General Science and Teaching

Classroom Procedures for Middle School Science

I was just wondering what routines you use in your Middle School Classrooms? How do you introduce these procedures to your students at the beginning and throughout the school year?

Jurema Gorham
Jurema Gorham
480 Activity Points

Classroom procedures and routines are so important for the success and safety of all students. I teach middle school and spend the first month hitting the procedures and routines really hard. This includes everything from where everything belongs within the room, to how we take notes, we use Cornell notes throughout our school, to writing assignments in planners, classroom behaviors and expectations and consequences for actions. I can’t think of anything we do in the room that doesn’t have a procedure in place. For middle school students, it’s critical that routine become a part of every day and the expectations for respect and courtesy are practiced the same way each day. I have my students in Design and Engineering for two years, and you can really see the difference in how well learning takes place when you have a mixed class with both the “old and the new” in the same class. I love the excitement for learning a 7th grader brings, but need the maturity of the 8th grader to do tasks that are rigorous and bring lifelong learning. I have guests come into my room regularly and are amazed at how independently students work and the level of thinking they are capable of. At first, the going is slow. We talk about and model everything. Again, it is helpful to have the 8th graders in the room that are able to articulate the expectations and help show the “sevies” the process. There is no “trick” or “magic” to introducing students to the behaviors and outcomes you want, it just requires a lot of analyzing on your part where the boundaries are and then reinforcing them consistently. I always teach the expectations and behaviors in conjunction with some activity. As you grow in experience, you will find safety of students and equipment is always your first consideration in the Sciences, and providing an atmosphere where all students have the opportunity to learn to the best of their ability is critical. My best advice to you is to find out what others in your building or district do, then “cherry pick” their ideas and incorporate them into a plan that works for you. As for what routines, rules, procedures I actually use, there really are only two rules, “Do what is right” and “Do it to the best of your ability.”

Sandy Gady
Sandy Gady
43095 Activity Points

Hi Jurema and Sandy! I love your two (and only two) rules, Sandy.
Jurema, there is a journal article in the Science Scope that you might find helpful. It contains some good information about how to get a middle school science classroom up and running. Classroom Management: Setting Up the Classroom for Learning
The safety contract is a VERY important part of the first week of school. Flinn has a great one that you can download. I have my students AND their parents read and sign it. It has to be returned before a student can participate in any labs.
Carolyn

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
86483 Activity Points

Jurema ,Sandy and Carolyn, There is a whole collection here in the Learning Center on safety. [url=http://learningcenter.nsta.org/share.aspx?id=ynkKBzsYSQ] Science Safety[/url] Science teachers are responsible for creating a safe environment for all students. This collection provides resources for teachers of all grades to develop their professional competency with this important topic. This is the 5 star review ! This collection is the ultimate in creating a safe working environment for any age group and space. There is such a broad range of topics covered here; some articles are specific - labs vs. classrooms dissection etc. - so you can read what you need! Hope this helps............! Arlene

Arlene Jurewicz-Leighton
Arlene Jurewicz Leighton
44543 Activity Points

Hi: After 15 years of teaching middle school students I am a firm believer in consistancy in the first 10 minutes of class. The bell rings, students enter and pick up a 5 minute mini activity on the chair in the front of the room. They work on it for 5 minutes while I took attendance, signed forms and the usual time consuming paperwork. I would walk around the room for another 3 minutes and then use the activity for a grade if it was a review or use it to start a lesson as an engagement piece. That is how every day started. They knew what was expected and they did that first. Hope this helps.

Adah Stock
Adah Stock
101510 Activity Points

Hi Jurema, Sandy, Arlene, and Adah.
Thanks, Arlene, for reminding us about the excellent collections in the NLC. Adah, you are right on the money for mentioning the importance of setting the tone at the very beginning of each class period. The same thing is iterated in a book chapter in the NLC:
Classroom Management. This and other resources on classroom management can be found in a collection of NLC resources that I put together called "CI 426: Constructing My Science Classroom".
Let us know if you have some other questions, Jurema.

