Techie Tools for Teachers

Last month I was fortunate enough to attend the Illinois Science Education Conference. It is always one of the highlights of my year (seriously)! I have so much good stuff to share with you, but haven’t had time to get to it just yet…. here’s a start.

   One of the sessions I attended was on useful tech tools for teachers. This was presented by a technology director for a much bigger school district than I work in. These are all just general teaching sites, not specific to science. (I will add those in later.) I have no experience with most of these sites, but they sound great! If any of you have info, let me know!  Creates one screen with buttons for all your links. Can be shared with your students.  Creates free QR codes  Put in a web address and it creates a shorter link to it. Would be useful if you’re giving it to the kids, less likely they’ll type it wrong.   For webquests or assignments when you are giving them multiple links, this combines them all in one link.   Put in a YouTube link and you can cut just the part you want.    Plays YouTube videos without all the ads and comments and other (possibly school inappropriate) stuff around it.   Combines multiple urls into one link. Similar to multiurl, but is one allows you to include videos, Jpgs, and documents and   Step by step instructions (with pictures)on how to do/make just about anything. Instructables allows you to download them as a PDF. Videos and pictures of lots of demonstrations, mostly science but also some math…  Free teacher created worksheets for tons of videos.


“But this isn’t english class.”

How many science teachers (or math, or history, or anything other than English) teachers have heard this? And on the other side, teachers are being told that reading and writing need to be taught across the curriculum from administrators (which I agree with).

So this year, I started a new project: Biology Reading Days. I spent all summer coming up with a list of books (both fiction and non-fiction) that had a strong tie to biology. I found a variety of topics (everything from genetics and evolution to infectious disease and animals) as well as difficulty levels. I read a few of them (no way I could have read all of them in one summer, but I plan to eventually). I also made sure that they were available through our library system (we are lucky enough to be connected to other libraries around the state). Then I unleashed it on the students!

I used this in my Biology 2 class (mostly sophomores and juniors with a few seniors). I gave them the list of books with brief descriptions and each student was responsible for getting to the library to check out their book. I also kept a list of who was reading which book (this was helpful especially for the special ed. teachers, but also so I could group them further into the project according to topics). Then once a week they had the entire class period to read their book. Each week they also had to complete a reading slip. I ended up adding a few questions that are not in the document below to bring in some of the common core standards I was not covering with the rest of my curriculum (things like analyzing the author’s purpose and their credibility). We also did some group discussions towards the end (comparing what they learned with others reading the same book and then talking about their book with someone reading a different book). Walking around the room listening to my students have conversations about what they read was AMAZING!

I really wasn’t sure how students would feel about this, so it was kind of a work in progress. There was no big end project (which is something I may add for next year). But honestly, I think it made them feel a little  more relaxed about it (took some of the “English class” out of it) and allowed them to just sit and read. Most kids got through their books quicker than I had expected (I gave them 7 weeks).

One book in particular my kids were OBSESSED with and they even got me to read it! “Peeps” by Scott Westerfield. I recommend it too!

Here’s the list of all the books and most of the reading sheets: Bio Reading List

If you have books I could add or suggestions for the reading sheets, please comment! =)