Category Archives: Ms. Mentor

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Navigating the authority-figure/friend territory

What can I do to look and act more like a teacher and less like a student as I do my student teaching and begin my career? I’m wondering how to navigate the authority-figure/friend territory, especially in the case of high school students who are only a few years younger than I am. —Lee, Pittsburgh, [...]

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Preparing for your first teaching job

I’m finishing my student teaching and looking forward to getting a job as a high school physics teacher after I graduate. How can I prepare for my first job, even before I get one? —Carl, Denver, Colorado You certainly are looking ahead! You’ll have many challenges as a first-year teacher, so being as prepared as [...]

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Feeling overwhelmed?

This is my first year as a middle school science teacher. I teach two different grade levels and after a few months I’m still feeling swamped. It seems like I spend every waking moment working either in my classroom or at home on lesson plans and student assignments. What can I do to save my [...]

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Motivation and comfort zones

I’ve noticed my students don’t seem to have a lot of motivation in science class. They are sometimes afraid they’ll make mistakes, and they’re often reluctant to try something new. What can I do to encourage more student engagement in learning? —Donna, Wilmington, Delaware At an inservice workshop I attended, teachers were discussing how their [...]

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Discussion and argumentation

After a lab activity I try to engage students in a discussion of their findings. I use a variety of strategies to involve the students, but I find they don’t really know how to have a meaningful discussion without interruptions, off-topic statements, or inappropriate language. Do you have any suggestions? —Rosalie, Portland, Oregon You didn’t [...]

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Channeling student enthusiasm

I’m a new elementary teacher, and I love seeing how students get excited doing hands–on science activities. But the students can get out of hand and I have a hard time focusing them on the activity. Any advice on channeling their enthusiasm with good classroom management would be great! —Carolyn, Hartford, Connecticut Most students of [...]

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The classroom as learning center

Last year (my first year teaching) I floated among several classrooms. A few days before the beginning of this year, I learned that I have my own biology lab! I didn’t have much time, so I just put up a few posters. Now I want to make this plain classroom into a learning center for [...]

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Putting Science Words on the Wall

I’ve seen “word walls” in elementary classrooms, but I wonder whether older students would find them helpful in dealing with vocabulary. What should I consider in trying this idea? —Wendy, Chattanooga, Tennessee When I first learned about word walls, I was intrigued. Many of my middle school students struggled with the specialized vocabulary in science, [...]

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Using “kits” in science

I’m a second-year teacher at a small elementary school. I was poking around the supply closet and found several unopened science kits.  Last year, I did some basic science activities that I did while student teaching, but this year, I’d like to do more. Would these kits be helpful? What do I need to know [...]

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Assessments: Part of the learning process

Do you have advice on assessments that would be helpful for sharing with my mentee, a new teacher? —Shirley, Lexington, Kentucky Assessing student learning can (and should) include more than final tests. The process has components before, during, and at the end of the unit of instruction. You might find my archived posts with questions [...]

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