Homeostasis Lesson Plans: How to Teach Homeostasis to Middle School Students

I always enjoyed teaching homeostasis to my seventh grade science students. It was a quick unit perfect for including activities and projects. In the hopes of making your teaching life easier and saving you planning time, I’m going to break down my unit to give you some ideas for teaching homeostasis in your own classroom. Before you go, be sure to download the free homeostasis worksheet found in the homework section below.

Homeostasis Standards

Depending on your location and the grade level of the students you teach, you might be using one of the following standards.

NGSS HS-LS1-3

Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence that feedback mechanisms maintain homeostasis. Examples of investigations could include heart rate response to exercise, stomate response to moisture and temperature, and root development in response to water levels. Assessment does not include the cellular processes involved in the feedback mechanism.

TEKS SCI.7.13

Knowledge & Skill Statement - 7.13: The student knows that a living organism must be able to maintain balance in stable internal conditions in response to external and internal stimuli. The student is expected to:
  • Student Expectation - 7.13A: Investigate how organisms respond to external stimuli found in the environment such as phototropism and fight or flight.
  • Student Expectation - 7.13B: Describe and relate responses in organisms that may result from internal stimuli such as wilting in plants and fever or vomiting in animals that allow them to maintain balance.

Homeostasis Student Objectives

Below you’ll find some of the homeostasis objectives I have used in my seventh grade science classroom.
  • Students will be able to define homeostasis.
  • Students will be able to list examples of homeostasis and explain how those examples demonstrate homeostasis.
  • Students will be able to analyze a graph or data set showing homeostasis.
  • Students will be able to conclude what happens when an organism does not have homeostasis. 

Why should students learn about homeostasis?

Something I always like to include at the beginning of a new unit is the rationale for learning about something. I find that including “why” increases student participation and engagement. For homeostasis, we discuss that each of our bodies use homeostasis all day, every day. Students should know about homeostasis so they can keep their bodies healthy and understand how their choices can directly impact their health.

Homeostasis Unit Length

I generally spend about a week on homeostasis. I’ve taught homeostasis in a variety of school schedules—90 minute block classes, 45 minute classes, 50 minute classes, etc. In order to give you a timeline of how I teach homeostasis, I’m going to break down how I teach homeostasis during a week of five classes that are each fifty minutes long.  

  • Day 1: Homeostasis introduction and notes
  • Day 2: Homeostasis activity and discussion
  • Day 3: Homeostasis activity with graphing component 
  • Day 4: Begin homeostasis project
  • Day 5: Continue homeostasis project and assessment

A Detailed Look at Each Day

Homeostasis Day 1

I start almost all of my classes with a bellringer students complete on their own. It keeps students busy while I do things like take attendance and address matters with individual students. On day one of our homeostasis unit, my students complete a homeostasis bellringer to see what they already know. Example questions for day one’s bellringer might involve predicting the meaning of homeostasis and explaining whether or not they think shivering has a purpose. After quickly discussing student answers, we start our unit by sharing objectives and the rationale for learning about homeostasis. The remainder of the class period is spent taking notes about homeostasis. I use a homeostasis PowerPoint and guided interactive notebook pages. At the end of class, we glue our notes in our interactive science notebooks and have a quick review of the day’s material. (If you’re new to interactive notebooks, please check out this INB how-to guide and download a free INB check.)

Homeostasis Day 2

Once again, students complete a bellringer on their own (this time reviewing or reflecting on the previous day’s material) and discuss it together as a class. Then it’s activity time! My students and I love the two activities we do for homeostasis. Students love the activities because they can get out of their seats and make meaningful connections with the content. I love the activities because they don’t require any prep time and supplies are minimal and readily available. Perfect! On this day of our homeostasis unit, we complete the shorter of the two activities. It typically lasts between 20-30 minutes. This activity involves students balancing on one foot, discussing the experience as a class, and linking it with homeostasis. We finish the day with a homework assignment that students can begin in class and finish at home. (Check out the homework section below for ideas.)

