Instructional Strategies, Teaching Tips and Tricks

Friday, January 26, 2018

FREEBIE! Be a Classroom Chemist: The Art of Perfume Making Just in Time for Valentines Day

Be a Famous Perfume Maker (aka Chemist)

Teacher Supplies:
  • Jars for students who don't bring in their own
  • Paper and glue for labels
  • Paper for advertising
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Supplies such as rose pedals, lavender, spices, fruits, for students who don't bring in their own
Things you need to know:

Alcohol (the rubbing kind) makes a great solvent for dissolving fragrant oils found in flowers, herbs, fruit and the like.
  1. Get a clear glass or plastic container with a lid - the prettier the better - or one of those small mason jars that are oh so popular. You'll need one per student.
  2. Have students go on a gathering field trip at home. Tell them they are going to make perfume and they get to pick the scent.
  3. Brainstorm ideas:
    1. cloves
    2. lemon peel (explain zest)
    3. orange peel
    4. flowers
    5. herbs
    6. cinnamon
    7. roses
    8. Any flower pedels
    9. ANYTHING  - who knows - they may create the next Obsession.
  4. Have students put their ingredients into their containers and cover with about 4 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol.
  5. Shake twice a day for one week.
  6. At the end of the week it is ready - dab a little on and see what they think.


  1. Have students create a label for their perfume and a brand
  2. Have students make commercials or print ads
  3. Have a contest to decide who likes which scent.
Then tell them: It takes about 8,000 to 10,000 crushes roses to make one dab (barely an oz) of rose oil for perfume, but that chemists have found a way to capture the flowers
Chapin-Pinotti Perfume Scientist
fragrance. They analyze the rose molecules and make the scent by artificially reproducing the natural oils.

Next Generation Science Standards

  • PK – grade 3 students
    • K-LS1, 1-LS1, 2-LS1, 3-LS1, 2-PS1
  • Grade 4 – 6 students
    • 4-LS1, 5-PSI, 5-LS1
    • MS-PS1, MS-LS1
  • Middle school students
    • MS-PS1, MS-LS1
  • High school students
    • HS-PS1, HS-LS1
PS1- Structure and properties of matter: LS1-Structure and Function;


For the marketing aspect of this lesson please look to Great Lesson Plans on Marketing.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Interactive Notebook's for Engaging 21st Century Learning

What is an Interactive Notebook?

In simplest terms - an Interactive Notebook is a pop-up book!
Elizabeth Chapin-Pinotti

Chapin-Pinotti Huck Finn Interactive Notebook pagesWe all loved pop-up books. If the truth be told, I would love to see some of the literature we require of our students - and read ourselves - to contain pop-ups. Can you imagine much more engaging say, The Scarlet Letter would be if a student turned a page and up pops Hester Prynne, baby in arms, leaving a prison -- and the crowd of people pop-up, but when you pull the paper toggle marker - Hester turns into a goat - overtly alerting students that she is the scapegoat for all of their sins. Not only would they want to read more - they'd remember more. Why do we stop adding pictures, and interactive ones at that, because students get older. 

Admit it - wouldn't you love to see David McCullough's 1776 "poped-up? Or, how about Steven King's - well anything by Steven King - popped up! Our minds think in pictures - the first letters were pictures - so to speak - and emoticons seems to be sending us back to the hieroglyphics found in ancient tombs - see Fortune Magazines: A Return to Hieroglyphics. So why not pop-ups for older students and adults and if publishers are not going to provide them for our students - you can help them make their own by using Interactive Notebooks.

Interactive Notebooks are "popping" up everywhere (pun intended) and for good reason - they help embed critical concepts and important information into the minds of students. Imagine ears popping up in or when Claudius says the whole ear of Denmark is "Rankly abused..." (I.v.36-38) - bam! up comes another ear.

