Whenever I play review games before a test, I always have some sort of prize students can win. There is a LOT more buy in when there is a prize at stake, even if it's only worth a few cents! Here are a list of prize ideas your students will love that won't break the bank. (Note: some links are Amazon affiliate links).
1. CANDY. My go-to prize is a jolly rancher. I can buy a large bag at the grocery store for around $8 that lasts quite a long time. You'd be surprised the lengths students will go to in order to win a jolly rancher! Dum-Dums and Lifesaver mints are also very affordable options.
2. SCHOOL SUPPLIES. I stock up on mechanical pencils during back-to-school season when they are really cheap. Students also love colorful pens and fun shaped erasers.
3. HOMEWORK PASS. I'm not a teacher that assigns much homework, but if you do, consider giving out homework passes. Dollar stores tend to carry stacks of homework passes you can fill in.
4. STICKERS. These science-themed vinyl stickers are super fun! Students can stick them on water bottles and notebooks.
5. CHOOSE YOUR SEAT. I'm a little type-A, so I always use seating charts. Yes, even for high school. But you could use a free-seat-day as a reward. I tell students they can sit wherever, but I get to veto if they end up talking to their friends instead of working.
6. PINS. At my school students are required to wear an ID, and most wear it attached to a lanyard. Pins are a fun way to dress up their lanyard. Here are some science pins they could win as a prize!
7. BRAIN TEASERS. Metal puzzle brain teasers are something students really enjoy playing with. I've also seen them at the dollar store, along with some other fun puzzles and games that won't break the bank.
8. COUPONS. Try hitting up your local Circle K or gas station and ask if they have any coupons they could donate. Circle K has given me "polar pop" coupons I could use as student rewards.
What other items do you like to give out as rewards? Drop me a comment!
Ecology is one of my favorite topics to teach (along with evolution), so I'm excited to write up this blog post on biomes!
In biology we begin the year with the characteristics of life, and then move into ecology. I like starting with ecology because it involves relatively easy concepts. Many students will have learned the basics in middle school, so it's not a scary way to start the year. When working my way through the content, I essentially just teach in the order of the levels of organization (start with population dynamics, move onto community interactions... you get the idea. End with biomes).
I generally don't have a ton of time left in the quarter, so if I get to spend 2-3 days on biomes thats a win. Since time is short I focus on the big picture- what causes these biomes? What patterns do we see when we look at a biome map? Why is biodiversity important within biomes? What is the human impact on biomes? Big picture concepts. What I DO NOT spend time on is having students memorize information about each biome. My goal is for students to walk away with an understanding of why biodiversity is important and how we can protect the natural world, not ramble off facts such as which biome receives the most precipitation and which biome has the greatest swing in annual temperature. (Stepping off soapbox).
Here is a list of some fun activities you can use to teach biomes:
TRAVEL BROCHURE: Let your students get creative and create a travel brochure for a biome of their choice. You can have them do it electronically or give them some old Nat Geo magazines to cut up and paste. Here is a free handout to go with the assignment.
MISSION BIOMES: Need a website for students to do research on each biome so they can complete their brochure? Check out this site from NASA.
INTERACTIVE GAME: If you teach middle school, you may want to check out this interactive game where students match an animal to the continent it lives on.
BUILD A BIOME: This online interactive allows students to build a biome based on plants, animals, rainfall, and temperature.
VIRTUAL FIELD TRIP: Check out this fun virtual biome explorer from Arizona State University. Not every biome is included, but it is really fun to play around with!
CLIMATOGRAMS: Want to include some graphing practice in your ecology unit? Have students read climatograms for each biome with this worksheet.
INTERACTIVE DIAGRAM: I spent a ton of time working on this interactive diagram students could explore. What took the most time was scouring Google Earth looking for cool places students could virtually explore for each biome. Students will also see what plants and animals live in each biome, where they are located on a world map, and analyze a climatogram. Included is the 7 slide interactive diagram and a Google form quiz.
HHMI: If you teach biology, you have probably checked out lessons from HHMI Biointeractive (and if you haven't, do so now!) This biome viewer includes an interactive globe where students can click on different biomes and learn more about them.
SPEED DATING: There are a few biome speed dating activities that are available for free on the internet. (I cant always find a reliable link so you will need to do a Google search).
I hope you can use one (or two!) of those activities!
