April 2013Science in the City: April 2013

Apr 29, 2013

Nervous and Endocrine System Graphic Organizer Freebie for You

Nervous and Endocrine Systems Organizer

I, personally, hate for students to read and answer questions because frequently they do not do a good job of pulling out the information and making it their own.  I prefer to use graphic organizers to help them organize their own information, and to help them pull out their information, rather than only quoting.

For human body systems, I created this organizer to pull together nervous and endocrine systems (body control systems).

It is a freebie on TpT.  Click here or on the picture to check it out!  If you like it, please leave feedback.

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Apr 28, 2013

What Have You Heard About Early College High Schools?

Ok, I just set a goal regarding blog posts, made it public, and failed.  That's very unlikely me, but true....between state testing, catching the flu, and just generally being overwhelmed it didn't happen.  I am revising my goal to 2-3 blog posts per week.  They will cover the topics I mentioned before, but may not always be on those days.

Have you heard of Early College High School?  One opened in my area a few years ago (3, I believe).

I had heard a few good things about it, and a few good news stories, but not a lot.

I applied for transfer this year and was lucky enough to be offered a position there for next year.  I am currently teaching middle school in (based on test scores, for whatever that's worth), one of the worst schools in the state. I have learned a lot, but would like to go back to high school and go somewhere with a little more support/positivism/motivation, etc.  In the interview and job search process, I learned more about these Early College High Schools.  Its a very intriguing concept, I think.  I would like to share some of what I learned with you, and see what you think.

Here is a link to a news article about Early College High Schools


And here is a link to a website about Early College High Schools in general.

Early College High Schools focus on taking students from urban districts, disadvantaged students, and not always high achieving and putting them on a path to college.  Students at these schools may not be high achieving, but they choose to be there, and have higher aspirations.  Students are put on track to take college classes before they graduate from high school, so they graduate high school with college credits.  They are challenged in a more stable/secure environment, and allow students to enter college more prepared for success.  They build local partnerships with colleges, do a lot of college visits, and get kids onto college campuses from a young age.

I am very excited to be at a place where kids choose to be there, and where they are held to high expectations.

Some people say that Early College high schools are not all that they are cracked up to be....that you are not giving kids enough foundation, and taking struggling students and putting them up to higher expectations that they are not ready for.

Maybe its a different measure of success (http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-10-27/news/for-the-early-college-high-school-initiative-success-is-more-than-just-a-high-school-diploma/)?  If so, that's still better than many of our local schools are doing.

Do you have any experience with early college high schools?  What do you think of the concept?

Apr 12, 2013

Have Your Promising Scientists Designed Their Own Research?

The weather is finally turning nicer, at least here. I'm not sure if its here to stay, but in my own house I have tomato seedlings and broccoli seedlings sprouting. Outside I planted some spinach (protected) and the bulbs are coming up. I love this time of year!

It also reminded me of a really cool lab that I did last year with my 7th graders that would be very easily adapted to many different age and grade levels, and was a great way to start the year. It easily built in many lab skills such as measuring, designing an experiment, observations, organizing data, and even graphing. It's really up to you where you go with it.

We first read a story to do with plants, and seeds, and brainstormed all the things plants need to survive. We then thought about how we could make the plants grow better or differently. Each student (or pair of students), had to decide on one thing that they were testing (spacing, amt of water, type of soil, type of container, etc). We wrote our procedure, planted the seeds, and took observations. We graphed our data. It's basic, but incorporates so many science skills that kids are using naturally. It gives a place to connect them to.

One of my favorites was this. She was testing the amount of sunlight. She put one cup of seeds in the window, and one in a closet.

This could easily lead into its own whole lesson!

Although this was a lesson that I did to start the year off, it would also be a great summarizing, end of the year, springtime lesson. Maybe the seeds could even be planted outside somewhere, especially depending upon your climate and when your school year goes. It's a very engaging lesson to kids, and easy to incorporate skills, or direct it where you want it to go. Another plus -- needs very little equipment.

And check out her pictures! I just think they are pretty cool :)

Apr 9, 2013

How to Find and Use Amazing Science Images in Class

I have been seeing so many amazing science related images lately. I have started collecting some of them here.
They are amazing, eye catching, and engaging. But how can I use them in class?! That's been a his question bothering me on and off recently.

