Saturday, December 31, 2011

I Resolve to...

Well it's that time of the year again.  Time to make (and usually break) resolutions.  I know most people do not keep resolutions.  I look to my exercise class as an example of this.  At the beginning of the year there are scores of new people that seem very gung ho to get into shape.  About March they start to drift back into old habits and you never see them again.  Let's face it, most of us would rather not have to step out of our comfort zone and do something difficult, new or time consuming.  I have my students think about resolutions when we get back to school in January and I always tell them my goals.  This year my personal resolution is to spend more quality time with my family.  This includes my husband, kids, and two wee kittens we adopted at the end of 2011.  I think it is a realistic goal and quite possible to meet if I don't get bogged down with too much work overload in 2012.  My professional goal is to reread "Who Moved My Cheese"  and follow the advice therein!
Hope you have a wonderful New Year and may we all keep to our realistic goals this year!  Click on the link at the top of this post to submit your resolutions!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Papers, Papers, Everywhere!

I consider myself pretty neat.  I do not exist in chaos well at all.  I have a system that I have used for many years that works very well for managing paper in my classroom.  This year it is not working!  I am teaching three subject areas this year.  6th grade science, 7th grade science, and 7th grade reading.  I have test papers for reading in piles.  I have graded water cycle tests scattered about with ungraded ones in my car.  I have some papers that fell into my recycling bin today accidentally and I had a fleeting thought of just leaving them there.  I have science safety contracts on my counter and today's assignment on my bookshelf.  I have completely lost control of paper in my classroom!  I would really like to clean this mess up by Christmas!!  That means I have approximately 3 days to do it.  If you have any good ideas for controlling my paper problem, don't hesitate to comment!  Maybe I could wave my magic wand!

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Water Cycle Game: the incredible journey

This year was my first year teaching 6th grade science.  I just finished teaching the water cycle and I think we had a good time in the process.  I used a Project Wet idea for an engagement activity to start students thinking how water could move through the cycle.  I had students create different pictures for stations in the game; plants, river, ocean, clouds etc.  Students would visit these stations and roll a die when they got there to determine where they would go next.  They would also keep track of which stations they had visited.  Students used this list to create a comic strip from the point of view of drop of water as an assessment.  My sixth graders did an awesome job of creating comic strips this year!  They had cute story-lines  and were very artistic.  This is a link to the directions for this lesson:

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cyber Monday Sale on TPT

Teachers Pay Teachers is having a huge Cyber Monday Sale. The site is running a 10% off sale by using the promo code CMS28.  Just use this promo code at checkout.  Many top sellers are also  running sales in their stores with as much as 20% off.  That can give you the customer 30% off of many items.  My store will be at 20% off on Monday November, 28th and Tuesday the 29th so stay out of the malls and happy shopping!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Nonfiction Graphic Features II

Due to the overwhelming support for my Nonfiction Graphic Features practice, I have created Nonfiction Graphic Features II.  This is great practice for students who need to be able to interpret diagrams, graphs and charts. It contains a line graph, a bar graph, and a circle graph.  I have also included a diagram of a human ear with associated questions.  This one is a tad more difficult than the first one but a good practice none the less.  Here is the link to this product:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Math and Science Linky Party!!!

Hello everyone!  For the month of November, we would like to invite you to The Lesson Cloud's very first linky party celebrating all things Science and Math.  We've had over 100,000 page hits since our inception, including nearly 1000 people following on Facebook and 275 following on Blogger, so it would certainly behoove you to join in!  We can all learn and share with each's a WIN/WIN!  Here is the link!

We would be honored if you would post your free or priced product having to do with Science and/or Math (all grades) to participate in our linky party. 

To participate in our linky party, there are a few rules/guidelines:
1.     Product may be free or priced.
2.     "Link Title" should be the name of the product.  Please also include grade level.
3.     URL should go DIRECTLY to the blog post or product page where the product can be found.  Don't have people clicking more than will lose them.  This is NOT your blog address, but the actual POST address.  It is also not your TPT store address, but the actual address of the specific product in your store.
4.     Share the love, and thank the host!  You must post a blurb about the linky party on your own blog, inviting them back to this linky party to see what you and others have posted.  You can copy The Lesson Cloud button and/or the link to this post to share! We want a ton of people to see all we have, so share and share away!
5.     If you are still unsure how to do this, check out Beneath My Heart's blog for a fabulous tutorial.

Hurry! Submissions close November 31, 2011. Happy linking...and enjoy!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Spooky Science

Today  Halloween fell on a Monday.  I struggled with what to do with my sixth grade science class and came up with a Halloween story with demonstrations.  I wrote a story last night until 11pm.  It was actually a pretty good story all and all.  It was basically about three kids trick-or-treating and finding themselves exploring an abandoned house only to find a wrinkled lady with a very pointed black hat.  During the story I used dry ice for a number of demonstrations that the kids loved.  One of these included taking a metal ice cream scoop and holding it against the dry ice.  This makes a great squeaky door sound.  Actually it was more like a screaming door!  I plan to revise my story and post it to my Teachers Pay Teachers store to help teachers for next years Halloween.  It turned out to be a very enjoyable day.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Blog on Fire Award

A big thank you to Amy from Science Stuff for nominating me for this award.  According to the rules I have to say 7 things about myself and then nominate 7 worthy blogs!

1.  I went to college to become a geologist.  I never really considered being anything else and somehow I became a teacher.  At least I teach earth science!

