How to Be an Effective Middle School Teacher Part 1

So you want to be a boss teacher eh? Read these tips to become the best teacher for your students. I’ll be posting five each day for the next four days, so be sure to check back for more.

Build solid lesson plans with clear objectives. 

It all starts here. If you don't have a good lesson plan, then your students won't learn as much as they could in the short amount of time they have with you. If the lesson is boring or if your students only have passive learning roles, then not much learning will take place. Likewise, if the lesson is tons of fun but not actually aligned to learning objectives, your students aren’t going to learn what they need to be successful. Really think about what you want your students to learn and the best way to reach them.

Have and follow a behavior management plan.

Do what works for you and your style of teaching. Not sure how to get started? Read about the classroom rules and consequences that have been successful with my seventh grade students.

Have clear behavioral expectations for every activity and communicate those expectations to your students.

Fun, well planned activities can turn into nightmares involving evil clowns in less than three seconds when middle school students are involved. Before beginning any activity, clearly explain how students should and should not behave. It only takes a couple of minutes and, man, it’ll make a huge difference.

Use a routine your students can count on.

Routines make students feel safe and comfortable. Class runs smoother if students know what to expect. In my class we typically started with a Do Now followed by a quick review of previous content, an introduction of new material, practice with that material, and an informal assessment or Exit Ticket. Keep in mind, you don’t have to be completely anal about it. Test days, lab days, assembly days and more will jostle your typical routine around and that’s okay.  Just be consistent with your routine when possible and when it makes sense to do so.

Include the “why” piece in your lessons.

Students should know why they are learning something. When middle school students understand how a lesson relates to them and their future, they become more invested in your class and what they’re learning. They are better behaved because they want to learn what you’re sharing with them. Here's how to include the “why” in your lessons.

Check back soon for more teaching tips!

How to Teach the Scientific Method to 7th Graders

teaching the scientific method
As a middle school science teacher, I always love teaching the scientific method to my students. There are so many routes you can take with teaching it, and I’ve tried many of them. If you’re gearing up to teach the scientific method, then you might benefit from reading this post. (See what I did there?) You probably have many questions. When should I teach the scientific method? What all should I include in my unit? What order should I teach the topics of the scientific method? How do I go about teaching the scientific method? In this post I’ll share what’s worked for me. Plus, you’ll find some links to FREE resources to help get you started.

When Should I Teach the Scientific Method?

I want my students to have a good handle on lab safety before getting started with the scientific method because it involves labs, tools, and sometimes harmful chemicals. The scientific method is important for studying science in general, so I teach it as early in the year as possible. It is my second unit (right after lab safety). I bring the scientific method up throughout the year, whenever we have labs. After winter break I have a week-long review to brush up on the more difficult aspects of the scientific method.

What Should I Include in My Scientific Method Unit? In What Order Should I Teach the Topics?

Obviously, all groups of students are different. My seventh graders always come in with very, very little experience with the scientific method. Knowing that, I start with the basics and go over everything I think they need to know to successfully use the scientific method. I recommend giving your students a preassessment before the unit to gauge what topics you can skip and which you need to hammer into your students’ skulls. Here are the topics I always include in my scientific method unit and the general order in which I teach them:

  1. The Steps of the Scientific Method
  2. Independent and Dependent Variables
  3. Scientific Questions
  4. Hypotheses
  5. Observations and Inferences
  6. Research and Procedures
  7. Constants/Controlled Variables
  8. Analyzing Data/Graphs
  9. Scientific Conclusions

How Do I Go About Teaching the Scientific Method?

I’ll start with an overview of my scientific method lessons. Each topic starts with interactive notebook notes in combination with a PowerPoint. Then the students get practice in the form of stations, activities, and/or worksheets. Lastly, I assess each topic with an exit ticket to determine if we need to keep working on the current topic or if we’re ready to move on to the next.

The single most important scientific method resource I have is my Scientific Method Stations. I use them at least three times in the unit because they’re so versatile. They give students practice identifying variables, writing good hypotheses, designing procedures etc. I just post them around the room at the beginning of the unit and they stay there until the day of the unit test. I truly believe they are a great resource for the middle school science classroom.

