Monday, August 7, 2017

I'm thrilled to join 17 other secondary science teachers from Teachers Pay Teachers to celebrate the Back to School Season!

You have a chance to win one of five $100 gift cards to use in ANY store on Teachers Pay Teachers and you have an additional chance to win a $25 gift card to use in my TpT store!


Visit the other blogs for chances to win their individual giveaways and collect the secret phrases to enter the $100 gift card giveaway.










Here's how to enter the $25 gift card giveaway for my store:  


Choose ONE of these three options:

1.  Follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers
2.  Follow my blog
3.  Leave a comment on this blog post to finish the phrase:
          You could be a middle school teacher if...




Giveaway ends August 11th, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. EST.  Open to Residents of Earth only.  Winners will be selected at random and be notified by email.  Winners have 48 hours to confirm their email addresses and respond before a new winner is selected.  The product offered for the giveaway is free of charge, no purchase necessary.  My opinions are my own and were not influenced by any form of compensation.  Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram are in no way associated with this giveaway. By providing your information in this form you are providing it to me and me alone. I do not share or sale information and will use information only for the purpose of contacting the winner.

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Here's how to enter the $100 giveaway:  

Each blog post has a secret code word or phrase and a number.  The code words/phrases fit together in numerical order to make a secret sentence.  


My code phrase is: is not
Those two words fill positions #3 and #4 in the secret sentence.
Collect the words from each blog by clicking on the blog pictures below.  Write the collected words in numerical order, and copy the finished secret sentence into the joint Rafflecopter giveaway.

This Rafflecopter form is the same on every blog.  So you only need to enter once from any one of our blogs.


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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Don't Say This On The First Day Of School

Mark Twain once said "Holding a cat by the tail teaches you things you can't learn any other way."  I don't advocate holding cats by the tail.  But you'd certainly learn a lesson if you tried.  I learn a lot of things the hard way.  One of those hard lessons was learning what NOT to say on the first day of school.

All good teachers spend time planning how to introduce themselves, their class, and their expectations.  And we always hope that we'll inspire in our students a feeling of anticipation for the great things they'll be doing in our class this year.  It took me years to figure out that spending the first day with my new students on things like disclosure letters, class rules and notebook requirements was the absolute worst way to get kids enthused about my class.

A few years ago I made a complete shift in the way I spent that first day.  Of course I complied with anything the school required me to send home on that first day.  But other than that, I spent no time on "administrivia".

Here's what I did instead.  I developed a sort of "archaeological dig".  I emptied my purse onto a table at home and pulled out items that an archaeologist could use to learn about me.  I took photographs of them. And then I took some photographs of other things around my house that also provided clues about who I am and what my interests are.  The photographs were of things like a movie ticket stub, a grocery receipt, a dog leash, the copyright page from my favorite book, etc.


On the first day, I gave each small group of students copies of the photographs. Then I gave them this scenario:  "It's several hundred years in the future.  An archaeologist has discovered an ancient home and artifacts from that home have been carefully photographed.  Your job is to use your powers of observation to examine the artifacts and make as many inferences as you can about the occupants of that ancient home."

I was hopeful of course that students would be able to infer a great deal about me from the photographs.  But I was astonished at what they actually did infer. From the movie stub alone my students were able to infer that I traveled to Europe (they figured that out from the way the date was written on the ticket stub and from the price in euros), that I was middle class (had the money to travel), that I probably had at least one teenage son (the movie was a genre than teenage boys would enjoy), and that my son(s) must have accompanied me on the trip. They were able to make similar inferences from every other item, including inferences I don't think I would have made myself.  By the end of class, they'd pretty well established the approximate year of my birth (which was nowhere in the photographs) and a great deal of information about my life. We made a class list of the inferences by having each group report out one inference at a time until no group had more additions to make to the list. We discussed how each inference was made and from which artifacts. Students who had made fewer inferences learned by hearing how more successful groups made inferences. Kids were really engaged and a few even thanked me for not giving them another hour long lecture about class rules! 


This introductory activity launched my unit introducing the nature of science. Over the next couple of days I went over all of the class expectations and distributions of disclosure letters that we all do, but I just did them in smaller chunks of time.

On the first day of school this year, don't say "Welcome to my class, I'd like to go over my rules and expectations with you." Instead, create your own archaeological dig!

**COMING ON MONDAY 8/7/17 - A chance to WIN BIG with a Back To School Giveaway.** 

Check back Monday afternoon for a chance to win a $100 TpT gift card or a $25 gift card to my TpT store! 


The giveaway is live now!  Scroll up on my blog or click on the maroon blog title "UtahRoots" at the top of this page to be taken to my main blog page to enter the contest.  Every one of the 18 participating teacher/authors is giving away gift cards - no purchase necessary. 

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:  http://www.elabuffet.com &  http://desktoplearningadventures.blogspot.com

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!