could improve classroom management and focus in your classroom. Play classical music during tests to help reduce the amount of anxiety in the room or during seatwork time to remind students to be calm and focused. While students may push to listen to more popular music during these times, the softness and steady rhythms provided by classical pieces are more ideal and less distracting to students.

Do you have any favorite songs you like to play for students? If so, we’d love to hear about them.

How to Use Dr. Seuss in the Social Studies Classroom

How to Use Dr. Seuss in Your Classroom
One of the best ways to ensure students retain and comprehend historical information is to draw on what they already know. This includes using references from their prior experiences and pop culture. Students may be surprised to see the historical connections in things that are a part of their everyday lives. One great resource to draw from is the stories of Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss has penned numerous books, cartoons, and animated stories that have deep historical meaning and applications and they can be tied directly to the social studies curriculum. Below is a sampling of how Dr. Seuss can be included in the social studies classroom. While these activities are designed with social studies in mind, many of them can be adapted for use in the language arts classroom as well.

Dr. Seuss Goes to War

Political Cartoons: Dr. Seuss Goes to War

Throughout World War II Dr. Seuss inked hundreds of editorial cartoons about the war and American involvement, including scathing depictions of Hitler, Mussolini and other Axis enemies. (Warning: there are numerous stereotypical and racist depictions of non-American combatants that may require a separate lesson or explanation). One method that that would engage students would be to pick out a real life character depicted in the political cartoon and list and describe the character traits Dr. Seuss assigns to him. This asks the students to identify the person in the cartoon and to combine their knowledge of history and understanding of symbolism.

The Butter Battle Book

Mutual Assured Destruction: The Butter Battle Book

This story is a satirical look at the Cold War arms race that nearly led to nuclear annihilation, using the Yooks and Zooks as stand ins for the United States and the Soviet Union. The songs, rhyming, and Dr. Seuss style will keep the kids interested, even as they are watching a children’s cartoon from the 1980s. The students will simultaneously follow the story and find parallels to the Cold War, so a Story Map will help them keep track of the action as they watch. This particular organizer also asks the students come up with a solution or ending to the cliffhanger, adding to the interpretive nature of the activity. Another engaging activity uses the Boxes and Bullets graphic organizer which asks the students to write an overriding connection between the Butter Battle and the Cold War, then give three examples to back up their connections, and lastly, to add specific events from history or the story to give depth to their examples.

The Cat in the Hat

Psychology: The Cat in the Hat

Every student and teacher knows of The Cat in the Hat, but its uses in Psychology classes may not be as well known. The main characters of the children, the Cat, and the fish each display different characteristics of Freud’s personality components of id, ego, and superego. Teachers can use the Narrative Procedure organizer to chart the examples of each appearance of id, ego, and superego throughout the story. Another method would be to use the Plot Diagram to chart the action of the story as it relates to Freud’s theory.

These cartoons and stories are not just for Social Studies class. The skills that Seuss instills and reinforces travel across curricula, and can be used to meet Common Core Standards. Check out Top Ten Ways to Teach the Common Core ELA Standards for more ways to integrate a great resource like Seuss. However you utilize Dr. Seuss in your Social Studies classroom, it’s clear he will be having an impact on children’s education long after their days of bedtime stories are over.

15 Ways to Raise Funds for Your Classroom Needs

15 Ways to Raise Funds for Your Classroom Needs

Stop dipping into your own pocket to raise funds for your classroom

Public school teachers truly are miracle workers. Not only do they work hard to turn around struggling students and help exceptional students succeed, but they often do it with a limited budget and a lack of quality materials and classroom supplies.

To make matters worse, many teachers in US schools are faced with drastic budget cuts that put an end to field trips and threaten science equipment, sports equipment, music programs, and other extracurricular activities. These programs and supplies are so important that some teachers are even resorting to paying for supplies with their own money. In fact, a June 2021 survey revealed that teachers spend $750 on average while as much as 30% of teachers spent $1,000 or more!

