5 Things Administrators Can Do to Create a Positive Climate Among Their Teachers

Admin Pic

I’ve worked under two different administrations, but at the same job. The admin has changed– not my job, not me, not my coworkers, not my curriculum, not the students, not the parents, or anything else. This creates a unique opportunity to make observations in this conrolled environment. Both admins had their pros and cons, as any person has strengths and weaknesses. I’ve decided to focus on the positive. I firmly believe that (when in a controlled environment) the following 5 practices, when followed by administration, foster a community of positive, team-spirited, hard working teachers. This, ultimately, is what will be the best environment for students.

  1. TRUST: Assume your teachers are making the best decisions. If you need to question them, do so in a way that makes this assumption. Example: An art teacher chooses five pieces of artwork for a display for some big event. They are all pieces created by girls. Assume that the teacher realizes this, but has ultimately made the best decision. Should you need to question the teacher, begin by assuming he/she has recognized this. “Mr. Art Teacher, The art selection is phenomenal. Thank you for your hard work. It looks like the boys must have messed up their art work. Is this group of boys having trouble focusing in Art class?” Assume the fact that there is a lack of male representation a fault of the students, not the teacher! WHY would it be more likely that the teacher be faulty than the students? Isn’t it more likely that the boys’ work was not up to par, than your well educated art teacher is purposely picking girls art work? Your art teacher is a professional. Assume it so. Trust them.

I have one more thing to say about trust, because it is SO IMPORTANT. Just as you would not be happy if your teachers went over your head, do not go over theirs. The chain of command is SO important to teach- both to students and to parents. If a parent emails to complain about an assignment given in English, begin by asking said parent if they’ve spoken to Mrs. English teacher. If a student has a concern of bullying in the locker room, encourage them to talk to Mr. or Mrs. Physical Education Teacher… or to Mrs. School Counselor. DELEGATE and TRUST that your staff are well educated professionals who know how to do their job. Thanks.

2. COMMUNICATION- Everyone LOVES being part of a team. It’s human nature. Create that environment. How? Encourage communication. Do not announce things that could be in an email. You’re wasting our time. Meet regularly to discuss, as a TEAM, how you’re going to do things. Talk. Listen to each other. Teachers go into teaching because we WANT to BE THE GOOD. Let us do that! My word. I cannot over emphasize this.

These first two topics, trust and communication, are what are most important to any relationship anywhere. But I have a few more comments.

3. POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT- You should know what your teachers do, and you should thank them for it. This should, at least part of the time, be in person. It can be in passing. Acknowledge that they go above and beyond and thank them. This makes them feel personally invested in the program and encourages them to continue. They feel like they are part of something bigger, that someone noticed, and it just makes them feel good. It only takes 5 seconds. Do it. Teachers don’t do things for the ‘thank you,’ but that shouldn’t matter. It costs you nothing. I do multiple ‘science’ visits with our lower grades. I’ve had one admin who has noticed and thanked me in person following each visit. The other admin never even noticed. I can tell you first hand, it makes a WORLD of difference.

4. SUPPORT- verbally and physically- Yes, this kind of extends off #3, but it’s a little different, so I gave it a new number. Students need to see you in the hallway. Not everyday. Sporadically. Keep those kiddos on their toes. We NEED you to be present. We need you to follow through verbally with students. “So I heard you have a social studies test Friday. When do you plan on studying?” Let the students know that you have high expectations of them, and our classes are important and are to be respected. They will follow suit.

5. LEAD BY DOING- Every teacher in my school has lunch duty at some point in the week. The majority of us each lunch together, minus those who have that fateful lunch duty. Last year, I organized a monthly potluck meal for me and my fellow teachers. Because I organized it, after I would get my food, I would go stand in for lunch duty to allow the ‘missing’ teachers to go get their food. I didn’t really think about it at the time. For our final potluck, while standing in the cafeteria, missing out on the comradery of my friends, I realized that I had missed EVERY. SINGLE. POTLUCK. by doing this. But that’s what a leader does, I realized. You lead by doing.

In short, trust your professional teachers, delegate, communicate with them and foster an open communication environment, say thank you, know what they do, be present, and lead by doing.

Teachers are human beings who chose their profession because they wanted to make a difference in the life of a child. Treat us that way.

Do you agree with this? What would you add to this list?

Teaching the Scientific Method

The scientific method is perhaps the most commonly taught idea in middle school science. And it should be.

The scientific method not only explains how science studies new things, but about thought processes and solving real life issues.

