All posts by karen hester

Third graded Science and Social Studies teacher!

Manic Monday!

Classroom Freebies Manic MondayNeed something to keep little hands busy? Need something….free? Charity at Classroom Freebies hosts “Manic Monday” for teachers to find something they can use in their classrooms. I’m linking up my Christmas edition Santa-Grams. I love these! They are a set of ten cute little tangram puzzles featuring Santa monsters. Just copy on card stock, laminate, and cut. Give them to your little ones ans watch them have lots of fun while developing higher order thinking skills. Click either image below to get this freebie. Click the image above to visit Classroom Freebies!Slide1santa grams

I hope your kiddos enjoy these puzzles!

Have a great week,


Orbits and moon phases

Do you teach your kiddos about orbits and the phases of the moon? There a lot of misconceptions concerning the two, and I have found that young learners understand these concepts best with good hands-on activities.

1. Orbits – students tend to confuse the vocabulary: revolution, rotate, and orbit. Good vocabulary activities along with this hands-on activity will help young students build a foundation:orbits2. Moon Phases – Lots of people have the misconception that the moon’s phases are created by Earth’s shadow. I use the following activity to teach this concept. You can easily implement this in your class with the following items: flashlight (LED works best), 2″ (or so) bouncy ball, paper plate, and a lump of clay or play-doh. In this model, I purposely do not include a sphere to represent Earth. I want the kids to realize the the paper plate represents Earth, and that there is no shadow being cast by the paper plate. As the students set up this activity I guide them with questions in order to make sure that they understand that the flashlight represents the sun, the paper plate represents Earth, and the ball represents the moon.

moon phaseAs we complete the activity, we also complete a moon phases worksheet. Depending on your students’ abilities you can step them through  these activities according to their needs. Some students may need just the basics, and some may be ready to name the phases of the moon. You know your kids…do what you know works for them!

Click on the image below for the complete set of solar system activities in my TpT store.

Slide1-001Have a great week!


Reluctant science teacher?

See the title? I was once one of those – reluctant and hesitant. Very reluctant and hesitant. I didn’t like science as a kid and never thought I would teach it as an adult. Not until I was moved to second grade self-contained and had to teach all subjects (yuck). But my school has a garden, so I took my kiddos out there…a lot. And I began to see that kids really love science. I mean, they love, love it. Think about it. Kids ask “why?” all the time, and science is a attempt to answer those same “why?” questions.
I think a lot of elementary teachers are just as hesitant as I was because they don’t know the content well. I ended up getting my master’s in C&I with science emphasis to help in that area, but I am by no means a science maven.
Fortunately we have this wonderful thing called the “world wide web” and there is so much stuff out there for the science teacher that it is unbelievable. So, today I’m going to share with you some of the better sites that I have used in the past, and especially when I was working on my degree. In fact, many of these resources were stand-ins that UTA required rather than textbook, so they are reputable.
#1 National Science Teacher’s Association – my favorite. They require a membership, but their site does have lots  free articles. Plus their publications are top notch with lots of offering for the elementary grades.

#2 Annenberg Learner – videos are kind of long, but if you need to learn about a concept then this is where to go. These were also required during my classes, and were excellent!

#3 Rader’s – a whole network of science and math sites for kids, but helpful for teachers as well. They have the following: Chem4Kids, Geography4Kids, Biology4kids, Physics4Kids, and more….

#4 Weather Wiz Kids – excellent site with lots of good stuff for teachers and kids and run by meteorologist Crystal Wicker.

#5 The United States Geological Survey (USGS) – really good resource with lots of maps, videos, and informative articles. These .gov site have lots of stuff, you just need to commit some time to finding what you need.

#6 National Geographic & National Geographic Kids – need I say more?

Other options to think about are your state’s parks and wildlife department. I’m in Texas, and we have an excellent outreach program through Texas Parks and Wildlife (TP&W). National parks are also good sources of information, as are state line tourist centers. Usually if you tell them you are a teacher, they will pile on the brochures, which often come with some pretty fabulous maps and posters. In fact, my kids love looking at my Texas regions and wildlife posters.

One last piece of advice. Talk to your school librarian. Your school may have a subscription to certain periodicals and professional journals like NSTA’s Science and Children. Your district may also have a database that you can sign into that will give you access to all kinds of good stuff.