2.  I am a native Boulderite!  I originally come from Boulder, Colorado which is a very unique (or strange) place to grow up. 

3.  I have two wonderful children who are 13 and 9.

4.  I grew up playing clarinet and piano.  I can still play the piano pretty well.

5.  I have been a middle school science teacher for 14 years.  I am also teaching reading this year and tutor dyslexic kids after school.

6.  My husband and I love to hike  and spend time outdoors.  I feel like a good hike is an antidepressant.  I guess I belong in nature.

7.  I love animals and have a brand new kitty who is part Siamese named Pippin. He was found roaming at one of our district schools.  He is adorable but now thinks my couch is a toilet.  Cats!!!

And now for my seven outstanding blogs.... hope you will check them out soon!

Ed Tech 4 Science
Teacher Tam's Educational Adventures
 The Teaching Bank
Education Journey
 Sunny Days in Second Grade
Teacher Gone Digital
Life in Special Education

Monday, October 17, 2011

Petrified Forest, Painted Desert, and Tonto Natural Bridge

I have once again taken my fall break in some of the southwest's most cherished locations.  I also take my camera lucky for you!  I haven't been in Arizona's Petrified Forest since 1993.  This year I decided to go back to see it again.  The logs you see in the following picture are indeed very much rocks!

You are not allowed to take any petrified wood out of the park of course.  There are however some locations near Winslow, Arizona and vicinity where you can collect pieces.  I found a great blue piece in 2007 in the Winslow area.  But alas, in the park, you cannot.  I guess this bird will stop you if you do!

 The painted desert was just beautiful this time.  It is a little tricky to take quality pictures of, however.  Here are a few from the overlook near the visitor center:

These two parks are in the same area so if you ever visit you can see them both in one day.  My husband and I did most of the hikes as well.  We stayed in Winslow at an old Harvey House on the old route 66.  The La Posada Hotel has been renovated and is a wonderful place to stay.
On our way back home to Phoenix we past Tonto Natural Bridge State Park and decided to stop.  I hadn't been there since I did my field school for my masters up in that area and really wanted to see it again.  It is the largest travertine  bridge in perhaps the world.

You can see the waterfall running from springs at the top.  This creates a micro-climate at the base of the bridge complete with many types of plants.  Here are a few pictures of the water and plant life in the bottom.

If you ever get a chance to visit Arizona, you will find amazingly different landscapes and climates in a relatively short distance.  These areas I have pictured are not far from one another.  They are within a few hours drive of Grand Canyon and Flagstaff as well.  Hope you have enjoyed my travels!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Halloween Crossword

Well it's that time of year again.  Time to welcome fall and ghoulish delights!  I have made a Halloween crossword in celebration of season.  The hardest word is jack-o-lantern and is probably suited to 4th through 6th graders.  It comes with 3 pages.  A full color page, a black and white page and an answer key.  I am hoping to create a spooky science product as well so be on the lookout for that one. Here is the link to my crossword:

Fall aspens in Flagstaff

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


P.O.E. stands for Predict, Observe, and Explain.  I use this in my classroom every Wednesday.  The only hard part about it is getting a demonstration together to show my students.  Last week I did a P.O.E. where I poured water down a wet string from one beaker to another. Before I actually did the demonstration I asked them to predict what would happen when I poured the water.  They usually write this prediction down in their notebooks as part "P".  I then do my demonstration and the students observe and write their observations in part "O".  The hardest part is "E" which is explain.  My student have to explain why things happened as they did during the demonstration.  They all look forward to P.O.E days!  Oh gotta run, P.O.E. day is tomorrow!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

And Now For Some Good News!!

Ten years ago I didn't think the World Trade Center would ever be rebuilt.  I thought it might have some sort of memorial built at ground zero, but I didn't have an inkling that there would be a huge building sitting there a decade later.  The planning for the new tower started almost immediately after 9/11.  Originally called the "Freedom Tower", the skyscraper is now known as the One World Trade Center and is well on its way to being finished.  Here is a short time-lapse video of the tower under construction.  Enjoy!

I Feel Like a First Year Teacher!!!

     I have been a teacher for fourteen years and I feel like a brand new teacher right out of college.  Why you ask?  I think it is the slow piling of more responsibilities over the last ten years on my shoulders.  I am so overwhelmed that I can't keep my email at work straight!  How could this happen?
     About ten years ago we started state "high stakes" testing.  It seemed like a good idea back then.  Soon after the testing began we started interventions.  At first, interventions was leveled by using the state test and you saw the same kids every day.  Then we decided to retest every quarter and switch the students around in interventions  depending on how they scored on the quarterly tests as well.  Three years ago I moved to a school that switched interventions daily!  Some teachers like this, but I never like anything that switches around too rapidly. 
     Last year we lost our wonderful language arts teacher in 7th grade to retirement.  She was not replaced.  I have been told I should be very happy about this due to the fact that I could have been fired (I'm the science teacher) so the school could hire a reading/writing teacher.  So who is teaching reading?  Well our grade level has joined with the sixth grade teachers so we can get all subjects taught with minimal teachers.  That means that I am now teaching reading, 6th grade science, and 7th grade science. We have 36+ in a class.  My principal is very worried about reading because it is now in the hands of several people. 
    I ask you, how can a school get good scores on a state test when there is not enough teachers to bring the class size down to a manageable level?  How can reading scores improve when there is no reading teacher?  How can anyone possibly think that cutting science teachers is an option?  There will be jobs in science in the future.  Will the United States have anyone to fill them?  One thing is for sure, if we pull it off and our students meet the standard on that reading test this year, we won't be getting another reading teacher...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Moon Phase Flash Cards

