Monday, March 17, 2014

Student Appreciation Day

Today was Student Appreciation Day.  This was our focus of the day:

The morning started with all of the teachers greeting the students at the door.  We even opened the door for them.  Our high school students were very confused and unsure what to think about this.  We had special, small activities which took about 5-10 minutes planned for each class period.

Today was a fun and positive day!  Today was a day where we focused on our great students and we put aside our frustrations!

What do you do in your school to help with climate?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Sun

Today was a fun and exciting day!  Yesterday the students did online research using to learn about and create a digital model of the sun.  Students then used google draw to create their sun and label it.  They also needed to include descriptions about the different layers.  Today they brought their sun models to class.  I was so excited when I saw their results!  The best part is that they are all unique models yet they all met the standard!  My struggling students did great with this activity.  Here are a few of their digital models.  Two of these models were created by "at-risk" students.  I'm so happy with the results!

Monday, March 10, 2014

A heavy heart today

I got a new student midway into the second quarter.  He is an "at risk" student.  He has been in a lot of trouble but I don't really know the details.  I must admit when he walked in my door with his pants hanging low and tattoos all over his arms I was a bit uneasy.

I soon discovered that he was very polite and attentive in class.  The first time I emailed him back a digital assignment with comments for improvement, he emailed me right back asking if he could improve it.  Yes!

Then the day before his first quiz he stopped by to ask me questions concerning the quiz concepts.  He really wanted to do well!  When he missed a question, he wanted to know why he missed it and how he could be better.

The last few days, this student has been missing from my class.  Today I asked one of his friends if he was absent again.  His friend replied, "Yes, and he's not coming back...he went to Mexico."

My heart sunk.  "Why did he go back to Mexico?  He was doing so well."

"I know but he made a bad decision and he's in trouble now."  His friend said.

I went to talk to the principal about this.  She said that the rumor is that he went back to Mexico.  The problem is that this breaks his probation.

I am saddened by this.  My heart is heavy.  He was doing so well in my class and other classes too.  I know that he could have been successful!  What can educators do to help "at-risk" students see their potential?

Sunday, March 9, 2014


It's 9:45, my three children are all tucked in bed dreaming of a fun day of playing outside (finally).

I wish I was getting ready for bed too.  However, I'm running around trying to get everything done...

I am doing the dishes.  I cooked today...I don't mind cooking the problem with cooking is the final result; a mess and lots of dishes.  I cooked twice today and did the dishes twice today.  Actually, I literally just finished doing the dishes.

I am doing yet another load of laundry as I type this blog.  I have piles of clean, folded clothes on the laundry room counter just waiting to be put away and I have more heaps of dirty clothes waiting to be washed.  Sometimes I wish I lived in a nudist colony...well not really but it would help with my laundry woes.

I am finalizing lesson plans.

I am finalizing grades.

I am thinking about conferences this week.

I am thinking about the housework that I didn't get done this weekend.  I guess it will still be there when I get around to it...which let's face it with conferences this week it will get messier before it gets clean.

Being a mom and a full time teacher isn't easy.  How do you balance it all?

Oh, and I missed my blog post yesterday because I fell asleep.  I guess I needed to sleep to make up for the hour I missed last night...and who knows how late I will be up tonight.  :)

I am hoping I'm not alone in my struggle to balance it all.  I hoping for a great week at school and with my family!

Friday, March 7, 2014

It's Friday and the end of the quarter!

It's Friday and the end of the 3rd quarter!  My students were restless today!  It has been a long winter and I think they are in need of some nice weather and a break...and I am too.

I teach 9th graders physical science 9th period.  Yikes!  It is a challenge sometimes, but especially today.  Today they seemed to have a lot of extra energy.

We did a hands on lab creating series circuits to test the conductivity of various objects and solutions.  They were surprised that salt water and pickle juice were conductive.

Pickle juice is conductive because of the salt (NaCl) in it.
The lightbulb is on and working (it might be difficult to see from this picture).

