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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Biome Books

I had my kids make Biome Books this year ... yes,  high school students.

This is the first time of the school year I have freshmen biology students work on reading comprehension and summarizing information.  This year I gave them three days, sometimes I give them four (my expectations are a little higher if I give them more days.

They started with 5 sheets of white paper, folded like a hamburger (term taught to me by students, I discovered Foldables later).  Then they used a hand-held hole punch to make two holes in their book.  Then we used a rubber band and a paperclip to bind the book. (I really like the rubber band better than staples).  

Our new book has 18 biomes or ecosystems in it (up from 12), so the students were expected to complete 6 biomes per day (50-55 minute classes).  This is really fast paced, but it kept them on track a little better than when I given them 4 days.  Each biome was one page in the booklet.  This left the back blank to glue the book into their notebook.  They had to have 3-5 bullets per page and a drawing per page.  And the bullets should be 5 words or less -- this is really tough for them.

The students were asked to focus on two things: how the biomes are unique (different from one another) and adaptations of organisms in those biomes.  I divided points as follows. 
·         4 pts per page (title and facts)=72 points
·         1 pt per page (drawing) = 18 points
·         Color on all pages = 5 points
·         Title page (Title, Your Name, effort)= 5 points

And I have one student example:

Do you have students make books?  What are they over, how are they different from my biome books?

Friday, September 26, 2014

One of those days ...

Have you ever had one of those days?

Today I was projecting the iPad on the interactive whiteboard and kept trying to use the whiteboard as a touch screen ... it did not respond to my finger no matter how many times I touched it  ... I did this multiple times ... in the same period.

Do you think I could have one of these implanted into my finger?  And maybe the projector's remote implanted on the back of my hand ...

I think my brain is broken.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Independent Research in Your Classroom?

Have you heard of Genius Hour?

I may be late to the game with this one, but I love this idea.  The site has great ideas about how to make time in your class to have genius hour and some points to approach the idea with your administration.  Some of the selling points for administrators via  no loss of class instruction, creating life-long learners, develop relationships with students, and teaching 21st century skills.

I would love to try this out with my forensics kids.  An hour a week in your room for students to research whatever they are passionate about.  As a group, they are the most diverse, and as a class it has the most wiggle room time wise.

Genius Hour

Do you think that high school students could benefit from Genius Hour?

Update:  I got permission to try this with my Forensics class!! I am planning on it for the 2nd 6 weeks, and re-evaluate at that point.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Test days

I have one PowerPoint slide that I project every day I give a test.  

Some days it looks different than others.  I use the slide to answer the questions that I get asked approximately 100 times on test days ... so today I only had to answer the questions about 30 times and other students answered (or I referred to the slide) the other 70 times.  Do you do this?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

AP Biology Resources

I expect my students to be utilizing all resources available to them in this amazing technological age.  Here are my top resources that I want my students to use this year, and in college.

Mastering Biology 

Mastering Biology is a textbook-linked site that allows teacher to assign online assignments.  All assignments are shown on a calendar, and depending on settings, students can rework the assignment for less points or the first time through is for a grade and they can retry for added practice and understanding.  I use mastering biology as some flipped assignments, review questions (from the test bank), and as bonus for completing the activities and tutorials.

I like to randomize assignments when possible, so that students are tempted to work together.  It doesn't take long to set up assignments, and no time to grade - just pull up the grade book.  I do also change point values for questions depending on the time it takes and the assignment.  If I am offering bonus, I usually assign a lot of questions or activities for 1/10 of a point each.  Some items are not phone-friendly which is problematic for my students so I try to assign these as early as possible.  My past students say that they use this in college also.


Quizlet it a site and app that would work for any subject matter.  Quizlet is a great way to work with vocabulary.  I use it for prefix quizzes, and I encourage students to make flashcards on it for all their classes.  It's free (unlike paper notecards) and  it has more for the students to do than just flip cards.

They can actually play games.  I like Scatter best.  Not all options are available on the phone, but this does work on computers, tablets and phones.  The  students can make their own cards, share them, or search for cards someone else made.  They can even join your class and get notifications when you upload new sets.