The trouble with having your students make flash cards to learn moon phases is that when they cut them out, unless they are very careful, they will mix them all up and then end up with the wrong moon with the wrong phase.  I finally developed some moon phase flash cards that cannot be mixed up.  Students have a description of the phase on one side and a picture of the phase on the other.  Both the phase description and the picture have a shape in the corner that matches.  Students can cut all of them out at once and then match the shapes and make their flashcards.  Problem solved!  The moon pictures for these flash cards were taken with my 4.5 inch Dobsonian telescope.  Here is an example of the pictures:

Nice huh? The link to my flash cards can be found here:

Sunday, August 21, 2011


I wish I would have had this cool poster when I was teaching chemistry.  Using the elements in The Periodic Table of the Elements you can make inspiring words for your classroom.  By using the symbols for Thorium, Iodine, Nitrogen, Potassium the word ThINK can be made.  The I,N, and K will be capitalized but it makes a great poster for your classroom.  I have created a free download for "ThINK" on Teachers Pay Teachers that you can find here:

Have fun creating your own words with element symbols!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Classroom Quiet Signal

I like the idea of a classroom quiet signal.  I teach science and that means hands-on labs and group activities.  It can get kind of loud sometimes!  I do not like the idea of yelling, which is just far too draining to me.  I think my students in middle school would like it if I did yell for quiet because I would probably look funny doing it! My idea this year is to use some sort of signal that I will teach them in the first week of school.  I have heard many ideas from the primary teachers who use these every year but not too many from middle school.  The best ones I have read about lately are using a rain-stick or a wireless doorbell purchased from Home Depot as the signal.  The doorbell would be quite funny the first time you used it, I think.  I plan on teaching the signal and then having my students engage in a chatty activity and practice the signal.  If you have other good suggestions on quiet signals please leave a comment I'd love to hear your ideas on this subject.  Make sure you link my blog in your post and write about "quiet signals."

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Back to School Sale

There is a huge back to school sale going on starting tomorrow on Teachers Pay Teachers!  There is a 10% discount by using code B1T1S1 when you check out and many teachers have their stores on sale for addition money off!  Here is the link to my store:

Gotta run to Staples for the .10 composition notebooks!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Classroom Management in Middle School

Middle school teachers see a wide range of behaviors!  It is always better to plan to teach about behaviors you want to see than to let them happen and then try to fix the situation.  These are some guideline I follow:

1.  Teach procedures and rules during the first weeks of school and revisit them every day thereafter.
I will say something like, "Jenna how do we wait outside the classroom before coming in?"  I review like this every day and actually have a test over my rules and procedures the second week of school. 

2.  Don't yell.
Have you ever seen yourself yelling?  Not a pretty sight. However, middle school kids think it's funny and want to see it again!

3.  Teach skills.
We use a skill teaching program at our school.  The whole school teaches a skill a week.  We give steps for the skill so students know exactly what to do.  Here is an example of the skill of following instructions:

step 1.  Look at the teacher
step 2.  Listen to instructions
step 3.  Do what is asked right away.

4. Show interest in your students.
Students know when you don't care for them.  Show interest in them.

5.  Give incentives.
I use Collingwood's Cash in my classroom.  I also have punch cards for homework that work really well.  Kids still like incentives in junior high!
For more classroom management and a great linky party on the subject go to:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hobbit Crossword

Well I finally reread The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.  I am really looking forward to the movie that is now in production in New Zealand.  Peter Jackson is the director (thank goodness) after others that were interested in the movie dropped out.  I just got a look at the first day of filming which is posted on Peter Jackson's blog.  The sets are amazing!  He walks around the set of Rivendell and in some caverns where they most likely will film Bilbo's exchange with Smaug the dragon. 

What does this have to do with a crossword you ask?  While I was reading The Hobbit I made some notes on characters and such and created a crossword for the book.  At first I thought of doing more than one, but in the end I just went with a big crossword that covered the entire book.  Here it is with a very nice background:

You can find this crossword and many others at my store on Teachers Pay Teachers here:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

You Might Be a Geologist if....

I was trained as a geologist so I will be commenting on some "You might be a geologist if..." statements to see if they are accurate!  Here it goes.

You might be a geologist if...

1.  You think recent events are anything that happened at least 100,000 years ago.
Yep this is right. 

2.  Your rock collection takes up more shelf space than your family photos.
True, I try to keep some family photos around too.

3.  You can pronounce molybdenite correctly on the first try.
True.  I think my first word was molybdenite!

4.  You don't think of "cleavage" the same way everyone else does.
Very true.  7th graders like this word!

5.  You have intentionally taken a 15-passenger van over "roads" intended for cattle.
My professors did this all the time.  It's called a field trip!

6.  You own more than half of the "Roadside Geology" books.
I actually own 3 of these but I wish I owned more. 

7. You feel compelled to examine the gravel in other people's driveways.
True.  My last post showed a rock in my grandmother's yard, actually.

8.  You think road cuts are tourist attractions.
Aren't they???

9.  Your map for your next road trip is marked with the locations of a series of interesting roadcuts.
True.  That's what the Roadside Geology books are for.

