Monday, October 3, 2016

five for FRIDAY weekly Linky Party Homecoming Week


This past week was homecoming week. Need I say more? :)

I Started Teaching Sig Figs
One of my favorite things to teach in chemistry is Significant figures. And this is odd because it used to be one of my least favorite. We are just at the beginning stages, but so far so good!



We Dressed Up as Emojis
Wednesday was Wild Card Wednesday, so the science department decided the dress up as emojis. It was fun!



We Buried the Chief
Thursday was a sad day, however. We buried my best friend's stepfather, whom she also called "daddy." He was an amazing man, father, grandfather, firefighter, coach, and friend. His battle with cancer was fought bravely and courageously. The legacy he left behind was inspirational. 


 


I Sang at His Funeral
I'm honored to have been a part of one of the most touching services I've ever been to. Over 10 years ago, Johnny asked me to sing at his funeral. Not sure why it came up then, but I didn't forget about it, nor did he. In April of this year, standing on the top step at the church, he told me what song he wanted..."When I'm Gone" by Joey and Rory. I believe he connected with the song for a couple of reasons: 1) She too lost the battle to cancer and 2) He wanted his family to know how much he loved them, and even though he was gone, they were going to be alright. He loved them dearly, and loved the community as well. The overflowing sanctuary, community members lining the streets, the flowers, the food, the tears, and the smiles as stories were told, was a testament to his life and the love he felt for others. I love to sing, but I don't like to do funerals. I'm an emotional person. I cry when I'm happy, sad, angry, and pretty much all other emotions. But, Johnny believed in me. He even believed in me more than I believed in myself. And he did that for all...not just me. I'm thankful for having the opportunity to have had him in my life and a better person for it.


Had Another Former Student Drop By
Friday was a tough day. I was expected to teach, but the tears kept wanting to flow. "I've got to hold it together", I kept telling myself. Surprisingly, I had a student that I taught last year that popped in to say "hey". I say "surprisingly" because this kid is now too cool for school. He's a non-reader, been in some trouble-maker, with a most contagious smile. And he dropped by to say "hey" at a most needed time.  I don't know why he chose that day to drop by or that particular moment.  I haven't seen him all year.  But he couldn't have picked a better time...ending Homecoming Week 2016 with a much needed smile.  

Sunday, October 2, 2016

6 Steps to Help Your Students Master Sig Figs

Call me crazy...but I LOVE teaching sig figs (aka significant figures)!  I'm not sure why I do, but I do.  It could be the challenge that goes along with trying to get students to understand how to use them and why to use them.  Or maybe it is just my obsession with numbers and data.  No matter the reason, I find it fun! You can even teach them in 6 simple steps.



Step 1: Show them why you use them

After a few years of struggling to teach the concept of significant figures, I realized that the students didn't understand why they were being asked to use them. Consider the number 3.00. Because of their math background, they ask "Can't I just say 3?". When you answer "No!", they don't get it. It's the same, right? To them it is, so we must teach them that in science, it isn't. Show them significant figures using any measurement tool (like a digital balance). Measure the mass of an object. If the tool shows the mass of the object to equal 2.1 grams, ask them if we would report the mass of the object as 2.11134 grams? It helps them to see that we can't report measurements to any more precision than they have. You can also use a POGIL to introduce the topic. It's a way to FLIP the topic. It served the same purpose but it guided their discovery of why we use significant figures. It worked well!  NOTE:  You may notice that this section is longer than the others.  That is because I strongly feel that this is the MOST important part.  If the students understand why significant figures are used, they are more open to the idea of using them.   

Step 2: Teach the rounding rules

I like to start out with the rules for identifying what makes a number significant and the rounding rules. Baby steps! Go through each rule and give examples. 

Step 3: Practice makes perfect

Give them an assignment that helps them practice identifying the number of significant figures in a piece of data. Also allow them to practice rounding to various numbers of significant figures...1 sig fig, 2 sig figs, 3 sig digs, etc. 

Step 4: Teach the rules for the operations

Remind them of the goal...to report data and measurements to the appropriate number of significant figures. Now, teach them the rules for the basic mathematical operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division). 

Step 5: Practice makes even more perfect

Practice with it all together. Give them an assignment to complete (or multiple assignments if your students are like mine)  in which they have to perform the operations and report their answers to the appropriate number of significant figures. Or, create a lab in which they take measurements and report their answers correctly.     

