Thursday, October 5, 2017

7 Steps Towards Becoming an Effective Science (or any) Teacher

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, to be effective means to produce “a decided, decisive, or desired effect.” As a science teacher (or any teacher), our “desired effect” should be to engage our students in what they are learning, inspire them to learn more, and make them masters of that which they are learning. On a scale of 1 to 10, how effective are you? Are you a number 1, 2...9 but want to be a 10? You can follow these 7 steps to become an effective science (or any) teacher.
Step 1:  Plan investigations, inquiry, or discovery activities for your students.  This will increase their engagement and retainment of information.  Try using a real world phenomenon!  For example, instead of lecturing about phases of matter and the changes that can happen, why not let them investigate the fact that clouds have flat bottoms?
Step 2:  Collaborate with teachers of the same subject.  I used to think that I could do it better by myself.  But after having a co-teacher for 9 years and a student-teacher for 2 years, I've realized this is not so.  Two minds (or more) work better than one.  It's as simple as this...

You:  "I'm going to teach ___ by ___."
Co-worker:  "I like that!  What about adding ___."
You:  "That's great!  We could ___, too."
Co-worker:  "Great!  I will do ___ and you can do ___."

Conversation time = 10 minutes
Time saved in lesson prep = half of your planning period
Student engagement and observation from administrator = priceless

Step 3:  Use Pinterest.  Pinterest has become something that millions of us have learned to use and love.  It is where we go to save the best of the best.  So, why not go to it to find the best of the best?  When it's time to teach the next lesson, head over to Pinterest and start your search of an idea from there.  Let's suppose you need to teach about cell organelles.  Head over to Pinterest, search cell organelles...

and Viola!

Step 4:  When all else fails, let them design their own assignment.  I like to give the students a few traditional options like make a poster, write a creative story, draw a picture, etc.  The final option I give them is to design their own.  If you've never tried this, you should give it a try.  You would be amazed at what they can come up with.   

Step 5:  When you need to give directions to your students, use presentations for directions.  If you have ever created a printable for an activity or an assessment, you know it can take some time (and time is not something that we have a lot of).  Try typing up directions on a powerpoint slide (or whatever you use for your presentations).  Sometimes it can take seconds compared to hours.

Step 6:  Let them help.  If you have not already, face it!  There are not enough hours in the day to do all of the things that we are required to do.  Your students can help.  Let them cut the task cards.  Let them pass back papers.  Let them make the presentation.  Let them make the worksheet.  Let them file the papers.  Let them write the essential questions and the standards.  Let them analyze the data.  There is so much they can do and are willing to do if we allow them to do it.  

Step 7:  Make assessments easy to assess.  Without going into too much detail, sometimes when it comes to the assessment department, we make things harder on ourselves.  If you have a pile of papers to grade already, it would make more sense to give a multiple choice or true or false assessment than an essay.  Assign something that you can grade quickly!  Need to know what that "something" is?  Check back soon for Assessment Made Easy.

 In conclusion, are these 7 simple steps going to make you teacher of the year?  Possibly!  The bottom line is however, if we save time and energy, we can become a more effective teacher.  What makes you an effective one?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

How to Trick Your Students Into Learning

It's beginning to feel like fall, ya'll!  The temperature is cooler.  The leaves are falling.  The candy corn is poppin' up in all the stores.  And Halloween is just around the corner.

TRICK or TREAT?  Now chances are, if you were to give your students the choice, they would likely choose a TREAT.  But, let's offer them a TRICK instead.  Keep reading to find out how we TRICK our students into learning.  

You would be surprised at the engagement you can receive from your students by simply letting them earn points.  Gather up your best activities and assignments for the topic.  Go to the ole' faithful filing cabinet, GOOGLE, or TpT.  Make a menu and assign points for each of the assignments.  CLICK HERE to download a FREE template.  Your students will love being able to choose what to do and your administrators will love seeing the differentiation.  