This is why sites like Pinterest are choc-full of ideas for turning household goods and recyclables into fun classroom projects. Sometimes, however, teachers need more than recycled goods. This has been made particularly clear during the pandemic lockdown where as many as 55% of students had inadequate home supplies. And now that many students are back at school, safety measures to prevent Covid-19 transmission has meant that many school supplies can’t be shared. (We won’t go there with teachers needing to pay for their own personal protective gear)

According to the study, the biggest needs by public school teachers were:

  • Basic School Supplies – 80%
  • Technology – 60%
  • Inclusive/Adaptive Materials – 60%
  • Books – 55%
  • Furniture – 50%
  • PPE, Cleaning and Safety Equipment – 45%

That’s when money – and a bit of goodwill – comes into play. If you desperately need to raise money, we’re here to help with a list of websites and other resources to help you raise funds for your classroom.

Note: School fundraisers and your own fundraising activities can be a bit of a tight rope walk. Before posting any school fundraising events for your classroom, check your school or district guidelines. Some school districts require that teachers receive approval from the administration or the board before they attempt to raise money.

Option 1: DonorsChoose.org

DonorsChoose.org gives teachers the opportunity to post their classroom needs and allows others to contribute to those needs. Friends, family, and community members who know about the project can contribute to help raise money for school supplies, but the project will also be visible to a wealth of donors who regularly work with the site to help fund classroom projects. While teachers can request virtually anything, projects with lower costs, longer deadlines, and clear academic goals have the highest funding rates. Once teachers receive the materials from DonorsChoose, they must fill out documentation and thank you package to send to donors. Successfully completing the documentation earns teachers more points to submit new project requests.

Option 2: TeacherLists.com

TeacherLists.com gives teachers a place to post their classroom supply lists so parents and members of the school community can easily access them. While the goal of the site is just to share lists of school supplies, teachers can also create lists for other reasons, giving parents and other school supporters gift ideas for Christmas or Teacher Appreciation Week. Teachers can also win free supplies by referring other teachers to the site. For example, getting one new teacher to sign up earns teachers a selection of Wet Ones hand sanitizing wipes.

Option 3: Classwish

Classwish offers multiple ways for teachers to get resources for their classrooms. At the basic level, teachers create wish lists and share those lists with potential donors to help them get the items and the funds they need. The site also helps schools partner with local businesses to create a workplace giving or matching gift programs. Parents, friends, and others can also send greeting card gift certificates to help meet their classroom needs.

Option 4: Adopt-A-Classroom

Through Adopt-a-Classroom, teachers can get their classroom needs in the hands of donors who want to help meet those needs. Similar to DonorsChoose, teachers post their latest projects and other classroom needs to their Adopt-A-Classroom profile. They can then share those needs through social media or promote their page within the community to get people to donate. Donors who regularly visit the site can also search for different teachers’ needs and donate.

Option 5: DigitalWish

With DigitalWish teachers can ask for donations to help bring technology into the classroom. While teachers may not receive new computers or high-end equipment, they can receive cool software and smaller digital items, such as handheld video cameras, to help bring their classrooms into the 21st century. The site also regularly offers grants to help teachers get specific products and works with companies to provide deep discounts for teachers.

Option 6: PledgeCents

Jumping on the crowdfunding bandwagon, PledgeCents helps teachers use the power of crowdfunding to raise money for their classroom needs. After setting up a project, teachers share it through social media sites and encourage others to share it as well. As the project starts to go viral, more and more people can donate to it, helping teachers reach their goals a few dollars at a time. Since the goal of PledgeCents is to get others involved, teachers should not be shy about asking for donations and should work hard to present a compelling case to get their needs met.

Option 7: Freecycle

While Freecycle might not help you meet specific classroom needs, it could help you find free resources for your classroom. On Freecycle, people give away things for free. By connecting with a local group, you could find free classroom furniture, boxes and other random objects for craft projects, or even request specific items for a classroom project. Getting some items for free could help free up money in the budget for other classroom supplies.

