Thursday, March 16, 2017

How to Get and Keep 100% Engagement When Spring Has Sprung.

Every class has "that kid". The one whose hand seems spring-loaded to shoot up whenever you ask a question. And in every class "that kid" is out-numbered by those who have mastered the art of never getting called on and never volunteering. And then there's that moment when someone you least expected to answer a question raises their hand. Engagement! You call on them! And they ask if they can go to the restroom. Sigh. Take all of those possibilities, add spring weather and student engagement threatens to go out the nearest window.  Is resistance futile? The good news is, it's not.  You can still keep students engaged after spring break and I'm going to share an easy way to do it.

The key is demanding engagement.  Easier said than done, you think.  But really, it's all about the questions you ask and the responses you expect.  Questions are not created equal. There are three basic kinds and they each get a different result.

The first kind of question is the "Assessment Question"  It's the one you're using when you say "Andrea, what are four ...".   The second the word Andrea comes out of your mouth, all other students are free to mentally check out.  You will find out what Andrea knows (or doesn't know).  But you won't learn a thing about anybody else and you're allowing disengagement.  It won't help to say "What are the four..." with Andrea's name tacked on to the end.  The issue is that you're not demanding engagement and you won't get it. From anybody except possibly Andrea.

The second kind of question is the "Open Question".  It's a fishing expedition.  It starts with "Who can tell me..."  Before you finish asking the whole question the spring-loaded kid has her hand up waving wildly.  You wait.  You remind yourself about wait time.  You count to ten, waiting.  Another hand tentatively goes up.  You keep waiting.  Another hand or two go up.  You call on someone.  And they ask to go the bathroom. Or they give a perfectly cogent and correct answer.  Or they are so wrong that you have to think at the speed of light for a way to respond that is respectful but leads to someone else who might answer correctly.  You'll find out what the few volunteers know (or don't know).  But you won't know what anybody else knows.  And since you phrased the question as a request for volunteers, the kids who would sooner die than answer a question out loud in class won't volunteer.  Don't make the mistake of thinking they don't want to participate or don't know the answer.  Any number of things can keep a kid from responding.

Most ELL (English Language Learner) students have a period of months in the stage of language acquisition where they are receptive to and understanding English but are silent because they lack confidence. Even native English speakers may hesitate to speak up.  They might fear being ridiculed, especially if they have a history of being bullied.  They might not want to appear to be "nerdy".  Or they might be anxious about not having the right answer. You'll never get voluntary oral participation from those kids, even if what they have to say is spot on.  

It's the third kind of question that will get those kids - and everyone else - to stay engaged and give you an answer.  Not surprisingly, this kind of question is called an "Engagement Question".  It requires a response.  There are many versions of engagement questions.  They usually start with the expected response.  "Raise your hand if..."   "Stand up if...."   "Turn to a partner..."  Often, engagement questions will result in an action like turning to the partner but what happens next may or may not give you any good information.  You can't hear what they say to their partner.  They might very well be raising their hand simply because the majority of other students are raising their hands.  What makes a GOOD engagement question is a required answer, not just an action.  

I've created a set of what I call "response cards".  Response cards are like the answers to a multiple choice question.  You ask the question, the students pick a response card.  On your command, they hold up their response in unison.  You see what EVERY student is thinking.  A critically important reason to use response cards is that students who might be reluctant to speak up will have a safe way to participate.  You will see responses from every single student and be able to make a judgment about whether to proceed with your lesson or stop and clarify or review concepts. 

Response cards don't have to be used for questions that have only right or wrong answers.  They can be used to indicate agreement or disagreement.  They can be used in situations that require conditional answers (True, if..  Yes, except.. and so on). 

And you can even use them with multiple choice questions that you project on a screen by giving students response cards A, B, C, and D.    