Another way we TRICK our students into learning is by giving them a challenge.  Simply say "Your challenge for today is _____" (you fill in the blank) and watch their ears perk up.  The challenge could be to find some type of information, design something, complete something, build something, or so much more.  Get them even more engaged by offering something (a grade, a bonus, or a treat) for completing the challenge.    

Perhaps one of the most effective methods of tricking our students into learning is by giving them something fun to do.  Did you know that the possibilities are endless with what you can do with a simple worksheet?  Transform them into more engaging assignments like mazes, puzzles, scavenger hunts, and more.  Check out this article to learn exactly how we ensure we are not giving our students just another worksheet.  CLICK HERE to read the article and receive the links to FREE resources that will help you create more engaging assignments, too!  

Also be sure to check out our Identify and Classify Infographics, our most recent strategy for engaging our creative, artistic, visual, and and even spatial learners.  They love it!  Do you?  We want to know.  Simply comment below with your email address and the name of an infographic you would like to try.  We will send it to you for FREE (offer valid until 9/30/17).  Also, let us know what type of Identify and Classify Infographic you would like to see in the future.  If your idea is chosen, you will receive it for FREE.        

Last, but certainly not least, we hope that something in this post helps you help your students.  We look forward to your comments below.  Thanks for reading and happy teaching!  


Monday, May 29, 2017

Our Last Performance

If you are reading this, you are helping me organize my thoughts because today, I have to write a speech.  It's a simple, informal speech that will be given in front of a small group of educators in workday attire about a not-so-simple man.  Out of my comfort zone, I enrolled in my first speech class my 2nd semester of college.  Maybe this, in part, is one of the reasons why.

The story begins over 10 years ago, when I dressed myself in a pink and white pinstriped suit, something of course I purchased to wear when I lived in Atlanta.  It was not the small town kind of outfit.  As my name was called to head back to the interview, my heart began to race.  I was led out of the office, through the mail room, and down a short hall only to enter an overwhelming room filled with other administrators, teachers, and the department head.  The people in the room quickly worked to make me feel at ease.  I don't remember much about the interview questions, other than "Ms. Cameron, do you know what a Buckyball is?".  And even though I was a recently graduated Chemist, I did not.  Nor do I remember much about the interview itself, other than the willingness of the gentleman in the khaki shorts and white t-shirt (it was summer break) to make me laugh.  Little did I know then, that gentleman would become a huge part of my life...a co-worker, a confidant, a mentor, and a friend.

I don't mind so much giving speeches.  I mind less, writing them.  This speech, however, is different. This speech is about that gentleman that ended up across the hall.  Mr. Johns fulfilled his destiny of becoming an inspirational teacher.  He taught his students biology, physics, chemistry, environmental science, and physical science with the stories he told.  He prepared them for college and he prepared them for life with the life lessons he proclaimed.  Most importantly, he taught his students "how to fish" because he believed "If you give a man a fish, you will feed him for a day.  But if you teach the man to fish, you will feed him for a lifetime."

Mr. Johns did all of this while being an exceptional entertainer and performer.  At the beginning of the school year, he asked me to do one more performance with him and I was honored to accept the challenge.  Check out the "Farewell Tour" by the "Real Goners" performed during the intermission near the end of the 2017 Dodge County High School Talent Show.

Although this may have been Our Last Performance together, the performances nor the memories created will never be forgotten.  Words cannot describe how much Mr. Johns will be missed.  But, that is what I will try to do in the speech, which will be titled, "What We Will Miss the Most."  We will honor him and his career in Our Last Performance to him.  To my readers, "thank you" for helping me organize my thoughts and direction of a very difficult speech (and for not criticizing my grammar).  To Mr. Johns, "thank you" for being you.  Happy retirement!  

Update-The Speech 
What We Will Miss the Most


Monday, May 8, 2017


Today, I received something special.  It wasn't extravagant.  It didn't cost a lot of money.  It perhaps didn't take much time to do.  But, like I said, it was special.  Do you want to know what it was?

