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Friday, November 8, 2019

Bubble Lab and Cell Membranes

The bubble lab was a big hit with AP Bio.  I think a quick search on the internet will give you the guidelines.  I did some experimenting with the different components.  The groups with 10% soap, 10% corn syrup and 80% water had the best bubbles.

There is a lot of info on how cell membranes self heal, how things pass through membranes, and how membranes can provide separate environments inside a cell.

Easily the coolest lab ever. Pain in the butt to clean up after, but still worth it.  I am also giving my AP class Bubbles for graduation this year!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019


I am going to say something unpopular.  I don't like teaching about biomes I think they are boring.  I have tried all kind of things to try to make this better for the kids and less torturous for me.

This year I provided an old PowerPoint with all pertinent information, I put two copies per 8 kids on long tables.  The kids made flipbooks from the powerpoints.  It was a nice change of pace.  They got to socialize a bit while they worked.  They were all working so well, they didn't even notice I was taking pictures. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Everything is Figureoutable

This is the most commented quote I have every had in my classroom. 

All the kids wanted to know if figureoutable was a word ... 

Monday, November 4, 2019

End of the Grading Period

I have learned many things about myself over 15 years of teaching and one is that my desk is my visual To-Do List.  If my desk is clear I feel like I have nothing to do ... Unfortunately, that means when it is the end of the grading period, my desk is piled high.

I have also learned that visual learners often struggle with a planner, because once you close the planner those items no longer exist.  This hits home with me. 

Saturday, November 2, 2019

You are Appreciated.

For the first time in a long time, I have a particularly troublesome group of freshmen this year.  They are more difficult and defiant than any group I have taught since my first year of teaching.  After the first few weeks, it was just really one period of the day that was problematic, and at 12 weeks they are finally starting to catch on to the whole "acceptable behavior" thing.  I have made a ton of parent contacts, I have assigned a few detentions and  I found this on my desk one day earlier this year.  

I have no idea who placed it there or how long it was there before I found it.  Sometimes it is nice that some students see how ridiculous their peers are.  This is definitely going in the book.

Friday, November 1, 2019

The Book

After several years I am a BIG proponent of writing down the things you want to remember.  The craziest things happen in classrooms ... the student quotes ... the things I never thought I would hear myself say ... the sometimes ridiculousness of dealing with teenagers.  

There is absolutely no organization to my book, because sometimes I'm in a hurry, and I grab the book, open to the first empty page I encounter and scribble things down before I forget it or get interrupted.

I have cards and notes from students in addition to the silly stories.  This book is pure gold.  This stuff can't be made up.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Table Top Crime Scenes

I saw a table top crime scene lab for Forensics and I thought that is what I am doing this year instead of setting up half my room as a crime scene and risk kids moving things.  Most of the examples I saw and read about the teachers made all the crime scenes and the kids measured and drew the rough sketches and final sketches from the teacher's crime scenes.  Well, I thought, why not have the kids create the crime scenes too?  Because most of them will be crap... that is why.  So disappointing.  

Several groups didn't provide an aerial view which made it impossible to draw a sketch with measurements ... I had them switch crime scenes with another group to do the sketch.  Well, after the nonsense that ensued trying to figure out how to make it work, my co-teacher decided to have his groups make the rough sketch from their own crime scene.  The groups who did a good job had a very easy time, and the ones who didn't follow directions quickly figured out why it was important to do so.  

Several people did good jobs.  most were paper, but this group below chose legos for their crime scene.  I love the lego blood..  

Another problem we ran into was my freshmen kept touching things - especially with the lego crime scene.  I lose it a bit, when kids touch things that are not theirs, this year my freshmen don't seem to recognize that some spaces in my room are off limits.  Next year I guess I will have to put crime scene tape up!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Welcome to Hell

I started taking pictures of the temperature of my classroom once they said it would be a while before it was fixed.

The air conditioner is so old the parts are not kept in stock.

The only thing keeping me sane is this $20 box fan that I had to buy myself (insert bitterness).

Go to the library they said ... that turned into free days ... students not understanding ... bad grades ... chaos ...

So we are back in my room ... 

The new part came in on day 43 without air ... 

Then they figured out another party is broken.  But this part is stocked ... so it should only be 10 more days ...   Welcome to hell.  The first hour of our sauna treatment is free, we charge $5 per hour after that.

When the Copier Hates You

So for the last year I have not had a printer in my classroom.  Mine broke last October and wasn't replaced until the new budget kicked in this September.  Thankfully I could send documents to the copier, but it isn't always easy to copy the test without the answers on the back, or to remember to hit all the buttons on a new interface ... double-sided ... stapled ... real complex stuff here.

So the beginning of DEVOLSON (Dark Evil Vortex of Late September, October and November - #LoveTeach) found me walking around a lab table building 16 tests (thank goodness it was just an AP test) that were all one sided. not stapled. and the copier had spit out all of page 1, then all of page 2, etc.  

