Category Archives: Ask a Mentor

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Freeze! We’re doing science!

I have accumulated a large number of the freezer gel packs from a meal service. I’d like to find a way to use them in a classroom activity. —P., Georgia The best thing about these freezer packs is that they provide a constant that will help your class design and conduct a lot of experiments. […]

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Ecosystems: Recycle and Cycle

Do you have any advice for creating bottle ecosystems with my seventh grade class? I would like them to do two-tier systems with terrestrial and aquatic organisms. —S., Missouri Students can learn a lot when they create these micro-habitats in plastic bottles with plants and invertebrates. The bottles can be stacked to form interdependent aquatic […]

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What’s the word in science?

What are some of the best practices for teaching science vocabulary? —D., Florida Science has a language unto itself; it is not surprising that many students struggle with vocabulary much like English language learners (ELLs). Because of this, I used some ELL best practices to teach science to all my students. Early in my career, […]

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The Right Chemistry

Is there a way to engage those who struggle with chemistry and help them do well? — M., Utah     When asked to name their hardest class in high school, people often list pre-calculus math, physics or English Language Arts, but I always answered chemistry! For most of us, chemistry was taught on a […]

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Good Times!

How can I teach science when my school only allots 15-20 minutes per day to teach it? This usually comes at the end of the day when students are worn out. —N., Louisiana It can be very frustrating to have only tiny chunks of time to teach. One thing you can try is to block […]

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Summertime, and the livin’ is…

I am looking for recommendations on how to spend my summer preparing to implement the science program our school district adopted. —C., Illinois Without knowing the specifics of your district’s program I can’t say precisely what to do, but I have some general advice. First, this is your summer break—take some time to unwind and […]

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A lecture about lecturing

How can you check for understanding during a lecture to make sure it is engaging? —S. Ohio Although I hated lecturing, I often felt the need to do so, particularly in advanced grades. My advice is to keep direct instruction short and avoid mindless note-taking. Some things I can suggest: Have students complete anticipation guides, […]

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Tech Talk

I was wondering how other teachers implement technology in the classroom? I think that simulations have the ability to encourage student inquiry, but often their presence seems to distract students from the learning. What are your thoughts? —K., Wisconsin There are many different kinds of technology in addition to laptops and tablets. Smartphone apps, sensors, […]

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Let it go! Let it go!

  I’m a pre-service teacher who is a little scared about teaching inquiry-based science in the classroom! What are some things you wish you knew before teaching elementary school science? —K., New Mexico   I understand your anxieties about inquiry-based learning but think of it as the most natural thing a child does! Adults just tend […]

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Be My Guest!

I’ve read about inviting guests into the classrooms for a day. Would you recommend that for a new teacher or would it be best for students to see me as the expert initially? Also, how can we get experts into the classroom? —A., North Carolina     I loved bringing guests into my classrooms! I […]

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