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
86483 Activity Points

Sandy I really liked your two rules - "Do what is right" and Do it to the best of your ability." I have three rules in my classroom - be respectful, be responsible, and be safe but your two rules pretty much encompass my three. I also liked what you said regarding being consistent with classroom management. I find it OK in the beginning of the year but later on when kids get "used to everything" they start trying to make modifications to the procedures, or bending the rules, etc. Carolyn thank you for the lead to the articles: "Tips Conducting Good Classroom Management" by Sarah; How to Start the Year" by Susanne Hokkamen; Creating a Climate of Learning by Doing" by Ruth Hutson; and "C1426 Construction My Science Classroom". I skimmed through them. I did some "cherry picking" (I borrowed the term from Sandy) myself in the articles. I am always looking for ways that I can work smarter not harder. Ways to get the kids engaged without them knowing it, and having them take responsibility for the goings on in our classroom. Thanks to you all for your ideas and article leads.

Deborah Clevenger
Deborah Clevenger
1350 Activity Points

Thank you sharing your articles. I found that teaching 9th grade has more commonalities with middle school than high school. There is a big change from 9th to 10th. Unfortunately the trens in my district is to create K-8 schools that do not prepare students for high school in an emotional, social, and academic (science and math) dimension. I found you input valuable for my freshmen class. Glad to find you! The trhee rules be safe, be responsible, and be respectful are part of the PBIS initiative which I think is wondeful. Instead of having to "nag" I just have to remind the student which area needs to be improved; by providing a common language we avoid "drama". Another disappointingg trend with the K-8 school si the disappearance of lab activities, yes, we do not have lab activities for middle schoolers as such they need to learn how to work in the science class in high school. I found the articles you provided useful to my current teaching. I would appreciate if you could post spme of your favorite lab activities. Also, could you suggest good sources of class openers. I tried one of the paid web sites for teachers but the materials are more appropriate for younger kids. I need to get the students used to starting activities but I do not have any activities to get them started at the begining of teh year that motivate them to move into high school work.

Maria Nogueron
Maria Nogueron
1555 Activity Points

Jurema wrote, "How do you introduce these procedures to your students at the beginning and throughout the school year?" Hi Jurema, Once you establish your classroom procedures, it is important to revisit them throughout the year. This is especially true when you find your students becoming lax as the year progresses. I am a huge fan of Harry Wong. If you haven't had a chance to read his work, I highly recommend it. I found this except from The Well-Managed Classroom that you may find helpful... [color=green][i]Classroom Management All Year Long •Organize a well-managed classroom in which students can learn in a task-oriented environment. •Start the class by giving an assignment, not by taking roll. There is no need to involve the class in the roll-taking process. •Post your assignments in the same place every day if you want your students to do them. •Make sure that your grade record book shows the results and progress of each student at all times. •Remember that a smooth-running class depends on your ability to teach procedures. •Present your rules clearly, and provide reasonable explanations of the need for them. Write the rules down, and permanently post them in the classroom. Give them to students on paper or have the students copy them into their notebook. •Keep in mind that rules are most effective when there are consequences to face if students break them and rewards if students follow them. When you see a violation of one of the rules, immediately and quietly give out the penalty as you continue with the lesson or classwork.[/i][/color]

Ruth Hutson
Ruth Hutson
63530 Activity Points

Ruth, I am a big fan of Harry Wong as well. I like to reread it every August to get primed for the new year. I find that although students learn procedures and do a good job the first part of the year, once March hits they begin to get sloppy and need to be re-taught. From a safety standpoint, procedures are particularly important when conducting lab work---even more so with large class sizes.

Patty McGinnis
Patricia McGinnis
25580 Activity Points

Hi Maria, Teaching procedures for lab work is important. It is critical that every student understand what is expected and that they accomplish it in a safe manner. If students are coming to you lacking lab experience, I would suggest you start with some observation labs that help students learn how to obtain materials, work with them, and put them away. Something I found successful was to teach students when I wanted their attention. This is very important during labs---if I saw the same mistake being made by several groups of students, I stop the lab and reteach the procedure or offer more direct instruction regarding the lab objective(s). Beginning lab students have to master all sorts of skills from measuring to working with others---it is an ongoing process that takes most of the year for students to master. If you are having difficulty with students doing labs, one thing you could consider is to pilot the lab with one class, get their feedback, and then make changes prior to implementing it with your other students. Possible bell ringers could be questions from the back of the chapter or released questions from state assessments---a great way to prepare your students for this year's assessments.