I have comprised a bundle over the past 3 1/2 years of my favorite and most loved scientific method EVERYTHING. These resources approach the scientific method from every possible angle.

  1. Scientific Method PowerPoint and Student Notes: The type A learner. Organized. Informative. To the point. Full of definitions and straight forward explanations.
  2. Activities: I cannot say enough about these. These are ALL TIME favorites. The grass activity gets them EVERY. TIME. This pack comes with teacher background information and tips, picture guides, and student lab sheets for 3 labs.  Scientific Method Lab Activities
  3. More Activities: Because you can never have enough, really. You can use these anytime of year. These are my “pinterest inspired labs.” The gummy bear. The food coloring in the milk. The floating paper clip. And my favorite completely original demo is included, just for fun.
  4. Scientific Method Literacy: Some students need to read a story. Here are three. Interactive questions included. Again, use any time of year. Sub plans. Whatever.
  5. Task Cards: I got really into task cards last year. It was a new thing for me. I like to literally hide them all over my room and make kids go find them. These go with the notes, so they’ll need to bring those along for help. It’s a great get-out-of-your-seat review.
  6. Word Sort: I started making these about half way through last year. This one is ‘simpler,’ but I still love it. Kids needs to arrange topics on their desk as a web. It’s a physical web they make instead of writing down a web. Easy for you, too! Walking around and sliding a card around it a whole lot easier than having kids erase and re-write. Lots of possibilities with this one! card sort 2SM Card sort
  7. MY NEW FAVORITE! I don’t even know what to call it. Right now it’s called “Scientific Method Review Activity.” This activity requires a great deal of application in analyzing steps of the scientific method and applying them to three different scenarios. There are three suggested uses that accompany this resource. Even though I don’t do interactive notebooks, you can easily adjust one of the options for use in one.  See picture below. IMG_2110
  8. Just to round things out, there are some extra review sheets and a quiz.

You cannot go wrong with these resources. Get excited about teaching again. Inspire future generations. Make a difference. Be the positive.

Of course, If you’re like me and like to save money, you can do ALL these things for 37% off! Check out my Scientific Method Bundle, for only $14. I’ve spent ages putting these together. Save yourself a headache and ENJOY TEACHING AGAIN.

Happy Summer.


If it hurts, you’re doing it wrong…

It shouldn’t hurt. It should feel good. It’s a part of life and it’s natural.

if it hurts

Sometimes teaching is painful, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are 4 things to ponder when you hit those doldrums of teaching.

  1. Mix it up. This is good not just for you, but your students. Present information in different formats. Notes, reading, activities, group work, student presentations, etc. Vary within a class period, and from one to the next. What method are you over using? What method do you want to try to do more of? Be deliberate in switching up your style.
  2. Make the students figure it out. This is my favorite. Rather than presenting students with the information, make them FIGURE it out. Try a puzzle. Here are two of my favorites…
  3. Get UP. DO something! As difficult as it is to set up an activity, it’s completely worth it! Students learn so much more than content when doing an activity. Team work. Communication. Relationships. All so necessary. My scientific method bundle is JAM PACKED with tremendously fun activities. You should probably check it out. image_12                                                                       When’s the last time you grew yellow grass in class?
  4. Try something new!!! Task cards, sorting cards, interactive notebooks, word walls, word webs, foldables, posters, diagramming, class projects… the list goes on and on. How many have you tried? What are you waiting for? What’s the worst that could happen, really? Have your students built the layers of the atmosphere?Slide1Take a deep breath. Sit back. Think about your classroom. Teaching should be enjoyable. If it’s not, you’re doing it wrong. STOP doing it that way. Do it a different way.

I’m almost on summer vacation. I hope you are too.


The Importance of Hands-On Learning

What do you remember of your middle school experience? Vocabulary words? Lectures? I remember very little. I’ll tell you what I do remember… the things I did and the way people made me feel. I remember going camping. You know why? Because I did something. What are you doing in your classroom this week?

I think we grossly underestimate the importance of kids doing stuff in the classroom. In this world of video games, iphones, and helicopter parents, kids need hands-on learning more than ever. Kids don’t do stuff on their own like we did when we were kids.

I have felt this for a very long time, but never did I see it more than at the end of last school year.

My kids were burnt out by the last week of school. (Aren’t they always? Aren’t WE always?) Anyway, I wanted to end the year on a good note, on a note of learning, of review, and a positive experience for my students, for me, and one I wouldn’t feel like I was forcing them to do. I racked my brain. Cue: Trivial Pursuit. (If you don’t want to read about the activity, skip down to below the pictures now.)

