Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Goals and Sale

I have taken a bit of a hiatus from blogging - right before the holidays was just so busy at school and the holidays are always busy with family. Today while I am waiting for laundry I decided it was time to get back down to business. With vacation almost over I am starting to get back into school mode.

First off I want to share some goals for the upcoming year - I guess teaching goals wasn't the best title since two of my goals are business related...but you all get the idea.

  • Goal 1: UbD unit
    • As some of you might remember from an earlier post our school has taken on a huge Understanding by Design initiative this year. We have been reading and discussing since September. In January we are set to begin writing our units which we are supposed to pilot in the spring. I am both excited to learn these skills and intimidated by the amount of work these units will be taking.
  • Goal 2: Increase products on TpT
    • I currently have 23 products (paid and free) on my store. I am hoping to both edit and improve existing product and to nearly double this number over the next year.
  • Goal 3: Blogging and Marketing
    • I am hoping to blog at least once per week and to vary between sharing about products and blogging about my teaching experiences. I find that often it is easy for me to blog when I post a new product but I don't want my blog to just be advertisement for products. I also want to share my insight into the world of education.
  • Goal 4: Improve performance assessments and inquiry tasks
    • This is sort of tied with the UbD efforts but has always been a constant goal for my classes. I am trying to push all of my classes towards being more student driven and goal oriented. One of the things that I having been working on this year is developing better and more frequent assessments for students to demonstrate their understanding. 
 Finally, even though I said I want to expand my blog to not just be about promoting my store I am going to do a bit of shameless promoting....
To ring in the new year I am hosting a two day SALE on all products in my store. The sale runs today December 31, 2013 through tomorrow January 1, 2014. I know I am doing some shopping today as I prepare to return to school so I wanted to offer everyone an opportunity to do so with a bit of a discount. Click the banner below to follow it to my store and take advantage of this limited time sale.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Secondary Sunday linky

Ok so I just realized that I typed this and apparently only saved it as a draft and did not actually post. SO, I am a bit late getting this up but....

This week I was so excited to come across a Linky specifically for secondary teachers. So many of the things I participate it are geared toward elementary and middle school that I don't know how much it really helps me...but they are usually fun and a good way to connect with new people so I do them anyways. I am looking forward to getting to participate in this in the future and hope that I can connect with some awesome secondary teachers.

Anyways, click on the picture below to head over to the Secondary Sunday Linky where you will find some awesome ideas shared by secondary teachers in all different subjects.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

ISN success with genetics

This week has been very productive for using our interactive science notebooks.  I purchased a bunch of products during the TpT Cyber Monday and Tuesday sale and decided to make a change to my punnett square lesson after I had downloaded my new stuff. Using an accordion fold template from Mad Science Lessons,  (TpT store here) I turned my usual "Punnett Squares 101" lesson into a booklet that students would create and attach to their ISN. Students used 4 sheets of the large diamond shape accordion template to create enough pages for the booklets. The picture below shows the template page and the completed accordion.

First students cut out, assembled, and folded the booklets. Next I gave them a copy of the 7 steps to making a Punnett square, the cut the steps apart and glued one step to every other page.

The remaining pages the students filled in with an example as we followed the steps to solve a basic mono-hybrid cross. There finished products looked something like the one below - sorry you can't see much of the detail.

I think that this strategy worked really well. The students were more engaged in taking the notes because in their words "they didn't feel like notes"...but they got the same exact content and examples they would have if we had done my usual notes on this. The other benefit is that in this format they can flip step by step as they are working on a problem and just unfold the step they need to work on. For the students that have trouble focusing with a lot of information on the page this helps them isolate each step as they do them. After finishing the books students did a set of 4 practice problems that were very detailed and guided. They generally did well and most of the errors were just because those individuals didn't slow down and read the whole problem before they started working.
We are now working through my Martian Genetics Simulation (which is on TpT if you click on the picture below). This is a very time consuming activity but something the students always enjoy. It really drives home the difference between phenotype and genotype and heterozygous and homozygous. Plus is sets us up to talk about how traits are passed in families over time or with a simple extension activity we can branch off into natural selection. So far this week we have determined the genetics for our parent generation, drawn the parent martians, determined possible gametes from the parents and randomly selected partners for reproduction, and today we used those partners to determine the genotype and phenotype of our F1 generation. As I have been working through the activity this time I have come up with lots of ideas for improvements and expansions....I probably wont have time to do that until Christmas break but if I make big additions the price will go up some so if you are interested buy now and you will end up getting the updates for FREE!

Currently December


It is time for the December issue of Currently! As always I am a bit late linking up but not as late as usual. So here we go...

LISTENING: I can't function without music or noise in the background. I always have either the TV on or music playing on the computer when I am working, cleaning, cooking, even reading. So ever since I was cleaning the house up for Thanksgiving I have been listening to Christmas music. Some days this if from iTunes where I have the "Straight No Chaser" a Capella Christmas album and more than my fair share of Trans Siberian Orchestra. I also love my Pandora account and have at least 3 Christmas stations on there....yeah I'm kinda sorta a Christmas music fanatic. 

LOVING: Well, let's just stick to this Christmas theme. I put in and decorated my Christmas tree this weekend. It's a bit early but last year it was Christmas Eve before I had time to decorate and that was a real bummer. this year I am not taking any chances so I did it while I had the time. And as you may have guesses I listened to Christmas music while decorating!

THINKING: gah I am so behind on grading. I did so well the first part of the school year with keeping up. Right now I am a couple of days behind and grades close on Friday. This weekend is going to be grading palooza at my house. Maybe I should blog less and grade more....

WANTING: I have been very frustrated for basically the last two years about not being able to be back in school. I had everything in the works to start my Masters this summer but my financial aid fell through and I still have started. I want so badly to be starting this, my plan was always to teach for three years and then start my masters.

NEEDING: I think last night MAYBE was the end of this. The pie was gone within a day or two. The end of the turkey was finished off over the weekend. The salad is officially wilted and what is left will be bunny food tonight. I still have crackers and cheese, two cans of unopened cranberry sauce, and pickles galore!

