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!
Protein synthesis is not one of my favorite biology topics to teach. It can be a big enough struggle to get students understanding all those A's, U's, C's, and G's, and then even MORE of a struggle to get them understanding the bigger picture on how that code translates to a trait. But, I have a fun way for you to review the amino acid wheel chart with your students! --> BINGO.
I was recently at Dollar Tree and found this bingo cage with 60 balls, cards, and chips for a buck! The balls are numbered on one side, but I grabbed a sharpie and wrote some A's, U's, C's and G's on the back. Break off the balls, place them in the cage, and get ready to have some fun!
Students are given a bingo card that has amino acids listed. (You can also give them a blank bingo card and have them choose their own amino acids). Begin by giving the cage a spin and remove 3 balls. Call out the three letters in the order they left the cage. Students look up the three amino acids on the codon wheel chart and cover it up on their bingo card.
Can't find the bingo cage at your local dollar store? They are also available to purchase on Amazon, or you can buy ping pong balls instead (which are a little easier to pick up) and pull them out of a plastic tub.
Want some other protein synthesis lesson ideas? Check out this blog post.
As a scientist and person who greatly appreciates the natural world, I love visiting national parks. They are spectacular places! You can weave them into science units such as:
Here are some activities you can use to show students the wonder of national parks:
1. National Parks Service: The NPS has a ton of free lesson plans you can explore. As you search, you can filter based on lesson type, grade, or park.
You can also show this video clip on how the national park service got started.
2. Virtual Field Trip: Have students take a virtual field trip to a park of their choice using Google Earth. All they have to do is type in the name of the park and begin exploring! You can have them look for natural landforms, watersheds, or evidence of human impacts on the environment.
3. National Park Bulletin Board: Have students choose a national park, complete some background research, and add it to an interactive bulletin board. (This is a great activity for a few extra credit points or an early finisher activity).
4. Travel Brochure: Have students create a travel brochure for a park of their choice. What should visitors pack? What cool landforms will they see? Any rare plants or animals?
5. PBS National Park video series: Check out this 6 part video series from PBS on National Parks .
6. National Parks Adventure: The Smithsonian Institute has an educator guide called "national parks adventure" that includes a series of lesson plans and activities on national parks.
This one isn't lesson plan related, but I got one of these National Park scratch posters as a gift and it is so fun! If you would like to visit them all some day, it's a must have (affiliate link).
When you were a kid did you ever read the "choose your own ending" books? You would read and then it would give you two scenarios and you could choose how you wanted the story to continue? I always liken those to dichotomous keys when introducing them to students. You get two scenarios, choose one, and follow where it tells you to go.
Why do we use dichotomous keys? They are an identification and classification tool. If you are looking at a plant in your backyard and want to identify it and it's scientific name, we use a dichotomous key.
Dichotomous keys are fun for students and they get the hang of them quickly.
Here are some activities you can use to teach dichotomous keys:
1. I begin by using a powerpoint that teaches students how dichotomous keys work. You can find it here.
2. Ready to practice? Here is a mollusk activity from Cornell.
3. This fun activity from Carolina Biological uses a flower dissection and dichotomous key to help solve a crime.
4. Generally we use dichotomous keys in biology, but they can be used for other things too! Here is a cloud identification dichotomous key from NASA.
5. Here is an interactive fish identification dichotomous key that is fully virtual! Perfect if your students have computer access.
6. Ready to have students build their own? Head to your local dollar store and grab an assorted bag of animals (I found frogs when I looked). Have students lay them out on a whiteboard, sort them into two categories as they go, and create a dichotomous key. Using whiteboards allows them to correct any mistakes.
7. Here is another option for students building their own key that uses fun looking monsters.
If you have any other fun ways to teach dichotomous keys, leave me a comment! You might also want to check out this blog post that has resources for teaching cladograms.
While I'm not a fan of making students memorize anything on the periodic table, the more familiar they are with it the easier it is for them to use. Do I expect them to know the atomic number of carbon is 6? No, but it's helpful if they know the general location of carbon so it's easy to look up.
Playing periodic table bingo is a fun way to review the elements. I was recently at Dollar Tree and found this bingo cage with 60 balls, cards, and chips for a buck! The balls are numbered on one side, but I grabbed a sharpie and wrote the atomic symbols on the back (for general science you can usually stop at 36 on the periodic table). Break off the balls, place them in the cage, and get ready to have some fun!
Students are given a bingo card that has the names of 24 elements. As you give the cage a spin and remove a ball, you call out the chemical symbol. Students then cover the matching name on their bingo card. (For example, you call out "Na" and students cover sodium). I allow them to have their periodic table out for reference- remember I don't expect them to memorize, just become more familiar with the table.
Can't find the bingo cage at your local dollar store? They are also available to purchase on Amazon (affiliate link), or you can buy ping pong balls instead (which are a little easier to pick up) and pull them out of a plastic tub.
As we near the end of the school year, it's fun to change up the way you assess students. Students' brains are fried from state exams- lets give them some other ways to demonstrate their learning other than a multiple choice assessment! Here are some ideas to get your juices flowing:
1. Have students create a stop-motion video! Check out the apps "stop motion studio" or "stop motion animator." Have students use their phones or tablets and take pictures to create a stop motion video. While you could provide some fun supplies like play doh or legos, even scraps of construction paper will do! Another tip: the more pictures, the better- upwards of 100 is not too many!
