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Power Thinking: Concept Mapping in Smart Notebook 2015

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Powerful Thinking… Powerful Learning

When we teach, we want students to learn. The more we can get them to think about the content we are presenting, the deeper and longer-lasting their learning becomes. In this post, we will explore Power Thinking, a concept mapping and outlining strategy that helps students organize information. concept mapping

Power Thinking: a great concept mapping and outlining strategy for all ages. {Image via Creative Commons}

What is Power Thinking?

Power Thinking is a strategy that students use to organize information, much like you would do in an outline. The most important piece of information, the title or topic, represents Level 1; main ideas are Level 2; other ideas or details become Level 3. Additional levels may be added, depending on the topic or the age of your students. For some students, the information can be color-coded by level, or the ideas can be numbered.

In the Power Thinking strategy, students stand in a circle in an open floor space and take turns placing pieces of information on the floor, building the map one piece at a time. When students run out of information to add, they may move one piece to another part of the map. In my classes, I usually conduct two rounds with information, then two rounds moving information, before ending the task.

The trick to Power Thinking is that the task is performed silently. This allows students who need more think time to process without classmates calling out answers or giving advice. It also requires students to think more deeply as they wait.

The Learning Benefits of Power Thinking

As with any concept mapping activity, Power Thinking helps students think about the many ways they can connect information, leading to a deeper understanding of the topic being studied. The hierarchical thinking that is used also helps students understand main ideas and supporting details. Older students can use this thinking to take better notes.

Power Thinking assists a wide range of learners, providing multiple entry points for the students in your class. The ability to stand and physically move items helps students who need a more active learning environment. Color cues, when used, aid in identifying levels of information, and help some students remember the levels later. Because there are many ways to connect pieces of information, students who are divergent thinkers are able to participate equitably, as well.

Concept Mapping Technology

Thanks to the plethora of educational technologies available in most classrooms today, students can practice concept mapping on many electronic devices. In this post, we will explore the use of the Smart Board and Smart Notebook 2015 software as concept mapping tools to use in Power Thinking.

Concept Mapping Using Smart Notebook 2015

The newest version of Smart Notebook includes built-in tools for concept mapping on your Smart Board.  Follow the steps below to make your Power Thinking Activity high-tech.

Before you teach:

  • Step 1. Open Smart Notebook 2015.
  • Step 2. Click the new concept mapping tool on the top tool bar. concept mapping

Smart Notebook 2015 includes a new concept mapping tool in the main tool bar.

  • Step 3. Prepare term cards for students. On notecards or pieces of sentence strip, write the terms and phrases that you want students to use in the concept mapping activity. {A practice set on bird eggs is included for your convenience.}

Power thinking:

  • Step 4. Pass out term cards to students. Each student should have at least two cards. Adjust the number of terms to match your class size.
  • Step 5. Students begin mapping. One at a time, students come to the board and create a map item by writing the term on their card, and circling it. Circling it causes the term to become a movable item on the Smart Board.
  • Step 6. Students connect items on the map. As students place their terms on the map, they can drag them to other terms and connect them by drawing a line between related items.
  • Step 7. Students move items. Once all the terms are on the board, continue with 1-2 additional rounds, allowing students to move one item to a new location, erasing and redrawing connections.

After teaching:

After the learning task is finished, you may save and print your concept map. Power Thinking can be repeated after instruction of key parts of the topic, and can also be used as a summative assessment after instruction is completed.

For an exciting collaborative twist on concept mapping, see the video, below, where students collaborate to build a concept map of words and photos using their individual mobile devices and the classroom Smart Board.

Get Mapping!

I hope you enjoy this concept mapping tutorial for use with your Smart Board. Happy mapping!

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2013 Annual Report and Review

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Happy 2014, Friends!

WordPress so kindly whipped up this review of Simple Science Strategies’ year in this great graphic-filled summary. Check it out!

Thank you all for making this year a success! Be blessed, and have a great 2014!

Kim at Simple Science Strategies


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What’s Under There?

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The next time you are on a nature walk, prepare to explore life under an old, rotting log. Bring along a couple of containers or bug houses, some magnifying glasses, and your notebook and pencil.Any large log will do (it should be large enough to create a really tight space underneath), but the more decomposed the log, the better.

