Friday, October 30, 2009

Week 10, Day 5: Nerd day and Friction and those dang assesments

It's anti-drug week at our school...and today is the day before Halloween...and in a fun mix of the two, today is NERD DAY.

I have had a great week. Busy and productive and Fun. NO stress as is often the case. We started with the Computer cannon lab, then had a notes and video day, and then today Bill Nye Friction and begin the Friction Lab (sliding and then rolling bricks over 3 surfaces to measure force). After 3 labs the students have got data tables, averaging trials, and performing a lab going smooth.

I'm feeling like I'm running out of time for the force unit and am not going as fast enough. I tend to use lab write ups as my class assessments. Unfortunately tests run my state and my district. I hate tests. The only test I really want to use is a good lab write up. Now we have to go back to giving our state benchmarks after about a two year break. Ahh. We have to use a system called EDUSOFT. If you don't print the forms just right they are worthless. Often the scanners don't work...Usually the scanners don't work. Ahh...I hate tests. I know they are necessary evil but...blahhhh!

Hope this helps,

Love to Teach and Teach with Passion

Remember...It's not Magic, It's Science

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Week 10, Day 4: Student Work Folders

Today's Best Practice: Student Work folders. Have one for each student to store their work.

This is convenient for the student and for me. If we do not finish a lab I can have the kids store their work in there. If I need to go to a parent-teacher meeting I can pull their work to bring with me. I can also pull a piece of student work to use an example for another student to see.
If I want to return work without passing papers back during class time, I can have an assistant file the assignments.
These is a good alternative to the trash can. One school I was at had PORTFOLIO DAY. Keeping the folders allowed kids to have access to their previous work.

In the past I have had students keep a log of their scores and grades in their folders and we update every two weeks.
Hope this helps,
Love to Teach and Teach with Passion
Remember...It's not Magic, It's Science

Week 10, Day 4: Word Walls

Today's best practice: Create a vocabulary word wall for new or weird terms.

We have a large E.L. population at our school. We have been using many E.L. strategies to help these students to succeed for years.

E.L. strategies are just really good best-practices.

One is the word wall. I realized that the word wall helps ALL STUDENTS.
Exert. Magnitude. Property. Left/Right, Contact. These are not the hard sciency words that our curriculum is filled with. Put up a word wall.

Below is a list of Strategies I was given by a former Colleague, Heather Marsh. Thank you Heather.
Look these over. They are common sense. It’s good to be reminded of good sense. I bet you will say, "I do that in my room"
Matrix of Strategies and Objectives Reading

Read Aloud

Shared Reading

Guided Reading

Independent Reading

Choral Reading

Readers Theater

Partner Reading

Literature Study
· Whole Group Lesson
· Small Group Guided
· Self-Selected Writing
· Conferencing
· Write Aloud
· Shared Writing
· Interactive Writing
· Language Experience
·Writing Workshop • Author's Chair
Word and Language Study
· Word Wall
·Vocabulary Lesson • Vocabulary Review
Oral Language Strategies
· Blow the Roof Off
· Tea Party
· Information Gap
·Mix/Match • Four-in-One
Vocabulary Strategies
· Frayer Model Word Box
· ABC's ofIt All
· "Q" is for duck
·Vocabulary Foldable • Vocabulary Weave
Cooperative Structures
· Expert Groups
· Think-Pair-Share
· Rally Robin

Hope this helps,

Love to Teach and Teach with Passion

Remember...It's not Magic, It's Science

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Week 10, Day 2 : E-mail Battles

STOP. Don't allow yourself to get pulled into an E-mail chain battle with a parent (or anyone else)

If you and a parent have a disagreement and cannot work it out in 2 messages. STOP. Either call and talk, or ask your learning director to mediate a personal meeting. Usually a call from the LD stops the problem. It also provides a new perspective. Maybe your 100% right! Maybe your 20% wrong!

I don't like long E-mail discussions. They take a ton of time and people are quicker to resolution, and nicer, when you talk.

Hope this helps,

Love to Teach and Teach with Passion

Remember...It's not Magic, It's Science

Week 10, Day 1: "Return Lessons"- Make them an easy day for YOU!

