Free Periodic Table with updated names!

It’s about that time of year and a lot of teachers are teaching the periodic table.  This is just a quick blog post to let you know of a free resource you can download to help your students in their chemistry studies.

One of the keys of studying the periodic table is to have an up-to-date high-quality-print periodic table for your students to use!  I have a great table that I created in Illustrator that you can print for free and print on legal size paper (or letter size – 2 pages).

I think it’s so important to have an up-to-date one with all the proper element names instead of that UUnonsense!  (You know what I’m talking about.  If you have one with the actual names, you won’t have students asking over and over what the actual names are, why your old-out-of-date-textbook-ones don’t have the real names, etc etc etc.)

You can download it by signing up with the form below!

Download a Free Periodic Table printable

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Ten Tips for Teaching ELL Science

This guest blog post was written by my friend Becca over at Science Rocks! She is a terrific teacher with a lot of experience working with ELL students in her science classroom and I collaborated with her in writing this post. I think her ideas are full of fantastic tips for teachers who teach English Language Learners.

 

If you’ve been teaching for a while, chances are you have had some ELL (English language learner) students in your classroom. I’ve known many teachers that have panicked and asked me “how can I teach them science if they don’t speak English?” I think many teachers tend to think they need to dumb down the content for these students. They aren’t dumb! Your job is to make the content accessible. It’s been my experience that ELL students are amazingly hard workers and are a blast to work with. My friend Bethany Lau over at Science with Mrs. Lau and I have created a list of best-practice tips for working with ELL students. We also have some helpful resources to share with you!

 

Tip #1: Get them talking! A quiet classroom is not conducive to learning a new language. Many students are scared to speak out loud in English, especially in front of the entire class. To help build their confidence, try small group discussions first. To ensure that every student has spoken to his or her group, give each student something color-coded (I use colored popsicle sticks from the dollar store). When a student speaks, they place their popsicle stick in the center of the table. It is easy as a teacher to walk around and monitor who is speaking and who isn’t. Make it a requirement that each student has to speak at least twice during group discussions.

 

 

Tip #2: SLOW down when you are talking, and use nonverbal cues. This is much easier to do when you have all your ELL students together in one class, but when they are mixed with native English speakers we often don’t realize how fast we are talking. It is really difficult for ELL students to process when you are speaking a mile a minute. So take a deep breath, slow down, and use your hands and other nonverbal gestures. Don’t be afraid to act things out! Yes they will giggle, and yes they will love it.

 

 

 

Tip #3: Build vocabulary. When you teach new words, always make your students repeat the word out loud after you say it. And if they aren’t loud, make them do it again. If you have a word wall in your classroom, go down the list frequently and make your students say them with you. To help students remember the definitions, discuss prefixes and suffixes to help them decode meanings.

 

Find fun ways for students to practice those new words. Instead of doing vocabulary worksheets, do vocabulary games instead! Bingo is an awesome way to review vocabulary words before a test. Create a bingo card from a free online bingo-card maker such as http://osric.com/bingo-card-generator/. Type in the words you want your students to learn and print a class set. Instead of calling out the words, say the definition and the students need to cover up the correct word. If they get a bingo, they need to say the words out loud in order to win a prize.

 

Tip #4: Utilize pictures. I used to try and translate parts of my power points into Spanish before the lesson thinking I was doing my students a favor.

I quickly realized that:

  1. Google translate is frequently wrong
  2. Many of my students could speak fluent Spanish but couldn’t read it.
  3. Even if they could read most of it, they didn’t know the content specific terms in Spanish. Why would I want my students to learn the word “homeostasis” in Spanish AND English? Let’s just stick with English.

Instead of translating, stick with visual pictures. Pictures are understood in all languages. Include them as much as possible in your lessons and power points. Make students draw pictures in their notes. Include pictures in all your articles you want students to read. A great pre-reading activity is to have students look at the pictures and captions in an article before they read the body paragraphs. Have them guess what the article is about based on the pictures and discuss with their neighbors (get those popsicle sticks back out). If you have a word wall in your classroom, make sure it includes pictures too! The more they see a picture associated with a new word, the more likely they will remember what it means.

 

Tip #5: Learn about their language and culture, and include it in your lessons when applicable. Students will have more buy-in to your lessons when they feel like their language and culture is valued. If you can connect their language to the content, chances are they will remember it better. For example, students use the term “liga” in Spanish to mean rubber band or hair elastic. When teaching “ligaments,” discuss how they are stretchy unlike tendons. Students won’t forget!