“The Earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it, the world and those who live in it.” — Psalm 24:1

A Close-up Observation: A Tiny Forest

First, examine the surface of the log before you turn it over.What is growing on it? Are there any little critters crawling on it? What are they doing?

Look at the area around the rotted log. How does the plant life on the log differ from the plant life around it? Why do you think that is so?

You will probably see several kinds of moss growing. Use your magnifying glass to see the little brown “antennae”-looking things that stick up above the green moss. These are the spore cases of the moss. Mosses don’t have seeds, but produce spores. Their life cycle is very different from a seed-bearing plant’s life cycle.

You might also see lichens, which are drier, and are usually a whitish-green color. A lichen is an interesting organism that has some features of green plants and some of fungi. You can collect lichen — they will dry out and keep their color. If you are starting a lichen collection, make sure to write down the date, name of the place you found it, and what kind of log it was growing on (if you know).

There are some interesting kinds of lichens and mushrooms that you might see — check out the photo gallery below.

Of course, if your log is really rotting, it will also be the home for some tree seedlings. See if you can identify what kind of tree the seedling will grow up to be.

If you’ve brought your nature journal or notebooking supplies, take a moment to sketch the log before you move it.

The Handbook of Nature Study’s Outdoor Hour Challenge #42 Moss and Lichen describes some activities that you can use as a follow-up to observations of moss and lichens in the field. For notebooking pages that you can use with these, and other, plant studies, see Apologia’s Botany Notebooking pages, which include 60 pages that you can use for studies of mosses, lichens, fungi and seed-bearing plants.

Great photos of lichens and mosses can be found in Nicolette’s Notebook and Delightful Learning.

The Notebooking Treasury has thousands of notebooking pages that can be used with any subject, including nature study notebooking pages that are divided by habitat, such as “rotting log,” or “in the woods.”

Use discount code = discount5 to save $5 on your $10+ purchase at


Observation Under a Log: Knock, Knock…

Now, get ready to move the log.NOW, we are getting ready to look at tiny things living under the log, but remember, there might be bigger critters living under there, too. Snakes, chipmunks and other creatures take advantage of the spaces under logs, as they don’t have to work to dig. Because they would rather get away than fight for their lives, give them that chance — turn the log by rolling it toward you, instead of away, so that any big something underneath can safely skitter away, and roll it slowly, so you don’t squish fingers or toes of anyone. Always make sure that your friend is not peaking under the other side of the log before you move it!

NOTE: Use your judgment when deciding to move a log. Don’t move one that is too big to move safely without hurting yourself. And don’t move anything if it will cause too much disturbance to the environment. You are going back to your home, but the log is the only home some critters have right now.


The Process of Science

The Skills of a Scientist


Okay, so you know all the scientific names of all the tropical fish in your school aquarium. You can identify bird songs from 5 miles away. You have the periodic table memorized. That’s the content of science. WNow let’s test your knowledge of the process of science.

Which of the following is not a science process skill?


Observation: Time to Rock and Roll

(the log, that is!)


Ok… Let’s get rolling!One of the first things you might see are the tunnels of one of many kinds of ants. When you disturb their home, you will see them scurrying around, carrying ant eggs and pupae to safer locations down in the ant hill. This is a great opportunity to observe the habits of ants, and how they work together for their survival.

You might also see sow beetles. Some people call them pillbugs or rolly polly beetles. They are not really a beetle.They look like miniature armadillos, and will often curl into a ball if they feel threatened. They like to eat rotting plant materials. Put a few in a bug house with a small amount of the composted log to look at later.

If you’re really lucky, and it’s the right time of the year for your area, you might see striped salamanders. These are locally plentiful, which means, if your area has them, you’ll probably find a lot of them. A little less frequently, you might see red efts, if your rotting log is close to a water supply (efts are also salamanders, which are amphibians, like frogs, so they spend part of their life in the water). If you are hiking at night (try it sometime!), you might be fortunate enough to see a spotted salamander, a large, black, prehistoric-looking creature with yellow spots. They are not plentiful, and are more sensitive to changes in the environment. We used to pay $1 to the first of our children to find a spotted salamander in the spring. The first one was usually unearthed in April or so, by turning compost or digging in the woodchip pile. They hide during the day, and come out almost exclusively at night, so be on the lookout under your log.

