Aug 12, 2018

Huge Secondary Science Giveaway

Super Science Back To School Giveaway! 

Huge Secondary Science Giveaway August 2018

Welcome Back Science Teachers!!

I hope you are thoroughly enjoying your summer!! I know I am! I can’t believe how quickly summer seems to be wrapping up!

Huge Seondary Science Giveaway August 2018

I know some of you are already back at school, and some of you have a few more weeks still.  Even if you’re not quite ready to go back, a bunch of science teachers over at TeachersPayTeachers want to make the transition back as smooth and easy for you as possible.

Fantastic Science Giveaway! 

We have a fantastic giveaway going just for you, science teacher. We are giving away FOUR $100 TeachersPayTeachers gift cards that you can use to save a lot of time and get some awesome resources for your classroom!

Take a few minutes out of the end of your summer to hop from blog to blog and collect all of our secret words. It will be worth it!! They form a secret sentence.

Once you have the sentence, go to any one of the Group Giveaway Rafflecopter boxes, on any one of our blog pages, and type in the secret sentence in the right order.

We will pick four winners after it ends after midnight on Friday August the 17th.

My Secret Word is #2: “knows”

Another Chance to Win! 

A bunch of us are also hosting our own individual giveaways as well, so make sure you stop by and enter to win! All in all, there will be over $1000 worth of prizes given away this week!

For my individual giveaway I am giving away $25 of resources from my store, Science in the City. You can choose any bundle or set of resources that fits your needs. When entering this giveaway you'll be added to my email list; I send out resources and tips for teachers each week!

MAKE SURE YOU SCROLL DOWN TO ENTER BOTH GIVEAWAYS!!







a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jul 29, 2018

Sharing Feedback on Google Assignments

Sharing Feedback on Google Assignments

When students are doing an assignment in Google Drive one of the difficulties maybe how to best get their scores and feedback to them. This is especially true if you are doing a series of smaller assignments, such as warm ups.


A few general ways

There are a few general ways to do this and I will give you some tips on each one. 

  1. Use a learning management system, such as Google Classroom (probably the easiest), Schoology or many others. 
  2. Give them feedback directly on the document using the comment tool 
  3. Create a spreadsheet or PDF document that lists grades by ID number. There are pros and cons of each of these of course.

In Google Classroom

In Google Classroom it can be pretty self explanatory to grade an assignment there, and give feedback. Then those grades will likely have to be entered into your gradebook, unless your school has a way of importing them.

Sharing a Single Slide and Giving Feedback

I have sets of warm-ups that are a set of Google slides that cover the whole unit. For example, here is a set that I have on weather.




If I want to share only one slide with a student that day, I would do the following steps:
  • Copy that slide to a new presentation
  • I would share with them through either Google Classroom, or by creating a force copy link. 
  • You can see what the student sees by clicking here.
  • The student then can type directly into the slide, and then either submit through Google Classroom, or share back with me. For me to be able to comment, they must share with either ‘can comment’ or ‘can edit’
  • It then becomes very easy to comment on their work, from my computer. More information on using comments for student feedback is available here.


If I do it this way, I often keep a piece of scrap paper next to me to record their grades, or another window open to record grades as I go through, if I am not using Google Classroom.

Google Forms and a Spreadsheet

I discussed how I use Google Forms and create a spreadsheet by ID number in this post.

Other Tools and Tips

There are other tools as well, which I will touch on just briefly.
  • If you are often entering repetitive feedback, and want to have a bank of comments, feedback, and even stickers that you can use, take a look at this article on using Google Keep for Quick Student Feedback

  • If you (or your students) would find it helpful to give spoken feedback, look into the Kazienza app. It is a very simple Google Chrome app that enables verbal feedback.

  • Only in Google Docs (not Slides, etc), there are several tools for rubrics, which can also simplify the process of grading and giving feedback to students. This can also be done within Google Classroom. And lastly, one more Google Classroom rubric hack.

I hope that these tools help make your digital transition a bit easier, as you find more effective ways to manage your grading and give feedback to your students.


Jul 15, 2018

What do your students need to know and be able to do to be confident using Google Drive?

What do your students need to know and be able to do to be confident using Google Drive?


Tips and strategies, as well as helpful links to prepare your students to be successful as they start using Google Drive and take full advantage of the benefits

Benefits of Google Drive

Google Drive is a great tool and it's easy to use, but students need to be comfortable and confident for it to be successful. Students can store any file in Google Drive, access them anywhere, share with others, work saves automatically, and they can search for their work.

How to Best Prepare Your Students

However, to take advantage of these benefits, students need to be comfortable with Google Drive. What they need to know will really depend upon the assignment that you want them to do but some basic skills and facts that student should know include the following (I am including a link with a good summary to each):

  1. Understanding sharing settings 
  2. Understanding how to search for and save (organize) files
  3. Basic formatting tips -- the G Suite Learning Center is a great resource, even with printable PDF’s that would be great to put on tables, or hang around the room! I am linking here to the section on Docs. 
  4. How to make a forced copy (this can also be done through Google Classroom
  5. It may help students if you make a template that they can fill in. This takes away a lot of the fear of staring at a blank document. You you could give the option of using a template. Some students will want to be creative but not all. I often make a template with a forced copy link as in #4. Another option is to make a template, as described here
  6. Think about the specific assignment that you want them to do, and what skills will come in most handy.

When and how should I teach these?

I am not a big fan of doing a big intro, but a quick mini lesson, or even a few steps at the beginning of the assignment that will teach and review the necessary skills. These assignment specific skills might include things such as:
  • inserting pictures 
  • formatting 
  • inserting links 
Be patient as students are learning new technology. We often think that they are ‘born with technology in their hands’ and that they already know all of this, but in many cases they do not. They may know some technology skills, but not necessarily the academic ones we are trying to teach them. Work with your students and you may learn something from them too.

Jul 1, 2018

Tips And Tricks For Organization When You Take A Class To The Computer Lab

Organizational Tips and Tricks for Taking a Class to the Computer Lab

Tips And Tricks For Organization When You Take A Class To The Computer Lab

You probably spend quite a bit of time building classroom procedures and routines in your classroom.  But what happens when you take your class out of your classroom?!  A common time is when you take your class to the computer lab.  All of sudden the same students who know the routine in the classroom are unprepared and asking where everything is, or forgot materials in class.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PREVENT THIS?

The best solution that I know of is a small box or even a clipboard, or one of the clipboards with space inside.  This allows you, as the teacher, to have one quick thing to grab on the way out of the classroom with everything you and your students will likely need.
I have seen teachers use the top of a box of copy paper, as another handy (and free!) solution.

WHAT SHOULD BE IN YOUR MAGIC BOX?