 

 

 

Tip #6: Use Manipulatives! Sometimes students need help learning how to structure their writing into logical paragraphs (even native English speakers need this too!) If you have sample paragraphs for them to learn from, you can print separate sentences out on separate lines, and cut them into strips. Then you can mix the sentences up and have students order them in how they should logically appear in a sentence! You can also do this for other parts of a lab report, like the procedure section or even the proper labels for a graph!

 

You could create your own writing structure manipulatives, or you can check out Bethany Lau’s Lab Report Writing Activity Bundle found here. She has a set of activities with manipulative for each and every part of the lab report with a lot of examples for students to learn from.

 

Tip #7: Get them writing as much as possible. Data shows that when students take the state language proficiency tests, they struggle the most with writing. Find ways to get students writing on a daily basis. This could work in many different formats- just find one that works for you. Daily bellwork is a great place to start, as well as having students keep writing journals.

 

What should you have them write about? Check out these writing prompts from Science Rocks’ store!

 

These were designed to be used before new concepts are taught, and allows the teacher to assess prior knowledge and check for misconceptions. When students are first learning English, allow them to write in their native language if they are able to and plug in English words that they know. Throughout the year as their language improves, you will see their writing transform from fragmented to fluid sentences.

 

Another great writing strategy for ELL students are sentence frames. For students still learning how to write a complete sentence, give them half the sentence first and have them fill in the blanks. For example, a hypothesis on a lab report for an ELL student could look like this: “If I change ___________, then I think ___________ will happen, because __________.

 

Tip #8: Model. And then model some more. As science teachers we tend to think of “modeling” as meaning “I’ll show them how to do a lab before it’s their turn.” Modeling applies to so much more than labs.

  1. Model reading strategies. As you read through articles out loud, stop and discuss. What was the main idea? What did you highlight and why?
  2. Model writing strategies. When you assign those writing prompts, work through one with them first. Show them what a quality answer would look like.
  3. Model behaviors. Many students will enter your classroom from different backgrounds. Behaviors that may have been acceptable where they grew up may not be acceptable in your classroom. If you want them to give a verbal presentation with eye contact, show them what a good presentation looks like first.
  4. Model word pronunciation. Sometimes if students are nervous to say things in English, I have them teach me how to say the phrase in their native language first. Once they have giggled at my horrible pronunciation, they aren’t so embarrassed to pronounce things in English.

 

Tip #9: Modify. Yes, one more thing to add to your to-do list. But it can honestly be as simple as cutting down the number of questions for them to complete, or adding pictures to an assessment. One of my favorite websites to find nonfiction science articles on is newsela.com. Not only is it free to use, but once you find an article you can change the lexile! That means all your students can be reading the same article but at a reading level that is assessable to them.

 

 

 

 

Tip #10: Use formative assessment frequently, and celebrate gains. It’s important to check in with ELL students often. Many of them will take notes, smile, and nod during class, but only understood 20% of what was discussed. Exit tickets and note summaries are great ways to check in and see where they need help and what they have mastered. Make your exit tickets specific. Don’t just say, “One thing I still need help with is…” but instead ask them to answer a specific question related to the lesson. This will help you group them by mastery and focus on the students that really need your help. Once they have mastered a new concept or learned new vocabulary, don’t forget to celebrate! Let them know you are proud of them, and they will work harder in the future. If students feel like their hard work is recognized and celebrated, they will continue to work hard!

 

 

We’d love to hear stories from you about what helps your ELL students! Let us know in the comments!

 

Biochemistry Resources for the High School Biology Classroom

Many of you are starting to teach biochemistry soon and I want to show you a few biochemistry resources I have that you may be interested in.

Biochemistry is truly the most difficult topic to teach in high school biology (photosynthesis and respiration come to a close second) in my opinion.  Here are a few resources that I use to help my students really understand the topic.

 

In-class activities:

 

“The Scariest Worksheet Ever”

I have a coloring page meant to really help students understand and be able to identify functional groups.  I call it “The Scariest Worksheet Ever”, which always gets a good laugh.  By the end of the activity, they don’t think it’s scary anymore either!  You can see that resource here:

 

 

Biochemistry with Beads, Pipe Cleaners, and Paper Clips:

These activities are my favorite activities for the whole school year.  It took a few years to really create these, because I kept thinking of ways to improve the subtleties involved.  For each of the  biomolecules (carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids), I’ve got a hands-on activity where students can build models of the molecules, giving them a concrete visual they can keep in their minds for class discussions.  I find my students really connect these concepts well with future class concepts like protein synthesis and photosynthesis and respiration, once they have completed these activities.  I recently did a Facebook live video showing some aspects of these activities and you can see that video here.