When absent from your classroom for a while make your return lesson easy and or enjoyable. Whether gone for business, sickness, or a school holiday, give yourself a nice day.

My return lesson from this past weekends's conference is the "Cyber Cannon Lab". Shooting cannonballs at a target, reviewing some terms and leading a few new ones like: Ballistic and parabola, and more practice making graphs.

I planned three weeks ahead for this and got the library computers reserved. I did not have to worry about my lesson as a weary returning traveler.

See my school website for the lab and powerpoint notes.

Hope this helps,

Love to Teach and Teach with Passion

Remember...It's not Magic, It's Science

Saturday, October 24, 2009


No nervousness or butterflies presenting this year. I was well prepared. It was nice be presenting so early and on a Friday. Get it over quick and focus on the conference.

My session on READING PASSAGES AND VIDEO CLIPS IN THE SCIENCE CURRICULUM was at 8:00 a.m. I was worried that nobody would show up. I managed a crowd of about 30 people. I was pleased. They had a good time and I gave away a few books and I gave away 10 “Equation triangles of Science” shirts (donated by my wife’s business JANET’S EMBROIDERY and imprinting).

It continues to amaze me how the things we teachers develop can be appreciated if we would SHARE THEM. I had several people tell me they have been to every one of my sessions since I started in 2001. I was pleasantly surprised to hear this. It is nice to be appreciated.

It also made me feel responsible to keep presenting a GREAT SESSION. I define a great session as one that you can go away with something that can be used on Monday and hopefully some material that can be adapted and modified to the persons taste and style and I hope people will have a fun time.
Next year I will present a session on EASY TO MAKE ALUMINUM-CAN STEAM ENGINES. In the past I did sessions on a whole unit. Now I’m focusing on a lab or activity within a unit

Hope this helps,

Love to Teach and Teach with Passion

Remember...It's not Magic, It's Science

Friday, October 23, 2009

Week 9, Day 4 Traveling to a, anticipation, and laughter

Paul, Kendia, Gavin, Mary, and I spent 7 hours driving from Fresno to Palm Springs. It was a total blast. Like being a kid again.

I believe that a conference is a gift YOU give to your self

It's nice if the district will pay your way. That will not always happen. I have often spent my own money and dragged my tent trailer to a KOA campground. I have slept on the floor of my colleagues room. I have even used a sick day to cover the sub.

You need to go. It's fun. You are surround by other science teachers. It is fun to see what our distant colleagues look like.

You get to be inspired by guest speakers. Over the years I have enjoyed Bob Ballard (Titanic, thermal vents, JASON), Ira Flatow from NPR:Science Friday, The Myth Busters, Jane Goodall, Dr. Glenn Seaborg ( element 106 named after him), Bill Nye and others.

At a conference you get a change of scene, you get to out for dinner and drinks with your colleagues.

I'VE BEEN LUCKY, I'VE ALWAYS HAD SOME COLLEAGUES AND FRIENDS TO GO WITH. This really increases the fun factor. If you don't have anyone to go with, bring your spouse, your significant other, your mother or dad or Bro or Sis or Son or Daughter ,or just your best friend.


I have also found lots of labs and activities, goodies, toys, lab equipment, T-shirts and FREE STUFF!

This is great professional development for credential renewal.

If you present, You will be amazed how appreciative people are for what you have shared. It makes you feel appreciated. It's good for the soul.

If it's a textbook adoption year you WILL BE WINED AND DINED! We got a free harbour cruise dinner in San Francisco several years ago. (kinda makes you feel like a congress person surrounded by lobbyists)


I Hope this helps,

Love to Teach and Teach with Passion

Remember...It's not Magic, It's Science

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Week 9, Day 3: Getting behind---Student Self-Grading

I'm about 4 days behind in my grading. I've been preparing for presenting at the California Science Teachers conference and I'm a bit behind on my grading.