If you like the idea but don't have the time to create all the possible cards, I've got a very complete set (that even includes number answers for calculation questions) you can see HERE

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Science, Fake News, and Bias


We science teachers have not done our job.  Yes, we teach about dependent and independent variables, we lead students through some version of the scientific method.  We teach them about sample sizes and control groups.  We teach the difference between observation and inference, and the definitions of hypothesis and theory.

But the fact that there are adults in this country who can't differentiate between bad science and good science and are not capable of recognizing faked or biased science on social media or when reading a newspaper article or watching TV is an indictment of us.  We haven't made the connections between what scientists do in a laboratory and what the average citizen must do every day.  We need to change that.

When you and I watch an ad on T.V. for a weight loss product that promises "up to" ten pounds of weight loss in eight weeks, we scoff.  Millions of Americans click.  When you and I see a Facebook post claiming that "SHOCKING!!" new evidence has been uncovered that climate change is a "HOAX!!" we roll our eyes.  Millions of Americans "share". We have a responsibility to change that.

We need to TEACH students how to recognize bad science, fake science, and biased science.  We need to give them practice recognizing bad science on social media.  We need to give them opportunities to discuss the nuanced spectrum of bias in science.  I'm retired now, but I feel a personal responsibility to help teachers who are still in the classroom to make a difference.  I've created a free resource How To Spot Bad Science Online and on Social Media to help any teacher who wants to be part of creating a generation of American citizens who recognize and dismiss bad science in their daily lives. Please download and use it.  Make change happen.

I'm joining with many other TpT teachers to offer resources for making positive social change, and for creating a kinder and more informed citizenry. Join us please.  Download the "forever free" resources you can find on Teachers Pay Teachers, using the hashtags #kindnessnation and #weholdthesetruths in your search.

And I'm happy to also join in with a Secondary Smorgasbord Blog Hop Jan. 20 - 23rd
Hosted by: &

Links to other fabulous resources will rotate below

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A New Year really IS a New Year!

Boy THAT was the world's shortest holiday break!  And now it's time to go back.  Can I share a tip? Going back to school after a long holiday break really is like starting a new school year and you should treat it like one.

In my work as an instructional coach with struggling teachers I've seen what happens if you don't take some time to review with kids your expectations for behavior.  Things go downhill in a hurry. It might sound ridiculous, but you really do need to re-teach your basic classroom routines, especially those that kids have been too relaxed with.  Try framing it with kids as a chance to "start over".

Not only can they use that chance, but so can you.  If there are changes in your organizational structure that you've been contemplating, such as introducing interactive notebooks, or getting serious about exit activities or warm-ups or making changes to your homework requirements, this is a PERFECT time to do that.  You don't have to wait until next school year.  Treat this coming week as if it IS a new school year.

If you're really not going to start new routines or new procedures, that's fine too. But you still need to revisit your existing management routines.  If you take the time to do that, it will be worth it!

And about those lesson plans.  I know.  You just want ONE more day of holiday.  You are SO not up for spending the day planning lessons.  You might be desperately trying to figure out if you can make a curriculum connection to a popular movie.  Or maybe you just want to haul out that giant review packet of worksheets... But no.  That would not be the best idea you ever had.

You need to go back with something that is engaging for kids and delivers serious content in an effective way.  That's not a description of your textbook, right?  So here's an idea.  I've put everything in my store on sale for one day only - today Jan. 1, 2017.  Everything is 20% off - which really matters after blowing the budget for the holidays!  Come take a look at engaging well-designed resources that will ease you back into the routine with NO PREP!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Day 5 of Holiday Cheer!

If you've been checking back every day this week to see what the new day of cheer has brought you, you're about to be rewarded!

Just click on the link below and you'll be taken to a ENORMOUS bundle of science teaching resources from many top science sellers on Teacher's Pay Teachers.  AND IT'S ALL FREE.

Happy Holidays!  

Click Here!

The file will be available until Dec. 19th.  Thanks for all you do every day!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Day 4 of Holiday Cheer!

We're almost to the finish line!