I had intended to write this post on teaching heat energy, but a stomach virus derailed my plans last week and I am running behind. Thus, the change in topic. However, I will leave you with an image from one of my student’s “Forms of Energy” poster that he made with the substitute last week. (Which is a completely different story in itself!) This picture demonstrates light energy and absolutely cracked me up!!

Slide1Thanks for reading along and feel free to pick up this freebie that my kiddos are actually completing for homework tonight!



Y’all have a great week!




Physical Properties of Matter

Well it’s time for Science Tuesdays with Karen. In my district we start the school year with learning about the physical properties of matter. Matter is a tough concept…especially for 8 year olds. They really have a hard time with mass and density which is a really abstract concept (even for many adults – myself included). Third graders don’t really need to have a deep understanding of these concepts, just to be able to explain in their own words the idea of it. Does that make sense? We certainly don’t read much about these concepts. It’s all hands on. If you give the kiddos some experiences, they can generate explanations.

Right now, my kiddos are really struggling with keeping mass separate from weight, but it will come. Each year, with more exposure, their knowledge will grow. Right now we’re just planting the seed, and throughout the year I will continue to incorporate these concepts into new units when possible.

So here is what I want to share with you. My “Eggs”cellent Activity. My students loved this activity! Check out this picture (I also have a video, but I couldn’t get it to load):
IMG_20140902_110309[1]That’s an egg that is seemingly floating in the middle of of the glass. But…the bottom layer is salt water and the top layer is water with a few drops of food coloring (helps with the visualization.) The egg is floating because salt water is more dense than the egg. The egg is more dense than the plain water. Kids can get a better understanding of density when you make it hands on and very visual.

After your kiddos complete this activity, ask them to describe what happened and to explain why it happened in their own words. I’m happy if they tell men that the salt water is “holding” up the egg. For an eight year old, this is the beginning of understanding of a difficult concept. I’m okay with this explanation.

If you’re interested in this activity here’s is a link  to the directions (food coloring is not listed in the materials – I added it to a large pitcher of water ahead of time) and a Lab Report & Observation page for your little ones. In addition, there is an extension activity included where the students can apply the concept.

Slide1Slide2Slide3I hope you enjoy the activities!



NSTA – Boston!

I’m typically going to blog about science & pedagogy, but I already did that on my individual blog this week. So, I’m going to share with you just a little from my trip last April to the National Science Teacher’s Association (NSTA) national conference in Boston! I love teaching science to little ones, but I love learning about history even more, and Boston is the perfect place for history lovers.

Take a peek:

My teamies Rebecca and Laura ready to take off at DFW!
My teamies Rebecca and Laura ready to take off at DFW!
Isn't Laura a cute patriot?
Isn’t Laura a cute patriot?
This is my favorite! It is inlaid into the sidewalk to mark the spot of the very first public school in America.
Not far from the convention center…
Our last afternoon, we took the subway to Harvard. Laura and I visited the Harvard Natural History Museum and passed through this area on the way.

IMG_20140405_165546 IMG_20140405_165840

These two pictures above were taken at the Kings Chapel Cemetary which was right next to our hotel. There are a lot of these cemetaries tucked into little nooks and crannies around the downtown area. (I have a bit of a creepy fascination with cemetaries….I wonder what my teamies said about me when we got back to school. LOL)

Now, if you are wondering…yes I did actually attend the conference, and I did take a few pictures….the only one that turned out halfway decent was this one…..lame, huh?

Penguin at the Sea World Exhibit.
Penguin at the Sea World Exhibit.

I could not keep up with picture taking in the convention center. There are so many freebies that before you know it you are literally carrying around fifty pounds of stuff. I got tired of setting stuff down, pulling out my phone or camera, taking a picture and then picking everything back up. I made a major freebie dump before I had to pack my bag for the flight home.

Finally these funny pictures…just because they cracked me up.

I hope no one is offended. hee-hee...
I hope no one is offended. hee-hee…

All in all, it was a great trip. The people were friendly, the weather was in the low 40’s (that’s c-c-c-cold to a Texas girl), and I drank more Starbucks in those few days than I have in my entire life. I walked in a rush to get where I needed to be and to see what I wanted to see, but I would love to go back and just spend time looking and enjoying this beautiful historic city.