After we finished the lab, we watched a National Geographic video about a golfer getting struck by lightning.  This was right up their alley.  I find that keeping this group engaged with labs and things interesting to them makes class run more smoothly.

After school I had a few more students come in to redo a quiz and turn in some missing work.

I should be thinking and preparing for next week (parent teacher conferences) but really all I want to do is relax on the couch in a hoodie and fleece pants while watching a movie with my family.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Great Concert!

Tonight I enjoyed watching my 5th grader play her trumpet in the 5th grade band.  It is so fun to watch the 5th graders play because they are so excited about their new abilities!

Before the 7th/8th grade band played, the director spoke to the audience.  She said that she had been reading this fall in her Band Director Journal about 10 things that make a great band director.  She said one of them talked about sight reading.  At first she was really excited because she explained that they sight read often during class.  However, as she continued to read the article said that if students can really sight read then they should sight read at a concert.  So tonight in front of a full audience, the band director passed out sealed envelopes to each band section.  We listened to the band discuss the piece prior to playing.  They discussed the key signature, tempo, skimmed it for tricky rhythms etc.  Then they played the was really cool!  I was so impressed!  I was impressed not only by the song but by the "guts" and "faith" of the teacher.

I'm thankful that my daughter has a great band director!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A great class!

The highlight of my day today is a class that I'm is a great class!  Our Tech Integrationist is teaching a class after school that meets every Wednesday.  This was our focus this week:

1) Spend time on twitter!  I love that!  We are encouraged to participate in a chat.  I already do this but there are a few teachers in the class that are new to twitter.
2) Sign up for a few webcasts on
3) Create two lessons incorporating technology using the SAMR model.  
4) She also added a challenge that I'm excited to try Twitter in the Classroom.

I am so lucky to have a Tech Integrationist at my school!  Check out her blog...she has great ideas that you will love to use in your classroom!

What twitter chats are your favorites?  Have you used twitter in your classroom?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

End of the quarter crunch

I'm feeling that end of the quarter "crunch."  The kids are restless and a few are losing focus.  Let's face it I'm a bit edgy too.  I have a few students going on week long vacations...they will be missing a week of chemistry.  I have a few students that are still trying to pull up their grades before Friday.  I'm trying to get my grades finished by Friday and at the same time I'm preparing for a long week next week with parent teacher conferences on Tuesday and Thursday nights.  Whew!

Instead of being overwhelmed, I'm trying to stay organized and focus on positive things.  Let's see...

  • I was up at 5:30am.  My 5th grader forgot to tell me that she needed supplies for a school project ;)  I was up early, rode my bike for a half hour and then headed to the store for her.  
  • I enjoyed teaching my 9th graders about circuits.  Today we built circuits in class.  They enjoy this hands on activity.
  • I finished up stoichiometry with my chemistry students.  I can't wait to see how they do on their quiz Thursday.  They have worked so hard learning this challenging material.
  • Tomorrow I have an afternoon of professional development (AIW).  I hope to learn from my science department.
  • I came home, drove my kids to various events, popped a meatloaf and potatoes in the oven, swam laps and came home to some great comfort food!  
Whew...I got a lot accomplished today!  I hope this continues for the next two weeks.

Tonight I need to find a task or student work example to share with my AIW group.  I am exhausted and I hope to go to bed early tonight.

How do you get through your end of the quarter crunch?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Church and science?

I'm so excited about this post!

Church and science?  Yes!

My 9th grade student told me today, "Mrs. Hurst, I thought about you yesterday at church."

Hmmm… (I don't hear this from my students very often.)

"The priest asked me to fill the baptism water.  He told me to make sure it was warm so the baby wouldn't cry.  I thought of you and I remembered that you said water had a high specific heat.  This means it takes a long time to heat and a long time to cool.  So I decided that I shouldn't make the water too hot because it might not cool down fast enough and it could be too hot for the baby.  So I just made it warm realizing that it will stay warm for a while."

