Looking to up the engagement during distance learning? Or, is your classroom 1:1 with technology? I've been creating interactive diagrams where students can click and learn about biology and earth science topics. Students work through the diagram and end with a Google-form self grading quiz. No prep for you- wahoo!
Check out this video to take a peek on what they look like and how they work!
These diagrams can be used for:
Want to see the topics available? BROWSE HERE!
Teaching English Language Learners (ELLs) can be so fun and rewarding. They are some of my favorite students to work with. They tend to be hard working and driven. (You may want to check out my blog post with 10 tips for teaching ELLs in the science classroom).
The main categories ELLs are tested on in order to become "proficient" English speakers are reading, writing, listening, and speaking. As science teachers we can support the ELL teachers by weaving these into our daily curriculum. I have some tech tools to share with you that will make these easier!
Students need to practice reading in all their classes, not just English. I try and find fun and engaging articles for students to read, not excerpts from the textbook. (Not sure where to find free articles? Check this blog post). Now, you can't hand out an article to your general ed. students and expect your ELL students to be able to read it. But the good news is there are ways to change the lexile! If you find articles on Newsela they have different lexiles built in. If you find an article elsewhere, all you have to do is copy and paste the text into a free site called Rewordify. It will make the text simpler and easier for your ELL kids to digest. Check it out!
I don't assign a ton of writing assignments in my class, mostly because grading it is way too time consuming. And honestly as a science teacher I'm not trained on how to teach writing. BUT, we aren't completely off the hook. We can still at least give students writing opportunities because the more they practice the better they will get.
One easy way to add some low-stress writing to your curriculum is by assigning writing prompts. I would provide writing prompts to the students before we learned a new concept. Assigning it before the lesson is taught has a few purposes aside from writing practice: it gets them thinking about the concept and shows me any misconceptions they have going in. That way I can address them as we go. Looking for science writing prompts? Check out this blog post.
When you are addressing the class as a whole, often times you are talking way too fast. ELL students benefit from you talking slower so they can listen better and digest. If you are giving lab directions or even a lecture, you can always record yourself (with Vocaroo or Screencastify) and post it on your class website for them to refer back to.
Another cool tech tip is that students can have website content read aloud to them. Here are directions on how to use the Google Read Aloud extension.
ELL students need plenty of opportunities to practice speaking English. It is okay to have a loud classroom, as long as students are on task! However, one thing I've found is that ELL students often get nervous or shy speaking in front of their English speaking peers. One low-stress way you can have students practice their speech is by having them submit their work through an audio recorder like Vocaroo. I love Vocaroo because 1) it's free! 2) there is no login required, and 3) it's fool proof. There is one button to push- the record button. No learning curve.
For example, if you have your class participating in a Socratic seminar or doing a whiteboard CER session, you can have your ELL students record their part on Vocaroo. They can submit the audio via email and you can grade with a click of a button. Super easy for you and very low stress for them.
Any other cool tech tools you know of to support reading, writing, listening, or speaking skills? Drop them in the comments!
Have you ever tried out choice boards with your students? I love them because they give students some voice and choice in their learning. Choice boards provide a variety of ways for students to demonstrate they have mastered a concept. Your students that love to write can choose to answer writing prompts, your students that are artistic may choose to create an animated cartoon, and your talkative students may choose to use an online voice recorder to explain what they learned. The possibilities are endless.
If you make your own, here are some options you could include:
How to grade choice boards:
It is up to you on how many tasks you want students to complete on the choice board and how you will assess them. Grading ideas could include:
Here is a preview of a choice board I created for cell organelles to give you an idea of how they work:
If you don't want to make your own, I've created choice boards for biology and earth science units. CLICK HERE to check them out!
Are you a podcast lover? Once I find one I like, I get hooked (cough, cough... Serial). You may have students who have never listened to a podcast before, and given the opportunity would really enjoy them! Especially for your kiddos who love to learn but don't love to read.
