While younger students are getting into the swing of curriculum, older college-bound students are doing final preparations for SAT and ACT scores. Prep courses, practice tests, and flashcards are all useful tools in preparing to take a college entrance course. Boom Cards resources provide on-the-go practice (available on iOS, Android or Kindle) for students preparing for these tests.
Here are some specific resource collections to help your students prepare.
A variety of materials is available for the student who needs to extend understanding of areas of social studies, history, science, and the humanities to have the foundations to perform expected critical analysis.
Beyond test prep courses, test prep booklets, Boom Cards supplements, flashcards and other tools, make sure students also develop habits to make studying effective: prioritizing quality sleep, regular exercise, and a distraction-free studying environment. Attention to these preconditions for success will make enable students to get better results from their preparations.
Today we are talking with Amy Brown Science, The Lab (Liezel), and Kristin Lee Resources about combining technology with hands-on science instruction in secondary. Science teaching resources are among Boom Cards top sellers!
What is your favorite part about teaching science in secondary?
Kristin: The best part about teaching middle school is seeing how much growth there can be in such a short time. They come to you a little unsure about themselves and what this new experience will hold for them – and you get to watch them grow more confident and sassy every day! They grow into these funny, independent, whole people right in front of you. Teaching them science is amazing because you can see it absolutely ignite some of them, the way it did for me back then.
Liezel: One thing that I love about teaching high school is being able to go into more detail in the lessons. High school students are amazing to work with. My students are mature, motivated and hard working. They love to really explore the topic we are studying and always come and share examples and stories that they have found.
Amy: I have always been a high school teacher of mostly juniors and seniors. I love teaching this age group because they are at a point in their lives where anything is possible. They act all grown up and so sure of themselves, but they still love a compliment, a smile, and a hug just like they did in Kindergarten! Juniors and seniors suddenly realize they have decisions to make about universities and majors, and that they will soon be on their own. It is an honor to help guide them through these times of their lives.
Science is such a hands-on field. How do you incorporate virtual learning into your teaching without losing the hands-on aspect?
Amy: I am by far the oldest in this conversation. As a result, I have seen many strategies come and go over the years. An effective teacher does not use one strategy exclusively. Teaching requires an arsenal of techniques and tools, and multiple ways of implementing them. Virtual learning is just one more tool in my teaching arsenal. My students are in the lab at least once, but usually twice, a week. Nothing will ever replace the hands-on labs I do with my students. Virtual learning gives me another way to teach, review and reinforce the concepts I already teach.
Kristin: Like Amy said, it’s important not to rely on a single teaching tool too heavily. The more tools you can use to build knowledge on a topic, the more multi-faceted your teaching will be. Technology has opened up avenues of learning I hadn’t thought were possible! It will become increasingly important as our students come to us more tech-savvy and connected than ever – just not as a replacement for a hands-on lab experiment, dissection, or engineering challenge.
Liezel: I teach in a very small school (only 19 high school students) so it is not always possible to do practical work for all topics due to limited resources. Virtual labs, etc. are crucial to overcoming this problem.
What are some of the ways you have used Boom Cards decks with your students?
Liezel: I mainly use them for review work before exams. My students are currently busy with their Cambridge exams and Boom Cards decks are perfect for them to go through topics at home, identify problems and then come to me for help. They are now sending me requests for decks that they want!
Amy: One thing I love about Boom Cards decks is that I can assign them for homework. Students hate homework, and many of them never complete it. Students like the idea of virtual homework because they are already on their mobile devices anyway, and it is a unique way of assigning homework.
Kristin: I’m not currently in the classroom, I’m home with my young son. But until I get back, I am really excited to start using Boom Cards decks with my tutoring students! They are great for test prep and review, to assess prior knowledge, and to gauge the effectiveness of my tutoring. I also include them in nearly all of my middle school science units to serve several different functions; some reinforce science vocabulary, some assess concept comprehension, and I’m even working on some that will deliver content in a student-led capacity. There are so many possibilities!
What is the most exciting thing that ever happened to you in a science classroom?
Amy Brown: My high school and another high school a few miles away are big rivals. We have a competition between the two schools called “Battle of the Brains.” Students are required to identify an ecological problem and develop a possible solution to the problem. My proudest moments as a teacher is seeing the amazing ideas that come from my students. They believe that anything is possible!
Liezel: I will never forget the day that my science teacher showed us the properties of alkali metals. He took a big piece of potassium and threw it into a pond. From an ecological point of view, probably not a good idea, but it made for an awesome chemistry lesson!
