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The Nervous System

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Interactive Notebooks!
Bell Ringers!

Of all the human body systems, I think the nervous system is the hardest to teach.  Start a discussion on resting potentials, action potentials, and sodium potassium pumps and just watch the students get that glazed over look in their eyes.  What is the trick to teaching this tricky body system?  Give out the information in small doses, break up instruction time with short demonstrations and activities, and review, review, review!

If you have visited this blog at any time during the past year, you know I have become a huge fan of warm ups and bell ringers.  This teaching tool has insured that my students get the review and reinforcement they need to be successful in my class.  Daily warm ups require the students to look back into their notes from previous instruction to complete the daily review.
I am particularly excited about this set of nervous system warm ups.  This body system is complicated, and the daily review and reinforcement is vital to student mastery.  This set of warm ups has 37 student pages.  I use them for warm up activities, homework assignments and preparation for the unit test.  I require my students to keep the pages in a warm up notebook.  These pages are also ideal as inserts into interactive notebooks.  I have definitely noticed an increase in test scores since I started requiring my students to keep a warm up notebook.

This Table of Contents will give you a better idea of the topics and concepts that are covered by the 37 student warm up pages.

The last 5 student warm pages are always used to prepare for the unit test. These pages consist of multiple choice, fill in the blank, compare and contrast and true/false questions.  They are first used to prepare for the unit test, but later become perfect for the semester exam review.

I hope you are having a great school year.  Good luck with your teaching!

Lab Safety Tip of the Week #4

Tip #4:
Wear Your Safety Goggles
('nuff said!)

Required Reading for the Week:  "Wear Your Safety Goggles."

Accidents happen so quickly.  And hindsight is a wonderful thing.  In the above article, a science teacher has permanent damage to the eye after conducting a demonstration with no eye protection.  And a college student goes in late to their organic chemistry lab, and joins a group of two other students at the fume hood.  An explosion occurs in the hood.  The student was present in the lab less than two minutes and now has permanent eye damage.  It seems so simple after the fact.... Why didn't you have on your safety goggles?

As a science teacher, I have to plead guilty.  I have often prepped a lab for my students without wearing goggles. But when my students are engaged in lab activities, I am a stickler for the rules.  We wear the goggles.  Always. No questions asked.  But it is always a battle.  Students do not like to wear safety goggles, and I am constantly having to tell  students to put their goggles back on.  Unfortunately, most of us are having to carry 30 (and sometimes more!) students into the lab.  As soon as you tell one student to put their goggles back on, another student across the room has taken theirs off!  Sound familiar?

You, as the instructor, have to be persistent and consistent.  Establish the rule of wearing safety goggles.  Do not deviate from this rule (EVER!), and have consequences for those who do not obey the rules.  Have a conversation with your school administration about lab safety to establish a plan of action for those students who fail to follow the rules.   You want to make sure that you have "back up" from admin in case consequences to the student need to be doled out.

Let's move away from student behavior, and on to the goggles themselves.  What kind should you use?  Are all goggles the same?

All goggles are not the same!  And even though many types of goggles might meet regulations and guidelines and be approved for our school labs, some of them are not the best choices for our students.  In my opinion, eye protection should have a complete and snug fit around the eye, and be held to the face by a strap that goes around the back of the head. Yes, the students hate these types of goggles, but it is a battle worth fighting.  Here is an excellent article from Flinn Scientific about regulations and standards of safety goggles.

Next topic:  The storage and sanitation of goggles.  I took this picture a few years ago while visiting in a neighboring high school.  If you are going to use one classroom set of goggles, and students will be sharing goggles with other students, please take great care in the sanitation of goggles. This picture shows a great goggles sterilizer, but it was not being used correctly.  Goggles were not placed in individual slots.  They were haphazardly thrown in the cabinet.  The inside of the sterilizer was dirty, and it was obvious the goggles had never been washed. Here is an excellent video on the use of the goggles sterilizer.  If at all possible, I highly recommend that each student have their own pair of goggles that are not shared with another student.