  • It is, of course, up to your particular situation but here is a good starting point.
  • Class rosters (seating chart if you want them to have assigned seats)
  • A list of important phone numbers (we get one with all the administrators, main office secretary, nurse, counselors, etc.)
  • Blank paper
  • A small case of pencils and pens
  • About 15 or so copies of various puzzles or filler work (in case someone needed to kill time)
  • Extra copies of the assignment.
  • If you want students to be assigned to a certain computer, bring this list.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

I have seen teachers in absolute chaos because they get to the computer lab and students are asking for another copy of the assignment, or a student shows up late and didn’t get the assignment.  Perhaps a student causes trouble, or has a medical situation, and you don’t have the phone number to call an administrator or nurse!

Teacher friends, these problems are so easily prevented!  Make yourself a supply bag/box/clipboard that you can grab on the way out and make your day in the computer lab go so much more smoothly!
What suggestions do you have to bring with you, or to make sure you stay organized?  I’d love to hear them in the comments, or directly in my email

Jun 17, 2018

Easy Ways to Assess Your Student's Earth Science Knowledge

As we near the end of the year, I want to share with you a new resource that I have been working on. It is a growing bundle of Earth Science Warm Ups or Formative Assessments.

Easy Ways to Assess Your Student's Earth Science Knowledge

I have written quite a bit already on how I use warm ups in my class, and how important I believe formative assessment is, for both the teacher and students. I also have several emails on the topic, so feel free to sign up for my email list, either by clicking here, or the sign up box on this page, if you haven’t already, to be sure you get those.

Some of my formative assessment posts:
With these in mind, I am most of the way through creating a year long set of Earth Science formative assessment task cards. They can be really useful to you for a variety of reasons:

They are aligned to my curriculum guide, and student learning objectives, which are also aligned to New York State.

They are available in different formats:
  • Google Slides to project on the board, if you want to have students record their answers on separate paper.
  • Interactive Google Slides so that students can type directly onto the slide, or move pieces around to answer the prompts.
  • Printable PDF’s so that they can be used as task cards.
  • Instructions are included to use with PowerPoint, and to use with several other digital platforms.
  • These have an emphasis on understanding diagrams and key vocabulary.
  • These work work well as daily warm-ups, tickets out, review activities, task cards, even an early finisher activity. Task cards have so many uses.
  • They are a full year set of 200 task cards, so you can use one every day, or pick and choose how you want to use them and have a big selection. 
I don’t know about you, but it can be hard to consistently come up with questions. It is a huge time saver, and sanity saver to have a bank of questions ready to go. I hope these Earth Science Formative Assessments are helpful to you.

If you have specific questions, or suggestions, please feel free to comment or email me!

Jun 3, 2018

Easy Fitness Tips for Extremely Busy Teachers

Why is fitness so important for teachers?

Fitness is important for everyone, but especially for teachers because we have a very high stress job. Fitness can be a big stress-buster, anti-depressant, enables you to have more energy during the day when working with your kids

On top of stress and depression benefits, we also know that fitness has benefits for our overall health (cholesterol, heart health, blood pressure and more).

Many people know that fitness is important, or want to lose weight but struggle to fit it into their own lives.


My own journey

I have developed some health issues, chronically over the last number of years. I have been diagnosed with what is called myofascial pain, or overly tight muscles, with trigger points and a lot of pain sensitivity. I have had particular trouble in two different areas of my body. Within the last year or two I have really made a commitment to work on them. Exercise and fitness has been a big part of this. I have been through physical therapy, trigger points injections, MRI, acupuncture, and several types of medication. I am not cured, but doing much better.

The end result is that these issues are all muscular, and are places in the body where people are likely to carry stress and tension.

I have had to build in careful types of exercise, both for my muscles directly, and also as part of a plan to better manage stress.

I have tried ‘programs’ and liked them, but they didn’t work well for me. I have had to build off of what I can do, without causing further injury and go slowly.   Then I felt frustrated when I couldn't complete the program.

However, I think it is beneficial because it caused me to really reflect on my goals (less pain), and my own progress (exercising 4-5 days per week, rather than 1-2 is progress, even if not exactly following the program).

As part of my ‘journey’ I have also gotten familiar with biomechanics, and the work of Katy Bowman. She studies how our modern lives (time spent at a computer, or other mostly sedentary lifestyles has affected our bodies, our health, and what we can do about it). One of the main distinctions that she makes is the difference between movement and exercise. I think this distinction is so important for teachers (and others) to keep in mind.

Both are important, and after reading much of her work, I think we need both. However, we have a tendency to discredit the idea of ‘movement’ that is not exercise, and this is a mistake.

Movement v. exercise

Katy Bowman proposes that 30 minutes a day of exercise is not enough to counteract a mostly sedentary day. In her book “Move Your DNA” (affiliate link) she puts out the idea that we do not, necessarily have to do 30-60 minutes of sweaty, strenuous exercise, but that we have to build in more movement throughout our day. This can be large and small. Walking instead of driving, squatting, changing our position, doing more work with our hands rather than machines, etc. Our muscles need constant changing inputs to function at their best. We tend to be in the same positions and same types of movements throughout the day.

Here are a few links that discuss this distinction

What’s the Difference Between Movement and Exercise?

Exercise v. Movement: What’s the Difference?

What are some ways to get more movement into your day

  • Walk more - this might be as simple as parking further away
  • Change how you sit - sit on the floor with your kids. Squat. Sit cross-legged. Sit on a stool. 
  • Carry things in your arms. Instead of using only a backpack, or a rolling crate, try to carry things different ways. 
  • While you are on the phone, walk! 
  • While dinner is cooking, or while brushing your teeth, do some stretches. 
  • Don’t use your food processor, or buy pre-cut veggies, but do the work yourself.
  • When you take your kids to the playground, run and play with them.
  • Build it little movements - arm circles, twists, reaching up, etc. 
  • I’m sure you can come up with many more!! I’d love to hear them!! 

What are some ways to get more exercise into your day?

For me, I am trying to build in more movement, but it didn’t seem like I could get enough within the demands of my job/life. I don’t live in an area where I can walk to a lot of different places, and that is a big difference. So I compromise. I do try to build in more movement, but I also build in exercise. However, I don’t try to overdo it. I don’t stress if every day is not the most strenuous workout. If may not be a program. I try to do one of the following and ‘count it’ as exercise for the day (in no particular order):

  • 30 minutes walk outside, or on the treadmill
  • A 30 minutes exercise video (either Beachbody on Demand, Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube, FemFusion Fitness on YouTube, or FitnessBlender on YouTube)
  • Going outside or to the YMCA to play with my kids, and actively participating
I can often do one of these either in the morning when my kids are getting ready, while dinner is cooking and they are doing their video game time, etc. They are short enough that they are manageable.

