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Happy Independence Day!

Student Led Science with Chemical Reactions

As a precursor to chemical reactions, allow students some time to experiment with pH indicators, discuss the periodic table and chemical formulas, and take some time to do at least one teacher led chemical reaction such as a baking soda and vinegar explosion in a ziplock bag.  Also, discuss the differences between a chemical and physical reaction.

Now this is how I allowed students to do their own chemical reactions…

*Students were able to choose what substances they wanted to mix.

*They were able to choose five reactions to perform.

*Students worked in groups of two.  If they couldn’t settle on what to mix, I told them that they could choose two and their partner could choose two reactions.  The last reaction they could do all alone.

*Students predicted what would happen in each reaction, and then recorded the results.

*I posed this question to the students before they began, “Will acids and bases always create a chemical reaction when mixed?”

Students were able to choose from the following substances to do their reactions:

  1. cream of tarter
  2. borax
  3. baking soda
  4. vinegar
  5. Sprite
  6. dishwashing liquid (watered down a bit)
  7. lemon juice

I used these little artist’s palettes with circular indentations in them for students to mix substances. These palettes were numbered so that substances could be numbered.  I also had these little medicine cups that came with a science kit.  The cups hold about one ounce.  I had the different substances already poured out for students to use.  Students could only get one cup of each substance, and if they were using the same substance for more than one experiment, they had to use that one cup for both experiments.  The little spoons you see worked out very well.  A colleague was getting rid of them, and I gladly took them off her hands.

This is further how I organized the materials at the supply table below.  Again, this is not a beautiful blog picture, but it is real life after several classes had experienced this activity.  I had different pieces of paper to organize the substances with the name on them.  I told students they had to manage how to organize them at their own desk.  In the picture above you can see that these students were very organized when they got to their table.  They labeled their cups on notebook paper.


After students experimented many of them wanted to further mix what was already on their experimenting plate.  I allowed this, but required them to write down what they had mixed.

In closing discussion, we talked about what happened when different students mixed different substances.  We talked about whether these substances created chemical reactions, and students had to give evidence for a reaction being a chemical reaction.  For example, did the substances produce gas, change temperature, or did they turn into completely different substances?

The students really enjoyed this learning experience, and this spurred them on to experiment at home on their own.  I encouraged them to experiment over the summer especially because most of these substances can be found in the kitchen cabinet.

Use Chemical Reactions to Introduce Financial Literacy

Now, if you have already collected a bunch of pennies for the previous lemon battery experiment, you might as well do this experiment too.  This experiment will make pennies look new, but you can make them extra dirty–or oxidized before you make them shiny.  This experiment is quick and easy and has high impact.

First, to make your pennies oxidize or turn green, put your pennies in a shallow plate (see below) somewhere on a paper towel.  Pour just enough white vinegar to let the pennies sit in the vinegar.  You don’t want the vinegar to cover the pennies because you want the oxygen to reach them.  You could turn the pennies over after they touch the vinegar so that both sides are able to touch the liquid.  The combination of vinegar and oxygen will make them green.  I have only done this when leaving the pennies for several hours or overnight, but the reaction will still happen with less time.   The oxidation just won’t be as noticeable if done for an hour or two.

Note:  I only used pre-1982 pennies which are mostly copper as opposed to new pennies which are filled with zinc and only coated in copper.  This reaction I believe will still work with new pennies because the copper is on the outside.

Here is the end result below…they are all dried off.  When doing this with children make sure you let them know that the pennies are not “rusting”, but that this is a chemical reaction between the oxygen and the vinegar called oxidation.


Now this is what I did in my lesson.  I gave the kids an old green penny and a new penny (made 1982 and after).  I told them to drop each penny on the table and listen to the difference in sound.  Allow the kids to describe the differences in the pennies.

Next, I handed each child a small cup–in this case they are those little medicine cups.  I had each child drop their old green penny in a cup and walked by to pour lemon juice just barely over the top of the penny.  Then I had the children slide the cup from side to side to wash it in the lemon juice.  I bought my lemon juice at Wal-Mart for about $2.  If you have the leftover lemons from the lemon batteries, that juice will work too, but it is just easier to buy the lemon juice already made.

