Back to School Tips for the Science Teacher

First year and even veteran teachers can stress out in the weeks leading up the back to school season. There are so many things to consider when getting ready for the first day of school. First of all there is your classroom, in which you want to create a safe, warm environment for your students to feel comfortable in, but there are so many other aspects probably more important ones to consider. Classroom management, what will you do on the first day of school, what supplies will you need? These are all questions that can keep us up worrying about how to get it all done.

       Luckily, I will share with you what works in my classroom to help you navigate and make this back to school season is a successful one.

Classroom Décor:

5 classroom decor ideas for the grade 4, 5, 6, and 7 science teacher
While classroom décor is certainly not THE most important part of getting ready for the school year, it should play a role. Students don’t need much, but I really believe that you need to put in some effort to make your classroom look like a place where your students will be comfortable and show that YOU want to be there. Learn more about how I decorate my classroom with a purpose here

Classroom Supplies:

Once your classroom is done, you need to think about the supplies
Classroom supplies that first year teachers don't even know they need to have
you’ll need throughout the school year. Sometimes this can be overwhelming, and I know I always forget something Read about my list of 5 must haves here. (This is especially great for first-year teachers that might not anticipate the need for some of these supplies). 

Classroom Management:

How to keep control of your classroom with management strategies that really work
I think hands down; this is the foundation of your teaching. If you don’t have failproof classroom management strategies, then you are going to encounter many problems throughout the school year. It is true, students can sense fear and they will try to take advantage. After teaching for 13 years, read through some of the tips that help me keep my sanity

Classroom Jobs:

Yes, you can have classroom jobs in upper elementary and middle
Having classroom jobs in the grade 4, 5, 6, and 7 science classroom
school classrooms. It might not be for everyone, but it could be a good way to maintain control of your classroom and teach students how to be responsible. If you are interested in trying this in your classroom, read on to learn about some of the jobs you can implement in the science classroom

Building Personal Relationships:

Building relationships with your upper elementary and middle school students on the first day of school
Ok, I lied. This is probably more important than classroom management. I feel that if you have taken the time to build relationships with your students, then you’ve already scored a huge piece of the classroom management pie. Read on to learn how I make connections with my students

So now you know how to start your school year off on the right
five ways to get to know your students to build relationship in the classroom
foot before students arrive. But what will you do with them once they are in your classroom? Here are five different icebreaker activities that you can choose from to use on the first day of school. These are great ways to get to know your students and build relationships with them. 

I hope sharing what I have learned throughout my career is helpful to you. Is there anything I missed? Is there something that you do differently that works for you? Let me know in the comments below. I love hearing from my readers!

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    How to Teach a Unit on States of Matter

    Learn how to teach your grade 4, 5, 6, and 7 students a hands on, engaging unit on phases of matter

             States of matter is often one of the first “real” science units of the year for students. After learning about lab safety and measurement, they dive deep into learning about solids, liquids, and gases. No matter what time of year you teach this unit, it is important to make it engaging. Often, with state testing and all the other burdens that teaching brings, science can be left on the back burner or pressured into incorporating more and more literacy. There is a way to do both. In my science classroom, literacy is an integral part of the learning process, but so is a hands-on approach. Read on to learn about how I try to juggle the two without the students knowing.


             It is difficult to understand what kind of background knowledge students are bringing into your classroom. Two things that I do are: 
    • Engage them in some type of phenomena. This is great to work in the NGSS criteria into your curriculum. For this unit, I like this Youtube video that discusses how a liquid can show all three states of matter at relatively the same time. It really sparks their interest. 
    • Introduce and discuss important vocabulary terms. This helps all students understand important concepts related to the unit. 
      • Some important terms should include: solid, liquid, gas, condensation, evaporation

    Building on Their Knowledge: 

    I like to continually build upon their knowledge. This is also where I build upon their literacy skills. Students will read to learn about the characteristics and behavior of solids, liquids, and gases. Embedded in each reading are comprehension questions to continually assess their knowledge of these concepts. Literacy is important and learning to read and understand nonfiction text is an important skill for students to have. 

    Now, comes the fun stuff. It is debatable as to whether you want to start with hands-on activities first or the meat and potatoes of learning about the topic. I find for my struggling learners, learning about the topic carries them farther. 

    Students will work in stations to complete different hands on activities. The videos give you ideas on how to easily implement this into your classroom without breaking your budget. 


    Reviewing the concepts learned is important because the students will use the information they learned from this unit and apply it to other teaching units like chemical and physical changes

    There are a few ways I like to review: 

    Sketch Notes:

    I like using sketch notes because it allows students to use both sides of their brains. The sketch notes that I use are similar to graphic organizers that allow students to get their thoughts down and doodle or sketch reminders around it. I also give students time to color in their notes. All of this allows both sides of their brain to make connections to the concept. Since both sides are working, they are making deeper connections to the task in front of them which will instill a stronger comprehension of the topic. 

    Making a states of matter unit fun, hands on, and engaging using sketch notes

    Color by Number Activities

    These are great because they are self checking. They are ideal for sub plans, homework, or as an extra help review. Often, you can also incorporate a holiday into your curriculum. My students love completing these, even in middle school! 


    I like using flipbooks in my units because it allows students to summarize the concepts that they learned and have an easy to use review right at their fingertips. Students are again displaying their knowledge of states of matter, but they can also color it in if they choose to again get both sides of that brain to work on an activity. 