As I watch different YouTube channels, and read different books, one of the themes that keeps coming through to me is the idea that movement will make me feel better. Our bodies are designed to have much more movement than we are currently doing. Those movements don’t need to be extreme, but they do need to be occurring on a regular basis. Here is a very current article from the NY Times “Those 2-Minute Walk Breaks? They Add Up”

I hope some of these things helped you reframe the way that you think about exercise, and how you may be able to improve on your exercise and health situation.

Even if you take small steps, they will add up. Find what works for you. But mostly keep moving! Or get moving!

May 20, 2018

Tips for Successful Technology Sub Plans

Tips for Successful Technology Sub Plans when you have to be absent

**This post was written by Science in the City, and previously posted on www.technologytoolsforteachers.com. However, that site has been discontinued, and so my content will gradually be posted here **

Tips for Successful Technology Sub Plans

We’ve all been there – you have to be out for a day, but its nerve-wracking. What to leave for a sub? How to make sure it goes smoothly? You don’t want to waste a day of class, and you don’t want to come back to chaos the next day. Especially at this time of year, there seem to be more field trips, family events, and reasons to be absent.

Here are my suggestions (granted I have mostly taught secondary, but I think these suggestions would work even with upper elementary as well).

You can’t always guarantee who you will get as a sub, or how your students will react, so here are a few suggestions to minimize the stress.

LEAVE THE DIRECTIONS DIRECTLY FOR YOUR STUDENTS

Students are used to receiving direction from you. They are more likely to give a sub a hard time, or the have confusion. Give the directions to the kids. If you use a learning management system such as Google Classroom, Schoology, Edmodo etc this is very easy. they are already used to logging in, and can look for their work there.

If not, I have left the kids a very quick and simple set of directions of what they are to do for the class period, and what is to be handed in at the end of class. I sometimes leave the kids direction in the form of an official looking ‘memo’ with the assignment for the day, when it is due, and what to do if they have extra time. I photocopy either for each student (even a half sheet is plenty), either as a separate handout, or as a cover page with today’s work that explains their directions for the day.

This leaves the sub free to either tell students to login and read the directions, or the pass out directions, as well as take attendance, monitor behavior, and deal with questions and problems, rather than try to teach/lead a lesson that he or she may not be comfortable with. It also takes out the middle man. I don’t know about you, but I have heard some strange stories such as “the sub told us not to hand that in” or the “sub never passed that out, etc”

LEAVE THE SUB PREPARED

Make sure the sub is prepared to do the things that you really need him or her to do. Here are some tips:
  • leave attendance rosters
  • leave a class schedule
  • leave a seating chart, if you use one
  • leave directions and contact information for another teacher to ask in case of questions
  • leave directions or a phone number to call for the main office/security in case of a problem
  • clear directions of what work should be handed in
  • leave some type of feedback form, this helps ensure that you will get feedback on how the day way. There are numerous free versions available by searching for substitute feedback form. Here is a good resource from the National Substitute Teachers Alliance.

HAVE A BACK UP PLAN

As has already been mentioned in many other places, it is important to have a back up plan.

My go to backup plan is either a news article summary or a vocabulary activity. I keep vocabulary lists, and a vocabulary menu of choice activities for students to practice key vocabulary. I also keep a bunch of news articles printed out, with a generic news article response template (I just use the first page). Even if you don’t keep articles, you may be able to get a few copies of the newspaper or of magazines from the school library. Again, there are numerous current events summaries available with a quick search, so I would recommend that you find one appropriate to your students.

These are assignments that students can do for extra credit or early finisher activities but they are also great for emergency sub plans, or if the technology isn’t working. Sometimes there is a sub who isn’t comfortable with the technology or has an issue getting kids logged in. These are a perfect temporary solution.

Tips for Successful Technology Sub Plans when you have to be absent

May 6, 2018

A Financial Secret to Benefit You, Teachers

A Financial Secret to Benefit You, Teachers

As we are just finishing up taxes and tax time, I wanted to share a tax saving or financial tip for teachers that you may not be aware of. I have only become aware in the last few months of a certain type of investment or saving account that is open to teachers and some other public employees. This type of account is called a 457 investment account.

I am not going to claim to be an expert, but I will give you a quick synopsis, and a few more sources of information.

A financial option open to teachers that you may not be aware of
 

I learned about a 457 first on the Choose FI podcast episode entitled The Unfair (FI) Advantage Of Teachers | 457b. Another good source of information is the Millionaire Educator blog, specifically the post “7 Reasons to Love your 457 Plan.”

Definition and Advantages of a 457

A few bullet points about what a 457 is, and what the advantages are:
  • A 457 is pre-tax savings or investment, similar to a 401k (usually in business) or a 403b (often teachers have this as well). That means your money is going in before it's taxed so you are able to put more in and you're able to reduce your taxable income (lower your tax bracket)
  • The rules or a 457 state that you can withdraw when you leave your teaching position, or at age 59.5. This means, if you leave your teaching position, you can withdraw from your 457. 
However, you may need to do some research and work with your HR department. My district did not really seem to publicize the 457 well. I had to do some digging to find out about it. I have heard the same from others as well. However it may be worth the work as it may be a good alternative for you to improve your tax situation and your savings for later.

More information

Here are a few 457 links with some more information
Definitely do your research, they won’t be for everyone, but this has potential to be important enough that I wanted to pass it along. I have been teaching for 12 years, and thought I was relatively on top of my finances, but I had never heard of a 457, and didn’t know it was available. As such, I’m assuming I’m not the only one. This could be a huge advantage if you are teaching but plan to leave your job and stay home with young kids for a while, go back to school, or simply leave the teaching field and pursue a different line of work, but maybe you need some money to tide you over after you leave the position. There is no early withdrawal penalty. You still pay taxes on the money that you withdraw but you don't pay a penalty like you would from any other retirement accounts.

I'd love to hear your comments below. 

Apr 22, 2018

Behind the Scenes at TpT Flock


5 Takeaways from the TpT Flock Regional Conference

I was lucky enough to go to the Teachers Pay Teachers Conference, or Northeast Regional Meet Up called TPT Flock last weekend. It was an inspirational event with many educators who are really changing the face of education and having a huge impact on students, not only in their classroom, but on so many other classrooms in the US and around the world. 

Many of my biggest takeaways apply not only to TPT but also to the classroom of a regular teacher outside of the classroom. I wanted to share some of those takeaways with you.

