Minerals Galore! Reading, Interactive Notebooks, Labs and Studyblocks

School finished up for me Tuesday with a Professional Work Day.  I'm so glad to finally be able to be on my own schedule.  My own kids have had school this week, which has left me with Free Time!  I had originally planned on enjoying a few hours at the beach, but it has really been raining here, so instead I used the time to start looking at organizing my science units for next year.
This was the first year I've had to teach science in a very, very, long time.  So it was like being a brand new teacher.  I had to learn the material. I had to wade through the numerous amounts of folders, and plan and prepare.  I was traveling through my science time by the skin of my teeth.  THAT was NOT going to be happening again this year.

I spent some time putting my minerals unit together.  Take a look at what it has to offer:

We all know that there has been a huge push to teach reading skills in the content area, so I incorporated some Close Reading passages into my unit.  I'll have students cold read these and make connections, complete vocabulary picture notes after discussion, and then do a foldable for our interactive notebook.  One thing I love about these foldables is that they aren't all vocabulary based, but my students have to DO something with them.. hello!  and in INTERACT with the interactive notebook foldable!
For example, the first passage we will read is What is a Mineral?  Throughout this passage my students will learn the four characteristics used to classify something as a mineral.  When we have finished discussion and answering quick check questions they will put this foldable into their notebooks:

Inside I have them write down justification for each item.  The inside looks like this:
Last, we color code the items.  In this case we did green for mineral and red for non-mineral.  It was more than just an enter in your vocabulary kind of thing.
We also have a Project Based Lab to complete.  I think PBL is such an amazing tool, and I can't wait to have more opportunities in my classroom for this.  All of the instructions for the lab are included in the unit.  You just have to supply the minerals.  Most schools that have minerals in their curriculum supply minerals and rocks, but if you happen to not have them try contacting your high school or a local university.  I found both very helpful at loaning me items when I was looking for them this year.  You can also buy rocks and minerals kits fairly inexpensively online.  Try www.rocksandminerals.com  It might make a great Donors Choose project.

I also included a studyblocks review sheet and a unit assessment.  The fabulous, amazing, creative, teacher that I worked with at my former school taught me about studyblocks almost 15 years ago.  I love them because they can also be an amazing data tool for you to see what stuck with your students.
Basically, you give students boxes with topic headings.  Independently or with a partner, students fill in the most important information in each heading.  The key is not to use complete sentences, or have information overload.  The key is just a phrase or code word(s) that will help you remember the important concepts.  My students really loved these this year.  It helped them learn what was REALLY an important part of the unit.  I always make these AFTER I make up my assessment, so students know that what is on the studyblocks is ON THE TEST.  After all, my job in not to trick them into studying a whole lot of trivia.  My job is to teach them how to pull out and retain pertinent information.  After my students create their own studyblocks I have them use a different color pen or pencil and I show them my blocks.  They write down any further information that they may have missed and then use the studyblocks as a tool to prepare for the assessment.
Here is an example of the studyblocks for minerals.
If Minerals is on your list of subjects to teach next year, consider checking out my unit.  It will give you a chance to enjoy a little more of your summer vacation!  My Rocks unit is up next in the queue!

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