FAVORITE CHRISTMAS TRADITION: My husband is the youngest of 5 kids. All of them are married and all except for us have 2 or more children. Most years at least 4 of the 5 siblings land at his parents house for Christmas and whenever possible all of them are there with their families. It gets very hectic with 12 + adults and 11 children, not to mention whoever for cousins that may pop in. I LOVE IT! We do a big secret Santa exchange where each child has a cousin to get a gift for and each sibling/spouse has another adult to buy for. We all gather in the living room and one by one open gifts and try to guess who was our Santa. It's so much fun and such great time spent with family! 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Cyber Monday Preview and Freebie Linky!

Be sure to check out the Cyber Monday preview AND Freebie Linky over at "An Educator's Life." I just went and linked up a couple of items and there are some great resources for both categories.
I have finally gotten my product count over 20 so there is a good variety of things to choose from and everything will be 20% plus using the Tpt code of "CYBER" will bring you up to 28% off.
So for my own little preview....My highest wish listed items are:

This product is one of several flash card sets that I have. The product includes colorful vocabulary cards with cell structure and function vocabulary terms on one side and blank lines for students to write out the definition on the other side.

The lab rules card sort is my second most wish listed item. This is a set of fill-in style question cards that students match the missing word to the safety rule card to complete the sentences. This is great for a start of a science class or anytime during the year as a review of this important topic.

This last product is actually on very few wish lists - however that's only because people seem to just go ahead and buy this one. It has been my top seller for several months now. This is a mitosis card sort set that includes pictures of each stage, name cards, and descriptions of each stage. It is a great review or introduction for high school or middle school.

Be sure to click on the top picture to head over and check out lots of other wish list items and freebies.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

TpT Cyber Monday Sale!!!

It's coming! The TpT Cyber Monday (and Tuesday) sale! I am so excited to be participating in a site wide sale for the first time. I have set EVERYTHING in my store to be 20% off on Monday and Tuesday only. To make this even better TpT is offering an additional discount if you use the code CYBER at check out that will make the total 28% off my store items. A better deal is not going to come along anytime soon. Click on the picture below to go directly to my store and begin shopping!


Now is the time to buy those items that have been sitting on your wish list and to check out some of my new products.

I also wanted to let everyone know that starting in December that I am going to be changing the name of my TpT store to match my blog "Diary of a Mad Scientist". I think it just makes sense to use the same name in both places.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Understanding by Design

The entire SAU where I work has undertaken an initiative to train every staff member in in our three schools in Understanding by Design (UbD). The goal I that over time all staff members will redesign their lessons following a UbD template. Right now we are still just scratching the surface of what we will be doing but I am itching to actually get started on my lesson plans. It probably sounds strange to say that I am excited about having extra work added on by my school district. It's not that I have so much free time that I need something else to do, but I honestly think that this process is going to help our school improve. For me I know there are many things that I already do in my classroom that fit in this model and I think that going through this process will help me to improve the lessons that are already good and really change the ones that aren't so good.

If you are not familiar with UbD, in a nutshell, it is creating lessons that focus on building deep student understanding rather than just shallow knowledge of a topic. The lessons are designed backwards,meaning you start with creating the goals for what you want students to be able to do at the end of the lesson and then build learning experiences to get students there. As we have been introduces to this we have been having conversations about the difference between understandings and knowledge, how to measure understanding, and what we see as the challenges to this process.

One of the biggest challenges of this for me will be redesigning some of my assessment tools. From what we have read and discussed so far UbD really pushes for performance tasks and other assessments that authentically measure more than just memorization. I know some of my assessments will be up to par with maybe just a bit of tweaking but for others I know I will be starting from scratch. This is the part that is making me the most apprehensive about this process.

I have been looking for resources about UbD, and while there is tons of great information for reading I have yet to find a source with good sample lesson or lesson ideas. If anyone knows of any resources that might relate to this and help me through the process I would love if  you could leave me a comment with the information.

On another note....several weeks ago SOMEONE posted a "Thankful" linky. I grabbed the template with every intention of completing it and linking up. I have long since forgotten who was hosting this but I wanted to share mine anyways.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Adobe Illustrator First Timer

Today has been a big day for me! My husband and I are trying out Adobe Creative Cloud (we are planning to purchase after the trial runs out). While our initial interest was for Photoshop I decided to play around with some of the other tools included in the CC. Thinking about all of the clipart that I use and the fact that I wanted to try to make banners for my TpT store I decided to play around with Illustrator yesterday and today. While I certainly have a TON more to learn I am very happy to report that I have created a banner and submitted it to TpT to be set on my store page. Its pretty simple since I am a first timer with this but it was a lot of fun and I think it came out ok. I am looking forward to using this more and maybe one day being able to create my own clipart.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Facilitating Inquiry

Inquiry was a hot word in science education while I was in college. As standards and books change I am sure we will all be calling it something else, but the process in my mind is pretty much just good science teaching if you ask me, regardless of what we call it.

Now I call teaching through inquiry "good science teaching" but that doesn't mean that I do it all the time. There are certainly things that are impractical to teach through inquiry. And there are things that do just need to be memorized. However, I am always happy when I figure out a way to turn one of my existing lessons or labs into a logical and meaningful inquiry experience.

For many years I have used a chemical reaction rate kit to explore various factors that effect reaction rate. It's a great kit, the student handouts ask decent questions and the directions are easy to follow, the students came away with an idea of how different thing effected the rate of a reaction. The problem was that it always seemed to cook-book like for me. The directions told the students step by step what to do and alluded to what should be expected. So, for the past two years I have been trying to figure out how to make this more minds-on for the students. Last year I had lots of ideas but time got away from me and I ended up just using the kit as is. This I got the materials out early and spent some time looking at what I had and what I wanted students to do. What I ended up with was pretty straight forward and worked really well so far.