 

 

You can find more information about these activities here.

 

 

Student Independent Practice Pages or Homework Pages:

Besides my in-class activities, I’ve written several homework pages that I like to use to help students practice skills and review material they interacted with in class.

You can get a free biochemistry homework page here to see if they would be good for your own classroom!  Fill in your email address below to sent it by email.

Free Protein Structure Worksheet

Download a free homework page for reviewing protein structure, and I'll also send you about one email a week with free resources and science teacher tips.

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If you’re interested in the other pages, you can check them out here.

Here are some pictures of the other terrific pages you can use in your own classroom, available in my TeachersPayTeachers store.  They include several structure/function relationship pages, a nutrition facts connection page, a virus connection page, and a chapter summary page!

 

What did you wish you had for your biochemistry unit?  Let me know in the comments and I’ll put it on my list of ideas to work on!

 

 

science and math with mrs lau

Tips for Dealing with Student Absences

 

One unique challenge of the middle school and high school teacher is dealing with the numerous absences that happen in any given week or even any given day!

 

How many of you have seen the following scenario happen?

 

You start your day and students begin streaming in for first period class.  A student comes up to you and asks you what they missed the day before.  And then another student does.  And another student, who missed 3 days of class does… And you’re wracking your brain to remember what handout you gave this particular class period three days ago, and then a 4th student comes up and asks if they can make up a quiz they missed… during your prep!!

 

Now pretend that this happens every single class period of your 4 or 5 or 6 classes that day!

 

You get the gist of what I’m saying.

 

It is utterly unsustainable to try and remember and keep track of which handouts each student missed and who needs to make up which lab and which student needs to make up a quiz.  With over 100 students on your roster, something has to give.

 

So what can you do to keep yourself organized and help you be able to help your students when they come back to class?  I have a few tips that have saved my sanity when it comes to student absences:

 

  1.  I keep the students accountable for getting what they missed.

This is really key.  On the first day of school, I make it EXTREMELY clear that it is their job to keep themselves up to date on what is going on in class.  It’s their responsibility to get the class notes from their classmates and to come to me if they have questions.  I use notes packets with my students.  I print out diagrams and outlines for them at the beginning of each unit and students know they are missing notes when they’re absent because they can look at their neighbor’s notes packet and see that their neighbor has it filled in and they don’t!

 

2. I have a strict lab makeup policy.

Lab makeups are so tricky.  Labs take loads of time to set up, they take up space in the classroom, and can even be dangerous to leave out.  When students come in to makeup a lab, I have to be there, essentially running a whole new class period for them.  Because of this, I have a strict lab makeup policy.  I set up one lab per week (per course I’m teaching).  I leave the setup out (or in an easily accessible prep area) for one week after that lab class week.  Any students that miss the lab during week 5 for example, MUST attend the lab makeup date for week 6, and that lab makeup time is after school on a specific, consistent day every week (for example Thursday).  There is no other lab makeup.  If they’re absent, they have to come to that makeup time.  I keep the lab makeup time as consistent as possible, so students know that if they miss lab, they will have to make it up on a Thursday after school, on their own time.

 

I have had students tell me specifically that they make sure to make it to class on lab days because they don’t want to come to the makeup.  WIN.  Maybe I’m mean.  That’s ok.  I try to give students a jolt of real life once in a while and a strict lab makeup policy is part of that plan.

 

3.  I also have a strict quiz or test makeup policy.

Have you ever noticed how test and quiz days are often high-absence days?  It’s because students try to miss a test (sometimes even going home “sick” right before your class period!!) and they try to get another night or weekend to study (or <gasp> try to get the questions from their friends who were in class!)  Have you ever had one of those absent students come back the next day and ask to take the test “tomorrow during lunch?”, meaning they get TWO extra nights to study or “perform their investigations”.

 

My policy is this: the very day they return to school, if they missed a test date as their first date of absence, is the day they must take it, AT LUNCH.  That’s right.  They have to miss their lunch and they have to take it that very same day they return.  And what if their class period normally falls after lunch and they won’t even see me until after lunch?  They all know from day 1 that that doesn’t matter; they still must come to see me during lunch and take their test or quiz, before their class period even meets for me to remind them.  Yep.  Again, am I mean?  One day, these students will join a work force.  They will be in a job.  And you can bet when they get back to work after a sick day, their boss is going to expect them to do the job they missed on the day they were absent.  The boss isn’t going to give them an extra day to just veg in the office or think about the task they missed.