10.  You get upset when movies have glaring geological inaccuracies and point them out to everyone in the theater.
*cough*cough* Dante's Peak!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Trip to Nebraska & Interesting Fossil Finds

For those of you who follow this blog, I posted previously that one of my goals this summer was to travel to southeastern Nebraska and visit my grandparents and other family members that still live there.  I haven't been back for a long, long time and it was great to go back.  My grandmother was turning 85 and we had a nice birthday party for her.  Here is a picture of my cute grandma:

 Flying over eastern Colorado and Nebraska is not as exciting as flying over the Grand Canyon or even Sedona, Arizona, but it is interesting, however.  I always find it amazing how much land is farmed in this country.  There are fields as far as you can see as you fly over in an airplane.  Here is an aerial shot from my plane:

Family members on both sides of my family are connected in some way to family farms.  The farm on my dad's side has been sold, but my father's brother still lives on a piece of that land in Clatonia, Nebraska.  My mother's family still owns a farm that has been in our family for well over 100 years.  Her brother still farms that land in Wilber, Nebraska.  Here is a picture of the farm at sunset:

My uncle has found some pretty interesting things on his land, geologically speaking.  I never thought about Nebraska's geology that much, I'll admit.  I did all of my undergraduate work in the southwest, both geology and anthropology.  I did my masters through Mississippi State University but my field school was in Arizona.  I know Arizona's and New Mexico's geology like the back of my hand, and you must admit we have some fine geology here. 

  My grandmother and I were walking around her yard and I noticed a rock with many shells in it.  When I questioned her about where it came from my grandpa remembered it came from the farm. He was unsure why they were digging at the time the rock was found but he said there were so many you could have filled a truck with them.  Here is a picture of the rock:

 I knew it was a marine bivalve but I guess there was too much going on to think about it further.  If I had, I probably would have remembered that Nebraska hasn't had an ocean over it in a long, long time.  I started digging around about the geology of Nebraska when I got home.  It turns out that Nebraska hides it's geology under crops and farmland.  There aren't any Grand Canyons in Nebraska but there is an overwhelming amount of fossils there.  In fact, over one-third of the fossils in the Smithsonian's Hall of Mammals is from Nebraska!  It just so happens that the right aged rocks are exposed at the surface.  Our family farm rests on Cretaceous aged rock.  The fossils found there are marine because an ancient sea had transgressed over this area.  The end of the Cretaceous was 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs and many other animals died out!  That means that rock with the fossil pelecypod shells is very old indeed.  Here is a webpage that shows which rocks are exposed in Nebraska:

It also shows a geology time scale.  If you want to see the dates for the time periods you can click "show" by the dates. 

My uncle also has land near Fairbury, NE.  Fairbury has even older  rocks exposed and fossil leaves are often found there.  This is a site that shows this area and the rocks and fossils found near Fairbury you can click on the map and fossils for information:

Some of the leaf fossils in this area are probably near 100 million years old because they are found in the Cretaceous Dakota Formation.  That means the rocks with leaf fossils in them that my family has found on this land is incredibly old and very interesting to me.

There are also many Cenozoic fossils in Nebraska.  Mammoth and mastodon fossils have been found in 90 of 93 counties in this state.  I know more about invertebrate fossils than I do vertebrates but I would venture to guess that the bison skull my uncle found on his ranch is probably much older than a modern bison:

I am looking forward to going back to Nebraska, this time with my rock hammer, and really doing some fossil hunting!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Trip to New Mexico

My mom lives in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Last week my kids and I drove from Phoenix to visit.  Unfortunately, it was just as hot as Phoenix.  Right at the New Mexico/ Arizona border you could see the forest fires raging.  This smoke could be seen all the way in Las Cruces.  Here is a picture from my phone of the fire I could see from I-10:

Driving in to southern New Mexico is always an adventure.  Near Deming and Lordsburg you start seeing these signs that make you want to pull off the road.  They start with the dust storm sign seen below:

This sign looked like it was about to blow over anyway.  It was actually pretty dusty as you can tell.  This sign is followed by a sign that says do not stop in travel lanes and yet another that says zero visibility possible.  If that isn't enough, yet another sign says use extreme caution!  These signs are spaced close to one another and you get the idea that maybe you should turn around and go home.   I did make it through the dust storms to get to Las Cruces.  The mountains behind my mom's house look like this:

This picture doesn't really do the Organ Mountains justice, however.  We all had a great time together despite the heat.  All that smoke from Arizona made for some nice sunsets as well:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Teacher 2 Teacher MEGA CONTEST!

Attention! Attention! You don't want to miss out on this awesome opportunity. THIRTY-THREE teacher-sellers at Teachers Pay Teachers donated top notch classroom products for our T2T MEGA CONTEST! There are 3 major contest categories: K-2, 3-6 (1 winner each), and Middle School / High School (5 winners -1 per subject area: English, math, science, social studies / history, and fine arts).

Contest Dates: Starts Thursday, 6/16/11. Ends Sunday, 6/19/11 at 12:00 p.m. Midnight / Central time.

