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Using Cornell Notes to Teach DNA

If you’ve ever thought about using Cornell notes to teach DNA structure and function, you’ve come to the right place! Or maybe you’re looking for a resource about DNA and clicked on a link that brought you here.

By far the topic I get the most questions about is Cornell notes. Teachers see this blog post and are looking for more information and specifics on how to use them. (Check out the link above for a free Cornell notes template!)

I’ve also been asked if I had any plans to create resources using Cornell notes. It sounded like a great idea to me!

My first product (of many) using Cornell-style notes is on the structure and function of DNA.

I wanted to make this resource as complete and usable as possible. To that end, I created two different types of Cornell notes. One set is Cloze-style for students that need a bit more structure in their note-taking. The other set has only the questions on the side, making it suitable for students that are more able to dig out important information.

Not only that, but I included two different sizes of notes. There’s a regular size 8 1/2″ by 11″ set for binders and a 7″ x 9″ set for interactive notebooks.

The notes follow along exactly with the Powerpoint presentation. Students should have no problem following it and completing the notes if you wanted to use this as a flipped or blended learning lesson. For distance learning, I also included a Google Slides presentation if you’re uploading it to Google Classroom.

This resource also includes a DNA labeling and coloring diagram, with some higher-order analysis questions. Perfect for homework or a station activity!

And of course, there’s an answer sheet, along with some suggestions for the teacher on ways to use the resource.

Some ideas I had for different ways to use this resource are:

  • use it in class as a traditional lecture with the Powerpoint or Google Slides while students take notes on the Cornell note sheets
  • put the notes under your document camera and write the notes along with the students, explaining as you go
  • assign the Powerpoint as homework … the students can take notes as they view it. Then the next day in class do the coloring and labeling activity.
  • use the different parts of the resource as stations in a blended learning/station rotation classroom
  • perfect for absent students … give them the answer sheet or let them view the Powerpoint on their own to get the notes

This resource really has everything you need to introduce nucleic acids by using Cornell notes to teach DNA. It’s basically print and go! Check it out in my TpT store by clicking the image below.

cornell notes structure and function of DNA

I plan on adding many more resources along the same format. If there’s anything in particular you’d like to see me work on, just let me know in the comments below.

Happy Teaching!


10 Ways to Use Padlet in Your Classes

Have you used Padlet in your teaching? If not, you need to read on to find out what this awesome app can do for you and your students.

Most teachers like office supplies. I personally love office supply stores! Sticky notes are one of my favorite tools, both in teaching and in my personal life. Think of Padlet as an online bulletin board where you can place all kinds of sticky notes! Not only that, but other people can see and add to your sticky notes, and you can organize them in different ways.

Especially in these uncertain times of remote teaching, teachers need every tool in their arsenal that they can find. Padlet is a very versatile tool that you can use for all sorts of teaching strategies.

How Does Padlet Work?

Padlet is an app that you can use on any computer, tablet or smartphone. Teachers can sign up for free, though the free account only allows you to make 3 padlets. Honestly, you’ll probably find it so useful once you’ve started using it that you’ll want to upgrade to the paid subscription, which is very affordable. At the time of this writing, teachers can pay $12/month or $99/year.

You as the teacher create the Padlet board. Then all you need to do is to provide students with the link. You can share it on Google Classroom or give them a QR code to scan. Anyone with the link can post on your board. One thing I love is that students don’t need an account to use it, and (ok … 2 things) they can post anonymously.

There are so many aspects of your board that you can control. For example, you can determine where on the board new posts appear, if you want to moderate posts, the background wallpaper and color scheme, and whether or not you allow comments on posts. You can also decide whether or not to grade posts or to let others like or upvote them. Perfect for using in a classroom or distance learning setting!

And it’s not just a straightforward bulletin board that you can use. There are 8 different options for the kind of board that you want. All of them can be very useful in a science class.

8 options for Padlet boards

One of my favorites is the Canvas board. Perfect for mind mapping! You can also use files or pictures in your posts.

Here is a new board that I recently started as a place to visually store my bookmarks.

