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What's In a Name - A Study of Biological Prefixes and Suffixes

Want your students to succeed in your biology class?  Start by having them learn these prefixes and suffixes!

The new vocabulary words in a first year life science or biology class can be overwhelming.  However, many of the vocabulary words contain either a prefix or a suffix that will help the student understand the meaning of the word.  This assignment will help to familiarize your students with many of the common prefixes and suffixes used in biology.  This may seem difficult at first, but once the student learns these prefixes and suffixes, it will be of great benefit to them as the year progresses.

This document contains two separate products:
1.  What's In A Name Activity Wroksheet
2.  Quiz on Biological Prefixes and Suffixes

The "What's In a Name" activity is a four page worksheet with answer key for the teacher.  The student will learn 50 prefixes and 30 suffixes that are commonly found in many biological terms.  There are 44 problems on this worksheet.

For example:  What does the term "polysaccharide" mean?
Answer:  "Poly" means "many" and "sacchar" means "sugar".  Therefore a polysaccharide is a compound composed of many sugars.

Other problem examples:  What term means "a study of small forms of life"?
Answer:  "Micro" means "small".  "Bio:" means "life".  "Logy" means "a study of".  The term that means "a study of small forms of life" is "microbiology".

There are sufficient practice problems to help the student begin to master these prefixes and suffixes.

Also included is a short quiz.  I require my students to memorize these prefixes and suffixes.  To check to see if they are studying, I use this short quiz.  There are 50 questions/problems on this quiz.  It, too, comes with an answer key.

This is one of the science skills that I stress from the beginning of the year until the end.  You will not regret teaching your students how to break words apart to decipher their meaning.

Measurement Madness! (Reinforcement for Metric Ruler and Metric Conversions)

(Reinforcement Using a Metric Ruler and Completing Metric Conversions)

Last week, two things happened that were the inspiration for this new product:  (1) I had to be absent and knew that I would have a sub in my room.  I needed a good assignment to leave for my students to complete in my absence, and (2) I was shocked to discover that some of my HIGH SCHOOL students still had difficulty using a metric ruler properly and converting from one unit to another.

The worksheet begins.....

Students make observations about their ruler.
Students must draw lines of a give length.
Students must measure the lines that are already drawn on the worksheet.

Page 2.....

Students use a ruler to measure the sides of a 2-dimensional object.
Students determine the area of the figure in both centimeters and millimeters.

Page 3....

Students us a ruler to measure the sides of a 3-dimensional object.
Students determine the volume of the figure in both centimeters and millimeters.
Students complete practice problems on converting from one metric unit to another metric unit using the process of dimensional analysis.

Page 4 .....

I want my students to understand how important the metric system is to their lives and to realize that the metric system is much easier to use than our archaic English system of measurement.

I wrote a few paragraphs about really cool animal facts.  Each paragraph contains statistics about the animal that have to be converted to another system of measurement.  If the stats are in feet, the student will convert them to centimeters, and vice-versa.  My kids LOVED the pictures I included.

Page 5......

This page contains more animal fact/conversion paragraphs, as well as a few follow up questions.

This product also comes with a 3 page answer key.

This is suitable for grades 7 - 10.  I feel like it went a long way in reinforcing some critical science and math skills.  
Happy Teaching!!

New FREE Item: "Using a Graph to Find Area"

I recently realized that my students need a lot more extra practice on certain science skills:  Graphing, use of simple pieces of lab equipment, problem solving, critical thinking, interpolation and extrapolation.  I wrote this activity to cover all of these things.  

In this lab activity, I give each group of students 4 pieces of poster board of regular size.  Prior to the lab, I cut the poster board into different sizes and shapes.  The students use a ruler to determine the length and width of each regular-shaped piece.  They then determine the area of the piece of poster board.
A balance is used to determine the mass of each piece of poster board, and this data is placed on a graph.  The student should immediately see from the graph that there is a direct relationship between mass of the poster board and the area of the poster board.  When the four points are plotted on the graph, it should result in a straight line.

There is nothing amazing about this activity, but it does provide VALUABLE practice in graphing.  Next, comes the problem solving and critical thinking section of this lab.  Students are given a piece of poster board that is irregular in shape, and they are asked to determine the area of this oddly shaped piece of poster board.  The student easily determines the mass of the irregular piece.  Once the mass is known, the student will use their graph to determine the area.

The activity also includes follow up questions.  The student will use their graph to interpolate and extrapolate to determine the answer to a series of questions.

I am offering this activity to you for free.  I hope that you will enjoy using it with your students.

Happy Teaching!

FREE Osmosis/Difusion Lab

Cell membranes and the transport of materials across membranes is fundamental to a study of biology.  There are, fortunately, many good lab activities that can be carried out when covering this material.  My students just finished doing this lab today.  It is called "The Effect of Concentration on the Rate of Diffusion", and you can download my version of this lab for free.

The concept is very simple.  First, the students fill dialysis bags with varying concentrations of sugar solutions.  The bags are then massed.