I covered a class for my young colleague Sean Marzolf. His class had just finished the F=ma lab that I mentioned a couple of days ago. I have 6 stacks of that same lab to grade. Mr. Marzolf had the kids grade their labs.
He had every part of the lab write up on the main board and on smaller dry erase boards.
This was totally cool.
He had each part clearly labeled and how much it was worth. He is a genius!. All those years I spent at my kids soccer games grading papers was not necessary.
He told me with 200+ kids to teach and papers to grade there is no way he could grade them all.
I'll try this, it seems like it would be a good way to let kids see their mistakes and fix them and save me some time.
Hope this helps,
Love to Teach and Teach with Passion
Remember...It's not Magic, It's Science

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Week 9, Day 2: Being a Good teacher.

I'm preparing for the California Science Teachers Conference. I am a presenter. It's a lot of work but you all are worth it. Now, being a good teacher.

It's easy. have passion for what you teach. Also it helps if you plan ahead.
This is from a sign in my Colleague, Jeff Hodges, room:

A good teacher challenges,
asks, annoys,
irritates and maintains
high standards.
All that is generally
not pleasant.
I like that.
Here is another one:
An excellent teacher:
1. is prepared for class.
2. treats students with respect
3. only teaches what is important for students to know
4. creates lessons that are well designed and fun.
5. gives immediate feedback.
6. communicates with and involves parents
7. continually grows professionally
8. cooperates effectively with his colleagues and administrators.
9 has a life outside the classroom
10. spends time talking with students and being a real person.
11. have TOTAL passion for their subject.
Heck, I think I need to make this a daily self grade sheet for my self.
Hope this helps,

Love to Teach and Teach with Passion

Remember...It's not Magic, It's Science

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Week 9, Day 1: Newtons laws

I made 3 labs to go with each of Newton's Laws.

Inertia: Roll cars down a ramp measuring distance rolled. Add mass to change inertia.

As an alternative to the car lab I have a set of INERTIAL BALANCES that work slick too.

F=ma: Slide 1, then stack of 2, then stack of 3 identical books across lab table measuring Newtons of force needed to pull the books. Keep acceleration the same my pulling at the same speed. Not real exciting...but accurate.

3rd law: Make a steam engine out of an aluminum can. See the steam jets action force move the can in a spinning motion (reaction force). Some of my colleagues are afraid to use Bunsen burners and do the balloon on a string action/reaction lab. THIS LAB IS HIGH BANG FOR THE BUCK.

Hope this helps,
Love to Teach and Teach with Passion
Remember...It's not Magic, It's Science
All my materials are available at my web site:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Week 8, Day 5 : How to make a Video Sheet

If you show a video you need a video question sheet.
Videos are cool...unless you pick one that sucks. Don't do this to kids.

Video Sheet. You decide on how long. Maybe you will only have 3 questions or you might have 30. If you don't have a sheet, many students may stop paying attention. Make sure to have a question for the very end of the video, even if you have to make a fake question up. I recommend you have several reflection/summary questions including WHAT'S THE MOST INTERESTING THING YOU LEARNED IN THIS VIDEO?

Make sure the video you show is worth the time... and not just filling time.

I suggest you make the video sheet 1/2 page if it is a an informative video like a Bill Nye show. Tape the video sheet in their notebook. If you need to verify they did it then walk around with a clip board and check it off.

As a kid I LOVED VIDEOS! Okay, they were MOVIES in my day. I learned things really well in that format. I wouldn't read anything, rarely do my homework and often was clueless about what the teacher was doing...BUT I FOCUSED 100% ON THE MOVIES. I think a lot of kids are the same way.
Hope this helps,

Love to Teach and Teach with Passion

Remember...It's not Magic, It's Science

Friday, October 16, 2009

Week 8, Day 4: 100% homework turn in.

Todays Best practice: Dismiss each row one at a time and stand at the end of the row collecting each paper.

You have to make it clear that the HW is due at the end of the period. Today they could work double-time on unfinished HW while watching a Bill Nye video. This kills em, they rather watch the movie.

I dimiss the kids who did the work on-time first. I can tell by the stamp I put on their papers at the beginning of class.

If possible I make them stay a few minutes after the bell... Like a micro detention. They hate this. Hopefully they'll do it on time from now on.