2. Have students make an infographic to show what they learned this year. Here is a lesson that walks them through how to create one using piktochart.com.
3. Have students record a podcast episode based on your current unit. Anchor.fm is a super user friendly (and free!) software program that students can use to record.
4. Get students outside and have them create a photo journal that uses pictures to document a science concept. For example, if you recently taught kinetic and potential energy, students could take pictures of a swing-set, rubber band, or a skateboard. They will describe how their picture relates to the topic. You can find an editable lesson with rubric here.
5. Looking for a longer project? Try out some project based learning and have students create a product that answers a driving question related to your curriculum. If you want to learn more about PBL, check out this series of blog posts.
What other fun ways have you assessed students aside from a typical written test? I'd love to hear ideas in the comments!
I LOVE looking at and collecting fossils. It's fun to try and picture what the organism looked like and what type of fossil it is. Students love them too! One tip from experience: Students enjoy them A LOT more if they have bigger samples to look at. I know what you're thinking... "Becca, I don't have the budget to buy a ton of large fossils." Instead of buying a bunch of kits with an assortment of small fossils, buy one large fossil of each type and have students rotate around the room to view. I also place them on rubber dissection mats (like in the image shown above) so they are better protected.
If you are an earth science teacher (or a biology teacher who is sneaking in some fossil activities during your geologic time unit) here is a list of activities to get you started!
1. In this activity, students assemble puzzle pieces to match up fossil types with their definition and a picture.
2. Digfield School has a series of fossil lesson plans that can be found here.
3. In this activity titled "The Great Fossil Find," students act like paleontologists and assemble fossil bones to determine the type of animal. It has a fun script to go along with it. My middle schoolers loved it!
4. Want to make your own fossils out of plaster of paris? Check out directions here.
5. This station lab has 8 different stations students will rotate through all dealing with fossils. They will watch a video, view virtual fossils, assemble paper bones, read about the La Brea tar pits, and more.
6. Amber fossils are super expensive to buy. If you want to show your students some fake amber fossils, you can order them from Amazon (affiliate link). Another option is to make your own with plastic insects from the dollar store and hot glue (photo courtesy @quirky_science on instagram).
Also... just for fun... you could buy some insect lollipops and see if you have some brave students that want a tasty treat!
7. As a biologist, I talk to my students about the transition from life in the ocean to land. If this is the case, shouldn't we have evidence of this in the fossil record? I enjoy this video clip of Dr. Neil Shubin's team finding the Tiktaalik fossil.
8. If you want to show students how the process of permineralization works, you can use epsom salt and a sponge to replicate the process. You can find directions and a lab worksheet here.
9. The Natural History Museum of Utah has a set of investigations where students explore a dinosaur quarry and analyze 3D virtual fossils. The investigations are comprehensive and students will get a deep dive into what it feels like to be a paleontologist exploring fossils! It's free with a teacher login, be sure to check it out!
10. The American Museum of Natural History has a drag-and-drop interactive where students sort fossil layers from oldest to youngest. Great for relative dating practice.
11. Want to teach students how we use radiometric dating to determine the absolute age of a fossil? Grab some pennies (or puzzle pieces) and follow the directions found here.
12. At africanfossils.org, students can explore virtual fossils.
13. Coprolites are fossilized dung. While that sounds pretty gross, they can be colorful and pretty! Scientists can observe coprolites and learn about what the organism ate and make inferences about their habitat. Learn how to make your own coprolite for students to explore here.
14. Here is a "fossilize me" card game from Science Friday.
If you are teaching a geology unit, be sure to check out my rocks blog post for more resources!
Teaching about human impacts on ecosystems and future climate change projections can leave you and your students feeling hopeless and depressed. While I think it's important to teach the facts and not sugarcoat what is happening to our planet, we can also find ways to give students hope for the future and motivate them to push for change.
While watching The Lorax or making an art display out of recycled materials can be fun and entertaining, the impact it leaves isn't very large. Here are some ideas where students can really feel like they are making a difference:
1. CHECK OUT HANDPRINTER.ORG
Instead of just focusing on our carbon footprint, this website has ways to increase your "handprint," or positive impacts that help others take positive action and heal the planet on a global scale. Check it out!
2. PARTICIPATE IN A CITIZEN SCIENCE PROJECT
Taking science beyond the 4 walls of your classroom can be much more meaningful for students. Through citizen science, the data they collect and research they conduct can contribute to larger regional or even global studies. Find a citizen science project here.
3. FUND RAISE FOR A CAUSE
Try organizing a class (or campus) fundraiser for an environmental cause. My students have conducted fundraisers for Water Is Life and One Tree Planted. (Here are some free handouts I used for the water fundraiser).
4. HOST A DOCUMENTARY MOVIE NIGHT
Many documentaries can leave the students feeling helpless, but some end on a positive note. Some that end with a more uplifting tone include Racing Extinction and Biggest Little Farm. Try organizing a movie night for students on your campus so the impact is larger than your own classroom. Your student government might even help you organize!
5. WRITE LETTERS TO STATE LEGISLATORS
Look up state legislators and have students write letters to them encouraging them to vote for/pass bills with the environment in mind. You could even ask if they have time to be a guest speaker or do a zoom call with your students. If the thought of proofreading and editing all the letters makes your head spin, team up with the English teachers on campus and see if they can help.
What other ideas do you have? Drop me a comment!