Kristin: My first year teaching was in 8th grade science. Eighth-grade students, in particular, presented lots of challenges on top of first-year teaching struggles. Their time and focus are being pulled in many different directions as they prepared for a big transition to high school. I wasn’t feeling like a particularly effective teacher by the end of the year, but I returned from the graduation ceremony to find a note on my desk. A student wanted me to know what a great year she’d had, and how she felt empowered to pursue a career in the STEM field. I always hope I’ll run into her one day so I can tell her that she empowered me and maybe the reason I didn’t quit teaching after that first year! I’d love an update on how she’s doing.
Get started with Boom Cards self-grading homework by trying a science FREEBIE today!
Amy Brown resides in Tennessee. She is married to her husband of 35 years and has two incredible daughters. Amy loves nature, the environment, and tries to spend as much time as possible outdoors. She loves to travel with her family to national parks and other outdoor locations, trips which her family lovingly refer to as “Mom Adventures.” Amy has 31 years of teaching experience in the biology and chemistry classrooms. She joined Teachers Pay Teachers as a teacher-author in 2006, shortly after the site was launched. She recently started making interactive Boom Cards products. Amy’s hands-on approach to teaching science instills a love of science and nature in her students and encourages them to make science a part of their everyday lives. In Amy’s words, “I just love to get kids hooked on science!” For more teaching tips and ideas about how to make science come alive in your classroom, visit Amy on her blog, AmyBrownScience.com. You can also keep up with Amy’s activities on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram.
Kristin Lee combines creativity and scientific literacy to craft classroom materials to support students and teachers in their science classrooms. Prior to launching her online teacher-author business, she spent many years working in education outside of Chicago, IL. When not creating new ways to get kids hooked on science, Kristin enjoys playing with her young son, technology, and other wibbly wobbly timey-wimey stuff. You can find her on Boom Learning, TeachersPayTeachers, Pinterest, Instagram, and her website KristinLeeResources.com.
Liezel Pienaar lives in Somerset West, South Africa. It is about 40 km from Cape Town. Shee has a degree in Biochemistry and have been teaching for 15 years. She met er husband while they were both working in the UK. They have a 5-year-old daughter, Maja, and a Jack Russell Terrier named Milo. She teaches Biology, Chemistry, Geography, and Maths at a Montessori school situated on a wine estate! It is one of the most beautiful places in the world, with the ocean on one side and the mountains on the other. Her husband is the Facilities Manager and my daughter attends the pre-school. “It is amazing to all come to the same place every day.” Liezel authors science resources as The Lab on Boom Learning and Teachers Pay Teachers. You can follow her on Instagram (@thelab_by_liezelpienaar), Facebook and in her newsletter.
Novel studies are a traditional, yet sometimes controversial, classroom practice. Why should teachers do novel studies in their classrooms? There are several reasons why I believe it is important to incorporate novel studies, but first, let me tell you when and why I became adamant that novel studies would be an important part of my daily classroom routine!
Why I Believe in the Power of Novel Studies
I taught first grade for many years. My favorite part of the day was the morning read aloud and book discussions. I love reading to students and engaging them in wonderful stories. Then I was moved to second grade, and I had trouble selecting stories that they probably had not heard repeatedly. Although there is a great benefit in hearing the stories repeatedly, we all know that we enjoy that first reading much more.
After just two years in second, I was moved to third grade! The DREADED testing year! My principal told me from the beginning that this was the year that made kids HATE to read! And once I got into the curriculum, I could see why!!! All the testing and boring short stories and passages…. ICK!!!!
I quickly decided that I would strive to engage my students in wonderful novels and series in which they would become hooked on characters, experience emotions, and thrive on the suspense. Since that time, I have been creating novel studies for my students that I use in a variety of ways.
My students have been welcomed into third grade and comforted by the story of Suds in Third Grade Angels. They experienced his emotion as he strived to be perfect, fell short of the goal, and accepted the outcome without giving up. This novel helped build community in the classroom and establish a growth mindset as well.
Currently, my students are experiencing the sheer joy of life that Wilbur has as he builds friendships in Mr. Zuckerman’s barn. They are left in suspense at the end of almost every chapter, eager to learn about the next adventure or the next word that Charlotte will craft for her dear friend. My students are also building vocabulary and learning to use context clues for decoding… and they enjoy it in the novel study!
When you see students enjoy books like this, and even ask to take the book home to read on ahead, you know you are doing the right thing!
Why do whole group novel studies?
There are educators who don’t approve of the whole group novel study, as it is cumbersome and they believe that “for students who struggle with reading, it doesn’t help them be more confident. For those that do not struggle, it limits their reading experience in school.” However as noted, “there is powerful learning—academic, social, and personal—that can happen when a community of students experiences the world of a novel together and studies it” says Ariel Sacks on EdWeek. I believe in that powerful learning of the whole group novel study and harness it periodically throughout the year.
