One of the hardest parts of being a teacher is making sure you are providing instruction at the level of all your students in the classroom. In classes of 30+ students, it can seem daunting to modify for kids that still need help, while also increasing the rigor for kids that have already mastered the content. I think many teachers tend to be good at one end of the spectrum, but it is hard to be good at both. I’ve reached out and gotten tips from some fellow secondary teachers, and I hope you find them useful!
How to help the students that "just don't get it"
These are your kids that tend to give up easily. They struggle, don't believe in themselves, and get frustrated easily. How can you keep these kids from quitting and start believing in themselves?
"Algebra 2 can be intimidating for my students so I have a word wall for them that shows math terms and concepts in context with lots of examples. I also give my students “cheat sheets” for the multi-step work we do, like graphing exponential functions or factoring quadratics. When one of my kids gets overwhelmed, I will also cut back on their amount of work. This is a special education accommodation that we use for kids with slower processing speeds and it also works well for kids who are having a tough time for any reason. My central goal is to have kids leave my class with the confidence they need to take on more math classes after high school so everything I do to support my students is done with this in mind."
-Shana from Scaffolded Science and Math
"The short answer - scaffold! That can look very different depending on the assignment and the students. Some examples would be providing a model, sentence starters, a template, or some labelled diagrams to help get started on an assignment or break down a difficult concept."
-Tara from Science In The City
How to challenge the students who already get it
These students pick up new concepts easily. Because of this, they tend to get bored and can often act up in class. Giving them more work or asking them to tutor their peers is typically not the solution. So how do you keep them engaged and busy without assigning extra work?
"Try out project based learning! With project based learning, you pose students with a question or problem to solve. There should be many methods to complete the project, so it is a great way for your high kids to dig deeper into the content. For example: suppose you are doing a unit on evolution. Instead of just teaching the students about Darwin and his voyage, have the students create a podcast interview. Students will need to do background research about his journey and his life, write an engaging script, and record it. The higher level students will be thrilled that they get to be creative and problem solve instead of just showing their learning on a test."
-Becca from Science Lessons That Rock
"I find that many high level learners are pretty motivated IF they are interested in something, and I find it's my job to really get them interested in it. I feel that high level learners respond well to a lot of thought-type scenario questions like "what if this happened, what do you think would happen next?" I feel that high level learners really have a thirst, a need for their brains to have something to work on. For example, if we are talking about karyotypes and independent assortment, I would pose the question "Are you related equally to all of your grandparents?" (The answer is actually no, you aren't.) Lower level learners may not be able to grasp this, but higher level learners will be intrigued, and many of them will google it or read more about it and ponder about it in and after class. Higher level learners often want to connect with you on an intellectual level. (I find that sometimes lower level learners are more motivated by connection on the emotional/you-as-a-person level, but that is a big generalization). With higher level learners, you could give them the question and the end result/answer, and ask them to scaffold! Ask them to show you or prove the why on how to reach a particular answer."
-Bethany from Science with Mrs. Lau
Have any additional tips to share? Leave them in the comments!
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It's almost April Fool's Day and time to start thinking about how to trick your students! While it may be funny to scare students with a pop quiz or sending your best student to the principal's office, I like an April Fool's joke where the students learn a science concept at the same time. Check out these ideas on how to trick your students into learning a science concept:
1. "What's Wrong With The School Water?!"
For this one, fill a clear drinking glass with with rubbing alcohol and set it up front. When you are ready to start class or students are working on bell work, bring out a few ice cubes and drop them in your "water." (The ice cubes will sink instead of float because the ice is more dense than the rubbing alcohol). Start yelling to the class "Something is wrong with the school water! Look at my ice cubes!" and see their reactions. Follow up with a discussion about density. (This video below from my friend James shows how it works).
2. Make a Stink Bomb
Use this home made stink bomb recipe to gross out your students! Pretend that someone in your class keeps passing gas and make a scene asking them to stop. Once you tell them it's a joke, follow up with a discussion about sulfur and other things that contain sulfur (eggs).
3. "Do Not Open Bottle" from Steve Spangler
This is a fun prank that your curious students won't be able to resist!
4. Dihydrogen Monoxide
Tell your students that there is a new drug going around that they need to be aware of called Dihydrogen Monoxide. (Dihydrogen Monoxide is the chemical name for water). Show them this video clip and then ask the students what chemicals you think people might make this drug out of.
5. Rat Skulls
Do you have students who try and eat in class even when you tell them to put the hot cheetos away? Do you have any small skulls left over from your last owl pellet dissection? Tell the students that you were cleaning the room yesterday and you found the skull in one of the cabinets. Explain to them that the only reason rats come to the classroom is because they are finding food. You can have a discussion about food chains (and if you truly want them to stop eating snacks, don't tell them the truth!)
6. Burning Money
Tell the students that you had $5 stolen out of your wallet the day before. Tell them you know $5 isn't a lot, but you are really disappointed in them. To prove your point that it isn't about the money, take out a $5 bill and light it on fire yelling "see, it's not about the money!" (To light the money on fire without damaging the bill, dip the money in a water and rubbing alcohol mixture behind your desk where the students can't see).
7. Fools Gold
Have a piece of pyrite laying around? (If not, check with your earth science teacher). Tell the students that you were hiking after school the previous day and came across a large piece of gold. Pull out the pyrite, tell them it is worth thousands, and today will be your last day because you are retiring. April Fool's Gold!
8. Set up a Fake Text
Head over to a website such as http://iphonefaketext.com/ and create your own fake text message conversation. The possibilities here are endless! You can pretend to have seen a conversation between two students or between teacher and student (see pictured). Kids are addicted to their phones, so might as well stoop to their level!
I hope you have a fun day fooling your students! Enjoy!
This is a great inquiry lab for your physics unit! In this activity students will be asked to figure out which of the following variables affect the period of the pendulum swing: the mass, the length of the string, or the angle the pendulum is released from.
All you need for this lab is: string, a ring stand (or other object to hang the string from) a stopwatch, a protractor, and some hanging masses. Don't have hanging masses? You can hang a cup instead and add pennies or marbles for weight (see the images below).
I gave the students 2 days to complete this lab. The first day they just played around with the pendulums and tried to figure out which variable affected the pendulum swing. The second day I had them time the swings, record data, and make conclusions. It was a great introduction to my unit on motion! If you'd like to check out the 2 day lab write-up I made, it is available in my TpT store.
I hope your students enjoy this lab as much as mine did!
Physics is really exciting to teach because there are so many fun labs you can do. After teaching students about speed, velocity, and acceleration I wanted to do a STEM lab to follow up the unit. I decided to have students build a parachute out of a plastic grocery store bag and gave them a goal of keeping it in the air as long as possible. It was not only fun for them but the materials were super inexpensive! I supplied string and tape, and they had to supply the bag and any other materials they wanted to add. You are welcome to set size or material restrictions but I chose not to. I gave them one class period to build (if they didn't finish they had to finish at home) and we tested the following day. When testing the parachutes I tied a GI Joe to the bottom to add some mass but you are welcome to use whatever you have handy (metal washers work great too).
Our school is 2 stories so the students dropped their parachutes from the 2nd story. When they went to drop the parachutes they had 1 rule: No throwing the parachute up in the air. They had to hold their hands straight out horizontal and drop straight down.
Each group got to drop their parachute 2 times. They had to calculate the speed of the drop (distance / time) and acceleration (Vf - Vi) / t. Overall they had a blast and I had some silly prizes for the winner of each class period. If you would like to check out the lab worksheet I used CLICK HERE. Have fun!