Are You Ready To Save Money??

As promised…. I have a gift for you!

Just to recap- because I love all my readers and FB likers so much, I am giving you a code that gets you $5 off EVERY SINGLE PIECE you buy from Megan Rusek’s LulaRoe group starting Wednesday, November 8th through Friday, November 10th (2017!). If you know and love LulaRoe, great! If you’ve never tried it… now’s the time! If it’s not for you… what about your adorable kids? Why not, it’s on sale? =)


“Get to the code, Mikos.” OK- here it is: Refuse to Reinvent the Wheel appreciates me. Send Megan a message with that code and you get $5 off all the Lula.

DON’T FORGET! I will be raffling off LulaRoe gift cards on my Facebook page all week… If you haven’t already “liked” it, get to it to be eligible to win!

Thanks again so much for all of your support!


It’s Almost Giveaway Time!


I am so very thankful that anyone wants to read what I write. I appreciate all of the teachers out there who give me their feedback, collaborate, and inspire me. As a small token of my gratitude, I have posted a giveaway on my Facebook page at Thanksgiving the past 2 years. (BTW- if you haven’t checked out and “liked” my Facebook page, stop on by! I am much more active there because I have time to write 1 sentence much more often than full blog posts. Click here!)

The past 2 years I raffled off custom lanyard keychains in the winner’s school colors. This year, I’m upping my game! A friend of mine recently started selling LulaRoe…. she is married to a teacher, so we can trust her. 😉 She has agreed to do a LulaRoe sale sponsored by Refuse to Reinvent the Wheel. Ok, I know. I’m giving you the opportunity to spend money…. that’s the opposite of a raffle.

Stay. With. Me.

For the 3 days of the sale (November 8-10, mark your calendars), I will have a “discount phrase” posted here on my blog. If you send her a message with that code, you will get $5 off EVERY PIECE you buy!! AAANNNNDDDDD- I will be raffling off TWO gift certificates for LulaRoe from Megan Rusek on my Facebook page (seriously, go like it now!). So there, that’s how much I love you! =)

In Conclusion : If you haven’t seen/liked me Facebook page, here it is. Go join Megan Rusek’s LulaRoe Facebook group so that you’re ready when the big day comes. Mark your calendars for the LulaCash giveaways and sale on November 8-10.

As always, THANKS for stopping by! =)

My Journey to Techiness…



I make no claims at being tech-savy, but I’m not afraid to give something new a shot. The tech in my classroom is completely trial and error (of course, the kids think I’ve got it all under control). This post is basically what I’ve learned over the last couple years as far as integrating technology…. Feel free to ask questions and make suggestions in the comments!
My district gave me a set of iPads last year. I spent a LOT of time finding ways to use them, both for myself and the kids, that were actually enrichment and not just something cool to look at. What we discovered was that the iPads weren’t the best option in our situation. I know a lot of teachers use and love them, but they just weren’t what I was looking for. They weren’t easy to manage (always needing updates that we had to on a device-by-device basis), expensive (comparatively speaking), and NO FLASH! That was the deal breaker for me. I have friends who work in the tech world and are die-hard Apple fans who tell me no one uses flash anymore. That may be true, but so many of the simulations and games that I love the kids to use DO run on flash.
So now my district is all about Chromebooks. Honestly, I don’t have a lot of experience with them yet since I still have a PC laptop in my room. But the kids are using them, so that’s where I’m getting my opinions from. They are fast to load up and login and seem pretty easy to use. There’s no page-up or page-down buttons, but I guess the can live with that…
What I feel like I’ve learned the most about is Googledrive. Most of you are probably pretty familiar with it by now (seems like most schools are using it), so I’ll finish this post with my thoughts and suggestions about Googleforms. This is what I’ve been using to do my tests and quizzes online instead of on paper. It is a function of Googledrive, just create a form instead of a document.
Pros: 1. It makes grading quick. I use the add-on “Flubaroo” and that will grade it for you (but it’s not perfect, see below). 2. The kids like getting to use the computer whenever possible. 3. It saves trees! 4. It helps them prepare for all the online testing the is undoubtably coming their way.
Cons: 1. Flubaroo only can grade an exact right or wrong answer. It works great for true/false, multiple choice, or fill in the blank (as long as they spell it right, but you can run spell check on their answers prior to grading if you want). Anything else you still have to grade yourself. 2. God help you if the Internet goes out. I usually have a paper copy on hand just in case and make someone go run to the office for copies last minute. 3. You cannot copy and paste whole questions from another source. So you have to basically rewrite your entire existing test. That takes forever.  4. My kids only negative feedback is that they can’t circle a question to come back to later, which some like to do.

