May 2013Science in the City: May 2013

May 30, 2013

What Are Your Thoughts on The Flipped Classroom?

If you follow my facebook page, you may have seen the discussion a week or so ago about the Flipped Classroom idea.  If not, I'll summarize here:

These comments really got me thinking...on three tangents....(1)what is necessary for a flipped classroom to be successful.  (2) How different is it? (3) Why is it better? (Or why all the buzz?)

(1) I see the following necessary ingredients: available technology to students, motivated students who do homework and come prepared to class, available technology for teachers to be able to provide the instructional videos.  I think the last one is not such a problem.  I do see the first two as a barrier, particularly where I teach.  HOWEVER, maybe this is a place to use time periods like extra help, afterschool, study halls, AIS, or however your class is structured and make it more individualized by providing video instruction?  Particularly if a teacher can't help 20 kids individually.

(2) I don't think its fundamentally different for science.  It seems to be catching on more in math, and I think it is fundamentally different there.  In math, we are all familiar with the model where the teacher does examples, you go home and practice (and get stuck).  It makes sense to 'flip' this.  In science, however, I think there are already a lot of cases where students are supposed to read outside of class, or practice vocabulary, etc, and come to class prepared to do the hands-on part. This could be extended and altered so that it happens even more often, and so that more of the analysis and writing/processing happens in class.

(3) The idea of 'flipping' is very in line with current technology, student interests, and even common core.  Common core asks students to read, but also to analyze information from different sources, and to do more with the information . It allows more individualization, to a point.

Here is a really interesting analysis and discussion, in addition to the two websites offered above.

However, I don't see my classes, in my current setting, getting to the point she talks about.  I think the 'flip' might have to be an intermediate step.....

Have you tried it? Have thoughts or feedback to share?  I'd love to hear it as I begin to reflect and think theoretically about next year.  (Cause we have the summers off, right?)

Thanks for reading! 

May 27, 2013

Learning About Teaching With Case Studies

This is a short post to share a resource with you. If you aren't familiar with the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science you should check it out.

 This is primarily a high school and college resource, although it could perhaps be modified to lower age levels. When I taught AP Environmental Science, I used these case studies quite a bit.

I have had mixed results with middle school doing anything similar.  They need a lot of modification.  However, as I transition back to high school, I plan to try to use these more.  I think the roll-out of Common Core, and increased non-fiction reading is a perfect place and reason to use case studies.  It forces students to read and comprehend non-fiction, and could be a great jumping off point to build in more current events and news articles from around the world (which is one of my goals for next year).

There are a couple of cases designed for middle school, others for general/information education, and the cases are searchable in many ways.

Each year they have a fall conference to learn about teaching with case studies.  I have wanted to attend, but never have.  This year, there is a special piece of that conference for high school teachers, and a scholarship for high school teachers.

Wish me luck, and definitely check out the website for your own classroom use, or just for ideas.

A modification of a case, along with the supporting lesson plan materials that I created when I was student teaching are still posted here

I used this case as a jumping off point for sock mitosis (picture is students doing the same activity, but not my students, from

I have used this lesson since then with high school kids (good results) and middle school kids (pretty good results)...they didn't get all about mitosis, but they definitely got the larger picture and remember, still, that errors during the egg formation can cause Down's Syndrome.  Guess they learned something!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

May 26, 2013

This is What Happens When You Make Student Progress Public

There has been a big push at our school, and at many places, to use data, and to share that data with students. The idea is that we are all "speaking a common language" of data. I understand the sentiment, but am not sure which data is meaningful to students, and how to present it in a way that is valuable, and confidential.

Personally, while I want them to know that they need to catch up, and develop some sense of urgency, I'm not sure Lexile levels and Aimsweb or NWEA scores will do that for them. Also, those scores don't tie directly to their grades, or anything else tangible and valuable to them.  In my classroom, I do two things to make some of their data visible to them.

1.  I post students current grade score sheets, by their ID number, every Monday. Kids get very quickly used to coming in on Monday morning, looking at their grade, and then trying to look across and see why their grade changed from last week (you know it's very mysterious!). 

That looks like this.

If they have been absent, they can match up the titles of the assignments to figure out what they are missing.  They can then go to a file crate with all the past work filed to find the assignments that they are missing.  I just keep the assignments in sequential order, and try to match up the titles.  I have seen another teacher who numbers them, which might be an idea to try for next year, particularly if you have a lot of attendance problems, and need students to be able to make up work easily.  

2. The second way, also updated weekly, is to post a graph in the hallway for a competition between classes. The two lines shown are class average and amount of homework turned in.  There is going to be a prize for the winning class. I also update this every week.  This allows them to see their part in the grades and progress of the whole class.

What do you do to share data with students?  Or do you?  How important do you think that is?  

Please share in the comments! 

May 11, 2013

How Do You Wrap Up Your School Year?

How do you wrap up the year? There are so many administrative things, and finals, paperwork, cleaning the classroom, but I think it is important to reflect, and to allow your students to reflect on the year and what they have learned as well. I did a project with my AP Environmental Science class a few years ago, and am going to try a variation of it this year with my 7th and 8th graders. Our calendar looks strange this year because we have so many end of the year events. Most of our teaching will be done, and then we have several school days after that. What to do with the students? One answer, of course, is to show movies and have the kids help pack up the classroom. That's fine. And there is some place for that, but I don't really think its the best answer, especially if they are doing that all day long. I think it gives students some good closure and reflection the year, and what they have learned as well. And gives me a new kind of insight into what they got out of the year.

