Category Archives: Ask a Mentor

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Assessment for Learning

What do you typically do after administering a test or a midterm to help students make necessary corrections and, thereby, reinforce the concepts that were not understood? – J., New York   Tests and exams, which are assessments of learning, should also be a basis for learning. When I returned a test, the corrections automatically […]

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Science Fair Blues

My school requires science fairs for all ninth graders. How do you encourage students to ask questions that don’t just come from books or websites?  – L., Massachusetts   I think the objective of a science fair is to learn about the nature of science by designing and conducting experiments in a scientific manner and […]

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Experimenting with Labs

How can I help my students get the most out of their lab experiences? —J., Tennessee A lab that follows a step-by-step “recipe” does not challenge students to think much. Allowing them to design their own experimental procedures and identify variables and controls is a very powerful teaching method. General advice: Safety is always first! […]

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Adding Life to the Classroom

I’ve been considering adding some live animals to my classroom for my students to study. What should I consider before taking the leap? —K., Washington   Live animals definitely make science real and much more interesting than pictures, books, or videos can. You can always find a use for them when teaching the nature of […]

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Testy Lab Behavior

I have a few students who test me, as well as my mentor teacher, in most directions and instructions that we give and will abuse the science materials. Any suggestions on how to address this behavior? – D., Maryland Let me put your mind at ease. Everyone has encountered these students! I wish I could […]

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Country Living

My partner and I are thinking of moving to rural North Dakota to teach. I teach high school science while my partner teaches middle school. We would both like to teach in the same district. Do you have any advice on how we should proceed? —A., Missouri   Unpacking your question, I actually see several […]

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Differentiating for an “Out of This World” Student

I have one student whose knowledge of Earth and space exceeds the other students in class. I feel like I just keep giving him more work, more extension activities, and I think he is getting frustrated. Do you have any suggestions for how to deal with this? How do I grade this kind of assignment? […]

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Presentation Props

My middle school students are creating organism presentations. How much scaffolding should I give them? — P., New York Students take more interest and greater ownership when they come up with project ideas themselves and teachers provide, as you realize, a scaffold. I have found this guidance results in higher quality presentations and a better […]

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What did you learn today, teacher?

I’m teaching a science methods class. I’d like to know: What was the most important thing you learned in your undergrad science methods classes? What do you wish you had known about science teaching that you didn’t learn in undergrad? – L., Illinois   This post to an NSTA e-mail list produced excellent responses and […]

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Quick Lab and Activity Assessments

I would like to include a rubric when students are completing various labs and activities in science. Could you share any examples? – A., Iowa I have found that checklists, in particular, are good assessment tools during a lab. The objective is to quickly assess and record student performance while still monitoring the lab as you […]

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