Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Sub Tub: Be prepared for a substitute teacher

As part of my MCC certification course I was assigned the task of making an organized resource for a substitute.  I am a pinterest junkie and I had seen the idea of a sub tub.  This is a hanging file folder tub with assignment choices, seating charts, procedures, pictures of where work should be turned in for each class and important locations of supplies etc, classroom rules, a map of the school, important phone numbers and even student pictures (if you feel really creative).
I know that I will have 2 classes this year, 7th grade life science and 8th grade earth science so I needed resources for both preps. 
So this is how I went about conquering this task...
I began by choosing activities that any sub could handle with little or no science experience--22 for each subject.  Yeah, I know that is allot but there is a method to my madness.  Every activity in my tub should take about 30 min of class time.  Since kids are a bit rambunctious anytime there is a sub, I figured 30 min should be a realistic amount of time for them to spend on a structured activity.  For both Earth and Life sciences, there are about 11 brainteaser activities that have nothing to do with science.  There are also about 11 content-related activities.  I did this because I have no way of knowing what we will be studying anytime that I am absent. 
The Tub is organized by folders ordered 1-22.  In my filing system L stands for life science and E stands for Earth science.  So my tabs read L1, E1, L2, E2 and so on.
I use the CHAMPS behavior method in my classroom to clearly state student expectations.
C-conversation voice level 0-4
H- help, how to get it
A- activity
M-movement, how you can move around the room
P-participation, how to show it
Inside all 44 folders there is the activity for that folder plus a substitute information sheet.  The sub info sheet includes a warm-up activity for students when they enter the room and the CHAMPS for that activity, how many days that activity should last plus what students should do once they finish the activity.

In addition to my sub tub I have a folder that I keep with me at home called my sub tub key.  This key has information about what activities are in each folder.  For instance I can simply crack open my key and see if there is an activity in-line with what we studied the day before and of not, then I can choose a brainteaser.  I then simply tell the sub to use folder E13 and L15.  All the work is already done and in my classroom.  The sub simply has to make copies and follow the info in the folder.  It only took me one evening to put this all together.  Not too difficult as long as you know ahead of time how you want to organize it.  I still need to get the pics of kids and important places around my classroom together--haven't had access to my room yet.  I think this will be a great asset for this upcoming year!  Thank you PINTEREST!