Homeostasis Day 3

Students hand in their homework from the previous day. This is the rare day in class when we do not do a bellringer because we’ll likely need the whole class period for the day’s activity. This homeostasis activity involves finding resting heartrates and tracking the heartrate changes that come with and after exercise. One thing that surprised me the first time we did this activity was the struggle students had locating their pulse the first time, so be sure to account for that in your lesson planning. For the activity, students are up doing jumping jacks or running in place. Then they record, graph, and analyze how their heartrate changes in the minutes after exercise. (I love including graphing and data analysis in lessons as often as I can and have a whole lot of data analysis and graph interpretation resources in my store.)

Homeostasis Day 4

We start this day with a bellringer; this time I ask students to dig a little deeper into homeostasis. If your students are familiar with organ systems, now is a great time to tie in homeostasis with an organ system’s function. (For example: How does the respiratory system demonstrate homeostasis?) After we discuss bellringer answers, we begin a creative homeostasis project. I’ve tried two different projects with my students. My artsy students especially enjoy the homeostasis comic project. I provide clear guidelines and a rubric for them to follow so the comic is as rigorous as it is creative. Another thing I’ve tried with students is a homeostasis brochure project. The brochure has more in-depth requirements than the comic. I like to use the brochure with advanced classes or students who need a challenge. However, I make each project worth the same amount of points, so allowing students to make their own decision about which project they want to tackle can be a possibility. 


Homeostasis Day 5

Today’s bellringer asks students to consider when they’ve experienced homeostasis in their own lives. Once we’ve discussed answers as a class, the students continue working on the homeostasis projects they began the day before. We all know that students work at different rates. Students who need more than the two provided class periods are allowed to have the weekend to finish their projects. We finish the class period with a quick homeostasis quiz

Depending on the results of the assessment, we either move on to the next unit after the weekend or we may spend an extra day going over homeostasis. If an additional day is needed, students might spend time providing feedback on one another’s homeostasis projects and/or completing one of the homework options below.


Homeostasis Homework Options

  • Free Homeostasis Reading Worksheet: Here’s a free worksheet I use with my students. It is perfect to introduce homeostasis or reinforce the material at the beginning of the unit. It also makes a great homework assignment for students who were absent on the day you introduced homeostasis. 
  • Homeostasis Practice Sheet: This is my favorite homeostasis homework assignment because students answer with both writing and drawing, plus it’s at a level that works for most of my students. It asks students to identify examples of homeostasis, draw those examples, and explain why they are examples of homeostasis. 
  • Analyzing Data Heart Rate Worksheet: Remember when I said I like to bring in data analysis whenever I can? This is a line graph worksheet I use with homeostasis, the circulatory system, or around Valentine’s Day.
  • Homeostasis Odd One Out Worksheet: I reserve this worksheet for my more advanced classes or students. You may choose to go into more detail in your homeostasis unit by including internal and external stimuli. If so, then this worksheet will likely be a good fit for your students. My Odd One Out Worksheets promote critical thinking by asking students to examine four options and consider which option isn’t in line with the others. (Click here to learn more about how to use this questioning strategy in your classroom.)

Where to Get Homeostasis Resources

I hope this blog post helped you plan your homeostasis unit. All of the resources I mentioned can be purchased in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. My discounted Homeostasis Bundle has everything you need to teach your unit and will save you so much planning time. Check it out! And thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog. 


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Middle School Science Vocabulary Activity: A Fun and Effective Strategy to Practice Science Words

Let’s face it: middle school students must tackle a lot of science vocabulary words if they are to fully grasp what they’re learning in class. And learning new vocabulary words can be…dry. How do you teach vocabulary in middle school science? How do you make science vocabulary fun? One of my most effective strategies for teaching middle school science vocabulary is with game cards. They are easy, require little prep from the teacher, and can be used in tons of ways to fit different needs and timeframes. Plus, they are perfect for differentiation. Read on to learn how you can implement this vocabulary activity in your classroom (and get a free middle school science vocabulary PDF).

What do the vocabulary game cards look like?

Each card has a word or phrase in a box on the top of the card. Related words and phrases are listed under the box. Seem familiar? The game Taboo has a similar layout.

How do we play this game?

The objective of the game is for card-readers to get the players to guess the word or phrase in the box at the top of the card. The rule is that the card-reader cannot say any form of the words listed under the box. (Some people call these listed words the “taboo” words.) Other rules can be added if you want. Some rules you might consider are adding time limits, deciding whether or not skipping a card is allowed, prohibiting all gesturing, or seeing how many cards can be correctly guessed within a certain amount of time.

