Posts Tagged ‘middle school’

Junk Drawer Science

Junk Drawer Science is a new science curriculum company started by teachers with great resources for teachers.

Welcome to Junk Drawer Science: a result of years of frustration with the out-of-touch, and often-out-of date resources that have been available to us as teachers. We believe that it is time for a revolution in science education. The textbook should be relegated to its proper place. It should be a resource and no longer the focal point of our science classes!

Our mission is to provide engaging materials that stimulate learning in your students. We believe that science should not be expensive, and that the simplest lessons are often the most profound.

At the moment, they have three products available for purchase: a book full of great activities for middle and high school life science classes, a guide to using interactive notebooks in science class, and the game they created called “The Game of Evolution”.

I happen to teach with the Junk Drawer Science owners and can guarantee that their products are worth every penny. They have worked hard to develop curriculum and lesson tools that are effective in the classroom as well as easy to implement on a low (to non-existent) budget.

I guess that makes this a shameless plug: all in the name of providing the world with great teaching resources!

Unfortunately, they will not be at the NSTA conference in San Francisco, so for now, you will have to check them out online.

Student Teaching Week 11 & 12 [4/19-4/28]

MONDAY – 6th grade classes finished their presentations on ecoscenarios. I was observed for the last time during the 7th grade classes. I did a lesson on digestion and absorption of nutrients using the List-Group-Label (LGL) literacy strategy and differentiated levels of reading on the topic. The class went relatively well – the class was a bit rambunctious and I still haven’t found my classroom management groove with this age group, but they got the reading and activity done, so I can’t complain!

TUESDAY – A tear out my hair and never come back to school day. Haha, it wasn’t that bad, but the kids definitely pushed me to the edge. Even the regularly well behaved students were incredibly rude and there was absolutely no decorum. I don’t even think it had anything to do with my cooperating teacher being out today. There wasn’t much I could do except be consistent with inappropriate behavior and not condone any of these new behaviors.

WEDNESDAY – 7th graders finished their digestive system monologues and we combined them all into a fabulous bulletin board outside of the classroom. The kids were all excited to see their work on display!

THURSDAY & FRIDAY My cooperating teacher was out again, so I was on my own again. After Tuesday’s experience I was sort of dreading it, but I was up front with the kids and instated a new policy: if I have to speak to you more than one, you get a check next to your name and will be reported to the cooperating teacher. I hate having to threaten them, but since she is their ultimate science classroom authority, it worked! The 6th graders watched the National Geographic Video “Hawaii: Strangers In Paradise”. It is a fantastic documentary on the organisms of Hawaii and led to natural conversations about adaptations and advantages within a population!

On Friday, the 7th graders completed endocrinology based patient simulations and had to use their notes on the endocrine system, as well as an article on endocrine disorders common in children, to diagnose their “patient”. They all took the task seriously and worked diligently in teams to come to a diagnosis!

MONDAY, TUESDAY, WEDNESDAY – State Language Arts testing began, so the classes were all whacky. Plus, I developed some sort of upper respiratory infection and lost my voice! 6th grade continued talking about adaptations by completing the FOSS Ecosystems and Populations Walkingsticks Simulations. They enjoyed working together on the computers and did a great job graphing their results! 7th grade moved onto the nervous system and has been working hard to understand the significance and delicacy of this body system!

Wednesday was my last day of student teaching and I’ve got to admit that I was sad to say goodbye! I have plenty of frustrations with the middle school age group (who doesn’t), but I feel so fortunate to have had such a positive experience – the kids, faculty, and administration welcomed me to their school and embraced me. One girl even begged me not to move to Nevada so I could get a job at the school next year; I am so thankful to be ending the experience on such a good note!

I’ll miss the view from my classroom!

The end of student teaching means the end of this series of posts, but just get ready – in the fall I’ll start a series of my first year teaching!