Made with Padlet

10 Ways to Use Padlet in Science Classes

Start an Engage Activity. A great way to start a class, especially a remote class, is by starting a board for a writing prompt. Students can respond to your prompt, and depending on your settings, they can respond to each other as well.

Collaborate on a Group Project. Start a board for each group to contain all of their working ideas, links, pictures, etc. Also great for lab reports.

Have a class discussion. The “Backchannel” type of board allows for a streaming conversation among your students. You could pose a question and have students answer it and respond to each other. Here’s a preview of what that looks like.

Backchannel Padlet board example

Create a Mind Map. The “Canvas” board type allows students to post to different types of mind maps. You can use a tree map, a circle map or a flow map. Use it as a whole class or with small groups of students.

Stream your assignments and reminders. If you’re familiar with Google Classroom and the stream, then the “Stream” version of the boards will also be familiar. You can stream classroom assignments, lesson links, online labs, etc.

Current Events. Use the Wall board to contain articles on current events in your science topic. You could post one and have students comment on it, or the students could be responsible for posting them.

Parent Communication. Create a board using Stream and post any notifications, upcoming test dates, or anything that parents would like to know about. You can set it up to allow yourself to get email notifications whenever anyone posts on it. Just remember, anyone can see the board, so it’s not a place for personal parent communications.

Flipped Classroom or Blended Learning. Set up a board for part of a lesson during stations in class as part of a blended learning lesson or to let students post to it in class as part of a flipped learning lesson. Students would have watched a video or Powerpoint outside of class. Then they could collaborate in groups or as a whole class on answering some questions or posting reactions.

Notetaking. If you’re doing a presentation or demonstration, groups of students could post notes on their own wall.

Researching. What a perfect place to keep all of your resources for a research paper or project! Students could each start their own boards for this. Since you can place links in the posts, students could have all of their research materials in one, easily-accessible place.

So are you already a Padlet pro? Or just finding out about it now? Either way, share ways you’ve used it or an idea that you’d like to try. We’d love to hear about it!

Happy Teaching!


Boom Cards – Digital Task Cards

Have you heard of Boom cards? If you have, go ahead and grab my free deck on Food Webs and Food Chains. If you haven’t heard of them, keep reading for some great information!

pin image of photosynthesis and cell respiration boom cards

What are Boom Cards?

If you’re like most teachers, you’ve probably used task cards with your students before. They’re really versatile. I use them in stations, for review, for assessments, and for early finishers.

But … let’s be honest. They’re kind of a pain to set up, at least at first. First, you have to make the cards, or purchase them online. Then you have to print them, laminate them and cut them out. I used to put mine on rings, which meant hole-punching them too. Once you had them set you were good to go, but they’re pretty work-intensive at first.

Thanks to the wonder of technology, Boom cards have changed all that!

Boom cards are task cards … but they’re digital and interactive! The obvious advantages, of course, are no printing, no laminating and no cutting! And they’re even self-grading!

A set of cards is called a “deck.” Decks can have any number of cards in them. You’ll find decks for all grade levels, subjects, and topics, and the cards can be used on any mobile device or computer. You can preview 4 cards from any deck for free. Click here for an example.

As a teacher, you can set up a free account and download decks into your library to use immediately. You can also take it a step further and upgrade to a paid account. Click here to see the membership options.

Paid accounts, which are very reasonably priced, allow you to get reports on how your students are doing with the cards. This is a great feature if you’d like to use them for quick assessments.

Using Boom Cards In Your Classroom

There are really a ton of things you can do with a free account. One of the best features, in my opinion, is that you can assign decks to individual students in your class. How great is that for differentiation!

After you set up your account, you can do a search for free decks (there are a ton of them!) or purchase a deck. Once you download it, it will appear in your library. From there, you can:

  • assign the deck to your class or individual students
  • hide certain cards that you might not want to use
  • add the link to the deck into your Google classroom or other management system
  • set up a station with a few computers for students to play the deck
  • assign them as homework
  • use it as part of a Blended Learning lesson

If you don’t want to bother setting up a class and just want your kids to use the deck right away, you can do that too. Just share the link with your students and they can use the deck on their own devices.