How can you use these cards as a vocabulary activity? 

There are so many ways you can use these game cards beyond just the typical Taboo game you've likely played in the past! Here are some ideas for how to use them with your students:

  • Pull out these cards in the spare minutes at the end of a lesson to review as a whole class. You can provide the clues to the students as the card-reader, or students can volunteer to be the card-reader. In most classes you will have plenty of volunteers who love having the role of card-reader. (This is my favorite way to use them with my students.)
  • Review content by using a few cards as a warmup or bell ringer at the beginning of class. 
  • Go through the whole deck before a test for a fun review game.
  • Students can work with a partner to play the cards in the deck together.
  • Use these cards as a science center option.
  • Students can work with their tablemates or in small groups to play the cards in the deck together.
  • Show a card with only one or two listed "taboo" words and have students list additional words in their interactive notebooks. Then discuss their answers. 
  • State the boxed vocabulary word on a card that has four or five listed "taboo" words. Have each student write a list of "taboo" words for the word you stated. Students who correctly list the "taboo" words that appear on your card get a small prize. 
  • Students can be assigned a vocabulary word and make their own cards.

How can these cards be differentiated?

Make these cards more challenging by adding to the list of “taboo” words under the boxed word. Four or five listed words is an appropriate amount for your more advanced students. Reduce the difficulty level by removing some of the listed words. Try three “taboo” words for students who have a fair understanding of the topic or just one or two words for students who need more support.

I’ve created many vocabulary game cards for my students, and I now offer the card sets in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Each of my cards comes in four levels of differentiation so teachers can choose the level of difficulty best for their students and print accordingly. 

Where can I get a free set for my classroom?

Want to see if this science vocabulary activity will be a hit with your students? Here is a free middle school science vocabulary PDF.

Save yourself time and get premade game cards!

I have many differentiated vocabulary game cards in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Check out all of my vocabulary game cards. Here are some of the available topics below:

Thank you for reading my blog post! I hope you and your students enjoy using these cards in your classroom as much as I do!

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Three Ways to Use Boom Decks for Free Without Paying for a Subscription

Teachers are learning about all sorts of distance learning options in 2020, and many teachers are discovering BOOM Learning for the first time. BOOM is a great distance learning option and a fun way for your students to practice and assess what they know about a topic. For teachers who haven’t yet been introduced to Boom Cards, they are digital task cards that can be used on any device that is connected to the internet (interactive whiteboards, iPads, Chromebooks, tablets, smartphones, etc.). 

Since Boom Decks are used on the BOOM Learning website, teachers are encouraged to buy a yearly BOOM subscription. Understandably, not all teachers want to shell out money for this. Well, I’m here to explain three ways to use Boom Decks without paying for a subscription. 

Three Ways to Use Boom Learning for Free

Teachers can use their Boom Decks for free using Fast Pins, a free trial subscription, or on interactive whiteboards. To use BOOM, you do have to have an account on the BOOM website, but this is just so you can access your Boom Decks. There are different membership levels you can choose, but you can still use your Boom Decks without paying for one of the upgraded memberships.

Option 1: Fast Pins

My favorite free way to use Boom Decks is what’s called “Fast Pins.” To use Fast Pins, you create a link and give that link to your students. It is quick and easy and gives an unlimited number of your students access to play a deck. 

Directions to Create a Fast Pin:

  1. Sign in to the Boom website.
  2. Go to the Library tab.
  3. Find the deck you want and click on the blue Action button.
  4. From the list of options, click on Fast Pin.
  5. Click on Generate Pin.
  6. Copy the link that you created. 
  7. Give that link to your students. They can open the link and play through the Boom Deck immediately. 

Here is a How To video showing how to create Fast Pins. 

Pros:

  • It’s free!
  • It is quick and easy. 
  • You don’t have to spend time creating student accounts or keep track of student usernames/passwords. 
  • Students can use it wherever, whenever, and on their own devices at home or in centers/stations in class.