Details matter, but everything doesn’t have to be perfect

Of course we don't want to make materials for our classroom, or to share professionally, that are full of errors or look messy. However, I think often we try too hard to make something perfect. As we use it it will grow and develop. It's more important sometimes to get something of good quality out (either to our students, or our colleagues) and start using it than it is to keep it on our computer, or in our heads, until it's a hundred percent perfect. Details do matter, but “strive for progress, not perfection.” - Unknown

Don’t try to do it all

This is the biggest thing that I felt like I kept hearing all day: don't try to do it all! This also applies to your classroom! Everybody has their strengths. Maybe you're really good at games and making class fun, or having a sense of humor. Maybe you're really good at connecting with students, or have really innovative and fast ways to grade and assess. Perhaps you are good at building in teachable moments or differentiation, or reading strategies. Maybe you are really good at read alouds and doing demonstrations. There are countless pieces of being a good teacher. No one is good at all of them! Focus on your strengths and build on those! Focus on one thing at a time that you want to learn and improve on, but realize that you do not have to do it all. If you spread yourself too thin you probably won't be successful. Instead, maybe take one unit to try something new, or try one new method at a time.

Collaborate, and reach out for Support

Teaching is often a solitary endeavor, even though we are constantly around people. No one is really in our classroom with us, and we may or may not be in the situation where we plan as a team and really collaborate with other teachers. In my teaching experience there are many times when we're really working alone in our classroom with our students. This is why it's so important to reach out. It could be within your school to to your administrator, to other teachers in your school, or to Facebook groups or discussion boards. Realize that you're not alone! You have things to offer to other people and they may be able to offer you simple solutions in an area that you're struggling

Learning happens when you connect with other people, and with what you already know

Sometimes we think that we're going to learn a bunch of new information on our own by going to a training, reading a book, or seeing something online. In reality there are many times that the best learning happens when we build on what we already know and discuss it with other people! We may see someone doing something just a little bit different than what we're doing, or add on one new twist that makes a big difference. As educators we know that students need a foundation for what they are learning and that they learn best when building on what they know. We often forget this ourselves. It applies to us too! Take what you're doing, talk about it with other people and go just one step further than what you are doing. You might be amazed at the results.

Remember your why

Remember why you became a teacher, and began this journey. Teaching can be a rocky road, and often a draining job. You may have to deal with difficult parents or behavior problems. Think about why you got into this and what were your goals. Maybe you wanted to help students understand the world around them, get them excited about science, help them see that they can be successful or help them grow as young adults. I'm sure you have your own reasons. Take a couple minutes and think about what those reasons are. There have been several times throughout my career when I got to the point where I didn't think that I was wanted to teach anymore. Just as I thought I couldn't take it anymore a something really positive happened. A student had a breakthrough learning moment or came to thank me for something or some other small action happened during the day that made me remember why I come to work every day.

I was lucky enough to go to the conference and meet up with some fantastic teachers from many different states and even Canada I felt honored to be part of that group. However we work with many great educators everyday and we need to remember that and be thankful for each other and for our students.

Apr 1, 2018

Looking to Make Weathering and Erosion more Student-Centered

Making Weathering and Erosion More Student-Centered

Tips, strategies and resources to teach weathering and erosion in a more student-centered, hands-on way.


Weathering and erosion is one of my favorite topics to teach! I get excited every year when that unit comes up. Why? Because it's something that is reallys so visual, and easy to make hands-on. It's happening all the time, all around us, but many kids aren’t aware.

Introduction

I start off with some very quick stations where students look at some pictures, and small examples of weathering, and real life examples similar to weathering (a rusty nail, a tree root that grows and splits a rock, calcium chloride tablets that are put in a jar and shaken to see how they break down, and chalk is put in vinegar to see how it changes and breaks down. At each station they are asked to make some observations, and answer a simple question or two about what happened.

We then re-group and discuss the changes that we saw. We come up with a common definition of weathering. Then we break it down further -- two of these stations that we saw are chemical weathering, and two are physical. What do they have in common? How can we define those? 

Physical and Chemical Weathering

Then we go into weathering in more detail. This is a great place to do lots of shorter labs (such as this weathering lab pack), and practice experimental design skills, and some other basic science skills like graphing changes, writing conclusions, etc.

I do a lab on chemical weathering where students design how to test the effect of acid on weathering rate, using coffee, vinegar, water, and chalk. They have to get their procedures approved before the proceed, but they will need to come up with a way to measure their changes, and write their procedures and conclusions.

Observing chemical weathering changes during a lab

This is a great chance to practice skills such as observation, measuring, and even writing procedures.

For physical weathering we do several small stations on the factors that affect physical weathering (particle size, time, composition). Then they do a summary on these factors, where they have to apply it to a real life situation, and write about it (practice writing and using evidence).

Erosion

Then we move into erosion. This is a great place to integrate high interest activities, because we start off erosion with video clips of avalanches, rivers flooding their banks, etc. Again, we look at what all these have in common to define erosion, and how it is different than weathering. This is memorable for students, and helps them make a connection!

I then structure the erosion part of the unit very similarly. We do a lab on factors that affect stream erosion, and they get to test out things like slope, water velocity, amount of water, collect their data etc. We may do this as a whole group lab, and study stream development.

We also do stations on other types of erosion. I use a big block of ice to simulate a glacier. You can see some great photos and feedback from @teaching_science_irl below. Students at that station compress the ice into a bin of sediments, drag it across, and make observations. Then they draw parallels to the features that are seen on earth with real glaciers and glacial erosion. Similarly, some mixed sediments and a piece of cardboard can simulate erosion by gravity. A hair dryer, or even a straw that students blow on, and some fine sediments can simulate erosion by wind. This allows them to start to see the features, and draw some conclusions. When this is coupled with additional resources, students can really connect!

student making observations during a lab on wind erosion

Here is a picture of wind erosion as students examine which size particles travel farther, and the patterns that they make.

photos from a lab on glacial erosion

Benefits of Teaching this Way

For us weathering and erosion are a real life topic, but for many students who have never travelled and seen these features it can be very abstract. These hands-on activities help to make it more real, and then allow them to make the leap to test questions and other real-life situations

These hands-on activities help make these concepts more real-life, and keep kids engaged. Once they have the foundation and background knowledge, on the topic, they are then much better able to take it the next step and apply to other real life situations or test questions. 

Wrapping Up

Then we do some review and summary. I usually do this on paper, but some of these review activities could be integrated within the unit as stations or activities to break up each section if you are looking for a change from the hands-on. I have this activity where students look at different pictures of weathering, erosion, or deposition, and have to identify which it is. After that, they then have to identify what type of weathering, or what the agent of erosion was.

I also have the students do an activity where they create a concept map of pictures and terms of weathering, erosion, and deposition. This can also, of course, be done with just one of these topics. This is a great way for students to think through the processes, and also for you to really better understand their thinking.

a good way for students to organize and show their knowledge - use of concept maps for weathering and erosion

This is also a good time to have students practice with vocabulary, through either Quizlet, matching terms and definitions, or doing any number of other vocabulary activities.

Sometimes, depending upon the group, I like to have a summative assessment where they are given a situation (an erosional feature, or photos of Cleopatra’s Needle, or cemetery photos and having them explain what they see, in terms of weathering and erosion.