In my opinion though, the pros outweigh the cons. And I feel it’s going to be a requirement soon anyway, so may as well work out the bugs now.

Here are my final tips on implementing online assessments using Googleforms.
1. You have to email them the link to take the test. They have to check their email, not Googledrive.
2. Make sure you uncheck the box that says “include form in email”. This way once they are done they can’t pull up the email and show it to someone in another class. They will have to actually click a link to take them to another page (which you can shut down once they are done).
3. Change the theme on your form to something colorful. This way it is very easy to see who is on the test and who is on another page. I sit in the back of the room with a clear shot of all of their screens until they are all finished. The picture at the top of this post is what my room looked like during a final exam.
4. Have the “Responses” page open on your computer while they are taking it. You will be able to see their responses coming in to make sure they all come through before they log off. Once in a blue moon someone’s gets lost in cyber land and if they’ve already shut down, they have to redo the whole thing.
5. I usually will hand out a paper word bank too. Most of them say it’s helpful to be able to cross the words out, which you cannot do online.
6. Once they are finished, go back into your form and change it to no longer accept responses. If they take it multiple times, it will tell you. But you don’t want them showing it to someone else when they’re not supposed to.

I hope this has been helpful. Like I said, this is all a learning process for me and I’m still figuring it out. There are tons of great add-ons I’ve heard about and hope to use soon. Give it a try for yourself!

A Blog About a Blog!

I’ve been a member of the Life Science Teacher Resource Center since last spring. I completed their scholar program which taught me the ins and outs of the site and was then asked to return as a mentor for the new scholars over the summer. As part of that program, I was also asked to be a guest blogger on the LifeSciTRC. I’m so proud of the work I did over there that I want to share it here!

   Get Your Students to Gobble Up Reading

A lot of the ideas I discuss there, I’ve already introduced here on my blog…. you know… refusing the reinvent the wheel!

But seriously, check out their site. There are THOUSANDS of awesome lesson plans and classroom resources on there. And it’s all FREE! The community isn’t very active, which I really wish it was because I feel like it could be such a  valuable resource within itself. But hey, if you join too feel free to jump in! Maybe I’ll see you there!


Unleashing Student Creativity

It’s back to school time. I’ve had my students back for a full week and so far, so good! I’m really making an effort to encourage students to be more creative in my biology classes and prove that they understand the concepts and not just memorized facts. I wanted to hit the ground running with all the review and beginning of the year topics (ie. scientific method & lab safety).

  As my students came in the room, I had a power point rolling through lab safety memes I found on the internet. Here were a few of my favorites….

     IMG_0626    IMG_0625


As a class we came up with a list of important lab rules and wrote them on the board. I made sure we hit all the big ones, but also allowed pretty much anything (ie. “No twerking in the lab”). They completed the lab safety symbols list in their science notebooks ….

IMG_1437Then they worked in partners to create their own lab safety meme. I gave them a bunch of magazines they could cut up. Some chose to print pictures off the internet. One group even took a picture of themselves on the iPad, uploaded to google drive, then printed it out. These turned out so much better than I hoped! The ones below are my favorites. I’m going to laminate them and hang them in my room forever!!








Mother Earth Thanks You.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

I spend pretty much the last quarter of my freshmen biology class on the environment. I tried a new project this year, and I loved it. But more importantly, most of the kids loved it too! They made their own compost containers and then we ran them for about 6 weeks to test their effectiveness.

The district I teach in is very rural. Some families don’t even have garbage pick-up, let alone curbside recycling programs. So a lot of my students don’t think twice about throwing out EVERYTHING. I started by having them keep track of all the waste produced in their house for a week and what was done with it (garbage, recycle, or compost). Then we broke down that list into what could be done differently. This also led to a lesson on zero-waste communities.

So for their compost containers, they worked in groups (which I assigned). I tried to give each group a more creative person, a good leader, and a hands on learner. It was definitely different from who they normally worked with. So the first document below is the work they did together. They researched what compost is and how it works. Then they did design. I gave them pretty free range over the internet, but told them they had to bring in all their own supplies. I expected to get 30 buckets with holes in the bottom, but they actually had a lot of different ideas (I of course forgot to get their pictures off the iPads before they deleted them). I gave them one class period to build them…. power tools and duct tape galore!

Then they used the data sheets (kept in their science notebook) to keep their data every 2-3 days. We kept them out in the greenhouse. They definitely get smelly. About halfway through (~20 days), they had to present to the class what was working well and needed improving about their design. Then the next day they could make those changes.

At the end, we took them all apart and they had to turn in their analysis. I gave them the template (below) on googledrive and they filled in their own answers.