"YES!"  I exclaimed.  "That is awesome!"

This was the highlight of my day!  What a marvelous Monday!  I love it when my students can make those connections without me and apply science to their life.  It's so great when they share these things with me.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Another wind chill advisory day = a great day to read!

This has been a really long winter!  I really don't mind winter however, this winter has been so bitterly cold.  I am continually getting text alerts from the local sheriff department telling me that there is a wind chill advisory.  Actually this winter it has been common for me to get a text warning stating that the wind chill advisory is being extended!  We have snow but it is so bitterly cold that we can't go out and play in it.

Today is another wind chill advisory day.  The good thing about these days is watching movies and reading books.

I started a new book yesterday, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" by Amy Chua.  It is a book I've heard a lot about but I haven't read it yet so I'm excited to read it and then discuss it with my book club in a couple of weeks.

This is a quote from the very first page of the book.  Chua is explaining how Chinese parents raise such successful kids.  This is what she states:

"Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

  • attend a sleepover
  • have a playdate
  • be in a school play
  • complain about not being in a school play
  • watch TV or play computer games
  • choose their own extracurricular activities
  • get any grade less than an A
  • not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama
  • play any instrument other than the piano or violin
  • not play the piano or violin"
Wow!  Like I said, this was page 1.  It immediately grabbed my attention because this isn't common childrearing in America.  I am now on page 60 of this book.  One thing that I really like about her writing is her honesty and her transparency.  

As a parent and as a teacher, I think I will be able to relate to many aspects of this book.  Right before chapter one she states:  "This was supposed to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western ones.  But instead, it's about a bitter clash of cultures, a fleeting taste of glory, and how I was humbled by a thirteen-year-old."

I can't wait to read more about her journey!  I hope to learn more about myself and my personal views as a parent and as a teacher through her.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

In like a lion

Today March is coming in like a lion.  Certainly this means that it will be going out like a lamb.  Right?  I hope so because this seems like a long winter!  It started snowing yesterday at 3:00 and it continued to snow all day today.

Snowy days are perfect for books and coffee and this is just how I started today at the young adult book club!  This is my favorite way to start my weekend!  Today the young adult book club discussed "Matched."  I found it to be a fun read.  There were many surprises in the book that left me wondering and wanting more.  There are two more books in the trilogy and I hope to read them too...someday when I have extra time ;)  Maybe this summer but it seems like my reading list just keeps getting longer and many great books and not enough hours in the day.

Tonight I decided to grade my magnet and electricity assessments so that Sunday I can relax and enjoy a day of rest.  My students did so well on this assessment!  I am very excited to share the results with them on Monday!

I have been doing a hybrid SBG this semester and I have seen great changes in my classroom.  The assessment on Friday was evidence of this.  One of my "struggling" students that nearly failed first semester science currently has a B!  Third quarter will finish this week.  In the past, by the end of the quarter struggling students have given up and quit.  However, this time the environment in my classroom has changed and now my struggling students have hope.  They know they can have more time to relearn and reassess on learning goals.  On Friday my struggling student said to me, "I studied this Mrs. Hurst and I'm going to get at least a 3."  (He did get a 3!)   He was so excited to see how well he did on his assessment that he came in after school to see his grade.  He said he couldn't wait to go home and tell his dad.  What a great way to start the weekend...not only for my student but for myself too!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Reflections from my second week of hybrid SBG/SBL

This week concluded my second week of a hybrid approach to SBG.  I have already learned so much!

Last Friday I returned the first SBG assessment to my students.  On that same day I had four students ask for a reassessment.  They said they knew how to do it and they wanted to show that they were Exceeding and not just Proficient.  On their original assessment, they had made a few small calculation errors or they simply didn't explain something fully.  These four students did reassess and they showed evidence that they had Mastered/Exceeded!  That was exciting!