How to Enter: 

  • You receive TWO entries for each contributing seller you follow at Teachers Pay Teachers!
  • You receive ONE entry for each contributing seller's Facebook page that you LIKE.
  • You receive ONE entry for each contributing seller you follow on Twitter.
  • You receive ONE entry for each contributing seller's blog you read and leave a comment on.
  • You receive ONE entry for leaving a comment on this blog post telling us which category you entered and who you followed.
  • You receive TWO entries as a BONUS for every TEN entries you make.
In order to be officially entered in the contest, you must fill out the contest entry form for the appropriate category.  Go to this link for the form:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fun Things to Do in Science Class

Before I start my astronomy unit I usually have students do a fun activity.  Students are given toilet paper, construction paper, NASA stickers, foil, tape, and 10 minutes.  Within that 10 minutes they have to figure out how to construct something that looks like a spacesuit on one of their group members.  It is hilarious to watch. 
I did a similar activity in Houston when I was a part of NEAT (Network of Educator Astronaut Teachers).  All of us applied to become astronauts and were invited down to Houston.  During our spacesuit activity we only had toilet paper but were allowed to use anything on our tables.  Since this activity took place after dinner, you can imagine what ended up in our spacesuit.  Salad bowls, tablecloths, and certain utensils made excellent astronauts.  I can remember how much fun we had as adults doing this and that is what led me to repeating it in my classroom.  Excitement works great for motivation!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Scientific Method Template

Here is a new product that my class has used but I thought I would revamp it a bit and post to my store.  Usually, before our school science fair we practice with a smaller format.  Here is  one page of the publisher brochure that I use to have students record their data.

Students can type directly into this template or you can copy it and give it out as a handout.  This is much easier for me to grade than collecting student notebooks.  I usually have them glue it in their notebook after I hand it back.  Students get good practice in collecting data and recording their findings before we actually do a full science fair project.  Here is the link to my store to check it out:

Sunday, May 29, 2011

What I Am Doing This Summer

With school finally over I have time to catch up on some things. Here are some things I plan to do this summer:

1. Design new lessons for my teachers pay teachers store. I have many ideas but usually don't have the time.

2. Read the books I received for Christmas. Yes, I haven't quite finished these yet! I really want to read The Mists of Avalon. It is an older book that I never had the chance to read.

3. Go see my grandma and grandpa in Nebraska.  I haven't seen them in many years.  They are in their 80's now.  I feel like I need to go to tornado alley to see them!

4.  Clean out my bedroom closet.  Well it's just a mess by my standards.  I need to take everything out and start over.

5.  Above all else, spend some quality time with my two kids. We will probably go to grandma's house in New Mexico or something fun.

Join this linky party and tell us what you will be doing!  Link at:
Littlest Learners

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What I Have Learned From Teaching

1.  Do not yell!  Have you ever seen yourself yelling?  Not a pretty picture.  That is what the kids see and want to see again!

2.  Be very consistant.  This is probably the most important.

3.  Smile a lot. Kids love teachers that do this.

4.  Don't take yourself too serious.  I used to post  a paper at the back of my class that said remember rule #7.  The kids would ask me what rule #7 was all year.  It was actually just to remind me not to take myself too serious.

5.  Be able to laugh at yourself.  You are much less intimidating when you can do this.

6.  Be nice to your support staff.  They will repay this kindness!

7.  Don't say anything that you don't want everyone to know.  Schools are like small towns.

8.  Plan amazing lessons.  My students told me my rover lesson below was amazing.  Music to my ears!

9.  Not every student learns in the same way or on the same day.  Accommodate, modify and have high expectations while you do.

10.  Enjoy what you do or get a different job.  Anyone who works with kids should love what they do and still be excited about what they teach.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rovers, Rovers Everywhere!

Well the rover project has come to a close today.  There are so many rovers my entire classroom was completely full.  This was probably the best end of the year project I have ever done with a class.  The rovers were so varied and creative from all of my students  There should be many future engineers, and scientists coming from this generation.

My lesson culminated with building a rover, but first my students had to find out about Mars and pick a mission.  They created a mission patch for their group and named their rover.  They then went about creating their own Mars Rover.  The had to stick to a $2,000,000.00 budget during the project.  That meant that they could not purchase items from me that would exceed that amount.  They could buy things like metallic paper, foil, NASA stickers etc. and my prices were greatly inflated!  This meant that they had to use mostly recyclable items to build their rover.  They used boxes, paper towel tubes, soda cans, plastic juice containers etc.  I think they did an amazing job.  We had a lot of fun the last few days!

If you are interested in this lesson to build rovers in your classroom I have posted it in my store at Teachers Pay Teachers.  Here is the link:
Mars Rovers Project

Saturday, May 21, 2011


My class began building their Mars Rovers last week.  As you can see they are pretty amazing.  Whenever I give this type of "create whatever you want" assignment, I am always amazed with what students can come up with.  I didn't even think they would bring in materials.  I give them some of their decorations, but the majority of the project comes from recycled materials they would normally get rid of at home.  The day we started building, I was driving to work and saw all these students with boxes walking to school.  I thought, "Oh my goodness, this is all coming into my classroom!"  I'll have to post some pictures of my mess of a classroom in a later post! 

The rover above was created by three boys in my first hour.  They need to paint their treads this weekend but other than that it is a fine example of what 7th graders are capable of when allowed to have some free will!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Motivation During the Last Weeks of School

I find the last weeks of school to be daunting. Grades are in, state testing is done, and all the kids know it.  Last year proved to be one of the worst years on record for me as far as enjoyable final days of school go.  I am sure it was my fault in some ways.  Maybe I didn't have enough fun stuff for the last few weeks, or maybe I was tired myself.  In any case, by the end there were fights and foul language and things flying!  I almost put in for Ms. Viola Swamp to come sub my class! Mrs. Collingwood was going to be missing!