Patty McGinnis
Patricia McGinnis
25580 Activity Points

Greetings to all. Jurema, lots of good advice... I do not have advice to add... I do have another question to pose... I feel really fortunate on one hand and I am cringing with the other... :o} Our middle school got an amazing grant... we will be one-to-one with iPads... Any suggestions from anyone about procedures specific to the use of technology? iPads, iPods... smart phones... social networks... My team would like to start off well prepared, etc. Bianca

Bianca McRae
Bianca McRae
1760 Activity Points

Wow I am glad that I cam upon this string of questions with responses from seasoned teachers. There are a lot of good ideas here for the middle-school area. I have recently finished my student teaching experience and will be beginning as a first year Spanish teacher in the fall. I am very nervous about starting the year. For my student teaching I entered the classroom at the end of the year. I did not get to see the set up of the classroom and that is the part that worries me. Is there advice for a first year teacher and what to do on the first day of school. Btw our classes are 85 minutes long, so it is a lot to plan for the first day and I do not know how much procedures to introduce and when its just too much.

Kimberly Wirries
Kimberly Wirries
10 Activity Points

Hi Bianca, What a great question! I did a quick google search; there are several use policies in districts. Here are a few links: http://www.gfw.k12.mn.us/school183/images/files/gfw_ipad_policy.pdf http://www.k12.wa.us/EdTech/Naselle/iPadAcceptableUseAgreement.pdf http://ps.north-reading.k12.ma.us/Pages/NRSDDistrict_C&T/NRPS%20IPAD%20AUP.pdf They seem to cover just about every aspect from appropriate screensavers, ipad care, loading apps, etc. I suspect that you will have to tweak your policy once kids find the "loopholes."

Patty McGinnis
Patricia McGinnis
25580 Activity Points

I have 3 rules in my 6th grade room that I use for ways to communicate and for behavior: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? I post them on the wall in the front of the room and refer to them whenever necessary as a reminder. This keeps things simple, and if the answer to any one is "no", then I say you shouldn't say it or do it. I have students come back from previous years and still remember those 3 things.

Susan Soares
Susan Soares
430 Activity Points

Adah, I agree with you about consistency, especially during the first few minutes of class. It makes a huge difference in the learning environment, and sends a clear message to students about what they are expected to do. Jurema-- I suggest reading "Teach Like A Champion..." There is a chapter in there about classroom routines. The first two techniques are Threshold and Do-Nows. Our principal is actually one of the main characters in this book, and from personal experience, these two techniques have made a big difference in how to set the tone for the rest of the class period. Cheska

Cheska Robinson
Cheska Lorena
5065 Activity Points

Maria, Science Spot has a nice collection of Science Starters http://sciencespot.net/Pages/starters.html For the beginning of the year, I used vivid pictures from National Geographic and Flickr for free writing prompts. I also used the pictures to have students list their observations, and later their inferences. Sometimes I had students write about how they feel about science, or write short persuasive essays on why they should or should not study science. Cheska

Cheska Robinson
Cheska Lorena
5065 Activity Points

Bianca, What an exciting opportunity for you! One suggestion would be to assign student "technology monitors" or "technology specialists". These students can collect the iPads and make sure they're in working condition, and are in their allotted spaces in the cart attached to their chargers after use. You can also have "expert troubleshooters", students who can help set up other students while you are working 1:1 with someone else. Cheska

Cheska Robinson
Cheska Lorena
5065 Activity Points

Kimberly, I just finished my first year teaching, and I wish someone had this advice for me then... For the first day of school, I would say that it should be about building connections. Students want to know who you are, and what the year holds for them in your class. As part of our summer professional development, we teachers had to experiment with the interactive whiteboards and had to create an interactive sideshow about ourselves and our content area. I played that teacher biography slideshow and an Animoto "Welcome to Science!" music video that introduced what science class would be like. http://animoto.com/play/C7RR50507MPypr0Wh4Y6Vw I followed it up with Student Questionnaires to get their contact information, likes/dislikes, and learning modalities and preferences. I also threw in a short response prompt to get a sense of where students were in their reading and writing skills. The questionnaire was followed up with a short team building activity to help students learn each other's names and immediately build a sense of community. With a long class period like yours, you can split up your class expectations and class norms over the first two days. My point is that you don't want the first day to be all about the syllabus and expectations... Take time to build connections and relationships first. Harry Wong's "First Days" didn't work for me, but again it was probably because of the particular school culture itself. I recommend reading "Teach Like A Champion". I found that one much more relevant and useful in my case. Cheska