HOW YOU CAN USE PODCASTS IN THE CLASSROOM
Not sure how you would use podcasts with students? Here are a few ideas:
1. Write out questions that go along with the podcast episode and assign it for homework. This is great listening skill practice (especially for ELL students!)
2. Assigning a podcast episode that has tougher to digest content? Listen to the podcast together as a class and pause it periodically to do small group or whole class discussions.
3. Have them listen to a podcast at home and hold an in-class Socratic seminar or philosophical chairs.
4. After listening, have students create a one-pager or infographic based on what they learned.
5. You could even have students create their own podcast! Have them pick a science related topic, conduct authentic research, and record!
LIST OF SCIENCE PODCASTS:
Listed in no particular order. (Note: I have not listened to all of these podcasts, and encourage you to preview any podcast episodes you assign to students).
1. TUMBLE: This podcast tells stories of scientific discoveries with the help of scientist.
2. 60 SECOND SCIENCE: Have a few minutes left at the end of class? Check out this podcast from Scientific American.
3. SKEPTOID: This podcast takes popular myths and reveals the true science and history behind them.
4. BIG BIOLOGY: This podcast is "scientists talking to scientists" about biology topics. I would recommend this podcast to older students, as some of the topics are more complex.
5. BRAINS ON: If you teach younger students they might enjoy Brains On, where kids find answers to fascinating questions about our world.
6. NATURE: The journal Nature also has a podcast.
7. SCIENCE MAGAZINE: Comes out with weekly podcast episodes.
8. 30 ANIMALS THAT MADE US SMARTER: Put out by the BBC.
9. THE WILD: Explores how nature survives and thrives along side (and often despite) humans.
10. SCIENCE VS: This podcast takes on fads and trends to find out what's fact, what's not, and what's somewhere in between.
11. OVERHEARD: This Nat Geo podcast dives into "one of the curiously delightful conversations we've overheard at National Geographic's headquarters."
12. UNDISCOVERED: Is a podcast about the left turns, missteps, and lucky breaks that make science happen.
13. THE BIG FIB: Each week, a kid interviews two experts in a particular topic, one of which is a genuine credentialed expert, and the other is a liar. Students learn to weigh evidence and trust their gut!
Don't have the funds to take students on a field trip? Living in the age of technology allows us to virtually visit and see sights around the world (or solar system!) that most of us wouldn't get the opportunity to ever see. I've compiled a list of science-related virtual field trips you and your students can experience. Happy travels!
1. Virtual Field Trips.org is a great place to start. They have videos that can take students to the galapgos, national parks, and the amazon. Head here to watch!
2. I've always been fascinated with caves. Visiting Carlsbad Caverns was one of my favorite vacations. Let students explore Carlsbad Caverns with this virtual tour. Check it out here.
3. The Nature Conservancy also has a variety of field trips to choose from. They have teacher guides and videos for a ton of topics. Check them out HERE.
4. I'm sure you have played around with Google Earth, but did you know there is also Google Moon and Google Mars? Let your students explore the solar system and see what the surface of the moon and Mars look like! You never know, humans may be regular visitors to these places in their lifetime!
5. Another cool site to check out if you have students interested in space is Stellarium. Students can visit this online planetarium and check out constellations visible from their current location.
6. You might think of Easter Island as more of a history trip instead of a science trip, but this island has an interesting (and disastrous) history relating to ecosystem collapse and sustainability. What is now relatively barren land, Easter Island was once lush and heavily populated. There is some debate about what wiped out the trees (deforestation? invasive rats?) and the ecosystem collapse that followed, but either way it is a good lesson on population growth and sustainability. Students can check out the island HERE.
7. Discovery Education has a bunch of virtual field trips to choose from. Head here and you can filter by content area.
8. Would you like to view webcams from different zoos and aquariums? I often put live webcams up on the classroom board when students are doing independent work. If they finish their work early or need a brain break, watching animals is a fun thing to do! Check out this blog post to see which zoos and aquariums offer streaming webcams.