If you do purchase a paid membership you’ll have access to the student reports. Here you can see students accuracy level, how many times they’ve played each deck and how long it took them. It’s a great way to quickly see which students are struggling with certain concepts.

There are a lot of videos on the Boom Learning website that will walk you through how to set up your classes, how to use Boom cards with Google classroom, how to use reports, etc. They also have a Youtube channel that’s called Boom School, where they have videos to show you how to do just about anything!

I’ve started creating Boom cards along with my other resources, both on Boom Learning and Teachers Pay Teachers. As I mentioned earlier, I have a free deck for you to try out on Food Webs and Food Chains. Just click the image below to download it!

image of boom card deck

Free Boom Card Deck

I hope you give these a try! I think your students will like them as much as mind do. 

Drop a comment below to let us know what you think of them.



Half-Days – Teaching Ideas & Tips

This post may contain affiliate links.

teaching tips for half-days

Oh, those dreaded half-days. How can we make them worthwhile and engaging?

The month of November in my school district is a teachers’ worst nightmare as far as planning lessons.

First of all, there is Veteran’s Day. Certainly a worthwhile holiday, but the first of many “off” days. Our county always schedules a Staff Development Day right next to Veteran’s Day, so that’s at least 2 days off for students.

Next, our first quarter finishes up around early November. That means we have an early dismissal for students … they get out at 10:30 am … and then teachers have to be available to meet with parents from 1:00 to 3:00 pm and then also 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Parents come to school to pick up their student’s report card and then are able to immediately talk with teachers who are all in the gymnasium.

On a half-day like that, we have the first 4 periods of the day and that’s it. During some of our half-days, students get out at 12:00 or 12:30 pm. On those days we schedule every period but they’re shortened (about 22 minutes each) AND out of order. We do this so that everyone isn’t eating lunch at 9:30 am! So you can imagine what chaos can ensue on those days!

Then, of course, there’s Thanksgiving break, which for us includes the Wednesday before and the Friday after the holiday.

Making Half-Days Worthwhile

My biggest issue with half-days is that I always strived to keep my like classes together. I wanted my Regents Living Environment classes to be doing the same lesson each day and I wanted the same for my Honors classes. So what can you do when you meet with only 1 or 2 sections of one course and not the afternoon classes?

Here are some ideas for you to consider:

  • Are there many students in the classes you’ll see behind in their work? Do many of them owe labs? If so, this could be a good opportunity to allow them some catch-up time. Give them the class period to work on things they might owe that you would still accept.
  • Set up some quick stations for review and reinforcement of current content. Or this can also be a great time for review of past content.
  • Use this time to discuss mindfulness with your students. There are tons of great content for this topic to be found online. My students loved to color some intricate mindfulness designs, especially if I broke out some of the new gel pens and colored pencils! Click here to print some free pages.
  • Let them play some games! Again, there are lots of science games you can purchase from some of the science supply companies. Or even board games such as Scrabble are fun. Sometimes it was okay with me if they weren’t doing science specifically, as long as it was some kind of learning game. Click here to see a great list of science games.
  • I always had puzzles available in my room for early finishers. Jig-saw puzzles, fractals … they love to have time to use these. And they’re great for collaborative efforts.
  • Of course, there are always videos. This can be tricky, though, because I always felt that if it was a good video to show I wanted ALL of my students to see it. Sometimes I could work it out so that my other classes had extra time in the coming days so that they could view it as well.
  • Sometimes I would use this time to give the whole class some more practice in a particular skill, such as graphing or writing CERs. Granted, it’s practice that the other classes didn’t necessarily get. But I feel that things like this always seem to balance out in the end. And I always made myself available after school for students who needed or wanted extra practice with content or skills.

How do you handle half-days for lesson planning? Share some of your ideas with us!

Happy Teaching!


Knowing how to introduce CER (Claim, Evidence, Reasoning) writing in science classes has become more important than ever. Of course, we all want our students to be good science writers. The NGSS and CCLS have made it imperative that we directly teach this skill and that we continue it all year long.

