Rockin’ the Final Review

Wow!  It’s hard to believe that the year is just about over.  Students in my science classes will be taking their unit final on Monday and Tuesday.  I promised that I would put some of the songs and videos up here to help them review – they can also use one 3 x 5 notecard on the exam.  So here goes. . . (be sure to check out the last post as well for some good info).

Final Review Sheet:  final-review-2009

Some rockin’ music










Mid-Summative 2 – an experiment in technology

So we’re going to try something a little bit different for our 2nd quiz of the unit – we’re going to go ONLINE and high tech!  The targets and bullets we are being tested on are pretty varied and I think some of my students will probably benefit from some audio/visual review.

Keeping that in mind, 7th grade science students here are your directions for today:

  1. Take out your Target Tracking Sheet given to you on Monday (here is a copy if you don’t have one: learning-targets-1)
  2. Review the targets and bullets highlighted for Mid-Summative 2 (these are the concepts you are responsible for thus far)
  3. Watch any and all of the videos below to review some of the main concepts.  Please note that not all of the information necessary is provided through these videos
  4. Go to the FOSS website and review the following activities:
    1. Sedimentary Rock Types (includes information on formation)
    2. Sand types
    3. Erosion
    4. Colorado Plateau
  5. Take the quiz – this must be turned in to Mrs. Larmour at the beginning of the hour on Thursday, May 7!!  I expect that you will be honest in your efforts while taking this quiz.  If you cheat, the only person you are cheating is you and even if you score well on this quiz, it will be very obvious that you don’t know the material on later quizzes and the final.  Do yourself a favor and do it yourself!  (Here is a copy of the quiz if you forgot to pick one up from Mrs. L:  mid-summative-2)

Cookie comes to school

On Monday and Tuesday of this week students in my class were host to a very special visitor named Cookie.  Cookie was not your ordinary two-legged visitor, instead she was an extremely cute and well-behaved baby lamb.  In my spare time, I raise a small flock of sheep and we are currently in the full swing of our lambing season.  Cookie (named because she is a tough one) was born to a ewe who just couldn’t accept that she had given birth and thus would not take care of her.  Because Cookie is being bottle fed and was not yet old enough (born 4/9) to go all day without a bottle it became necessary for her to come to school with me.   I was a little bit nervous about how the whole thing would go but the kids, as always, amazed me with how incredible they were.  On Monday we spent the better part of the day learning about the science of sheep.  Even though we live in what some might consider a rural environment, a large percentage of my students had never seen a sheep up close.  We were able to have great discussions on sheep anatomy, digestion and care.  The following day my students knew that we had to get back down to business as usual but they were very aware that Cookie was also in the classroom.  Their behavior was 100 times better than on a normal day because of their consideration for this little creature.  During passing times many students came by to visit with Cookie and she just loved every minute of it.  Today I was unable to bring Cookie with me and many of my students were very sad that they weren’t able to see her again.  Even though these guys can drive me crazy on a regular basis I never cease to be amazed by them.  The kindness and compassion they showed for my little lamb was beyond compare.

Cookie and her Elmo diaper.  Isn’t her brown ear cute?

Cookie visiting with some students

Cookie in the circle of students – she loved the attention!

Resting up for more fun!



This came across my desk the other day and I felt it was worth sharing.  It is especially timely for me, as a teacher, as we struggle to get through the end of winter.

An old man walked up a shore littered with thousands of starfish, beached and dying after a storm.  A young man was picking them up and flinging them back into the ocean.   “Why do you bother?” the old man scoffed.  “You’re not saving enough to make a difference.”  The young man picked up another starfish and sent it spinning back to the water.  “Made a difference to that one,” he said.

What are you doing to make a difference?

Student Creed

At the end of last week, students in my classes created a list of rights, respects and responsibilities they felt were necessary in order to create and maintain a positive learning environment in our block.  These ideas were then put together in a student creed.  Students read the initial draft of the document and made necessary changes to it.  We then all signed the document and have it hanging prominently in our hallway.  I think this experience was especially empowering for the students to have a voice in the creation of this document.  They were able to identify the things they felt were important and actually craft their rules to live by.  It is also helpful to both myself and the teachers on my team to have a common language to use when addressing behaviors.  We hope to use this creed in many ways throughout the remainder of the year to guide our students and their behaviors.

Here is the creed, written and signed by students in Mennes-Coon’s block.