This week was even more exciting!  I have researched and investigated SBG but there are things I just didn't understand or realize until I put my hybrid SBG system into practice.  Here are a few highlights from my week:

1) My mindset has completely changed.  Now when I am grading student work I think to myself "How well does the student know and understand this concept?"  Instead of "how many points should I deduct?"  The focus has completely changed to "What do you know?  What did you learn?"

2)  Students have learned that they really need to know and understand the material to get a 4.  This has made them study and learn more.  I have also learned to improve my assessments.  My assessments are now stronger and show true authentic learning.  Today my assessments were only a few short answer questions.  Students are asked to explain, provide examples, apply instead of just selecting a correct answer from a list.  I have determined that it is difficult to show "true learning" through multiple choice or similar types of questions.  Now students will ask me to look at their assessment while they are taking it..."Mrs. Hurst is this enough explanation or do you want me to explain and show more?"  My responses are "Show me more."  "Explain more."  "Draw a picture."  "Provide an example."

3)  Yesterday I was grading my chemistry assessment on molecular geometry.  On the bottom of the assessment a student wrote me a note (See picture below).  WOW!  In my traditional grading system she would have just failed it, stuck it in her folder, and moved on without learning.

4) I have a student who failed first quarter, second quarter, the final exam and therefore the entire first semester.  This week, students had a few reading and reflection questions.  Each time this student submitted his work I shared with him what I liked and what areas needed some improvement.  Or I would ask him some clarifying questions.  He resubmitted both of them (more evidence of learning)!  He is asking questions for clarification!  He took his assessment today and he knew the material!  I haven't graded it yet but I think he will do ok on the assessment because he was asking me to help him spell "conserved" and "absolute" (zero)...he's on the right track with those sciencey words!

So why do these failing students suddenly care?  I believe it is because they now know that I care.  They know that I'm not going to give up on them.  They know that I'm going allow them to relearn and reassess.  They have hope!  Isn't this what teaching and learning should be about?

I would love your feedback!  I still have so much to learn!

Thursday, January 16, 2014


I am always trying to find ways to improve teaching and learning.  This summer and fall, I started researching Standards Based Grading.  With the start of second semester, I am going to take a few baby steps towards SBG.  Here are the areas that I am focusing on:

1) Feedback.  When my students submit personal and authentic work, I provide personal feedback.  For example, this week, my chemistry students turned in a lab conclusion via email.  I replied to each email and provided them with positive feedback.  I also provided them suggestions on how to improve their conclusions along with the opportunity to resubmit their conclusion.  Nearly every student improved their conclusion and resubmitted it to me.  I think that by doing this they learned more than if I simply would have provided them with a grade.  

2) Corrections and reassessments.  I am also going to allow students the opportunity for improve and correct their work and/or reassess as long as they show me that they are willing to relearn the materials through extra practice or meeting with me before or after school.  My goal is a teacher is that they learn the material.

3) Reorganizing the grade book.  Instead of arranging my grade book by chapters, I am organizing it by standards.  I feel that this gives me a better indication of what they really know and what they don't know.  This has been a complete shift from traditional grading and it has been challenging to create a grade book based on standards.  Under each standard in my grade book I will provide evidence of student work.  This evidence might be practice, a lab, projects, independent authentic work and assessments.  I am still grading by percentages but I think this organizational piece will help me to continue to move towards full implementation of SBG.  I have found that organizing my grade book by standards has really made teaching and learning more intentional.

If you have any suggestions on how to transition from traditional grading towards SBG, I would love to hear from you.  I am eager to learn! 

Friday, January 10, 2014

21st Century Skills

Today with the help of our district's Technology Integrationist Rachel (check out her blog for awesome tech tools), we taught 21st Century skills to my 9th grade students.  Our inspiration was from this blog from edutopia.  This lesson was full of technology as students discover their learning style, study habits, and character traits while creating a flipsnack book to display their findings.  I hope to continue to use flipsnack in my classroom to display student work.

The students were engaged and excited to learn more about themselves as learners using the following webpage.