Introduce CER as a Stand-Alone Lesson

I’ve tried teaching CER in two different ways: incorporating it into my existing lessons, for example in a lab write-up, or teaching it as a stand-alone lesson.

I had the most success with the majority of my students by teaching it as a stand-alone lesson. Investing a class period or more into teaching this skill had the effect of showcasing its importance to the students. Not only that, since we were all focused on the same concept it was much easier for me to help students that were struggling.

Introduce CER early in the school year since this is a skill they will need to practice often. I wait until the students are feeling more comfortable and I’ve established some rapport with them. I want them to feel at ease in asking for help if they need it.

Introduce CER with lots of practice!

If students have a good working knowledge of hypotheses then they don’t usually have too much difficulty with the Claim part of writing CERs. Since the claim is just “the answer to a question,” students tend to have a good grasp of this part. As the year goes on, I tend to give them text or diagrams where the claim may not be so obvious.

Typically, text evidence is also not very difficult for the majority of students. Those with poor reading skills will of course have a harder time with this. For those students, Cornell notes can help them to sort out some of the keywords and context clues that they need to look for.

I like to have students highlight the evidence in their text, especially during the early practice stages. Doing this makes it much easier for them when they go back to write their reasoning statements.

When the evidence is presented as a data table, chart, graph, or diagram some students have a bit more difficulty finding evidence. Telling them to find a specific number of evidences sometimes helps. For example, I usually tell my students that if they have a data table, 2 pieces would be the minimum and 3 is better.

They need to be able to interpret graphs and diagrams in order to pick out the evidence to support the claim. As a class, have students read the captions, talk about the diagram and pick out key parts … show them that they need to look at ALL of it in order to understand it and pick out evidence.

The reasoning part is where I find that students tend to have the most trouble. They find it difficult to apply scientific principles (which many of them may not even understand) to the evidence they have. For this reason, I like to give them a few “sentence starters” to help them get started.

Starters such as “Based on the evidence we can conclude that ….” or “The reason I believe ______ is ______” can jump-start their thinking processes to help them connect the evidence to the claim.

I created a Powerpoint lesson and made a set of notes/practice to go along with it. It takes about a class period (mine are 42 minutes). It starts off with a really cute Youtube video of a commercial where a little girl tells us her father is an alien! It’s a fun way to introduce Claims and Evidence. At the end of the practice is a section where I ask them to “Pull It All Together” and write the Claim, Evidence and Reasoning from a single data table. Sometimes I assign this as homework if we run out of time.

As we work through the lesson, I have students work on the practice parts right in class, while I circulate around and provide help as needed. Then I like to call on students to share what they’ve done. Then they keep the sheets in their binders to look back at when necessary.

Here’s the product if you’d like to check it out at my store.

Introduction to CER

Keep an eye out for updates because I plan on creating CERs for many different biology topics! They will be great to use for exit tickets, formative assessments, quizzes or sub plans.

How do you teach CER in your classroom? We’d love to hear your ideas!

Happy Teaching!


Engage Your Students With Interesting Informational Text Articles

how to use informational text

I love using informational text articles in my classes. I rarely ever use a textbook, even though I have them. There are just so many interesting images and animations online that I much prefer to use technology in my instruction.

Finding interesting articles at the right reading level isn’t always easy though. My students find reading and analyzing a bit easier when they have actual paper to work with, so I like to find text articles that I can print out. That way, we can work together to highlight, underline, circle, and annotate to our hearts’ content!

These articles coordinate very well with Cornell notes. Read my blog post on how I use Cornell notes in my classroom. Sometimes I input the questions into the notes myself. Other times I write an essential question or “big idea” focus at the top of the note sheet and have students take notes based on that. These are also easy to differentiate for different classes or even individual students within a class.

What Can You Do With Text Articles?