An example of changes due to weathering in different conditions


different weathering of gravestones due to different conditions - a problem to explain

What can you add?  How do you teach like to teach Weathering and Erosion?  

If you are looking for all of my resources together, click here to check them out. 
Tips, strategies and resources to teach weathering and erosion in a more student-centered, hands-on way.

Mar 18, 2018

How to grade differentiated assignments

Whenever there is discussion of differentiation, or creating and using differentiated assignments, one of the biggest struggles that comes to my mind, and I think for many other teachers, is how to grade those assignments fairly (and hopefully without creating excessive work for the teacher).
Tips, strategies, and reflective thoughts about grading in a differentiated classroom

It can be overwhelming to think about how to grade all these different assignments or how to make sure that students are fairly evaluated when they're given different assignments here are a few ideas:

First of all, keep in mind that in some cases differentiation is simply another way to learn the content, or practice with the content, and that it does not need to be graded separately. It is a different way to arrive at the same goal and only feedback or formative assessment may need to be given.

If you do decide to grade the differentiated assignment, here are a few suggestions:

  1. You could create a checklist and then simply add or subtract a few items on that list from the differentiated assignment.
  2. Create a rubric so that whichever format of an assignment students are doing they need to meet the same general criteria but they might meet it in different ways.  The rubric should be focused on the content and the goals of the assignment, not the format.  Here is an example of that. Along with rubrics, here is a more in-depth discussion of something called the “slide rubric” which allows students to show growth, and to show more differences between levels on the rubric. It would take a bit of work to set up, but be easy to score when finished. 
  3. The differentiation may be scaffolding that is provided within the assignment, in order to reach the same goal. So, it may not be visible in the final grading.  The final assignment that is turned in may be the same, but it may have some scaffolding built in. 
  4. If it's a small assignment, you might want to consider giving a check, or a completion grade for partially complete, incomplete, or not done scale, given whatever their assignment directions were.
  5. Assessment could also focus on progress monitoring, such as showing growth, depending upon the needs of your classroom.  I think elementary classrooms do a much better job at this than secondary.  We have a lot to learn from them!! 
As you are thinking about this, remember that 

Grading should ultimately reflect the standards so you're grading should come back to what are the key points that students need to know did they demonstrate their understanding?? Maybe they demonstrated them in different ways but if they sufficiently demonstrated that they know the material that should be the focus of their grading. In other words, the grading is tied to the content of the project, not the format of the project. This is discussed further in this webpage (a very thorough look at differentiation, with a discussion of grading).

If you are using technology, Google Classroom has great options for differentiation as well, that you should be aware of! This article doesn’t specifically address grading, although it touches on it, but it is a great description of using Google Classroom to differentiate, and may give you some great ideas!

As far as a more theoretical perspective, here is a great slideshow from Carol Tomlinson (Differentiation Guru) on grading. She outlines 6 principles on grading that absolutely apply to grading differentiated work as well, and help put things in perspective.

How have you differentiated and graded those differentiated assignments in your classroom? I would love if you would share your experience and your ideas with us either in the comments here, or in our Facebook group.

Mar 4, 2018

Help Your Students Struggling with Vocabulary

My Students Know the Content -- Why Do They Test So Poorly?

You may have been taught and prepared to teach your students the content. You have spent time doing that, and you think they understand. Then you give them standardized test questions and they bomb, they shut down, or they keep calling you over very confused. How can this be? You thought you taught them this information?

Strategies and resource to help students with tier 2 vocabulary often needed for test questions

Sometimes it's not the content words that students are struggling with, but instead it's the non-content vocabulary or the Tier 2 vocabulary. In other words, they know the content but they don't understand the questions or they don't understand the reading passage. If they don't really understand what they are being asked, they can't begin to answer the question.

So many of our students don't have the background knowledge and vocabulary, they may be ELL students or they may just not have a lot of academic vocabulary.

So what can we do about this? 

We need to teach our students this vocabulary! And to successfully teach vocabulary students need practice with those words in several different ways. Of course, this seem like an overwhelming task try to bring our students up to grade level with their vocabulary during science class or another content class but it doesn't have to be as difficult as it sounds. I have written about this before, but I was asked for more specifics on how I implement that strategies and vocabulary that I use.

Here is what I have done

Here is what I did to work on tackling that problem and I'm hoping it will help you too. I went through our last couple years of State exams as well as a few other resources and I compiled a list of Tier 2 vocabulary words. I also asked my students, as we did practice questions throughout the year, what words they didn't know or were confusing and added to the list. I also shared resources with a few other teachers. At that point I had a very good list of words.

I use those first for warm ups. Here are the basic steps that I follow:

  • I took a word a day, usually, and I gave them a sentence or a picture to infer, or comparison to another word. 
  • Then I had them try to conceptualize and infer what they thought the definition of the word was. 
I would usually project these on the board, and have students record their answers. This could, of course, be done in a Google Form, slide, on paper, or many other formats that fit with your classroom routines. This did two things at once: (1) they got to practice the skill of inferencing and using context clues to figure out the meaning of a word that they didn't know, (2) they also started to get familiar with some of these words.

I would usually do one word a day so five words a week and then after the end of the week or at the end of 2 weeks we would have a little quiz on those words. Sometimes it would just be a matching quiz, sometimes question that had one of those or a reading passage that had one of those words so they could see it in context.

An example of a strategy to help students with tier 2 vocabulary in the classrom

After awhile, it was amazing, students started to learn some of the words but more importantly they started to gain confidence. When we do test questions where they would run across those words I would start to hear things like “Oh, I know this word!” “This is a word we just did last week.” They were not longer foreign, but were familiar instead. Even if they didn’t remember all the definitions, the vocabulary had lost its power to be scary!

What's the Next Step

It's so important that these are integrated in throughout the year and the students practice using them so that it's not an isolated thing. To facilitate this, when we did stations for other topics (I do a lot of stations in my classroom) I usually throw in one extra station to focus on those vocabulary words. It might be the same thing as what is on the board, as a review, but a few task cards printed out. It could be matching up words and definitions either on paper or on Quizlet. Sometimes the station would focus on vocabulary more subtly because it would ask them to write a test question using some of those words (maybe with a word bank or sentence stems). It's so important that they see these over and over again so that they lose their fear and mystery.

Where Can I Find Out More

More strategies are outlined in this great article 8 Steps to Tier 2 Academic Vocabulary in Your Students and here Enriching Academic Vocabulary: Strategies for Teaching Tier Two Words to E.L.L. Students.

This is something that you could easily implement on your own but if you would like to make it easy, my complete set of over 200 words (more than enough to use one every day) they're available here

set of task cards to help students with tier 2 vocabulary

Here are a few of the pieces of feedback I have gotten on this resource.  I hope it can be helpful to you as well!