I hope everyone has a great week, and I ‘ll see you next Tuesday!



Advice for the New Teacher: Keep it Simple!

Advice for the New Teacher

We were all new teachers once. I promise.  I remember when I was a new teacher. I was nervous, excited, and scared all at the same time. I had a bunch of well-meaning veterans give me advice, and I can honestly tell you that I don’t remember any of it. So guess what? I’m going to give a bit of advice of my own. Here it is: Keep it Simple.

Whaaa…..? Well, let me explain. Keep it simple can be broken down into a few easy steps. How can you keep it simple? Here goes:

  1. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Your job is to teach and to learn how to teach. However, you will have other responsibilities. Most campuses require teachers to serve on committees, and that will probably be required of you as well. Just be careful not to volunteer for everything out of excitement or to impress the boss, as that will earn you a reputation as a suck up. Trust me, you don’t want that.
  2. Don’t gossip. This is hard to do. Teachers are very diverse and interesting people, and the school campus is a potential hotbed for drama. Now don’t get me wrong, gossip can be fun (especially when it’s juicy). Just don’t repeat what you hear. ‘Nuff said.
  3. Accept help from veteran teachers. They want to help you…let them. You don’t have to approach a topic or an activity the exact same way they do, but give their ideas a chance. Over time you can tweak it to make it your own. Also, if you need help, ask for it (See #4).
  4. Find someone that you can trust. This is probably the most important piece of advice I can give a new teacher. Teachers are just like people in any other profession. Some are trustworthy, some are not. Take your time and find that person (preferably someone with a good bit of experience). You will need someone you trust to advise you on navigating the system…and it is a system.
  5. Another important piece of advice that ranks right up there with #4. You are not your students’ friend. I witnessed a situation in which a well-meaning teacher accepted facebook invites from students and it ended very badly for the teacher.

I don’t like to give too many “do this” or “do that” pieces of advice. Having a bunch of things to do un-simplifies the job, so #3 &  #4 are the only “dos” on this list. Everything else has to do with not complicating your year.

Have a great year and hold on tight… you are in for the greatest ride of your life!


The Teaching 2 Step Bloggers!

Welcome to The Teaching 2 Step collaborative blog!

The Teaching 2 Step

We are all very excited about collaborating about all things education! Today, we’d like to take the opportunity to introduce ourselves. Come join our 2-Steppin’ adventure!

The teacher 2 step-meet teacher author Jenny K..001-001

“I am an elementary art teacher and I work with 2nd through 5th grade students right now. I had a daughter 2 years ago, and when I did I went part-time so I could have more time with her. I have experience teaching kindergarten through eight grade. I live in Tucson, Arizona and am also a ballroom dancer. I taught ballroom dance for almost eight years in Virginia before moving to Arizona. I am an artist so teaching art is by far the best job I could have–I get to work with artists every day! The thing I love the most about teaching elementary school is that I get to see my students year after year and build relationships with them. My current 5th graders have been with me since they were in kindergarten. That is a very special part of my job. I love creating products for Teachers Pay Teachers because it allows me to make art integration for classroom teachers easy. I know all teachers appreciate the arts and want to find more time to create art in their classroom, but for a whole host of reasons it doesn’t always happen. My main goal with TPT is to bring more art to more kids via the fun and easy art integration lessons I create. Teaching art in the classroom allows me to reach a lot of students but sharing my products with teachers all over the world allows me to make a big difference! Art is important for children to be creative-thinking problem solvers and my goal is to make it easy and fun for teachers so they can integrate it into their daily life in the classroom.”

