Category Archives: Ask a Mentor

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Focus on learning activities

My fourth-grade students like doing hands-on science activities. How can I get them to focus on the activity rather than socializing? —C., West Virginia You want students to enjoy the activity and talk with each other, but students need to understand the activity is purposeful and not “free” time. Your preparation and routines will make […]

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Interacting with students

I’m looking for ideas to get to know my students better and interact with them. My head spins with six different groups of students each day.  –M., Maryland You may have heard the idea that students don’t care what you know until they know you care. But in a secondary classroom, trying to connect with […]

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Middle school botanists

I see many good activities for middle school involving plants, but what if students already did something similar at the elementary level? I don’t want to spend time on duplicate activities or get the eye-roll “we already did this.” —M., Arizona I posed this question to a middle school biology teacher. His students came from […]

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Classroom supplies

I will start teaching in an elementary school this year. When I looked in what will be my future my classroom, but I didn’t see supplies or equipment for teaching science. What can I do now? –  —G., Michigan Describe the situation to your principal before you panic. There may be a central storeroom or […]

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Planning for a substitute

I’m preparing for my first year as a science teacher. I’ve heard I should have a folder for a substitute teacher, but I’m not sure what should be in it besides a lesson plan. —H., Georgia Good substitutes deserve respect as professional colleagues and can ease your mind when you’re away. Ask your mentor or […]

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Involving students on day one

I’m not sure what to do on the first day of my new middle school assignment (I started student teaching in the spring, so I never had the experience of a “first day”). Any suggestions? —C., Minnesota On the first day, middle schoolers meet 6-8 different teachers. Listening to each teacher read the syllabus, describe […]

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Students’ Self-Assessment and Reflection

Do you have ideas on how to help my middle school students become more thoughtful, independent learners? —J., Michigan In my experience, self-assessment and reflective activities gave students ownership in their learning. Self-assessment is more than students “correcting” their own papers. When students self-assess, they reflect on the results of their efforts and their progress […]

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Learning from experience

My first year of teaching biology was challenging, but I made it! Do you have any suggestions for what I should do to improve for next year?  —C, Virginia Congratulations for completing your first year! A good way to prepare for next year is to reflect on this one, learning from your experiences. How did […]

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From teacher to administrator

I have assumed an administrative position in my high school. Although I’m sad to leave the classroom, I’m looking forward to this challenge. I have the credentials but not much experience, so I need insights on making the transition. —C., New York Congratulations on your new professional adventure! If you have not formally been assigned […]

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Inventing inventors

I’m looking for ideas to integrate physical science and social studies at the middle school level. — E., New Jersey Inventions and inventors could be an interesting context to explore the connections between science, engineering, technology, history, and economics. A social studies colleague framed a unit around two questions: Why do we invent or innovate? […]

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