December 2012Science in the City: December 2012

Dec 30, 2012

Giveaways and Free Resources

Several other bloggers have hit landmarks recently, or are hosting events such as giveaways, linky parties with free resources, and more over the break.  I want to share a few with you:

I am very excited to be part of the giveaway at Second Grade Nest.  This giveaway has 5 different prize packages, with over 65 products total being given away.

My circulatory system lab (one of my newer products) is part of package 5.  This is a favorite of my students, and could easily be adapted to lower grades as well.

Secondly, in honor of his blogs 1-year anniversary, Hopkins Hoppin' Happenings is doing a series of exclusive freebies (1 per day)....a different one each day. They are a variety of products of different grades and subjects.  Mine is scheduled for 12/31!  New Year's Eve!  Check it out (and check out the other exclusive freebies!

Hopkins' Hoppin' Happenings

Also, another education blogger does a weekly themed linky.  This week includes paid and free resources.  There are frequently linkys for free resources as well.  This is going on at Educator's Life

And don't forget to keep an eye on the Success in Secondary Linky party. Although not going on right  now, it is recurring and a great place for secondary resources.

Dec 21, 2012

An Innovative and Memorable Look At the Skeletal and Muscular Systems

Get Your Students Excited About the Skeletal and Muscular Systems

Students were yelling and screaming they were so excited about what was going on in class. They left the room talking about the lab we did that day, and other classes later in the day came in very excited to see the skeletal and muscular systems in action.  I knew this was a lab I needed to share with you.  Students were totally engaged and focused on the lesson.  They had different roles that fit their different needs, but everyone was busy and involved.

A memorable and fun way to teach your students about the skeletal and muscular systems

Do you want your students thinking differently about something they probably encounter every day?

Human body systems are taught at so many different grade levels. Students are often interested and excited as it relates to their own body, but they quickly can lose interest if the information is dry and repetitive.  Here is one of my favorite labs.

Be ready for some yelling and middle school excitement :).  A great introduction to dissection, in a pretty tame way.

Here is a video clip from YouTube: (not mine)

Some pictures from my class this week:
Science students working on a skeletal and muscular system lab
9th grade science students hard at work on a skeletal and muscular system lab
Students dissecting a chicken wing as part of a science lab on skeletal and muscular systems
science students doing a skeletal and muscular system lab

How did we learn about skeletal and muscular systems?

We did a little bit of notes and background about the skeletal and muscular systems, using a graphic organizer (click here to get the free graphic organizer) to see how they relate to and to get the main idea, but the 'meat' of this lesson (pun intended!) is a chicken wing dissection! Chicken wings are cheap, easy to obtain and pretty safe as long as you take basic precautions such as wearing gloves and googles, washing hands, and washing equipment. I make it easier by using paper plates (that get thrown out) for dissecting trays, and using scissors instead of scalpels. Students get a change to see all the parts that they are learning about: tendons, ligaments, cartilage, bone, joints, muscle, as well as skin and fat. They also get an understanding of how those parts work together. By carefully following the lab instructions they are able to actually move the chicken wing and see the parts working together to make it move. They love it!! And I have to admit, its pretty cool to see!
And if you want to see more, or use this resource yourself, check it out. They will gain a much better understanding of the skeletal and muscular systems, and have an experience they remember!!
A bundle of lab and notes to teach skeletal and muscular systems
Skeletal and Muscular System Mini-Unit 

Dec 20, 2012

Top 4 Excellent Middle School Christmas Gifts From Students

Middle School kids are such an interesting mix of child and growing up.....and the ways that they try to express themselves are very touching and entertaining.  Where I work there is a very high poverty rate and I don't usually get (or expect) much in the way of Christmas gifts or end of the year gifts from students like suburban teachers get.  Here is my list this year.  I'll let you guess what my favorite is:

  • a traditional Christmas card from a student who has been homeschooled until this year.
  • A box of candy that had two 'layers' or 2 wrapped sections.  One was given to me, and one to another teacher.
  • A thank you note that said "thank you for calling my mom. I was mad at you but that was just what I needed to get back on track and turn things around.  I'm doing so much better now"  I actually teared up a little!  
  • A candy cane

Dec 15, 2012

Soaring Through Secondary Blog Hop

Soaring Through Secondary Middle and High School Blog Hop

I am excited to be participating in my first blog hop.  Thank you to the other bloggers who made the logo (, and organized the blog hop (  Next in the hop, after me, is  To visit the next blog in this blog hop, click on the link at the bottom . 