Cons:

  • Your created link expires in fourteen days, so after that amount of time you will have to create a link again. It’s not a big deal, but it can be annoying.
  • The scores of your students are not recorded for you as they would be if you had a subscription. However, you can have your students record their own scores and report their scores to you. Or students can keep track of their own progress in their interactive notebooks

Option 2: Free Trial

BOOM offers a free trial for new users. So, if you have never used BOOM before, you can have a three month* free trial of a premium account. More information about the free trial is on the BOOM Learning website. *Note: When I made this blog post the free trial was for three months. The length of the free trial has varied in the past, so it may change again. Click here for the most up-to-date information about Boom’s free trials.

Pros: 

  • You have full access to what BOOM has to offer.
  • Your students can have their own accounts and their scores will be recorded for you whenever they use a Boom Deck. 

Cons:

  • Eventually, your free trial will expire. At that point you’ll either have to start paying or delete your student accounts. 
  • There is a limit to the number of students you can have. Last time I checked it was 150 students. I don’t know about you, but most years I have had 200+ students so this option doesn’t work for me.

Option 3: Interactive Whiteboard

If you are teaching in-person classes, you can play through the Boom Decks together as a class on your interactive whiteboard. Just open the Boom Deck you need and use it as a bell ringer, review, pre-assessment, or whatever. 

Pros: 

  • It’s free!
  • Your students can all learn together at the same pace.
  • Interactive whiteboards can be used in a variety of ways.

Cons:

  • It’s not individualized for the students, and they can’t work at their own pace.
  • Hello? We’re in a pandemic and not much in-person learning is taking place, so students obviously aren’t clustered together staring at the same interactive whiteboard.

Do you use BOOM in your class?

How do you use Boom Decks with your students? Do you have a paid BOOM subscription or do you prefer to use one of the free methods listed above? Share how you use BOOM in the comment section!


Middle School Science Teachers: Are you looking for Boom Decks?

I have a variety of science Boom Decks in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Currently, there are scientific method topics, physical science topics, and data analysis Boom Decks. I make new decks often, and if there is a topic you are wanting, please let me know in the comments section. Here is one of the Boom Decks in my store:



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Changes in States of Matter: A Demonstration for Your Classroom

This is a one gallon milk jug after the activity.
It's all caved in now!
Back when I taught seventh grade science, I always used this demonstration in my changes in states of matter unit. I liked it because it was easy, didn’t require many supplies, needed very little prep work, the students enjoyed it, and it got my students thinking and talking about the changes in states of matter. Can’t beat that right?

Activity Overview:

In this changes in states of matter activity, boiling water is added to an empty milk carton. Once sealed, the milk carton significantly contracts and crumples in on itself. The activity shows students two changes in states of matter (vaporization and condensation), and with the right questions, it gets your students thinking about and discussing particle movement in the different states. If done as a demonstration, it takes approximately one 45 minute class period. If done as an experiment, it could take two 45 minute class periods.

Needed Supplies:

One of the best things about this activity is that it requires minimal supplies and all of those supplies are inexpensive and easy to find. Here’s what you need:

  • An empty one gallon milk carton with its lid: While it’s possible to use other containers and container sizes, I recommend using a regular ol’ plastic gallon size dairy milk carton. I’ve used half gallons and that size doesn’t really show a whole lot of crumpling. Other plastic cartons can be too rigid and don’t show the crumpling at all. And some cartons might even melt and get all gooey and messy on you. Plus they can give you some nasty burns. So yeah, just use a gallon milk carton.
  • Water: Different amounts can be used, but I’ve found that 1.5 liters works best. Don’t use less than 0.5 liters and don’t fill the carton more than halfway.
  • A heating source to boil the water: I like using a hot plate because students can easily see the bubbles and steam coming off of the water as it’s boiling. You can use an electric kettle or a microwave or a Bunsen burner. Or you could even go caveman and build a big bonfire in the middle of your classroom. Just kidding. Please don’t do that. 
  • A heatproof container to boil the water: Because you can’t boil water without one.
  • A funnel: It’s optional, but can be nice to have when pouring the water into the carton. Plus you can wear it as a hat when you’re not using it.
  • An ice bath: No, it’s not for you to sit in. The ice bath is optional, but can be used as another part of the activity. 
  • Safety materials: It’s always important to model laboratory safety.

