Drawing Isotherms

NOAA_map_1-27-15

Looking at today’s weather map inspired me to dig out a lesson on reading and drawing isotherms. I haven’t taught weather in a very long time, but plan to in the spring, and was happy to see that this interactive website was still up and running (link) after all this time.

I really like this interactive tutorial for drawing isotherms because after a student has drawn their line, they can immediately check their work by comparing the line they drew to the line drawn by the computer. They have instant feedback and make adjustments if needed. Then they draw the correct line on their worksheet and try the next one using what they just learned.

After students are done with the online tutorial, they can try creating their own lines on a map of the USA for additional practice.

  • This is the worksheet for the website and the practice map (pdf) and the website (link).

For related lesson plans, please visit my Earth Science page.

Heart Rate Lab

The heart rate lab is a classic Life Science activity for the circulatory system. It is also a fun way to collect data and to analyze results.

Materials

  • Lab instructions handout (pdf)
  • Excel spreadsheet with blank templates and 2 years of data (excel)
    • the data is there, but you can erase those tabs if you don’t want to use the data
  • Handouts if not using excel
  • Online stopwatch (link)

Before starting the activity, have the students practice finding their pulses and counting. I find that they are more likely to feel their pulse on their neck (carotid) near their jaw.

For the lab, students will first get a baseline for their heart rate. They average their sitting and standing pulse and use that pulse to compare the other activities to. Each student will then make their own hypothesis, which activity will have the highest pulse? The lowest pulse?

Class management tip: We did each step of the lab together, and I kept time using the online stopwatch on the screen. That way, we were all jogging in place or doing jumping jacks at the same time.

Students recorded their data on to the excel spreadsheet and I collected and entered data onto my copy. Each student shared their data, one at a time, while the rest of us entered it. If you have google docs, you can add all data to the same shared Google Sheets.

The template that I have uploaded will automatically do the calculations for you and create a bar graph. You can turn that feature off, by deleting the formulas and graph, if you want students to learn how to use the formula for averages and create charts.

If you are having any issues with the excel sheet, or want to modify it, please reach out to your technology specialist for assistance.

For related lesson plans, please visit my Life Science page.

Blood Types Flashcards & Games

I used this hands-on activity as a review/reinforcement with my 7th graders and it really helped them understand the different blood types, about blood donation, and basic Punnett Squares. Plus they had fun playing the games and making up their own games.

Materials:

  • One set of laminated flashcards (pdf) per person, or two sets shared in a group of 4 students
  • pencil and lined paper to make Punnett Squares

All of the instructions and different games to play are explained in the handout. Some examples are: Who can donate? Punnett Square Practice, Identification, Memory, and Matching.

Other ways to use the cards:

  • Flashcards –  Students can print their own at home and use them to study
  • You can set up a station/rotation to play the games as they are, or as ‘make your own’ game stations. Or a combination of both. Place one game at each station and have the students rotate every 7-10 minutes (see below for logistics)
  • Rotation Directions – students will rotate from table to table and learn to play the game at each station
    • Need a group of 4 students at each station.
    • When it is time to rotate, only 2 go to the next station, and 2 stay.
    • The 2 that stay are the experts on that game.
    • The 2 experts teach the 2 novices how to play when they rotate to the table.
    • When it is time to rotate, the 2 experts who stayed go to the next group, and the novices are now the experts and teach the 2 new novices that came to the station.
  • Quiz-Quiz Trade
    • give each student a RBC card and have them identify it, then trade
    • give each student a blood-type card and ask for the genotype (ie AA or AO)
    • Or mix both decks and play both games
  • Find your Partner
    • give half or your class Blood Type Cards and the other half of the class RBC cards and have them find the matching set

Interactive Links for further practice

  • Blood Typing Game – can you make the right choice? (link)
  • Are you my blood type? can you find the donor? (link)
  • Emergency Room – figure out the blood type and correct transfusion (link)
  • NatGeo – interactive heart (link)
  • BrainPOP:  Blood & Blood Pressure

If you use this lesson in your classroom, I am always happy to hear how it went!

For related lesson plans, please visit my Life Science page.

A ‘real’ teacher

My first teaching position was a 2/5 Biology position at a public high school, I was hired one week before school started. I think they found my resume at the bottom of the pile after they had contacted each applicant from the 99 resumes that were on top of mine. I had a science degree, but not a teaching degree or teaching license. The only ‘classroom’ experience I had was as a Teacher’s Assistant’s Assistant for  Botany I and Botany II courses at UD during my junior year, and as a public school substitute teacher after graduation.