Option 8: TeachersPayTeachers

One way to get extra funds for the classroom is just to make extra money. TeachersPayTeachers allows teachers to sell lesson plans, worksheets, and other educational materials. By adding and promoting their materials, teachers can make a little extra cash to use in the classroom. They’ll also find free lesson plans, worksheets, and other resources to use with their students. You can also now raise funds to purchase things on the site through the TpT ClassFund.

Option 9: DoSomething.org

While teachers can’t start campaigns on DoSomething.org, their students can.  Designed to help teens and young adults fund their causes, teachers can help students get started using DoSomething.org. Through the site, students can find funding and support for school fundraisers, community service projects, and other ideas designed to help others and make the world a better place. If students don’t have their own cause, teachers can help them find an existing cause to support. This works great for character education classes and school clubs.

Option 10: Amazon Lists

If you have an Amazon account, you can set up a wish list full of items you need in your classroom through Amazon Lists. Share the link with parents, friends, or even total strangers and ask them to purchase something from your list. Items purchased from your list can be shipped directly to you at the address you select. The address will be hidden from senders so safety is not an issue. Don’t have a strong network of support? Connect with a page such as Teacher Amazon Gifting which encourages teachers to support one another by purchasing items from wishlists or tweet out a link to your list with #SupportATeacher and #clearthelist.

Option 11: GoFundMe Education

GoFundMe allows teachers to post fundraisers for their classrooms on its cloud-funding platform. The site includes categories for teachers, teams and clubs, and students and parents.

Option 12: SimpleFund

SimpleFund gives parents and students a chance to raise funds for schools by using their cell phones. They earn funds by reading articles, watching videos, and downloading apps.

Option 13: Class Tag

Class Tag helps you raise money as you communicate with parents. Every time you engage with parents, you earn coins within the program. Those coins can be redeemed for classroom supplies.

Option 14: Shoparoo

Shoparoo uses grocery receipts to help schools earn money. Parents simply download the app and upload their receipts every time they shop. Then the school earns money.

What other websites, resources, or methods have you used to help fund your classroom needs?

Option 15: Old-fashioned Bake Sale & Walk a Thon

Depending on your fundraising goal, take a look at your community and see what would work well as a community builder and fundraiser. This can be in the form of a traditional bake sale where students’ parents contribute to raising funds, or take it up a notch by hosting a market where local artisan businesses can participate for a fee for a stand. Other ideas include sponsored playground tiles, experience auctions, or challenges, such as seeing how long a class can listen to “Baby Shark” before quitting.

Do you have any unique fundraising ideas? Why not comment below! Let us know if you’re at a public or private school and what you do to get additional classroom supplies without spending your own money.

Further Reading

Money-making ideas for Parents and Teachers

If you’re interested to learn more about Public School Revenue Sources

Free Interactive Web Resources for Teaching Science

Free Interactive web resources for teaching science

Free Interactive web resources for teaching science

Science is a wonderful subject to teach. It’s all about exploring, learning, and discovering how the natural world works. The Internet is positively busting with amazing (and questionable) resources, which can lead to hours of your time being spent looking for quality resources to use in your classroom. 

We hear your calls and have put together a list of Free Interactive Web Resources for Teaching Science that we love. While we’d all love to have operating rooms, telescopes, and a laboratory in the classroom, we’ve kept things simple. All you’ll need is an Internet connection, tablets, and computers, which we’re sure you already have in your teaching toolbox. With these interactive resources, your students can experience science unlike any generation before.

e-learning for Kids provides animated mini-courses covering many scientific disciplines for elementary and middle school students. Students can work their way through each course and take the provided quiz when finished.

YouTube channels for kids such as SciShow Kids and NatGeo Kids 

https://www.youtube.com/c/scishowkids/featured https://www.youtube.com/natgeokidsplaylists/featured 

offer a wealth of well-researched information you can rely on in the classroom whether you’re teaching the body, volcanoes, or how we grow food. 

Edheads offers a variety of exceptionally well-designed interactives with accompanying teacher guides. For example, let your students discover physics with the virtual Simple Machine.

VisionLearning https://www.visionlearning.com/en/glossary this is an excellent resource for providing explainers and definitions of scientific terms and concepts.