Digestive System Monologues

We finished up the Digestive System by having students write monologues as if they were a part of the digestive tract (accessory organs such as the liver, gall bladder, kidneys, etc. included). Here’s the finished product:

Students presented their monologues in groups of two or three (there are two classes worth on monologues posted) and wrote them on colored paper for the bulletin board. This would be a great activity for any age group. With homeschoolers, you could even have each child write a monologue for each part – a great way to reinforce the content!

Great Intro to Endocrine System!

Today we started the endocrine system with the 7th graders. My cooperating teacher started the lesson by telling the following story written by Janet Weaver of Rosary School in Oklahoma City, OK:

Say (pausing …. after each suggestion): Close your eyes….Relax your feet….Relax your knees….Relax your thighs… Relax your stomach….Relax your hands….Relax your shoulders….Relax your chest….Relax your forehead. Imagine yourself in the middle of a beautiful field of flowers….The smell is sweet….the colors are all of your favorites….there is no pollen to irritate you….you are perfectly relaxed….the sky is blue, with only small puffs of white clouds…. You look around and see a small dirt road leading into the most beautiful grove of trees….you decide to follow the road into the trees….As you walk on the road, the temperature gets cooler….there are still flowers among the trees…. You see the road makes a sharp turn ahead, and as you walk around the turn you notice a house at the end of the road….It is not large, but it is not small either….The house is not well kept, but it is not falling down either….You can tell that someone lives there…. You decide to go up to the house to see if anyone there could give you a drink of water….You walk up to the house and up the 3 broken steps to the front door….The door is standing open a little as you knock….No one answers your knock, so you knock again, a little louder….Now you hear a muffled sound coming from far inside the house….You look into the front room of the house and see clothes laying around….a half full glass of milk….and a kitchen in the back…. You hear the sound again….so you call out….again you hear a muffled sound from the back of the house….You walk into the house….looking around as you go towards the kitchen…. In the kitchen you notice a door, half open leading into blackness….you open the door and see steps leading down….you hear the muffled sound a little louder now coming from beneath the stairs…. You begin walking down the stairs, into the darkness….your hand brushes up against the cool wall….At the bottom of the stairs you hear the muffled sound coming from your right, and as you turn towards it your hand feels a wetness on the walls….You walk v e r y slowly towards the sound….in the darkness….then A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A (teacher screams as loudly as possible) Open your eyes. What is your body doing right now????

The kids screamed and jumped out of their seats! We had a great conversation about how our bodies are designed to react to potentially dangerous situations without us even realizing it! 

To end the period, we watched the beginning of the Brain Pop Endocrine System video. It a bit longer than the average Brain Pop video, but its jammed full of great information!!

We’re going to continue the unit with a detailed power point on the system, the glands, and the enzymes/hormones involved – I’m not a huge power point fan, but the kids need opportunities to learn how to take notes! Friday we are going to do a patient simulation, where each table will receive a patient’s chart and try to diagnose which gland is not functioning properly based on their notes. I’m looking forward to seeing how they do :)

Student Teaching Week 10 [4/12-4/15]

Last week flew by so fast I forgot to write about it!

MONDAY – 7th grade classes did the lung capacity activity where they blew up a balloon in one breath and then calculated the volume of the balloon in order to determine their lung capacity. The first period, we split kids up and half the class worked with balloons while the other half used microviewers; the groups switched halfway through class. While it was a good idea to work with smaller groups of kids, chaos ensued. The second period, we just did the balloon activity and allowed students who finished sooner to work with the microviewers. I almost lost my cool with some students who would not focus, but I forced myself to be patient until the end of the period.

6th graders did some data analysis of an ecosystem with several populations as well as biotic and abiotic limiting factors. I love watching the kids sift through charts and be able to make meaningful conclusions. This was the third data analysis exercise in a row, so we were tempted to scrap it, but I’m glad we didn’t because it is a tremendous moment when the kids have gained enough skill from the first two attempts to successfully analyze complicated data!