Demonstration Instructions:

This activity can be used as a demonstration or an experiment. In my class I’ve always used it as a demonstration because 35+ middle school students all messing with boiling water at the same time in a classroom that’s not really set up for laboratory purposes didn’t sound like a good time.

Here are some demonstration directions you can use:

  1. Review the changes in states of matter with your students. 
  2. Explain to your students that you will be boiling water, adding it to an empty milk carton, and sealing the carton with the lid. 
  3. Have students make predictions about what will happen to the carton.
  4. Begin heating the water. While the water is heating, ask questions about what is happening to the water particles and what change in state of matter is occurring and why. It’s vaporization, ya’ll. 
  5. Once the water is boiling, carefully pour it into the empty milk carton. Use a funnel if you have one or skip it if that’s how you roll. Immediately put the cap on the milk carton. Make sure it’s on there tightly.
  6. Have students observe the changes and make observations about what they see. Ask them to try to explain why this is occurring. (Here’s why the carton crumples: As temperatures increase, air pressure and air volume increase too. As temperatures decrease, air pressure and air volume decrease as well. The difference between the air pressure on the inside and the outside of the carton along with the decreasing volume of the cooling gas inside of the carton cause the carton to collapse.)
  7. If you have an ice bath prepared, now’s the time to place the carton in the cold water. The cold water will increase the speed at which the carton crumples. If you don’t want to do the ice bath part, well that’s just fine and dandy. Skip it and move on to the next step.
  8. Point out the tiny droplets of water on the insides of the carton. Ask students to explain where those droplets of water came from and why they are there. (Condensation.)
  9. Discuss the activity and the changes in states of matter with your students. Maybe have your students draw the particle movement during each part of the activity. 
  10. That’s it. All done. 

My Changes in States of Matter Demonstration is in my store. It has full directions, student sheets with many discussion questions, and an answer key. Get my Changes in States of Matter Demonstration here.

 Changes in States of Matter Demonstration

Experiment Ideas:

Like I said, I do this as a demonstration. Because, you know, 35+ middle school students playing in boiling water can be a titch terrifying. Even if they aren’t actually playing in the boiling water. That’s just what I envision happening when I think about my students doing this activity as an experiment. But, some teachers are fortunate enough to have smaller class sizes and a classroom that is setup for this kind of thing.

Here are some experiment ideas:

  • Test which amount of water causes the milk carton to collapse the most.
  • Test different container sizes to see which collapses the most. 
  • Test different container materials to see which carton collapses the most. (Test the materials yourself first to make sure there aren’t any melting issues.)
  • Try placing the filled cartons in different locations to see which causes it to collapse the fastest. (Think: refrigerator, freezer, ice bath, sunny windowsill, under a fluffy towel, on a table…

Well, I hope you and your students enjoy this activity. Remember, my Changes in States of Matter Demonstration is available in my TpT store and comes with full directions, student sheets with plenty of thought-provoking questions, and an answer key. If you want more materials for your changes in states of matter unit, check out my Changes in States of Matter Bundle. It has interactive notebook pages, bell ringers, activities, stations, projects, worksheets, and an assessment. Woo-hoo!

 Changes in States of Matter Demonstration Activity Changes in States of Matter Bundle

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Why Pre-Assessments Are Always a Good Idea: My Ruler Story

In the summer before my first year of teaching science I remember talking to the other science teacher. She casually mentioned that I should teach my students how to use a ruler before doing any labs or activities because many of them wouldn’t know how to measure properly. We were talking about my seventh grade students. Seventh grade. I remember learning how to use a ruler in early elementary school. How could seventh graders not know this basic skill? Surely my students knew how to use rulers.

Just in case my fellow science teacher was right, I decided to add a couple of questions about measuring with rulers to my beginning of year exam. Weeks later, when my students took that pre-assessment, my mind was blown. Over half of my students didn’t know how to use a ruler. They didn’t know you need to start at the first line of the ruler and not at the edge. Furthermore, they didn’t know a ruler can be used to measure in a unit other than inches. Even the students who knew that rulers can measure in centimeters had no idea that rulers are marked with millimeters too. It was like rulers were some rare, mythical object instead of a basic tool found in most classrooms.