In summary:

  • Students must wear goggles and this is not negotiable!
  • Make sure you purchase eye protection that meets the safety standards.
  • Practice what you preach!  The instructor needs to be be the role model in laboratory safety.
Have a great school year!

Helping Students Review and Reinforce Biochemistry and Organic Compounds

Master the Information with this Organic Compounds Mix/Match Game 

It's that time of year again.  Time to teach the dreaded unit on Biochemistry!  (Insert scary music here.)

I love the phrase, "Nothing in Biology makes sense, except in the light of evolution."  I would like to add to that, "...except in the light of evolution and biochemistry."  In my mind, there is simply no way to teach cell physiology, cell division, photosynthesis, enzymatic reactions, or cellular respiration without first teaching a solid unit on biochemistry and organic compounds.

The concepts of biochemistry are difficult, and unfortunately, this is the unit that our biology students are usually faced with at the very beginning of the school year. Teaching strategies, labs, and review activities are especially important at this time. This mix/match review game will provide the review and reinforcement that you are looking for.

The set includes 4 larger cards, each with the name of one of the groups of organic compounds.  There are 75 smaller answer cards. Students must match the answer card statements to the correct group of organic compounds.

One of the things that I love best about this activity is that the game can be customized for different grade levels and ability levels.  An advanced class should use all of the cards.  A younger grade or slower-paced class should use only the answer cards that are appropriate.  Remove any answer cards that you have decided not to use.  The game can be made easy or hard based on your particular students.   It is very easy to differentiate within the same class. By placing the game pieces into small Ziplock bags, you can easily give a "customized" bag to each group of students in your class.

Once the students have completed the card sort, have them record the answer card statements on the student answer sheet.  When students write, it helps them learn and commit the information to memory.  Students can easily do this on their own notebook paper as well.  Blank cards are included so you can add additional answer card statements.

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I make these cards available to my students before school, after school, and/or during their study hall.  It is a great way to review for the unit test. Best of luck as you teach your unit on biochemistry!  Have a great school year!

Teaching About the Immune System

Tough Topic!
(Made Easier with these warm ups and interactive notebook pages.)

I have a love/hate relationship with the immune system.  I love teaching it.  It is interesting, confusing, amazing, and mind-boggling.  Students are interested in this topic, they are more alert on these days, and they ask great questions.  This is where the "hate" part comes in.  I am just a science teacher, with multiple college degrees, but I have NOT been to medical school.  When teaching about the immune system, students LOVE to ask you all sorts of medical questions.  Some I can answer, but many I cannot ... and should not ... even attempt!

So what's a science teacher to do?  Even though I don't know about every medical condition known to man, I still enjoy teaching about the immune system.  I love the lines of body defense, infectious diseases, the Germ Theory, and Koch's Postulates.  Lymphocytes and antibodies are the best!  I can get really excited and animated when talking to students about the specificity of antibodies, how they are made in the body, and why we get sick, but later have immunity.

Keep your students focused on the important information.  Avoid medical issues, and refer the students to their physicians when those sorts of questions arise.  My newest set of warm ups and interactive notebook pages on the immune system is a perfect way to keep the students directed, focused, and on task.

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My "modified" version of interactive notebook pages are not "foldables" and they do not require any elaborate cutting, pasting or folding.  They are truly "NO PREP" and perfect for a high school classroom where every valuable minute of our class time must be utilized as efficiently as possible.

The student pages are half-page in size and easily inserted into their student notes.  I like to have my students keep a warm up notebook.  These pages are perfect for the first few minutes of class.  Students begin to work on them immediately as they enter the classroom.  The review and reinforcement nature of the pages provides ample opportunities for students to master the information.  I use these pages as warm ups, homework assignments, and even as short daily quizzes.

The warm up notebook is the best method of test prep I have found, both for the unit tests as well as for the semester exams and end of course exams.

Here is a preview to what is offered in my Immune System Warm Ups.

Best of luck in your teaching!