Owl pellets are really fun to dissect during ecology. One concern voiced by some colleague is this- most students have already dissected owl pellets in elementary or middle school. By the time they get to high school biology, should we do it again? What are they really taking away from the lesson? If we do the dissection, how can we up the rigor?
All of those are valid questions to consider. I love doing the lab because owl pellets are relatively affordable (especially if you put students in groups of 2 or 3), and engagement is high.
Here are some ideas on how to up the rigor with high school students:
1. COMPARE PREY SPECIES- Depending on your budget, order both northwest and southwest pellets. You can have half the students dissect northwest pellets and the other have dissect southwest pellets. Compare the prey that are found and discuss the differences. Other birds of prey create pellets too- what would students expect to find in a heron or hawk pellet?
2. TROPHIC PYRAMIDS- After dissecting the pellets, have students turn the data into trophic pyramids. Students can create a pyramid of numbers using class data- for every owl (number of pellets you passed out), how many prey were found? They can also create a pyramid of biomass if you give them numbers to work with. Suppose an average barn owl has a mass of 500g and an average mouse has a mass of 20g. If one owl eats one mouse per day, what would a pyramid of biomass look like for 1 year? Have them work the math and draw it out.
3. ENERGY TRANSFER- Discuss energy transfer from prey to predator. You could give students hypothetical numbers (in joules or kcal) and have them calculate the percentage of energy transferred from one trophic level to the next. You'll want it to work out to around 10%.
4. SKELETON ASSEMBLY- If time allows, have students take their bones and re-assemble the prey skeleton. You can easily google an image of a mouse skeleton and have students glue on as many bones as they can identify.
Note: One thing to consider is that Native American students will not participate in this lab for cultural reasons. You will want to check in with any of these students a few days before and let them know what is coming up. I have them talk to their parents and give them the option to complete a virtual dissection or just excuse the lab and they can work on assignments for other classes.
Looking for a lab worksheet for an owl pellet dissection? Click here! I also have a blog post with more food chain and web activities you might want to check out.
Let me know if you have any questions! Rock on!
The beginning of the school year for chemistry teachers means... #1: atomic structure, and #2: how to read the periodic table. Looking for some fresh ideas? Here is a list of resources you can use to introduce and explore the periodic table.
1. ORGANIZING A STORE: Before diving into the periodic table and how it is organized, you can ask students how a grocery store is organized. What are the sections of the store? What foods go together in certain aisles? Then you can relate it to the periodic table- elements in the same family have similar characteristics.
2. TARSIA PUZZLE: Tarsia puzzles are a great way to review vocabulary terms. Students arrange the puzzle so the vocabulary word is on one triangle, and the matching definition is on the complementary triangle. You can find the puzzle here.
3. BINGO: One way to familiarize students with elements on the periodic table is by playing bingo. You can find more information at this blog post.
4. BATTLESHIP: I came across this periodic table battleship idea and thought it looked so fun! I haven't tried it with students but I bet they would love it. You can find the directions here.
5. THE NAME GAME: Here is a fun name game you can do with students! It is a free lesson you can download from Biology Roots on TpT.
6. BUILD A TABLE: Looking for a class project (and some free classroom decor?) Have students research an element and build a periodic table on your classroom wall. You can find this free lesson from Crazy Science Lady on TpT.
7. PERIODIC TABLE INTERACTIVE GAME: Looking for some digital options? Check out this game where students have to click on given elements.
8. CHOICE BOARD: Choice boards are great end-of-unit activities students can work on. If you have students that finish their work quickly and have some time to fill, check out this digital choice board.
9. PODCAST: The Royal Society of Chemistry has an interactive site where students can click on an element and listen to a podcast episode. You can check it out here.
10. PTABLE: Looking for a deeper dive into the periodic table? Head to ptable.com. Aside from just the basics, you can check out an element's electronegativity value, melting point, boiling point, density, and more. (You can also download some lesson ideas that go with this site here).
11. 3D PERIODIC TABLE: This website has a 3D periodic table where students can analyze different trends. It's really fun to play around with!
Moving onto polarity and electronegativity next? Check out this blog post with more resources!
As a biology teacher, when I introduce the characteristics of life at the beginning of the year we discuss the term homeostasis. Students seem to remember the term for about a week, and it vanishes from their memory. When we could circle back to the term during cells (when observing water rushing in and out of cells during osmosis), very few students would remember the term.
