Google forms are a versatile tool for use in the classroom. They allow you to collect information, quiz students and organize data. Consider having students use Google Forms to collect information on class projects. For example, in science we look at 24 different specimens of life. Over the year’s students would create labels for each jar, then they could cut and organize them into different groups. To improve this activity, I created a Google form that each student uses to collect information. They fill out a form ticket for each jar and the ticket populates a spreadsheet they can use to analyze data after the activity. The same method could be used for observations of daily events, daily writing prompts or even vocabulary tickets. The best part is there are no lost notebooks and sorting data in a Google Spreadsheet is a snap. The following are video instructions from my animal classification lab. This lab requires students to collect data from 24 preserved specimens, then analyze it in Google Sheets
Looking for some extra funding in your classroom? I always am. DonorsChoose.org offers a CS first coding activity. Any students in grades 3 to 8 can complete this. Once complete, they will offer you a 100 dollar DonorsChoose.org gift card. Not a bad deal for less than an hours work.
Follow this link to learn more.
Google classroom provides a great way to share content with your classes. Using Google Forms makes an easy way to create quizzes and ask questions. In addition you can replace a variety of activities in your class with a Google Sort. From simple labeling activities to vocabulary concepts, these sorts provide a student activity that is easy and effective for classroom use. The following video details the steps in making a Google sort for your classroom. Example product links are at the bottom of the page.
One of the challenges of managing 1 to 1 or hybrid classrooms is keeping track of all the different computer assignments students complete. In my classroom alone, we use the following sites. . .
One of the simple tools I use in my classroom is digital make up slips. This is for any make up assignment that students do after the class has moved on. This gives me a physical reminder to go into a specific learning website and check their work. It also provides uniform documentation for parents. This can be sent home, emailed or texted to parents when they ask about make up work. Click the link below for a free copy of this resource.
Looking to liven up your middle school classroom? Battle bell ringer are the best solution. The basic idea is over the course of a week, change one bell ringer day to require students to compete against each other. Either through an academic challenge, physically building something from cheap materials or an electronic game format. As soon as your students see the words “Battle Bell Ringer” they get curious and excited. Here’s an example.
Students learning about the solar system have been investigating various planets. For the start of class, I have students do a “Science Stacker” bell ringer. The group that comes in first gets a fabulous prize. Prizes can range from a free pass to the water fountain, a “gold card” redeemable for a prize or some other small treat (that meets school guidelines). This creates a win-win for you as a teacher, kids are excited to come to your class and students have fun while reviewing an academic concept.
Looking for great free resources for your classroom? This year's FIRST Lego League challenge “Into Orbit” is free and available for download. Every year students across the country participate in local events where teams create innovative projects and compete in project games. You have to register to receive the project game materials however, you can use the free project documents to inspire your students to create an innovative project related to exploring our solar system. Here are inks to check it out
Project documents FLL into orbit resource library.
FLL Youtube Channel
Teachers have more instructional choices than ever before. Online lessons, classroom simulations, centers, discussion groups, videos to name a few. How do educators strike a balance meeting curriculum goals, state standards and keeping busy middle school students engaged? Mini lessons are key components to this goal. Every week they are built into science lessons and they help students connect topics and understand larger goals.
What is a mini lesson
A small 15-minute direct instruction lesson where the teacher introduces, reinforces or challenges students to learn a topic. For example, when my student engages in the Bouncing ball lab, a classic science lab where students graph the relationship between drop height and rebound height. Prior to the start of this activity, we do a brief discussion on data types and analysis of data. This sets them up perfectly understand why they are studying data in science lab. Mini lessons depart from a traditional classroom lecture in the length of time, rather than a 40 minute teacher led session, these are broken down into smaller segments more suited for middle level students.
What is a mini lesson made of?
Bell Ringer (3 to 5 minutes)
Students need to be engaged quickly at the start of class, bell ringers can be anything you can bend, twist or connect to the lesson. The other day I posted stats from students favorite NFL team and asked them if the stats indicated a win or a loss (drawing conclusions!). Or when doing a genetics problem to open class themed after sponge bob, while playing a Sponge Bob music track, kids loved it. On a side note, it was fun to watch 8th graders (who are too cool for about everything) sing Sponge Bob. Aside from getting kids on track at the start of class, these also serve as great classroom management tools (Busy hands are happy hands!)
Core Lesson Next 10 Minutes
This is the section where you get to talk, ask questions, probe and activate your learners on a subject. I specifically target these to our “objectives” which are classic learning goals. Speak with enthusiasm, teach like your hair is one fire. This is the most fun part of teaching. This is where kids connect to the person that is their teacher. Don’t be afraid to add kids to your discussion, I frequently throw kids into black holes (talking about scientific theories), push kids off the roofs (scientific laws) in these sessions. Kids laugh. The minute you speak a student’s name in this type of session you will be sure to get smiles. In addition, high quality visuals help connect students to the concepts being taught especially your visual learners.
During this session notetaking skills are taught. Students need to be able record thoughts, ideas and concepts to review and reflect upon later. I like the Cornell note method because of the Summary section you find at the bottom of the page. The summary is perfect for a next day bell ringer or end of class closure session. It is essential to have kids reflect on what they learned in a few sentences within 24 hours, this goes a long way developing long term learning. I generally provide some sort of incomplete notes for kids. This ensures I am meeting my students IEP requirements. I would rather err on giving everyone help, then ignore kids who need it.
Length of Mini Lessons
Mini lessons need to be adjusted based on grade levels. Sixth grade would be closer to 10 minutes while Eighth graders could be stretched to 20 minutes. Each grade level in unique and you will find that pacing and on task behavior linked. Eight graders preparing for high school can handle longer sustained sessions, with deeper questions and a faster pace than sixth graders.
What do I do afterwards?
This is where classic middle school activities come into play. Lab activities, cooperative learning groups, individual practice follow the mini lesson. This allows kids to get up and move, apply what they learned and explore different concepts. Mini lessons connect the dots between lesson activities and major course concepts. Middle school kids move from one place to the next, its important to give them opportunity to reflect and grow. Additionally face to face group teaching provides that personal connection that students crave.
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What if Jupiter was a star?