STEM is Elementary

coverSTEM movement of integrating science, technology, engineering and mathematics into K-12 classrooms is one of the best ideas of this decade. We need STEM in our classrooms. Through STEM projects students are able to learn a multitude of concepts, catch up on learning and advance their problem solving skills. STEM is inspiring. Schools across the nation aspire to promote and implement STEM. Unfortunately, most STEM programs have been implemented at the high school level. Now, we all know that if we wait till students are in their teens, we lose a large number of students, which is why implementing STEM in elementary classrooms is paramount to increasing student achievement.

This STEM elementary pack is aligned with NGSS Next Generation Science Standards.
10 Projects are engaging and student tested.

Happy Teaching!
Lena, M.Ed.

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Our Flawed Science Teaching

stem750All we ever hear from county leaders is their next super plan and self praise. This next best thing will actually top their previous greatness. The great work that comes out of state and county educational leaders is only, truth be told, greatly lousy.

The lack of self-analysis and reflection is astounding. Especially when we look at how many of our students are neither on the grade level nor remotely engaged with the curriculum that is being presented.

The talk about STEM, STEAM or the future is never ending, but yet, our science text is a mere reference book and the scripted public school lessons will hardly inspire any child to immerse him/herself in the pursuit of science.

The mantra of our science coach is “don’t let students go off on a tangent”. So before they attempt to connect their new learning with their previous knowledge and/or real life, stop them, we only want them focused on what is on the paper. This of course goes against all educational research.

As a teacher who has seen students make 2 years worth of learning against by being allowed to go off on tangents, it makes me want to scream. If we really want to prepare our students for the future and jobs that are yet to be created, students have to be allowed to pursue their additional questions. They need to be encouraged to connect present learning with what they know. That is the basis of learning retention and long term memory.
Conduct hands-on STEAM projects in your classroom at all times, even if they are messy, cost money or are “off on a tangent”. 
 All great learning and discoveries were made by those who were allowed to wonder and question.

Growth Mindset Books for Children

712-owSCyHLPresently, two of my favorite books about the growth mindset are “Rosie Revere, Engineer” by Andrea Beaty and “The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes” by Gary Rubinstein. The kids love these two books. Rosie in “Rosie Revere, Engineer” is one of the most charming picture book characters. She is not only extremely believably clever little girl, but she is beautifully drawn and her ideas were brought to life by David Robert’s amazing illustrations. Simply a work of art. I still can’t decide which is better, the illustrations or the plot. Rosie is creative but haunted by doubt and fear of ridicule. It takes Aunt Rose’s dream and encouragement to propel Rosie past discouragement.

11526654On the other hand, “The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes” was painfully paralyzed with fear of making mistakes that learning that making mistakes are a part of life and fun, actually helped her be a happier person.

We all have little perfectionists in our classrooms. They are smart and they know it. Yet, the feeling of being smart and desire to hold on to that can prevent academic and personal growth, as well as, growth mindset. I have been coaching a growth mindset in my classroom for years, and now there is a term for it.

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Happy Teaching!

Mrs. Lena, M.Ed.

When Books Arrive Too Late

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This year, I finally feel content with the amount of books that I have in my classroom. It took many years and working at Title 1 school to receive a sufficient amount of books for my classroom library. I encourage reading. I allow my students to take books home. I hope that not only they enjoy their books, but that they also serve as a role model to their siblings and friends.

As I was unpacking numerous boxes of books this year, I realized that while the variety and quality of books I have in my classroom is amazing, for most of my students these books have simply arrived too late. By the time students enter 5th grade, they have set attitudes toward reading, and while these outlooks aren’t impossible to change, they aren’t easy to change.

In these first few days, I noticed that the bookcases are visited only when students are directed. Only a couple of students asked to take a book home. The enthusiasm just isn’t there as I was hoping. Now, the task of “selling” classroom books to my students is all on me.

Title I schools receive free books at every turn. We have the poorest students who need the most academic assistance. Still I can’t help but think how would have things been different if the same companies who send fee books to our Title I schools, have also sent books to my students at birth and consistently through pre-school age. The habits of reading and the “bank of knowledge” starts from birth, not in kindergarten or 5th grade.

I can’t help but thinking that these book donations, while great, have arrived too late to springboard children toward developing lifelong learning habits. Do you agree?

Mrs. Lena, M.Ed.

Best Back to School Books

pencil-878695_960_720Well, we are already back. This summer had flown by, but it was fun. By now, all teachers are back to work, and students are coming back soon as well. I have come up with the favorite first day -first week of school book list. Here are some all time favorites!

1. Wemberly Worried – by Kevin Henkes
Wemberly, the mouse, worries about everything, little things and big things, real things and imaginary things (well who is to say). Kids love Wemberly cause she is so real and believable. The first day/week of school is stressful and worrisome. Wemberly is an awesome book about human emotions. Love it!

2. Chrysanthemum – by Kevin Henkes
Another amazing book by Henkes. Kids love Kevin Henkes books. Chrysanthemum is bullied at school because of her name. Why I love this book as a teacher? As a teacher I know that in every class there is a possibility of negative dynamics. So, teaching and encouraging positive behavior and teaching kindness is perhaps the most important classroom management tool.

3. What If Everybody Did That? by Javernick
What If Everybody Did That?” is becoming the most read book during the first week of class. What I love about this book is not only that it teaches common courtesy and classroom rules, but students can clearly understand that most of the rules are in place to prevent accidents and promote safety for all students.

4. How I Spent My Summer Vacation – by Teague
Ok, I love Texas, and the kids, they think that cowboys are the most adventurous people on earth. This book is a great ice breaker during the first week of school. It is funny and engaging. It teaches creativity. It is ideal writing prompt resource. Just done right.

The Way to Stay in Destiny – Lesson Plan

destinyThe Way to Stay in Destiny” by Augusta Scattergood is a story of belonging, interdependence, extended family, and friendship. Unlike other novels set in Florida, “The Way to Stay in Destiny” doesn’t have alligators, endangered owls or marine life. Yet, like every town in Florida, it has plenty of baseball and sticky heat.
Due to series of unfortunate events, Theo leaves behind everything he has ever known, his friends, his family, and his school. He arrives to Destiny with one bag and Uncle Raymond. Things are not looking up. Still he tries to find his way to stay in Destiny.
Scattergood masterfully weaves a complex background plot of family dynamic and disagreements, the legacy of Vietnam War, and how it feels to come of age in the time of personal uncertainty.
This novel is bound to be liked by all students. A must read for grades 4 to 7.

The Way to Stay in Destiny – Lesson Plan

Happy Reading,

Mrs. Lena, M.Ed.
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