Biology Bell Ringers

Picture1Just a quick post today while my little one naps!

I have my students (in all my classes) keep biology journals. Originally, this was part of their notebook. But I found it SO time consuming to sit and go through 130 notebooks. And since there is no way I am bringing them home, I had to stay after school for hours to work on them.

So now, they do their journals on GoogleDocs. This system is so much better. I can grade them from the comfort of my sofa & sweats. They use the same document all year, just add to it each time. This also gives me a running document of their work throughout the year. I have 13 iPads in my room all the time, which is great. I can tell them to get logged in as they walk in the door. Having said that, 5 of my 6 classes have more than 13 students. So this means they have to take turns and I have to have something else ready for them to work on (which sometimes is as simple as review what we did yesterday). And then there are the kids who can’t log in, for whatever reason (seriously, how do you forget your password everyday?). So once in a while I will allow a student to just write their response on a paper and turn it in, but I really try to avoid that!

I require a minimum 2-3 sentence response from students. I try my best to go through and write a response to each student, but sometimes its just not possible. But it’s a great way to see if your kids are comprehending and learn a little about them at the same time.

So here are most of my journal prompts. I say most because sometimes I just make them up as we go along. These cover everything from characteristics of living things to specific organ systems. I also throw in a few pictures that I think are funny. Sometimes I just want to see if they get it…..

Here you go!     Bell Ringers

If you have other ideas for journals, I would LOVE to hear them!


When All Else Fails, Show a Video!


 frazzled teacher

“Just show a video.” What teacher hasn’t heard that? And let’s be all honest, we’ve all said it from time to time. I have the Planet Earth DVDs and season 1 of Bones in my desk, ready to go at a moment’s notice! But I noticed last year that I don’t have the time to show full 90 (or even 30) minute videos anymore (not really sure why, but probably has something to do with adding more detail to my curriculum, plus more research days for student projects, not to mention time for things like local assessments).
But the students love to watch videos! And sometimes I just need a few minutes to do something else. So what I have started doing in finding litle clips (usually around 5 minutes) that I can use at pretty much any time. Sometimes they’re an introduction, sometimes a review. Other times I just like to play something silly while they are walking in the door (check out the rollar skating babies singing about fetal circulation…). It takes a lot of time to find and collect these videos (thank you Pinterest). And if I tried to stream them at school…. forget about it. So I use a youtube downloader to save everything. Makes life easy. Here are some that I love: SciShow Channel- TONS of videos on TONS of concepts. And he’s funny (but possibly the fastest talker alive). ASAP Science- One of my absolute favorites. Again, they’re funny and my kids love that. WORD OF ADVICE- Watch the video all the way through! Not all topics are “school appropriate”, depending on the grade you teach. There is a preview of the next episode at the end of each video… I played “Margarine vs. Butter” in class and at the end it says check out our next clip- “The Science of Pornography”….. “Mrs. M, what’s pornography?” Me: “Ask your mother, wait. NO DON’T” Amoeba Sisters: Cute animations and language that my students can understand. Who doesn’t love little colorful critters telling you about meiosis?? Crash Course Biology: Same guy from SciShow, but usually more detail here. Sometimes a little higher level than my kids get, but never hurts to expose them to more information! TED-ed. (TED talks) If you’ve never looked at TED talks, they’re amazing! So many different topics it can be a black hole I often get sucked in to, but I’m not complaining.  Stated Clearly. Good explanations on a variety of bio topics. All animated. The Symphony of Science. LOVE THIS. They take speeches from real scientists and remix them. My kids don’t quite know what hit them when I play them.

Now on to specific videos…..  “7 Billion People: Are You Typical” from Nat. Geo. Not the most biological, but the kids think it’s really interesting. Good bell ringer! I use it for genetics.  “10 Extremely Dangerous Insects” The name says it all. “How Do Cancer Cells Behave DIfferently than Healthy Ones” A TED-ed video. Love it. “Renewable vs. Nonrenewable energy” Stop motion video. “The How, Why, and How Much of Oil” From SciShow. You already know how I feel about them…. “Stalking the Wild Mushroom” From Science Friday (who you should also check out….). My kids like that the guy is a little….. cooky. “The Glucose Song” Silly. Great bell ringer. “The Circulatory System Rap” Scientifically accurate sillines. If I can get kids rapping along at the end, it makes my day.  “How Special are your Physical Traits?” Weird genetic traits. Good reinforcement that dominant does not necassarily mean more common.  “The Chemistry of Chili” Haven’t had time to look into the whole channel, but this one is really interesting on why chili is “hot”. Something my students always ask when we study the sense of taste.


I realize that’s a lot, so thanks for sticking with me. If you have clips you LOVE please share them in the comments!