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Tips for New (and Experienced!) Science Teachers

These tips will serve you well your entire teaching career!

Learning is a life-long experience.  We are never too young or too old to learn new things.  After teaching for 31 years, I am still learning how to be a better teacher.  Along the way I had wonderful mentors and colleagues who helped me develop my teaching skills, and I discovered a few things for myself as well.

The tips and tricks below will serve you well.  Remember them.  Incorporate them into your daily teaching routine.  Refine them and make them your own.

Never this.  Please, never this!
1.  Safety first.  Safety always.
Develop a lab safety unit and teach it the first week of school.  Stress laboratory safety every single day of the year.

2.  Before students arrive for back-to-school, do an analysis of your lab and classroom.  Check all equipment and furniture.  Remove unusable items.  CLEAN everything!


3.  Check your safety equipment often.
Have you flushed your eyewash station?  When was the last time you checked the safety shower?  Is your fire extinguisher fully charged?  Is the first aid kit fully stocked?


4.  Stay on top of repairs.  Turn in work orders for those leaky faucets, stopped up gas jets, and burned out lights.  Follow up on work orders once they have been submitted.  Be relentless in getting things fixed.



5.  The custodians and plant managers are your best friends.
Treat them well and with respect.  They will save you many, many times during the school year.

6.  Never do a lab with students until you have tried the lab yourself.
You can never predict what will happen or how things will work until you carry out the experiment yourself.  If you are seeing a lab unfold for the first time while students are doing the lab, this is a recipe for EPIC FAIL.

7.  Make out your lab order all year long.  Keep a lab notebook handy, and constantly make notes in it.  Record supplies that are running low and need to be ordered for the next school year.  At the end of the year, grab the catalogs and make out your lab order before you go home for the summer.

8.  Don't go home at the end of the day until everything is ready for tomorrow.  This is a hard one because we are exhausted at the end of the day!  Before you leave in the afternoon, your lab should be set up, all handouts should be copied, all phone calls should be returned, and you put your desk in order.  If you wait until the next morning, Murphy's Law will set in. "Things" always happen when you get to school.  The copier will break, your principal will ask for a meeting, students come in to ask questions, the teacher next door will not quit talking, etc.  Be sure everything is ready before you get to school!

9.  Make sure the classroom is neat and orderly.  This is actually a great science experiment!  A wise teacher once told me to straighten the desks after each class period before the next class enters.  Student behavior is affected by the environment.  The class is much more productive and well behaved if there is order in the room as they enter.  If the rows are crooked, the desks are scattered around, papers are all over the floor, and the pencil sharpener is overflowing, student behavior will be different.  Sounds crazy, but this is true.  Try it and see for yourself.


10.  Study.  Study.  Study.  
Study some more!  Never teach a lesson that you are not prepared to teach.  Science is complex stuff, and it is always changing!  You will embarrass yourself if you stumble around with the content and are unable to explain concepts to the students.  Our students are brilliant at picking up on the fact that we are unprepared, and they will be relentless to point this out during your class.

11.  Make it fun, but please make it educational!  Science classes are so much fun!  We get to use all sorts of neat equipment and cool gadgets!  Our students are depending on us to give them a great science education.  Let's use all of our fun "science toys" to further their education.  If you want to make silly putty or glue in the lab, make sure the students learn something from it.

12.  Go as deep into the subject matter content as your students can handle.  There is a fine line between "too easy" and "too hard."  Neither should be happening in your class.  Determine the ability level and knowledge base of your students, and push them to the next level.  Know that the students you have next year will be different.


13.  Don't be afraid to say "I don't know."  All of us, even the best prepared of us, will be asked questions that we do not know the answer to.  How you handle these questions makes all the difference. Sometimes you just have to say "I don't know."  But you need to have an answer the next day when the students arrive.  They will appreciate that you went the extra mile to answer their questions.

14.  Know your limitations.  Work as hard as you can every single day.  Do all you can do for your students.  But know that you can't do everything. Don't take on more than you can handle, and don't be afraid to say "no."

15.  Find a mentor.  Find an amazing teacher that you trust and respect. Talk with him/her often! Someone on the faculty has already had the problem you are facing, and they can help you through it.  A good mentor has a wealth of valuable knowledge and experience, and the support they can give is invaluable!

16.  They're your students, not your friends!  Cultivate a great relationship with your students.  Know your students likes and dislikes. Attend their sports events, band concerts and theater productions.  Make sure they know that you care for them, and that you are willing to help them.  But remember that you are the teacher and they are the students, and a certainly boundary must be maintained.

17.  Respect must be earned.  Always treat your students with respect and dignity.  The lessons we teach in citizenship and tolerance of others are as important as the science lessons we teach.  Be the role model for the behaviors you want to see in your students.

18.  Call the parents before they call you.  If you initiate the contact, then you are in control of the direction and flow of the conversation.  If the parent is calling you, they are probably already upset or mad, and it will be more difficult to get them back on your side.

19.  Take home the work, but not the problems.
Working at home is a given for teachers.  We know we are going to be grading papers and preparing lessons on our personal time.  But try to leave the problems and stresses of the day at work.  If you have a problem with a student, colleague or administrator, solve it before you leave for the day. If you don't, you will worry about it all day (or week end) long.  Better to get the stress and worry out of your head before you leave for the day.



20.  Excitement in the classroom is contagious.
You have to love your subject and let it show to your students how much you love your subject.  If you are excited about what you are teaching, the students will be too.



It is my sincere hope that some of these tips will help you through the long days of the school year.  Good luck with your teaching, and have a great school year.  And remember ..... Have fun teaching!

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Super Secondary Science Giveaway


Welcome Back to School Science Teachers!

16 Secondary Science Authors have teamed up for one ENORMOUS giveaway!!

If you are a science teacher in grades 6 and up, you are not going to want to miss out on this fantastic giveaway!

As a group of 16 teacher-authors on TeachersPayTeachers.com we are giving away FOUR $100 gift cards to TpT.  In addition, each of us is hosting our own individual giveaways.

(PSSSSSST ..... While you are here, be sure to click on the "Freebie" tab at the top of the page!)


We want to say "THANK YOU" for supporting our TpT stores and "HOPE YOU HAVE A GREAT SCHOOL YEAR" all in one huge giveaway!

There are TWO Rafflecopters below:

  • Group Giveaway Rafflecopter 
  • My Individual Giveaway Rafflecopter.
Simply follow the instructions in each rafflecopter to enter multiple times. Each seller is hosting their own individual giveaway so be sure to hop from blog to blog and enter them all.  Check out the linky at the bottom of the post for a list of all participating sellers.
Ready to enter?  
Follow the directions below to win the prizes in my individual giveaway.

I will be picking three winners at random.  If you win, I'll email you and ask you what resources you would like from my store!  Then you can email me back which resources you want, and I'll email them to you.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


       Follow the directions below to enter the group giveaway!

In addition to individual store giveaways, all of us have joined forces to put together one HUGE blog hop scavenger hunt, just for science teachers teaching grades 6-12: Four $100 TeachersPayTeachers gift cards! Each blog post has a secret code word and a number.  The number tells you the word order in the secret sentence. Collect the words from each blog (links below), write them down in number order, and copy the secret sentence into the second rafflecopter giveaway. This rafflecopter form is the same on every blog, so you only need to enter once from any one of our blogs!  (Please only enter if you are a science teacher!)  

My code word is "THE" and it's the FOURTH word in the sentence.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to visit each of the blogs below to enter each individual giveaway and to collect the scavenger hunt words for the group giveaway!  Thanks for participating and from all of us...


Have a Great School Year!!


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Using Games to Master the Mountain of Biology Vocabulary Words


Are your students struggling to master all the new biology terms and definitions we 
teach each day?

After teaching high school Biology for over 30 years, I know that one of the biggest problems my students are going to have in my class is mastering the mountain of new vocabulary words encountered each and every day.  When I talk to struggling biology students, they will usually tell me that they understand the concepts, and they understand "how and why" things work as they do, but they hate to memorize the vocabulary words.   In addition to learning new words and their meanings, the words are often hard to spell and hard to pronounce.  


In looking for ways to help my students, I quickly discovered that different styles of game play was the answer.  Students need a little fun and excitement in the classroom, and anytime you announce that you are about to play a game, even the most stubborn student will get excited.  In addition, students are naturally competitive with one another, and I found that they will study the vocabulary words in order to win a game!  Especially if there is a prize!  As a result, I developed vocabulary cards with corresponding definition cards that I call "Biology Buzz Words."


What is “Biology Buzz Words”?  The number of new science vocabulary words can be overwhelming to our students.  Practice and review in a game format is an excellent method of drilling and reinforcing the concepts and vocabulary.  Each set of "Biology Buzz Words" contains a list of vocabulary words and definitions that are found on a particular topic in a typical high school biology textbook.  The words and definitions are printed on separate cards.  Students will use these cards to play various games to help them master the vocabulary words.  At present, I have 17 different games that I play with my students.  The games include individual games, small group games and entire class games.  


  • Mix/Match Games
  • Catch Phrase style
  • 20 Questions style
  • I have / Who has
  • Pictionary style
  • Bingo
  • First Day instruction
  • Lab Stations
  • Bell Ringers / Warm Ups
  • Let's Talk About It
  • Vocabulary Game Show
  • Categories
  • Hot Seat
  • Concentration
  • Chalk It Up!

My students really enjoy these game format review sessions.  I have to be careful about the time it takes to play these games, though.  If my students had their way, we would be playing games every day!  For prizes, I use Jolly Rancher candies.  Believe me, middle and high school students will really study the vocabulary words in order to win a candy!


Differentiation!
The types of game play are extremely versatile.  Make the game as easy or as hard as you want by selecting which vocabulary and definition cards you want to use.  The games can be tailored to meet the needs of any life science or biology class.  For an advanced class, use all of the vocabulary cards.  For a younger class, or a lower level class, choose only the vocabulary words that are appropriate for their level.  If your class contains students of widely varying ability levels, you can easily tailor the games for specific groups of students.  It is very easy to differentiate and customize instruction for a particular group of students by selecting the cards that are most appropriate for those students.

My Biology Buzz Word products come with a lot more than the vocabulary cards and the definition cards.  Check out the images below to see what is included with each product.



I have just begun to post these products to my TpT store.  The following are currently available, and many more will be coming soon.  Click on the links below for more information.