KS2 Bitesize by the BBC brings science alive with their collection of living things, materials, and physical processes interactives. Each topic includes animated activities, background reading, and a quiz.

BrainPop is an amazing resource to have in your teaching toolbox. It offers a wide variety of subjects and grade levels. It’s video lessons are well crafted and come with other teaching materials such as quizzes, worksheets, graphic organizers, related readings, and many more. 

Smithsonian Learning Lab is a free and interactive site that provides teachers with literally millions of digital resources and tools that can be downloaded and even adapted. You can create personalized lessons and share them with colleagues as well as class rosters. 

Learner.org provides dozens of interactives across scientific disciplines and is searchable by grade level. Be sure to try Amusement Park Physics, where students investigate the physics of amusement park rides by constructing animated roller coasters.

NASA Quest brings the expanses of the universe to K-12 classrooms with its innovative collection of interactive resources. Challenge students to design robotic airplanes to explore Mars, solve air traffic problems, or take part in the next NASA Quest Challenge.

PBS LearningMedia offers an extensive collection of interactive STEM resources. Search this collection of videos, audio files, interactives, and images by discipline and grade. The “Background Essays” and “Discussion Questions” offer great starting points for classroom use. Resources are free, but you need to register for an account after viewing three.

Scholastic offers a range of interactive activities geared toward elementary and middle school students. Check out the “Weather Watch” module. Students will enjoy playing Mother Nature with the Weather Maker interactive and solving real-world “weather mysteries” with the Weather Detective Web Quest.

Wonderville will grab students’ attention with their engaging collection of science-themed activities, comics, games, and videos.

Mystery Science Their Open-and-go lessons inspire kids to love science. Their K-5 science curriculum is loved by kids all over and they’re aligned to Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core!

PhET Science Simulations This site offers free, fun and interactive simulations on math and science that are research-based. PhET tests and evaluates each of its simulations extensively so that they provide the most educational value and effectiveness.

Stem Rising This is a US Department of Energy initiative aimed at inspiring and educating students to set them on an upward trajectory into a career in the STEM. It provides programs, competitions, events, internships, resources, and much more.

Exploratorium offers educational media perfect for classroom lessons and activities that center on playing to learn. It provides resources for a wide range of ages and ability levels and supports different educational philosophies from informal unschooling to more traditional classroom structures. 

California Academy of Sciences is a treasure trove of diverse, research-rich lessons that will inspire budding scientists. This can be used along with the academy or as a standalone. 

Defined Learning This website provides a stellar line up of resources that are perfect for project-based learning from kindergarten all the way up to 12th grade. It empowers students to thrive with research-proven methods.

4 Ways to Make a Holiday-Inclusive Classroom

Ways to make a holiday-inclusive classroom

Every teacher wants their classroom to be a place of joy, harmony, and inclusion, particularly during the winter holiday season. But with students of many faiths and cultures represented in today’s classrooms, it can sometimes be tricky to stay sensitive to everyone’s needs and step around the pitfalls of stereotyping and tokenism. Keep reading for our suggestions on how to make a holiday-inclusive classroom.

Teachers are at the vanguard of diversity education, so it’s our job to balance awareness, representation, and sensitivity when it comes to winter holiday celebrations in the classroom. These four key principles will help you develop your own strategy for holiday celebrations that engage students from a wide variety of cultures.

Holiday-inclusive Classroom Tip #1: Don’t Assume, Stereotype, or Tokenize

First and foremost, remember that holiday activities will often require care and thought toward equitability because of how they bring real-world traditions into the classroom. That can make a great opportunity for fun and interesting learning, but its benefits must be equitable.

How to pull off this balancing act? The first step is to check your assumptions and privilege. Don’t assume that a student celebrates any particular holiday based on their ethnicity or heritage. Likewise, don’t assume that everyone celebrates a winter holiday. Some students’ religious traditions may not have winter holidays or any holidays at all, and many will likely celebrate the same holiday in different ways.