They were discussing their findings with their neighbors.  They were thinking, learning, and having fun!  It is my hope that this lesson will allow my students to learn more about themselves as students and this provide them with opportunities to be more successful.  As a teacher, I hope to learn more about them too so I can help them lean and reach their goals.

Below are the expectations that I provided for my students.  The "pages" in this document correspond to the pages in their flipsnack book.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

BC An assessment tip.

I assess often in my classroom.  Typically I give a quiz or a "quest" (quiz/test) once a week to monitor their progress.  One tool that I really like for giving quizzes and tests is (make sure you use the beta version).  There are many features of beta.socrative that I like.  As a teacher I can enter in all the questions and answer them as I go.  When I have the students take the quiz, I can have beta.socrative mix up the question order as well as the question choices.  You can also add pictures into beta.socrative which is another nice feature.  Once the quiz is finished, a report is created.  This report not only shows you the student names and scores, but it also shows you the commonly missed questions.  When the students are taking the test "live" you will see a list of all the students taking it.  This is just another way you can make sure a student from another section isn't trying to take it during study hall :)  I have also increased the validity of the assessment by having student enter not only their name but also their lunch number as well as a specific code written on the board.  My students thought I was so smart to fool all their plans!  I find this type of assessment great for a quizzes and multiple choice questions.  I always give a two part test.  The first part is using beta.socrative and then a smaller second part done with paper and pencil to allow for more problems and short answer questions.

I have also used beta.socrative as an exit ticket.  You can also select an option to have the correct answer shown right after they answer the question.  I have used this as a review game prior to an assessment.

This is the teacher view.

This is the report.  It states the question at the top and it marks the wrong answers in red.  On the far left of the screen are all the student names along with the number they got correct and their percentage.

This is the bottom of the report screen.  It shows the percent that answered the question correctly.

Monday, January 6, 2014

BC 3 A website I can't live without...

A website I can't live without...

Hmmm...there are so many websites that I love!!!

Common Curriculum is a website that I just started using this year.  It is basically an online lesson planner.  It is easy to use.  One feature of this webpage that I LOVE is that it provides a searchable data base of standards.  You can select the standards that you are teaching and they will display at the top of the lesson plan.  You can also create a template to design the lesson plan according to your preference and you can attach documents and links to the lesson.  There is a tutorial on the website that explains how to use it effectively.  I highly recommend it to manage your class!

Here is a picture showing a daily example for my physics class.

Here is a picture showing a week view (this isn't from my class).

Saturday, January 4, 2014


picmonkey collage

I discovered this great group and tech challenges on facebook called techformers unite.  The current challenge is to create a collage.  I decided to use  This was my first experience using picmonkey.  I found it very easy to use and I really like my results!

I created a picmonkey collage to show my 2014 goals.  I am going to do this same activity with my students this week when we talk about goals and goal setting.  I am also thinking of other ways I could incorporate this into my teaching.  Picture collages could be used for any concepts that could be explained using pictures or picture examples.  A feature that I really like is that after you insert the pictures into the collage, you can put text on top of the pictures to label and identify them.

Here is my collage:

BC 2

Blog Challenge 2  An organizational tool...

I enjoy using technology, however my go to organizational tool is a notebook.  I keep a small notebook by my computer and/or desk all day.  I write myself any notes or reminders or "todos" on this notebook.  I think part of the reason that I enjoy using paper is that I get to scratch out items on my list when I have completed them!  I do get great joy from completing these tasks!

One area that I struggle organizing is when students have been absent.  If anyone has any great tips for organizing that I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Blog Challenge 1

I'm going to use Kelly Hines Blog Challenge topics.  I'm a bit behind so here it goes...

BC1 A book used in classroom instruction

As a high school science and chemistry teacher I don't use books and literature in my teaching.  However, I have used movies to connect science to something interesting to my students.

Transformers Dark of the Moon

Actually, I use this movie two times in my class.