How to prepare for the Composite Science 8-12 TEXES certification exam

My goodness!  It has been a while since I have written.  It has been a wild few months with some great achievements, a new job, cool training, lots of studying and some awesome experiences.  What I feel to be one of my greatest accomplishments is passing the composite science TEXES exam.  So, I thought I would take the time to blog about how I prepared for it.
I know that when I was getting ready to take the test, I was a bit discouraged with the lack of reliable resources about how I should prepare.
Let me begin with a bit of background.  Everyone will approach this test from difference backgrounds, experience etc.  If you are right out of college with a good understanding of Chemistry and Physics as well as basic Biology concepts you may be able to barely pass the exam--but pass none-the-less.  However, if you are like me--several years removed from any sort of formal education, you are going to have to work for it.  I graduated Baylor in 2003 with a BA in Biology.  I had 17+ course hours of bio, about 12 hours of chemistry and 12 hours of physics.  I had no college training in geology or astronomy. 
After graduation I taught 3 years at a private christian school and taught myself the basics of earth science.  During my 3rd year of teaching, I became pregnant and then spent the next 6 years at home raising my sweet babies.
My girls are now 6 and 4 and it is time for this season of my life to change.  I began looking into returning to the classroom and I knew that this time around I wanted to teach in the public school system. In order to do this you have to be 'highly qualified" in your field of science--basically this means that you have to have 15 or more college hours in any field you desire to teach.  If you have that, you do not have to take the TEXES exam for that content area and you can simply be certified.  While I am considered 'highly qualified' in biology I was not in Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy or Geology so I was required to take the exam.
I began by taking a practice exam at my Alt Teacher Certification program office.  I BOMBED it. I think I scored like a high 50.  The exam is broken down into competencies so from here I knew what I needed to work on.  Chem and Physics were weak--I literally remember thinking to myself "Who is 'Avocado' and why is his number important?", LOL!!!!  It truly had been 6 years since I had thought about ANYTHING chemistry related.
I began my journey at the local library.  Get this--there is this building in your city with thousands and thousands of books.  All you have to do is get a card, pick some books and they let you take them home with you for a while FOR FREE!  Ok. I know this sounds ridiculous--you know what a library is, right!? But the truth of the matter is this--we are so accustomed to thinking about items in a capitalistic society being for sale that my first thought was, "How am I going to afford all the books that I need to study on a single income budget?".  I forgot about libraries.  I forgot about that resource and my first instinct was to buy them...WRONG!!!!
So I went to my library's website and I found high-school level text books in Chemistry, Physics, Earth Science and Astronomy.  I reserved them and the hubs picked em up for me.  I began by reading these books cover to cover.  I worked all the examples out on scratch paper and made my own formula sheets to study.  I am an active reader and I think this method is a very good one to follow in order to prepare for this test.  TAKE NOTES!  It is a proven fact that you remember more of what you wrote down....I made sure to note all major concepts and methods in my own words as I was reading the texts.  Please, DO NOT simply read without taking notes--you WILL NOT retain all of the material and then when you need to refresh on something you can skim through 20 pgs of notes vs hundreds of pages of text.
After 20+ hours of study time I retook a different practice exam, the one posted online in the TEXES booklet.  I STILL bombed it!  My score was now in the high 60s but you MUST score 80 or above to pass the actual exam.
I began to freak out!  I have always been a strong student.  I thought I had prepared well, and I was still not doing so good.  What now?
Well, I decided to try out a favorite teaching mantra--work smarter not harder.  Youtube and wikipedia became my new best friends.  I went thought the TEXES preparation manual line by line and looked at the TEKS.  If I came across a concept I didn't have a firm grasp on I looked it up.  This worked well for a while.  If I found a problem I couldn't work, I posted it on facebook and asked for help.  My friends were great! A week later (mind you, i studies every evening for a week for 3-4 hours a day) and I returned to MCC (my teacher certification program school) and retook the first practice exam.  I was now in the low to mid 70s.  This is when I found the resource of all resources! Brightstorm2 on youtube.  They changed my whole studying plan.
They have amazing online resources that are simply like a HS class.  There are categories for Physics, Chemistry and Biology.  I quickly changed course.  I watched EVERY video in each of these categories and actively took notes while watching them.  The guy who does the physics videos is really fun to watch!!!
Having taken 3 practice exams I had a firm grasp on what I needed to know:
phases of the moon and its effect on tides
classifications of rocks
rock cycle
interpreting sedimentation
types of genetic selection
water cycle
types of clouds
weather patterns and formation
atomic structure
how the periodic table is organized
electron shells
limiting reactions
Mohs hardness
nitrogen cycle
acids and bases
sex-linked inheritance
gas laws plus their formulas name just a few.
And I did it!  I passed my next practice exam with an 86.  I was ready.

If I could sum this test up into one sentence it would be this:Although there is nothing terribly difficulty on the exam, the sheer breadth of knowledge and content that the exam covers makes it very difficult to know everything that you need to know.  It is simply beginner level chem and physics but you also have to know something about every other doctrine of science as well, and you have no clue as to what area of each doctrine you will be asked about, so you simply have to know it all...
With that said, I found that the score on the practice test was a good indicator for actual test performance.  Although I left the testing center feeling unsure about my score (I always second guess myself) I scored the exact same score as I did on my last practice test--an 86!
Phew--just thinking about that time spent preparing, relearning and studying makes me drool and then my eye starts twitching....but I am so thankful that it is behind me. 

For those of you with this test looming in your near future, I hope that this helped you in some way.  This is not a test you simply walk-in and ace.  Not saying that it isn't possible for someone to do that, just that it isn't likely.  I have a new-found respect for all HS science teachers!!!
I am exhausted from just writing about this test!
Hope this helps and GOOD LUCK!  Feel free to comment with questions!