One good way to get started is to open up a discussion to any student who wants to talk about their celebrations or traditions, keeping in mind that not all children will be comfortable talking about theirs. Remember that students shouldn’t be expected to be experts on the holidays they or their families celebrate. Student-led discussions of different celebrations can be great, but avoid putting any student on the hot seat to talk about or explain a particular tradition.

Holiday-inclusive Classroom Tip #2: Build Diversity into Your Lesson Plans

Good holiday lesson plans should celebrate differences. A unit on different holiday celebrations, for example, can provide some fun and interesting lesson opportunities. The holiday season is the perfect time to bring in guest speakers to talk to the class about how they celebrate holidays, since many students will be eager for a change of pace, and speakers can often provide interesting and in-depth insights to add to discussions. Parents or community leaders make great guest speakers, and some will probably be eager to share their traditions.

If you want to examine certain traditions but can’t fit in guest speakers, try reading books or watching films or YouTube videos as part of your investigations into how different cultures celebrate. For older students, breaking the class into groups to learn about and report on various holiday traditions can be a good way to create student interest and sharpen research skills. If interesting and diverse activities are available, field trips to community holiday events can be another excellent option.

Holiday-inclusive Classroom Tip #3: Think Outside the Usual Holiday Cliches

There’s nothing wrong with reindeer, Santa hats, and sugar cookies, but try to diversify your decorations and not focus them on a single holiday. At the same time, be careful about using symbols from cultures you’re not familiar with—do your research first and make sure you’re not using them in an offensive or inappropriate way. When in doubt, it’s best to politely ask someone with knowledge of the specific cultural tradition.

Soliciting student input on decorations or letting students hang their own crafts can offer a lot of great possibilities to let kids express themselves and feel represented in the classroom. Holiday STEM projects offer more great ideas since they often focus on things like winter weather that can be examined outside of a cultural or religious context. (Plus, they often use interesting and fun tools like student microscopes.)

In classes with a strong multicultural focus, one idea is to make the winter holidays a single piece of a rolling year-round investigation into holidays from many different traditions. This can be a good way to include students whose traditions don’t have any winter holidays, or for whom winter holidays aren’t a focal point of the year.

Tip #4: Consider Forms of Inclusion Outside of Religion and Culture

There are many ways to create a diverse and harmonious classroom besides acknowledging religious differences. The holidays are a great time to focus on what brings us together, and that means paying special attention to students with a full range of physical, cultural, social, and emotional needs. Consider factors such as:

  • Dietary restrictions. Some traditional western Christmas food, for example, contains peanuts and other foods that may not be acceptable to students whose traditions include dietary rules.
  • Emotional and social needs. Holidays can be an emotionally stressful time for many students, so it’s important to be able to point students toward the necessary resources.
  • Needs of neurodivergent students and students with disabilities. The hustle and bustle of holiday activities can be difficult and overstimulating for students with some conditions, so make sure that diverse learners are getting the support they need.

Socioeconomic differences are another area that you may need to be particularly careful about addressing during the holidays. Questions about giving and receiving gifts can create uncomfortable moments for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, so be prepared to steer class discussions away from these topics if they come up, or to offer support to students who need it.

Cheryl Stevens is the Community Relations Specialist for AmScope. She oversees all company-wide outreach programs and initiatives. Her passion in life is helping others see the value in and implement STEM programs for children at an early age.

Further reading:

Learn about and Celebrate Hanukkah

Alternate Thanksgiving Traditions

Non-Spooky Halloween Activities

If you enjoyed this read, you might also like what KidsKonnect has to say. Check out their articles today.

Development Goals for Teachers – 5 Ideas for the New School Year

5 Development Goals for TeachersWhether you’re a new teacher entering the classroom for the first time or a veteran teacher with experience to spare, we’re all looking for ways to improve our performance and better serve our students. Setting goals for development before the year begins enables you to track your evolution and share your progress with colleagues.

1. Keep a reflective journal

All teachers grudgingly completed reflections while studying in college and most have long since stopped the practice. Reflecting on a method, assignment, or lesson can do wonders for how you handle a similar situation later in the year or in your career. Even though we think we’ve seen it all, a written account of your thoughts at that precise moment carries more weight than you think.