In 1996, Alternate Route Certification was not a very common or a well-known way to earn a teaching degree, and to be honest, was viewed as being ‘less’ and not equal to a ‘real’ teaching degree. Many teachers (at the time) thought it was unfair and that I was taking jobs away from ‘real’ teachers who earned their teaching degrees/licenses. Needless to say, it made for some very uncomfortable conversations.

When I met my Science Supervisor, he was honest and told me that he was unhappy that I was hired without being interviewed by him (he was on vacation), and he has never had anyone in the science department do this ‘alternate route thing’. When he asked me where I earned my science degree, I told him that I graduated from Delaware the year before. Suddenly, his whole demeanor changed – he had gone to Delaware and graduated in the 60’s. Go Blue Hens!

He ended up being an amazing and supportive Supervisor that year. The whole science department took me under their wing and really helped me become the teacher I am today. At the end of the year, the 2/5 position was no longer needed for the following school year, but a F/T Chemistry position was opening up instead and he asked if I was interested. I told him I was only going to be certified for 7-12 Biology and K-8 all subjects. He was disappointed that I wasn’t able to teach Chemistry, but immediately offered me the full-time position for 6th grade science instead. I said yes, of course!

The math teacher I had worked with told me about an opening for a summer school position at an independent high school near where I was living. It would be teaching a Biology course for students who wanted to advance to Chemistry as incoming Freshman, setting them on a higher science track. Teach a whole year of Biology in 6 weeks? Yikes!

Keep in mind that I had binders full of transparencies, no ppt slides, no Youtube videos, and very limited internet content available. It was 1997. The school had a new computer lab, and I took the kids to the lab after lunch to work on ‘interactive’ websites, do research, etc. This website, which is still online, was one of the first websites I ever used with my students. It was for breeding peas:

http://www.sonic.net/~nbs/projects/anthro201/exper/

Somehow, we covered everything that needed to be covered, I was following the current Biology teacher’s lesson plans. (She taught the course during the regular school year.)

With a year of teaching under my belt, including summer school, I finally became a ‘real’ teacher and earned my certification.

Where is the Moon? Where is the Sun? Hands on Activity

Where are the moon and sun in the sky?

To help students better understand the phases of the moon and it’s relationship to the position of the sun, both in the sky and in space, I created this hands on activity. When I used it with my 6th graders, I had a slightly different version with a city skyline and a much smaller placemat. Having a less cluttered horizon and larger placemat is a better option and will make it easier for the students to draw the moon phases and the sun in the sky.

Materials:

Whenever I start an activity, I always call all the student to one of the student desks to discuss/demonstrate the lesson. We had been discussing the phases of the moon and reviewed the order of the phases as I placed the laminated moons onto the desk.

I pointed out the crater Tycho and how it looks like the moon’s belly button. The ‘belly button’ always points towards the Earth, it is the southern part of the moon. This will help them to orientate the moon correctly when they go back to their desks. We completed the first scene together and discussed where to place the Sun and where to place the Moon, keeping in mind what rising and setting means, how we are looking at the landscape and reviewing Eastern, Southern, and Western parts of the sky.

Once we have discussed the directions, students are ready to start. They can’t move onto the next scene until I have checked their work. Once it is correct, they draw the scene into their handout and move onto the next scene. When they were stuck, I reminded them to go over the hints, and gave extra hints if needed.

For part 2, they had to show the phases around the Earth and what they look like from where we are standing in New Jersey. I reminded them to think of the spokes of a wheel and the Earth is at the center, and that we are looking from here on Earth out into space. Also reminded them about the ‘belly button’ always facing Earth. Also, if we were looking at the Earth and Moon from space, half of the moon would always be lit up – the side facing the Sun.

Once the students were finished, we reinforced what we learned by making a moon clock that they got to take home and keep. Once they completed their moon clock, they learned how to use it and answered questions to demonstrate their understanding. This was a great follow-up to this activity.

If you use this activity in your classroom, I would love to hear how it went.

For related lesson plans, please visit my Earth Science page.

Moon Phases – Sort and Flip Book

Moon Phases Sort
Moon Phases Sort

As part of our study about the moon, we have been observing the moon and practicing moon phase identification. For the activity pictured above, students were given a moon phase finder, and laminated cards containing images of the phases of the moon, descriptions of phases, and the names of the phases. The handout included matching the names of phases and their descriptions and the template to create the moon phases flip book. Instead of stapling the flip book when done, we used a rubber band to secure one end.