I am trying a new strategy I am using this year in my classroom with a lot of success.  Many of my students (and perhaps yours too), struggle with 'academic' words that show up often in textbooks and test questions.  These may not be content words, specific to science, math, English, or Social Studies.  They are, however, academic language.  They are  not words that students use in everyday conversation, or probably hear at home, particularly if they are not from well-educated homes.  

These are called "Tier 2" vocabulary words.  They can also have different meanings in different contexts.  These are discussed well here and I also learned more about them in my ELL Professional Development, discussed here   

I am trying to spend more time explicitly teaching these words.  I am setting expectations for students to use these words in their writing and verbal responses.  One strategy I'm using is to make these words bellwork.  I am then using more traditional bellwork questions as a 'ticket out.'  Each day's bellwork includes a new word, context clues, pictures, or choices to figure out what it means, and use it in a sentence.  Then at the end of a week we have a matching quiz on the words.  Ideally my ticket out has the bellwork question in it!  Most of the time at the end of the week kids say something like "Oh!  These are the words we have been doing!!"  They are doing really well on the short mini-quizzes on these words, and their test scores and confidence reading test questions has gone way up.  I wrote about that when I started this strategy here 

As part of this blog hop, I am offering the following prize: 
Inferring Vocabulary Cards Set 1                             Inferring Vocabulary Cards Set 2

Leave a comment stating 

  • your email address 
  • how you would use this product in your classroom, or what strategies you use to teach your students these type of words.  
I will randomly choose a comment to receive either set of your choice free. 

Check out the next blog in our blog hop!!


Dec 12, 2012

How Can Technology Help You With Parent Contact?

How can I get my parents involved in the classroom?

Using Technology to Communicate with Parents: Remind and BloomzJust like many other teachers, I'm sure, I am trying to raise test scores and achievement, increase homework completion, increase parent contacts, and meet my APPR goals this year.  I am testing out a tool to help increase parent involvement.  It is called Remind101.  I am going to start using it with my classes (students and parents) this week. I'll keep you posted.

I heard about it from a friend of mine who is using it and has great things to say. Remind 101 to message students and parents - free and safe.  The bottom line is that many (if not most) of our parents have cell phones, but may or may not have reliable internet and check/use email.  Text message are a great way to communicate with parents.  One of the best options out is there is Remind101.

Try out Remind101 to communicate with students and parents!

Remind 101 to message students and parents - free and safeHere is the website

Here are a few teacher blogs that discuss it 

A great discussion of the set up and features  A few highlights:

  • Your number and the parents' number stays private
  • Both students and parents can subscribe to updates
  • You can send out announcements to a large group, or to smaller groups, and can schedule ahead of time.
  • They cannot reply to the messages (this could be a plus or a drawback).
  • You can set up different groups for students and parents, or have them subscribe to the same updates. 

I think most kids want to be successful but are not in the habit of keeping track of multiple classes, doing homework, remembering what they need to do, etc.  Also, let's face it, our kids (and parents) are connected and used to technology.  While it may not always have a place in the classroom we need to connect with them where they are. 

Bloomz is another good option for parent communication

Another good options is Bloomz, however this does NOT send out only text reminders, but has an option for text, email, or smartphone app. This does allow two way messaging, and allows sending photos. It has more options, but also is a bit more complicated to set up. Remind is about as simple and straightforward as you can get!

Remind is free, anonymous, and very easy to set up. You can schedule messages to go out ahead of time.  I think its worth a try.

Anyone used either of these to communicate?  Did you see an increase in parent communication or parent involvement? Do you have feedback or suggestions? 

Tech options to communicate with parents: Remind and Bloomz

Dec 9, 2012

Things To Actually Love About Middle School

Two things happened this week that reminded me of what I really love about middle school.  Yes, middle school kids are crazy, but they are really cute in their own way too. They are kids.  They are young adults. You get to see that change happening before your eyes, and its amazing!

The first thing that happened....My class asked me what the date was.  It was December 5th (yes, it was already up on the board).  I said "December 5th"...then I casually said "my Dad's birthday."  All of a sudden kids started yelling out "Tell your Dad Happy Birthday"  and a few even broke into song!  They crack me up.  It took about 5 minutes to get them back on track.  I'm not sure it was worth it, but it brought a smile to my face and theirs.