We have already discussed different types of reactions, writing and balancing equations. Last week we discussed learned about the difference between endothermic and exothermic reactions and look at graphs of reaction progress. We also discussed what a rate was and did some very basic practice to calculate a rate. To end out last week we worked as a class to brainstorm variable we thought could change how fast a reaction happened.

This week I split students up into groups, each group was assigned a different variable from out list (I had picked out the "best" ones to try to lead students in the right direction). The variables I selected from their list were temperature, reactant concentration, and surface area. I provided students with a list of possible materials and a project planning form. The project form asked them to use the assigned topic to:
  • Write a testable question
  • Identify the independent and dependent variables
  • Identify constants
  • Identify a control group
  • Write a step-by-step procedure (including identifying materials and amounts)
  • Set-up a data table
It took students quite a bit of time to do this and I helped groups, some more than others. All groups created a logical plan for their experiment which I approved. The challenge with the planning stages is trying not to give students the answers. They knew that I probably had a pretty good idea of what they needed to do to be successful so did try to get answers out of me. I tried to answer their question by giving them a different question to think about or reminding them of past lab experiences that might answer their questions. Some students get very frustrated with this and just want answers, but over time mine seem to get used to this type of response. I do have to watch for the guessers. Students will come up with two or three ideas and then try to get me to confirm for them that they are correct. If I tell them that what they are thinking is not correct or will not work they will ask another "is this right" type of question. I have eventually caught on to which students will do this until I have basically given them the answer. Rather than confirm or refute their thinking I have been trying to ask them "why do you think that" or "where did you find that information" to get them to explain to me. If they can explain their thinking I am likely to give them the confirmation they are looking for (if they are correct). If they are wrong I will try to direct them to some resource to help guide them. And if they have no explanation for why they want to do something or why they think it will work I usually wont answer them. I might respond that they can try to look up the information in a resource and suggest a possible resource to use.

Today, groups actually ran their experiments and collected data. One group had to make some significant changes to how they collected data  but I helped them work through the obstacle they encountered. I tried to lead them towards a solution but in the end they were the ones who figured out the new method. All groups were able to complete their data collection today. One of the biggest issues with doing this type of inquiry is that each group is doing a different experiment. They have different materials, different ways of collecting data, and different questions for me. It keeps me on my toes. I also had a fairly lengthy talk with them about behavior and responsibility before we went into the lab. I reminded them of the behavior expectations and told them that for safety reasons I really needed everyone of their best lab behavior. I told them that with different activities going on that I didn't have time for dealing with behavior and someone was likely to get hurt. They understood this and were very organized, respectful, and responsible.

Tomorrow we will tackle analyzing the data and figuring out what it means. This will include calculations of rate, averages, and graphing to look for trends. I do plan to have students use this experience to write a formal lab report, I try to do at least one long formal style lab report each semester. In terms of assessment of this experience the lab report will be a big part of that. However, I also put in a grade for the planning process worksheet and participation for the lab work today. One thing that I need to work on is a better, more formalized, way to assess their lab participation and effort.

Overall, I think the experience is going well so far. Hopefully be designing their own experiments the students will continue to be invested in and interested in what they are doing. Eventually this activity will probably make its way to my TpT store but for now I just wanted to share my thoughts on the process.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Exciting Past Weeks

Warning Entering Super Long Blog Post!!!

Not getting the time to blog often enough leaves me in this boat of creating super long posts to get everything out there. But there is so much going on right now that I just have to share.

First off...let's start with the better late than never items. Each month I say I am going to join up with some of the beginning of the month linky's and each month I fail to do so. So it may be the middle of November but lets finally get that done.

Rae over a Mindful Rambles had an awesome idea for a goals linky. My November goals are to try and blog more frequently (and therefore actually get things on here in a timely manner. To get my dining room cleaned up and organized before my family all gets here for Thanksgiving dinner. Finally, the never ending battle to eat healthier food!

Next on my list of things for this blog is to share all of the awesomeness going on over on Pinterest right now. I have FINALLY joined a couple of collaborative boards and even created one of my own. I am really excited to be sharing things with more people and getting to see all of the awesome ideas that other teachers are sharing. My newly created board is for middle and high school science ideas. If you are interested in joining go ahead and follow the board and then leave me a comment below with your pinterest user name and I will be sure to add you as a contributor. The other boards I am contributing to are Resources for High School Teachers and TPT Secondary Favorites. Be sure to check out all of these boards for some awesome ideas from other teachers!

Ok and now for another one of my better late than never linky's. I have only joined this one once but always look at others and think that I should do it. So here is my November Currently.

Listening: Broadway....I have this awesome broadway station on my Pandora account. I'm still bumming that I most likely wont be able to be involved in our school musical this year so listening to this is sort of bitter sweet for me.
Loving: So, one of my friends from middle school is tying the knot this weekend. I am the Maid of Honor and I am super excited. My shoes just came in today so I finally got to try on my whole outfit for the big day. It's going to be a great weekend!
Thinking: Well, with everything going on there probably are other things that should be taking a priority right now. BUT, sometimes you just need to take a break and blog!
Wanting: Summer needs to come soon!!! We have our first sticking snowfall here and its been really cold the last couple of days. I hope winter goes by as quick as fall did because I am already not enjoying the cold.
Needing: I live in New Hampshire....it's November .... if you are familiar with the state that I don't need to explain why gloves and hats are a priority right now.
Yummy Pin: Check out these brownies...I haven't tried them yet but they look yummmmmyyyy!
Ok, finally to wrap up this post I want to just quickly share a couple of new items I have added to my TpT store. I have modified and updated two activities that I have used over and over and finally think they are worthy to be live products. The first is my "If You Were the Ecologist" simulation. This is a great multi-day project for 7-12 grade science classes. It could be used for a biology or ecology class easily. Students have to take on the role of a team deciding how to use a 400 acre plot of land. They evaluate how the land use will affect the wildlife, trees, visitors, and financial standing. The final project is presented as a big poster map of the land with all of the calculations. I also included all of the journals and writing prompts that I use for the activity.