Wrapped neatly in a colorful envelope was a card.  It was a simple card with a simple message.  The message was "Thank you".  This simple message was something special not because of the words it said but because the kindness was from someone unexpected...a student.  Not your typical, studious student...that student.  Yep!  You know the one I'm talking about.

I've tried hard this year to make a difference in his life.  Most days, I have felt unsuccessful.  Today, I did.  I felt a feeling that we all, as teachers, deserve to feel every once in a while.  I felt appreciated.

Let's celebrate you because as an educator, what you do, makes a difference.  You are appreciated.  To show you how much you are, TpT is hosting a TEACHER APPRECIATION SALE.  Stock up on those resources that can save you some time, energy, and help you relax.  You deserve it!  Simply use the code THANKYOU17 and earn up to 28% OFF your purchase.  There's more!  I will be giving away a $10 TpT Gift Card to help you get more of those resources from your wish list.  ENTER for a chance to win by sharing how a student has "appreciated" you in a comment below OR visit my Facebook page.(The winner will be randomly selected and notified by email tomorrow evening. Please don't forget to leave your email).  Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!      

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Encourage Excellence Through Friendly Competition

Consider playing a card game, a tennis match, the lottery, shuffleboard, or baseball. What do they all have in common? The players are trying to win! The competitors use their best card and they swing level in order to beat their opponents. You can encourage excellence in your classroom through friendly competition!
How? Consider doing the following:

1. Make it a Competition. And tell them it's a competition. Watch your students as they try to complete the assignment "better" than the others...all while learning at the same time. 

2. Add Choice to the Assignment. Let them choose. Maybe they prefer drawing over writing or creating. Let them choose what they prefer to ensure each student or group puts in their best effort, showing what they do best.  

3. Have Someone Judge.  We like to get someone extra special to judge the assignments.  How about your principal, assistant principal, fellow teacher, or counselor?  You will see that your students will love showing off their hard work.

4.  Award Prizes.  The best part of the friendly competition is the prize.  Award the winners with something that will make them want to "win" again.  We've awarded treats, grades, giftcards, school supplies, and so much more.  If you really like the competition, you can even award points and keep up with the points throughout the year.  At the end of the year, the person(s) with the most points win an extra special prize.

What do you do to encourage excellence in your students' work?    

Sunday, February 12, 2017

LOVE Ionic Compounds Bonding and Naming

This is the week where we celebrate love.  In our class, we are also celebrating our ability to write chemical formulas and name ionic compounds.  Chemical nomenclature can be a tough concept for many students to grasp.  But, I believe that practice makes perfect...and that is what we do.  We PRACTICE until they are experts!  How do we do it?  

First, I teach them how to write chemical formulas for ionic compounds.  We take baby steps, though.  We talk about what makes an atom want to gain or lose electrons and whether or not it will form a cation or an anion.  Next, we talk about how to "drop and swap" to write the chemical formulas.  "Drop and swap" is the catch phrase that we use often to remind them to drop (the charges) and swap (the numbers).  We start with binary compounds first and then add in polyatomic ions for the tertiary compounds.

Second, we talk about how to name the compounds by using Sodium chloride as an example.  Most of the students know that the name of NaCl is Sodium chloride and not Sodium chlorine.  Using this information helps them to derive the naming rules on their own.  The students see that the name of the compound ends in -ide.

Last, we practice with lots of different activities and assignments.  Check out some of the ones we use below and share your ideas, too.  Comment with your BEST ionic compounds activity, include your email, and we will send you the Ionic Bonding and Compounds Mystery Picture for FREE.

 Ionic Bonding and Naming Mystery Picture

 Naming Ionic Compounds Puzzle Ionic Compounds Maze

Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Recap #GSTA17

How awesome was it?  The Georgia Science Teachers Conference has become something that I look forward to each year.  Lots of fun...lots of information...lots to share!  Here's a recap of some of the AMAZING ideas and resources that we received from GSTA 2017.