Elizabeth Chapin-Pinotti Huck FinnHuckleberry Finn Novel Study Interactive Notebook pages
So, what is an interactive notebook - a wonderful teaching tool by way of a self-made pop-up notebooks - you provide the templates, pictures, foldables, cutables - or have your students and learning becomes tactile, interactive, social and engaging. I say social - because I let my students talk - as long as most of the topic is on the subject. I flat out tell them - okay so if you're going to talk about the game on Friday - you better do in within the confines of the interactive notebook you are creating - this is a great way to insert formative assessment - you'd be surprised how well you can tell which students are grasping a concept when it is relayed back and forth in terms of a football game, dance or even the latest Instagram or Snapchat trends. Can Formative Assessment be fun - yep.

The Interactive Notebook page samples in this page come from my Huckleberry Finn Novel Study and illustrate some of the interactive pages you can create for your students

Bonus: Interactive Notebook Pages are naturally differentiated - as the output students provide demonstrates their individual levels of understanding, they help students synthesize their work, and they help students expand their knowledge.

Elementary Lessons and Novel/Book Units with Interactive Notebook Pages

FREEBIE! Harvest Science Lab - 2-4 Grades

Many versions of Cinderella including:

How about a couple of Aesops' Fables? Silver on the Hearth and A Donkey to Market

Disney Print-n-Go Non-Fiction Readers - Common Core State Standards
Other Disney Readers Print-n-Go Non-Fiction Readers including - These can be used from grades 4 through high school for standards-based skills and skill reinforcement:

High School Samples:
Interactive Notebooks make teaching fun and learning engaging. If you need more tips and tricks or would like a specific lesson, book or novel turned into interactive notebook pages - please email: - turn around is about a week, but I have many already available. I also have a collection of 80 Common Core State Standards Interactive Notebook templates - that are generic and can be used with any story or novel; however, the more tailored to the book the more engaging!  Interactive Notebook Pages and Foldables.

Have a great day!
Elizabeth Chapin-Pinotti

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

What is DOK in my Classroom?

Depth of Knowledge

In 1997, Norman Webb developed what we know as DOK, or Depth of Knowledge. In 2002, Webb wrote a paper, "Depth of Knowledge for Four Content Areas" outlining how the DOK relate to each content area (Norman L. Webb, University of Wisconsin). By now, with educational emphasis on college and career readiness and the Common Core State Standards, by whatever name they happen to be called in your state - or even country; because, let's face it, the Common Core State Standards are nothing more than a backwards map of what students need to know to be - well - college and career ready.

Below is a comparison between Bloom's New Taxonomy and Webb's DOKs.
Elizabeth Chapin-Pinotti

What's the Same?

Webb's Recall and Reproduction correlate to Bloom's first and second levels - Remembering and Understanding - both requiring the ability of students to recall a fact, information or procedure. Specific verbs would include: arrange, calculate, draw, identify, list, label, illustrate, quote, recognize, recall, recite, state, use, tell who- what- when- where- and why.

Webb's Skill and Concept has students engaging in mental processes beyond using information or conceptual knowledge. Practical application verbs include: apply, categorize, determine cause and effect, classify, collect and display, compare, distinguish, graph, identify patterns, infer, interpret, observe, organize, predict, relate, solve, summarize and use context clues.

Webb's Strategic Thinking requires reasoning, developing plans and sequence of greater complexity of previous levels. Practical application verbs include: appraise, cite evidence, critique, develop a logical argument, differentiate, formulate, hypothesize, investigate and revise.

The top of Webb's pyramid correlates to Bloom's two highest levels and requires complex reasoning, planning and developing. Practical application verbs include: compose, connect, create, critique, defend, design, evaluate, propose, prove, support and synthesize. 

From One Grade to the Next

That said, Webb's Depth of Knowledge Wheel is not Bloom's Taxonomy in a circle. It is much more useful than that - it is a way of developing lessons and activities that scaffold the thinking and learning to help students develop higher cognitive levels of thinking.  Look at one strand of the Common Core State Standards as it expands from Kindergarten to grade 12.

The information from the chart below is taken from the California Department of Education's website regarding the Common Core State Standards and is indicative of the scaffolding between grades that leads to the higher order thinking necessary for college and career readiness:

Elizabeth Chapin-Pinotti

Within One Project

Most of us don't teach three different grade levels, two is not unusual; however, three - is extreme, so how do you use DOKs within one assignment? Let's say you are doing a unit on pandas and you read several non-fiction books and watch a few video clips - first you may have your students recall the different types of pandas as well as to recall where pandas live in captivity and in the wild.