Boom Learning aside: One of our accelerated readers would read an advanced book and listen to the novel study. The other would draw and listen. Both expanded their reading choices through exposure to genres they would not have chosen themselves.
The most important teaching strategy with whole group novels is that you provide the right level of support for each student. In the beginning of the year, I just read the novel to the students and have them follow along. We do the questions as a group while I teach them to refer back to the text for answers. After that, I would have students who are independent with that book level read it on their own, readers who are instructional with that level would meet briefly with me for any needed clarification and to summarize for me, while readers who would greatly struggle at that level would require me reading it to them. There would be no round robin reading in the whole group setting!
Benefits of Novel Studies:
Builds community in the classroom.
Engaging characters and plots keep students interested in reading.
Develops vocabulary and decoding skills.
Helps build stamina.
Expose students to different emotions, experiences, and environments to build compassion and background knowledge.
Develops writing skills by studying the author’s craft.
Can novel studies be used in guided reading?
Incorporating novels as part of your guided reading is another way to help establish a love of reading. Using novels, instead of basals, passages, or leveled readers, keeps your students interested and wanting to read more. Debbie Diller suggests that teachers “choose a book for small group that is at students’ instructional level.”
In the guided reading model, you create small groups based on ability and choose a text at their instructional level. The teacher introduces the novel and then listens to individuals read from their copy of the text, prompting students to integrate their reading processes. Finally, the teacher will engage students in a discussion about the text. When using a novel, my small groups read one chapter or an average of about ten pages in one sitting.
Making the Most of Your Novel Study
My novel studies are planned in advance with Boom Cards questions ready to go.
You can easily check student progress and monitor comprehension with the Boom Learning teacher dashboard.
Students enjoy the digital platform and the Boom Cards moveable pieces keep students engaged and focused, rather than just clicking an answer and going on.
Students earn coins, gems, and pulses for correct answers. Teachers can develop a reward system for the points earned playing Boom Cards novel studies.
There are six comprehension questions for each chapter (short chapters are sometimes combined) that provide vocabulary, context clue, and comprehension skill practice.
The questions are text dependent, rigorous, and common core standard based.
The questions are great practice for end-of-year standardized testing.
In the beginning of the year, I use these novels as read alouds and let the students follow along. I do the first one or two Boom Cards decks with them following each chapter so that they understand the format, and so that I can teach them how to search the text for answers. Try out the first deck for Charlottes’ Web FREE!
Once I have done some beginning of the year testing, I have student reading levels and am able to group them. Then I select a novel at their instructional level. See my reading rotation schedule and when I meet with groups by clicking here. On Book Club days, students meet without me and read a chapter with their group. They are allowed to help each other with the Boom Card questions as I want them talking about it and searching the text together. On Meet with Teacher days, I start our time by asking the students to summarize the book and tell me about the setting, characters, problems, and possible solutions. Then, I will address any commonly missed questions from the Boom Card decks that they have completed thus far. Before reading, I ask if students have any questions for me about the story. Next, students take turns reading from the next chapter. Finally, I may do discussion questions with them or guide them through the boom deck for that chapter.
Students will continue to read the novel until they are done. Upon completion of the novel, I give students the opportunity to be creative and collaborate on a concluding project such as a booksnap or Give me 5.
I always start new novels on the group’s Meet with Teacher day so that I can introduce the novel and build anticipation with the group.
Novel Studies for a Lifelong Love of Reading
Are you ready to give novel studies a try? You can help your students develop a lifelong love of reading and improve their comprehension and test-taking skills at the same time. Don’t let boring passages and testing ruin reading for them. Try a chapter of Boom Cards forThe Chocolate Touch FREE!
Under the Common Core state standards, during grades third through fifth students work with mathematics using models, standard algorithms and in the context of word problems. By doing so, students develop a deep number sense that prepares them for algebra and beyond and the real world application of mathematics to everyday problems. Boom Learning has a range of materials to help you teach, review, assess or prep on these topics.
Between third and fifth grade, students are expected to master addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. For a fully developed number sense, they must be able to identify the unknown number in an equation, perform word problems, and understand the identity, commutative, and associative properties. Finally, they should be able to identify operations based patterns. Success with operations necessitates a firm foundation in place value. Authors Evil Math Wizard, Simone’s Math Resources, Wise Guys, Shelley Rees, LittleStreams, I Heart 4th Grade, White’s Workshop, Teachers Features, Mercedes Hutchens | Surfing to Success, and more provide a wide variety of operations Boom Cards.
For fractions, students in these grades first develop their concept of a fraction as a part of a whole, including learning to convert whole numbers to fractions. Working with models, such as fraction wheels and number lines, deepen students understanding of fractions. Students learn to recognize and generate equivalent fractions. Finally, students master applying the four operations to fractions, which prepares them for conversions and unit rate applications in middle school. Wise Guys, Simone’s Math Resources, Little Streams, Miss Mindy, I heart 4th grade, Crockett’s Classroom, Meredith Anderson – Momgineer and Pink Cat Studio make colorful and engaging fractions Boom Cards.
In fourth grade, students learn to relate decimals to fractions and the number line. They also learn to perform the four operations on decimals and to represent decimals using models. Finally, students learn to apply decimals in real world situations, which prepares them for percentages and interest in middle school. Look for decimals Boom Cards by Wise Guys, Shelley Rees, LittleStreams, I heart 4th grade, Simone’s Math Resources, and Stress-Free Teaching.
Geometry, Measurement and Data
For geometry, students master the most common geometric shapes and begin to understand concepts of area and volume. For all three concepts, students master the concept of units and apply them to solving a variety of problems. Finally they begin to understand graphing as a way to represent mathematical problems. These skills prepare them for advanced geometric manipulations, conversions, probability, and statistics in middle school and beyond. Look for Boom Cards by Making the Grayd, Garden Full of Knowledge, Little Streams, Catia Dias, Amber from TGIF, and Fishyrobb.
We used to rely upon the observations of parents, teachers, and psychologists to explain what was happening inside the brains of children.
And those observations tell us children are a highly variable bunch!
Since the 1930s, we have treated testing as a valid objective measure of childhood development. We have used it to define norms and deviations from norms. Children are mapped to a one-dimensional categorical model based on age and, sometimes, gender.
With the advent of neuroimaging, we can now see inside brains as they work. New images show that development is highly variable (surprised?). Megha Sharda, Nicholas Foster, and Krista Hyde contend that conventional methods for understanding typical and atypical development are far too simple. The current categorical approach treats human variability as “noise” to be analyzed away.
Sharda writes that Twentieth Century measures miss factors that contribute to outcomes, being “insufficient, not only for neurodevelopment disorders but also for typical development.”
Twentieth Century models and beliefs about development and education culminated in the passage of No Child Left Behind at the beginning of the Twenty-First Century. Its architects believed that categorical assessment would lead to actionable information to improve student achievement.
Since the passage of NCLB, the United States has slipped backward internationally in math on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and has had no change in reading. Worse, some states, such as Florida, have adopted policies directly contradicted by research, such as retaining third graders who fail to achieve a proficient level on the third-grade ELA assessment.
In 2011, National Research Council (NRC) reviewed the research and concluded that the fundamental premise of NCLB was false. Sixteen years of data later and we still don’t know how to use information from testing to improve education and achievement. We can continue on the same path, but that would be the definition of insanity.
Education is on the cusp of a breakthrough such as we have seen in economics. Traditional economics said all humans act rationally in their best interests. Newer, behavioral economic models examine how emotional, cognitive, social, psychological and related factors cause humans to behave in predictable, but not rational ways.
The Twenty-First Century growth in knowledge about cognitive development happened alongside NCLB. Human variability is not merely noise, but a contributing factor to our inability to effectively use categorical testing to improve education outcomes.
The research does not support continuing to categorically test children every year from third to eighth grade. Retaining some checkpoint testing has informational value, but there is no justification for continuing to test children every year for six years in a row.
The NRC’s review is a call to reinvest in basic research to identify measures that actually result in positive effects on achievement. That research should focus on finding sensitive windows for identifying factors that lead specific children to underachieve.
We also need tools to help us separate variability from a neurological or psychiatric disorder. And we need politicians and educational reformers to build human variability into their models for assessing progression through standards.
Reducing categorical testing and replacing it with tailored testing to catch students at risk of underachieving would better meet the goals of having our students college, career and technical college ready.
The beauty of using materials like Boom Cards and other self-grading and adaptive materials is that they allow teachers to unobtrusively and continuously conduct formative assessments and identify areas for intervention or enrichment. Rather than disrupting classroom flow they can seamlessly be integrated.
Last blog post we asked does the Every Student Success Act (ESSA) get it just right? We think amending ESSA to test for science, mathematics, and reading or language arts no more than once in each of the windows of (a) 4th to 6th grade, (b) 6th to 9th grade, and (c) 10th to 12th grade would be the first step towards a research-based assessment policy.
National Research Council. (2011). Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education. Committee on Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Public Education, M. Hout and S.W. Elliott, Editors. Board on Testing and Assessment, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://www.nap.edu/read/12521/