Step 6: Assess your students' understanding

End your lesson with an assessment that measures their mastery. Give them a task or test!  These are some of the Significant Figures activities and assessments I use.

What are your best tools for teaching sig figs? 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

five for FRIDAY Weekly Linky Party...Take Two



I'm excited about my 2nd five for FRIDAY weekly linky party with Doodle Bugs Teaching.  Thanks so much again for this opportunity.  It is a fun way to reflect on each week...and boy was it a busy week! 


We finished up the scientific method this week by solving Gnature with Gnat's Who Stole the Lighthouse Diamond Scientific Method Inquiry Lab activity.  The students, and myself, loved it!  It worked well as a summative performance task for my students to show me that they understood the appropriate manner of completing a scientific investigation.   


If you haven't already, check out the app Ibotta!  It's an app with rebates for groceries, beauty items, and more. I just started using it this week and I've already got $13.00 back from the purchases that I've made.  


In Chemistry, we spend a lot of time in class measuring.  After days of practice, I assess how well they can do it.  Stations are set up around the room with task for the students to perform.  Because it is an individual assessment, it takes a while for each student to complete all of the task.  In addition to the lab, they have a worksheet to complete.  But, some students still finish earlier than others.  I needed an early finishers assignment so I created this measurement puzzle to challenge them a little.  And it's a challenge!  Download it here for FREE


My student teacher taught her first lesson this week.  For someone who is very much a Type A personality, this was tough. It was hard to just let go and surrender the control of the class and the lesson.  When I saw mistakes as she designed the lesson, I found myself wanting to say "that's not going to work" or "try it this way".  But, I realized quickly that I had to step back and remind myself that the best way for many to learn is through experience.  There were mistakes made, but she did great!  Through her experience, she learned 1) that students can be competitive, 2) that you have to have something for the other students to do if only 2 people at a time participate in the game, 3) games can be tough to manage, 4) it's important to proofread, and...


5) sometimes things go wrong!  Can you believe that we had technical difficulties?  Bless her heart!  The powerpoint that she created for the game froze up.  We tried to fix it for a couple of minutes, but we were unsuccessful.  On a positive note, it was a wonderful learning experience.  It taught her that sometimes you must be quick on your feet and improvise...or always have a back-up plan!  

How do you plan for when things go wrong?  



Saturday, September 17, 2016

First five for FRIDAY Weekly Linky Party






I'm super excited about my first five for FRIDAY linky party.  I'm a day late (maybe a dollar short).  But, I'm going to say "better late, than never."  




On Monday, we went over a worksheet that we gave our students the previous week for homework.  Boy were they bored!  I started thinking about ideas that we have used in the past to get more of our students engaged.  It was great to remind myself with this post of strategies that we could use in the future to engage our students when going over a worksheet.  Check it Out!



I used Glo Germ to teach and assess the students' understanding of the scientific method, experimental design, and identification of variables.  Glo Germ is a material, that comes in a gel, as well as a powder, that can be used to simulate the presence and spreading of germs.  You can place the material on your hands or on a surface and investigate!  My kiddos came up with some excellent scientific questions.  One of my personal favorites was a group that decided to test the effects of different make-up brush washing techniques and cleaners.  A big thanks to my friend The Trendy Science Teacher for sharing this idea!



We had fun celebrating a friend's 50th birthday!  On Monday we decorated her room and various parts of the school.  Since her birthday wasn't until Wednesday, she was so surprised.  She was greeted Tuesday morning with balloons, old pictures, caution signs, and a large group of friends and Wednesday morning with this and more...




I had a former student of mine make my day.  This student struggled (very much) when he was in school, but he never gave up.  He was a hard worker and it has paid off because he now works at the school.  Yesterday afternoon, he came in my room as I was finishing up with grading an Anatomy test.  He hugged my neck and told me I was a good teacher.  It was a great way to end a tough week.


I'm thankful for Doodle Bugs Teaching for the opportunity to participate in my first linky party.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

10 Strategies To Engage More Of Your Students



Think about the last time you went over a worksheet.  Maybe it was a homework assignment or a practice assignment that they did in class.  If your students are like mine, it's a challenge to get all of them to participate (or even pay attention).  Each time, it seems to be the same students, raising their hands to volunteer and share their answers. Going over the worksheet may not be entertaining, but getting the correct answers is important to each student's understanding.  So, what can we do to get more of our students engaged when going over an a worksheet?



Draw Names-As the students enter the classroom, greet them with a small piece of paper.  Have them autograph the paper and turn it back in to you.  Randomly draw names, or have the students draw names, for turns to share their answers.  