Each dialysis bag is placed in a cup of distilled water. The cups are allowed to sit for some period of time.  I have the students wait for 30 minutes, pull the bags out of the cups, and determine the final mass of the bag.  We get very good results in just thirty minutes.  If necessary, you can leave them overnight and get the final mass the next day.

The results are dramatic.  Students will clearly see the relationship between solute concentration and the rate of diffusion across the membrane.

Results are graphed showing the direct relationship between solute concentration and rate of diffusion.

This is one of my favorite labs and is a free download.  I hope you doing this lab as much as I.


Other products related to this topic include:

NEW!! Buyer Reward Program on TpT

Great news in the weekly TpT newsletter!

I am so excited that is starting a new "Buyers Reward Program"!!  Everyone loves a special deal, and this one is a great deal!

Here are the details:

  • You will earn 1 TpT credit for every one dollar you spend.
  • Credits are received after you make the purchase and AFTER you provide feedback for the product you purchased.
  • For every 100 credits, you will receive $5 that can be applied toward a future purchase on TpT.
  • The program is retroactive back to August 1, 2011.  If you have made any purchases since August 1, simple leave feedback now and start accumulating your reward points.
Are you receiving the weekly newsletter from TpT?  If not, you are missing out on some great products.  Each week, the newsletter contains links to 10 FREE downloads, as well as information like teaching tips and the author spotlight.  To sign up for the weekly newsletter, go to and scroll to the bottom of the page.  You will see the newsletter signup there.  It just so happens that one of my free products is in the newsletter this week!

If you missed the newsletter this week, here is the link for it:  TpT Newsletter Volume 69.

What's Up in Biology? Labs Involving Transport Across a Membrane!

This is one of my favorite units to teach!

I love it when I get to this point in my biology curriculum.  We have covered the skills of scientific measurement, scientific method, and microscopy.  Now the students are prepared to use these skills on more complex topics.  These concepts (cellular transport, structure of a membrane, movement across the membrane, active and passive transport, cytolysis and plasmolysis , etc.) are so much fun to teach!  There are great labs that can be done during this unit, and it leads to even more complex topics such as cell communication, photosynthesis (thylakoid membranes) and respiration (cristae membranes)!  To me, the most fun in teaching a biology class comes when the student has a knowledge base to draw upon.  It is like a "connect the dot" puzzle.  The student has all the dots, and you (as the teacher) are leading them from dot to dot, helping them to make those important connections.

I do a series of labs involving transport across the membrane.  These labs are very simple, but I have found that my students really love them.  I start with a very simple lab called "Diffusion Through a NonLiving Membrane".  The picture to the right shows the end of the lab.  Sorry, I forgot to take a picture at the beginning!  We use dialysis tubing filled with either a glucose or a starch solution which is then placed in a beaker of water.  In the beaker containing the starch bag, iodine was added to the water in the beaker.  In the beaker containing the glucose bag, students used a glucose test strip to determine if glucose was moving across the membrane.

Results are recorded after 20 minutes, and again after 24 hours.  The results are dramatic and my students immediately grasp the concepts taught by this lab:  (1) The smaller the molecule, the faster it can cross the membrane.  (2) Some substances are too large to cross the membrane.  (3) Movement of materials occurs in both directions.  (4) Water is the substance that most dramatically affects the volume of a cell.

This is such as simple way to get the basic concepts of osmosis and diffusion across to our students.

Some of my favorite blogs!

I was recently nominated for a "Top 10 Blog" Award.  I was so thrilled that someone was not only reading my blog, but thought enough of it to nominate it for an award!  YAY!  Thanks so much to Sra. Carro, author of Flapjack Educational Resources for nominating me!

So I thought I would nominate some of my favorite blogs:

"The Best of Teachers Pay Teachers" is authored by Victoria Leon.  Each and every day she selflessly spotlights a free product for a teacher/author from  If you are on the lookout for free teaching materials, you should check her blog everyday.  Way to go, Vicky!

"Science, Etc"is authored by Kim Collingwood.  Not only is she a fantastic middle school science teacher, but she is an amazing photographer.  Check out the fantastic photographs on her blog.  Also, her project called "Mars Rovers" is top-notch!

"Hunger Games Lessons" is authored by my good friend, Tracee Orman.  Although we have never actually met, we have become great cyber-buddies.  Her high school English materials are superb!  Even though English is not my subject, I have passed her site along to many of my English teaching friends.

"Secondary Solutions" is authored by Kristen Bowers, my other new best friend in the cyber-world.  She, too, is a high school English teacher that writes the most amazing English lessons.  If you are looking for anything English-related, you need to check out Kristen's site.

"Taking Grades for Teachers" is authored by Margaret Whisnant, middle school English teacher extraordinaire!  Few people make me laugh as much as Margaret makes me laugh!  The worst day possible can be turned around by Margaret's wise-cracks.  Thanks, Margaret!!

Happy Teaching, Everyone!!

Man -vs- Squirrel (The squirrel wins!)

I love nature and wildlife of all shapes and sizes, but this pesky little squirrel is just about to get on my last nerve!

