Thursday, September 29, 2016

My Favorite Books to Help Introduce The Scientific Method + a FREE Scientific Method Brochure

boy scientist looking up with mouth open in awe

It guides students down an organized path of exploration.  Using the process of the scientific method with your students will allow them to gather the information and supplies they need to succesfully test a hypothesis.  I also love the fact that so many different life skills are involved too: drawing conclusions, trial and error, revision, etc.  And don't forget all of the different math skills, such as creating charts, graphs, and tables to record and analyze data.  Below are a list of my favorite books to help teach about the scientific method. (Please note that this post contains affiliate links for Amazon. By clicking on a book's cover and purchasing an item on the Amazon site using these links, I will receive a small commission on your purchase.)

picture of eight books to help teach the scientific method: upper elementary
1) I included Teaching the Scientific Method: Instructional Strategies to Boost Student Understanding by Millie Blandford on this list because it has so many hands-on experiments. If your students are stuck for ideas, or you need experiments ready to go, check out this book.  It also includes simple project set-up and recording sheets, as well as rubrics.  It is not a read aloud, but a resource for you the teacher.
2) What Do You Do With an Idea? is a simple read aloud for younger students that will encourage them to try new things, not be afraid of what others say, and to persevere. It will boost your students' confidence to experiment and explore their own ideas.  Use this book to help your students begin brainstorming ideas that they'd like to discover further with their scientific method projects.
3) The Scientific Method in Fairy Tale Forest by Laura Magner combines classic fairy tales with the scientific method.  Students will make connections with the tales, and try to solve the problems presented in the stories using scientific inquiry.  This is a great cross-curricular resource.
4) Mistakes That Worked: The World's Familiar Inventions and How They Came to Be by Charlotte Jones takes a comical, cartoonish approach to the scientific method. I love the underlying message to students: It's okay to mess up sometimes, because something good might just become of it.  Learn from your mistakes. (This is a revised edition. You may wish to check out the older versions of this text as well.)
5) How to Think Like a Scientist: Answering Questions by the Scientific Method by Stephen Kramer is a read aloud that will have your students thinking about the hundreds of questions they ask themselves every day.  Some questions have easy answers. Others have unknown answers.  The scientific method is one way to find correct answers to everyday questions.  This is not a quick read, but one that could be spread out throughout your unit.
6) Your younger students will love the bright and quirky illustrations in Mad Margaret Experiments With the Scientific Method by Eric Braun.  Margaret loves science and uses the scientific method to help figure out why her friend keeps sneezing. This is a quick read that introduces the scientific method easily.
7) Investing the Scientific Method With Max Axiom by Donald Lempke uses a comic book style approach to teaching the scientific method.  Aimed at upper elementary students, this story packs a lot of facts in a fun-to-read for students format.  Check out the entire Max Axiom series.
8) Eleven Experiments That Failed by Jenny Offill uses the scientific method to find answers to the silly questions kids wonder about all day long. It will get your students' creative juices flowing for sure. 

Picture books, read alouds, and videos are all helpful when teaching the scientific method. I also use interactive notebooks and digital recording sheets.  If interested, check out the following links.

Need a quick way to introduce or reinforce the scientific method with your students? Grab a copy of my free scientific method brochure below. Happy teaching!
click on picture to download free scientific method brochure
Click on the picture to download your FREE Scientific Method Brochure!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Digital Goal Setting in the Upper Elementary Classroom

Why is Goal Setting Important for Students?
Goal setting is an important skill for students to master because it helps them take charge of their learning. When teachers are the only ones telling students what is important to learn, students never have the opportunity to realize their own weaknesses and strengths.   Without these realizations, improvements (goals) can never be determined.

Helping your students achieve their goals doesn't have to be difficult.
The S.M.A.R.T. acronym is an easy way to to help your students outline their goals.  Goals should be specific, measurable, have an action plan, be realistic, and have a defined time limit.  When keeping these details in mind, your students' goals will be better focused, and more likely achieved.

Looking Back:  Monthly Goals Reflections
Goals are great to have; just ask anyone at the new year. However, if one does not take the time to reflect what worked or didn't, one will never fully realize if he or she has been successful.  Questions to ask your students might be:

  • How do you know you've mastered this goal? 
  • What was difficult about achieving this task? 
  • What other strategies can you use if initially unsuccessful?  

Allowing your students the time to monitor what did or did not work will help them see if more effort is needed, or if they are ready to set more challenging/different goals for themselves.

Click here for a simple brainstorming sheet to help your students get started with their goals.

Digital Resources Make it Easy to Keep Goals Organized
How many times have you jotted something important down, and then not been able to find it when needed?  Keeping papers organized, especially goal sheets that might not be used everyday, can be a recipe for disaster for unorganized students. Taming the stray papers in student desks is easy with digital resources.

Designed to work with Google Drive/Classroom and Microsoft OneDrive/365, my Monthly Digital Goal Setting and Reflection Booklet allows students to create three goals every month.  They could be academic, behavioral, or social goals.  Students are then asked to list specific strategies they will use to help accomplish each goal.

A second page for each month requires students to monitor their progress, reflect on what did or did not work for them, and to determine what they may do differently in order to be successful in the future.  Students type directly in the Google Slides presentation, and work is automatically saved.  If being used in Google Classroom, comments made by the teacher can be made in real-time, so students can get back on track if needed easily and quickly.

This booklet makes a fantastic learning tool for students to look back on throughout the school year. It also makes a great addition to portfolios (digital or traditional).  Use these as a part of parent-teacher conferences to let parents know what their child has been striving towards.  This can also be shared with future teachers of each student to see what strategies have been successful in the past (or unsuccessful).

Happy teaching!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Flexible Seating Discussion Booklet

 Flexible seating is sweeping through schools across the country.  If you're not familiar with flexible seating, imagine a classroom without desks!  Desks are being replaced with more comfortable seating options such as stability balls, wobble stools, yoga mats, crate seats, and wiggle seats.  What is great about this classroom design is that it is student-centered.  Students have the ability to choose to sit where they are most comfortable and work the best.  This arrangement has increased engagement, focus, and decreased behavior problems because 1) students love choice, 2) these seating tools give kids the freedom to move and wiggle, and 3) the seats are much more comfortable than the traditional hard chairs. Win, win!

If you are looking to incorporate flexible seating into your classroom and would like your students to be more engaged during your discussion, I have created a Flexible Seating Discussion Booklet that will keep them focused.  It includes writing and drawing prompts, and checklists for them to remember key points.

Check it out by clicking on the picture below! 

flexible seating tabbed booklet by Sugar Cube Learning Resources
Make introducing flexible seating easy with this tabbed booklet!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

3 Ways to Foster a Growth Mindset In Your Students, and Why It Matters

boy pointing to a light bulb signals a new thought and a growth mindset
 Cultivating a growth mindset in your students will be beneficial to them in their academics and life.
What is a Growth Mindset?

A 'growth mindset' is the term coined by Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck.  She believes that our students approach learning in two different ways: with either a 'fixed mindset', or a 'growth mindset'.  Students with a fixed mindset believe they cannot change how smart they are, avoid challenges, give up easily, and are threatened by others' successes.  On the other hand, pupils with a growth mindset desire to learn, accept new challenges, persevere through obstacles, and learn from their mistakes.

Having a growth mindset isn't only about giving more effort. While many teachers have been told to praise a child's efforts, this doesn't necessarily tell or show what the student has learned.   Teachers instead should encourage students to try new strategies and seek advice from peers when they get stuck or face obstacles. In order to improve and learn, students need to use one or more of these approaches.  

How I Can Help My Students 
Develop a Growth Mindset?

1) Pose challenging problems.
Scaffold if necessary, but stop spoon feeding students the answers.  We as teachers will not always be available for students to turn to for answers.  How will our students approach new challenges if they are never given any?

2) Allow for wait time. 
Give ample processing time. Encourage students to justify their answers. Collaborate and discuss if needed.  Ask, "Does someone have a different way to solve this problem? Do you agree or disagree with your classmate's answer? Why?"  Many students are more comfortable discussing content with their peers, rather than having to respond to a teacher.

3) Analyze the process, not the outcome.
Ultimately, the correct answer is preferred; however unique learning will take place when students are left to find answers for themselves.  Often times, they create strategies that work better than tried and true options. Let students know it's okay to make mistakes.  What did your students learn throughout the trials and errors of finding an outcome?  Guaranteed they will remember the information learned through the trial and error process much longer than if they had been given an easier way out.  Dr. Kathy Liu Sun has found that,
"Students are more likely to have a growth mindset in math classrooms where they are encouraged to explain their thinking, take risks, make mistakes, and persevere through challenges. On the other hand, students are more likely to develop a fixed mindset in classrooms where they are praised for speed and accuracy, not asked to explain their thinking or given time to struggle through confusion, and when they are only given one chance to submit work for a grade."
Why Is It Important For Students to Persevere?

1) The brain is malleable. It can grow like any other muscle. The more one uses it and pushes its limits, the more it will grow.

2) When students give up easily, they become discouraged, frustrated, and disengaged. This in turn can lead to behavior problems that occupy the teacher's attention and distract other classmates.

3) Learning new things is exciting!  If you've ever been around a third grade classroom, it is always energizing to introduce students to multiplication.  They are so eager to learn their times tables because it is a faster way to add. My students always felt like 'big kids' when they accomplished this task. How do you feel when you've done something you've never done before?  It feels good, right?

3) To be successful leaders in the future, we will need to encourage our students to take risks, accept challenges, and let them know it is okay to fail. It has been said that the word FAIL= first attempt in learning. When teachers take away the stigma of failure and that mistakes are bad, students feel more aware that the classroom is a safe zone to try new things without backlash.  Through these trials, much learning will occur.

I encourage you to learn more about instilling a growth mindset in your students to help them find positive and productive ways to overcome obstacles in their learning adventures.

If you are looking for growth mindset resources for your classroom, check out these items available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

You can also learn more about Carol Dweck's work by listening to her Ted Talk below or reading her revolutionary book.

**This post contains affiliate links. 


Carol Dweck Revisits the 'Growth Mindset'-Education Week.  Retrieved from
Sun, K. L., Boaler, J., Dweck, C. S., Stipek, D. J., & Stanford University. (2015). There's no limit: Mathematics teaching for a growth mindset.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Three Tips to Help You & Your Students Love the End of the School Year: An End of the Year Blog Hop & Giveaway!


Thanks for joining me for this amazing blog hop and giveaway hosted by Cait's Cool School. There are some really fun prizes, so don't forget to collect your letters and enter the Rafflecopter when you're finished!  I hope you learn some new tricks and tips to keep your classroom thriving during this hectic and crazy time of the year.

It’s that time of year (already)!  Where did the year go?  Spring is in the air, testing season is in full swing, and your students are READY for summer vacation.  There are just two little problems; May and June.  What’s a teacher to do with a class full of squirrely students who dream of nothing more than ice cream cones and going to the beach?  Well, I’ll tell you what has worked for me. Here are three tips to help your students and you stay strong until that last bell rings before summer break.

#1 Make your classroom inviting!  I am always the last teacher to tear down bulletin boards, posters, and decorations in my building. I have never had my students help me clean cupboards or organize materials.  When teachers start tearing down walls after testing season, it sends a message that no more learning will occur.  Bare walls are ugly, and students are less likely to give their best effort if they know that anything they create is just going into the circular file or not given a grade.  Think about it. When you go shopping, do you stop and browse, grab a coffee and linger when the building is under construction? Nope, me either. I want to get out of there as soon as possible, and your students will do the same if they feel their classroom is in an upheaval as well. Save the tearing down until after your students have left for the summer and let them continue learning in a cheery space.

#2 Make learning exciting and keep them engaged until the very last day!  My students are always stunned when I give them a writing assignment on the very last day of school.  Even though it's a simple letter writing assignment to their next year's teacher, it keeps them in 'school mode' and helps them reflect on their year. You can grab a simple graphic organizer and writing pages here.  I want my students to be fully engaged until the very last bell rings. If they know that all they are going to be doing is ‘fluff’, they aren’t going to be actively engaged.  And when kids are just killing time, trouble ensues.
This time of year is a great time to switch up your routines a little, and allow a bit more flexibility in your schedule.  Project-based learning tasks, S.T.E.M. activities, art with writing, and craftivities are all hands-on, engaging ways to keep your students excited and focused this time of year. They might require more time and preparation than a traditional worksheet, but your students will be attentive much longer.
You can also expand the walls of your classroom by taking your lessons outside.  Service learning projects, Outdoor School, beautifying the school with art or new plants for example, all require cross-curricular skills if integrated correctly.  You’ll be able to put those summer countdowns away because your students are going to be having so much fun!

#3  Have some fun while reviewing learned concepts!  One of my favorite end of school activities is making ice cream in a bag. Numerous recipes can be found online, and it’s really pretty simple once you get an assembly-line of ingredients ready. But what I love most about this activity is that it encompasses so many different skills: teamwork, sharing, and a review of fractions and states of matter.  What other projects can you think of that integrate several subjects/ and or review at the same time? My students have always enjoyed this activity and it’s a great way to send them off on a positive, fun note.  They’ll definitely want to come to school if they know they’re making ice cream in class. 

And that’s what we want, isn’t it?  We want our ‘kids’ to want to come to school each and every day to learn as much as they possibly can, within the short amount of time we are lucky enough to be called their teacher.  So, as exhausting as it may be to try new projects or gather supplies for a new activity, try and muster up ten extra minutes and give it a shot.  I can almost guarantee your students are going to be having so much fun (and be actively learning), that summer vacation will be here before you know it!

Please let me know if you try any of these tips in your classroom and how they turn out! 

 As for the scavenger hunt to reveal the secret phrase, scan the QR code below to reveal your mystery letter from me. 

 Then head on over to Red Sister Squad to get even more tips to help you love the end of the school year!

Before you go, don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter for a chance to win  $50 gift cards to Teachers Pay Teachers AND Target! Woohoo! (Two of my favorite places in the whole wide world!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, April 1, 2016

My Favorite Earth Day Read Alouds for Grades 2-4

Good day!

Earth Day is just around the corner, so I thought I would round up some of my favorite reads if you'd like to add to your collection.

(You are welcome to click any of the affiliate links (pictures) to purchase any titles immediately from Amazon.)

1) The Barefoot Book of Earth Tales by Dawn Casey is a beautifully illustrated collection of folk tales that showcase how cultures around the globe respect and live side-by-side with nature.  I love the activities that are included too; such as building bird feeders, wigwams, and paintings.

2) The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs:  A Scientific Mystery by Sandra Markle, is a nonfiction selection about what is being done to repopulate the dwindling yellow frog population in Panama. Your students will use so many skills (predicting, drawing conclusions, inferring) trying to figure out this mystery!

3) The Curious Garden by Peter Brown is a tale of a small boy who is tired of living in a dreary, gray city.  When he goes to explore an abandoned set of railroad tracks, he discovers a few dying plants that just need a little TLC.   When others join him on his quest to beautify the city, their living spaces become much happier places.

4) Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg tells the story of a boy that is careless with his trash and does not respect his environment.  Through a dream that takes him into the future, he sees the destruction this type of attitude will create.  In the end, he realizes the importance of taking care of our Earth.

5) Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli, is a true story about Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathi. It inspires students to do what they can to help preserve the Earth, just as she did in her native Kenya by planting trees to help reverse the effects of deforestation and erosion.

6) Nature Recycles, How About You? by Michelle Lord takes a look at different animals in their habitats and how they recycle and reuse things in nature in order to survive.  Your students will be inspired to come up with ways to reuse items in their everyday lives too.

7) Operation: Reuse It! by Sabbrithry Presad leads a group of youngsters on a scavenger hunt through one's garage to figure out how they can repurpose old, forgotten treasures. What can't be reused is donated.  This story will encourage your students to declutter their homes.

8) Our House is Round: A Kids' Book About Why Protecting the Earth Matters, by Yolanda Kondonassis will open up many cause and effect discussions on topics such as planting trees, recycling, and conserving energy. Many of the questions in the story would make great writing prompts or mini research projects.

9) A River Ran Wild by Lynne Cherry documents how the Industrial Revolution changed the livelihoods of the native Nashua Indians when their nearby river became polluted.  This is a great read to demonstrate cause and effect relationships concerning pollution.

10) What's So Special About Planet Earth? by Robert Wells takes kids on an imaginary space adventure to discover how Earth can sustain life, and other planets cannot. A cross-curricular read, one will be able to review facts about the solar system, as well as ways to help preserve Earth's natural resources.

If you're interested in some fun literacy, math, and S.T.E.M. activities to help your Earth Day lesson planning be that much easier, check out this resource available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store here.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Geometry Interactive Notebook Grades 3-4, Common Core Aligned & Tangram Freebie!


If you and your students love hands-on projects, my newest interactive notebook is just for you!

It is jam packed with activities that will not only review basic geometric shapes and their attributes, but also focus on quadrilaterals (CCSS Grade 3), and dive into Common Core standards for grade 4 as well.  Lines, angles, triangles, perimeter and area; it's all included in this super fun INB!  I wanted to include activities for both grades 3 and 4 because I have taught all of these concepts in grade 3; however the Common Core breaks these topics into the two grades.