This year I vowed it would be different.  I have a project I am running called the Mars Rover Project.  I am actually writing it as I go.  It will probably end up on teachers pay teachers eventually.  My students are building a model of a Mars rover.  They have to have a mission for their rover and then build it to fit the mission.  The must stick to a certain budget.  They have certain items they can "buy" from me but must use recyclable items for the majority of their rover.  I had two students tell me that they should become engineers during this project.  The rest are having a great time and I haven't seen anything "flying" this year.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Hunger Games Literature Study

I have been working on a Hunger Games lit study for awhile.  My main motivation was the fact that I will be teaching 7th grade reading next year along with 6th and 7th grade science.  This literature study has activities for every chapter of the book.  There are basic lessons in setting, mood, rising action, climax, and resolution, as well as some fun stuff.  There is a found poem for Haymitch, a comic strip for Peeta, and even a haiku for Rue!  I even added a web based lesson that covers edible and medicinal plants (gotta put in some science!)  There is also a section about the ethics of reality tv.  I think Suzanne Collins was trying to get a message across about what is moral in that realm!

I had the 6th grade teachers at my school look it over and the only thing they really wanted in addition to a good answer key was a test that was set up like our state test in reading.  Let me tell you the answer key took long enough!  I did eventually come up with a test that covers the figurative language, setting, etc. and is in the state testing format.  The whole thing is 67 pages long and can be found if you are interested at:

Monday, May 2, 2011

The “WOW” Factor of Nature by Amy Brown

This past week in my biology class was spent on a unit on classification and taxonomy.  This is one of my favorite topics to teach because the diversity of life on Earth is so incredible and amazing.  Just now, I am sitting at my kitchen table looking out over our large back yard.  The evidence of adaptation to our current environment astounds me.  I am making a list to share with my students on Monday:
1.   A hummingbird is at my feeder.  (Yes, in the deep south, we already have hummingbirds back from the winter.)  Its beak is perfectly adapted to extract the nectar from any flower.
2.   The bees are very active this morning, buzzing in and out of every flower in sight.  Flowering plants take advantage of the bee, and cover its body with pollen every time it lands on a flower.  What a perfect way to deliver a sperm cell to an egg cell of a flower a block away.
3.   The birds are singing like crazy this morning!  What a perfect way to find a mate and establish behavioral barriers between the species.
4.   I can see beetles who are perfectly camouflaged to blend in with their surroundings.
5.  The fruiting bodies of mushrooms are poking up from the ground to take advantage of the deluge of rain we have had this week.  Water will spread their spores to great distances.
6.  A great blue heron is wading at the edge of our shallow pond.  Its body is perfectly adapted for wading and grabbing up the small fishes it sees.

It is an amazing time of the year to be a science teacher.  Nature is packed full of examples that we can share with our students.  I certainly hope that my students come away from this unit with the same "awe" as I have when considering how natural selection has brought us to this point in Earth's history.  Every organism in our sight is adapted to this particular environment.  All we have to do is to look carefully at our surroundings and we will see a multitude of examples of adaptation.

My challenge to you is this:  When Spring hits your particular area of this beautiful earth, take a class period and go outside with your students.  Give them a magnifying glass.  Have them make a list of the living organisms they see, and have them describe how they are adapted to the environment.  Yes, some of them will be "off task" and some of them will misbehave, but some of them will get hooked on nature for life!   I teach high school students, and I am stunned each year at how few of them have ever planted a seed, taken a walk through the woods, hung a bird feeder at their home, thrown "helicopter" seeds into the air and watched them spin, watched a spider spin a web, the list could go on and on!

These children will be responsible for making decisions about our planet in just a short number of years. We better get them excited about nature.  We better make sure they understand how their actions impact our planet. Our students are the future caretakers of this beautiful planet and there is not an "app" for that.  I hope that when they are adults we have taught them enough about science and nature that they can make informed decisions about how to take care of it.

I hope that you will visit my blog and become a follower.  My blog is called "Science Stuff" and can be reached here:

My blog has links to quite a few FREE products that can be fun activities for both middle and high school science students.  I hope to see you there!

Amy Brown is the author of the blog called “Science Stuff”.  Amy has 27 years of teaching experience in high school biology, chemistry, and AP biology.  Her blog is about ways to make your class more engaging and exciting for the students.  You can find her blog at:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Nonfiction Graphic Features Practice

I was trying to get my students ready for our state testing here in Arizona and I wrote some things to help me do that.  There is a lot of analyzing graphs and graphic features in the science and reading on our tests.  I wrote a graphic features paper for my students and used science type graphs for them to analyze.  After I was done using it, I uploaded it to my teacher pay teachers store and it has sold fairly well.  The graphs are colored for better display on smart boards etc.  To see this assignment (lesson) go to the site below:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Science Modules

The first year I taught 7th grade, which was three years ago, I had no idea how to teach biodiversity and invasive species.  I was stumbling around the internet when I discovered a website that had great science modules for the topics I needed to teach.  This website is from the University of Florida Center for Precollegiate Education and Training. It is known as SPICE. Spice is a five year project funded by the National Science Foundation. Many of the modules have an ecosytem theme.  Most have various lessons complete with powerpoints and printables.  The modules I use are Biodiversity, who cares? and Invasive Species.  If you are a science teacher I would definitely check it out here at the link below.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Student Birthday Cards

I had several parents call me this year and tell me that it was their child's birthday and they wanted me to know so I could do whatever we do for birthdays in 7th grade.  My first thought was, "Do I do anything?"  Not something high on my list for 7th grade.  I am more concerned about if I can get biodiversity taught by state testing week.  Well, I actually did do something nice.  I made a cool pop-up card for birthdays and I will be actively giving them out next year.  Here is a picture of the card below.  It has a pencil placed behind the pop-up.  This card is on sale this weekend in my store. Just click on this link to find it:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

$100 free give away!!!