As students in Mennes-Coon’s block, we recognize and understand the importance of building a positive learning environment for all.  We are committed to our future and agree to dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of excellence and achievement in all areas of our lives.  To accomplish our goals, we have written and agree to the following



 We believe the following are our RIGHTS

  • RIGHT to learn
  • RIGHT to be respected
  • RIGHT to have fun and be creative
  • RIGHT to be accepted for who we are
  • RIGHT to listen to others and to be listened to
  • RIGHT to share our opinions and ideas in a positive way
  • RIGHT to feel safe, secure and comfortable in our school


 We believe the following RESPECTS are essential to establishing our community: 

  • RESPECT ourselves and our personal values
  • RESPECT our peers, their feelings and opinions, their personal space and their possessions
  • RESPECT the adults in our school, their authority and their possessions
    • Adults include: teachers, EA’s, substitutes, administrators, custodians, cafeteria workers, student teachers and guests
  • RESPECT the learning opportunities provided to each and every student
  • RESPECT the school, block and classroom rules
  • RESPECT school property and equipment


We believe our RESPONSIBILITIES include: 

  • RESPONSIBILITY to be our best through preparation, participation, concentration, organization and work completion
  • RESPONSIBILITY to treat others with kindness and respect
  • RESPONSIBILITY to accept others for who they are and treat them equally
  • RESPONSIBILITY to have self-discipline and act like young adults
  • RESPONSIBILITY for our own actions and to make things better when we have made poor or inappropriate choices
  • RESPONSIBILITY to make a positive difference in our lives and the lives of others

Pursuing the positive

I’m not sure if it is me, my students, or both, but we all seem to be in a bit of a February funk.  I feel that there have been so many days the past few weeks where I am fighting to get through my science content but am derailed by the continual negative behaviors of students.  I come home just emotionally worn out because it just seems to be one little thing after another.  I’ve talked to the other members on my teaching team and they are feeling the same way.  The individual students in our block are incredible with so many wonderful things about them but as a whole they seem to be struggling with what boils down to lack of respect – for themselves, their peers, their teachers and their school.  When I looked at the calendar and realized it was just the middle of February I just wasn’t sure how we were all going to make it through to the middle of June.  The path that we were on was not looking very sunny and I for one like the sun.  So, the more I thought, the more I realized that I wasn’t doing much good for my students by stewing on the negative and the only way to make big changes is to start with small changes.  I tried to step back and to understand the root of the problem and it was then I realized that I needed to help guide my students to create a positive climate for all involved because the one we were currently part of was anything but positive.  So, the past 2 days we’ve been focusing on this and I plan to devote tomorrow to this as well with frequent follow-up activities for the remainder of the year.  The first thing I had my students do was to complete a simple and quiet activity in which they were to write down as many words as they could to describe who they are right now and who they strive to be.  I’ve created wordles of those lists (see if you’d like to make your own) and have posted them below.  The neat thing about wordle is that the more time a word is listed, the larger the word is.  As you can see, my students are able to see that they are incredible young people and they have big dreams.  I’m attaching pdf files of these wordles at the end of the post if you want to enlarge them and see some of the smaller words.

I am wordle



I strive to be wordle


Following this activity, we gave eachother a PAT ON THE BACK.  I asked each student to trace his/her hand on a large sheet of paper and on each of their fingers to write down a positive trait about themselves.  We then taped the sheets to our backs and students in the class wrote down positive things about their classmates.  It was neat to see them come together as a class and recognize all the great things their peers bring to the table.  I plan to laminate the posters and hang them in the hall for awhile with the eventual goal of sending them home with my students as a reminder of how great others think they are.  

Yesterday our focus was on the individual students and the role they play within our community as well as the many positive attributes each one of them contributes to our lives.  Today, we formed teams within our classroom and discussed many things, including:  how their class wanted to be remembered, things they were  not, their view on our block and what their team could do to change things.  It was really eye-opening for all of us to see how negatively they currently viewed our block (disrespectful, rude, and loud were the most common terms used) and compare it to how they wanted to be remembered (kind, thoughtful, confident, smart, the best class ever).  I plan on using these stark differences tomorrow to help students create a student creed to help guide them as they make daily decisions in the hopes that they will stop and think about how their actions can either positively or negatively impact our educational community.

As I look at the other 7th grade science teacher who is almost a week ahead of me now, I begin to wonder how I will ever catch up?  Was this 3 day excursion into character education worthy of losing science curriculum time?  Is this my place?  Can I really make a difference?  Then student after student thanks me for the activities we’ve done.  I hear them talking in the hall about where in their rooms they will put their pat on the back poster.  I witness them being kinder to each other and thinking twice behavior engaging in a negative behavior.  This is when I know that yes, this was worth doing.  I may not be able to change all of my students but I’m sure going to try to make my classroom, my block and my school a better place for all of us to be! 

Oops!  Almost forgot – here are the pdf files of the 2 wordles if you’d like to look at them more closely.

 I AM wordle


Crazy-eye science guy is back!!

Much to the excitement (or chagrin) of my students we featured yet another song by Peter Weatherall – we affectionately call him the Crazy-Eye Science Guy.  I went to sleep humming it and still haven’t got the song out of my head.  I promised that I would put the song here so my students could share it with their families!  Enjoy!


It was another very musical day in science because I also played another video version of Tom Leher’s Element Song which was composed in 1959.  The interesting thing about this video is that it identifies the position on the periodic table for each of the elements.  When the song ended my classes noted that there were several elements in our current periodic table that are not identified in the video – this prompted a nice discussion.  It’s so great when my students can look around and question the world around them!


