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General Science and Teaching

Beginning of the Year Ideas and Activities

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Sandy Gady Sandy Gady 43175 Points

It’s hard to believe the new school year is upon us. I am always looking for new ways to “hook” students into learning as well as “breaking the ice” to get to know students as individuals. We all know the relationship building, as well as setting up the expectations for classroom management, are critical to success for the year. An activity I have been toying with is having the students create their own “Farce” Book online. I just found a one-year digital subscription in my Teacher’s Discovery catalogue, for a template students can complete electronically, then share, email or print. I wish I had the skills to create this on my own electronically, but don’t, so this is the next best thing to meet my needs. I know I could create my own paper version and copy it to give to students, but the opportunity to teach students computer skills at the same time is irresistible to me. I wanted more information on how the “Farce” Book worked, so I called them at 1-888-977-2436 and was directed to where there is a completed sample you can view if you click on George Washington. I was impressed with the fact links can be created that will take whomever is reading the “Farce” Book to an active page to provide more details on the subject. The subscription begins the day you purchase it, and expires one year later. The code is unique to an individual teacher, and you can have as many students use the link as you have in your classroom, so you are not limited to a given class size. The one year subscription is $49.95. With 140 students, that’s only $2.80 per student. My thought is to have the students create a “Farce” Book on themselves first and have students print them out and hang them on the bulletin board for the first parent night for all to see and enjoy. I would then use the subscription throughout the year for them to create a page for Scientists linked to the area of study we are doing at the time. Once trained on how to complete the “Farce” Book, this would be a perfect activity to leave for students to do when I have a substitute and want to have them do meaningful work. If you go to there is a completed sample you can view if you click on George Washington. When you purchase the online subscription, students will be able to complete their “Farce” book with all of these fields. The students submit their “farce” book to you for approval, then once you release it, it goes live. The page can then be shared with whomever they wish to share it, including their parents. I am going to play with this myself first, always a good plan, and will share the results. I am looking forward to the ideas and activities others have to share.

Jennifer Rahn Jennifer Rahn 67955 Points

Hi Sandy,

I have used a tool called 'Fakebook' that is pretty similar to the old version of Facebook (pre-timeline). It is free, as long as you don't mind some ads.

Sandy Gady Sandy Gady 43175 Points

I don't know if you all have had a chance to read your NSTA express yet that just showed up in your email, but there is an offer for Discover magazine that is too good to pass up. "What science topics are you so passionate about that they compel you to teach certain things in certain ways? Now NSTA has a new member benefit to provide you content that will help you do just that. We're pleased to be able to offer all current NSTA members a very significant discount on Discover Magazine—both the print and digital editions—available only to you. Subscribe for one year to either the print or digital edition and pay only $10 for each, or, choose both and pay only $15. That's an enormous (nearly 67%) discount off of the regular subscription rates, and still only half of the current best "off the street" discount of $19.95." I just subscribed to both print and online for $15.00. I use this magazine in my classroom a lot to just read to the students when there is an extra 5 or 10 minutes for whatever reason. They love the stories, and everything is so up to date, it empowers them as they share what they learned with their parents, family members or friends at home.

Patricia Rourke Patricia Rourke 45925 Points

Hi All, At the request of some members of my PLC, I put together this collection of resources from the Learning Center last year and it seems as if they may be useful yet again. One of the things that I miss most since I am no longer in the classroom is preparing for those first days of class. Enjoy! ~patty

Patricia Rourke Patricia Rourke 45925 Points

I also meant to add that I think it would be exciting to take a bit of time at the beginning of the year, present a quick overview of the content to be explored during the year, and then to invite the students to choose a topic and prepare a few phun but meaningful warm-up questions and interactive events or demos as the first project of the year. It seems like a good way to gently query students about their understanding and highlight misconceptions in my own mind that I would want to address later in the year. Using media and allowing students to interview others has great strength as an evaluative tool for future learning. ~patty

Maureen Stover Maureen Stover 41070 Points

Hi Everyone,

Sandy, I like your idea to use the Farce Book. What a great idea to engage your students!

I really like that Adah said: 'I realized that year that I needed to start each year with some kind of wow factor to let the kids know science was awesome and lots of fun.' How true! As and educator, I don't see myself as someone who teaches, I see myself as someone who inspires. Coming up with innovative ways engage our students not only 'hooks' them, but also inspires them to keep learning about science. My first year of teaching, I taught physical science. It was a required class and at the beginning of the year, a lot of the students grumbled about the class, didn't like science, thought science was too hard, etc, etc. I started doing so fun demos, like teaching Pascal's principle by having the students squeeze raw eggs (as long as equal pressure is applied, you cannot break the egg). Almost everyday, I had some type of standards-based, hands-on activity to engage the kids. As the year went on, the kids went from grumbling to begging me to tell them what we were doing tomorrow! At one point some of my football player students were talking in the locker room about the conservation of momentum using the example that I taught them. The football coach stopped by my room and said, 'I don't know what you're doing, but I've never heard these boys talking about science before, so keep it up!'

Teaching science is more than imparting knowledge, it's also inspiring the next generation of scientists. Finding ways to engage our kids in learning, ignites a love of learning, and inspires them to be life-time learners.

Dorothy Ginnett Dorothy Ginnett 28240 Points

Hello Everyone -

I just learned about a fun opener from the Earth Partnership for Schools curriculum. It's called Botany Bouquet. Give out native plant cuttings to explore. Students find others with same plant (mixer) and introduce self. They come up with a 'fictional name' for the plant .... wrap-up with sharing names and then learning scientific names and Ojibwe names for the plant and how Native Americans used the plant.

I'm going to modify it for my Geology class using Rocks & Minerals in a Geology Rocks! opener.


Dorothy Ginnett Dorothy Ginnett 28240 Points

Kudos to your Maureen for making your science classes so active and engaging! I agree that opening with a "Wow" factor and something fun and engaging is a great idea to get the year started off on the right tone. We just have to find creative ways to keep this excitement of discovery going throughout the year, like Maureen did. It's also important that the students see everyday how much fun we, as teachers and life-long learners, have with science and that we share our amazement and wonder at the new stuff we discover everyday. Sharing that joy and excitement of science, and engaging students in science inquiry, can turn around the student perceptions that science is "dull and boring and too hard". Dorothy

Ricki Luster Ricki Luster 1400 Points

Yes, building a relationship with your students should always come first. This year, I tried something new to get my students more interested in both science and social studies. It is so simple but it is working. I told them that the more involved they are in the lesson (raising hands, asking questions, reading aloud, etc. the more likely to do better). At first some of my students started this and now I would say that at least 3/4 of the class is doing this. They LOVE IT! They feel good about themselves and I have definitely seen improvements.

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