Hope this helps,

Love to Teach and Teach with Passion

Remember...It's not Magic, It's Science

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Week 8, Day 3: Are my standards slipping?

The Inertia lab has spanned 3 days now. I use to have this done in a day and due the next day. Am I not as good as I use to be? Am I better now than before? Am I just working with a different bell schedule and kids and just making adjustments?
Can the answer be YES to all three? Can dog people marry cat people?

A student asked me today, after hearing this is my 22nd year teaching 8th graders, "Isn't it boring doing the same thing?" My answer is, "No, I get better at what I do, I improve my lessons and delivery and I really love teaching and science."

I'm pacing my lessons differently this year. That's good. I have less energy than I did on my 20's and 30's... That's life. I am a better teacher, and still improving.

Cat people can marry dog people...the dogs need something to chase!

Hope this helps,

Love to Teach and Teach with Passion

Remember...It's not Magic, It's Science

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Week 8, Day 2: Updating Grades

I try to post new grades on the wall every week.

I am constantly grading papers. I have a good student assistant in my class, and my son at home to transcribe grades from student work to my grade/roll book.

I spend a lot of time in my room at lunch with kids if they decide to show up. Often I'm in such a rush to get scores in the computer that I sometimes forget to review each kid's grade. It's important to do so and them pull the kids in during lunch to make up work or get help.

I recommend this but you have to pace yourself make sure every other day or so you get out of your room at lunch.

Hope this helps,

Love to Teach and Teach with Passion

Remember...It's not Magic, It's Science

Week 8, Day 1: Add a visual to your notes

When I give notes I always try to have a video clip or animated webpage to view. Set a time limit on your self. We can take a lot more time than we think when talking. Today I gave notes on force and Newton's 1st law. I kept it short and put in 2 four minute EUREKA series videos and visited a cool website that shows animations explaning how Galileo used a thought experiment to create the law of inertia. It was per fect mix of notes, video and web.

Hope this helps,

Love to Teach and Teach with Passion

Remember...It's not Magic, It's Science

Monday, October 12, 2009

Week 7, Day 5: Don't waste a test.

Today's Best Practice: Testing Lemonaid. Make any test you give a good representation of what you have been studying. Cut and paste of you need, but if you are going to take time away from instruction make sure the test is really good. I got to school an hour early to cut and paste. This after almost an hour last night planning what to put in the quiz.

Our textbook premaid tests are okay. Not great. So I took the good, added a new section with the word processor and rearranged to make a good quiz.

I thought we'd have plenty of time to start on the next unit's notes but after the review questions (which I review very well) we barely had time to grade papers. I offer the kids the option of having me grade their quiz (some kids don't like others to see their scores) but it will take a day for them to get their results.

Hope this helps,

Love to Teach and Teach with Passion

Remember...It's not Magic, It's Science

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Week 7, Day 4: If you need to...apologize.

Two days ago I got grumpy/impatient with my period 1 class. I thought we had prepared the Speed lab graph the previous period. We hadn't, and instead of restarting the lesson I ran from group to group helping them. I was impatient and not real pleasant when I'd arrive at a group expecting to number a graph and find that they had not even averaged their time or calculated speed yet.

2 weeks ago we had an assembly during period 1. I was gone that day and had a sub and a movie planned for the day. I should have just canned the movie for period 1 after the lost time but I choose to show it 10 minutes a day to allow them to finish. We are almost a day behind now.

Today in period 1 I apologized to them for being impatient and grumpy. I felt better and they looked surprised.

Hope this helps,

Love to Teach and Teach with Passion

Remember...It's not Magic, It's Science

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Week 7, Day 3: GO! to a Conference

I went to a few CUE (computer using educator) conferences in the early 90's.
They were okay.
...and I never stopped going.