How’d I do it? I grouped everything we learned from the entire year into 6 categories and came up with 20 questions for each category. The answers had to be one word or phrase. I made 20 question cards, each card had 1 question for each category, just like the real game. Each category was assigned a color. I made boards on the computer, with one color dot on each space (this is when I also accidentally wrote ‘trivia pursuit’ on the boards instead of ‘trivial pursuit.’) I then typed up the answer in a grid (shown in picture). I provided each group with one grid of answers. When the other team answered a question, they would find the number and category to see if they were right. This worked because they had NO idea which question number they would get next, so they really couldn’t cheat. I made pie pieces with the names of each category for them to collect. In order to win they needed one of each pie piece. Playing pieces? I used little lego characters. My students thought this was the greatest thing ever. I also needed one die for each group. Here are some pictures…

trivial pursuit 1 trivial pursuit 2

Above: board game and answer key.


trivial pursuit 3 trivial pursuit 4

Above: Question cards and pie pieces

I made the game, showed my kids, explained the rules, etc. They were to play in partners (to give the chance for discussion) over a 2 day period. After I finished explaining, “Shana” (you know the kid, the one who says whatever thought goes through her head) says, “this is going to be fun.” Yup. It was. But that’s still not my point.

Over the next two days my students played, and even had fun! They rushed into class to set up and play. It was great. But here’s what’s even greater: what I learned from them playing this game…

Every single conversation they had was about something we had DONE. Never was it a vocabulary word, a lecture, a handout. Never was it a test, a quiz, a homework. Remember when we (insert any one of the activities we did)?? Yes! Yes! Yes! It was like a teacher’s dream come true. All of the hours I had poured into writing labs, activities, etc. had paid off times a million.

I’ll say it again: We grossly underestimate the importance of hands-on learning. We feel like they’re not doing enough, not getting enough out of the activity, some kids take over, some do less, we could be going over vocab, taking notes, etc. STOP. IT WORKS. You might not see it during the activity, tomorrow, next week, next semester. But it works.

Brought to you by one very crazy science lady,


Stop back in soon. I’ll be doing a series on different TYPES of hands-on learning and how to implement them in your classroom. If you need something now, be sure to visit my store for a whole plethora of activities. Just click here to visit. Remember to click the little green star to follow me. As for my game, I will be posting a version of it soon in my store.

Mineral Testing 101

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I am a mineral nerd. My students, of course, love this. I think kids love anything we can get excited about. It gets them excited.

Kids need to do stuff. Not just read about stuff, write about stuff, or hear about stuff… but DO SOMETHING.

Here is how I set up my mineral identification lab:

  1. Introduce the different mineral tests using this PowerPoint.
  2. Introduce Mohs Hardness Scale using this puzzle. After we finish the puzzle and do the follow up questions, I pull out samples of talc, gypsum, calcite, corundum, and quartz and do a demo where I figure out which is harder/softer, and physically line them up in order on the desk. The kids totally get it after that one.
  3. Hand out these mineral identification sheets.
  4. I line up my minerals, 1-20 on my front counter. All tables get: 1 iron nail, 1 glass plate, 1 copper penny, 1 white unglazed porcelain plate, 1 black unglazed porcelain plate. Students take 1 mineral at a time and move at their own pace.
  5. Students must fill in all info on their identification sheets. Then they use their tables to make their ‘best guess’ and ‘second guess’ for each mineral.
  6. For the first 5 minerals, I will tell them if they got it correct or not, but after that, they’re on their own! They get 2 class periods to complete the lab.
  7. Each mineral is worth 3 points. They get 4 points if they get it on their ‘best guess,’ 3 points for getting it on their second guess, and 2/3 points if they don’t guess correctly, but put appropriate information in their chart. This works well because students are motivated to get them correct and really use the information. I give them enough ‘easy’ minerals that they almost all get a 100%, or close to it.

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Click below to check out my entire mineral bundle, or my 50 for 50, which has 50 original labs and activities for the middle school earth science classroom, for $50. All of my identification labs can be found in the 50 for 50.



Mineral Bundle 50 for 50

Happy mineral identifying!!


50 for 50

Looking for something new to do in your earth science classroom?! Who isn’t. I just put together a bundle of every lab and activity (minus task cards) in my store for a mega bundle of 50 ORIGINAL LABS and ACTIVITIES for $50! That’s a buck an activity. All STELLAR. Seriously. I poured my HEART into every. single. one. Earth science is my baby and I LOVE doing new, creative stuff. Check this one out. It will be 28% off at the SMILE! Sale on November 30th and December 1st.

50 for 50

Thanks for checking it out!