    Task Cards

    Task cards are another popular way for students to review. Having a digital and printable version helps students to pick the path that they choose to review. Again, all those important concepts are being reviewed and reinforced so that they can later build on their knowledge. 

    Final notes: 

    There are a lot of review activities that are spoken about here. I pick and choose the ones that will apply to my classroom that year. Some years I just don't have students that like coloring and that is something that I need to respect so I will guide them toward activities that I know they will enjoy. 

    The most important aspect of our teaching is to make sure our students are learning and enjoying the process. You want to tailor as much of the experience as you can to their learning styles, so observe them and see what they enjoy and how you can tap into that. 

    how to teach a unit on states of matter

    Have you used choice assignments with your students yet? Try them out for free by joining my science tribe below. 

    States of Matter FREE Choice Assignments

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      Five Icebreakers for the Science Classroom

      Getting to know you activities for grade 4, 5, 6 and 7 classrooms

      Going back to school and getting into a classroom routine can be hard for both teachers and students. The first days of school are usually filled with some nervous anxiety as students get to know one another and teachers get to know their students. Icebreakers can help to relieve some of this anxiety. Icebreakers are activities that allow people to quickly get to know one another to allow them to feel more comfortable. Here are five ideas that you can use in your science classroom to start off the school year:


       Ask students to tap into their artistic side by using playdoh to sculpt something that is meaningful to them. Give students time to think about what they want to sculpt, remind them that it’s OK if they aren’t artistic just do your best, and then allow them to create. Make sure to leave time for all students to be able to tell one another what they created and why it is meaningful to them.

      Hands on activity to get to know your upper elementary and middle school students.

      This activity is great for students of all ages. My seventh graders LOVE when I break out the playdoh for an activity. In my classroom, I have the small containers that come in a multipack. They last for several years as long as they are always placed back in the container and the lid is closed tightly.

      Snowball Fight! 

      Give each student a piece of paper (or have them supply their own). On the piece of paper, students will write down one piece of information about themselves that they would like to share with the rest of the class. Students then toss them in the air. After all, snowballs are tossed, ask each student to pick one up and guess who they think the snowball belongs to.

      STEM activities: 

      Students can work together in small groups to meet and beat a challenge. Sometimes activities like this can be better for classes where students do not really know one another. It can lessen anxiety on the students as they only have to work with a few students instead of being front and center of the entire classroom. The Center for Developing Excellence has a compilation of tons of activities that can be found by clicking here.

      Using STEM to foster relationships with your grade 4, 5, 6, and 7 kids.

      So you hate group icebreakers yourself? Here are two ideas that will allow you to better get to know your students without the stress of group activities.

      Three Things I Want My Teacher to Know: 

      Sadly, our students come from all backgrounds of life. Even student who appear to be happy on the outside can be facing tough personal challenges. This free worksheet gives students a chance to tell you three things about themselves. Some students may tell you superficial things about themselves while others may give you surprising information that will allow you to be a better teacher and role model for them.

      Elements of Me

      Help your science students feel comfortable by getting to know more about their personal lives through authentic science materials.

      I love this activity because it authentically combines a science topic, the periodic table of elements, with a getting to know you activity. Students will use the template to divulge personal information about themselves while creating their own “element”. This also provides students with background information that will help them when they start learning about the periodic table to understand that each part represents something specific.

      I hope these ideas help you brainstorm how you want to start off the school year. Let me know below which one you choose to do or if you have another activity that you like to use.

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        Implementing Classroom Jobs in Upper Elementary and Middle School

        what jobs to use and assign in upper elementary and middle school to promote responsibility

        Back to school season is a time for teachers to set up rules and procedures for the upcoming school year. Teachers want to work smarter, not harder. In order to do that, why not continue to give your students classroom jobs?

        Primary and elementary teachers give out classroom jobs to their students. Not only does this help to them run an efficient and productive classroom, but it also allows students to build on their personal skills of responsibility and dependability.

        It is possible to continue to have classroom jobs even with students changing classes. You can decide if you only want your homeroom to take care of the classroom or have jobs each class period. Think about the structure of your day and what would work best for you.

        Choosing the best student for the job can be done randomly, as it often is in elementary school or you could have students fill out a short application form. This would tie in real life skills as when students want to apply for a job that they want later on in life, they will need this skill. Applications do not need to long or lengthy by any means. Students can fill out basic personal information and then give a reason why they think they are fit to complete the job. Always keep in mind that these jobs are meant to make your life easier!

        Some classroom jobs that are perfect for upper elementary and middle schoolers are:

        •         Supply table supervisor make sure all supplies are in order and ready to go
        •         Technology assistant this is a big one. I always have students that neglect to plug in their Chromebook and then it leaves it dead for the next student. Assigning a student(s) to take care of this task leaves you to worry about more important things, like if the technology actually working. 😊
        •         Agenda administrator writes down the date, class and homework assignments on the board
        •         Paper personal assistant collect and distribute worksheets and assignments
        •         Receptionist Answers the classroom phone. This will also teach students proper manners when answering and taking a phone message.
        •         Veterinarian feeds and cares for a classroom pet
        •         Waste manager cleans up all the trash at the end of a lesson or activity
        •         Sanitation supervisor cleans the tables or desks with disinfecting wipes
        Ways to still give students classroom jobs in grades 5, 6, 7

        Do you use classroom jobs in the upper grades? I would love to hear how you implement them in your classroom. Tell me in the comments below!

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