So in the end, there were a few reasons I loved this project: #1- We got to go outside.  #2- This gave the hands on kids a chance to shine and really take charge for a change. #3- Kids could see the results happening in front of them. They had opportunities to ask questions and work out the answers.

Here are my docs:   Compost Containers            Compost Analysis


Review Days- More Than Just Jeopardy

My exit slips... thank god for post its!

My exit slips… thank god for post its!

I’ve been doing some pre-school year planning this week… can you believe it’s time already? This week I put together a list of review activities. Like most teachers, I have a go to review game that the kids love (hint- they get to throw things). I put them in groups and ask them questions. If they get it right, they can throw a suction cup ball at my lab tables (which of course need to be cleared off!) to multiply their points depending on which table they hit. This past year I made the addition of letting them either add the points to their score… or take them away from another team. Survivor meets bio class! They love it (again, they can throw things…. AND be vengeful)! But I decided that most teams just rely on one person and not everyone participates.

So here are some new ideas I came up with…. for most of these, I would put them in pairs or small groups depending on the class size.  I plan to use these the day or two before the test.

  • Create review presentation or video:  It could be about the whole unit or pick a specific concept for each group. They could present it to the class and/or could post it on the class website for others to view and use to review for the test.
    •  Side Note: Whenever I have them do presentations as a group, I make them give me a print off and initial on whatever parts they are responsible for. This way they all participate. And more than once I have had students come to me and tell me “so-and-so” didn’t really do their part.
  • Present current event story to class: We all love written articles (ahem, Common Core), but I also let them use online videos (from a credible source, of course) or they can do a write-up from a news cast. They can turn in a summary, relate it to what we learned in class, and then tell their classmates about it.
  • Write test questions & answers: Once in a while, I use them on the actual test. Rarely on the test they are about to take because I have to have it done further in advance in order for special ed. teachers to have time to modify. But I can always make changes for next year. I could also have them use them in class to review with each other.
  • Create review worksheet or group activity: Again, I will hold on to the good ones and can use them next year. My students are sometimes surprisingly creative! But I can make a few copies and they can do them together in class or can post to the website for other students to use when reviewing for the test.

I’m thinking I can have a few students complete each task, then put them in groups with people from different activities to present what they’ve done instead of presenting to the whole class.

What review ideas do you love??  And good luck with the new school year!

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!


Our Nobel Ceremony

Today I bring you one of my favorite projects of the school year! My Bio 2 classes have our own Nobel Prize ceremony on the last day before Thanksgiving break. Students work in groups of 2 or 3. Each group chooses a different winner of the Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine. They research the lives and accomplishments of their chosen scientist(s), complete a research paper. Then the day of our “ceremony” each group gives a brief presentation of their winner(s). They have to be able to describe why they won the prize (which is not always easy, even though I try to pull the tougher to understand ones off the list).

They also must create a 3D model to represent the work of their winner(s). The first year I did this, I graded each model myself (which meant staying late the last day before break). Then I went to a lecture at the ISTA convention about having students grade each others models….. and that’s what I do now. I put a sheet next to each model and each student makes a tally mark next to the score they think it deserves. Then I average the scores for each group, and that’s their grade!I was afraid they would all just give each other 100%, but they actually grade pretty fairly! Of course I tell them that I am the ultimate judge and if they give the model an unfair grade (high or low), I will change it. I also think they try a little harder (well, most kids) when they know they are being graded by their peers.

And of course, since the real Nobel Ceremony is a fancy dinner…. we eat! It’s a good warm-up for Thanksgiving! Each student brings in something. Some get very in to it, one year a girl brought a fully baked lasagna and garlic bread, but usually it’s a smorgasbord of salsa and cookies. And since this is a black-tie event (well, the real one is), I give extra credit to students who dress up. Try it. I get more comments from other teachers and administrators than on any other day. And the more you buy into it, the more the kids enjoy it. I dress up too. I group my desks and put table clothes over them. I make them Nobel Prize medals. It’s a piece of paper stapled to a ribbon. Sounds corny….. they wear them around ALL DAY. And these are high schoolers I am talking about!! It’s hilarious, but again it gives other kids in the school a peek at the cool things we do in Bio 2!

So here are some examples (and the doc with all my info)!

Invitro Fertilization. I love this poster so much I hung it in my room.

I love this poster so much I hung it in my room.




Heart transplants…. using Jello!


This one was about immunity. They cut off the “flies” who were not immune because they died. =( (And notice their amazing Nobel medals!)


And finally…. here’s the Doc: Nobel Prize Project  Enjoy! If you try this out in your class, let me know how it goes!