Pages from my students' INBs about using rulers properly.
Get these Metric Length INBs in my store.
Thankfully, I became aware of the issue in the first week of school and could easily and quickly fix it. We had a special lesson on rulers and students added measurement and ruler information to their INBs. I made sure my students could use rulers properly before proceeding to the more complex stuff in science. Any time we had a lab or unit involving length, I reviewed ruler skills to make sure my students still had it down. Had I not known about my students’ measurement problems, I would have spent much of the year wondering what was up with my students’ answers and why lab and activity results were wonky. The pre-assessment saved my students from frustration and lost learning time.

This experience taught me to never assume that students come to class with certain knowledge and skills. Whenever possible, I check to see what students know before beginning a new lesson or unit. If students don’t know the basics, then they get overwhelmed quickly, shut down, and don’t learn. Doing a precheck can be as easy as having students raise their hands in answer to a yes or no question, eavesdropping on student discussion of a topic, or adding a question to students’ bell work. If you notice that students don’t understand something, address it before moving on and introducing new content. Knowing about the issue right away allows you to fix it before it gets in the way of student learning.

Have your classes ever shocked you by not knowing something? What was it? When did you find out they didn’t know it? Were you able to address the problem? Share your story in the comments section!

Need measurement resources for your classroom? Check out the some of the metric length resources from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
Metric Length and Ruler INB Pages
Metric Length Worksheet
Measurement in Science Stations: Tools and Metric Units

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How to Teach Laboratory Safety to Middle School Science Students

The very first unit I teach to my seventh grade science students is laboratory safety. Teaching lab safety as your first unit immediately sets your students up for yearlong success in science class. Students love experiments and often learn the most from that kind of hands-on activity. Therefore, being able to safely participate in science class at the beginning of the year is vital. Another bonus is that the unit is short and the content is straightforward (i.e. easy), so it is a great way to introduce and practice class procedures like note-taking, working in a group, participating in an activity, handing in homework, taking a quiz, etc.

How do I plan my lab safety unit?

Start with a lab safety contract! Safety contracts are filled with all of the important safety stuff students need to know. Use one to build your unit. When I first started teaching middle school science, I used Flinn Scientific’s safety contract. (Just Google “Flinn Scientific Safety Contract” and what you need will pop up, available for free. I know there is a high school and a middle school version out there and both of them come in English and Spanish.) However, not all of the Flinn Scientific material applied to my students—it mentioned chemicals and equipment we wouldn’t be using. For my own lesson planning purposes, I printed a copy of the safety contract and highlighted the most important information and crossed off what wasn’t going to be relevant to my students that year. That helped me focus on what I wanted my students to come away knowing. Using my highlighted safety contract, I wrote a list of lab safety rules that encompassed the most important safety information. Then I created my lab safety quiz. Once you have your safety rules written and your assessment made, you’re ready to decide how you’re going to teach the material. Note-taking? Activities? Scenarios? Choose what works best for you, your teaching style, and your group of students.

What lab safety rules should I use?

Like I mentioned above, you can construct your own lab safety rules using a lab safety contract. Alternatively, you can use the rules I wrote for my own students. They are listed below. You’re welcome ;)

  1. I will always take the time to read and understand all laboratory procedures before beginning.
  2. I will carefully follow all directions and will ask the teacher if I do not understand something.
  3. I will not touch any laboratory materials before being told to do so.
  4. I will keep my area clean and clear of everything except laboratory materials. 
  5. I will properly wear all required safety items, such as goggles or aprons, for the duration of the laboratory activity.  
  6. I will wear appropriate clothing on lab days. I will wear closed toed shoes. I will tie back long hair if applicable. I will not wear baggy clothing or jewelry. 
  7. I will only work when the teacher is present. 
  8. I will not eat, drink, or chew gum during the laboratory activity. 
  9. I will not run or engage in any horseplay during the laboratory activity. 
  10. I will tell the teacher immediately about any injuries, spills, or broken items. 
  11. I will not take any of the laboratory materials without permission from the teacher. 
  12. I will completely clean my area and appropriately return laboratory materials before leaving the classroom. 

How many days long should my lab safety unit be?

