Ordering class sets of prepared slides can be pricey. Want a fun and free way to make your own? All you need are some slides, clear tape, and some animal hair samples. Put a few pieces of hair on a slide and carefully cover it with clear tape. A couple tips:
(Below: Left image is human hair, Right image is cat hair)
Another way to get some unusual hair samples is by checking with your local game and fish department. In Arizona our Game and Fish department has skull and pelt boxes that they loan to schools for free. I had borrowed the skull box for my ecology unit and had my students compare skulls of different animals. While I had the box, I also plucked a hair or two off the pelts and made prepared slides. It was fun to look at mountain lion, bear, and coyote hair in addition to the everyday pets.
Have you made prepared slides for specimens other than hair? I'd love to hear about it! Leave it in the comments!
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Cladograms are my favorite part of the classification and taxonomy unit. They are relatively simple for students to grasp and are great for visual learners. While they can be easy to read, sometimes students struggle once you ask them to make their own.
Enter: the ultimate teacher engagement tool. Candy.
In this activity, students will be given a ziplock baggie with 4 types of candy inside. On the front of the worksheet students will be given the traits to analyze and then are asked to complete the cladogram. On the back of the worksheet students need to use the same candies but analyze them using different traits. Once they finish their cladograms they are free to eat!
TIP: As I've used this activity over the past few years, I've found students sometimes struggle with the back side of the worksheet where they have to make their own cladogram. One line of questioning that really helps them organize their thoughts is this:
"What is a trait all 4 candies have in common? What is a trait only 3 of them have in common? What is a trait that 2 of those 3 remaining candies have in common? What is a trait that only 1 of the remaining candies has?" Once they think of it that way it is much easier to fill out the chart and complete the cladogram.
I've made this lab worksheet completely editable so you are free to change the candy types based on what you can find on sale at the store. Don't feel forced to use the candies I have listed! Keep in mind, if you change the candy types you will likely have to change the traits students are looking for on the front side of the worksheet.
I hope you enjoy this activity! Want another classification lab activity? Check out this blog post where students use preserved specimen jars to classify organisms.
It's April. Sigh. If you live in the US, you are likely experiencing testing season. Between ACT, SAT, and state exams, it seems like the entire month is taken. Kids are burned out and teachers just want to start teaching again. Students have to be quiet when they finish testing which can be a struggle no matter which age group you teach. If your school is like mine, students aren't allowed to be anywhere near their phones when they are done testing. As much as I would love to see them whip out their favorite book, the last thing many of them want to do is read when they just finished a 3 hour test. Here are some ideas to keep them quiet until everyone else is finished testing:
1. Print out sudoku pages. The first few times I did this I realized many students had never done a sudoku puzzle before, so you might need to teach them. But your left-brained students will have fun working on them! You can print them for free by clicking here.
2. Word Searches- Check out this website where you can print pre-made word searches or even create your own.
3. Coloring Pages- This is my personal favorite stress-relief activity. I love printing out Mandala images and letting my creativity run wild. You can find free ones here, or I've even seen books of them at the dollar store. You can just buy a book and make copies for your students.
4. Extreme Dot-to-Dot- These will take your students quite a bit of time! Unfortunately I haven't found free ones online that are very good, but the books are inexpensive on amazon's website (just search for extreme dot to dot). I have one that I make copies from and the kids love figuring out what the image is.
5. ABC Books- I know this sounds a little elementary, but middle school students enjoy it. Give students 14 pages of paper, have them fold in half, and staple on the edge like a book. Have them write one letter of the alphabet on each page. Then, they have to choose a vocabulary word that is specific to your content area, write the definition, and make a picture. Since I teach science, they might choose acid for A, biotic for B, catalyst for C, etc. It is a great way to brush up on vocabulary from the year.
6. Write a thank-you note- Since teacher appreciation day is coming up, sometimes I have my students pick their favorite teacher at school and write them a thank you note. Then I have the notes delivered on teacher appreciation day. It will truly brighten those teacher's day to read them!