Even though homeostasis is something they focus more on in anatomy, I decided I wanted to dive a little deeper into the topic with my biology students to make it "stick." Instead of just discussing it as a characteristic of life and moving on, I added some fun activities to help them remember it better. It has definitely helped!
Here is a round-up of resources you can use while teaching homeostasis:
1. AMOEBA SISTERS- This Youtube video may go into a little more depth than biology teachers need to cover, but it's still a great video. They also have worksheets that accompany the videos on their website.
2. PBS INTERACTIVE- Here is a quick interactive from PBS you can use with students. In this "body control center" activity students need to monitor the person's pulse, oxygen, blood pressure, body temperature, and glucose level. Students will learn that our body systems and responses are all connected.
3. BIOMAN INTERACTIVE- This "endocrine ed" interactive goes into more detail than the PBS version, so if you are looking for a more detailed virtual activity, be sure to check it out.
4. OSMOSIS- If your students know how to use microscopes, you can have them observe a wet mount of plant cells (elodea works great!) in fresh water and salt water. What happens to the cells when you add salt water and why? What would happen if you drank salt water?
5. HOMER-OSTASIS LAB- This is a popular lab where students need to keep Homer Simpson alive for 5 minutes by monitoring his temperature, water level and concentration. There are a few versions of this lab floating around on the internet, you can find one version here.
6. CASE STUDIES- If you haven't seen University of Buffalo's case studies, then you need to check them out! (The case studies are all free, and there is a 1 time yearly fee for the answer keys). When you search for homeostasis case studies, many pop up that may be too difficult for high school biology students, but you could check out "Do grasshoppers sweat?" or "The 2000 meter row."
7. ARTICLE- Here is a one page reading comprehension on homeostasis by Elly Thorson that is free on teachers pay teachers.
8. STATION LAB- Looking to have your students get up and moving around the room? In this engaging station activity, students will rotate through 10 stations and complete a quick activity relating to homeostasis at each station.
I hope those are useful for you! If you want to check out ideas for teaching the characteristics of life, head over to this blog post!
US teachers- are you tired of reviewing the metric system every year? Multiple times a year? It's almost as if students completely forget the difference between a meter and a centimeter every summer.
The first week of school I dive right into content... I don't waste days doing icebreakers, going over classroom procedures, or discussing lab safety rules (we worry about those as we go). I like to review how to set up a controlled experiment, identify variables, and measurement/metrics practice.
Here are some activities you can use to review metrics with your students:
1. Start by giving students reference points to remember. For example...
2. If your students need practice reviewing the different metric units of length, head to a local Ikea and grab some of their paper rulers. You can cut them up easily and show students the difference between a meter, decimeter, centimeter, and millimeter. Head to this blog post for more details.
3. A fun activity for the first week of school is a metrics scavenger hunt. Give students some measurements and have them look for objects around the room that are close to the same measurement. For example, "find an object that is 10.5cm long." You can download a free worksheet here.
4. Check out these metrics resources from The Science Spot.
5. To keep students sharp the whole year, try a monthly metric contest. Give them a question such as "guess the mass of this jar of jelly beans, guess the length of your hair," etc. Have students submit their answers on a small notecard and whoever is closest at the end of the month wins a prize.
6. Do your students need some triple beam balance practice? Here is a virtual balance students can practice with.
7. If you are looking for a quick formative assessment activity, check out this metric system tarsia puzzle.
8. Ever heard of a metric olympics? Design olympic themed challenges for students where they practice measurement skills. Challenges could include a straw javelin throw, a paper plate discus, or cotton ball shot put. (If you do some google searching, you should be able to find templates for this).
9. Interactive diagrams are a great way to review content, especially for students who need a little extra help or absent students who missed the lesson. Check out this interactive diagram on the metric system.
10. Use anchor charts or classroom posters to keep measurement front of mind for students. You can make your own or check out some I made here.
What other ways do you review the metric system? Drop me a comment!
At the beginning of the year, it's good to review graphing and make your expectations clear on what you expect when students turn in a graph.
Here is a round-up of resources you can use to practice graphing with students:
1. Graphing Checklist: A great way to reinforce your graphing expectations is to have them visible for students. This graphing checklist can be placed in student binders or hung on the wall for students to reference when they work on a graph.
2. Turner's Graph of the Week: This stellar website has a weekly graphing worksheet that is sure to engage students. Graphing topics are timely, relevant, and engaging. Don't miss this one!
3. Graphing Stories: This website has video clips students watch, analyze and create a graph from. (Most are motion related, so great for physical science teachers).
