Reaching the mid term is an important milestone for both teachers and students. For kids it gives them a chance to see their academic progress and teachers can reassess how their classes have been going. For this post we will look at some important steps to consider during this time of the year.
Classroom management: By this point in the year you have a good idea of which classes are running smoothly and which ones need a tune up. Here are some important maintenance tips to consider.
Positive Reinforcement: With everything involved in teaching Its easy to get sucked into the black hole of negativity. Remember you still have some great kids that want to learn and do their best. Many times, your worst students demand the most attention. Don’t forget at the end of class to pay your students who are meeting expectations a compliment. Even better, look for some special learning opportunities, like sending them to the library for a project or helping out with a class pet.
Making Connections: The winter season is a busy with many activities. Kids play basketball, wrestling, cheer and swim to name a few. Along with numerous hobbies and club. Ask about the game. You don’t need to be a basketball expert or a sports nut. I like to ask the kids how they did? Many times, they’ll say we lost, or won. Don’t be afraid to ask how they played (regardless of the outcome). I also like to encourage them “You’ll do better next time.”
IEP Progress: One important item to reflect on is how your IEP students are doing. Whether it’s a gifted student or someone with special needs. Its important to ask if you have been meeting their IEP goals. If you haven’t, now is the time to reset your course. Guided notes are easy to add to an entire class. In addition, during testing, offer to read any test question to your students (regardless of IEP status). These class wide interventions provide extra learning opportunities. Also consider giving kids retest options and advance study guides and test banks to learn from. Have you every considered staying after 20 to 30 minutes to offer extra help for your class? This simple act can make a world of difference for students who fall behind.
If you teach genetics at any level, you need to try this website out. University of Utah Learn Genetics. Full of free and useful resources, this will help any classroom. Today my student completed a classic genetic trait survey. Although, I have done this activity many times before, this version included easy calculations and data charts. Check it out, you won't be disappointed.
Trout in the classroom is a national program that allows students to raise trout. This experience puts kids face to face with the unique life cycle of local fish. This year our students are raising rainbow trout. The first step in the process is to count and sort out the eggs when they arrive(pictured below). Most years we receive around 300 eggs in the fall and release them around May. Every day kids have the opportunity to maintain the tank, feed fish and talk about this project. Its a great way to create an authentic learning experience and bring a model ecosystem into your classroom. If you are interested in this program, check out this link or contact your local chapter of Trout Unlimited.
In this lab I used the classic sun angle lab to compare heat produced at two different angles. By naming one "Summer" and the other "Winter" students can quickly model abiotic factors in an ecosystem. More importantly, after the activity you can ask students to explain how abiotic factors influence biotic factors in an ecosystem. This leads to a great discussion on food availability (for animals in the north) deciduous trees dropping their leaves and a host of other adaptations due to season changes. Here's a picture of the lab setup. If you're looking for the complete lesson, check out my Ecology Lesson 1 for Middle School.
Fall gardening is a great opportunity for students. By choosing fast growing plants, student can grow, record and harvest plants. Not to mention its a great excuse to get outside. Each week we have students record the plant height, condition, weather and any other interesting notes. This year we grew radish and spinach the first months of school. Kids loved trying out some new veggies. In addition this provides a great data collection lesson for the scientific method. Don't worry if you didn't try it this fall, these same plant also grow well in the spring. Looking for a fun way to log data? Have kids create a slide show, one slide per day, include a picture with a ruler for scale.
One of my favorite ecology intro activities is biotic and abiotic factors on the sidewalk. Ask your students to go find examples of each, then bring them back to the sidewalk for discussion. Kids love getting outside and it provides a great opportunity for discussion.
This activity is included in my Ecology Lesson 1 with editable Google Apps and printable activities.
Testing paper towels is a great way to engage your students and have them experience science. Towels are cheap and easy to use. Measure how much water they can pick up, how fast it absorbs water or measure its strength. Data is easily portrayed in a graph. In the end, students can make recommendations based on their results. In this picture below, we are trying to determine the number of drops a paper towel can hold.
Looking for an easy way to plan this lab, check out my resource to learn more. Click Here.
Studying invasive species is a great opportunity in science class. Many of the organisms plague our ecosystems and out-compete native plants and animals. In this lesson I asked my students to take a clipping of Japanese Knotweed and bring it back to the lab to study this fast growing invasive. Here's a few things you can do.
1. Take scientific pictures, include rulers for scale
2. Study the roots, stems and leaves of these organisms.
3. Grow sample plant (contained in the classroom)
4. Research effective uses. Many of my students found recipes for invasive edible plant species.
5. Talk to kids about safe ways to control and destroy these plants.
From the teaching side, just be sure you understand how to dispose of these organisms. In our case we need to dry them and bag the plants before disposal to prevent the spread. Also research your states noxious weed list to be sure there is no specific law governing the organisms you are working with.
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