Let Them Call On Each Other-To get started, call on one student to give the first answer.  If this student gives the correct answer, allow him or her to call on another member of the class.  If the student gives the incorrect answer however, the teacher gets to call on the next student.  Continue the process until all questions or problems have been answered or discussed.

Beach Ball Fun-This student fav involves a beach ball (that means it's got to be engaging). I usually begin by tossing the ball to a student in the class.  This student then gets to answer a question and toss it to another student.

Grade Your Own-Sometimes the "going over" part needs to be quick.  Present the answer key for the assignment and have your students self-assess, marking problems wrong if they get them wrong.  In the end, they can give themselves a grade based on how many they missed. They become the teacher for a moment.

Grade a Partner-If you're not so keen on students grading their own paper, have them swap with a partner.  Let their partner grade their paper and assign a grade based on the number of correct and incorrect answers.

Enter the Raffle-Have your students volunteer or you call on students to answer questions.  Each time a student gets the answer correct, they get to enter their name into a raffle.  After you go over the worksheet, randomly choose a winner and award a prize.  Prizes can even be FREE (bonus points, exempt a quiz or homework, 100 for a grade, sit in the teacher's chair, etc.).

In a Row-Challenge your students to get the most correct in a row.  Divide the class into two groups.  Go up and down the rows, calling on students to share their answers.  Keep up with how many students in a row correctly give them.  When a student misses an answer, it's the other group's turn.  Make it a friendly competition and reward a prize to the winning team.

QR code-If you have access to technology, create QR codes with the answer key.  Have the students move around the room and scan the QR codes to check their work.

Hot seat-This one would require a little set-up time, but if you have it, go for it! Create a presentation with your seating arrangement (like a power point slide).  Copy and paste the slide for the number of seats you have in your room.  For each slide, highlight a different "hot seat."  Students won't know who to expect next.

Game time-Put your students in groups and assign them a group number.  Randomly call out questions from the worksheet to be answered. The students quickly look at their papers, decide on a common answer, and write it on a white board. After a few seconds, you choose a number. If this group has the right answer, they get a point. If they don't, you choose another number. At the end, the group with the most points wins!

What ideas do you have to keep your students engaged while going over worksheets? 




Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Not Just Another Worksheet

© Candybox Images | Dreamstime.com - Bored student girl sitting between stack books 

If our students are used to the same basic type of worksheet for review or assessment, chances are they might be getting bored. So, what are they really learning? Make the review or assessment of your lesson more effective by not giving just another worksheet. Here's a few strategies I use to mix things up a bit in our classroom.  

Cut and paste
One of my favorite alternatives to a traditional worksheet is a Cut and Paste worksheet.  Start out with your questions as you normally would. Next, make an answer bank. Finally, students cut out answers and paste them with the appropriate question. You can even differentiate and modify by adding more answer choices to challenge the students that need to be challenged.

Maze 
Instead of a basic multiple choice worksheet, why not try creating a Maze for your students? Download and use this FREE Simple Maze Template for your worksheet.  Add questions or problems to the large squares and answers choices that guide them through the maze from start to finish.  I like to have my students color as they make their way through the maze (a bonus is that this makes it easy to grade). 

Color by number
Got a picture?  Turn it into a Color by Number worksheet.  Simply assign numbers to sections of the picture that need to be colored.  Have students answer a question and color the corresponding numbers based on the answer they choose. 

Puzzle
You can even turn your worksheets into a Puzzle.  Create an interactive puzzle by simply copying and pasting questions and answers into the FREE Triangle Puzzle Template.  Be sure to align questions with answers.  Next, copy, cut, laminate (recommended for durability), and place in a bag.

Card sort
Creating Card Sorts are simple.  Start out by creating a table of information.  Next, cut out the table and labels, laminate, place cards in a bag, and give to your students to sort.  

Domino activity
Use this FREE Domino Review Template to create Domino Activity that your students will love.  Add the word START (or something similar so your students know which tile starts the train).  Then, complete the set by adding question, answer, question, answer, and so forth.  Don't forget to add the word FINISH on your final tile.

These are just a few ideas. How do you mix up your traditional worksheets?



Thursday, September 1, 2016

Make Your Observer Say "Wow!"