TUESDAY – 7th graders had a quiz and watched the Magic School Bus episode on Digestion. The kids enjoyed watching and we did to! My favorite line from the episode: “In my old school we weren’t allowed to be digested.”

The 6th grade classes began research for their Ecoscenario projects. Each table was assigned an ecoscenario from the book; these included National Parks and preserved areas around the United States. Part of the assignment was to infer enough information from the articles given to create a food web. It’s amazing to me that they expect all the answers to be given. I had to explain countless times that the info should be inferred and not copied. It worked out well to assign the ecoscenarios as opposed to give students a choice since a brawl over Yellowstone National Park almost broke out!

WEDNESDAY – 7th grade officially began the Digestive System unit by discussing mechanical and chemical breakdown. 6th grade continued to work on their projects.

I covered two periods of the 12-1 class (a classroom for remedial students to have more one on one time with a teacher). It was a great experience and I loved the relaxed atmosphere. Each student had their own personal workspace and the room had its own fiction library. At one point, two students started verbally squabbling and quickly escalated to hurling insults and arguing. I recognized right away that I could not handle the situation and called the Vice Principal (who had already offered assistance if needed). I am glad I knew when I needed to ask for help and that the VP was there to support me. As soon as I called, the disagreement dissolved on its own. My training as a Writing Intensive Tutor in college came in handy since I spent both periods helping with their Biography assignment.

THURSDAY – my last day for the week since I took Friday off. The 7th grade classes learned more about the digestive system and had the opportunity to ask questions about anything related to the human body. We showed a plastic model with removable organs and the kids were totally grossed out; it was great! At one point a girl asked where a baby in utero would fit since the intestines are already squished up in the abdomen. The conversation continued down reproductive lines as another student asked about belly buttons. Finally, my cooperating teacher was trying to remember the word “placenta” and asked for the sac that carries the nutrients. One student rattled off every name in the female reproductive system and proudly announced to the class, “I’m the best at Sex Ed!”. It was hard to contain the giggles!

Only 2 weeks left of student teaching – I can’t believe it!

Student Teaching Week 9 [4/7-4/9]

A short week this week! The New York City public school vacation extended into this week, so we didn’t come back until Wednesday.

WEDNESDAY – First day back! The 6th graders were particularly quiet and studious. They completed a simulation which showed how limiting factors affect a population of milkweed bugs. We also watched the BrainPop clip on Human Population Growth. What a great website! Finally, the kids observed their milkweed bug habitats.

7th grade reviewed what they learned about the respiratory system before break by drawing the entire system and labeling the parts as well as drawing the alveoli and capillaries. Then we read about diseases that affect the lungs and did the List-Group-Label literacy exercise to review new vocabulary. It was really fun to have the whole class interacting as one to create the groups!

THURSDAY – The 6th grade studied an experiment from the FOSS Populations & Ecosystems curriculum that showed three data charts: the effect of temperature on hatching milkweed bugs, the effect of humidity on hatching milkweed bugs, and the effect of light on hatching milkweed bugs. The kids all determined temperature was the most important factor since below 10degrees and above 40degrees no eggs hatched. One student even made the astute observation that under no circumstances did all the eggs in a clutch (the packet of eggs) hatch. It’s so exciting to see them becoming scientists!

The 7th grade classes started the Respiratory Scavenger Hunt. They searched through several books on the respiratory system to answer questions given on the worksheet.

FRIDAY – The 8th graders were presenting their exit projects in a science fair format, so we spent half of each class reading the poster boards set up in the science room. This also meant we were displaced from our room, which provided new and interesting classroom management issues.

6th grade read another experiment on the abiotic limiting factors on algae and shrimp in Mono Lake. Students identified the most favorable conditions under which the most reproduction algae and shrimp is possible.