PS – I’ve promised my students that even if I play these types of songs in our daily lesson, I in no way expect that they memorize the elements.  I’ll be happy if they can effectively use the periodic table as a tool.  However, I have also forewarned them that there are teachers at the high school that have been known to require students to memorize all the elements in the periodic table.  These songs might be helpful tools to keep in the back of their mind if they should ever have to name all the elements.

Science is Rockin’!

Monday morning is going to start out with a bang in science class!  There’s nothing like some catchy tunes to wake the brain up and get it ready to learn!  As part of our Chemical Interactions unit we will be exploring the periodic table and I’ve found some great songs that I’ll be sharing.  Here they are now to get your blood rockin’!

This first one is an oldie but a goodie . . . beats memorizing the elements in any other way!

This one is a bit more 50’s rock. And, bonus, it throws in some math concepts as well!


Can they solve it?

In the words of Bob the Builder, ‘YES THEY CAN!”. 

This week has been an amazing week full of interactive inquiry activities centered around The Mystery Mixture.  It is so exciting to me to see how enthusiastically my students are embracing our new Chemical Interactions unit.  They’re excited to come to class, excited to learn and, perhaps most importantly, they are excited to put on their safety goggles! 

Our week started with students observing an unknown mixture, affectionately known as The Mystery Mixture.  They spent time observing the solid substance and carefully recording what they saw.  They next added water and many oohs and aahs were uttered as the mixture came to life with loads of bubbles and fizzing.  The students were even more impressed when they observed that there had been a significant temperature change – it was now very cold!  Next we spent some time researching and observing 9 white substances, 2 of which make up the mystery mixture.  Today we got to combine these substances in an attempt to determine the composition of the mystery mixture.  As I sat back and observed my students I was awe struck!  Working in groups of either 2 or 4, students took turns combining the substances, shared the materials, helped each other and were kind and polite through the entire laboratory experience.  As I wandered from table to table I was even more impressed with the scientific nature of their inquiry.  They were discussing the merits of the different substances as they decided which 2 to combine next – they ruled some combinations out because of their texture, what they saw in a previous combination as well as based on the book research they did yesterday.  They truly were acting and behaving like real scientists!  What an incredible day for a science teacher – I’m so glad that I was part of it!

New Year! New Unit!

Happy New Year!  I hope you all had a happy and restful winter break!  I sure did – my kids were great fun at Christmas! – but now I’m ready to get back to work. We’re going to hit the ground running right when we get back with our new unit, Chemical Interactions.  This should be a really fun unit with almost daily labs that are really neat and we get the chance to wear our oh-so-cool safety goggles!!

As with our last unit, I will be assessing students on their mastery of our learning targets and their corresponding learning bullets.   I understand that many middle school students often need additional time and practice to fully comprehend a concept but are rarely given the chance with the current set-up of many curriculums.  It is my goal that my students understand what I am teaching them in science – this is true for those who get it on the first try as well as those students who need a little bit of extra time and encouragement.  When viewing student grades, either via email or through ParentConnect, please try to keep in mind that these should be learning tools rather than something than something fixed in stone.  If a student does not earn full points for any learning bullet or target this is an indicator to me, their teacher, the student and parents that more time needs to be spent studying that particular concept.  I will always give students at least 2 chances, if not more, to show me they understand the scientific ideas presented.  As before, if a student does poorly on the first assessment – most likely due to the fact they didn’t fully comprehend a concept – but is able to show mastery of the concept on a subsequent assessment I will go back and change their earlier score to reflect this.  Again, my goal is that my students understand and I feel their grade should be an accurate reflection of their understanding rather than an average of the two scores.

Our Chemical Interactions unit has 5 learning targets and each target has a number of corresponding learning bullets.  I’m including these below and encourage you to refer back to these often to check your understanding.  I am always available for additional assistance, please don’t hesitate to ask.

IDENTIFY the properties of matter

What is matter?

What is an element?

What is a particle?

What is a gas?

What is compression?

What is expansion?

What is contraction?

What is kinetic energy?

What is a compound?

What are molecules?

UNDERSTAND & DESCRIBE the properties of chemical reactions

What is a substance?

What is a chemical formula?

What is a chemical reaction?

What is evidence of a chemical reaction?

What are atoms?

What is a compound?

What are molecules?

What is a chemical equation?

How do you balance a chemical equation?

What is a limiting factor?

UNDERSTAND the effect of kinetic energy on chemical substances

What is freezing?

What is evaporation?

What is condensation?

What is heat?

What is the relationship between temperature and energy transfer?

What is kinetic energy?

How are particles arranged in the 3 phases of matter?

What is expansion?

What is contraction?

What is melting?

DESCRIBE the transfer of energy in a chemical reaction

What is a chemical reaction?

What is evidence of a chemical reaction?

What is kinetic energy?

What is energy transfer?

What is conservation of energy?

What is temperature?

What is equilibrium?

What is heat?

What is conduction?

What is dissolving?

DESCRIBE the interaction of chemical substances

What is a substance?

What is matter?

What is a mixture?

What is a solution?

What is a saturated solution?

What is the relationship between concentration and solution mass?

What are atoms?

What is a compound?

What are molecules?

What is an element?

What is the periodic table?