 The second product just went up today and is an addition to my collection of cell structure and function activities. I think I have a way to review this topic for every day of the week (or maybe two weeks). I am slowly getting them updated to be posted for others. This one is a "I have...Who has?" style review game. It is super simple to prepare and use with students. The set includes 20 question and answer cards, an answer key, and directions for the teacher. I am really excited to be adding this to my store.

Ok.....I think I have reached the end of the marathon post! Now I'm off to link up for Currently and Goals.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Halloween Sale!

Be sure to check out my store this week! All of my products, including the newly posted assessment packs are 10% from October 29 - November 1, 2013. Happy Halloween and Happy Shopping!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Assessment Palooza

Assessment has been my focus so far this school year. I have been working to develop both new formative assessment tools and different types of authentic assessments to use at the end of units rather than the standard tests. So far I have greatly improved two of my biology units and gathered all of my assessment tools into packages for each unit.

First -  Cell Structure and Function package which I posted yesterday after some fine tuning. Contains writing prompts, quick quizzes, and project ideas dealing with organelles, cell function, membrane structure. These activities are ready to be printed and used in the classroom. I used the included objectives list to keep track of which objectives I had assessed and how students were progressing.

Second - The Cell Division package includes similar materials focusing around the cell cycle, mitosis, cancer, and bonus activities dealing with stem cell research. My mitosis 4x4 puzzle and mitosis card sort activities have been my biggest sellers so I am really excited to be adding to my collection of cell division resources.

I have been assessing student understanding at least every other day in some way and hope to continue doing so. These aren't usually formal quizzes or tests and often I don't actually call them an assessment to the students. They are activities or review for them but provide valuable information to me to determine if students really got what I though they did out of the previous lessons. I am finding that by keeping track of which objectives I am assessing and how individual students performed on those objectives I am better able to adjust my teaching to meet the needs of a vary diverse group of students.

We have just started our big ecology unit which has a huge focus on stream ecology. I hope to work on developing many assessments to go along with this as well. My text book has a lot of ecology chapters but they are all very vague and general so I use a lot of outside resources for this unit. However, it has always been one of the last units I taught and has ended up being rather weak in my opinion. This year I have moved the unit up so that I have the time to give it the attention it deserves and can improve it so much. Hopefully in a few weeks I will have another collection of assessment tools to post for that unit.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Interactive Science Notebooks Two Ways

I am really excited to be successfully starting out the school year using science notebooks for both chemistry and biology. The two are slightly different in format and use, but both seem to be working well. With this post I want to give you an overview of what I am doing with these notebooks, eventually I will try to post some of the specific activities we have done in them and some pictures of how we have set up the books. .

Set-Up for both classes:
  • 100 page composition notebooks
  • Table of contents in the beginning
  • Pages must be numbered and dated
  • Resource pages for the front: grading policy, FAQ's, notebook requirements
  • Envelopes attached to front and back cover to make pockets for things like vocabulary cards, homework papers, etc.
  • Long ribbon attached to back cover to be used as a bookmark.
  • Students can glue or tape materials onto pages
  • I am not trying to do the left/right input/output system. Often my notes take two pages anyways or when students are writing things they take up different amounts of space based on handwriting, so I don't find for me that this system works well.
What goes in the biology notebooks:
  • Daily objectives and catalyst pages are attached and written on each day. These are being attached because many of my group have a bad habit of loosing these two documents mid-week.
  • Notes handouts that I have printed with the paper horizontally so that it can be cut in half and attached. Most notes are fill-in style for my current level class.
  • Lab planning, observations, sketches
  • "processing" activities such as foldables, vocab sorts, concept maps, short writing prompts etc. Some of these will be done as a whole group others students will have choice on.
  • Weekly class reflections - usually wide open prompts that require students to reflect on the activities and their own personal learning experiences for the week.
What goes in the chemistry notebooks:
  • Notes handouts, labs, activities, writing prompts (many of the same things as biology)
  • HOMEWORK practice problems - if they do it out of the text book it goes in the notebook. I am not collecting these assignments this year. Instead we go over the homework each morning and students are encouraged to correct their work if needed. Then about once a week we do a notebook check quiz which are open notebook. Some of the questions require them to synthesize or apply information from the week. Other questions simply ask them to copy the answer from a particular problem, this allows me to know who not only did their homework but who was paying attention and corrected mistakes when the problems were gone over. This is a mature and motivated group and they seem to be responding well to this system.
I am sure as the semester goes on I will find new things to put in their notebooks. My biggest concern right now is that my biology class is putting in so many things that we may run out of room before the end of the semester.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

First Days of School

The last 5 days have been a whirlwind! School started last Wednesday so we have had 5 full days of class so far. Things are going well, I have gotten through all of the required lab safety activities and we are now in full swing with the curriculum.

For chemistry we are working on our properties of matter, this is a quick unit as a lot of it does end up being review. However, I have lots of fun lab activities for this including "Why does Popcorn Pop" and the "Viscosity Challenge". Eventually I might get those activities worked up for TpT. So far those are going really well and I am excited to keep working with this group of students.

In both sections of biology we did a quick study of the properties of living things and are pushing forward into cellular structure and function. I just bought 'Cell Organelles Mix & Match Game' on TpT that I am really excited to use. I also do the celery challenge during this unit, you can get some more details about that here. Since there is a lot, and I men A LOT, of vocabulary with this unit students are also plugging away on their vocabulary cards. Right now they have been getting a few cards done at the end of classes or if they happen to finish an assignment early. Hopefully these will get done by the end of the week so that next week we can use them for some review type activities.

My final note is that I have been pushing forward with using interactive science notebooks this year with both chemistry and biology. So far it is going well and I will be doing a full post about that soon!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Back to School ----aahhhhhh!!!!

It is very hard to believe that next week we go back to school. Where did the summer go??

My blogging has been nonexistent and I feel terrible that I have neglected this part of my life for the past couple of months. Today I have happily been updating my TpT store with a couple of new products I have been working on over the summer. I am really excited to get back to school even though I don't feel like summer has been long enough. My to-do list did not get nearly enough crossed off from it yet, but I still feel like the plans I have for my classes are going to make for a great year.