I teach in California so I am a member of the California Science Teachers Association. I went to my first C.S.T.A. conference about '93 and it was soooo cooool. Great stuff in the exhibit hall, Interesting sessions put on by fellow science teachers, seminars, lectures, guest speakers, eating out, shots of Jack, and getting to be goofy for a while. IT WAS LIKE BEING BACK IN COLLEGE AGAIN FOR A WEEKEND. My friends and colleagues Dave and Paul and I decided then that we would go to every C.S.T.A. conference even if we had to pay our way and camp out. (We met a very interesting guy a few years later at the K.O.A. campground in Sacramento one night about 11:00 p.m.)

I was so appreciative of all the teachers that presented their stuff. I decided that I had some stuff to share. If you present, your admission is free...another 100 bucks to spend on cool exhibit stuff( I collect cool science t-shirts) or goofing of with your friends after hours. Being a presenter is really neat. You need to do it. Don't be afraid. I have presented on Chemistry, Hot air Balloons, Density/Buoyancy, Force and Motion, Astronomy, Scientific that's our whole 8th grade curriculum in California.

Last year Paul and I went to the National Science Teachers Conference in Portland. Our friend Dave moved up there a few years ago so we got to visit him and do a conference.

Going to a conference is a natural high to us. It's fun. To paraphrase from the movie "Rob Roy", A SCIENCE TEACHER CONFERENCE IS A GIFT THAT A TEACHER GIVES TO THEMSELVES.

I feel sorry for my colleagues that are athletic coaches and cannot attend these. They are missing out on a great experience.

This photo is (clockwise from bottom left) Me, David Piercy and Paul Lake lying on the floor under a huge Foucault pendulum in the Portland Convention Center waiting for the huge counterweight to knock over a marker. TOTALLY COOL!

I hope this helps,

Love to Teach and Teach with Passion

Remember...It's not Magic, It's Science

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Week 7, Day 2: Ceiling poster

I recommend you put a NO PARKING sign on your ceiling and an OPEN sign and BUSINESS HOURS sign by your door.

Years ago in college this sign was in a lab room and I later made one for my classroom. It scared some kids and irrated some parents. "Caution- On going axial rotation. Occupants subject to spatial temporal dissassociation and momentary lapses in continuity of logical thought. Association my be contagious. Enter at your own risk". It means the world is turning and you may get dizzy.

This and the aformentioned signs makes for fun comments.

It helps you find out who has a sense of humor.

It fun.

I hope this helps,

Love to Teach and Teach with Passion

Remember...It's not Magic, It's Science

Week 7, Day 1: Morning Duty

Not being on duty is like letting kids be in your room when you are not there. It's like holding your credential over a flame.

If I win the lottery I am going to hire someone to cover my morning duty. If it is crosswalk duty I will pay double.

After school duty is kind of nice. It's an escape from a day in the classroom. Break duty is not a major pain.

At my school morning duty is 25 minutes of thinking about all the stuff I should be doing to prepare foe class. It's amazing how 25 minutes of duty feels like a slow grinding hour, but the same time on a non-duty day seems to flash buy.

Sometimes, on non-duty days that I am totally prepared, I'll go relieve a colleague of their duty (unless it's crosswalk duty). I do it in the spirit of helping a colleague and hopefully they will cover for me sometime when I need it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Week 6, Day 5: Things on my wall...Did you Know???

Today's best Practice: Make your room a lesson in itself.

A master teacher I meet 24 years ago had every bit of his room covered with posters, bumper stickers, signs, specimens, and gadgets. He said, "If they are not going to listen to me, then I hope they learn something from the walls".

I like that.

It's fun to hear students comment about them. Some are goofy but most are serious.

One of the things I put up on my wall are a series of science statements that start off with DID YOU KNOW...

I have at least one statement for each unit I teach and some others for stuff I think is cool. Below is my list. Please, add to what I have and share with me yours.

Did you know: Gravity is JUST a theory.

Did you know: Earth has moved 1,172,892 miles since this time yesterday

Did you know: When walking you are pushing the Earth backward slightly?

Did you know: 1 ml of water has 33,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (33 pentillion) molecules.

Did you know: Elements* are forged in the core of stars
*except Hydrogen

Did you know: Weather is caused by the SUN.

Did you know: We are all made of Star Ashes

Did you know: Floating objects weigh the same as the water they displace

Did you know: Six U.S. flags are on the Moon.