But Really, What Do You Do for Each Topic?

  1. The Steps of the Scientific Method: I go over what the scientific method is, what it’s used for, the order of the steps, and what each step might look like.
  2. Independent and Dependent Variables: I go over the definitions of independent and dependent variables and how to identify them in an experiment. Then we practice. And practice. And practice some more. Eventually it clicks and then my students HAVE GOT IT DOWN.
  3. Scientific Questions: Students learn about what a good scientific question needs to have. We review variables again while examining good and bad scientific questions. Group work and games can be fun with this. 
  4. Hypotheses: Students learn what a hypothesis is and how to write a good hypothesis. Even my best students need to learn the If/then version of writing a hypothesis because they have only been taught the “I think blah blah blah will happen” version. Hypotheses typically need a lot of practice. Here is a free coloring worksheet to help your students write good hypotheses and identify independent and dependent variables. 
  5. Observations and Inferences: Students learn the definitions of qualitative and quantitative observations and how to use those to make inferences. Here is a free observation activity you can use in your class.
  6. Research and Procedures: Research is straightforward so we briefly discuss where to find accurate information. For procedure, we learn what it is, why it’s important, and what happens if a procedure is poorly written. 
  7. Constants/Controlled Variables: This is hands down the hardest part of the scientific method for my students. We go over what constants are, why they are important, and how to identify them in experiments. Students need TONS of practice with this. Here is a free exit ticket to check if your students have mastered constants. 
  8. Analyzing Data/Graphs: I go over where independent and dependent variables go on graphs, what good graphs include, and types of graphs. Then we practice interpreting graphs.
  9. Scientific Conclusions: Students learn what should be included in a good conclusion and practice writing a good conclusion using a data table and graph from an experiment. 

I hope this post gives you a good starting point for planning your scientific method unit. I love teaching the scientific method and have created many resources for my students. You can find my scientific method resources here, including interactive notebook pages, activities, worksheets, and assessments. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to post a question below or message me. Thanks for reading and have a great school year!

I added an option in my store to get all of my scientific method resources in one discounted bundle: Scientific Method HUGE Bundle.

Sequins or Soccer?

The other day I saw a pregnancy announcement on Facebook from a couple of schoolmates I have known since I was very little. In the picture were the smiling parents-to-be with a homemade sign saying “Sequins or Soccer?” At first I thought of how happy they must be and how nice their picture was. Clearly a lot of time was put into making that sign and getting the right pose and coordinating outfits. Later on, though, it hit me just how many people have gender expectations well before their child is even born. Why should a girl be represented with sequins and a boy with soccer? Why can’t they be swapped? Why can’t they be both?

As a new mom to a boy, I’m extra conscious of toys and clothes created with a gender in mind. I’d eventually like to have a second child and I try to be frugal, so I’ve been purchasing mostly gender-neutral things. One of those things was a pack of extra warm baby socks that came in an assortment of pastel colors. One pair was pink. When my son met his extended family wearing those fuzzy pink socks, many of his relatives commented on them. None of them said anything negative, but had it been a girl wearing the same socks I wonder if anyone would have even noticed them. It’s such a minor thing. Socks don’t matter. But how boys and girls might be treated differently, especially when it comes to education, does.

Seeing that pregnancy announcement and reflecting back on the sock incident was when I started to look at it all as a teacher. How have I treated my students differently because of their gender? Have I called on girls more often, expecting them to be more focused and attentive? Did I joke more with boys because they were supposed to be more easygoing and less uptight? Was I sterner with girls who were squirrely because they were expected to be demure? What about my seating arrangements? Have I placed girls next to talkative students more often, hoping their studious ways would rub off? Was I more likely to put boys in areas of the room with extra space so any excessive movement wouldn’t distract their classmates? Was I considering each student as an individual, or was I making gender generalizations?

I know some of the answers to those questions were yes. At times I did treat my male and female students differently. I also know that when I get back in the classroom I’ll be more cognizant of how I treat my students. My treatment and decisions about my students will be based on their individual needs, personalities, and strengths rather than what sock color they’re expected to wear.