2. Share best practices

Professional development never gives us enough time to network with colleagues, but sharing best practices can be the best way to develop your talent and skill for teaching. Sharing worksheets, methods, or projects can have an immediate impact on how you deliver your information and how your students respond to it.

3. Observe colleagues

Sometimes you just have to be there. Sitting and watching another teacher deliver a lesson is the best way to see what other methods work and how you can adapt them to fit your style.

4. Use social media for new ideas

Social media isn’t just for sharing your vacation pictures; it can also connect you to teachers and ideas from around the world. Services like Diigo, Classroom 2.0, and TeachAde provide a platform for sharing methods, links, and advice with qualified colleagues.

5. Go for training

With budgets shrinking all over, opportunities for training have decreased, but if you’re offered the chance to spend a day learning new methods or receiving new – and often free – resources, take it! The one day of teaching you miss will be repaid tenfold by the experience and wisdom you gain.

Taking the time to be a better teacher isn’t as hard as it seems. Use these suggestions as a guide to starting the year off on a good note.

Math in the Real World – 9 Ideas to Make Math Relevant


“I’m never going to use this!” Chances are, if you teach math, you’ve had a student say something along these lines. Yet, math is a vital part of our daily lives. From checking the temperature or deciding what to wear, to knowing if you have enough money to purchase an item or figuring out how long it will take to get somewhere, math is a part of everyday life. Here are nine ways to make math relevant for your students and inspire them to embrace math in the real-world.

1. Follow Current Events

Connect math to social studies by following current events in the news. Students may be surprised by how frequently numbers are cited in news stories. Start by identifying a grade appropriate print, online, or video news sources like PBS NewsHour Extra. Then, have students keep a journal of articles that cite numbers and analyze how the data is presented as part of the news story.

2. Partake in a Math Competition

Quality math competitions will challenge students to apply their knowledge in ingenious ways. Encourage creative problem-solving and build teamwork skills by enrolling students in a competition like Odyssey of the Mind.

3. Teach Personal Finance

If there is one math skill every person should master, it is money management. Although students typically learn how to add and subtract money, learning how to budget, invest, and manage debt are essential when it comes to ensuring a secure financial future. Get started with these ideas on teaching personal finance.

4. Play Games

Games are a fun way of incorporating math learning into the classroom while engaging students in play. Many classic board games help develop counting skills, number recognition, and fact fluency through the use of dice, spinners, and cards. Online math games are a high-interest activity for today’s tech-savvy students and many also support math standards and curricula.

5. Plan a Road Trip

Planning a road trip can help students hone their math skills while also studying geography. Divide students into groups, provide a budget, and have them research, design, and present a print or digital travel brochure of their road trip. Require that each group provides a breakdown of costs, including miles per gallon for fuel, meals, lodging, and admission fees to attractions.

6. Get Cooking

Many kids love to cook. Apply math to daily life by having students practice their culinary math skills. Not only does cooking allow students to practice skills like conversions, fractions, and proportions, but they also get a tasty meal or snack at the end!

7. Root for the Home Team

Whether you have students who participate in sports, play sports video games, or simply love to watch a good game, statistics play a key role in athletics. Challenge students to watch or participate in a sport, then record and graph data about the game. Alternatively, look for sporting events that provide educational materials like these Iditarod math teaching resources.

8. Study the Mathematics of Music

From patterns to frequency, music is mathematical. Elementary students can connect the arts and math by listening to music and identifying patterns. High school students can dig deeper into the mathematical structure of music by studying harmonics or looking at new ways of seeing music.

9. Celebrate Math Holidays

Math holidays and theme days are a great hook for inspiring students to learn math. Join Global Math Week in October, connect math and literacy on Math Storytelling Day in September, or celebrate any of the multitude of math holidays throughout the year.

How do you make math relevant for students in your classroom? Share your ideas in the comments. For more math teaching resources, try Help Teaching’s free math worksheets and math lessons.