9. The National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC offer virtual tours using Google Street View. Check them out HERE.
10. Google Art and Culture has virtual field trips from TONS of locations worldwide. Click here to view US national parks and explore places like the Grand Canyon, Carlsbad Caverns, Yellowstone, and more! (Warning: It's addicting).
Want a fun way to change up how you assess your students? While there is value in giving multiple choice assessments (students need to have these test taking skills to pass the ACT and SAT), I also like to change it up. Not all students do well with multiple choice or written tests, and offering creative ways for students to show their learning is always fun.
I recently finished my cells unit, and asked students to create an infographic on an organelle. We used the website piktochart.com which is free. (There are paid upgrades, but everything students need is available with the free account). Students found the website to be relatively user friendly- everything is click and drag.
The project students about 4 class periods to complete. The first day I showed the students sample infographics and we discussed what characteristics were of a good infographic. If you want some samples of quality infographics there are a TON on pinterest. Then I had students do background research on their organelle (I required a minimum of 5 facts on their infographic). The following two class periods students created their infographics and do some peer editing. On day 4 students finalized their edits and submitted them to me. The biggest hiccup we tried to avoid was it turning into a power point slide with a bunch of text. I reminded them that the goal of an infographic is to use images to make complex information quick and easy to understand. For example, if you state that the average US meal travels 1500 miles from farm to plate, how can you help the reader visualize that? (It's roughly the distance from New Orleans to Phoenix, so they could include a map).
Here are some sample infographics we came up with:
Prior to turning in the inforaphics we did a few rounds of peer feedback and editing. This will save you a lot of time later when you go to grade them. After editing students shared the link to their infographics in an email to me, but you could easily have them upload it to google classroom or canvas if you use these tools. Also, if your library can print them poster size they are great for classroom decor!
If you are interested in checking out the forms and grading rubric I used for this project, you can check them out here.
I hope your students have fun creating them!
We live in the world of technology and instant streaming. It's amazing that we can see and talk to people on the other side of the world with almost no delay. I recently came across a couple of live streaming websites where your students can observe nature and wildlife from locations around the world. Many of our students may never have the opportunity to see the great barrier reef or go on an African safari- but that doesn't mean they can't enjoy looking at the animals from afar! I've created a list of a few websites where students can observe live streaming from some pretty cool places:
1. Deep Sea Exploration: Head over to http://nautiluslive.org/ to see real time deep sea exploration! Students can even type in questions and organizers are willing to skype with your classroom!
2. Explore.org: Out of all the websites, explore.org is probably my favorite. You can click on tons of animals and it will take you to a live streaming location. Sometimes you won't see much, but that is the nature of it being live. It will recommend which animals are most active and has highlights you won't want to miss.
3. National Park Service: This website has links to some webcams within some of the US National Parks. (Many of these are also available on explore.org, so you may just want to start there).
4. Zoos: Many zoos such as The Houston Zoo, the Woodland Park Zoo, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium have webcams within their exhibits for you to view. You can even take a turn controlling the webcams at the Houston Zoo!.
5. The ISS: Teach astronomy or have some future astronauts in your class? Have them observe a live stream of astronauts living on the ISS!
Ideas of how to use these websites:
1. If you are teaching a lesson on making observations, have students observe the animals, write down behaviors they see and make inferences about their lifestyle or habitat.
2. Are your students quietly working on an assignment? Many teachers play background music. I personally struggle with this, because I'm one of those people that has to have it quiet in order to focus. Instead of playing music, try putting up a webcam on the screen. It allows students to take small mental breaks to observe the animals, and is also gives the early finishers something to do instead of pulling out their phones. It's a great classroom management tool.
3. If you are teaching about conservation or sustainability, put up a webcam and discuss why animal conservation is important and the ethical implications of zoos.
4. Don't have the money to take your students on a field trip? Use these sites as a "virtual field trip." They can see a national park from your classroom!
I hope you enjoy these sites! I've wasted my prep hour a few too many times by sitting and watching animals! Enjoy!