The second thing that happened this week...I have lab tables, being a science room.  Two kids sit at a table. In all their other classes they have individual desks.  They are still having some trouble with this adjustments.  One pair of girls was arguing in particular about space.  They asked me to put a piece of masking table down the middle of the table to divide the space and mark who's is who's.  I did....Then 3 other tables also asked me to do the same.  I thought it was funny but they didn't seem embarrassed.  They want their space and if it helps I'm all for it!

Dec 6, 2012

Wondering About Common Core? Better Targeted Resources You Want

As a science teacher, how does the Common Core shift effect us?  What can we do to teach to the common core?  And what do we already do?

I think we already do a lot that aligns with common core.  Some of that is a topic for another post....

One way that we can easily integrate more common core standards is through the use of scientific news articles.

Science news articles can be used in class or as homework to extend a topic, or as a hook to introduce a topic. They are also great for common core skills when reading non-fiction text like summarizing, inferring vocabulary, finding details and main ideas.

Some great sources are below.  Feel free to add additional resources in the comments.  I'd love to hear what you are using in your classrooms.


Dec 4, 2012

How Do You Celebrate Holidays in Your Classroom?

How Do You Celebrate Holidays in Your Classroom?

This time I am asking and thinking about this topic because of something that happened with my own son.  He is in first grade.  I have always taught secondary (middle and high school).  I have mostly taught in an urban district, with a high ELL population.  We live (and he goes to school) in a middle-class suburb.  Those may be both part of the difference....

I got an email from my son's first grade teacher on Friday.  Up until now I have been very happy with her, so I don't think this is part of anything else.  She asked me in her email to please have a talk with him over the weekend.  Apparently they had been doing several Santa-related activities in class and he was 'going around telling the other kids that Santa wasn't real.'  Apparently several of the kids, and therefore the parents, were very upset.  

When my husband and I read the email our first reaction was shocked - not that he had done something to cause trouble but that (1) he was pushing his beliefs on others - that doesn't sound like him and, even more so (2) that he didn't believe in Santa. This is the boy who gets out Christmas books from the library all year long, and LOVES everything Christmas related.  

So...Friday night we talked to him.  We told him about the email we had gotten.  We asked him why he didn't believe in Santa.  He said he just changed his mind and decided that.  We asked him what exactly had happened.  He insisted that he just told his two friends sitting next to him that he didn't believe in Santa, when they were writing about Santa.  I asked him if the teacher had already spoken to him.  She had.  He said he didn't say anything else after that.  We discussed why it might be upsetting to his friends, and that sometimes it is better to not say anything. 

I then emailed the teacher back and relayed that conversation.  I also asked her for some clarification...was he not telling me the whole story?  Or how did this get so big?  And get parents upset?  Her response was friendly, but stated that Santa is such an important thing for kids that age and that most still do believe.  They will be doing many more Santa-related activities, and she wants my son to keep his opinions to himself.  To please let her know if that is a problem.

I don't disagree that there is a lesson there for my son, and a teachable moment.  However, as a teacher, and as a parent, I think there are other lessons there was well, and questions raised in my mind.  

For example: 
  • How much does "Santa" belongs in school? What if he didn't believe in Santa, not just because he decided he wasn't sure he believed, but because we were a different ethnicity or religion? 
  • What is the lesson on being able to express your opinion, and have others disagree with you, if you do it politely? (Obviously not pressuring others, but simply saying you don't agree).
  • What is the lesson for other students on having someone who thinks differently about something you hold as important?
  • As a teacher, how much of our own bias and interests play into our classrooms? 
Because of where I teach, maybe my perspective is different.  I would be very hesitant to do much Santa related, because (1) its much  harder to work into the curriculum for secondary science and (2) I have so many kids who are from different culture and religions.  But Santa is also part of American culture.....

What do you do in your classroom?   I have always done the seasonal activity that I discussed below, although I might try something different this year.  I'd love to hear responses in the comments.  

Dec 1, 2012


There is a big giveaway on Realistic Teacher's blog.  It runs Dec 2nd-9th (starts tomorrow)! 

You can get to it by clicking on the picture below to go to her blog.  

She is raffling off prizes split by age groups.  There are three bundles for age groups K-2, a 3-5 grade bundle, and a grades 6-8 bundle. 

You have the chance to get a bunch of different freebies and check out some excellent teachers.

Check it out and enter any age groups you are interested in.  You can directly enter the grades 6-8 age groups below. :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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