On this years plans for new or significantly revised things...
  • A bulletin board in my room to post assignments so that students who are absent can pick them up.
  • Improved interactive notebooks for biology. Lots of new handouts, improved grading, better organization. We are going to rock science notebooks this year!
  • Homework notebook for chemistry for review problems and I will be doing a weekly notebook "quiz". I am hoping this will help me cut down on the number of assignments I have to collect each week but still provide the needed motivation to complete practice problems.
  • More chemistry labs - YAY! I got a huge chemical order in over the summer so some of my supply issues have been resolved!
  • One of the things that I will be continuing to use is my daily catalyst and I have lots of new questions to use this year including some updated power point versions. Check those out on TpT - I posted 6 weeks worth of daily catalysts, in editable power point format. These work great with the FREE catalyst forms that students record a whole week of answers on!
  • My awesome owl theme! Using lots of free clipart I found on TpT and fall d├ęcor that I found at a 50% off sale!
  • Finally, as both a classroom management tool and extra credit opportunity I created a "Things to Do When I Finish Early" menu. Students will all have a copy of the chart and if they finish an assignment or task early and don't owe any make-up work they can complete one of the tasks for extra credit points. The idea here is that the tasks will keep students focused on science and occupied rather than sitting and waiting and potentially causing interruptions for students who are still working. This can also be found on TpT by following the link above.
  • I also have started my own Teacher Binder where I have organized my calendar, to-do lists, class lists, IEP's, curriculum, meeting notes, etc. Each has its own tab and section. Yay for starting out super organized!
The first few weeks of school promise to be very busy and I hope that I can make all of my ideas and plans work. One thing that will help is that I only have two classes to prep for this semester (2 sections of biology, and 1 section of chemistry). Compared to previous years when I have had 3 or 4 different classes to prep, this should be a breeze!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Martian Genetics

I will probably never get around to posting about all the fantastic things that went on in my classroom at the end of the school year. However, as I am updating some files, reworking plans, and uploading a few new things to TpT I wanted to take some time to share about a few things.

Sooo, todays flashback - Martian Genetics!

Teaching genetics is one of my favorite units! I happen to LOVE doing punnet squares and probability, which probably makes me one of the few people who think that way. I have yet to find a student who is quite as excited about genetics as I am but I am hoping that some day it will happen. One of the activities that students have always really enjoyed regardless of how much they have liked or disliked genetics is my "Martian Genetics" activity. This is spin off of the classic Make-a-baby lab where you use coins to flip for traits. I walk students through 3 or more generations of Martians. Students determine their geneotype and phenotype and draw each martian using templates and lots of color. After each generation is created mating season occurs so that the next generation can come along. At the end of the activity students analyze the traits over time and look for patterns. To expand upon this and tie into the following unit on natural selection I will often end with creating a generation or two after some sort of natural disaster that impacts the population. This makes the analysis of population genetics over time much more interesting. The activity is wrapped up with a set of review questions. Throughtout the activity there is alot of discussion about dominance and recessiveness, incomplete dominance, co-dominance, meiosis, independent assortment, etc. I find it is a great review activity! Since it is a bit long I usually will split the activity into two or three sessions - since I work on block scheduling with 90 minute classes I try to do at least three different things during each class so we might do one generation of martians then go on to another activity.

So, I just finished updating this activity and typing out very detailed instructions so that I could post it to TpT. There is a sample file that can be downloaded for free and the complete activity is only $4.00 for the whole 20 page document! Follow this link to my TpT store to check out this awesome activity for your own biology classes!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summr to do list...

I have a huge summer to do list for work, not to mention the fact that I am doing full time research and have a ton of house projects that I would like to get done as well. With so much on my plate I am hoping that sharing my goals will give me incentive to keep up with making progress on them.

So here is the list....

For my biology classes:
  • Reorganize and touch up all unit calendars - some progress has been made
  • Add unit project lists for remaining units that didn't get them this year
  • Restructure/reorganize/improve the stream study plan so that it is a more meaningful research experience for students.
  • Better plan for using and assessing journals and portfolios. I found some great resources on using interactive science notebooks that I think will really help me improve how I use this in my classroom!
For my chemistry classes:
  • Reorganize and touch up all unit calendars
  • Look at the chemical supply inventory and figure out where to add in more labs utilizing the new materials purchased for next year.
  • Look into the forensics chemistry book and figure out how much of that I can implement
For my physics classes (2nd semester):
  • More problem sets and reorganize notes
For my student research class (2nd semester):
  • Make a plan....this will be the first time I am teaching this class. the intention is that during the first few weeks I will guide students through several experiences with the goal of teaching them how to design experiements and get their creative juices flowing. Then for as much of the time as possible they will be designing experiments and I will be more of a guide and resource for this. I need to come up with effective goals and assessment tools for this type of class. Any ideas would be appreciated!
Overal classroom needs:
  • I am downloaded a ton of resources from TpT to do this cool owl theme for my classroom decoration. I also found some great resources for teacher binder organization - I love organizational tools despite how my desk looks most of the time. I so want to be that teacher that everyone is disguisted by how organized she is. I have a lot of work to do to get there!
  • It wasn't on my original list but I have made a new homework log form!
And I am sure I will add more to these lists as I get going. It sounds like alot but the good news is that for many of the tasks it is more of a matter of improving what I already have not reinventing the wheel!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Last Day of School Huzzah!

I am breathing a huge sigh of relief tonight, the school year has officially come to a close. It has been a race to the finish line for the past few weeks. Between projects, lab reports, school plays, Key Club events, etc. I haven't had time to breath much less blog. I plan on taking the next week or so off and then will be spending alot of this summer of professional type things. I am participating in a RET program at Keene State College this summer in the biology department. I will be working as part of a team researching the impact of PAH's on Xenopus development, Xenopus are a species of frog commonly used as a model organism for biological research. I am really excited and can't wait to blog about the experience. I am also hoping over the summer to reorganize and revamp and many of my classroom materials specifically for biology and chemistry. Hopefully some of these things will be worthy of posting to my TpT store as I get them touched up. Ending my 4th year teaching I am finally starting to feel like I know what I am doing and that I can fine tune many of my lessons and activities. I always do an end of the year survey to get feedback from students and I got some comments and ideas that I def. plan to use next year in some way.