7. Hidden Pictures- Remember the hidden pictures in the highlights magazines when you were little? Well you can print them! Head over to highlights website and print off a few. Are they intended for little kids? Yes. Will your secondary students still love them? Yes.
8. Crossword Puzzles- Here is a website that has pre-made puzzles, or check out this site where you can make your own.
9. Metal Mind Teasers- This one isn't my favorite only because it makes a little noise. If you head to a local dollar store, you will probably find the little metal puzzles that students have to separate by twisting and turning the pieces. Some students manage to do them quietly, but a few like to make it an ordeal, so be careful on who you hand them to.
And last but not least.....
10. Sleep- If your school allows it, let that tired kid put their head down. Seriously. Studies show that teenagers don't get nearly as much sleep as they should. After a 3 hour test, let that brain rest.
Any other fun ideas to keep kids quiet after testing? Drop them in the comments!
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Do you have some awesome coworkers? I do. My students have been preparing for a debate on GMO's that was going to take place after school. We needed judges that would be willing to stay late and score them on their performance. We got 3 volunteers without hesitation that were willing to stay at school until 8pm... That's a 13 hour work day! Anyway, I made this little printable that I taped around a box of Andes mints to give to each of the judges. It wasn't expensive and a little gesture goes a long way! Make someone's day and download it for free by clicking on the link below!
I love when I find a new website or online activity I want my students to try. Our students are growing up in a technology reliant generation, and as teachers we need to tap into their interests and strengths. But every time I go to the computer lab, it seems like some kids whiz through the activity I want them to complete, and other students are constantly calling me over for help and don't finish by the time the bell rings. The students that finish early inevitably end up on facebook or youtube as soon as your back is turned.
Hi everyone! Last year I did a 5 day of holiday cheer celebration, and it was a hit. I'm happy to announce it's back! Each day from 12/12 - 12/16 I will have a different promotion running in my TpT store. Check them out below:
On day 4, if you purchase an item from my TpT store, you can pick out another item of equal or lesser value free! All you have to do is email me your name, what you purchased, and what you would like free and I'll send it over!
On day 5, be sure to check back here to get the link for a free mega bundle from top TpT science sellers! It won't be available for long, so set a reminder on your phone! You won't want to miss out.
Wishing you a happy holiday season, and a relaxing break from your classroom!
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!
Need a great inquiry lab? This soda lab is FUN! And I know what you are thinking.... "what a mess it must be!" But I've done this lab multiple times, and never had a spill. Students will get 3 types of soda, and will measure which brand has the greatest amount of carbonation. The best part of this activity is there are 4 different versions included- you can choose which you think is best for your students.
~ EASY~ Great for lower grade levels. Students pour the soda into a cup, and measure the amount of time it continues to bubble.
~ MEDIUM~ (Pictured bottom left) Students cover the top of the bottle with a balloon. After shaking the balloon covered bottle, students will measure the diameter of the balloon with a string.
~ HARD~ (Pictured bottom right) Students will measure the amount of carbonation by putting a tube into the bottle, and catching the gas that escapes into a graduated cylinder. This is the most accurate way to measure the carbonation. I used a tube that was from a fish tank bubbler.
~ EXPERT~ Students will come up with their own experimental design (They may come up with one of the other three ideas already discussed). Great for inquiry, collaboration, and practice writing procedures.
To save money on this lab I buy the smaller bottles of soda, and usually snag them when they are on sale, even if I'm not doing this experiment right away. I love that this lab is a great time to review the scientific method, experimental design, and discuss variables such as temperature, rate of shaking, and other factors that could impact the results. This is a great lab for days before holidays or testing days when the kids are antsy. They will have a blast! Interested? Check it out in my TpT store HERE!
