Interspersed throughout our science units, I teach health topics to address the health standards in my curriculum. It is a strategy that works excellently around breaks, because most of my health lessons take just a day or two. Instead of starting something right before a long weekend or a holiday break, we do health lessons!
My students keep their work in Health Portfolios that stay in the classroom, and they keep track of their grades on an Assignment Record like the one pictured to the left. (PS – It’s available HERE for free at my TeachersPayTeachers site!) They receive one grade for health during the fourth quarter based on the work they have done intermittently all year.
Anyhoo, so lately we have been working on a nutrition unit. I found a great resource at ChooseMyPlate.gov — In addition to tons of information, the USDA has also put together curriculum units for several grade levels.
Serving Up My Plate is a curriculum unit broken down by grades — Level One 1-2, Level Two 3-4, and Level Three 5-6. My students used Level Three.
First, I had my students use our classroom’s iPads, as well as printed infographs from the USDA site, to complete a graphic organizer about the five food groups. They visited our class website, where I placed links to each food group. (You can check out our class site here!) We used the MyPlate graphic to do this to maintain consistency across the unit.
On the backside of this graphic organizer are a number of questions about students’ favorite meals and the food groups represented in those meals. The whole activity is available here. After doing this activity, we played a review game using the questions in the “You Are What You Eat” lesson from the Serving Up My Plate curriculum. We use white boards, and students work on teams to answer my questions. I also had them make up a few questions, trying to “stump” the other teams. It was a fun activity!
But then, of course, we had to determine what they learned…
Now,we have moved on to vitamins and nutrients. Students are using the “Nutrient Knowledge” handout from the Serving Up My Plate curriculum to fill in another graphic organizer. You can see the format of the organizers below, and my TpT file also includes an answer key.
Last year, I absolutely hated teaching health, but I have really enjoyed working through this Serving Up My Plate curriculum. I would highly recommend it for a nutrition unit! My students have enjoyed it as well, and the incorporation of the technology (via the iPads) has really spiked their interest. The USDA’s ChooseYourPlate.gov site has a bunch of other resources as well! Students can plug in information about themselves (weight, height, age, activity level, etc.) to determine their individual food and exercise goals, and there are a variety of games and other interactive activities there as well. The info graphs are wonderful too – and are a great way to incorporate some of those Common Core literacy skills!
This year, I have been busy refining the 5th and 6th grade curriculum I teach and “standardizing” elements. While last year I interpreted my school’s standards to mean I had to teach each area of science to both grades — which I found difficult to do without just skimming over the content areas — this year I divided up those standards so that 5th graders learn physical science and earth science, and the 6th graders focus solely on life science. In developing activities I plan to use again and again, I have been busy creating tons of rubrics for all of these activities. While it has been a bit of a pain this year creating them all, it will be WONDERFUL next year when I can just print and copy!
Without a doubt, rubrics are key. At a school like mine where parents are VERY active in their children’s schoolwork, providing students with the rubrics in advance and grading based on those rubrics has eliminated a lot of issues and conflicts that may otherwise develop. Additionally, grading is much more time efficient with a rubric! Instead of trying to compare student work or arbitrarily assign letters, I can very quickly evaluate a paper, presentation, or project by simply highlighting the box in which the student falls. That said, I rarely highlight just one box. Sometimes students fall somewhere in between, or their work is missing an element I would expect in top-mark work. I generally highlight where students fall and then determine grades — usually by creating a falling scale.
For example, on a 16 point rubric (four criteria at four levels), a full 16 points would score 100%, while a student who earns 12 points (the second level down) would end up with 90% in my class. I’m not simply taking 12 divided by 16, which would leave students with a 75%, as some teachers do. I design my rubrics so that Level 3 is “B quality” work — the percentage students are assigned needs to fall in that range as well. I pretty much do this with all my grading, and it has worked really well. I think it reflects student understanding better than doing a flat “points to percentage” type thing. I can hold my students to high standards (and keep those full 16 points a bit elusive!) without killing students grades for work that is still of good quality.
Anyway, here are some of the rubrics I have been working with this year. They are all available at my TpT store if you’d like to check them out!
Wow. This is my second year at OLC, and you’d think having done it all before, it would be easier — or at least less work… Not at all. I feel like I have been running around like crazy since school started — and even before it began!
I got back from my month-long stay Honduras at the very end of July and within days was back to work — working with a 4th grade student to complete 35 hours of tutoring, as well as teaching night classes at my second job. That did not leave a whole lot of time to get my room ready, and I was determined to clear all the junk and old stuff out of all my cupboards, countertops, and filing cabinets. I took over last year for a teacher who had retired, which was a blessing overall (she left me ALL of her stuff!) but at the same time presented its own challenges. Not having the time to do a total and thorough cleaning, most of the stuff remained in the cupboard all year. This summer, the very first thing I did upon my return was pull EVERYTHING out of the cupboards.
And I mean EVERYTHING.
On top of all the stuff I already had, I was hooked up with a fellow NSTA member from the Erie area through the award I received last April. This retired teacher was cleaning out her own cupboards and offered to donate bags and bags of things — student rewards, books, science kits, magnifiers, craft supplies, etc — to my classroom. Yay! And also: Uhhh, where’s this all going to go??? Anyway, I had lots of STUFF and it was EVERYWHERE.
With the help of my hardworking mom and aunt, and the company and only slight distraction of my slacker boyfriend (he played with magnets while I worked on my room), I did manage to get it all done! I kept a lot of the decorations and organization elements from last year, but I also revamped a lot of my systems and switched to a slightly different color scheme (gray and blue, compared to last year’s brown and blue). While I still have a ton of STUFF in my room, I think I’ve avoided a “clutter” feel, which I sometimes thought about my room last year.
Here are some of my favorite additions and revamps:
In addition to the NEW stuff I’ve shared above, here are some of the elements I kept from last year:
Oh, and here is me on the first day of school (what a geek!):
Hope you all had a fabulous first day, first week, and first month!
Woohoo for the first day of 5th grade! Though I briefly saw my 6th graders as well, I spent most of the day with my 5th grade homeroom. Holy cow, 5th and 6th grade is awesome. You ask them to do something, and they do it. You ask them to help out, and they fight over who gets to collect the garbage bags. I talk to them about having helpers take care of our fish tank, tree frogs, and rats — including cleaning dirty fish water and wiping up rat pee — and they bug me the rest of the day, explaining why they would make excellent Zookeepers. Hahah. I love it.
Can’t say I miss 8th grade…
Anyhoo, here are some pictures of my lovely room, all set up for the first day!