Let's take a look!

Grades 3-4 Common Core Aligned Geometry Interactive Notebook by Sugar Cube Learning Resources

There are two warm-up review activities that focus on attributes of 2-D and 3-D shapes, as well as building polygons with tangrams. 
Review faces, edges, and vertices with this sorting activity!

Explore how different polygons work together with the Tangram building exercise.

Students will learn all about quadrilaterals with these fun entries!

Students will also explore types of lines, angles, and triangles with several hands-on activities such as creating a map, finding angles in time and 2-D shapes, and classifying triangles.  Check out this helpful tool for identifying angles.

Color-coded maps reinforce different types of lines in this mapping activity.

The Angle Wrangler will help your students lasso up those angles in no time!

You can check out the entire 40 page unit in my TpT store here.

And to say thank you for stopping by, make sure to download the Tangram building activity by clicking on the image below. 

Free Tangram building activity!

Thanks again!  Have a great day!

Monday, March 21, 2016

My Favorite Geometry Read Alouds for Grades 3-4


Thanks for dropping in.  Today I'm excited to share with you some of my favorite read-alouds to use during my geometry unit. I always love teaching this unit because it is so hands-on and creative. I so enjoy watching students explore and identify different angles, lines, polygons and triangles around the school that they've never realized existed. One of my favorite activities is using Tangrams to create larger shapes out of several smaller shapes.  I love it when students realize they can make a hexagon out of six small triangles. Whoa! Mind blown. :)

So, I thought I'd share some of the literature resources I use when teaching about shapes and all that other fun stuff that goes with it.

(You are welcome to click any of the affiliate links (photos) to purchase any of these titles immediately from Amazon.)

1) Grandfather Tang's Story by Ann Tompert is ultimately a story of friendship.  However, when two friends try to outdo one another in several competitions, it puts them in great danger.  This is a great read-aloud to show students how tangrams can be used to create several animals and scenes throughout the book.  There are several activities in the back, as well as a handful of YouTube versions if you are unable to locate the book.  Tangrams for your students are a must, so they can follow along and try to recreate the shapes created in the story.  Check out this YouTube version.

2) If You Were a Quadrilateral by Molly Blaisdell will help reinforce those grade 3 Common Core State Standards that are so focused on quadrilaterals. So many real-life examples are provided that your students will definitely understand what a quadrilateral is after reading this story.

3) Mummy Math:  An Adventure in Geometry by Cindy Neuschwander, is a fun read that follows two boys trapped in an Egyptian pharaoh's pyramid.  They must use the geometric hieroglyphics as clues to help them escape!  This a good read to reinforce vertices, faces, and edges of 3-D shapes.

4) Seeing Symmetry by Loreen Leedy is a simple picture book that takes several different approaches to looking at what makes something symmetrical. Line symmetry and rotational symmetry are discussed.

5) Shape Up! by David Adler will make your students grow hungry!  The author uses different foods and simple tools to create and discuss the characteristics of different polygons.  This makes a great hands-on lesson!

6) Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland by Cindy Neuschwander is a story of a knight trying to rescue his king.  In doing so, he must use his knowledge of parallel lines, angles, and other geometric skills to help him triumph.

7) Sir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter by Cindy Neuschwander will help you teach your students about perimeter and area of rectangles and circles. For third grade students, you can skip the part of finding the area of a circle. In this adventure, a group of children must tame a wild sea serpent with their knowledge of geometric formulas.

8) Triangles by David Adler is a simple read that introduces kids to angles, triangles, and congruent shapes.  Students will love the quirky robot too.

9) What's Your Angle, Pythagoras? by Julie Ellis discusses how one boy explores different triangles and discovers the Pythagorean theorem.  The story can be wordy is places, but students will understand the different types of angles and triangles; especially right triangles.  Here is a YouTube version.

10) Zachary Zormer Shape Transformer by Joanne Reisberg is a fun story of how a boy named Zach must get creative with a piece of paper when he forgets his homework one day.  He will teach your students about perimeter and area, among other geometric concepts with the bright inventions he comes up with week after week.

I hope you have found some new reads to enhance your geometry unit.  What other books do you use to reinforce these concepts? 
I'd love to hear about them!