You're giving a big unit test in a few days so you hand the students a study guide. A handful of the students dive in and get it done, while the rest answer about 3 questions and quit. You remind them that it is worth points, so the not-so-interested students wait for their neighbor to finish, take a picture of the completed study guide on their phone, and copy it later. Does this sound like your classroom? It happened in mine all the time. I needed to find a way to get students to WANT to review the material, and study guides weren't cutting it. I started using a variety of review games and puzzles before tests and it has made a world of difference. Student engagement has risen, test scores have risen, and most importantly teacher headaches are a thing of the past. Here are a few games I like to play:
Bingo- This is a great way to review vocabulary. I especially love it for my ecology unit since there is so much vocabulary for students to learn. It's a cinch to create your own bingo cards! Head over to http://osric.com/bingo-card-generator/ and type in your vocabulary words. Choose how many boards you want generated, hit the generate bingo cards button, and voila! For the bingo card markers, I take old construction paper or scrap paper and cut it into small squares. Each student will need about 25 of the little squares to cover their board with during the game. Now the key to this game is to not just call out the words. I call out the definition and make the students cover up the correct word. It will keep them thinking and engaged at the same time. Check out my ecology bingo cards HERE.
Puzzles- Another fun way to review vocabulary. In this activity, students pair up the matching term with it's definition and put them together like a puzzle (see image below). It will take a little time to cut out the pieces prior to playing, but you can use them over and over again. Check out my macromolecules puzzle HERE.
Snakes and Ladders- I like using this game format when doing a trivia review. If you played chutes and ladders when you were a kid, this is basically the same format. The only catch is you need to answer a question correctly before being able to roll and move. If you land on the bottom of a ladder you get to climb up, and if you land on the head of a snake you have to slide down. If you purchase my pre-made versions, you just need the library to print the game boards on large paper and get some dice and game pieces. Students LOVE playing board games, so check out some of them in my store HERE.
It's the beginning of the year, and chances are you are starting off teaching or reviewing the scientific method. If you've looked around on the internet for scientific method labs, you will notice that the majority are not biology related. Don't get me wrong- building paper airplanes, measuring bubbles, and seeing how many water drops can fit on the surface of a penny are fun labs, but not directly related to biology. In my class I want students to understand from the get-go that we are learning about living things, so I want my first lab to reflect that. Here are a few labs that can start your year off right:
1. Pulse Lab- This is a great lab because there are almost no supplies required other than a stopwatch. In this lab students measure their resting pulse, and compare it to their pulse standing up and holding their breath. It is a great way for students to practice writing hypotheses, and identifying independent and dependent variables. Before beginning the lab I start with a class discussion about what your pulse is, why blood needs to be pumped through the body, and where blood cells are made.
2. Firework Milk Lab- I have seen this lab done at ALL ages. Even preschool teachers love this lab. But the beauty of this lab is that high school students still love it, and they can finally start to understand the concept behind the fun swirling colors. In this lab students pour milk into a petri dish, add some food coloring, and put a drop of soap in the middle of the dish. Once the soap enters the dish the food coloring starts swirling and creating "fireworks." The reason the soap begins to mix the food coloring around is because of the chemical structure of the soap. The soap molecule has a polar portion that likes to mix with water, and a nonpolar portion that doesn't like to be around water. The soap molecules react with the fat molecules in the milk and start swirling around, which is visible from the movement of the food coloring. The fattier the milk, the better a reaction you will get. It is fun to have students test whole milk and skim milk and compare the results.
3. Testing the 5 Second Rule- This is my favorite lab to begin the year with, but it requires a little prep work. While you can order sterile agar plates from any science supply site, it is much cheaper to pour your own. If you haven't poured your own plates before, there are a ton of youtube tutorials available to walk you through it. In this lab students get to design their own experiment that would test whether or not food is really safe to eat after being on the ground for 5 seconds. When you purchase this lesson from my TpT store you will get two versions. In the high school version students design their own experiment, write their own procedures, and choose their own independent variable (food type, surface that they drop the food on, etc.) In the middle school version the procedures are given and it walks the students through the lab step by step. If you have an incubator the plates can be ready in 1 day, if not then let the plates sit over the weekend. Students will love seeing how much bacteria is on their food! You can even take it a step further and have students try and kill the bacteria with different cleansers (soap, bleach, 409, etc.) and see which is the most effective.
What other scientific method experiments do you love? Leave them in the comments below!
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Becca of Science Rocks
Hi, I'm Becca! I've been teaching science for 10 years at both the middle and high school levels.