Never again.   :)

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Be an Enzyme: Toothpickase Lab

I went back to the toothpickase lab with AP Biology. It's super easy to find in a quick websearch.  The first day I didn't have bowls - that was a mistake.  I found these little bowls at Target for less than a dollar each, it made such a big difference.  The kids start with just toothpicks and then add in paperclips to distract them as inhibitors.  I went ahead and bought 8 big boxes of toothpicks so that I would make sure I had enough for at least next year.  (I am so tired of going to the store for lab supplies.)  I had one group that was really serious about not peeking during the trials.  

I had one group that night have been a little overly organized (I loved it).

I avoided the cold water segment because there was an incident one year with students trying to see who could keep their hands in the cold water the longest (not at my school ... but still ... keep an eye on that).

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Water Magnets

The water magnets are always a hit.  I give each kid 3 water molecules and ask them what it is.  We can talk about polarity and Hydrogen bonds between the molecules versus the covalent bonds that hold the Hydrogens to the Oxygen.  The set also comes with salt - we talk about how one is positive and negative and that is what holds them together.  

Then I have the kids get in groups of 4 with the people they are sitting near and ask the kids to dissolve the salt in their water.  It often takes a while to get hydration spheres. 

For the first time I can remember I had students testing how strong the magnets were .... how many pages can you have between the pages and still be able to control the top magnet with the bottom magnet.  I love curiosity.

I do not make any money from this product - I bought them from 3D Molecular Designs and I have the 6 cup kit.

Friday, October 25, 2019


Several years ago I spent one October afternoon seeking out a pool supply shop to grab 4 pool noodles.  Could I have gotten them cheaper at the end of the summer? Yes.  Could I have avoided that ugly brown at the end of the summer?  Yes.  Was I thinking about enzyme models at the end of the summer? No.

I saw this at a mini CAST I went to the first year I was teaching.  Anything else I was slacking at?  Of course!  I didn't do the best job creating these models.  I used a old steak knife in the back of my lab to saw my pool noodles into circles.

The green piece is the enzyme. with an active site and allosteric site.

The blue and brown pieces are supposed to be the same size - one is the substrate one is the competitive inhibitor.

The orange piece is supposed to be smaller and be a non competitive inhibitor.

We also discuss how now models are perfect and what we can show versus what we cannot show with this model. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

New Year, New School, Same Me

I am starting my sixteenth year in education!!! I am very excited to be starting in a new school district. This year I will be teaching Geometry, Pre-AP Geometry, and Algebra II.

It took a lot of work to move out of my old classroom (that I had occupied for fifteen years) and into my new room. I went up to my new school several times throughout the summer to unpack, get organized and set-up for the new year.

I have had a lot of compliments on my room. So I thought I would share. I am also going to add links to anything I have purchased or created (if you are interested).

Our district theme this year is 20/20 Vision. We want our students to be clearly focused. We want them to elevate their knowledge, engage in instruction and be empowered!

This is the view as students walk in the door.

The student point of view. The projector is on the right side of the board. In the middle I have a poster of our bell schedule, today's date, a digital clock above, my pencil sign out system, and clips for any papers that are turned in without a name.

On the right side of the room I have the weekly schedule created with magnetic strips. Below I will put anchor charts or word wall posters for each subject. On the right side I have my phone pockets and charging station. If their phones are plugged in and in the pocket, they are not on them while I'm teaching! Win - Win!

The back of the classroom has my bookshelf for textbooks and trays for return papers. The posters on the back wall have inspirational messages and math puns!

I already had everything Geometry in green and Algebra 2 in blue. Then my textbooks were dropped off. It worked out perfectly! If they would have been different colors I probably would have lost my mind. I guess I'm psychic... or maybe just lucky!

My desk is in the far corner. You can see a drawer organizer and a couple of utility carts.

Math nerd alert. Most of the decor on the right side of the room is about PI. Not pie, but PI (3.141592...). I have some student made artwork, fun pictures, craft projects, and even a CR 314 street sign ( I can't tell you how excited I was to find that. Not only the 314, but my initials "CR"). My view outside the window isn't the greatest, but I can see the sky when I want to.

My podium and chair are on the right side, but I can move around when I need to.

In this bookcase I have fun books about math, MC Escher, books for dummies, and some old math textbooks from the early 1900's. I have a file box on top that students can pick up their work from when they are absent. The green drawer organizer houses any supplies the students might need.

Here are a few detail pictures for fun!

Thanks for visiting my new room! I hope you have a great start to your school year!!!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Meet the Teacher Handout or Syllabus

Here is an updated version of my syllabus. I created this brochure last year to hand out at Meet the Teacher Night. It has all of the information I go over on the first day of school in a handy handout! I included a notes section so that parents could jot down any questions/concerns/thoughts they might have while they are visiting my class. To purchase and edit for your use, visit our TPT store.