HHMI BioInteractive

There are amazing animations from HHMI BioInteractive.  And they often have two levels of detail.  You could use the less detailed version for a regular Biology class, and more detailed for an AP class.  Or you could use the less detailed as an intro then more detailed as a close to your lesson


I know.  They are already there ... watching things that are probably not very educational.  But there are a lot of educational videos out there.  I have several channels I recommend.

  • MrsJacobsAPBio 
    • My videos are far from perfect, but I think kids want to learn from you, so I try.  You will hear my kid in the background or my phone rings.  Sometimes the videos are too long, or I sound boring, or depressed or like I am hiding in my closet (maybe I am), and sometimes I mess up.  But my videos are done.   
  • My You Tube "Guest Speakers" include:
    • Bozeman Science
      • Mr. Anderson's videos are much more entertaining and professional than mine.  I know many teachers who flip their classrooms just using his videos.  I do like assigning a few to let the students know that they can use any resources they can find for other explanations for the material.
    • Crash Course
      • Crash course has fast paced, funny videos.  I think they are a nice change of pace, and I think everyone needs something a little difference.  And there is more than just science.
    • Khan Academy
      • Khan Academy has so many topics, it is a great place to start if you need a little more explanation for any subject at any time.  The videos are a little longer than I use for flipped classroom, but if you are trying to increase understanding or you miss class it is a great resource.
    • TED
      • I love TED Talks.  These videos can be found on YouTube or at the TED site or app.  And sometimes videos are available only in one of these two places.  If you know of a great appropriate talk for high school biology, AP biology, forensics, science (in general), or just to be a more aware 18 year old entering the world, send it to me!  These are my go to resource if there is 10 minutes at the end of that one class that works faster than every other class.
I am sure there are more and I may update this post as the year goes on.  What resources do you expect your students to use?

Vines as Summaries

Do you vine?   Admittedly, I was skeptical of a 7 second looping video ... and most of my vines are of my kid.  But I really like the idea of condensing a lab or a demo to a 7 second summary.  I like the idea of kids doing this even better.

I have a couple of examples.  As usual these are not perfect.

I use this to start a discussion of diffusion.

And this one for my osmosis and diffusion lab

This is a good reminder of what we did ... because sometimes teenagers forget ...

More osmosis & diffusion lab ... great for people absent .. or those who don't follow instructions.

I try to convert any type of social media to a learning outlet.  You can share vines on facebook and twitter, or share the link, or even embed them in your blog.

Do you have other ideas for how high school teachers could add this to their toolbox of tricks?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Interactive Notebooks & Review Booklets

I started Interactive Science Notebooks about 6 years ago, and I love them.  I don't necessarily follow the same formula for every class, but I am not the biggest fan of worksheets, but my kiddos still need to do something with the material in their notes.
This is a flipagram of some images of my AP student's A-sides from there notebooks, and some images of their review booklets.   The review booklet was something I created last year because the kids seemed to be slacking.  They had to take all the information from one chapter and decide what was most important and reorganize it onto one page.  This takes time and thought.

This year I started the review booklets from the beginning, and in a few weeks I will see how they are progressing.  Instead of one page per chapter - which turned out to be a bit crazy - I have assigned one page per section this year.

The review booklets will be a grade at the end of each six weeks.  I imagine these pages to look like the summary sheets found in several other posts on our blog, but we will see.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Time Fillers

How many times do you end up having a few extra minutes at the end of a class??? My classes baffle me. One class period may finish right on time or barely, then the other class has too much extra time. I try to have a few "time filler" activities on hand for those special occasions.

The first day of school or even throughout the first few weeks I will play some "get to know you" type games. Last summer I found some cheap beach balls at a dollar store. The regular stores wanted me to pay $5 or so for a beach ball. No way....I'm on a budget! And I know the dollar store has to have them for cheap!!! Sure enough they did and in several different colors. So I used a sharpie to write various questions that the kids would be willing to answer aloud. The rules are: I call out someone's name that I am going to throw the ball to. They catch the ball. They read the question closest to their right thumb and answer. Then they call out a classmate and throw the ball, etc. The kids love it! They will even toss the ball back to me to see my question and answer will be.