Five Tips for New Teachers to Survive the First Quarter

5 Tips for New Teachers to Survive the First QuarterStarting a new job can be stressful, but new teachers face obstacles like no other profession. In an occupation that relies so heavily on experience, a beginner can get lost before building up enough wisdom to overcome the daily stresses that arise in the classroom. Here are five simple ways to keep your confidence high and your classroom management strong whether you’re in-person, online, or a mixture of both.

1. Use positive reinforcement to encourage students to succeed

Students of all backgrounds respond when there is a reward for positive behaviors. Verbal praise for a specific student’s positive actions will often spur others to do the same. Tangible rewards such as stickers for the young students and homework passes for the older ones also do the trick. Make it a great honor to the students to have their work displayed in the class. My first experience in the classroom was a ninth grade Global History class in a tough Bronx, NY high school. After a rough September, I began a unit on Ancient Greece in October. I divided the students into small groups and designated each a Greek city – state to emulate. They would work in their groups for the length of the unit, with daily medals given for the top three “city-states” for quality of work, effort, and behavior. This Olympic simulation harnessed the energy in the room and gave even the most difficult student something to strive for: a place in the daily medal ceremony.

2. Set high standards and hold the students (and yourself) to them5 Tips for New Teachers

We often set the bar too low for our students. It is important to set high – yet achievable – standards for them each day and each marking period. After the first marking period ends, work with each student to set a specific goal that improves upon an area in which they struggled in the first part of the year. Have them write a reflective piece as to why they didn’t do well and how they plan to do better. Make sure to monitor their progress frequently with one on one conferences. Include their parents in the goal setting process. When students achieve their goals, it gives you another reason to use positive reinforcement to encourage others to work harder. I’ve had many students who didn’t try hard because school was just too hard for them. When asked to examine the specific difficulty that was holding them back, some responded with telling answers. Vocabulary, reading comprehension, and a quiet place to do homework were just a few of the common issues we faced together. Identifying the problem made it possible to at least address it, and, in many cases, we did just that.

3. Don’t fight battles that you can’t win

It is very important to enforce rules and not to look weak in front of the assembled class, but some battles need to be lost in order to win the war. Not every student should be treated the same. What works as a punishment or a behavior modifier for one student will not work for all of them. For example, not every student is capable of handling direct and public criticism. Sometimes behaviors are best corrected in private or with only vague references to specific offenders. Students often respond to subtle cues, like your proximity to the misbehaver, a tap on the shoulder, or stern look. Even when a student acts out in an inappropriate way, it is not always necessary to correct the behavior with a lecture and punishment on the spot. End the disruption and deal with the fallout later. Word will surely get back to the rest of the class when the punishment or modification is doled out. Causing a scene to reestablish your credibility is not required.

4. Do not take on more responsibilities than you can handle

The first year of teaching is stress filled and requires an intense devotion to your craft. It is not recommended that you coach, take extra classes, or advise a club while you’re in educational boot camp.

During my first year of teaching I put my higher education quest on hold while I battled to become a better educator. Despite my need for more income, I avoided all opportunities to earn unless it was paid training. I spent my free time planning, grading, researching, and reflecting. Every second was time well spent.

5. Learn from more veteran teachers

All teachers, new or veteran, should be observing their colleagues and sharing best practices, but the new teacher has special needs that others do not. Questions a new teacher should ask a colleague every day include “How else could I have handled that?” and “What did you do when…?”

If you have a problem student, seek out other teachers who have him in class or who have had him in the past. If there’s a topic that you just can’t pin down how to present, go to another teacher who has done it before. Pick a friend’s brain before the first parent-teacher conference. Ask your union representative about the contract and how it affects those low on seniority. If your district has a new teacher center, go to every meeting and share your experiences with others.

It takes time to overcome a lot of the anxieties of a first year teacher, but it’s easier to have faith and confidence in yourself when you know you’re on the right path. Staying true to your training and the simple advice above will go a long way towards setting the course for stability and success.

What advice would you give to new teachers? Share your comments with us and be sure to check out our back-to-school tips for teachers as well.