I also wrote more about this strategy in these other posts, here, here, here, here, and here.

Strategies and resource to help students with tier 2 vocabulary often needed for test questions

Feb 18, 2018

How do the New NGSS Standards really affect me?

As Next Generation Science Standards come out, and start to be utilized in more states, and more classrooms, you may be wondering how this affects your science classroom.

I participated in this very basic short training for NGSS, and had some discussion in this facebook group. Through that reflection I thought I had a beginning understanding of NGSS, at least how it is set up, and had some thoughts about how it would affect my classroom. I was waiting to see how the assessments worked, but felt that I had a pretty good start. 
 
A reflection and broad overview of NGSS and resources as you transition


Now, however, I am working on designing curriculum for a new course that that will be aligned to NGSS, and I found myself again confused and thinking through some of the issues surrounding it.

I wanted to write a post where I share with you a few of the main points that I am taking away, and hopefully open up some further discussion.

A little background on NGSS

Make sure you check out the NGSS website. It is pretty easy to navigate, and has sections on Understanding the NGSS. Two of the most useful handouts, in my opinion, were
As you may have noticed right away, each standard is broken down into performance expectations (what students need to know or be able to do to demonstrate competence), framework dimensions, and then correlations to common core.

The NGSS draws from three dimensions. These are as follows:
  • Disciplinary core ideas: our traditional content - subject matter
  • Science and engineering practices: what may previously have been called science skills such as using models, planning and carrying out investigations, analyzing and interpreting data, etc.
  • Cross-Cutting concepts: concepts and themes the cross many different science areas - such as patterns, cause and effect, stability and change, etc. 
These dimensions remain constant across grades P-12, but obviously go into greater depth at higher grade levels.

The NGSS are also correlated to Common Core, so they support math and literacy integrated into the science classroom.

These changes were made with a few larger shifts in mind. The shifts are:
  • from isolation to integration
  • from science inquiry to science and engineering practices
  • from discrete science ideas to science and engineering crosscutting concepts
As we look at using NGSS in the classroom, it is not a complete departure from what we have been doing. These standards emphasize greater depth, problems solving, writing, engineering design and problem solving, and more progression through the grades. This is in line with teaching science as inquiry, using the 5 E’s, phenomena-based teaching, and many other good science teaching practices, but often takes it a step farther. As part of NGSS, these science and engineering practices and cross-cutting practices need to be taught more explicitly than we are used to doing. We may think that we are already teaching them, but in NGSS they get more emphasis as skills and content in their own right.

Here are a few of the ‘takeaways’ from our PD circle in the Facebook Group

Engineering design:

The biggest takeaways for me from this module were the embedded skills, and the process itself - collaboration, optimization, and revision, grit. I think it is important to explicitly teach these skills. A lot of projects, or even experimental design lend themselves well to this if we spend more time on the design process rather than giving students a step by step method, but teach them modeling and design skills. It’s not so hard to do, but a different perspective.

Cross-cutting concepts

I learned that it is important to “draw the concepts into the foreground”. We can (usually) easily recognize patterns or cause and effect but students really struggle with those relationships. Starting to use the terms with young children is exciting because much like a foreign language it will be easier to become more fluent in science and get to a deeper understanding of science content in middle and high school.

I do think it requires a re working of lesson activities and instructional formats. I know most of my stuff mainly reflects disciplinary core ideas. I have to work in the practices and concepts more and make more integrated performance assessments.

Focus on a few at a time and be intentional! Looking at the planning sheet our district made, it matches completely with this idea. So manageable! Also, I agree that we need to pull them into the foreground, like the depth and complexity icons.

Science and Engineering Practices

I learned that science is really a much more round about discipline, which is so different than what I’ve always learned and taught. I realized how much more integrated science should be, and that I should be talking about it like that in class. Doing science in class was completing rigid labs to achieve a desired outcome. I started off teaching that way, but have loosened up over the years to encourage students to create their own investigations. BTW, I much prefer the term investigation to experiment. It can include so much more.

I need to be much more intentional in pointing out the practices not only when we do them, but whenever the opportunities arise. I liked identifying them in the video and article.

The students need to talk, and they need to experience by learning.

Science is messy, and it is so good for the students to see this. It is hard to let go of control and fear that the students will not learn what they need to learn. It may take longer and be louder, but it is good for them! They might be wrong sometimes, but over a few practices, can correct misconceptions.

How to match up the standards to your curriculum

When trying to match up the standards to my curriculum I got a bit overwhelmed at first because of the different dimensions. After looking at some other resources, and talking to some colleagues, here are the conclusions that I came to:

The part I am correlating my curriculum to is the performance expectations at the top. There are much fewer of these than there were in our previous state standards, but they are broad and more comprehensive, so as you teach them, you are covering more content.

These performance expectations also lend themselves well to developing projects that would demonstrate competency in these areas.

One, or just a few performance expectations might cover an entire unit.

However, as you are teaching these, you want to keep the other dimensions in mind.

For example. When you teach the core disciplinary ideas, make sure that you are including some problem solving, engineering design, and cross-cutting science concepts. Also make those cross cutting concepts really clear and explicit

Where do I find examples of NGSS in practice?

As you are looking for NGSS aligned lessons and further resources, I put together a few websites that I found while searching:
  • NSTA has an NGSS Hub that can be searched by grade level and core idea
  • The Next Generation Science Website itself has some sample classroom performance assessment tasks. There is not a big library here, but growing, and they give good examples of how the different dimensions are integrated.
  • If you prefer videos and examples, rather than lesson plans per se, The Teaching Channel has a “Deep Dive Guide to NGSS” and quite a few videos where you can see it in practice. 
  • One of my favorites - since NGSS is focused on finding phenomena, and students acting as scientists to explain, I love this database of phenomena that can be searched by standard! 
  • Lastly, although it may be a bit overwhelming, this concept map is a wealth of information on everything NGSS related! As I get further into NGSS, I definitely plan to explore it much farther!! 
I know some of you are way ahead of me in how your states are implementing NGSS. If you have insights or examples I’d love if you’d share them either here or in the facebook group.

A reflection and broad overview of NGSS and resources as you transition

Feb 4, 2018

Free, Engaging NGSS Aligned High Tech Resource For You

Free, Engaging NGSS Aligned High Tech Resource For You


If you are looking for a new and different, technology-rich activity to introduce students to a career in science, increase literacy in science, and practice using claim-evidence-reasoning (CER), I want to share a resource with you.

**Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, but all opinions are genuine and are my own.** #sponsored

I was asked to write a sponsored review of the UL Xplorlabs Fire Forensics Module, and I am very pleased to share it with you! I also asked my sixth grade son to go through it and give his feedback.