I have also made a review ball for my PreCalculus class. We are currently studying Trig Functions. They are supposed to be memorizing the Unit Circle. So if we have some spare time in the next couple of weeks, I am going to let them toss around this review ball to see what they know.

I still have a couple more beach balls, so I'm sure I'll come up with a few more educational options to fill my time.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Grouping Students & Problem Solving

Groups .... oh, groups ... In the past I imy kids pick their own groups, or I picked for them.   Then several years ago at a CAST workshop about Forensics the teacher suggested using different color rubber bracelets and make them draw.  I loved this idea, but could not find bracelets ... but I found small colored foam block in the elementary section of a teacher store.  I put them in a dark, cloth bag I had at home.

Now they kids don't love this.  But it definitely takes the pressure off those kids that are left to last.  So I do this almost all the time now.  And as much as they grumble, I think they all like it.  I do remind them that if anyone is caught switching colors I will assign groups and make sure they don't get to work together for a long time.  

Then last year another teacher was telling me about something one of her college professors had done to group them.  I didn't really understand, and may have turned it into something even more complex for the students.  They each drew a piece of paper.  On the paper was a word, and no one had the same word ... what?  I told them there should be five groups of four and they had to figure out how to put themselves into groups based on those words.  It was awesome!  If you want to see problem solving use this baby.  

I used color as my categories the first time.  So there were items of every color of the rainbow listed.  I made sure to have a few gemstones, a few fruit, etc to try to increase difficulty.  It was awesome to watch them try to figure it out.

Another teacher tried it and made the rule that they have to keep their paper in their hand, because they were putting the strips on the desk and then sorting.  I like this rule.  I like them having to talk to one another to solve the problem.    The picture shows an animals list that another teacher used.  Love this!!!

The possibilities are endless.  I want to do one with characters from crime shows for my forensics class.  You could even do words that start with the same letter, same parts of speech, sports teams (different sports), etc.  We are trying to gather lists and share as a staff.  

Do you think you would use this?  What categories would you use in your room?  What categories do you think we should use?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tri-Bond Review Game

Have you ever played TriBond?  It's a board game that gives you three clues and you have to figure out what they have in common.  Example from Tribond of the Day: snow, snap, chick ... easy, right?  Peas.

Last year my sister told me that she plays a game like this as a review game for her history classes.  So, of course, I tried it with my AP Biology kids.  It was tough for them, but it was a quick game to make.  I thought of this again today after watching a quick video on rigor in the classroom.

What review games do you play?

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Challenge for Students

I challenged my students the first week of school.  I introduced them to the concept of growth v. fixed mindsets, and I challenged them to attempt the way they think when faced with an obstacle.  This challenge can apply to one class or to an extracurricular activity.  And, as promised, I will be starting on the poster to remind them of this.  I have typed out a rough draft that I modeled after several sources on pinterest.

Stay tuned for the final product, and for student reflections at the end of the year.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Perfect Body - Measuring andGraphing

In the second week of school I have my students complete a Perfect Body Lab (that title really gets their attention).  The students accompllish two goals with this lab: measuring in metric and graphing on paper. 

First I show the students  Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, and ask what information we are supposed to be able to get from the art.

Then the students work in pairs to measure their foot length (shoes on -too smelly otherwise), 

Arm span

and Height.

I put up a lot of paper for the students to measure and mark on.  It is important to have the students write their initial my their marks in case their numbers seem wonky.

Then the students input their measurements into an excel file.  Once all data has been entered, I print the page and the graphing begins.  I teach 50-55minute periods everyday.  This is best split between two days.  It always takes them longer to graph that it seems like it should.  It is possible to set up the graphs after measuring.  We compare height and arm length on one graph and height and foot length on another.  These two graphs are both on one sheet on paper that we fold in half and add to an A-side in our interactive notebook.  The B side is the data. Next week we use this data and the graphs to begin writing conclusions.

Saturday, September 6, 2014


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