Cheska Robinson
Cheska Lorena
5065 Activity Points

Kimberly - I found when I was teaching a block schedule, unless I was doing science labs, I would break my class period up into 2 or three segments. At least one segment I would try to have students up and moving. Another segment might focus on homework, while another might be lecture or quiet readings or group work. One suggestion, my team printed up a "weekly schedule" and sometime during the first few days of school we filled it in, and the "appointments" we had the students fill in for each day were partners for 1-1 work. Then on any given day we could say, "Okay, today you will be working with your Thursday partner for this activity" (I didn't always chose the day of the week it was, but you could actually set up that pattern and use "weekends" for special assignments). Generally the early days of the week end up being closer friends who you choose on a day when it doesn't matter if they are a little off track, later days in the week are more distant friends and will generally lead to more focused work. Since you will be teaching a class where students may need speaking/working partners, this may come in handy and would get them up and moving during class. IF you work with students on transitions and get them to understand that once an activity is over it is time to quiet down and move to the next or at least sit quietly, you will even be able to do things like this in the middle section of class (which is nice in a really long class, to stretch ones legs). If that doesn't work, it can always be the last 20-30 minutes.

Tina Harris
Tina Harris
65805 Activity Points

I agree with everyone that procedures are important, especially in the middle school classroom. This is how I handle inquiry in my classroom: I only have 40 minutes with each class, so we practice speed science. In the best of all possible worlds I would present a query and the students would create a problem on that theme. I don't live in that world, so I create the problem. Students come in and create a lab sheet with their name, date and the problem I have presented on the projector on the wall in front of the room. While I take attendance they are formatting a hypothesis that states what they believe is the answer to the problem question along with a reason why they think so. We share hypothesis together as a class and create one or two in the class lab sheet projected on the wall. As students are finishing their hypothesis I assign groups and assign PI, MM, MD, SD for each group. In their groups they have the option to do the sample hypothesis from the group lab sheet, or if they think they have a better way to prove their hypothesis they may opt to create their own procedure. If they do their own they need to follow these rules: 1. Everything they need to do it their way needs to be available in the classroom 2. All members of the group need to agree with the new procedure 3. The PI needs to convince me that their new procedure will answer the problem question at least as well as the classroom procedure does, and answers the same question we are working with. Students do their experiment. The PI can assign any member to be a spokesman, but every member needs to keep their own notes. All groups report back about their findings and the entire class comes to a conclusion based on discussion from all the groups as to the best answer to the original problem. I find when students know what is expected of them they feel more comfortable, safe and empowered.

Linda Smith
Linda Smith
3005 Activity Points

AS so many have reported, consistency in daily routines make it possible to be safe and responsible. I too use a 5 minute bell ringer activity while I take attendance etc. I walk around and then we discuss the answer or whatever the activity covers. I also use jobs; though it sounds elementary, approximately every 3-4 weeks I will change students jobs. I use CEO as my go to person for anything really important etc. Errand runner whatever... Then I have 2 task checkers that are my homework checkers that truly judge if the hw is done properly and keep track and collect on a clipboard for my grading. I have paper passers, equipment managers and door holder. Everyone fights to become a CEO or task checkers since these 2 positions are very important and hold the highest responsibility. Flinn science contract is critical for labs. No signature, no labs. Everyone watches the safety video I created from my students years ago and I also create a new Animoto video covering procedures and protocols; this is fun and technology based so kids pay attention! Thank you all for posting such great ideas and reminders.

Anna Crisostomo
Anna Crisostomo
270 Activity Points

You are so right, Anna. Procedures are important. Everyone wants to succeed, and if they know what they need to do to do that, at least in you classroom it allows them a feeling of safety. Everyone needs to be needed. Counting on your kids for basic jobs says they are needed and that you depend on them. It makes them feel important in you classroom. Even the toughest of kids will respond if they feel like they're an important part of the process...if they feel that they are needed.

Linda Smith
Linda Smith
3005 Activity Points

Linda, you make a very valid comment, "Even the toughest of kids will respond if they feel like they're an important part of the process...if they feel that they are needed". I have found that my kiddos that seem to be my least engaged and usually off task respond the best to being my paper passers, or even the equipment managers. In middle school I try to use titles like in big businesses so they hear something prestigious not an elementary term: CEO, manager, supervisor, etc. This too seems to make them feel important. Thanks for adding to this. I appreciate your feedback.

