Category Archives: Science

Planning a Manic Monday Before Thanksgiving

Tomorrow looks to be a day full of interactive, technology-based assessment in my classroom!

I have a student teacher starting during the 2nd semester, and he’s coming tomorrow to get his hours of observation in.  Last week he let me know that he needs to observe some use of technology to assess students for his current class.

I didn’t want him to watch the same thing four times in one day, so I decided to do a different activity each period.

1st period LA 7 will be completing their first activity on Padlet, which I am super excited about.  They will be writing about various themes from our novel.  I am brand new to Padlet, but I practiced using it with a co-worker Saturday and tested it on school devices, as well as personal devices. Don’t you just hate when you plan a technology-based lesson and the filters suddenly don’t cooperate? Fingers crossed that this is what they see tomorrow at 8 a.m.!

Fish Theme


2nd period LA 8 will be using Plickers to do a pre-assessment for after Thanksgiving break when we start verbals.  It will be short – only 10 questions. I like Plickers over Kahoot for assessments like this, because I get specific results and data to work with. I hope I am surprised that they remember some of the “8th grade secrets” I taught them last year. Even so, this will cover adjectives, nouns, and verbs as well.

Plicker participles


4th and 6th period tutoring will be playing Kahoot to review for their science quiz on Tuesday.  This is an 8th grade group studying “The Restless Earth.”  Kahoot is super popular now at our school. The kids love it. It’s fast paced. It’s fun.

I feel it is imperative I get control of the class after the standings have been posted so we can discuss the question and answer.  I also have a 20 second rule for choosing a school appropriate name.   With those rules in place, I think Kahoot can be a great tool to get kids engaged and review for a quiz or test.

Kahoot Earth's Interior

Follow this link to see/play: (I am not sure which link will take you to the teacher page).

So it likes Mr. Student Teacher will be getting plenty to write about, and it looks like my Monday will be a fun one!

If I don’t post again before Thanksgiving, have a wonderful time with your family!  Teachers, enjoy your much-needed break!

Learning the Six Land Biomes

My 7th grade inclusion science class is studying the six land biomes. As they read with small groups, they completed an outline the teacher had made for them. I used that information to create some review sheets for the quiz this Friday. The notes have simplified wording, diagrams, and photographs.

I was able to quickly make these handouts on my iPad with an app called iDraw. It is $8.99 and worth every penny. You can easily pull in photos from the internet and position them wherever you want (much faster than using Word).

You can save the files as PDFs or images and straight to Dropbox or your photos. This is how I’ve been designing all of my handouts lately and each time I use it I get a little quicker with it. (Actually, Tweedle Dee plays with it from time to time and she has taught me some tricks.) I posted the PDF versions below if you would like to use them.

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Desert and Grassland

Tropical forest

Temperate forest

Two Things I Need To Survive 8th Grade: Coffee and Mnemonic Devices

When I first started teaching 8th grade, the curriculum was all new to me. I was the inclusion teacher in four subjects, as well as teaching two of my own resource classes.

Few things are less intimidating than being unfamiliar with the curriculum and learning it just a few days ahead of the students. One of the first things I had to learn was the Scientific Method.

I needed a quick way to memorize the steps:

  • Ask a question
  • Form a hypothesis
  • Test the hypothesis
  • Analyze results
  • Draw conclusions
  • Communicate results

I also needed to think of a way to help my students memorize these steps for their test.

Fortunately I had been in band and knew the “Every Good Boy Does Fine” trick to learn the notes on the staff. Since then, I have always been a big fan of mnemonic devices. And, as luck would have it, the science teacher I worked with usually had a cup of coffee in her hand every morning as she greeted the students in the hallway.

So this is what I came up with:

A fun snapshot of the science teacher with her morning cup of coffee would make a great poster for the classroom.

Totally unscientific, but trust me….silly things like this work!

Tweedle Dee used this same strategy to help her in her science class this year and last year. (Being a teacher’s kid, she learns all kinds of crazy ways to memorize things!)

I am certain I will never forget the steps to the Scientific Method and I bet there is a good chance you won’t either.

Multiple Methods of Presentation: Making Study Tools

Part of my job as an intervention specialist is to provide copies of the class notes for some of my IEP students.

The reasons for this are numerous: poor handwriting, poor processing speed, poor hand-eye coordination, organizational issues, need for review and re-explanation, etc.

My 8th graders are required to take the notes to the best of their ability. In science class, the notes are on the SMARTBoard or taken from the book. For those who have trouble getting notes from the board or book to their paper, a hard copy of the notes is provided. They are allowed to keep these hard copies but they also need to make a valiant effort to copy the notes in the allotted time.

In other words, students get a copy of the exact notes that were provided in class.

However, an additional responsibility is to provide study guides and study materials for my IEP students. It would only make sense that these study guides present the same information, but in a different manner. This is my chance to be creative and do my thing. This is my chance to do what I really love.

I have a variety of formats I use for review sheets and study guides and I tend to mix it up to prevent boredom and to reach students in a variety of ways.

One thing I always try to do: I use the same vocabulary, definitions, and some of the same graphics so they can make connections to what they’ve done in class.

Ways that I modify/tweak/enhance/personalize study tools:

  • Explain definitions in simpler words.
  • Use bold, color, italics, and underline tools to highlight key info.
  • Include diagrams, charts, or additional graphics.
  • Bring in examples and situations we discussed in our intervention study hall. (Ms. K’s car is out of gas. If she pushes it herself, it won’t go very far. If Cory, Paul, and Andrew help push it, it will be easier to move out of the intersection. Which law of motion applies?)
  • I include graphic organizers where students must take the info they learned in class and plug it into charts, boxes, webs, etc. When they get to the test they can visualize the position of the information and remember answers.
  • I load all study tools onto Edmodo so that students who are more digitally inclined can access the tools at home on their computer or on-the-go with their smartphones.
  • I summarize the key information in tri-fold pamphlets.

Below I have included samples of the two sides of a pamphlet for an Astronomy unit. I make these pamphlets on Publisher, copy them front-to-back on bright paper, tri-fold them, and pass them out a few days before the test. Students can keep them tucked in the front of their binder, journal, or book and review the notes quickly between classes, at the start of study hall, on the bus (ok, i doubt that.), etc.


I try to “chunk” related material. I also try to create an “outline” with bullets.


Trying to stay consistent, these graphics are the same ones that the science teacher used in class.

Over the next few weeks I will post some more ideas and examples of study tools I use with my 8th graders. If you have any particular content you are interested in, leave a comment. I just might have a study tool that’s right for you!

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