Here is a link to the project, and a thumbnail image. I found it a very creative way to have students reflect, and show me, what they thought was important from this year. I hope it is useful and thought-provoking to you as well. In other end of the year news...I am giving a project based final and am thinking about making it like a science fair - design an experiment and write it up. Has anyone done this type of thing as a final project? What suggestions do you have? Am I crazy to even consider doing this at the end of the year?
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

May 8, 2013

Be Brave - Grant Writing is Not Off Limits

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to take my students in a field trip this past week. I teach in an urban, Title I school. I took my students to Cumming Nature Center, which is about a 45 minute bus ride. It was a great experience for me and them!!

Many of my foreign ELL students got off the bus and made comments like "welcome to Sudan"..."this looks like my country"…"I haven't seen anything like this since I left my country."

Many of my native, urban students had never been in the woods, never hiked, never touched much of the outdoors. They screamed when they were asked to look for worms, complained that the grass and trees were itchy, but in the end they liked it.

I had them fill out an evaluation/reflection and asked them if the would do it again (everyone said yes). Thumbs up or thumbs down (all thumbs up and a few drew in horizontal thumbs). What they learned:
- they learned things like -- woodpeckers live in trees
- worms eat dead things and leaves
- you can find worms and salamanders under logs. The salamander was cute. They didn't know that dropping it would hurt it, and apologized (genuinely) when one girl got scared and dropped it.
- they were impressed that the docent had dirt under her nails and was so excited
- they had fun picking up sticks and learning.
- they loved the beaver dam

At the end, the docent asked them to consider hugging a tree. Most of them did, and some said that was their favorite part!!

I think they will remember and understand a lot of ecology better, but I also think there is something so therapeutic and healthy about spending time outside. Many of my students don't get to do that. They live in areas where it's not safe to go outside and play.

I learn as much from seeing them in this setting and seeing what they learn and know and are interested in as they do. One student said he wants to live someplace like that when he grows up. He wouldn't be able to say that, if he had never been exposed!

This was made possible due to the Target field trip grant. If you are considering applying for a grant, do it! Figure out, really, why this will benefit your students, write it down, and apply. It's work to apply, and work to do the permission slips, lunches, bus, medical forms, etc but its worth it!!

If I can ever help you with a grant application or ideas for field trips, please let me know

May 5, 2013

Do You Need a New and Engaging Way to Teach About Static Electricity?

If you are interested in a fun, hands on lab to do with your students that you can do with readily available household materials, here is a good one. This is one my students always remember, and they enjoy doing. It's good early in the year to get them excited about science and used to doing stations (they can't really do any damage and the instructions are pretty easy to follow). It's also good at this time of year, when everyone is getting restless.  Just click on the picture

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Huge Sale - Teacher Appreciation!!

May 7th is Teacher Appreciation Day!  (Right between my birthday and Mother's Day! -- Hmmm!)

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Day, Teachers Pay Teachers is having a big sale.  Most stores (including mine), are 20% off, and TpT is giving additional percentage off, so that most things will be 28% off.

This is a 2 day sale - May 7th and May 8th! 

My store is also on sale 20% off through May 9th.

Get your wish list and shopping carts in order, and get ready to be appreciated!  Make the end of your school year a little easier and save some money doing it!  

May 4, 2013

Secondary Giveaway!

I'm participating in a giveaway! Super Secondary TpT Giveaway! Just in time for Teachers Appreciation Week. 40 Prizes from TpT's Top Secondary Teacher Stores. ONE Grand Prize Winner. Scroll down below and enter to Win...Enter May 1st to May 5th

Here is are direct links to all the products being given raffled off!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

May 2, 2013

Is There Value in State Testing?

Enough has been said about state testing that I will keep this short.  There are so many things that I could say, and most have been said.  I'll keep it short.  As I watched my students endure 3 days of ELA testing, followed by 3 days of math testing, two things came to mind that I wanted to share:

1. If you haven't seen this, please read it.

She makes some excellent points, and this is very clearly an authentic assessment of a student who can read, write, think critically, be creative, and contribute to society.

2.  We are placing so much value on these tests, and basing teacher's evaluations, student's RTI needs, etc.  There is one major catch (well, more than one, but one that I haven't heard a lot of discussion about).  We read and hear about students who are very stressed about these tests.  I have also seen this.  Many of my students are also very stressed about the state tests too.  However, there are quite a few other students who did not take it seriously.  And in all honesty, why should they....

  • they can't really study or prepare well for it, since we don't have much information about it
  • they won't get feedback from it, since they will be confidential even after testing is completed
  • These tests don't figure into their grades, like Regents exams do.  Regardless of how they do on these tests, they will go on to the next grade.
Teachers pay and evaluation rating may be weighted heavily on these tests, but students won't really see much effect, regardless of how they do.  They need to sit through 9 hours of testing over 2 weeks (if they don't have extended time), but how does it effect them in the long-term?  What is there incentive to take it seriously?  It would be great if there was some intrinsic value or incentive for students to do well on these tests. 

Do your students stress about it?  Do they see the value?  

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