So long school year, hello summer!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Birthday Sale

I'm throwing myself a birthday party! Well, actually I am throwing myself a birthday sale!

Today through May 2nd everything in my TpT store is 10% off! Stop by and check out some wonderful science materials at a great price!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I'm still here

Sorry for the lack of posts for the last month. School has been busy with Key Club conferences, vacation week, school musicals, budgets, etc. etc. etc. My blog, TpT store, and personal life have all taken a backseat work for the last month. Next week the musical is performed so at least that will be one less thing on my plate.

With less than two months of school left I have so much that I want to get done still and I am running on fumes to try and make them happen! Today was one of those days were nothing went quite as planned. First block I had intended to do a photosynthesis lab using spinach leaves...forgot them! Plan B was to go to the computer lab to work on a presentation but NWEA testing is this week and so the computer lab was not available. So on to plan C....I went down to the kitchen and was able to get some lettuce from them, thinking that it would work the same way. To top it all off I could only find two of my syringes that were needed for the lab. Then come to find out the lettuce did not work! So after wasting a good 45 minutes of class time attempting to work out our activity we called it quits. Sooo tomorrow I am brining in the spinach and we are going to try this again.

Anyways, I will try to get back on the happy blogger train and get back into sharing things more often.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Glorious Saturdays!

This will end up being a rather long post - you have been warned.

First off just a few general updates. I haven't had much to share this past week, our school had our annual winter carnival this week. The kids had a great time, I advise the 10th grade and they tied for first place with the seniors. Everyone had lots of fun with games like flag football, hockey, pie eating, sled races, and much more. As a result I did not do a whole lot of teaching this past week.

So for my Successful Saturday Linky! As I said I did not do a whole lot of teaching this week - so I am pulling from our winter carnival for this entry. One of the challenges of being an advisor to a class is dealing with the personal differences between students and the inevitable drama that comes from being in a small school. The class that I work with has had their fair share of ups and downs. I took over as their advisor this year and the beginning of the year was pretty rough for some of them in terms of being able to work together well. Over the past many weeks I have seen an improvement in how they are working together. I think this years winter carnival was a good bonding opportunity and I saw students working together very well. A majority of the students organized a sleep over on Thrusday night to work on their class poster and dance routine for an event called the Mock Rock. The pulled off a first place winning Mock Rock and a very cool poster. It was great to see them working together so well and celebrating their success. I hope that they are able to carry the good feellings and motivation to work together through the rest of our school year.

Be sure to head over to "The Lower Elementary Cottage" and share your successes from this week.

My next order of business is sharing a wonderful Freebie on my TpT store. I am linking up again with "An Educators Life" for his bi-monthly freebie share. This week I am happy to be sharing a simple Lab RERUN form that is great for any science and could easily be used with grades 5-12. RERUN stands for ...

Recall – Summarize what you did in the lab.

Explain – Explain the purpose of the lab.

Results – Describe the results of the lab and what they mean.

Uncertainties – Describe what you are still uncertain about.

New – Write at least two new things that you learned from this lab.
It is a one page form that can be used at the end of a lab activity as a short report form that students turn in. For some activities this is the full extent of the write-up that students turn in. For other activities we fill out this form at the end of the activity so that the thoughts are recorded and students refer back to the form while writing up something more formal. Be sure to check out this and the many many other freebies being shared today - there is something for everyone.
Ok my long post is just about over. I have to get lots of school work done as next week will be very busy. I am hoping for a very busy week with my biology class. We will be pouring agar plates and sowing our C-Fern spores this week for their Planting Science projects. My physics class is starting 2D kinematics which can be a challenging topics, and the forensics class is starting DNA evidence.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Spring Giveaway!

An awesome opportunity came across my blog roll this morning. Heather over at Heather's Heart is having a fantastic Spring Blessings Giveaway. I just signed up and wanted to share the information. Be sure to follow her great blog if you are entering the giveaway!


Sunday, March 10, 2013

It's a Linky Sort of Day!

I have been reading blogs from lots of folks who participate in this monthly "Currently" linky. This evening I finally tracked down and found the directions on how to do this. So, despite it already being the middle of March I have decided to join up! So here it goes!

Listening - This weekend we dug out a set of 3 Johnny Cash CDs that have been riding around in the car but we haven't listened to in quite some time. I am a junkie for "real" country music!

Loving - Yep, Lazy weekends! I might be a bit further along with my TpT projects, grading, house cleaning, crafts, and numerous other things if I hadn't discovered the wonders of sleeping in late and bumming around the house in sweatpants.

Thinking - This coming week is Winter Carnival at my school among other interruptions. Tomorrow is a 1:00pm early dismissal for students and us teachers have workshop/staff development. Tuesday is no school at all for us. Wednesday is elementary winter carnival and many of the high school students help with those events. Finally Thursday and Friday are high school winter carnival! So basically my lesson plans are on hold for the week.

Wanting - It has been so nice this weekend, it feels and smells like spring! I just hope that it stays this way!

Needing - I desperatly need to get the house cleaned back up, but my loving lazy weekends is interfeering with this.

Like - Love - Hate - So this month these are all supposed to start with the first letter of our first name I have been watching episodes of "Alaska State Troopers" which has reignited my interest in travelling there. I have and probably always will love Apes of all kinds. I had a really hard time coming up with a hate that started with A....but I am not a huge fan of spiders and I really do hate that they always decided to live in my bathtub!

So there is is my first "Currently" now I just have to go link up and I am alllllll set!