This has been an ongoing problem.  I really love my bird feeders.  We sit at our kitchen table for every meal and watch the birds out of the large windows that overlook our deck.  The hummingbirds are my favorite.  I have two hummingbird feeders and a nesting pair lives in the tree in the background.

My dear, sweet husband bought this feeder pole system for me to help with the squirrel problem.  It is a single (very skinny) pole that has 4 separate hangers at the top.  It is SUPPOSED to be SQUIRREL-PROOF!  At least, that is what it said on the box!

I do love the squirrels.  They have their own feeding station down by the pond.  I put out corn and sunflower seeds for them.  Why do they have to be so naughty when I provide them with their own separate dining room?

Look at the poor birds on top of the pole.  They are thinking, "Are those squirrels going to leave anything for us?"

Well...... In the battle of man versus squirrel, the squirrel has won.  I am off to Wal-Mart.  I am going to buy a very large can of Crisco Shortening, and I am gonna GREASE that pole.  Let's see if the squirrel can navigate that!  I'll keep you informed!

Kids Do the Darnedest Things!

Duh! with a microscope!

We have been in school since the middle of August.  I know my students and they know me.  Things should be running smoothly by now, right?

Today I had my students in the lab doing my "intro to the microscope" lab.  By and large, the day was fine.  Most students were on task and accomplished the goals that I had set forth.  But in every class period today, I had at least one student who had a real "DUH!!" moment.  See if any of these sound familiar to you biology teachers out there:

  • Instead of using a cover slip on the microscope slide, the student uses the tissue paper that is found in-between the cover slips in the box.
  • Student says "My microscope doesn't work".  Student has failed to plug in the microscope.
  • Student turns in lab report with drawings that consist of odd looking blobs and streaks.  When questioned about this, student replies, "I didn't know you wanted us to focus the microscope."
  • Student draws their own eyelashes instead of the image of the specimen being viewed.
  • Student estimates the size of the "letter e" as being 1200 m instead of 1200 ┬Ám.
Have you got any "good ones" to add to my list?  We would love to hear from you...Leave a comment!

Testing Foods for Organic Compounds

Today, I'd like to tell you about one of my favorite labs.  It is definitely "an oldie, but goodie" lab!  There is nothing new, innovative, or earth-shattering about this lab.  The idea has been around for as long as I have, and this is my 28th year in the classroom!  My students always love this lab, and they often comment and share their surprise with me over the results they obtain.

The most common organic compounds found in living organisms are the proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates and lipids.  The foods we consume are often a combination of these organic compounds. Since, being omnivores, we consume plants as well as animals who ate plants, our foods contain a variety of different compounds.

It is very simple in a middle or high school lab to test some foods for the presence of the various organic compounds.  Through the use of "indicators" students are able to determine if a particular food contains proteins, starches, fats, simple sugars, and vitamin C.  Indicators are chemical substances that change colors  to indicate the presence of a particular compound.  Although not an organic compound, I often have students test for the presence of salt.

How is the student benefited from doing this lab?

  • Number 1:  It is just FUN!  If for no other reason, it is a great lab to do near the beginning of the school year because kids like it.  They get excited about science, your class, and the prospect of spending a year in your class doing great labs.
  • It reinforces the concepts you have been teaching in your classroom.  If you are doing this lab, then undoubtably, you have been teaching about the macromolecules in your biology or life science class.  Students need to see the practical application of the "facts" you teach in the classroom.
  • Students learn good lab technique.
  • Students learn that a particular food they thought was "healthy" is really nothing more than sugar and salt.
  • Working through the various lab procedures teaches a student to read and follow directions accurately.
  • Critical thinking skills are reinforced.
The lab that I have described here can most certainly be found in any biology lab manual.  If you are interested in the lab that I do with my students, here is the link.

If you are just beginning to organize your unit on biochemistry, you might be interested in this product:

Happy Teaching Everyone!!

Introduction to Biology

The first few weeks of a Biology or life science class are action packed.  There are so many things that have to be covered before you can begin the business of teaching a great biology class.  There are so many basic concepts to cover!  Much of the information we cover in the first weeks should be a review for the student, but we all know that not every child enters our class with the same background, and they likely forgot quite a bit over the summer break.

I begin each year with my unit called "An Introduction to Biology".  This unit covers basic concepts and and skills that will be needed for my class for the rest of the year.

Concepts covered by this unit include:

  • Laboratory Safety
  • The Themes of Biology
  • The Scientific Method
  • Tabling, Graphing and Analyzing Data
  • Early ideas about life (spontaneous generation)
  • The Characteristics of Life
  • The Compound Microscope

I have put together an entire bundled unit that contains everything you need to teach these concepts. This bundled unit contains at least 3 weeks of materials depending on how many lab activities you want to do. This unit has everything that a teacher needs to teach a unit on this topic to Biology or life science students. The unit contains 20 separate products: 2 powerpoint presentations, teacher notes, student notes, 3 labs, a jeopardy review game, 5 quizzes, a microscope homework assignment, a crossword puzzle, a pre-lab worksheet, a graphing worksheet and a unit test. 

You can find my unit in my store: