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Amp Up Your Unit on Plants!

Ginkgo

It's time for your unit on plants.  Excited or dreading it?

As I sat down to begin the writing of this post, my initial thought was to lead with, "I just love teaching plants!"  And then it occurred to me that I begin almost all of my blog posts on biology topics in the same way.  But the truth is.... I am excited to begin teaching almost any topic in biology. I love them all!  I am sure that I have a least favorite unit to teach, but I would have to give that some thought to determine which unit it is. That is probably a topic for another blog post.....

So back to plants.  Having taught school for over 30 years, I have taught thousands of students and have interacted with many, many teachers during this time.  What I know is this:  Students don't like studying about plants (too boring!) and teachers don't like teaching about plants (students don't like it!) As a result, I have noticed that many middle and high school life science and biology teachers will either:

  1. Leave plants out of the curriculum entirely, or ...
  2. Skip through it too quickly, leaving out the depth that this unit deserves.

I find plants fascinating.  And because I do, I look for ways to make it interesting for my students.  Not the topic of this blog post, but have you ever tried the C-Fern labs from Carolina Biological?  My students literally shout with excitement when they see (using a microscope) the sperm cells swimming to the egg and the frantic mob of sperm that ensues around the egg.


Students love lab work and it definitely helps makes the class more interesting and exciting, but we all know that the "down and dirty" classroom days are needed to teach the information to our students.  I developed this set of 34 warm up / bell ringer / interactive notebook pages to use with my students while teaching about plant evolution and classification.  I am really excited about this set, and I feel that it is one of the best sets that I have written.


  • If you complete these pages with your students, I guarantee that your students will come away with a solid foundation and knowledge base about the evolution and classification of plants.
Click image to view product in my TpT store.

  • These pages are NO PREP for the teacher!!  I have done all of the prep work for you. You can spend more time concentrating on your teaching.
  • Don't use these pages the same way everyday.  Use some as warm ups, and others as homework assignments.  Some will make great quizzes.  I like to add a page or two of these as a lab station while carrying out our plant experiments.  While lecturing, I will break up the lecture time by having my students complete one of the pages for review and reinforcement.

What topics are covered?  These 34 warm up pages cover the topics commonly found in an introductory unit on plants.  Highlights include: Characteristics of plants, the plant life cycle, alternation of generations, the evolution of plants, the transition of plants to land, classification of plants, nonvascular and vascular plants, the bryophytes, the liverwort life cycle, the moss life cycle, the fern life cycle, the seed plants, gymnosperms and angiosperms.

What topics are not covered?  Plant structure and function, plant responses, and plant reproduction will be covered in future warm up sets. Stay tuned!

Thanks for stopping by, and have fun teaching!

5 Free Lessons to Leave in Your Science Sub Folder




Prepare your sub folder NOW for your unexpected absence!

We all know this story.  We have lived this story over and over and over in our teaching careers.
  • It is 4:30 am and you wake up to a very sick child.  You have to call by 5 am to get a sub.
  • You are already running late.  On the way to school, you have a flat tire.  There is no way you are going to make it in time.
  • While at school, you get an emergency call, and have to leave immediately.
  • And occasionally, even WE (teachers) get sick and need to see a doctor.
  • How many times have you said, "I would rather go to school than have to make out plans for the substitute teacher?"
Such is the nature of life.  There are always going to be unexpected events in our lives that we have no control over.  What you do have control over is how you handle them.  Do you really want to be scrambling around in the dark at 4:30 an trying to put together some materials to send to your substitute teacher?  Well, I must admit, I have been that teacher.  And you have, too!


Let's change that right now.  Here are 5 FREE lessons that you can download, print, and leave in your sub folder.  When the unexpected happens to you, you can remain calm knowing that your students will have quality lessons to complete in your absence.  Of the 5 lessons listed and linked below, 4 of them can be used in any type of science class.  If you teach, for example, a life science class and a physical science class, you can leave these four lessons for both classes.

So here they are.  Don't procrastinate.... go ahead and click on the links and print these lessons out!  They are free, so what do you have to lose?

Click image to download free lesson.
1.  GRAPHING:  The need to review and reinforce graphing and data analysis skills is constant with our students.  Truly, this is the subject for another blog post!  Our students can use all the practice they can get, so why not have them practice while you are away from school?  In fact, if our students completed this activity several times during the year, it would be to their advantage!  In this activity, students are given data that must be graphed, followed by a set of thought-provoking and critical thinking data analysis questions.


Click image to download.

2.  SCIENCE INFORMATIONAL TEXT GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS: Here are two graphic organizers that can be used with almost any type of science text.  There are many great science news articles that can be duplicated and left with these graphic organizers in your sub folder.  As the students read the text, they will compete the graphic organizers.  Again, practice makes perfect, and our students can use all the practice they can get in learning to read and comprehend science informational text.


Click image to download.

3.  STUDY SKILL GRAPHIC ORGANIZER:  Want to leave a sub plan that covers what you have just been teaching?  This is a "compare and contrast" graphic organizer.  I use this single page all year long in my science classes.  Whatever it is that you have been teaching in science, I am quite sure that it contains concepts that can be compared and contrasted.  For example:  Students might compare and contrast photosynthesis to respiration, mitosis to meiosis, vascular plants to nonvascular plants, the three chambered heart to the four chambered heart or prokaryotic cells to eukaryotic cells.

Click image to download.

4.  DNA INFORMATIONAL TEXT WITH GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS:  This download has everything you need to leave an informational text lesson for your students.  Watson and Crick wrote a famous one page paper on the structure of DNA.  (This paper is in the public domain.)  This lesson provides the article, and the graphic organizers.  This is still a perfect lesson for a sub even if you are not covering DNA in your class.  The idea is that students get practice reading scientific journal articles. The graphic organizers help them read for understanding.




Click image to download.

5.  GENETICS MONOHYBRID PRACTICE PROBLEMS:  This lesson is best suited for life science or biology classes.  Students are given a two-page worksheet of monohybrid, or one factor, genetics problems.  This is a great review for end of course testing!

As already stated, the above 5 lessons are free.  Go ahead and download them all and check them out.  I am certain that you will find them suitable for use as emergency lesson plans in your science classes. After all, this (<---) is what we hope for our students in our absence!


14 Ways to Use Task Cards in High School Biology


Instruction?
Reinforcement?
Retention?
No Problem!!


Task cards have quickly earned a prominent spot in my high school science classes.  I was slow to the party, thinking that task cards were a tool used by elementary teachers.  They couldn't possibly be of any use in my high school classes, right?  I could not be more wrong!

I think the thing I love best about task cards is that my students never complain about them, and in fact, even ask for them.  Teen agers will do anything to avoid school work, but my students have fully accepted the fact that the task cards have helped them study for tests and have improved their grades.

For those who might be unfamiliar with task cards, here is a quick description.  A task card is usually 1/4th the size of a sheet of paper, and usually printed on thicker paper.  I laminate them so that I can use them year after year.  Each card contains only one task or question.  For students who are easily overwhelmed by too much material or difficult concepts, task cards are a wonderful solution.  The student has a card in their hand with only one task or question.  They must complete the one task before moving on to the next.  It allows the student to focus and concentrate on only one thing at a time, rather than being presented with a long worksheet jam-packed with questions or problems.

So without further ado, here are 14 ways you can use task cards in your high school science classes to improve instruction, reinforce concepts and increase retention of the material you are teaching:


1.  Lab Stations:  This is my personal favorite.  Students of all ages get tired of sitting in a desk all day.  My students really enjoy being out of their seats and moving about the room.  I place 2 to 3 task cards at each lab station and have the students rotate through the stations.  This saves paper and printing since only one set of task cards is needed for the class.


2.  Competitive Game Formats:  Use the cards in a game format.  Divide the class into teams.  Place the task cards face down in a basket.  A team selects a card at random and must complete the task for a point.  It is a fun way to review for unit tests and high schoolers love the competitive format.

3.  Use task cards during instruction:  When teaching difficult concepts, stop periodically and check for understanding.    Ask the students to "pull out cards 16 - 20" and complete the tasks to see if they understand the material you have been teaching.  It gives the students a chance to relax just a bit and it provides an additional opportunity for them to absorb the mountain of details in a science class.

4.  Warm Ups and Bell Ringers:   
I use this one a lot!    As students enter the room, have them complete 4-5 task cards on concepts covered the previous day.  I have them write their answers on a sheet of notebook paper and collect them for a quick daily grade.  This strategy gets them to work the minute they enter your classroom, and helps them to get focused on the learning for the day.

5.  Exit Slips:  This strategy requires students to  write responses to questions you ask at the end of the class period.  It allows the students to reflect on what they have learned during the lesson and allows you to check for mastery of concepts.
 6.    Use task cards as part of your lab activities:  As students are carrying out and completing lab work, place a task card or two at their lab station and require that they include the answers to the task cards as part of their lab report.


7.  Homework Assignments:  At the end of your lesson, have students copy a few task card questions into their lecture notes to be completed for homework.  Checking student answers is a great way to start class the next day.

8.  Differentiate, differentiate, differentiate!!  How often do we teachers hear those words?  Well, task cards are the easiest way I have found to help learners of different ability levels.  By making customized sets of cards, you can give a student exactly what they need to be successful. Students can complete the cards you have given them and never know that other students have different sets of cards.

9.  Task cards are perfect for early finishers:  Task cards are not just for review and reinforcement.  They are perfect for enrichment!  When students finish their regular work early, you can give them enrichment task cards to deepen their understanding of the concepts being taught.

10.  Small group review sessions:   My students will often come in before school, after school or during a study hall period to use the task cards to review for an upcoming unit test.

11.  End of course testing:  Does your state require that students pass an end of course test at the end of the school year?  Mine does!   When reviewing for my end of course tests, I place different sets of task cards in plastic boxes and arrange them about the room,  Students select a set of cards and review through them in small groups.  When finished with one set, they select another .

12.  Tutoring:  My school offers peer tutoring and teacher tutoring after school.  Teachers and students alike will borrow my sets of task cards to use during after school tutoring.

13.  Hallway Extra Credit Display:  Post a few task cards on the wall outside of your classroom door.  Completion of the task cards can earn the student a few extra credit points.

14.  Bingo! Make a Bingo board out of task cards.  Students must complete 5 tasks in a row, column or diagonal to win.

Because task cards can be used in so many ways, they have earned a permanent place in my teaching arsenal.  They are fun and engaging, and provide excellent opportunities for students of all ability levels to master the subject matter.



I currently have the following task card sets available in my TpT store:

•  Cellular Respiration Task Cards
•  Photosynthesis Task Cards
•  Lab Clean Up Task Cards
•  Classification and Taxonomy Task Cards
•  Matter and Change Task Cards
•  Metric System Task Cards
•  Let's Read Science! Common Core Science Task Cards
•  Microscope Task Cards
•  Scientific Method Task Cards
•  Kingdoms of Life Mix/Match Game
•  Organic Compounds Mix/Match Game
•  Cell Organelles Mix/Match Game
•  Population Ecology Task Cards
•  Introduction to Ecology Task Cards
•  Viruses and Bacteria Task Cards


P.S.  This blog post has been featured on the TeachersPayTeachers.com blog.  You can check it out by clicking this link!