Successful Saturday

I just came across a great idea for a linky and decided to join. Lisa over at The Lower Elementary Cottage is starting a Successful Saturday Weekly Linky! Basically the idea is to share a success story from the previous week with other readers! So here goes my first entry for Successful Saturday!

Last week at school was very hectic; grades closed for progress reports and the computer grade program was acting up, and it seemed like there were a million other things going on. For my biology class we were struggling through learning cell division and the first quiz the class took was a big bust for most of them. I was really frustrated with this and spent most of the next day trying to come up with ways to review and reinforce the concepts without completly reteaching the lesson. We ended up doing a whole bunch of different activities, including the songs I posted about previously. We also did a mitosis card sort activity; which you can find in my store here. As well as the mitosis 4x4 puzzle which is also in the store. And just to really drive home the message students took the list of objectives from the chapter and used their book and notes to make a study sheet which would help them study for the test. We took another quiz on Friday and the results were much better so I think all of the review efforts payed off. I am very glad that I didn't just continue to move on when it was apparent that the majority of the class hadn't gotten the concepts. I am really trying to stress to this gorup of students that it isn't just about getting through a chapter and moving on but that the goal is for them to understand the concepts and be able to use the information they learn. It was a tough week but the results of the quiz on Friday were uplifting. I am hoping that by Monday the students will all do well on their test. I don't usually test on a Monday but the remainder of the week is our high school winter carnival so we need to wrap up this unit before then.

Ok, so here is the link for Successful Saturday Weekly Linky! I hope to see others joining!!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Spring Forward Weekend Sale

In honor of Springing forward (our clocks that is) this weekend I am hosting a sale on TpT! All of my items will be 10% off from Friday 8th to Sunday 10th. There are also a few freebie items that you should check out. Go to my store with this link.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sing a little song, do a little dance, teach a lot of science!

So I mentioned in an earlier post that my husband has slowly come to the conclusions that I'm a little nuts. Probably in part because he often enters a room to find me listening to something like this. As much as a point out that it is school work, I think it still thinks its a bit strange.

Anyways, over the last few years of teaching I have realized that for the life of me I cannot get students to remember things like the difference between mitosis and meiosis and yet they can sing every single Katy Perry, Kanye West, or Taylor Swift song they have ever heard. I have an ever growing collection of youtube videos by awesome science teachers that I can pull up on the screen in my classroom. Mr. Parr, who I linked to above is one of my favorite people to consult for cool science songs. All of his songs are set to popular songs that the majority of my students recognize. The videos put the lyrics up on the screen and my students start singing along and doing little dances. This has become a fun way to review concepts...like we did today with the dreaded mitosis. It doesn't take very long and can be a good break between things that might not seem as exciting to the students - gets the blood flowing to their brains again! Tomorrow several of my students are retaking their quiz on mitosis so hopefully including this in our review was helpful!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Freebie Linky Party!

Just a quick post to share and awesome linky party that I have come across and am participating in for the first time this week. Lots of great resources are beings shared and all are Free! Check it out here!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Planting Science

Ok I am long overdue to post about one of my favorite biology programs! Just to put it out there upfront the program is totally free (except your lab materials of course). The summer after my second year teaching I was searching for summer professional development institutes. I stumbled upon the PlantingScience website and learned about a summer institute they were holding at Texas A&M. Knowing barely anything about the program other than it was about plant biology and the summer institute was all expenses paid I sent in an application and to my surprise was accepted. I spent 10 days in hot, humid Texas with a group of high school and middle school teachers, plant biologists, faculty from TAMU, and faculty from the Botanical Society of America. It was AMAZING! I learned so much in those 10 days about plant biology and using inquiry and authentic research in the classroom, it really did transform the way that I teach my biology class now!

So a little about the program. PlantingScience matches up student research groups with mentors who are plant biologists. As the teacher I select a module that I want to participate in and register for either the fall or spring session. I facilitate the learning in my classroom and provide opportunities for my students to access the internet to communicate with the mentors and other student groups about the process. Each group has a webpage that they maintain where the post their research questions, predictions, experiemental design, results, etc. There is also an area to post comments. Check out some sample student projects here.

Last year my students participated in The Power of Sunlight an inquiry into photosynthesis. The lab work was pretty straight forward and students came up with good scientific questions to test. They were able to discuss the development of their questions with the mentors, problem solve with them while collecting data, and get their input as they worked to analyze data and draw conclusions. At the end of the project students created power point presentations which were posted to their pages and shared with the whole class. This year my classes are doing one of the modules still in field testing which focuses on C-Fern life cycles. We are just starting this this week and hopefully will be online for the first time tomorrow.

In addition to using these two modules as the full online inquiry experience I also have used the celery challenge (also in field testing but one we worked on while in Texas). This I have used at the start of the semester. We are learning about cell structure and function then but also just beginning to develop scientific inquiry skills. It gives me a good first impression of where the students are at and what they need to work on in terms of thinking like a scientist. At the end of this project students made tri-fold poster boards that were fantastic! I have done this two years in a row and it has been a big hit with the students and a great learning experience in my opinion.

 Above: A groups photosynthesis trials - looking at the effect of temperature on the rate of photosynthesis in spinach leaves.

Above: results of initial celery trials. This group had simply sliced a bunch of celery and put it in water....they they had to figure out why some curled and some didn't and try to get the max curling.

Above: Cross section of celery stained and photographed under the microscope.

If you teach middle or high school biology I really suggest that you check out this website. It is easy to sign up (the spring sign up has gone by so keep it in mind for next year)! Plants are safe and pretty easy to work with, and the support from the crew at PlantingScience is wonderful!

Friday, February 22, 2013

What teacher do when they are bored....

So I realize that I am a bit strange in that I actually enjoy lesson planning. I love creating new activites and planning out new and improved ways to do the lessons in my curriculum. This afternoon my husband was taking a nap, and I was downstairs watching TV. I couldn't find anything really interesting to watch so ended up flipping through some things I brought home over vacation for my next biology unit - cell division. The notes handout that I had was lost when my computer hard drive crashed last spring and I really wanted to update it. In the process I decided that since I had nothing to do I would make a powerpoint presentation for the notes since I don't have one already for that particular unit. So when my husband finally came downstairs after his nap, here I am on the couch with the laptop smiling at slide number 14 of a pretty cool presentation! The conversations that ensued was something like this...

