Category Archives: Karen

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!


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!