What is interesting is that the oxidation washes off in the cup and the lemon juice turns green.  This is a great time to bring in the social studies aspect of the Statue of Liberty turning green from the oxidation.

I took this science experiment a step further and discussed inflation with the students by showing them a a video like this one about penny hoarders.  We further discussed how the prices of goods and services are rising.  Next, I give the students a chart and have them find the purchasing power of a dollar over time.  We use this website to calculate the purchasing power of a dollar.  They watch inflation from 1913 to the current year.  This is very astonishing to them, and will organically lead to great discussion.  Further, I give them a long term homework assignment and tell them that they are to pick one grocery store item and watch the price over time (this could take years).  They are to see if the price of their item goes up or down and keep a record of this.

I hope you can enjoy using science to teach financial literacy in your classroom, too.

Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas!

Use Your Old Cardboard Box for a Clever Bulletin Board!

I collect trash at times.  Sometimes because I always think, OH!  I could use that for something!”  Other times I collect trash for school projects.  In particular, I especially collect small cardboard boxes in which items are mailed to me.  One day, I had a brainstorm and the beginning of this bulletin board emerged.  Most of the time bulletin board ideas just come to me.  In this case I thought of this clever puzzle to put on the board using a box.  I used colorful tissue paper to put inside the box and hot glued it inside.  Next, I used different fonts of different sizes to make the words “Think” in different colors.  I attached these all around.  Now, what do you think this bulletin board says?


You guessed it!  Think outside the box! 🙂

September TPT Giftcard Giveaway!

Happy September!  Here is a fabulous September giveaway to help you get going with your instruction in the new school year!



Prize: $25 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card

Giveaway Organized by: Kelly Malloy (An Apple for the Teacher),

Co-hosts:   An Apple for the Teacher, Mickey’s Place, Just Ask Judy, Ms. K, ZippadeeZazz, GlisteningGems, La-NetteMark, and GrowingGrade by Grade.

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter to enter. Giveaway ends 9/16/16and is open worldwide.

Are you a Teacher Blogger or Teachers pay Teachers seller whowants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your store and social media?  Click here to find out how you can join our totally awesome group of bloggers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If You Teach 2nd or 3rd You Have Always Needed This!

Here is the tool you never knew you desperately needed!  I finally finished my classroom wall number line.  I measured it to be nearly 41 feet long.  When I put this together at home it went down my hallway and then some.  This number line spans from 1-120 and has base ten blocks underneath each number.  There are also gray half marks in between the numbers so that the teacher can begin introducing students to fractions while still talking about whole numbers.  This is sure to be a visual reference tool which will be useful ALL year long!


classroom wall number line

You can discuss comparing numbers, greater than/less than, ordering numbers, rounding numbers, ten more and ten less, one more and one less, etc!

This number line has clear instructions for assembly, can be printed on card stock, and laminated for durability.

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It is now available now on TPT!

Best Year Ever Back to School Sale on TPT! and GIVEAWAY!

TPT is having a back to school sale on August 1st and 2nd.  During these days, everything in my store will be 28% off.

Also, I’m giving away a $10 TPT gift card to spend.  Just register below to win :).  I will announce the winner Tuesday morning!





a Rafflecopter giveaway

Is Ladder Division Causing Your Students to Struggle? Try This!

When students struggle with ladder division, many times it is because they learned a procedure and haven’t made sense of the procedure for themselves.  In this case students haven’t had enough experiences with division problems that are near friendly numbers so that they can reason about the numbers. Try giving students some problems that are near friendly numbers first if you notice that they aren’t using number sense to form partial quotients.  For example, if students continue to subtract only small groups of ten and aren’t able to estimate a larger number for partial quotients, then try giving students numbers that are easier with which to estimate, like in the picture below.  Slide1In the above picture, I started with some students in intervention who started solving the problem using groups of ten.  2499 divided by 25 is obviously close to 2500.  Why not start with 100 groups and reason about taking away one group so that the quotient isn’t too large.  When students look at how they could estimate to solve this problem, they have a lightbulb moment.  Give them other examples like this to get students in the habit of solving problems with reasoning and number sense as opposed to a procedure.

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