Now that the foundation is set, and you have started your students on the journey towards higher level thinking, you can move from having them recall, or remember, information to the next level by asking them to compare the different types of pandas and/or distinguish between the environments of pandas living in captivity vs. pandas living in the wild.

Moving to the third level of strategic thinking is where students begin to engage in a topic and make it their own; it is also where the baseline knowledge begins to transition into higher cognitive thinking. Here you could ask students to critique each habitat and then site the differences.

Now, for the hard part - extended thinking. Extended thinking moves us beyond lecturing and expecting certain answers to something they must prove is right or wrong. Here you could ask students to use their critiques of each habitat to formulate an hypothesis as to whether living in the wild or living in captivity is best for pandas - of course - being sure to site evidence.

Teaching with the DOKs are Engaging for Teachers Too

Teaching with the DOKs allow us to be creative. Sure, we have the standards we have to teach, but deciding how to scale up to each students' maximum level of cognitive thinking allows us to be creative and use our own set of extended thinking skills. 

Added bonus - DOKs make it easy to differentiate within the classroom while teaching the same subject.

DOK Question Stems to help you build your lessons.

Speaking of Pandas: The Great Panda Rescue - Interactive Fiction/Non-Fiction STEM Reader - Chapter by Chapter.

More information about DOKs and Fun Brain Facts.

Please follow my Teachers Notebook Shop.
Also, check out my story blog "Story Time by Elizabeth" - free stories, ebooks, presentable books and lessons.
You can find great resources on my Instructional Materials by Elizabeth Chapin-Pinotti Blog. Please take a look.

Elizabeth Chapin-Pinotti

Friday, September 1, 2017

Active Participation and Student Engagement Techniques Plus Freebie!

Engaged Students

Engaged students are actively participating in relevant classroom lessons and activities. An expert teacher knows that most of their students should be engaged - most of the time. The alternative - disengagement - has extreme consequences on student learning.

Think about your average question and answer session - a teacher asks a question and then cherry-picks for the answer - only engaging one or two students at most. For students: this is a ticket to let their minds wander - either actively or passively disengaged. 

Don't Be a Plucker

This plucking answers from a group of students does not require students to actively participate and does not allow teachers to know who is learning, who has mastered a topic and who needs more help. An engaged classroom is one where every class session is used as a chance for formative assessment. Where most of the students are participating most of the time.

So, how does one demand active participation and cognitive engagement? -- by eliciting feedback and requiring higher order thinking. It is imperative for us all to plan our pedagogy with the goal of including at least three or four opportunities for students to demonstrate understanding and to actively participate in each lesson. By doing this, we will be able to better analyze, synthesize and evaluation what our students know and how we need to proceed - each step of the way.

Yes, that sounds good, but how can you make this easy? Start with the end in mind - give students - whether in kindergarten or high school - the tools they need to engage.

Student Engagement Techniques and Templates

1. Individual white boards and white board markers - if you don't have white boards - laminate a piece of card stock.

2. Have on hand: glue, markers, crayons, construction paper, scissors, paperclips, clay and highlighters. It is helpful to have one resource box for every four or five people - shoe boxes work great, as do dollar store plastic containers. Make sure they are easily accessible.

