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'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.