Xplorlabs has made two modules that are free, STEM-focused, and NGSS aligned. They have supplementary hands-on investigations that could be used in the classroom, and tie to both safety and real-world problems. I looked specifically at the Fire Forensics Module and found it very engaging, and found it to provide a fun, interactive online environment for students to learn from real scientists.

What is included in the Fire Forensics Module?

The Fire Forensics Module is an interactive web-based lesson that teaches about fire, but also teaches about building an evidence-based claim as students go through the process of being a ‘fire investigator in training.’ It is “designed to provide students with the understanding of fire, fire dynamics, and fire behavior so that they can read a fire scene and build a claim for the fire’s location of origin and cause.” It includes videos, embedded practice quizzes, a model where the students and instructors analyze the fire together, and then a culminating activity where the students analyze the fire themselves, from evidence, and then submit their analysis along with claim, evidence, and reasoning to their teacher or print it out.

The module is very well scaffolded, with short (1-3 minute) videos from current fire investigators, education on the fire itself, and on the tools used for investigation. There are interactive activities and self-checks, and also supplements hands-on activities that can be used (but it works fine without it as well).

The content covered focuses on the basic science of fire, and the fire investigation process itself, but they also use this as a lens through which to teach and practice claim, evidence, reasoning, and the scientific method. Depending upon the extension activities chosen, you could also use this to practice graphing.

As students work through this module, they are first introduced to the job of fire investigators and why it is important. They enter the ‘investigator’s academy’ and learn some background about how fire is defined, how fire develops, and how it behaves. They will then go through a ‘model’ fire in the lab, and then investigate a case and build a claim, based on evidence and reasoning.

What’s great about it?

I really liked this module, and would not hesitate to use it with students. The videos are short, engaging, and fast-paced. The website is very professional and easy to navigate, while still being kid friendly. There are self-checks built in and interactives to keep students on track. If students miss formative assessment questions they are given explanations, and then try the questions again before moving on. I really like that it integrates the career piece. This can be so important for students to just see what else is ‘out there’ and available to them as a career.

The whole module builds on itself seamlessly, and integrates supplemental activities if you choose. However, you could easily use only part of the module, and could include or omit as many of the extension activities as you choose. If, however, you do choose to include the extensions, they come with great teacher instructions, including materials list, roles, etc.

The whole module culminates with students solving a ‘case,’ establishing their claims, using evidence and reasoning to support it.

Feedback from my own middle schooler

This activity is geared towards middle school. I have taught middle school, but at the moment I’m teaching high school. I do, however, have a 6th grade son, so I asked him to go through at least some of the module and give me his feedback. He completed the first four sections during some free time. He liked it so much that he wants to go back and finish it, or check out the other module that they offer on his own! But he really liked the short videos, and the interactive charts in section 2 where you could modify the components needed for the fire and see how the fire changed (visually). He said he learned that the amount of heat, oxygen, and fuel changes how big the fire is, which he didn't know before. He thought all three had to be present, but didn’t know that the fire would change if there were different amounts.



He found the website easy to follow and thought the directions were very clear. He said he learned a lot, but the most interesting takeaway was that he had no idea there was such a job as a fire investigator. He said he could see his teachers doing this in science class, or even on a day where there is a sub because the students would be able to go through independently.

When would I use it?

As a teacher myself, I thought a lot about when I would use this activity. Some activities I’ve seen in the past are ‘fun,’ but really don’t fit with any curriculum. I think this one does, however. If you were teaching a forensics course, it is a natural fit, as well as a unit about careers. However, I think it would fit as a way to practice CER and using evidence. Because of the extension activities, it would be a good way to extend a unit on heat transfer, or even experimental design. Of course, it could also be a great activity to use with a sub, before or after the break, or any time you need to fill time. The module could take anywhere from two class periods to a week or more, depending upon how many of the extensions you use. There is one hands-on activity built into the module in Section 3 (Live Burns) after the video, at the top under the link 

There are also additional activities on their main website, under Xtensions.

Things to consider?

This activity is great, but there are two caveats to keep in mind, as a classroom teacher, and they are pretty simple:

If YouTube is blocked at your school, you may run into problems. The videos are beautifully embedded, and look like part of the website, but they are coming from YouTube and won’t work if YouTube is blocked. You may need to download these videos and show them together, or download and give students a separate link, but that will disrupt the flow of the activity.

The student’s responses on the final culminating activity, where they submit their claim, will get printed or emailed to the teacher, but the rest of the activity is self-guided. This would be fine for most students, and it is very straightforward, but depending on your student’s needs you may want to make some type of guided notes to go with it, so that students have a reference point when they get the culminating activity, and also have accountability.

What to do next?

So where to go from here? Try it out! Go here and check it out! If you do use it, I’d love to hear what you think either in the comments below, in my Facebook Group, or anywhere else on social media or email.

A free NGSS aligned resource that helps students practice CER in an engaging way

Jan 24, 2018

Top 10 Tips for Teaching in the Inner City

This blog post was co-written by Becca from Science Rocks and Tara from Science In The City. They have 22 combined years of teaching experience in the inner city. To read about their backgrounds, hop down to the bottom of the blog post.

A collaborative blog post by two teachers who have a combined 22 years of teaching experience.  They share their tips for successful urban teaching and classroom management.

10 TIPS FOR TEACHING IN THE INNER-CITY

1. Always treat students with respect

 Every year I give students a student information survey the first week of school. And every year without fail I have students that write in the comment section “If you respect me, I’ll respect you.” It bothered me that they even had to request this, because it implies that generally teachers don’t treat them with respect. Along with this, be conscious of what they see as signs of respect and disrespect. Several of these are discussed below (learning names, being flexible and respecting their lives outside of school).

2. Learn names quickly! 

Not to single kids out, but to build relationships, and show that you are saying their names correctly and recognizing them as a valuable part of the class.

3. Build Relationships

Take time to get to know your students and understand their home lives. For many, they are working to support their parents, babysitting siblings, have little food, and/or live in group homes. This also goes along with why kids fall asleep in class and why they don’t get homework done. If you assign homework, make sure they can do it completely independently, without outside supplies, and be flexible on due dates.

4. Build Confidence

Give positive praise frequently, especially to students that are typically underperforming. One really effective thing I’ve found is to send a quick email, phone call, or note home when a kid is doing well and ask the parents to also encourage their positive behaviors. Once the student knows you are rooting for them and recognize all their efforts, they will continue to work hard.

5. Be flexible

Realize that because of their home lives, they may have ‘off days.’ While this can’t be ok all the time, try to be a bit accomodating for students to make up work in extenuating circumstances. When a student returns after an absence, be sure to say something along the lines of “Welcome back - we missed you” rather than “where have you been? Why weren’t you in school?” or even “How was your break?” as for many kids their home situation, or their break were not good and this can trigger many negative emotions open up a conversation that you may not want to have during class.