There is a contest going on the First Grade Factory blog.  You have 4 ways to win the $100.  You can follow the blog, or follow her TPT store.  You can also publish a post about her contest and leave a comment with a link or put First Grade Factory in your sidebar on your blog.  Sounds like a great contest! Of course you can follow me too!  You could also follow the link to my store and follow me there as well.  If you don't want to do that, you could just download my free product at my store.  800 other people did today!
First Grade Factory

Rock Cycle Game

My Rock Cycle Game made it into the Teachers Pay Teachers newsletter today.  It is a fun little game that teaches that the rock cycle is not circular.  Rocks can go through various changes and not in a particular order.  It contains some of my personal photos from around Arizona.  The cover page shows a picture of Sedona during a storm.  This picture is repeated on some of the cards.  There are also pictures from Sunset Crater and Saguaro National Monument.  You can download it free from my store.
Rock Cycle Game

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring Sight Words

Well I must deviate again from science for awhile and talk about sight words!  I tutor non-readers on a weekly basis and have put together another sight word game.  I did not like the clip art out there so I drew my own spring pictures of a bunny, a swallowtail butterfly, and a ladybug.  Whew!  That was a lot of work!  I am pleased with the result, however.  It came out very springy and Easterish!  (Are those words?) Here is my ladybug:

If you would like to see the rest of this game, please visit my store at:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Paper Airplanes!

Just got a very cool video from Steve Spangler.  It is a hovering paper airplane.  To watch the video just follow this link:
Floating Paper Airplane

Another neat airplane trick that I like to do in my science class is the Ring Wing Glider.  I usually ask a student to stand back to back with me and their job is to tell me the procedures for making a paper airplane.  We both have paper etc.  They start folding their paper airplane and giving me instructions and I pretend to follow their directions.  Actually, though, I am follow my own instructions for the Ring Wing Glider.  The student usually ends up with a regular looking airplane that actually looks like an airplane and I end up with something that looks like a circle.  It is actually a wing that flies but they don't know this.  They fly their airplane and it usually flies ok.  I fly my silly looking circle thing and it flies across the room.  Very fun and gets all kinds of laughs.  It is something of a discrepant event actually.  If you would like to try this in your classroom go to this link for instruction on the Ring Wing Glider:

Instructions for the Ring Wing Glider

Scroll down until you find it on the page.
You will have to practice before doing this in front of a class, however:)
NASA also has instructions for students in a pdf format. You can search for ring wing glider and these will also come up.  Have fun!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Make a Quake

It seems that the Make a Quake website is still operational.  I have written an assignment to go with this website for my class.  It basically walks students through a simulation.  Students can choose what ground they want their building to be built on.  They can also choose the type of prevention to be built into their building and the magnitude of the earthquake.  They then cause an earthquake to happen and see how their building held up.  Tsunamis and other dangers are also addressed in the simulation. A very timely activity indeed.  If you are interested in this fun activity for your class pay a visit to my store at this link:
Make a Quake

Monday, March 21, 2011

Informational Text Homework

This is the time of year we all get a little frantic about state testing.  Generally, being the science teacher, I am pulled into helping reading and math at this time as they are tested subjects in Arizona.  I try to use informational scientific text to supplement what our reading teacher is doing.  Sometimes, yes, I give homework.  Homework this time of year is directly related to our state testing.  Here is a link to a homework assignment on Teachers Pay Teachers. It is practice on informational text structures.  More specifically it addresses the text structures sequence and comparison/contrast.  It also has a link to a website where you can put chronological events on a time line.

text structure homework

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

Well it never fails.  I start my plate tectonics unit and there is a very distructive earthquake that occurs.  Last year it was Haiti.  My father, who travelled to Japan on business for I.B.M. tells me that the Japanese are very prepared for an earthquake.  Unfortunately, it seems that there is no real way to prepare for a tsunami.  It is a very sad situation.  My class really had a hard time seeing footage of cars that were travelling on a road seemingly unaware of the wall of water and debris coming right at them. 
For those of you who want to know more about how a tsunami forms here is a good site.
This site actually has a science experiment about water depth and wave velocity.  It also has a national geographic video about killer tsunamis.  Probably not something I would show in class as it has people being swept away.
Science Buddies

Friday, March 11, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Fun

Most the time I am teaching science and designing lessons for my earth science classroom.  Occasionally, I tutor younger children in reading.  I also run interventions for some of the "non-readers"  in our school.  In my case, my own daughter falls into this group.  Actually, she used to fall into this group until I started really working with her.  Subsequently,  I have a few fun activities for K-1. I guess you could call it the "etc." in Science Etc.  One of them happens to be St. Patrick's Day sight words and syllables games.  These two games are fun for younger children just learning to read.  They also may be something to send home for practice.  Here is the link:
St. Patrick's Day Sight Words and Syllables