Another kind of ant you might see is the very interesting citronella ant. They often are confused with termites, as they are light yellow to whitish in color, and they are often seen in a line of thousands crawling along house foundations. They are not pests, though. They get their name because, if you accidentally squash one, it gives off a smell like the citronella candles you burn to keep mosquitoes away. You can usually see this kind of ant in the late summer, when they move house for the season.

The earthworm is another resident of the secret world under a rotting log. Their tunneling is very important to the energy cycle in the forest. Did you know that dirt is worm poop? That’s a fact that kids just love to hear. On another lens, I’ll tell you how to make a worm bin, and you’ll get to try an experiment that will prove that dirt is worm poop. It’s very cool, and I can’t wait to share it with you. A hint about earthworms: people like to take them home to study, but the kind of worms that you will probably find under the rotten log are particular about their home, and usually die inside (it just gets too warm for them). Be on the lookout for my lens called “Bucket of Fun” for more information about raising worms.

Don’t forget to check out the plant life under the log. You will probably see a net of whitish or yellowish threads that look sort of like roots. These are the underground body (called mycelium) of some non-green plants. Some are fungi — the mycelium is a sort of “root” for the mushroom that will grow above the surface. But others are another organism called actinomycetes. Everyone knows about these, but they don’t know it! Ever smell that wonderful smell that tells you that rain is coming? That is the smell that soil makes when actinomycetes grow after a rain storm. We think that bacteria and fungus are what make our leaves turn into soil in the compost pile, but it is really the work of those nets of white and yellow actinomycetes that you see under your log.

Check out the photo gallery, below, for pictures of some of the critters you might come across under your log. Use this journal page to write and draw about what you see. If you want to make a list of creatures you find, use this checklist.


Look for these…


Be a Good Steward


God created the whole earth for us to enjoy, but He also put us in charge of caring for it. Always make sure that you leave an area looking cleaner than it was when you got there. That means, carefully roll the log back. Replace any critters you have in your critter catchers, where you found them. Pack out any trash you created, and pick up any trash other hikers have left behind. Remember, it’s not YOUR home!


For More Information About Life in the Forest…

One Small Square: Woods

by: Donald Silver, Patricia Wynne

An excellent book if you are doing a nature study in the woods, or preparing for a woodland hike. One of a series.

Amazon Price: $4.51 (as of 08/13/2012) Buy Now

A Field Guide to Mushrooms: North America (Peterson Field Guides)

by: Kent H. McKnight, Vera B. McKnight

There are many field guide series. I have used many of them. Peterson Guides usually group organisms by color, which bothers some people (because it’s not taxonomically correct), but helps beginners.

Amazon Price: $11.99 (as of 08/13/2012) Buy Now

Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses

by: Robin Wall Kimmerer

Amazon Price: $11.98 (as of 08/13/2012) Buy Now

A Salamander’s Life (Nature Upclose)

by: John Himmelman

If your nature study is part of a larger one about life cycles.

Amazon Price: $437.56 (as of 08/13/2012) Buy Now

Lichens (Smithsonian’s Natural World Series)

by: William Purvis

Amazon Price: $10.49 (as of 08/13/2012) Buy Now

A Fascinating Look into the World of Fungus

What’s in the News Now…

Check out these articles about molds, mildews and other mushroom cousins.
Video: From Allergies to Deadly Disease, Feeling the Effects of Climate Change
In this video, doctors blame the world’s strange climate lately, on the rise of exotic diseases caused by fungi.
Paul Stamets and the Holy Grail of Mushrooms
One mushroom expert believes that a certain kind of mushroom holds the secret for the cure of many diseases.
The Strange World of Mushrooms, Above and Below
Just when you thought that you had this taxonomy thing all figured out, they go and find something that breaks the rules. Take a look at a kind of undersea coral which has part of its life cycle that looks remarkably like the above ground mushrooms it so closely resembles.
Better Living Through Mycology
A fanciful description of how the world would be a better place if we just loved fungi more.
Magical Kingdom
A quick guide to mushroom taxonomy.
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