Virtual labs are a great tool to try if you have computer access. I love them because:
I've compiled a list of websites that have virtual labs. I'll try my best to make sure all the links are up and working (non-flash), but if any are out of date please let me know!
20. Lab Safety Interactive
21. Virtual Biology Labs- labs for ecology, evolution, and cells
22.JavaLab- This site has tons of simulations sorted by topic. It's got some great stuff!
23. Research Quest- Not your average virtual lab, these multi-step investigations from the Natural History Museum of Utah are pretty amazing. There are investigations for food chains/ecosystems and fossils.
Enjoy! If you know of other sites, please share in the comments!
Lately there is a big push for STEM in the classroom. Data has projected that STEM related jobs will increase to 9 million by the year 2022 (www.bls.gov). As teachers we need to not just teach science, but let students truly experience it first hand.
Every year when I teach cells, students do a good job memorizing what the organelles do but have a hard time understanding how the organelles actually work together. I wanted my students to really visualize cell processes and how the cell functions as a whole. I came across a website from MIT that allowed students to create animated videos. I decided I was going to have my students create a video for a specific cellular process. This project can be scary for many students that aren't tech-saavy (although most students are better with technology than we are!) To ease their minds, I let students work in pairs- one student could do a lot of the research and the other student could do more of the video building. Next I came up with a list of 15 different cellular processes (endocytosis, mitosis, DNA replication, etc.) that they could pick from. I have class sizes around 30 students so each group had a different topic for their video. This project could be used for any topic, not just cells!
Here are a few tips that will make the project run smoother:
1. Before you assign the project, play around with the website yourself. It was also helpful for me to watch youtube tutorials (like the one HERE) as I was learning. If you are familiar with the website then it is easier for you to help students when they hit road blocks... which they will.
2. Students will need to create a login for their video. I told students to use their school ID number as their login and their school password. Many students have multiple usernames for their emails and social media accounts, so I didn't want them to forget their login. Also, when students shared their videos with me I could see whose video it was based on their ID number.
3. Before students begin, have them map out what they want their video to look like. I gave them a storyboard timeline worksheet (see image 2 below) and made them draw out their cellular process and write captions. I had to check and approve their worksheet before they could begin working on the video. It was a good way to check in with them and give them feedback to ensure they weren't missing anything.
4. Allow students to look around at videos that are already made. On the scratch homepage you can search for videos that other people have shared. If you find a video you like, you can click See Inside (see image 3 below) and see how they actually built the video. I made it clear that students could only look there for ideas, but couldn't copy what other people made.
5. It will take time, and get ready for the whining. If I had a dollar for every time I heard "can't we just make a powerpoint instead?" I would be going to a steakhouse for dinner tonight courtesy of my students. One student even said "Come on Mrs, we've been making powerpoints since we came out of the womb!" That is exactly why I didn't let them make a powerpoint. In the end (I gave them a week), they came up with some awesome videos. The great thing about this site is they don't have to be at school to work on it, just anywhere with an internet connection. If they don't finish in the assigned class time, they can work on it at home.
6. Chances are you will have a group or two that just can't figure out the website and how to make things move and work. As a last resort for these groups, I showed them how to make it "powerpoint-like." When you click on the "backdrops" tab, you can create multiple backdrops, which is essentially like powerpoint slides (see image 4 below). Then all they have to do is add a script that when the space bar is clicked, it moves to the next backdrop.
7. When students are finished, they need to click SHARE before the video goes live (see image 5 below). Once they clicked share, I had them copy and paste the URL into an email and send it to me for grading. I made it clear to students that the majority of their grade would be based on the video content, not the animations. For example, if the mitosis group had awesome visuals but forgot to tell me about what mitosis is, why cells divide, and which cells undergo mitosis then they wouldn't get a great grade. That lowered the stress level for students who struggled with the animations.
Even though both teacher and student felt frustration at times, I'm so glad I had my students create these videos. Below is a sample from one of my students. Enjoy!