Friday, June 28, 2019

What is on your desk?

A large part of making my day easier for myself, is not having to search for things.  Over the past 1,000 years (or 14) I have come up with a few things that make every day easier for me!  #1 I am a very visual person, if I can't see it, it does't exist, so my desk is a mess. but there are a few highlights.  

I have a small crate of files of things I need all the time.  This includes "the plan" aka my pre-planned calendar for the year, grade sheets, Things to turn into the office, folders for tests to be turned into, keys for tests (because you always have someone absent on test days), and folders for my examples I do with the kids.

Next, near my computer.  I have I blue "stand-up thing" where urgent things land, I have post-its, I have pics and small gift figures.

I also have a scanner that doesn't work, multiple cups, I'm only using two of those, and I have coasters, and more post-its, then the pens, markers, pencils, and markers that only I get to use.

I spent a lot of time looking for this stinking little white remote before I bought this tray!  This tray holds the remote, tape and the stapler the kids can use (but I don't leave it where they can reach it because they tend to try to shoot staples at one another).  The easy button was a gift, and the windex bottle is supposed to be where the magnetic clothes pins are ... but I took this picture in May.

Last but not least, I have my bathroom pass tracker ... and a place for my special pens, and the blue is where the bathroom pass is supposed to go ... 

So obviously I didn't stage the pictures to be perfect, but I hope you got a couple of ideas to help your day easier.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

What's in your drawers? Organization for High School Teachers

This year I had to go through the drawers of another teacher's desk (at their request on a day they were sick) to try to find something ... and until then I didn't know other teachers desks were so much different than mine.   Don't get me wrong, my desk is a mess!  At least the top of my desk is a mess, but the drawers are usually tidy.  So I am offering a tour of my desk. 

Let's start with that middle drawer.

Again, notice the mess of papers on the desk.  But I have these really cheap shallow drawer dividers, all are identical, the right one is turned upside down in relation to the others.  It's the end of the year, so a few are empty, but let's start from the left and talk about what should be in each one.  The far left should be pens, then post it tags and pencil lead, then tacks and push pins, then markers then there should be pencil top erasers, rubber bands, and different sized paper clips in the empty containers, then my favorite block erasers, then erasers for mechanical pencils, then pencils.  You can see i have a few random tags, and erasers in the top super shallow wells, an one eraser I made into a stamp.  but everything has it's place.

Now for the junk drawer :)

This where I keep back up caffeine, manicure kit, chargers, staplers, staples, stamp pads, a random forearm (confiscated), random keys, toothpaste, a tooth brush, an exacto knife and a paper cutter (meant for gift wrap).  As well as, post-its with keys or passwords, or whatever else I can't remember.  Did you spot my Mr. Roger's Encourage-mints? My super sweet co-worker go those for me this year.

Next is the large drawer to the left of the middle. 

Now the front of this drawer looks like a mess. I have a microwave popcorn maker, popcorn kernels, an emergency kit (blue bag), hair brush, fishing line, and I think there is a toy of some sort that I confiscated and dome hot chocolate there as well.  Behind that I have grade sheet, labels, hall passes, and colored paper and card stock filed by color.

The small drawer to the right of the middle.

I have mints, copy me forms, mini staplers, random plastic bag, tennis ball (again confiscated) labels, note cards, calculators, tools/lab ware, plastic ware, and scissors.

Now for the big drawer to the right of the middle.

The the front I typically keep my composition books, and I have a special composition book (pictured) where i write funny things that happen in class, and notes that students give me, then I have a sprial, more labels, a few folders, then hanging file folders for paperwork I need access to every year, notes from the office, and even a file for artwork students made for me including several cartoons of myself.  They are so funny! 

I know many teachers out there have organizational schemes and desk drawers that will out mine to shame, but I think this is a good jumping off point, if you are just randomly throwing things in your drawers.  :) 

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Biology Stations

I have been trying to figure out stations for high school kids for a long time and not much ever made sense to me for my room.  But I finally came up with a station type activity for my freshmen when we were reviewing the cell cycle.  I think with a few edits it may be how I teach cell cycle next year.  We had 5 stations, but some stations could be repeated for larger groups.  Students drew colored blocks from a black bag to form random groups (sometimes a blessing and sometimes a curse).

Here is how I envision my stations next year (after lesson/review).

1. Foldable with room for drawing and text.  Get the drawings done here from photos I have labeled.

2. Foldable with room for drawing and text.  Get the descriptions done here from textbooks.

3. Make Cell Cycle Plate following the template provided.

4. Complete matching descriptions to phases.

5. Coloring sheet with stages of mitosis to merge with plate ... or animal cells to merge with the plant cell drawings on the foldable.

Definitely still a WIP (work in progress - shout out to my kid), but I feel like I have a much better idea of how to run stations for high school kids.

I don't think I will run every class period like this but it would be cool to do this 1-2 times per month or six weeks just to switch things up!

Do you do stations?