Here is a list I've come up with, and I'd love if you'd add your ideas:

  • Print and hang them up like posters
  • Have students explain the image at the end of a unit  That works especially well for a photo like this from http://www.verycoolphotoblog.com
  • Use them for engagement at the start of a unit
  • Use them as a writing activity on inference (thanks sciencenotebooking.blogspot.com)
  • Use them as a free write/prior knowledge -- what do they think is going on? -- this could be science related RTI, a few minutes left at the end of class, or simply for interest and engagement.  Remember why you think science is cool!!  Share that with the kids and get them excited about science! 
  • Maybe have them use the images to create images of their own (photos? Cartoons? Joint project with the art teacher?)
  • Create interest for a project that is coming up (example - animal photos, or adaptations, cool weathering formations).  Do a gallery walk or powerpoint to get them thinking. 

How would or do you use really cool science images in class?  Or do you just like to look at them?

Classroom freebies

Apr 7, 2013

Free For You: Fun Science Poster or Facebook Project Guidelines

Are you looking for a project that your students can do that is cross-disciplinary? Maybe a way to get them reading and writing and using science that is different than state tests, or after state tests?

Here is a project that I used last year, along with some great photos of student work. The English teacher and I did this as a joint project later in the year. We let the kids choose a biography book of a scientist or a book about an animal and create a Facebook page for that scientist or animal. You could also just have them research the scientist or animal. I also had one person comment that they did this project after going on an aquarium field trip. The kids researched one of the animals they saw on the field trip and created the Facebook page.

Facebook Scientist or Animal ProjectFacebook Scientist or Animal ProjectFacebook Scientist or Animal Project

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
Freebie Fridays

Apr 5, 2013

How Can I Engage and Differentiate with Online Videos?

Here is a teaching strategy that you may already be using, but if not, I highly suggest it.  Use online teaching videos (not brainpop or something as catchy, but simple content-based videos) in class as a means to differentiate.  A great site for Earth Science is http://www.youtube.com/user/metfan869  (see videos below) Or you could try Khan Academy, or many others.   
  • Find the video(s) you want to use the teach the content you are trying to teach
  • Make a guided note sheet (similar to what you would put in a powerpoint or what you want kids to take notes on
  • Include some higher level thinking questions as they go through.
  • Then make an application section, or some other activity using the information they they just watched.
My kids used the netbooks, put on headphones, and were totally engaged.  They could stop and re-start the video as many times as they wanted, ask questions where they were specifically stuck, and gauge their understanding better. I had kids comment that they really liked that they could go at their own pace.

Depending upon how you want to run the lesson, you could make the application task homework if they don't finish, make different levels of application questions etc.  People will finish at vastly different times, but hopefully they all finish and grasp the main points of the content.  That's why we are here, right?! 

Have you ever used a similar strategy in your classroom?  If so, how did you do it?  I also found this to work well for review when the topic was familiar, but some needed instruction again and some just needed reinforcement. 


Apr 2, 2013

What Do You Think About Controversial Report Card Policies?

I don't know how your school does report cards.  My school district has 6 marking periods for report cards.  Each is approximately 6 weeks long. Most districts have 4 approximately 9-10 week marking periods.  This change was done before I started working there, for a number of reasons that I'm aware of:

  • With six marking periods, the need for interim (5 week) reports is gone.  We are suggested to send progress reports home, but its not required.
  • With six marking periods, kids will have a better chance of being successful (each marking period counts less).
We also have the restriction that no report card grades lower than a 50% can be given.  Even if a student has hardly shown up to class and has an average in the single digits earns a report card grade of 50%.  This is also to increase incentive for later in the year.  If a student has a 50% for a marking period or two, its not that difficult for them to still pass.  

Many people are frustrated with this policy.  I get it.  Some students honestly work and earn a 55%, or even a 50%.  What do our grades mean?  And what are we grading?  

This has given me a lot of room for thought on what we are grading.  I think there is a place, in a way, for this.  Students do still need room to be successful.  They can't go back and redo the earlier work, really, but if they are to pass a final exam they will still need to learn a lot of the content.   The final exam counts 25% of their grade for the course.  Many times, if they just squeak by, they don't pass the final.  But this policy gives them incentive to keep working for the rest of the year.  They don't give up, because they feel they can still pass.   It doesn't seem quite fair, but what is the alternative. 

Does your school have a similar policy?  What do you think about a minimum grade?  Do you agree or disagree. 

Many of the students in the district where I teach have a very difficult marking period because they have family members in jail, or they have to move because they have gotten evicted, etc.  How can they maintain the expectations of a "student" all the time? Is that a reasonable expectation on our part? 

When I was a first year teacher, and very frustrated over state test scores, another teacher who had been in the district a long time talked to me about how "they may just need to take the class twice to pass, they are learning a lot, but maybe need to see it again."   That has echoed in my head many times.  As frustrating as it is, we (and our students) sometimes need to take a longer range/bigger picture view, particularly in the face of adversity, and keep plugging away towards a goal, realizing that we have a long way to go and a lot setting us back. 

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