Thursday, July 21, 2016


I frequently assign reading passages to my students as homework. These are readings that are not from the text.  Many are from Discovery Education, but I use other sources also.  I posted about my favorite places to find good readings HERE.

I don't like to spend much class time reading - I prefer labs and discussions, but I strongly believe that reading non-fiction, scientific text is important.  So I search for articles that reinforce or extend what we are covering in class.  I include passages about current and historic events too.

Making a worksheet to go along with the readings is not very effective; kids are way too good at looking for answers without actually reading the information.  Still, I need to know that they have read it and are ready to spend a couple of minutes discussing what they read.  And there needs to be some type of accountability piece.

I found this strategy ( I don't remember where, if someone does, please let me know so that I can give credit where credit is due) and it works really well.  

On the page they students are to read, I put this:

As you read this article, mark the passages 
with these codes:

!  This is important.
√  I knew that.
X  This is different from what I thought.
?  I don’t understand

I made a sheet of address labels with this on them, so I can simply peel off a label and stick it to a paper before copying.  You can print a copy of my labels HERE.

A quick check of the papers lets me know if everyone did the assignment.  I don't take a grade, but not having it completed affects participation in my class.   It also gives a great way to start a discussion.  What was important about this?  What was a surprise? What is confusing?

This has been a painless way to get my students reading and discussing science!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Using a Microscope

Using the microscope is a skill that most 6th graders need to practice.  Even if they have used a microscope in elementary school, I find that many are still uncomfortable with using one.  Often they are afraid they are are going to break the 'scope or a slide.  And they are almost never sure of what they are seeing.

They only way around this is practice, lots of practice.  I have several investigations I use to help students get this practice.

You can find them HERE

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Science Practices

I am working to get my entire WEBSITE completely updated.  It is slow going because I spent so many years where I couldn't do much to it.  But page-by-page I'm getting there!
This week I gathered my new materials and organized all the resources I have teaching science practices and skills.

Like many science teachers, I have tried multiple ways of helping kids understand the "doing" part of science.
When I first started teaching, many, many years ago, I taught the "scientific method" as my introductory unit. As I grew and learned, I realized that wasn't the best way (since THE scientific method is not a real thing), but I still started the year with a pretty big "science processes" unit.

I eventually moved to teaching all skills through content only; with no skills unit at all.  This was not effective for me.  Trying to teach a skill and content at the same time resulted in neither being mastered very well.

I am back to starting the year teaching skills.  I do not spend nearly as long on it as I used to, but explicit instruction in certain skills, followed by deliberate and purposeful follow-up within content all year long is the best way for me to help my students learn both practice and content.

The Next Generation Science Standards include science practices as part of the student standards.  I really like this.  These standards make it clear that science is not just content, it is so much more.

However, some time spent on the skills that are part of the practices have proven very useful to my students.

My materials for practices and skills can be found HERE.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Mt. St. Helens

Every summer my husband and I take advantage of the fact that we are both teachers with a flexible summer schedule and visit some part of our beautiful planet.  For the last several years, we have been working our way through the National Parks.  My goal is to visit every park in the contiguous states at least.  There are a couple of remote parks in Alaska I know I won't get to :(

In June we toured the Pacific Northwest, including Crater Lake, Mt. Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades National Parks.  We also visited Mt. St. Helen's National Monument (run by the Forest Service, not the Park Service).

It was a spectacular day!  Cool and bright.  There was also an iridescent cloud above the mountain - just to make it even better!!

Flying home, I took a snap of the mountain from above, I could see the blown out spot really well.

It was incredible to see the mountain and the residual destruction up close.  I teach about it in class, but to experience it for myself is inspiring.  Plus it will make my instruction even better!

Find my new volcano resources HERE.