     Husband - "Whatcha doing?"
     Me - "Well I was bored, so I decided to make a powerpoint on cell division"
     Husband - "You were bored.....so for FUN you are making a powerpoint?"
     Me - "Yup, I don't have one for this lesson and thought it would be fun."
     Husband - "Your definition of fun is very odd." and walks away shaking his head.

Either way, I am about 3/5 done my presentation, then have to retype the notes handout. It would be easier if I had the old file to open up and just modify....but that is what I get for not backing up files in the past. I have since learned my lesson on that! Vacation is almost over and I have gotten lots of random school related things gone, but not really the things on my to-do list so over the next two days I have to get some grading done.

Sample slides are below of my "I was bored so I made a new Powerpoint". I have finished this and used it in my class today along with the notes handout. Both are going to be up on TpT once I finish typing up some additional teachers notes and add in a few image citations that I missed.

When I teach mitosis we accompany the notes with a hands-on model. I use a set of pop-beads to make chromosomes with magnetic centers that act as the centromeres. We use a laminated outline of a cell so students can draw in membranes and spindle fibers. Using the beads we go through the whole process from interphase and chromosome duplication to alignment of the chromosomes during metaphase, separation of sister chromatids during anapahse, and finally the formation of two identical daughter cells. I will use the same kit when we go over meiosis later in the week. The kids stayed focused and on task while working with the manipulatives, and even though it takes quite a bit of time to go through the notes and modeling they seemed to be paying attention.

After we finished up the lesson we played a round of "Slap-It" with my mitosis stage cards. I put three sets of cards mixed together for each group of 5 students. I called out a phase and the first student to slap the right cards got to keep it, we raced to see who could get the most cards. I used the same cards as part of my pre-test. Students each had a set of cards and had to put them in the order they predicted they went in and then explain in words why they thought the process would happen that way. The descriptions I got from students were not as detailed as I had hoped but many of them were able to predict at least a partially correct order.

Overall, I thought the lesson went very well. Having my directions for the modeling on the powerpoint made it easier to stay on task and for everyone to know what they had to do next so I think that was certainly worth the time to do!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Playing In Science

When I first started teaching, despite my best intentions, I soon realized many of my lessons were...well...dry....boring. So over the last few years one of my goals has been to figure out ways to make learning more exciting and fun. Teaching science the obvious way is to add more labs, inquiry, and hands on experiments. This is great, and I have added so many lab experiences since that first year. As much as I love teaching inquiry based lessons and I know my students learn so much that way, there is still a time and place for having to learn content - history, vocabulary, processes, etc. This information is key to understanding how the world works and making the important connections between what you as a student are doing in the lab and what the rest of the scientific community is doing. But that seems to be where things get boring really fast. Activities that I use to bust the boredom in my class often take the form of games or competitions to practice skills and content. I find most students are competative by nature so adding a little friendly competition and maybe even a prize at the end is a great way to get them excited about practicing a skill they may have otherwise groaned at. Playing a game, puzzle, or relay, gets the important content practiced and the students have fun at the same time.

Over the last couple days I have been tweaking and refining some of the games and puzzles that I use in my classroom to share on my TpT store. Check out these resources, and be sure to check back for more in the upcoming weeks.

Periodic Table Puzzle http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Periodic-Table-Review-Puzzle

Lab Safety Card Sort http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Safety-Rules-Card-Sort

Genetic Code Puzzle http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Genetic-Code-Puzzle

Periodic Table Relay http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Electrons-Protons-and-Neutrons-Falling-Leaves-Relay

Please feel free to leave me feedback about these products either on the store page or here on my blog!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Launching Teachers Pay Teachers Site

Drum roll please.....I have just uploaded my first resource to my Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT) page. I have more which will be posted soon once I finish editing and polishing them up for sale.

My first upload is a FREE! I have put up a set of 18 directing words posters which I have created to hang in my classroom. I find one of the most common errors students make in my classroom is they don't actually answer the question they are being asked on assignments. This set of simple design posters defines the most common directing words so that students may refer to them while completing assignments.

Follow the link below to my TpT store and to download this free resource! Be sure to check back soon for more free and for sale resources.

Directing Words Poster Set

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Differentiated Instruction with Menus

One of my goals this year was to differentiate more of my lessons. Having such small classes that should be pretty easy, or so it would seem upfront. I found that with my first semester class I struggled with this. I tried using exit ticket results to group students for follow up activities as one strategy and that seemed to work ok. I really wanted to find a way to assess student learning in a more differentiated way. Here is where my "menu" system is coming in. My biology class began about 3 weeks ago (block scheduling). Our first full unit was cell structure and function. As part of this students were all participating in the same activities and lab experiences in class. I wanted to add on a way for students to demonstrate their learning in a manner they chose. Rather than assign the whole class one or two project type assignments during the unit I typed up my list of project choices and gave it to students at the start of the unit. Students had to select two tasks from the list and turn in the assignments by the end of the unit, which is tomorrow. A few assignments are already rolling in. A number of students select an option which instructed them to write a poem that described the function of at least 5 cell structures. I have seen a couple of acrostic type poems for this that are very creative. Today one of my students brought in his poem and proceeded to "rap" the poem aloud for the class. It was awesome in terms of finding a way for students to show their learning in a self-expressive/creative manner. I am excited to see the rest of the projects come in tomorrow and begin the assesment process. We are doing a portfolio this year - more to come on that in a future post!

P.S. As soon as I figure out how to I will post a copy of the unit menu to share.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A fresh start....

Over the next few weeks I plan to transition the old edublog over to here, with the plan to expand my content to include a lot more detail about my classroom activities, management, organization, and ins and outs of daily life as a high school science teacher. Stay tuned!