For the lesson, I started with a demonstration/explanation. Students would sort and match the cards first and then call me over to verify the phases when they were done. They self checked the descriptions by using the matching worksheet. I posted an answer key in the front of the room where they verified their answers/made corrections. Next, they used the cards to help them identify the 29 phases of the flip book. When done, they self check the phases with my answer key in the front of the room. Afterwards, they cut and assembled the flip book. I had small plastic bags and rubber bands for them to take home their pieces if they did not finish during the class period.

Resources

  • I use the phrase “Wax on, Wane off” to practice identification. When the moon is waxing, the right side is getting brighter/larger, when it is waning, the left side is getting smaller/dimmer. (From where we are in the Northern Hemisphere)
    • Also: “Light-Left-Last-Quarter” to help differentiate between First and Third/Last Quarter Phases
  • Moon Phase Finder Template – glue onto paper plate, cut out center
  • Birthday Moons – this is a classic lesson that has I have used over the years. I made a Birthday Moon Phases worksheet (pdf) for my students to use based on the original lesson. We did this activity prior to the phases sort above.
  • The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Kids (link)
    • At the bottom of the page, you can select the year and month to view the phases for the month/year you were born

For related lesson plans, please visit my Earth Science page.

Quiz, Quiz, Trade – Active Learning

Recently, I tried the “Quiz, Quiz, Trade” (QQT) method of review to help my students study for their Apollo Missions assessment. How does it work? See the video below:

I printed out and laminated ppt slides that I had created about the Moon and Apollo Missions. Click here to print out the set of cards, ready to laminate. (pdf)

Before starting the activity, I modeled how to ask, answer, and trade using student volunteers. We also discussed ‘quizzing etiquette’. What do you do if your partner is stuck? How can you give clues to help jog their memories? What are some things that you should or should NOT say if someone can’t answer the question, even with hints? After you go over the answer with your partner, are there any tips to help your partner remember the answer? I stressed the importance of helping each other learn. It is not just about getting the answers right or wrong and no one ‘wins’ if they answered the most questions correctly.

Each student was given one question to start the activity. Because I had more questions than students in my class, after a student makes 3 trades, I had the students hand in/trade their cards with me to introduce new questions into the mix as needed. Some students will answer more questions than others, and that is ok. The students quizzed/traded with each other for about 20 minutes. While they were quizzing each other, they kept track of which questions they answered correctly, and which ones they needed to work on using this handout: Quiz, Quiz, Trade Numbers  (pdf)

For the second half of the review activity, I divided the class into two teams. I would randomly pick one question to ask each team. Before I asked the question, I announced the number of the question I was going to ask them. The students on each team then looked at their sheets to see who had that answered that numbered question correctly and chose one person to come up to answer the question. If no one had the numbered question answered correctly (or did not have a chance to answer it during QQT), they would volunteer a ‘tribute’ to try to answer the question. If the first team answers correctly after I read the question to the class, they earned a point. If answered incorrectly, the other team had a chance to steal and earn the point. We really enjoyed playing QQT and I plan on using it again in a variety of ways.

This is also a great way to practice vocabulary words. Using index cards, students can write the vocab word on one side and the definition on the other. You can also use it for identification skills – show a picture on one side, and the identification on the other. For example, one side can have a picture of a beaker, and the other side will have the word ‘beaker’ to practice identifying lab equipment. Other ideas include: plant identification, constellation identification, cloud identification, metric conversions or abbreviations, etc…

Highlights “Hidden Pictures” help sharpen observation skills

I love “Hidden Pictures” by Highlights magazine. On their website, they release one new puzzle each month and I download and save each and every one. The kids really enjoy working on these puzzles (even 7th grade boys).

I hand out one or two whenever we have assessments (or for holidays) for students to color in while they wait. Once their assessments have been collected, they immediately ask each other where the items were that they couldn’t find. There are usually a few items that stump the majority of the kids.

Looking for the hidden items helps the students sharpen their observation skills. They are looking for shapes and patterns, looking with a purpose, and evaluating spaces where items could be or can’t be located in. My favorites are the hidden items that are found in the ‘empty space’ of the drawings.

Bookmark the website and add it to your favorites! https://www.highlights.com/hotlink-main

Science Scramble Puzzles

Science Scramble Puzzles

I always like to have puzzles handy for students to work on when they have finished their classwork, or if they completed a test and are waiting for other students to finish, or just for fun!

I have 72 science themed scramble puzzles (Scrabble-like) based on Physical and Earth Science vocabulary words. There is a Master List that shows all the words and which number puzzle it is. Each file is saved as the answer, too. Students can make 3, 4, 5, and 6 letter words and calculate their scores based on the letter values within each word they find. There is one 7 letter science word answer for each puzzle.

You can access them as a Shared Google Drive Folder (Click for link)

Have fun!