One of our main goals as a teacher is to teach our students and to assess their learning of what we teach them. A goal of our leaders is to see that we are doing exactly that and assess how well we are. Just as many of our students want to make a 100 on a test, we do too.  We want to make our observers say "Wow!". So what exactly are they looking for? Luckily, I have the inside scoop because I am married to one. Here's a few ideas... 

When your boss gives you a task, chances are nowadays they don't ask you to do it alone. They will form a team to get the job done. More minds will sometimes work better together. Why did I say sometimes? Group work can work, or it can fail miserably by becoming a time for your students to catch up on the gossip. We must first assign groups wisely. When our administrators assign groups, they may group subject teachers or grade level teachers together. Sometimes it may be a group of teacher leaders. The group depends on the job.  Think about the type of group that will work best for the activity, just as your admins do. If you are playing a review game, consider a tiered group with a leader. Try to arrange the groups so that one group does not have advantage over the other. If it's a differentiated assignment, you might want to group based on interest or ability. Just remember to manage your groups once assigned. Even as adults, it's difficult for some groups to stay on task.

© Sergey Khakimullin | Dreamstime.com - Team creative work 

On the flip side, if we make a lesson interesting and engaging, we won't have to worry so much about keeping our groups focused. The lesson will, and your students will manage themselves. Many administrators are looking to see your students interacting. Captivate your students' interest and be sure that they interact by making the topic relevant or by connecting it to a real world experience or phenomena. Instead of telling your students the steps of the scientific method and letting them practice writing them, present them with a real-life problem and let them think through a possible way to solve it.  

Involve as much problem solving as you can in your lessons. Encourage your students to discover, investigate, and inquire about topics. Let them do the work instead of you. Simply provide a question that connects to the content, let your students uncover the answer through research or experimentation, and VIOLA, they've got it! 

As they are working, be sure to facilitate the learning. Move around the room. Ask multiple and varied DOK questions. Use the language of your school or state standards and address it and the essential question multiple times during the lesson. 


© Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime.com - Schoolchildren and teacher in science class 

 Finally, we must make sure they've mastered the content by assessing for their understanding. Put on your creative cap and come up with different methods of assessing your students' learning. Use cut and paste worksheets (Significant Figures Cut and Paste Worksheet), mazes or puzzles (DNA Structure Maze WorksheetNaming Compounds Puzzle), task cards (Genetics Task Cards), station activities (Chemistry of Life Review Stations), card sorts (Macromolecules Card Sort), and so much more. A quiz doesn't always have to be multiple choice or fill in the blank. Mix it up!


No matter what strategies you use in your classroom, you're oberver is looking to see your students learning. These are just a few ideas to help your students do just that. Make your students learn...make your observer say "Wow!". 

How do you make you observer say "Wow!"?  

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Inviting Environment in a High School Science Classroom

Have you ever thought about why people decorate their surroundings? Why do we dress up our rooms like our students dress up to go to the prom? It is a way to express ourselves and show our interest. Think about the last time your home or office was messy. It may have made you feel the same way...messy! Our surroundings can create a sense of disarray or we can use them to create a sense of happiness. Disney World is a happy place. But, imagine going to the Magic Kingdom without the castle, princesses, lights, and rides. Let's face it, things just wouldn't be the same. Environment can have a major impact. As teachers, we should create an inviting environment for our students. Keep reading to learn some of the ways I make my classroom warm and inviting to my students.  

1) Add decor
Make your classroom warm and inviting by adding decor. Decorate your bulletin board, the walls, your desk. Make things match. Use school colors and connect it all to your students by adding a data wall or use their work to decorate.





2) Use science themes
Use science themes to decorate such as glassware, living things, or the planets. This year I used the periodic table and owls, incorporating two different subjects I teach. And of course because I teach biology, I have critters. The kids love them and they can be used to teach responsibility to even high school students. When your students enter, they know immediately what type of classroom they are in. 







3) Add toys and models (skeleton, plasma ball, lava lamp, toy cars, robot insects, etc. Make them feel like science is neat! 



4) Create your own posters, laminate, and use to decorate 



Finally...Let's consider Disney World again. As you enter the Magic Kingdom, you and your family are greeted by the excitement and engagement. Stores with toys and shops with characters catch your attention. The happiness is contagious. There is so much to do and so much to see...different things to captivate everyone's interest. I'm not saying to dress up as Cinderalla and greet your students with song and dance everyday. Im just saying make it exciting. Find ways to make it fun for everybody to learn. And it won't matter so much that your colors match. Students will look forward to the "song and dance" you will have them to do each day. And the environment will always be inviting.