During the holiday, I hope you'll take time to relax.  But when you start thinking about lesson planning consider this:  Students of all ages are engaged by novel activities they haven't done often.  And even secondary students enjoy coloring.

I'm going to make it easy for you to create a color-by-number activity for your next unit.  It really doesn't matter what the unit is.  If you can create multiple choices quiz questions for the unit, then you can create a color-by-number activity instead!

I've done the hard part for you.  I've created the images and inserted editable text boxes into the sections of the picture.  You will need the PowerPoint application.  All you have to do is write questions and link the correct answer to the correct color.  Complete instructions are included with each of my editable color-by-number templates.

Today only:  Purchase one of my color-by-number editable templates from this list.  Then, email me a copy of your TpT receipt to - along with your request for a free template.  This offer is good ONLY on marked editable color-by-number templates from the list below.  It does not apply to non-editable products in which I have used my own color-by-number images.  It does not apply to any bundle of color-by-number products.


Bat                      Wolf                        Bear                     Camel                  Giraffe

Red Fox               Cats                        Misc Animals

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Day 3 of Holiday Cheer!

It's hump day!  (And for some, the last day before the holiday break!)  I have to admit that being retired is especially sweet this week!

The last day or two before the holiday feels like hanging on by your fingernails.  In the back of your mind, though, is the idea that somehow before you come back to school you'll have everything reorganized and come back rested and ready with a couple of weeks of lesson plans ready to go.  Yeah, right.  Chances are decent that you'll start thinking about coming back to school around Jan. 1st - maybe.

Why not REALLY be prepared this year?  Take advantage of 25% off to get a bundle of resources that will give you a truly restful holiday, knowing you're all ready for coming back at the end of the holiday?
Check out one of these bundles:

Chemistry Unit                       Ecology Unit                     Heredity/Genetics

Cell Organelles                       Nonfiction Reading for Science        Pre-assessments and Reflections


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Day 2 of Holiday Cheer!

Happy Tuesday!  For Day 2 of the 5 Days of Cheer, I'm offering 50% off my Gingerbread Genetics activity!  

The holiday party is over and it's time for the Gingerbread kids and parents to go home.  But which kids go home with which parents?

Students use Punnett Squares to help them determine which kids and parents go home together.  It's a great activity just before or just AFTER the holidays because of the storyline that the holiday party is over.

At 50% off, you'll pay only $1.75!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Happy Monday! It's Day 1 of the 5 Days of Holiday Cheer promotion! 
If your lesson planning mojo is waning, (or if this morning's shower did not result in inspiration) come take a look around and get 20% off anything in my store!  Check out these custom categories!

Earth Science (and be sure to pick up my FREE Winter Solstice puzzle!)

Chemistry        Environment/Ecology

Genetics           Human Body

Classification    Nonfiction Reading for Science

Cells                  Color-by-Number

Saturday, November 12, 2016



I'm so grateful for all of the support you've given me this year! Since we're all counting down for the last day of school before our winter break, I'd like to make the week a little bit brighter by offering some gifts, deals, and a big surprise on Friday!  

Every day from Dec. 12 - 15 I'll announce right here a holiday give-away or discount.  Each deal will only be good for one day, so you won't want to miss visiting my blog beginning tomorrow morning (Monday Dec. 12)! 

A Safe Classroom

This week many of my teacher friends have shared heart-breaking stories about the acts and expressions of hate they have witnessed in their schools and neighborhoods.  All teachers want their students to feel safe, because we know that no child can learn when his or her basic need for physical and emotional safety is threatened.

I wanted to do something to help teachers help their students.  I wanted them to have something they could use to reassure their students that they are safe in the classroom.  And so I created two Safe Classroom door signs.  One is in English and one is in Spanish.  They're free.  Just click HERE  to be taken to the page where you can download them.  (They're both in the same PDF file.)

I hope they'll help you and your students to re-establish or maintain a safe classroom community environment.  Best wishes and virtual hugs to all of you.  Now, more than ever, you have the most important job in the world.