Ocean Floor Mapping

I have so many ideas I’ve tried and cannot wait to show you. This June, in the second to last week of school I was desperate for a super fun activity to keep my kiddos engaged through the end of the school year. I made 2 new activities. The first is my ocean floor mapping project. This one requires a bit of prep. Here are some pictures to walk you through making your ocean floors and preparing materials.


First, you need several trays, however many groups you want to have. I did 6. They are about 14″ x 9″ x3″. You also need flour, water, crumpled up coupon paper (that’s what I used, anyway) and strips of newspaper for the paper mache. Mix flour and water in a 50/50 ratio.


Crumple up some coupons (or whatever you’re using) to create some contrast on your ocean floor. Make each floor different. I ripped up my coupons into different sized pieces of paper before crumpling them so some ‘hills’ would be different sizes.


Dip your strips of newspaper into the flour/water mixture, and gently glide your fingers along the strips, removing as much excess flour and water as possible. You want the paper ‘wet’ with flour and water. It’s enough, trust me. Layer, layer, layer.



I knew I was going to cover my oceans so the students couldn’t see the floor, but I needed a way for them to measure the depth. So I created these. Skewers. Just regular skewers. I used markers and make colored lines so the students could record how many ‘lines’ it took to get to the ocean floor. I just estimated how far apart to make them. It didn’t take many lines because my ocean floors weren’t that deep. This turned out to work SO well. My students loved using these things. I think what they loved most was NOT using a ruler.

How to map: Cover ocean floor with aluminum foil (easy to pierce with skewer, difficult to see through). Then cover with graph paper. Have other graph oriented in the same direction next to ocean. Stick skewer into ocean. Look at what color line the ‘ocean’ goes up to. Record number on other graph paper. Move over 4 (or any number) of boxes on graph paper. Repeat sticking/recording. Continue on, and on, and on, until ‘other’ graph paper has a bunch of numbers written on it. It will look like this…


You’ll have a graph paper (or 2 taped together) with a bunch of numbers on it. The lower the number the shallower the ocean. Next you need to draw topographic lines. Start with the lowest number on your paper. In this pic, the lowest number was 1, you can see them circled in red. The next lowest number is 2. You’ll notice the topographic line around the 2s (in orange) includes all of the 1s that are touching the 2s in anyway, in this case, in the middle of them. Next is the 3s in yellow. The 3s contain all of the 2s and 1s touching them. After you have your lines drawn, assign them colors. This group chose rainbow because the pattern is recognizable. It worked well. Here are some more…


It took my classes a whole class period to record the numbers and draw the topographic lines. The second day began by assigning colors and coloring. After that we gathered the 6 maps and 6 oceans and uncovered them to see how each group did. That was a real crown pleaser. Here is a pic of a really well done map with its ocean floor (although it’s hard to ‘see’ the ocean floor).

Here is another. This one you can see a bit better.


I LOVED this activity. The kids were engaged for 2 full class periods in the final weeks of school, completed a meaningful activity, had a hands-on opportunity, worked together, and LEARNED something. They even THANKED ME! WOW! I cannot wait to do this again next year!

You can visit my TPT store for a free handout to accompany the activity.

Ocean Floor Mapping Handout: FREE DOWNLOAD




There’s always room for improvement…

During the summer it’s nice to have a chance to reflect on what is working well, and what is working not so well. I love to trouble shoot. Think big. Fix stuff.

One of my weakest teaching points is the end of class. I love activities. Unfortunately, everyone finishes at a different time and the end of class ends up crAzy. How can I fix this? How can I pull everyone back in?

Exit tickets! But with a spin… of course. A weeks worth of exit tickets on one page that gets handed in at the end of the week. Five options on ways to summarize what students have learned. Here is the idea: Each individual gets to pick which ticket they want to fill out at the end of each day, but all must be completed by Friday at the end of class. Follow the link to the free download. Let me know what you think!


Exit Slips

Exit Tickets Free Download

New beginnings…

I love new beginnings. A blank slate. It’s beautiful… and then it’s crAzy.

My name is Lisa and I teach middle school science. I love my job. I love my students. I love to try new things. Fun things. Welcome to my blog! Here I will share ideas I’ve tried and succeeded (or failed) and share my thoughts on best practices on teaching middle school science. How do we encourage, love, teach, and motivate our students best? My goal in my classroom is to provide a safe atmosphere where students are loved, encouraged, and taught to love learning, experimenting, and life. Building relationships is necessary. I hope you find ideas and inspiration here. Please leave messages. I love them. Thanks so much.