Anna Crisostomo
Anna Crisostomo
270 Activity Points

Cheska,

I am really glad to see more teachers using Animoto! This is a fabulous tool to engage students in today's classroom. Some of the music is funky, but ultimately it is great to be able to create something out of the box. Power points are so boring! I use them too, but by changing it up and creating videos with music it is very easy to catch the student's attention.
My video on first day!

I have a youtube channel too that I use for students to be able to view classroom notes that were done either on PPT turned into a video or whatever we did that week pieced together in video format so they can review or even make up work. I am able to post inspirational videos, learning videos etc. The kids love to watch youtube, why not give them a reason to watch your channel?

One more fun thing I do with the MS kids is use Wiffiti to allow computer or cell phones to post questions and answers during class or even outside of class that will force kids to think about the unit of study more in depth and they have a good time doing so.

Anna Crisostomo
Anna Crisostomo
270 Activity Points

Ann... I find that even something as simple as asking the rough kids to help you down the steps is effective in bringing them back to learning. Everyone needs to be needed, and a lot of those kids don't feel needed by anyone.

Linda Smith
Linda Smith
3005 Activity Points

We just used animoto to document what happened during the Simmons STEM Institute at The College of New Jersey last week. I made one every day with the pictures I took from that day. Here's the links: http://animoto.com/play/OD58HBj5GAI1YYEMZLUm0Q http://animoto.com/play/NzTsoWnJVOSQqEygEkyiDA http://animoto.com/play/K0ZDvb0YRrTBYH81eRsSFA

Linda Smith
Linda Smith
3005 Activity Points

How cool it must have been to be at that conference! I missed conferences this year. I really love to go and learn! Thanks for making the videos to show us all the exciting fun.

Anna Crisostomo
Anna Crisostomo
270 Activity Points

The Simmons Institute occurs every summer. Maitland Simmons was a past president of NJSTA. Long story short, he died and left us half a million dollars to inspire teachers of New Jersey. Each year we select 24 teachers to participate in the week long conference. You can look to our facebook page to see what we have in mind throughout the year.

Linda Smith
Linda Smith
3005 Activity Points

I love conferences and Institutes. You meet the most energized people, people that share your passion and love to bounce ideas back and forth.

Linda Smith
Linda Smith
3005 Activity Points

Like Sandy I agree with limiting the rules - too many rules means you spend too much time teaching and modeling them. I go with Be Safe, Be Respectful, and Be Responsible. Just about anything falls under those three and it is easy to say "Is that a safe way to handle that?" - just as an example.

Elaine Slesinski
Elaine Slesinski
1085 Activity Points

Hi All, Establishing rules is important but perhaps a classroom dedicated strongly to doing inquiry engages students to the degree that their involvement mitigates focusing on rules and allows for a lively classroom devoted to being on task. This months Science Teacher, September 2012, Vol 79 No 4, includes a most useful overview of Eight Ways to Do Inquiry, pp 40-44. I know that I always reviewed past classroom practice prior to the beginning of a new academic year and even if I am already immersed in the new planning cycle I always find articles such as this one stimulating. The authors identify 8 models for classroom inquiry from over 300 inquiry activities. The models are Protocols, Design challenge, Product testing, Black boxes, Intrinsic data space, Discrepant event, Taxonomy, and Modeling. All in our NSTA learning communities will recognize that these models appear in almost every forum and are associated with deep discussions and many posts. Take a gander at the article and browse the forum of your choice and then chime in and share your ideas and thoughts with us. Do you have a favorite way to do inquiry? How do these eight models connect to STEM? Thank you for reading and sharing. Happy New Year! ~patty

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45915 Activity Points

I find it is important to create a family with each class I teach. Being a family member means that everyone is needed to make the family successful. Because of this we create rules in the beginning of the year, talk out the rules and vote on them. When working with students in groups it is important that each member has a role to play that is critical to the success of the project. Each group has a PI - person in charge; MM - Materials manager; MD Maintenance Director and SD - Security Director. Everyone takes their own notes so that if someone is absent the next day, the group can go on. A few years ago I was asked to do a presentation on effective classroom management in the inquiry setting. I called it Elements of a Great Science Lesson, I created a powerpoint that goes into more detail about how we take notes, what the rules are and rubrics for students to evaluate themselves in the process. It also gives suggestions for grading inquiry based lessons. I'm attaching it to this post. Of course, that is only my opinion; and that and $5 will get you coffee at Starbucks, maybe ;) Linda

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Linda Smith
Linda Smith
3005 Activity Points

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