Did you know: 1 gallon of GOLD weighs the same as 19 gallons of Water.

Did you know: All babies start out female.

Did you know: Electric forces keep you from really touching anything.

Did you know: Life is precious and you are unique(one of a kind)!

Did you know: The mass of the Earth is 5.9742 × 1024 kg (13,143,240,000,000,000,000,000,000 lbs)
13 septillion 143 hexillion 240 pentillion pounds

I hope this helps,

Love to Teach and Teach with Passion

Remember...It's not Magic, It's Science

Friday, October 2, 2009

Week 6, Day 4 "Graphic" Lessons

Part of 8th grade science is teaching graphing. Reading them, extracting data, creating them. This is not always a fun process. This may be the only time an eighth grader acts like a 9th grader. They stare blankly, say nothing, and make mild throaty grunt-like purring noises.

The only thing harder than teaching them graphing is getting them to walk across campus faster than a snail. Did you know that a map is really just a pretty graph? Well they are. Last week I had students make a graph of how to get to school from home. I told them to make a "map" because "graph" sounds too scary. Look at this one, graph 1 of 2.

They know how to read graphs, but usually forget that they know how to. Often you get that "light turning on" expression when they remember. Some students need lots of help and direction. It's hard for me to remember this is mostly new to them. My sons first graph was early elementary when they were given a bunch of M&M's and counted how many of each color and made a cool is that!

Even in May, after their 20th graph, they still get mixed up and call their data table a graph.

"A well made graph is a thing of beauty" . Below is one of my favorite all time graphs. It's called an H-R diagram. In its simplest form it compares a stars' brightness with its temperature. The one shown below is more, its a work of art. It shows color and size, it lists how long the stars will "live". It shows a wonderful unity of mother nature, or if you prefer, God's design (both of these are just looking at the same thing from different reference points).

Even if you are not a fan of Stars or Science, you can appreciate the beauty of this graph.

I hope this helps,

Love to Teach and Teach with Passion

Remember...It's not Magic, It's Science

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Week 6, Day 3: Cheap Ceiling Clips

Today's Best Practice: Cheap Ceiling Clips:
I walked into my next door colleagues room, Sean Marzolf, and he had improvised the neatest thing I've seen to use as a ceiling clip. Sean needed a way to tether a really big periodic table.

He did not buy the really expensive ceiling clips I've seen for years. He just got a set of old fashioned paper binding clamps. PERFECT!!!

I got to hand it to Mr. Marzolf. I've spent years bending large paperclips and shoving them into the ceiling, often damaging the tiles and hoping no one would notice. His fix works great and you can get them in different sizes for different jobs. Well done and Happy 26th birthday today!

I hope this helps,

Love to Teach and Teach with Passion

Remember...It's not Magic, It's Science

Week 6, Day 2: 8th graders Aweful???

I am a Middle School (Science) Teacher
By Richard Kinney

You hear me say, “I teach 8th grade”

Your reply is, “Oh…they are awful”.

Awful I hear… Are they awful?… ”Awe-Full” I think.

- Awe-full easy to show them something new and interesting-
(like the power of a Gamma Ray Star Burst)
- If you are good at setting the hook, they will pull you everywhere.

Awe-full fun to surprise & smile with-
- they have the curiosity of a small child and the developing humor of an adult.

Awe-full hard to always be patient with them…
…but sometimes it’s awful hard to be patient with the ones I LOVE at home.

Awe-full good teachers for ME TO LEARN about myself…
…sometimes the lessons are nice, and sometimes the lessons are difficult.

Awe-full. AWE can FILL their minds and they can be shown the ‘neatness’ of a topic.
(like how an unbalanced force acting on a tennis ball sitting on top of a dropped basketball can cause the tennis ball to really move)

Awe-full hard to remember what it was like to be 12 or 13 and distracted and scared and under continuous peer critique and self-doubt about your place in the “scheme” of things.

Awe-full glad I am a Middle school Teacher!

I hope this helps,

Love to Teach and Teach with Passion

Remember...It's not Magic, It's Science