6. Use Proximity

Consider ways that you can move around the room more - wireless mouse, more group work and stations, so that you have more opportunities to be in proximity and interact with students.

7. Be clear and consistent with expectations, and always be equitable with consequences

Class will run much smoother if students know exactly what to do when they enter the room, when it is appropriate to get up or use the restroom, or when it is ok to chat with their neighbors. If they aren’t meeting those expectations, be sure to be fair and equitable with the consequence. If one student gets a warning for having their phone out, but another student gets theirs taken, they will call you on it.

8. When possible, support them in extracurriculars

Many students don’t have parents that attend extracurricular activities due to work or family circumstances. If they see you there and know you have interest in their lives it really pays off in the classroom. Even if you can’t be there, try to ask them about their games and events the next day, or congratulate them, if appropriate.

9. When appropriate, try to not use names when redirecting behavior. 

Even as adults, we don’t like getting singled out for every little thing we do wrong. If you can avoid calling a student out then often times they will respond better. For example, if someone is whistling, instead of saying “Daniel stop whistling” try something like “if whoever is whistling could stop I would really appreciate it” and continue with the lesson.

10. Don’t assume a kid isn’t working because they don’t want to

It is highly possible they have tried to complete the work but they don’t have the skills. Many kids in group homes or other transitional living arrangements have been passed from school to school and have very low reading and writing skills. Make sure to scaffold and modify for these students. Also, some students might not be working or taking notes because they need glasses and can’t see the board. Look for cues such as students squinting and ask them privately if they need help getting a pair of glasses.

Tara’s Background

I started teaching 12 years ago, and ended up in an urban district. My education program had a big focus on urban education and social justice, but it wasn’t a particular goal of mine to teach in an urban district. However, I student taught in the city (as well as a neighboring suburban district) and it just happened that my urban cooperating teacher was retiring and negotiated with her principal for me to get hired into her position. I was pregnant (not very marketable), but she worked it out so that I was able to co-teach summer school with her, and she would be the sub for my maternity leave in the fall. I had a good experience student teaching with her, and it was too good of an offer to turn down!

Thus started my urban teaching career! I have now taught for 12 years in one of the poorest, lowest achieving districts in the state. I stayed at that particular school for 5 years, teaching Earth Science and Environmental Science. Then I transferred to a different school and taught middle school science for 2 years. Then as that school was closed down by the state, I moved schools yet again in the same district and taught 2 years of 9th grade Biology. During my last 3 years I have been working in a program throughout the district for students who are behind on credits and are taking classes online that they have previously failed for “credit recovery.” Students are scheduled into a computer lab with other students who are taking virtual courses (but maybe not the same ones). Different subject teachers rotate between the different schools to meet with their particular students, but also to monitor the computer lab and help students (of any subject area). Each of these settings has been a new learning experience for me, as a teacher.

I grew up in the same area where I live, but in the suburbs, rather than the city. The urban environment was foreign, despite being only a few miles away. I struggled at first with what it would take to be successful in that environment, but learned quickly. I am fairly small, and can be soft-spoken. I often experienced disbelief from people that I could teach, or would want to teach, in that environment. However, I don’t believe successful urban teaching is about intimidation or being ‘mean.’ For me it has been about building relationships, and seeing success for students who don’t have a lot of other sources of support, or models in their lives. For many students, knowing that someone cares, believes in them, doesn’t give up on them, and someone pushes them to do their best goes a long way. Many students come from families where no one has graduated from high school before, parents don’t speak English, and they may not have a stable place to sleep at night. Yet they generally want to be successfully at school, and to graduate, despite having so many strikes against them. I am proud to be able to be a small piece of that!

Becca’s Background

I started teaching 10 years ago and honestly didn’t give much thought to what type of school I wanted to end up at. After graduating (with student loan debt looming) all I cared about was getting a job. I completed my student teaching in the fall semester and wasn’t hopeful I would find a job mid-way through the school year. I started googling schools in my area and found out a middle school not too far from my apartment had a science position open.

It turns out the particular school that hired me had the highest poverty rates in the entire county. Many of the families were living in shelters or staying in cheap motels. We would send food home with the students on Fridays or many wouldn’t have anything to eat over the weekend. It was heartbreaking and also the most fulfilling job I could have asked for. I fell in love with the students and quickly learned teaching strategies that worked for me and my classroom. I remember my first month teaching I had colleagues mention to me “You need to be mean or they will walk all over you.” It turns out that what those students really needed was quite the opposite. They needed a mentor. They needed to be treated with respect. They needed to be understood. They needed to feel like my classroom was a safe place for them.

I’ve since moved from middle school to high school but am still teaching in a title 1 district and don’t see that ever changing. Each school and demographic has their own battles and struggles to overcome, and I choose to put my efforts towards helping kids in low income areas. Am I going to get starbucks gift cards for Christmas or teacher appreciation week? Nope. But I’m getting something far better. I’m building relationships with kids whom many had given up on. I get to help kids be first generation college students. I get to learn and teach humility and empathy on a daily basis. I get to truly make an impact on their lives.

A collaborative blog post by two teachers who have a combined 22 years of teaching experience.  They share their tips for successful urban teaching and classroom management.

Jan 7, 2018

Living Environment Regents Review


If you are a Biology (Living Environment) teacher in New York State, you may be thinking about the upcoming January Regents Exams. Do you have students in your classes who are going to be re-taking the exam? Did a counselor or administrator just come to you to help a senior who needs that exam to graduate. Maybe you just taught a semester class, or even a Regents prep class, but are looking for a way to wrap up or are feeling rushed for time. Looking for a way to determine what to focus on for the January exam? I can help!

Tips as well as a free resource to help students with the NYS Living Environment Exam


This Regents Review Resource is focused on the topics that are most frequently tests, from analysis of past year’s exams, and looking at common diagrams, types of questions, concepts, and vocabulary. There is so much in the course, but in reality, there are key concepts that always make up a substantial number of the points. Use this to your advantage! (And, more importantly, your students’ advantage).

Cell Membrane Review For Living Environment from Science in the City

Click here to get a one page (single topic) review sent to your email.


Living Environment Review Free Sample
.

This resource can be used in a variety of ways, depending upon your available time. You can review one page (topic) per day. You can have students work in partners to do a page and then go over the answer. An answer key is included, so you could absolutely just give it to them at home, with or without the answer key. Of course, since it is divided by topic, you don’t have to use all the pages. I have some really creative ideas where teachers have set up stations, or contests between different groups.

Some of my most recent feedback:



If you are looking for other ideas for to review, I would suggest you check out some of my earlier posts on Fun and Easy Ways to Gamify your Review and Tips for Successful Year End Review

I’d love to hear about how you review, and what you find most helpful to get your students ready for Regents Exams.

Tips as well as a free resource to help students with the NYS Living Environment Exam
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...