7th graders finished the scavenger hunt. We allowed them to use books, as well as each other, to complete the worksheet. Approximately 2/3 to 3/4 of the students finished all but one or two questions, so I should have left a couple of questions off since not having enough time provided students with a lot of anxiety. I was particularly frustrated with two students who are very intense about their academics; they were panicked that they were not complete and would get a bad grade. When I reviewed the packets, these students had only answered 3 of approximately 15 questions. I felt compelled to give them both a √- since their work was not satisfactory – I am planning on adding a note that they need to improve their time management skills.

Scavenger Hunt Activity

The following is a lesson I wrote using a literacy scavenger hunt to help students review and learn more about the respiratory system. There is a lesson plan, accompanying worksheet, and a reference page so you can try and find the books we found most useful.

While this lesson focuses on the respiratory system (for 7th grade), the activity itself can be altered to be more appropriate for any age level or content area.

Student Teaching Weeks 7 & 8

In week 7, I finished up my high school rotation and had a week to wind down!

WEEK 8:

MONDAY – I got to observe and assist on my first day for 6th grade lessons in Photosynthesis and 7th grade lessons in the circulatory system. The 6th graders are learning from the FOSS Populations & Ecosystems curriculum, which has some really great examples, questions, and discussion points. The kids seem to enjoy it. I especially liked the data table given in which the students determined by analyzing data that H20, Light, and C2. The kids definitely felt like investigative scientists! We had a discussion regarding photosynthesis and that it is so important for humans because plants are the base layer of the food web; we concluded that photosynthesis is possibly the most important chemical reaction on the planet.

One student came up to me and asked, “Are you a student teacher? We never get student teachers in science!” It was really wonderful to be welcomed so wholeheartedly!

TUESDAY – I spent the day making this in order to teach trophic levels on Wednesday. It was nice to have a prep activity to work on. I also had the opportunity to plan with the science teacher and special ed teacher for the mixed special ed and general ed class.

WEDNESDAY – We had an incident, so I got to experience the excitement of an “investigation”. As students and I were rounding the corner to the classroom, we heard a crash and saw glass falling from the ceiling. I hustled kids into a room and took statements for the Vice Principal while encouraging students not to conspire about what happened, but simply write what they observed. It was exciting to see they were very truthful. It turned out that a student jumped to hit the clock and the face of the clock shattered. When questioned by the Principal, the student fiercely denied it – even when the Principal pointed out the blood on the students’ hands. The teachers were overjoyed because this was the last straw in suspending an incredibly disruptive student who had not received any discipline for any of his behavior.

I also thought that the act of writing what they observed could be transformed into a great science activity/discussion – watch something and write all your observations. How does point of view change from person to person?

With the 7th graders, we did an activity from the SEPUP curriculum that modeled the circulatory system. The kids seemed to enjoy the chance to get outside and some commented on how it was a great illustration for them.

THURSDAY – My cooperating teacher was out, so I was able to teach on my own for the whole day! I had a great time :)

FRIDAY – Total chaos the day before break. I was exhausted at the end of the day.

I really enjoy the excitement of the middle school classroom, but I miss the high schoolers. I look forward to (hopefully) getting a high school teaching job!

Trophic Levels Lesson

Here’s a lesson based on the FOSS Populations & Ecosystems curriculum. It is basically a summary of the unit with a really fantastic bead model of the 10% Rule!

And just to give you an idea of what 1111 beads look like:

Engineering Design: Kosciuszko Bridge

There was an article in one of the New York Times’ blogs recently on the plans to rebuild the Kosciuszko Bridge on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in New York City. There’s also a video that shows a virtual tour and test drive of the bridge and an opportunity to vote and comment on the final bridge design to be started in 2014.

What a great opportunity for an engineering design project. You could analyze the different design proposals and discuss the benefits of each. It’s also a great chance to talk about the aesthetics involved in design and debate their importance. Finally, kids could team up to build scale models of their favorite proposed design!