 

Now of course, if a student has missed multiple days before a test plus the test date, I work it out with that particular student when they will take a test, after coming for extra help with me.  My strict policy is for the student who misses JUST the test day.

 

4.  I use a simple student absence form to keep paperwork organized.

I know that some schools are going digital and all that, but I have never worked in a school where that was possible.  Many students I have taught don’t have computers at home.  So when I have a student absent, I staple a very easy-to-fill-in form to the front of any handouts for the day and stick it into my attendance book front pocket, so when the next day comes and they come into class, I can easily hand them the form and missed work.  On the form, there is a checkbox for makeup test dates, makeup lab dates, and room for me to write an additional note if need be.  You can get that form for free by filling in your email address below!

Free Student Absence Form

Download a free student absence organizational form. I'll also send you about one email a week with free resources and science teacher tips.

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What do you do to save your sanity dealing with all the student absences?  Write it in the comments!  And make sure you sign up to get that free student absence form!

 

 

 

science and math with mrs lau

Tips for Teaching Polyatomic Ions

I try to avoid having students memorize things, when possible.  I think it is far more valuable to be able to figure something out from other information or to be able to read and write science or to be able to think through a stoichiometry problem.  But when it comes to polyatomic ions, students just HAVE to memorize them.  There is no way around it.

 

It’s sort of like multiplication facts in elementary school.  When students are learning how to multiply, they can do a lot of different activities to teach them the logic behind multiplication.  They can practice with manipulative and iPad app games and such.  But in the end, each student HAS to memorize them because if they don’t, they will be unable to do multiplication problems in the future.

 

Polyatomic ions are the same way.  When you arrive at the nomenclature and bonding units of your year, they must memorize the polyatomic ions.  They will use their knowledge of the ions throughout the rest of the year in stoichiometry, acids and bases unit, equilibrium unit… They just need to memorize them.  Using them in problems from day to day will help too, but really, they just have to sit down and do the memorization work!

 

Here are a few ideas to help students memorize the polyatomic ions and their charges:

 

1.  Flash cards: I personally believe that for flash cards to be useful, students need to make them themselves.  The active part of creating them is just as important as practicing with them.  I have students put the name on the front and the formula on the back.  Or formula on the front and Lewis structure on the back if we are covering Lewis structures!

 

 

2.  Plain old Polyatomic ionic quiz that you tell them you’re giving!  Give them a list of them, give them a few days to memorize them, and tell them you are going to test 10 of them.  There is no partial credit.  Just flat out right or wrong.  I know it’s sort of old-fashioned, but this is what forced me back in the day to memorize them.  I recommend if you do this that you pick a different (or even random) 10 for each class period, because you know friends share which ions are asked in their class period.  Tell them it will be different for each class so they don’t even bother trying to cheat and talk between classes.

 

 

3.  Make it a competition!  You can do a quick-write on the board game where you ask your students.  Make a stack of small cards so you can pick a name randomly.  Have students form 2 or 3 teams (depending on how much chalkboard or whiteboard space you have) and have one student from each team go up at the same time.  Pick a card, shout out just the name (like “CARBONATE!”) and students have to write the formula down as fast as they can (or the Lewis structure if you’re in a more advanced section.)  Students love writing on the board and they love games.  You could throw the winning team an extra credit point on the next test, candy, or just bragging rights!

 

SPECIAL NOTE: My rule when I do this type of game in biology or chemistry class is absolutely no throwing my whiteboard markers.  Because if you do, you BUY me a new set.  I always spent quite a bit of my own money on nice colorful Expo whiteboard markers and it drove me nuts if students got cocky or angry during the game and threw the markers.

(Nick, you still owe me some markers, if you’re reading this…!  Yes, that was over 5 years ago.  But a rule is a rule!)

 

 

4. Play BINGO!  (Or “ATOMS”!)  You can find it here in my TeachersPayTeachers store.  I created a set of 30 unique bingo-style cards that students can use.  I include versions with formulas and versions with names, so you can have students practice finding the formula from the name or the name from the formula.  I even created custom markers for students to use on their sheets!  I love printing these on colored paper to make it even more fun.

 

What’s your favorite tip for teaching polyatomic ions?  Please add in a comment below!

 

 

science and math with mrs lau