Thursday, December 31, 2015

Lessons learned, Reflections of a secondary science teacher 2015

What Secondary Teachers have learned in 2015

I can't believe how quickly 2015 has come and gone.  As teachers it is important to go back reflect on what works, what doesn't, and what needs a little enhancements.  This year I am teaming up with some wonderful secondary teachers to share what we have learned in 2015.

1. The best change I made...

The best change I made this year is switching from the "typical" teacher mode to more of a facilitator mode.  Instead of giving students the information I now guide them on their learning journey through flipped lessons, science stations, and guided inquiry.  This means that students are working at their level and their pace and they are being challenged appropriately.  Instead of just memorizing facts my students are becoming life long learners and I love seeing the difference it is making. Click here to see how I did this for the scientific method.

2. The best new lesson I taught was...

Every year I try a new strategy.  I feel trying new things helps me grow as an educator and only makes me stronger.  This year I initiated genius hour with my pre-AP science classes.  Once a week my students research a topic of their choice. We are now in our fourth month and the students are getting ready to give their TED talks about their topics and what they are doing with the information.  I love seeing students get excited about learning and the passion in their faces.  I wish I had time to do it with all my classes.

3. Lessons I learned about teaching in general were...

Personal interest in students goes a long way. If
you really want students to take an interest in learning than you need to take an interest in them.  Greet them at the door with a handshake and say hello.  Ask them how their day is.  Ask them about what they did that weekend.  Notice when they are absent and welcome them back.  I hold a morning meeting a few days a week where we spend the first five minutes talking with each other and discussing topics outside of school.  It has really made a difference.

Allow students to make mistakes without big penalties. School is a place to make mistakes and learn lessons.  They are not in the real world yet.  My students are allowed to retake tests, redo projects, make-up work for full credit.  Their work habits grade will be affected but not their academic grades.  If they make a bad choice, yes they are held accountable, but they are able to learn from it and in the process they learn that success mean that you keep trying and that you don't give up.

What are some things you have learned from 2015?

Visit the other blogs linked up at Secondary Sara to get more tips, tricks, and lessons learned for 2016!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Christmas Science: Science saturday

       In elementary school December is filled with lots of holiday activities.  Writing, Reading, and Math incorporate winter themes with snowman, santa, gingerbread men, and snowflakes.  Then they hit middle school and sometimes these themes go away.  I love to incorporate the christmas/winter theme whenever I can.

Physical Science Activities:
           One way I do this is with my periodic table menu choice.  Students are given different projects to choose from to enhance their knowledge of the periodic table.  One of the choices is to make a scrapbook where they give the properties of the different families and then choose an element to turn into a person.  When I do it in December my students turn it into a christmas themed scrapbook. They turn their elements into snowmen and gingerbread men. Another choice they have is to make a family tree out of the categories and the families.  Their family tree has to include the properties.  My students like to turn their tree into a christmas tree and use ornaments for the different families.
        Another activity I like to do is candy compounds.  Students love edible activities. In this one from the sciencespot my students use gum drops or marshmallows and toothpicks to create ionic and covalent compounds.  I have them keep the candy separated for the ionic compounds and touching for the covalent compounds.  The students like that they get to eat the extras.  Its a great activity for the day before break.

Life Science Activities:
      In December is when I teach genetics.  An activity I do with my students is a snowman family.  The students take their knowledge of heredity and probability to cross two snowmen and make a family.  They have a lot of fun doing the punnett square crosses and then creating their snowmen families.
      When I teach genetics I also teach about DNA.  As my students are learning about the structure of DNA I have them build a model of it out of candy using the lesson from the genetic science learning center.  We use licorice for the outside of the ladder and then different colored marshmallows for the base pairs.  lesson

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Guided Inquiry with Thinglink

Twenty-first Century learning is about helping students become life-long learners.  Students need to be able to gather information on their own.  This is a skill that needs to be taught.  One way I do this is by having students do a guided inquiry using the site    With thinglink start with a picture.  On the picture you can add links to different types of text.  The text can be articles, websites, pictures, music, video, or anything else.  I usually make my own pictures using powerpoint.  I make them into a board game or a task journey.  Once I add my picture I then attach links to websites, videos, or pictures.  This way my students are pulling the information about a topic but its from text I am providing.

Here is an example of one I did for learning the states of matter called "Journey through the States of Matter". The students completed a board game of sorts that took them from one interactive site to another.  At the end they were brought to a review game to practice their knowledge.  The students loved going from one site to another.  By the end they knew the three main states of matter and how they change from one site to another. 

In another example, "Periodic Table Guided Investigation", the students learned about the categories and main families of the periodic table and the patterns.  I added videos to this one, however since my district has blocked youtube I had to download the videos first and then I uploaded them to edpuzzle.  I used edpuzzle to host the videos so my students could access them at school.