Category Archives: Ms. Mentor

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Have a question for Ms. Mentor? E-mail her: msmentor@nsta.org.

Any questions? Good.

I need suggestions on encouraging students to tell me when they don’t understand something. I ask my classes if they need any help, but no one seems to have any questions. The next day, it’s as if they never heard of the topic before! —A. from Nevada Questions are good, but sometimes people don’t have [...]

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Play and exploration

I’ve been reading the literature on the value of play in learning. I do give my students unstructured activity time in science class, but I’m not sure they’re getting anything out of it. For example, I gave each group of students a board and several toy cars. They began playing with them, and when I [...]

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“Time” on task

I’m a new high school teacher looking for suggestions on how to estimate the amount of time a lesson will take. My lessons look good when I plan them, but I find that often a lesson is either too short and we have extra time at the end of the class or I run out [...]

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Middle school to high school

I’ve heard that there will be a vacancy in the high school science department next year. The position is for three sections of general biology and two sections of environmental science (not AP). I currently teach middle school general science but I’m credentialed in biology and tempted to make a change after 10 years. What [...]

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Classroom science centers

One of my goals this year is to focus more on science. I teach at the elementary level (third grade), and I’m thinking of setting up a science corner in the classroom with materials and activities for students. Rather than reinventing the wheel, do you have any ideas? —Kate, Davenport, Iowa In a school I [...]

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Action research on notemaking/taking

In your response to my question about notetaking, you suggested “action research” on notetaking/notemaking as a professional development project. How would I go about beginning such a process? I have the question but I’ve never tackled something of this nature. —Kelly, Raleigh, North Carolina Action research is inquiry or research focused on efforts to improve [...]

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Notetaking vs notemaking

I really want to stop “giving” notes to students because it doesn’t seem like a good use of class time. They use tablets, so they can find facts easily, but I want students to actually manipulate the content and think about it. But I’m struggling a bit with letting go of the notes. Guidance or [...]

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Ideas for must-have strategies

I’m mentoring two new science teachers this year, and I want to focus on must-have strategies and effective practices for science. I’m sure they will have their own needs, but, based on your experience, what would be important to include in a plan for them? —Chris, Baltimore, Maryland Your new teachers are fortunate to have [...]

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Professional Development Options

I was recently appointed K-12 science department chairperson. Our professional development budget is slim, but I’d like to do something other than the generic “sit-and-git” presentations we’ve had in the past. I’ve heard about using social media and other online resources for professional development. I’m open to any other ideas, too. Where should we start? [...]

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What is “Rigor”?

At the end of the year, my principal mentioned—again—that he wanted Honors Biology to be the “hardest” ninth grade course. I have tried explaining and showing that my Honors students are having different, more thought-provoking assignments, in addition to going into more depth than my general Biology classes. I think he equates rigor with students [...]

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