4. Smart Graphs: This digital activity has students read through a scenario and decide which is the best type of graph to represent events in the story.
5. ACS: Here are a series of graphing activities from American Chemical Society.
6. Graphing Lesson: My friend Tammy over at The Morehouse Magic created this free powerpoint and quiz to review graphing with your students.
7. Graphing Analysis: Here is another graphing freebie on TpT, this time from Amy Brown Science.
8. What's going on in this graph? In this series from the New York Times, students check out graphs that are published weekly. Ask your students- What do you notice? What do you wonder? What's going on?
9. Create a Graph: Want students to practice creating their own graphs digitally? If you don't think your students are ready to tackle Excel graphs, try out this website- it's more user friendly.
10. How to Spot a Misleading Graph: This Ted-Ed video shows students how graphs can be misleading to viewers. Brings up great discussion points!
What other graphing activities do you love? Drop me a comment!
Bell work... Bell ringers... Do-nows... Warm ups. Whatever you call them, it is important to have some sort of routine at the beginning of the class period. Your day will run so much smoother when students walk into class and know what to begin working on without being told.
I love using daily bell work assignments because:
Here are some ideas on what you can use for bellwork.
Some teachers like to do the same type of bellwork every day and others like to vary it Monday-Friday. Do what works for you!
How you decide to grade bellwork is completely up to you (and will depend on the activity). I tend to stamp for completion each day, turn in on Fridays, and add up the stamps for credit. It's easy points- all students have to do is show up and give effort. Whatever method you choose- don't create a bunch of work for yourself. You have enough to grade without the added stress of bellwork.
I hope you find a few of those ideas useful!
I'm a big fan of changing out bulletin board decor with each unit. It can be as simple as changing out some anchor charts or reference posters to match what you are currently teaching. But if you want to take it one step further, try making your bulletin boards interactive!
I love interactive bulletin boards because they:
- Increase student engagement,
- Build a sense of classroom community, and
- Help you fill those last few minutes of class if they finish their work early.
Here are some bulletin board ideas for you!
I made these famous scientist posters and hung them in my classroom so students could see a diverse range of scientists.
@Mrsjones_science took it a step further and had her students do research on one scientist each month! They looked up some facts about the scientist, added it to a sticky note, and put it on the board. I think it looks great!
Posting QR codes on a bulletin board is a great way to keep students engaged during a lesson. They can scan the QR code, read about a topic or complete a task, and rotate to the next one. This solar system interactive board comes from Paths to Literacy (you can even download the QR codes here!)
Teaching food chains and webs? Check out this bulletin board set where students identify feeding relationships in a grassland ecosystem. Simply hang the cards with thumbtacks and students attach string between the tacks. You can find the cards here.
Sometimes students have questions that don't relate to the lesson (so you don't have time to answer it right then) or a question you don't have the answer to. This burning questions board from @Captivatescience is a great place to leave questions you can come back to later.
Bridget from @MissBossScience had her students research a constellation and add it to this interactive bulletin board display. She hole punched stars they glued on, but you could also use brass thumbtacks if you have them on hand.
National parks are amazing places to visit. Have students research a national park, fill out an info card, and locate it on a map on a bulletin board. You can find a template here.
Do you have students that like to color? You can hang up some science coloring pages on a bulletin board that students can color during the last few minutes of class. Download some free ones here!
For this bulletin board, I wanted students to think about future goals they had. And not small goals (like passing a test) but BIG goals. What are their hopes and dreams? I printed out "Your Future is Limitless" for the top of the board and added a rocket with some leftover Christmas ribbon. The middle of the board says "what goal do you have for the future?" Students can add their goal to the board on a sticky note.
This one isn't science related, but I LOVE the idea of students building each other up. This Cheers for Peers board comes from @Headoverheelsforteaching. She put this in her staff workroom but it could also be done in your classroom. Who wouldn't love to see a nice note someone left for you?!
Are you teaching a new science class for the first time? Are you overwhelmed with what lab supplies you will need and how to spend (or save) your budget?
I've taught biology for many years, and compiled a list of 20 must-have items to get you started. Some materials can be found at the dollar store, while others will need to be ordered from a science supplier and will eat up some of your budget. If you have any questions be sure to drop me a comment!
I've also teamed up with some other stellar science teachers and included lists for earth science, chemistry, physics, and anatomy. Check them out below!