Use these tips to help your students become more inspired and excited about your content!
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6 Ways to Create the Science Mindset

1. Have students dress the part! I had no idea that putting my students in lab coats with goggles and clipboards would: A- make them focus more in labs and B- Entertain me so much because they all look so adorable! They were so cute when I first told them they needed to wear lab coats during lab activities. One of my seniors, when putting his lab coats on the first time, walked up to his buddies in the class and said “Man, I feel hella smart!” To which I replied “You ARE smart!!”. I heard similar sentiments from many other students. I have also had countless students from other teachers classes say “we don’t get to wear lab coats in our class!” with a twinge of envy in their voice. I love this. I love that students are actually wanting to dress the part and look the part. Because this put them so much in the mindset of ‘being a scientist’, their behavior and focus was stellar! I was so impressed, but not terribly surprised once I stopped and thought about it.

Get lab coats for your students to wear during labs in your classroom to help get them into the science mindset!

Get lab coats for your students to wear during labs in your classroom to help get them into the science mindset!

In order to organize all of these lab coats, I got a department store style coat-rack and bought some plastic hangers. On the hangers, I labeled them with sizes (the lab coats did not have sizes written on them anywhere, so I had to guess). I trained the students to put the coats back on the appropriate hangers when they were done with them. That’s right, I got teenagers to hang up clothes! Ha!

Want to get some lab coats for your students? Ours were donated by a local hospital. As soon as the departments at the hospital heard they could donate them, they all started sending them to us. We ended up having to ask them to stop because we had a few hundred and did not need anymore!

Make sure to have your students wear all of the necessary safety gear to help get them into the science mindset!

Make sure to have your students wear all of the necessary safety gear to help get them into the science mindset!

Always have safety goggles around! Most of the labs that I give to my students do not require them to actually wear goggles, but I have them wear them anyway. It just serves as another reminder that they are in science class, performing experiments and taking it seriously. This one, they are less thrilled about (“ughhh these leave lines on my face!!”) but, I do notice a positive change in their behavior when they wear them.

Give your students clipboards to write on while working at their lab stations to help get them into the science mindset!

Give your students clipboards to write on while working at their lab stations to help get them into the science mindset!

Clip boards! I love having my students use clipboards! It allows them to write at their lab station without having to hunch over. It also feel that it’s more safe than having their papers just laying on the lab station (less likely to catch on fire or get chemicals spilled on them).

2. Have students pay attention to what is happening in the world of science! Every Friday, we have something called “This week in Science”. It’s a fun way to end the week and keep them thinking about science over the weekend! The students are allowed to pick any article pertaining to science that is of interest to them (it doesn’t have to be Chemistry; it can be anything that piques their interest). They fill out a short reflective sheet that accompanies it and present their article to the class (they typically only spend a minute talking). The article is posted and students are encouraged to go up and read them during any free or unstructured time. I have a special area on my wall where I post all of the articles and I leave them up until the following week so that students can read them at their leisure (which they do!)

Want to start this in your classroom? Go to my TpT store here.

3. Have students talk the talk. I encourage my students to use academic vocabulary in the classroom. I have even gone so far as to create sentence starters for them with examples (this was for content specific debates in class). I ask them to be specific when describing things both orally and in written form. I have been contemplating using a word wall in my classroom. Especially since my students informed me this year that although they would hate it, they would like to have more emphasis on vocabulary since Chemistry is so vocabulary heavy. I may have to also start doing vocabulary quizzes next year. If I try it next year, I’ll let you all know how it goes.

4. Have students share their experiences with others (social media, word of mouth, videos, etc). I used to feel weird about students taking pictures or videos of me. However, I have learned to embrace it (as long as I say it’s ok). For example, closer to the beginning of the year, I did a fun demo for my students with different colored flames. When I told them what I was going to do, one of my students asked if they could record it or take pictures to post on their snap chap and Instagram. I paused and thought about it. They were asking if they could post a cool thing their teacher was doing. In chemistry. To show other people. Ummm yes! I told them it was fine and then I announced to the rest of the class that they could do this also if they wanted. Almost instantaneously 34 phones came out and were pointed at me. No pressure! I explained what I was doing and what was happening. I asked them questions and engaged them in predicting the color of each substance I was mixing and burning. I also explained safety procedures and why I was doing what I was doing. For the rest of the day I had students coming up to me saying “I saw your demo on Snapchat/Instagram! That was awesome! I wish I was in Chemistry!” I also had a couple of students who were absent that day but they were able to see the demo because their friends recorded it. I think that this is a super successful way to bring social media into the classroom. 

Going on a field trip? Ask them to use a specific hashtag with their posts for your trip so others can see what they were up to. You could also offer them extra credit if they post something, but I have a feeling they will gladly do it on their own with the given hashtag.

5. Model it for them! I absolutely LOVE all areas of science. I really do! I subscribe to various science magazines, I watch TV shows and documentaries and I listen to weekly podcasts about science (you should definitely check that out “Science Friday“). I am constantly sharing things that I learn with them. I tell them the things that are fascinating and good to know. I share my own experiences of being a student and learning about various sciences while in school, my experiences doing field research in South America and my time as a staff scientist at an engineering firm. I talk to them about friends of mine who are still active researchers as well as telling them about “my favorite Scientists” from various fields. It gets them intrigued and paying more attention to the possibilities for a future in science. It’s important for them to understand that being a scientist does not always look the same and it means very different things. It’s not just looking at test tubes in a windowless lab.