1) I use this movie in my physical science class to discuss "the dark side of the moon".  This leads to discussions about the moon's orbit.  I also have the students watch the first 15 minutes of the movie and while they watch they are asked to write down things from the movie that are real and things from the movie that are not real.  The first 15 minutes of the movie includes footage of the moon landing.  Then I ask the students to blog their findings and to use the internet to support their findings.  This is also a great history extension.

2) I use this movie in my chemistry class to discuss radiation exposure.  There is a clip in the movie about Chernobyl.  This clip is used as a starting point for students to investigate radiation.

Do you use movies in your teaching?

My background.

I am blessed to have a great job...a job that I love!  I started my teaching career in a large middle school.  There were about 800 students in this 7th and 8th grade middle school.  I taught 7th grade math and I was so excited to find a job right after graduating.  I taught with an excellent team of teachers there for 3 years.  I learned so much about teaching from them.

After 3 years, my husband and I moved to a rural area for his job.  When we moved, I decided to stay home and raise our family.  I took 8 years off from teaching to be a full time mom to our three children. Three years ago, a science teaching position opened in our rural community.  My "baby" was now 3 and we felt this would be a good time for me to return to the classroom.

I am so excited about my current teaching position!

I currently teach three sections of Physical Science to all 9th graders.  This course is required for graduation.  This allows me the opportunity to work with all students with a variety of needs.  These 9th graders continue to challenge me as a teacher as they always keep me on my toes!

I also teach three sections of high school chemistry.  My chemistry classes have a smaller class size.  I enjoy this class because these students are dedicated students.  I also enjoy teaching chemistry because for the most part much of what they learn in my class is all new to them.  I enjoy watching them learn new concepts and problems.

I am blessed to see some of these students again as seniors if they chose to take physics.  This class is a very small class size.  This allows us to do many projects and labs.  Last month they created a Rube Goldberg Machine and this spring we will be participating in an area physics competition.

I can't imagine having a better teaching experience!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Welcome 2014!

With a new year, I have accepted a new challenge…the blog challenge.  I'm not sure if I have anything profound to share.  Instead, I believe that this blog will allow me to reflect on my own teaching practices and it will provide me with the opportunity to learn from other educators both of these things will help me to continue to learn and grow as an educator.  Further, when my fellow educator and friend posed this blog challenge to me…how could I resist?

Today I'm hoping this blog post will help get me back into the "school" spirit.  With two full weeks off for Christmas break, I had a long list of things to accomplish (both personally and professionally).  I am a bit disappointed (only a bit) to say that I didn't cross many things off that list.  Instead I enjoyed some much needed R&R and time with my family.

To help inspire me (and maybe a few of you) here is a short list of things I learned in 2013:

  • Teaching in a 1:1 environment has completely changed my teaching.  I can't imagine ever going back.  I have learned in a 1:1 teaching environment, students will play games, chat, watch movies etc.  This has challenged me and in the end I think I am a better educator.  I have learned that students must be engaged for the entire 42 minutes.  To do this I use educational technology and lots of variety in my teaching!  There is never a dull moment.
  • Students will moan and groan when I tell them they will submit something on (I think we all know the reasons for that)
  • Co-teaching is a great experience because two minds can think and develop outstanding lessons better than one.
  • I can swim!  (A personal achievement for me).
  • To function well I work better well rested.  (Which is a challenge for me as someone who works full time and has three small children.)
  • I still have A LOT to learn!
  • There is no greater joy (and yet challenge) in life than being a parent!

To further inspire me, here is a short list of goals for my 2014:
  • Continue to learn as an educator and develop my teaching.
  • Create an eportfolio.
  • Complete a triathlon (or two) and a half marathon.
  • Continue to grow my PLC through twitter.
  • Care for my students.
  • Blog
  • Take a picture each day for 365 days.
  • Work smarter not harder (so I can be an effective educator as well as live in the moment with my family).
I'm sure I missed a many things here but this is a good start.  
What have you learned?  What are your goals?