I always make my lab safety unit last no more than one week long. That gives us more than enough time to introduce, practice, and assess the unit. And remember, I also use this time to familiarize students with classroom procedures, which saves us oodles of time later in the year. Five 50 minute class periods (or three 90 minute block periods) is the most I’ve ever needed for this unit. In my opinion, the optimal amount of time to spend on the safety unit is four 45 minute long class periods.

What does a complete lab safety unit look like?

Below you’ll find a breakdown of my own tried and true lab safety unit. I’ve taught this unit using various bell schedules—(45 minute classes, 55 minute classes, and 90 minute classes). The unit description below is for four days of 50 minute class periods.

Day One:

Start class with a science safety warmup (also called a bell ringer) to see what students already know. Discuss student answers. As a class, read through and discuss lab safety contracts and have students sign theirs. Send the contracts home and have parents sign the contracts as homework.* Make it clear that students will not participate in any labs or experiments until their signed contracts have been handed in.

*The lab safety contracts are due by the end of the week. Students are reminded throughout the week to hand them in.

Day Two: 

Begin class with another warmup about lab safety. Discuss student answers. Use a PowerPoint to guide student note-taking about lab safety. I include the following notes sections: Before the Lab, During the Lab, After the Lab, and Other Safety Information. Here is a video of the interactive notebook pages I use with my students. You can get these INB pages and a PowerPoint here.

Day Three:

Begin class with a warmup about lab safety. Discuss student answers. Review the material students learned the day before. Then it's activity time. Students can practice the lab safety rules in small groups with a fun scenario activity. Then you can send students home with this fun safety bookmark that'll function as a study guide. Alternatively, instead of the scenario activity, you can have students color and complete the lab safety bookmarks as a beginning of the year safety activity. (Take a look at the example safety bookmark below.)


Day Four:

Begin class with a warmup about lab safety. Discuss student answers. Review lab safety information. Students complete their lab safety quiz. If there is time at the end of class, then go over the quiz answers together. 


***Cross your lab safety unit prep off of your to-do list! Get all of the lab safety resources mentioned in this post in one awesome time-saving bundle. Plus, ALL of the lab safety resources come in both English AND Spanish.


What do I do before each science experiment in the future?

Before Every.Single.Science.Experiment we review general safety information and safety information that is particularly relevant to that experiment.

Well, that’s my lab safety unit! I hope it helped you plan your own unit or gave you a clear picture of how to use my safety unit in your own class. 

Science Lab Safety Bundle for Purchase

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How to Be an Effective Middle School Teacher Part 4

These are the final five tips I have for you about how to be an effective middle school teacher. Feel free to add your own tips in the comment section!

Be choosey about what you grade.

There is only so much time in the day. Pick the most important things to grade, and don’t get behind in your grading. Return graded work to students quickly so they have time to learn from their mistakes and get feedback about how to improve. I think we’ve all had that teacher who returned assignments a month or two or three after assigning them. I don’t know about you, but that always irritated me. Here are some tips on how to reduce grading time.

Get feedback on how to improve your teaching.

This can be from your students. When I was teaching middle school, my students would grade me twice a year. Their comments helped me reflect on my teaching practices and make improvements. I gained valuable insight from those little dudes and dudettes. If you’re serious about improving your teaching skills, let your students grade you. You can also request to have fellow teachers and administrators observe you. Observations are scary. I know. I hated them. But I learned so much from them that they were almost always worth the sleepless nights, nail-biting, and massive pit stains that preceded them.

Differentiate your lessons when feasible.

Challenge your students at their level. Too much challenge and they will shut down. Too little challenge and they aren’t really learning. Differentiation can mean the difference between an okay teacher and an amazing teaching. Many times, the most advanced students in class don’t get the challenge they need. Here’s how you can challenge those students.

Know that some classes are just wonky.

This doesn’t make you a bad teacher. Without fail, there has always been one “off” class every year of my teaching career. I’ve made great strides with those classes, usually, but never perfected them. What works for most classes might not work for your “off” class.

Take care of yourself!

Teacher burnout is real and common. Your needs need to be met. If you’re unhappy and struggling, you aren’t your best teacher self. Regularly take time for yourself and do what you love.

Thank you for reading! I'd love to hear your tips! Please add your own teacher tips to the comments section below.

Previous Teacher Tips:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

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