TPT store:  Art with Jenny K 
Personal Blog: Jenny K
Pinterest: artwithjennyK
Facebook: artwithjennyk


I’m a National Board Certified Teacher who loves teaching the little ones. I have been teaching for 17 years and the time has flown by. I’ve spent most of those years teaching 1st and 2nd grades.  I love learning new things to try in the classroom and challenging my kiddos and myself to step outside the comfort zone. I enjoy blogging, crafting, working out, and traveling. Thanks for joining us on this collaborative adventure.
TPT store:  Meredith Berry
Pinterest: MeredithBerry
Amanda S_Meet the teacher author
I am a Kindergarten teacher in Central Florida and a theater instructor at a community theater for all ages (yes, even adult!). I am married with two fur-babies named Pudgy and Daisy! Sweet baby Daisy is my blog and store name inspiration. I love everything Kindergarten, enjoy long binges on Netflix, and love puppy snuggles. I have a lot of lesson plans and materials for grades K-12 in the areas of Acting, Singing, Dance, Musical Theater, and Play-writing. I have taught at a community theater for about 6 years now and originally my degree was in Theater! I changed majors and couldn’t be happier teaching! I haven’t been in a show in a few years, but choreograph many children’s productions. To me it’s important to always do what meets the needs of my students. Every class will be different. Every group of students will vary. Every student is unique.
TPT store: Daisy Designs
Fan Page:  Daisy Designs
Pinterest: DaisyDesignsTpT
 Celeste_Meet the teacher author
Welcome! I am a homeschool mom/teacher of four living in North Carolina. I have three sons and a daughter.  I love all things educational. My daughter in all her cuteness calls me Ms. Mommy.  I create resources for students on Teachers Pay Teachers in the primary years. Most of what we use in our homeschool you will find listed at my TpT store. Education for us means experiencing new adventures, wherever the road takes. We make it fun and record our finds a long the way.  It is wonderful to see them learn something new or to have that light bulb moment of discovery. Along the way I share some of our day to day experiences.
 Teaching 2 Step
Hello! I am a third grade science and social studies teacher in Dallas, Texas. I have experience teaching second, fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. This will be my first year in third, and I am looping up with my students. I’m excited about that (I think…LOL). I am certified in Pre-K-6 and ESL, and I recently completed my M. Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Science Education.
I have been married for twenty-three years and have two teenagers, one is a freshman and the other is a senior. I live in the country, but teach in the city. In fact I commute 85 miles to work each day! I really feel like I have the best of both worlds when it comes to work and home. I’m a proud Texan and am one of those people that thinks Texas is the best place in the world (LOL). I love history, art, reading, traveling, gardening,and listening to classic rock n’ roll.
Pinterest: kghester
Instagram: kghester

Hello! I’m Maryann and my teaching journey began in San Diego, California, where I grew up and went to college; it continued after my move 25 years ago to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. While the two coasts and the two cities are quite different, I love them all equally; fortunately, I’m able to travel to San Diego every couple of years to visit friends and family, eat some authentic Mexican food and walk along my favorite beach in La Jolla! Here in PA, I am about to begin my 22nd year of teaching high school English Language Arts, and I’m excited about it. This year will be the first year that my school will be a 1:1 school for the entire year! Since I use a great deal of technology in my teaching and classroom, having students have ready access to laptops will provide many unique learning opportunities we didn’t have before. I’m always eager to try what’s new, whether it’s technology, writing approaches, teaching techniques, reading strategies, cognitive strategies—I’m up for anything at all as long as its pedagogically sound. I’m constantly on the lookout for what’s inventive, effective, and energizing. There is nothing I enjoy more than working with teenagers (honestly!) and empowering them with language, technology, and life skills. When teachers come to my store on TpT, I’m able to extend my reach to students and classrooms across the country–and that makes me very happy!

Jennifer D.

Hey all! I am a third grade teacher in Houston, Texas. This is my 14th year of teaching. I have taught 6/7th grade, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade. Wow, I can’t believe it has gone by so quickly. Two of my 6/7th grade students that I taught my first year are teachers now. It is so awesome to see the transformation from student to teacher in these wonderful young ladies. They are amazing teachers! I have been married to my wonderful husband for 18 years and we have a beautiful 3-year-old daughter. She has made me a better person and teacher. I have a  Bachelor’s in Psychology and Master’s in Early Childhood. My certification is EC-4th. I have been creating materials for TPT for almost 2 years. I love making new activities that I can use in the classroom for my students. I find it very humbling that other teachers spend their hard-earned money on my products for their students. It is an amazing feeling to know these teachers have entrusted me in making a difference in their students’ lives.

TPT store: Jennifer Dowell
Pinterest: jdowell
Thank you for stopping by to meet us. We have compiled many of our freebies in one place for you to use. Please click here to enjoy our free products!
 Freebie from The Teaching 2 Step