The Rocket Book Wave
I ordered one before I left the presentation where the idea was being shared. First, you simply record information (take notes, draw a diagram, etc.) in the notebook.  Next, you scan it with the app.  Whatever was on the page, gets enhanced, cropped, and stored into the cloud.  And get erases after you put it in the microwave.  I'm so excited about the ideas I'm having for using the notebook.  More to come once I receive mine in the mail and get to try it out.

Knowledge Hook
If you like Kahoot, you are sure to like Knowledge Hook.  It is very similar.  It can be used as a quick formative assessment tool.  Gives you great data to analyze!

This is something I'm super excited about using to create presentations more interactive.  We are not a 1:1 ratio school, but I think we can make it work in pairs.  Think about this...when you create a presentation to share with your students (like a powerpoint), you ask questions to your students during that presentation, right?  The result to asking that question is that one student typically gets to answer out loud.  How do you know what the 29 other students are thinking?  Spiral allows you to upload your presentation (or you can create a presentation in Spiral) and embed your questions.  Now, when you get to a point in your presentation where you would ask a question, every student with a device answers your question on the device.  It makes the presentation more interactive!  All of the students answer instead of that one student that raises their hand or that one student that you call on.  Check it out!

Snowball Fights
We went to a presentation about vocabulary in the science classroom and learned about this activity that the teacher used.  It's such a great idea!  We've used something very similar for swapping papers, but never thought about using it for vocabulary.  It's simple.  Start by having half of your students write vocabulary words on a sheet of paper (or pre-print them).  The other half of the students write the definitions (or pre-print them as well).  Each student then balls up their piece of paper.  When the teacher says "snowball fight", the students throw the paper balls.  Each students finds a "snowball", then finds their match.  Once all matches are found, the students ball up the paper again and have another "snowball fight".  I see this as being a great activity for practicing with vocabulary.

Do you struggle with creating higher DOK questions for your test or other assessments.  Lots of released test here.  It a great place to start!

I'm always in search for phenomena to teach concepts or problems-based learning lessons.  I'm excited about the resources that has to offer for biology, physcial science, chemistry, anatomy and physiology and so much more!

These are just a few highlights.  What was your favorite from the conference?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Tips and Tools to TEACH the Periodic Table

Which elements are metals? Which elements are nonmetals? Where are the metalloids located on the periodic table? Is sodium an alkali or alkaline earth metal? Is Neon a halogen or noble gas? Is Uranium a part of the lanthanide or actinide series? These are essential questions that your students will be able to answer after completing a few engaging activities to learn about the arrangement of the periodic table.

1) Color To Learn-Give your students a blank periodic and have them color the different groupings to learn about the arrangement of elements on the periodic table. If your students respond well to teacher-centered lessons,  provide the instruction and allow your students to color while you do. Provide a more student-centered method of instruction by giving the group names and letting your students explore to find their location on the periodic table.
The Periodic Table Coloring
 2) Color More-My students loved this activity.  It was a Color by Element lesson. They got to practice using the periodic table while creating something as they learned. To encourage my students even more to do their best, I made it a competition to make their poster look amazing!   

Color By Element Poster
3) Large Class Project-Although group work is important, as we get close to the assessment phase of any lesson, it is important that students be able to complete practice as an individual.  With this assignment, the students get to work individually on a task that is used to create something amazing as a class.  Students individually show their understanding of the periodic table arrangement by creating a periodic table tile from a given template.  Based on the characteristics of the element that they choose, they design a superhero or villain and represent them on the periodic table tile with other distinguishing properties of the element.  The individual tiles are laminated and we use them to create a large, class periodic table that we put up in the hallway for decoration.  Your students will feel accomplished and your administrators will love seeing the student work.

Element Symbols Coloring Pages
4) Assess-By this point, your students should be experts.  So, how about you assess with something fun?  Try a scavenger hunt, a domino review, a puzzle, a maze, or a coloring worksheet (that's if your students are not tired of coloring at this point).  You should see success with their understanding.  But on the other hand, if there is a concept that they don't understand, let the activity show you where they are stuck.  If needed, re-teach then re-assess with one of the other engaging activities.