Bond with James: October 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Biology Just-in-Time #3

We hosted the third Just-in-Time (JiT) session for the high school biology teachers in our district today. The topics included photosynthesis and respiration. Click here or scroll down to an earlier post to read an overview of the JiT Science workshops we offer.

The biology teachers were led through various activities that they could, for the most part, immediately take back to their campus and implement. The activities included hands-on manipulatives,  lab investigations, and creating graphic organizers and/or foldable manipulatives to incorpate onto the right-side of an interactive notebook. Teachers also discussed activities students could do on the left-side (output) of the interactive notebook.

Here are a few of the foldable manipulatives and graphic organizers to help students develop an understanding of where photosynthesis takes place in a plant. Additionally, our Region Service Center (RSC) specialist also stressed the importance of using other photosynthetic organisms, such as bacteria, in order to address a student misconception that plants are the only photosynthetic organisms on the planet.

Here are three foldables to help students compare and contrast photosynthesis and cellular respiration. As mentioned earlier when teaching these topics, teachers should address the misconception that plants do not undergo cellular respiration (they do!). Additionally, teachers should use non-plant examples as frequently as possible when speaking of photosynthesis and respiration (i.e. bacteria, single-celled organisms, etc.)

Teachers also participated and received several card sort activities that they could use with their students as pre-, during, and post-assessments. Here is an example of a card sort teachers participated in.

The card sort activities could be created as a class set or for each student to place in a baggie or envelope in his/her interactive notebook.

The JiT sessions also try to incorporate actual lab activities. Below are pictures of an inquiry lab teachers participated in using live organisms. Some of the bromothymol blue solutions began to change color half-way through the session. Teachers were able to take their samples home/school to view the results as well. Our district has a living materials warehouse where teachers can check out live specimens.

We had a microscope lab, but we ran out of time prior to lunch. However, we did leave the microscopes out during the afternoon planning session in case teachers wanted to engage in the activities provided. During the planning session, the curriculum specialist and I support the teachers while they plan. Some teams need more assistance than others, however, we provide support for everyone. :)

Stay tuned for more JiT blog posts! 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Aqueous Solutions Task Cards

This set of task cards is probably my best to date. I probably only say that because I was much more engaged while making them because I invested in various clip art and borders. While I wish I was more knowledgeable in graphic design, I like how my cover page came out in the end. There are four concepts covered: water, acids and bases, solubility, and electrolytes. Each concept is represented by a different colored border (as shown in the cover above). Originally, I was going to do one set, however, I decided to break this topic up into two task card sets - the first one seen here. 

Why two sets of Aqueous Solutions Task Cards? Well, I knew I was marketing the product for grades 8-12 and potentially even 7th grade depending on the region. As a result, I wanted to make sure Grades 7 and 8 students could answer most, if not all, of the questions. Including pH/pOH, as well as weak acid/base calculations would be too advance for those students. Therefore, I decided to create two sets. Set One, shown here, is complete and I am unsure of the release date for Set Two (it should be prior to the time most teachers begin covering this unit). 

Finally, I should note that this set of task cards includes activity cards (a few smaller cards and most of the larger cards seen above). This means that some of the cards may ask students to develop a lab procedure or investigation, write a letter, song, poem, or acrostic; and so forth. This obviously may require the use of additional materials, such as technology for Internet access. However, I believe adding the activity cards to the task card set makes it a great differentiation tool for the chemistry classroom. Some students may be able to go directly to the activity task cards, while others may need more practice prior to attempting such cards. Additionally, teachers can give the activity task cards to students who finish early or use at the end of a grading period for students that come in seeking "make-up" work or extra credit. The possibilities are endless! 

Here are two example task cards:

The full product can be found by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


         My district offers professional learning (PD) for our high school science teachers known as Just-in-Time (JiT). We offer JiT sessions for biology, chemistry, and physics and have done so for the past three years.Why is it called Just-in-Time? Well, we offer an analysis / discussion of our state standards (TEKS) and provide activities a few weeks prior, or "Just-in-Time" before the new unit in our scope and sequence. 

Year I – JiT only included biology as that was the first year of Texas’s new standardized exam, STAAR. A full day planning session was offered to our teachers. I facilitated this  myself and mostly offered support concerning standards (TEKS) analysis and lesson pacing.

Year II – The curriculum specialist joined me for the second year of JiT. After attending one of our Region Service Center PD sessions, I came up with the idea of reformatting the JiT sessions. The morning half of the session would include the following activities:
  • unpacking/repacking the standards (TEKS)
  • Modeling best and research-based instructional practices that teachers could utilize with their students
  • New ways to present lessons/activities per content standard.
In the afternoon, teachers planned with their campus PLC teams to develop SMART goals, pacing calendars, and lesson plans.  In Spring 2013, we teamed up with our Region Service Center counterparts to facilitate the meetings (which made it easier on the curriculum specialist and myself).  Additionally, we began to encourage campus PLCs to interact with one another as I noticed that inter-campus interactions were limited.

Year III (current) – The curriculum specialist and I decided to keep the format of Year II slightly the same as our survey results from Year II indicated that teachers valued the JiT sessions.  The only difference is that we vary how we conduct the morning/afternoon sessions. Certain sessions offer activities in the morning and then planning time in the afternoon. Other sessions embed planning immediately after an activity has been presented so PLCs can brainstorm how they might utilize them. Not only does this allow them time to process the presented activities, they also have time to share their ideas with the larger group. 

I will say that the continued success of the JiT experience has been a collaborative effort between my office and the office of the science curriculum specialist; as well as our Region Service Center counterparts. Furthermore, we self-assess ourselves by asking participants to complete surveys to provide us with feedback (we usually have an 85-100% completion rate) and collect additional data through our conversations with individual or groups of teachers. I believe listening to the teachers is what has contributed to our success as we adjust our training to their needs (similar to what we would do in the classroom).

With that said, let me share some pictures from our latest chemistry JiT session. Participants engaged in activities and dialogue centered around the following concepts
  • Chemical bonding (ionic and covalent)
  • Chemical nomenclature (ionic and covalent)
  • VSEPR Theory
I Notice / I Wonder: Compound Gallery Walk. Here teachers (acting as students) conducted a gallery walk by looking at various covalently bonded compounds. Teachers were asked to leave 1 "I Notice" and 1 "I Wonder" per poster. Several great ideas on how to use or modify the activity emerged as a result.

Teachers use transparencies to help build Lewis Dot Structures for compounds. In addition, several teachers were introduced to the NASL method of drawing Lewis Structures.

Here we have a campus that brainstormed ideas immediately after a model lesson and activities were shared. We provide frequent time for PLCs to share ideas with one another

Compound Rummy, anyone? Here teachers learn how to play a compound building game to use with their students as a review of ionic bonding.

I'm looking forward to our next session. Stay tuned! :)