"Science Fact of the Day "and "This Day in Chemistry"

“Science Fact of the Day “and “This Day in Chemistry”

I added the science fact of the day to my whiteboard my first year of teaching and my students have always liked it. This was the first year that I added “This Day in Chemistry”. I did not realize how much my students liked these until I forgot to change it one day. Boy, did I hear about it! Give it a try!

6. Let them have fun with the content! When we were learning about the mole this year, I decided to really celebrate it by throwing a “mole” party! The students brought in their extra credit mole project as well as chips and guacamole! they loved it! The guacamole was inspired by the guac that they sell at Trader Joe’s with Avogadro on it (my students thought this was awesome). I had a fun worksheet for them to work on and we voted on their favorite mole creation. It was a really fun day and I am already looking forward to it next year! FYI- there are 2 “mole days” during the year that you could try to align your party with. Can you guess what days they are? October 23 and June 22! 6.022×10^23 :)

Mole Project Winner! Chem students celebrate Avogadro's number with a fun mole project.

Mole Project Winner! Chem students celebrate Avogadro’s number with a fun mole project.

 

Mole Project Winner! Chem students celebrate Avogadro's number with a fun mole project.

Mole Project Winner! Chem students celebrate Avogadro’s number with a fun mole project.

 

I hope this has given you some ideas for getting your students into the science mindset!

Until next time,

-The Ardent Teacher
Have you tried something like this or something different? Share your story in the comment section below.

Enjoy a tour of my new classroom: High School Chemistry!
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New School, New Classroom!

Last year, I decided to leave my middle school of 6 years and try my hand at high school. I got a couple of different job offers and decided to go with the one with which I had more of a connection. Actually, it’s more than a connection… I will be teaching Chemistry in the very classroom I took it in when I was in High School! Yes, I am returning “home” to give back to the very community in which I grew up! I must admit that it was strange walking into that classroom again, but this time as the teacher. I have so many wonderful science memories from my high school years and I am so excited to create fun memories for my new students on which to look back. Now, onto the tour of my new classroom!

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Dealing With Student Absences

I have already talked about how to lessen the amount of prep work you have to do when absent (check out that post here), but what about when your students are gone? I used to think it was much more work dealing with students being absent than when I took a day off (whether it be a sick day or professional development); that was before I came up with these ways to avoid the frustration. Here are some tips and tricks for making your classroom more self sufficient for absent students as well as making your life easier.

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Tips on Building Community in the Classroom

Much like with parenting, teachers are often the caring and supportive adult in students’ lives. However, we are also the judge, jury and executioner! It can be a tough role to juggle. In order to help strike that balanced chord of showing that you are there to support your students, building community should be your first step. Here are some approaches that I use in my classroom to help build community.
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Great suggestions on how to get involved in your school community!
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Getting Involved in Your School Community

Sometimes when you are spending 12-14 hours a day in your classroom, the last thing you want to do is volunteer for something else that will keep you at school more. However, I honestly believe that the more you get involved in your school community, the more you will enjoy being there. I mean, hey, if you are going to spend every waking hour at work, you might as well include some extras that you will have fun doing (that is, besides grading papers…). Here are some ways that I get involved in my school community:

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Things to consider when decorating your secondary classroom!
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Things to consider when setting up your secondary classroom

I think many of us have fond memories of our classrooms from our elementary years. The special reading nooks, the fancy floor rugs upon which we would sit as we happily listened to stories or discussed our classroom plans for the day during morning “meetings”, the colorful and thoughtful decor that conveyed a sense of creativity in our teacher as well as their personality. These days, it is very easy to look online and find so many wonderful ideas for primary classrooms, but it can be more difficult to find the same level of excitement for decorating a secondary classroom. Why is this? Why do secondary teachers not get as excited about their classroom “theme” or decor? Perhaps we feel that our students will not appreciate it. Maybe we are afraid that they will roll their eyes or poke-fun at our attempt? Although this may be true on the outside, I honestly feel that they do appreciate it– even if they don’t express it to you directly. Here are my ideas for things to consider when decorating your secondary classroom (some are more focused on fun and some are more focused on practicality):

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How to Integrate Science into any Subject!
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How to Integrate Science into any Subject!

I may be biased on this one, but, I really believe that Science is the great ‘connector’ of all subjects. In this new era of common core, we will need to be creative on how we integrate all of the subjects as we teach. I believe that science is the answer as well as the easiest common thread in which to sew together our educational blanket, so to speak.

I think many people can be intimidated when it comes to Science. They might have flashbacks to dissecting a frog in Biology, or calculating moles in Chemistry… that is not science. Science is much more than those memories. However, I think those negative memories can become all-encompassing and people may begin distancing themselves more and more from science due to feeling overwhelmed or intimidated by it. Don’t let science scare you away from incorporating it into your own curriculum. Remember, any subject can be connected to science; it has a place in every classroom. Let’s examine some ways to bring science into your classroom where you are teaching something that you feel more comfortable with:

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