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


One way to get students to understand how the shape of coastlines and land features could be a clue to the movement of continents is to have them create their own landmass.  Students draw an outline of a landmass on a piece of paper.  They then fill in rivers, lakes, mountains, and other features.  The landmass is cut out and then torn into several pieces.  The pieces are given to another student to put back together. Students figure out what clues helped to fit the pieces back together, and what lands on a world map seem to fit together. This is a great activity to introduce plate tectonics.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Picture Notes

One of the best ways to teach plate tectonics is with picture notes.  The teachers draws, the students draw, and everyone understands. One site that I have found that has great picture notes for plate tectonics is:
Click on plate tectonics guidebook in the text underneath the picture.  Drawing pictures to teach plate boundaries and subsequent landforms is the easiest way I know to get the content across. I used to draw these on my white board while I discussed each picture.  I have since gone to a powerpoint but I don't think it has the same effect as drawing them by hand.  Your students will understand plate boundaries much easier if you try it this way.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Steve Spangler Science

Well I didn't really get to do my very cool plate tectonics powerpoint today because my technology failed.  I have my prep hour first so of course it failed after that.  Good thing my husband works in the tech department at my district.  It was finally going again after classes were over.  Thank goodness for early releases!  We only had 40 minute classes today.  

One thing that my students just love, when technology is working, is Steve Spangler.  He is very motivational for the middle school science class.  We can get Utube for class and he is on the Ellen Show on Utube.  Some of his stuff borders on descrepant events which I discussed on an earlier post.  I like to start my class off with something showy to get us all in the mood for science.  I swear it works wonders.  Here is a Steve Spangler illusion that my class loved.  If you can project it (if your technology is working) you can not only make the dots disappear but also your students will see green dots at the end.  It is very cool.
optical illusion heart

Monday, February 28, 2011

Plate Tectonics

This week we dive into plate tectonics, one of the hardest things I teach as a 7th grade teacher.  I am trying to get some new ideas together for ways to teach this standard.  I will be posting some of my ideas here as we complete them.  For now I will just say I am going to have to be much more creative in teaching this.  I may just put some of my new ideas up on TPT after I have tested them.  One great site that has many powerpoints and lessons is  the Science Queen.  She is a teacher from Casa Grande, AZ (just down the road from me).  All of her lessons are geared to Arizona State Standards for science.  They are wonderful.  Here is a link to her site.
The Science Queen

Friday, February 25, 2011

Rock and Mineral Jeopardy

My classes have completed their rocks and minerals unit.  On Monday we will be playing rocks and mineral jeopardy.  Jeopardy works well at the end of a unit as a review or just fun.  There are also many Powerpoint and other web based games of jeopardy on the internet. These make it a lot less time consuming than trying to make a game yourself.  Here is one that even has the Jeopardy song from the TV game show.
Rocks and Mineral Jeopardy

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rock Cycle Comic Strips

As a follow up to "Riding the Rock Cycle" my students are now taking that information and creating a comic strip.  They all visited 13 stations in the rock cycle, so they will have 13 sections of their comic strip.  So far I have many very good comics, probably the best artwork and storylines I have seen all year.  I would really recommend using art and drawing in science.  It seems to solidify concepts!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ride the Rock Cycle

Today we did a rock cycle activity that works very well with middle school students.  It is somewhat like an activity from Project Wet on the water cycle.  Students go to different stations like: earth's interior, river, mountain etc.  and the roll a die that tells them where to go next.  Sometimes they stay at a station for a long time.  I had one student that was at the earth's interior station for three turns and he told me that it felt like he had been there a million years.  I said, "now you have the idea."  This activity can be found at

You will need to scroll down to the "R's" to get to Ride the Rock Cycle.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Motivating Students With Discrepant Events

One of my favorite discrepant events from the Princess Bride.  Of course the explanation is that the Dread Pirate Roberts put the poison in both glasses! Many science teachers use discrepant events to get students excited about science.  Last week I used a discrepant event in class and it went over very well.  Basically, I took a balloon and blew it up and lit it with a lighter.  It popped very loudly and my 7th graders loved it.  Then, I took another balloon filled with water and blew it up.  I suspended it over a student's head (another fun thing to do) and asked that they predict what would happen if I lit it with the lighter.  Most thought it would again explode and water would splash down on the unfortunate student.  One student even put her hood on. This event works because the specific heat of water prevents the balloon from  bursting.  It does leave a great black spot on the balloon, however.  I like to be very dramatic during these demonstrations which gets everyone in the mood for science!  Discrepant events work well because students will want to know why that event turned out the way it did.  I like to use the P.O.E. method while I demonstrate.  P = predict what is going to happen, O= observe what does happen, E = explain why it happened the way it did. 

Teaching With Games

I love teaching with games because students don't know they are learning.  They believe they are just playing a game.  Here is a game about the rock cycle you can download free. 

Rock Cycle Game

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Rock Cycle

My students are finished with rocks and minerals.  We will now ride the rock cycle for a few weeks.  I like to teach this with games and websites. I will link to my free Rock Cycle Game on Teachers Pay Teachers on my next post.  It is a very fun game where students learn that the rock cycle is not a "circular" cycle.
Here is a link to my rocks and minerals quiz on purpose games:  Rocks and Minerals Quiz
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