3. Use simple strategies and Ready-Made Templates. For example:

  • When you pose a question ask students to think about the question, turn to their neighbor, partner, etc., and discuss an answer, then tell them they will have one, three, five minutes to
    come up with an answer - also tell them to make sure one person is prepared to report out their answer - this is a take on the basic think-pair-share.
  • Quick Writes: A quick write can be done at any time - plan ahead by using prepared prompts or think on your feet as questions come up. Say, take the next two, five minutes to write down your thoughts on "the reasons John Adams and Thomas Jefferson's friendship suffered and what, if any, effect did that have on the government?" The process of journaling provides valuable information to form further instruction.
  • Have interactive notebook templates on-hand - Interactive Notebook Pages for RL and RI - yes that means literation and information, so they are perfect for any subject.
  • Quick Draws: Use a word back or a passage for your quick draw. Quick draws can be used for any subject and any topic - K through college. Pick a big idea from your lesson. Pose a question asking students the meaning of the concept and tell them to create a visual representation. Have students explain their drawings to a partner. 
Elizabeth Chapin-PInotti
  • Use a pocket fillable. Print out the pocket Interactive Notebook template, pose the question and tell students to work alone or in pairs to come up with - the best four answers to... - write three themes to Frankenstein on the front of a key, write how each theme is reflected in part 1 - put your keys into pocket.
By writing, discussing and drawing classroom concepts and topics students are better able to analyze various sides of a concept, as well as to visualize, explain and synthesize - thus realizing both the goal of active engagement and student access to higher order learning.  

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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Fabulous Formative Assessment – What in Looks Like in Action

Formative Assessment is Not for Grading 

I will say it again, formative assessment is not used for grading, but rather is an opportunity for students to learn and for teachers to fill in any gaps –before they are graded. Formative assessment is used before instruction to discover what students know and during instruction to find out students’ level of understanding and just how they are progressing towards a particular learning goal.

Because formative assessment isn’t used for grading, students are comfortable making mistakes and asking for help. They are free to do their work, without the cloud of a grade hanging over them. Evidence suggests that the best students use all information formatively. Struggling students, however, are more apt to have negative feelings after failure. These feelings often get in the way of student learning. For struggling students, the value of any feedback is lost – overshadowed by low grades. Formative assessment offers the opportunity for every student to learn to use and value feedback.

What Formative Assessment Looks Like in a Fifth Grade Classroom

Elizabeth Chapin-PInotti Story Clues + What I Know Equals InferenceClose your eyes and imagine you are a fifth-grade teacher and today’s learning goals include applying reading standards for literature, specifically: RL 5.1.1 and 5.1.2: Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

This is a new skill for fifth grade and students are working on interactive notebook pages for the
novel the class is reading. In their reading, they have analyzed the text and participated in a “Prediction” Think-Pair-Share – to call upon skills they learned the previous year. You are scaffolding on this information to help your students understand “inference.”

As students work, you sit with Billy to discuss his notebook. You have a three-ring binder open to a page with the headings: Child’s Name/Date, RL 5.1 Making Inferences, Teaching Point and What’s Next for this Child? Farther down the page is a sticky note listing five students’ names. These are the five children you will assess today.

Your initial purpose is to follow-up on feedback you provided two days ago based on evidence elicited from an interaction with Billy; in that previous interaction, you determined he struggled with predicting – thus making inference difficult.

You: You are working on inference – you know – coming to a conclusion made by connecting what
Elizabeth Chapin-Pinotti Inferring Worksheet from Fabulous Mr. Fox
you already know with the new information we’re reading in x novel.

Billy:  Well, in the first chapter of the Fantastic Mr. Fox, the mean and nasty farmers eat things they raise: chickens, geese, ducks and turkeys. I know that foxes like to eat these things.

You: Good, so what can you infer from that?

Billy: I can infer that there will be some problem with the fox and the farmers chickens, geese, ducks and turkeys.

You help Billy recognize what an inference is and review his work. As you are working with Billy you are filling out your formative assessment binder.

After you circulate the room, you realize that many of your students just aren’t grasping the connection between prediction and inference, so you pull together a mini-lesson.

You’ve quickly and simply learned what students know and do not know, you have the information tucked away in your binder and should continue to refer to the information in your binder to drive instruction.

Formative Assessment Freebie: The Fantastic Mr. Fox
43- Formative Assessments for Classroom Use
FREE! 2nd grade NBT.1 Formative Assessment!
Book Two: 60 Formative Assessment Strategies

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FREEBIE! Be a Classroom Chemist: The Art of Perfume Making Just in Time for Valentines Day

Be a Famous Perfume Maker (aka Chemist) Teacher Supplies: Jars for students who don't bring in their own Paper and glue for l...