  • One thing that I like to do with a class of low readers is to number each paragraph in the article before xeroxing. Then I group my students and assign each group one or two paragraphs to read. They’ll highlight the main idea, pick out one or two unfamiliar vocabulary terms, define the terms, and write a question that can be answered from their reading onto a sticky note.
  • The sticky note then goes up on our “parking lot.”
  • As they’re working I circulate around and make sure each group is on track. When they’re finished, each group goes up to our document camera in order of their paragraphs and shares all of their information with the rest of the class. This allows the whole class to get the gist of an article and makes it easier for lower readers to understand.
  • Each group then goes up to the parking lot to see if they can pick out the question that goes with each paragraph. I’ve found that it encourages the groups to write higher-order questions because they like to try to stump their classmates!
  • Another idea is to write some comprehension, or “detailed reading” questions to go with the text article. Again, these can be differentiated according to your groups’ abilities. They can work in pairs or individually to complete them.
  • I also like to do some sort of vocabulary activity with these articles. It’s usually something where they use context clues to predict the meanings of the words (I usually pick out the terms initially) and then define them to see how close they came in their predictions. Then I have them add any other unfamiliar terms of their choosing and do the same thing.
  • Some articles lend themselves well to having students draw. For example, they can draw timelines, sequential diagrams, bar graphs, cycles … in science especially this type of activity can really help students’ understanding.

I’ve often resorted to writing my own articles because I couldn’t find anything engaging at the reading levels that I needed. I found that I REALLY enjoyed doing this! So there’s a new product line taking shape in my Teachers Pay Teachers store providing fun, engaging informational text articles. I’m writing them on interesting animals, with some cool details that will help to hook your students.

These articles include activities including vocabulary work, comprehension questions, and extension activities. I put a fun QR code in each one that links to a short Youtube video (I also included the URL) with some questions that are answered from the video.

As of this writing I have 3 written … one on pistol shrimp, one on vampire bats and one on monarch butterflies. I’m particularly proud of these!

If you’d like to check these out, click the image below to see the one on Migrating Monarchs.

monarch butterfly informational text article

If you try any of these ideas, or have some that you’d like to share with us, please comment below. We’d love to hear from you!

Happy Teaching!


What Are The Benefits of Cornell Notes?

Have You Ever Used Cornell Notes With Your Students?

Getting my students to take notes … GOOD notes … was a struggle sometimes. Cornell notes were a huge help for them in terms of reading comprehension. In fact, they made such an impact that I made a template that I could use whenever I needed it. I’m giving it away in this article!

For Powerpoint presentations or other lectures, I always provided notesheets for my students. They were basically Cloze notes, but I added lots of diagrams, small coloring activities and writing prompts to them. So they were pretty interactive and I didn’t usually have issues with my kids taking notes during class.

However, when it came to trying to take notes from informational text sources, it was a different story. The students had a hugely difficult time picking out important information and knowing what to record.

Or, if I asked them to highlight important information they’d end up highlighting the whole page! Very pretty, but not real useful for studying.

An Accidental Discovery

I discovered how helpful Cornell notes could be one day totally by accident. I had to leave school early unexpectedly one day and needed an easy lesson plan for my last class of the day. Freshmen … with a sub … last period of the day. I knew I needed something engaging but yet I still wanted to make good use of my class time.

I found an article about our current topic online, and xeroxed enough copies for my class. Then I quickly took a piece of looseleaf paper and drew a Cornell notes template on it. I wrote 3 questions in the left sidebar that they would be able to answer from the reading.

When I got back the next day I looked over the Cornell notes that the sub had collected. I was really pleased to see how well the students had done with answering the questions. They were able to pick out the pertinent information from the article.

The sub had left me a note saying that the class went well and the kids had no trouble completing the assignment. I was really astonished because this class was full of IEPs and 504s … one student had a second grade reading level!

I couldn’t help wondering if I’d accidentally stumbled on a way to help my kids read a science information article and pick out what I wanted them to know.

The Benefits of Cornell Notes

For those who might not be familiar with Cornell notes, they are a specific note-taking system designed by a Cornell University professor back in the 1950s. He wanted a way for students to take concise notes that they could then go back and add memory joggers, diagrams or questions to help them review.

cornell notes

Divide a piece of notebook paper into two columns, one narrow one and then the main, wide column. Students take notes in the wide column. Then, immediately afterwards or later on, students go back and write questions that are answered by the notes, adding drawings, vocabulary … anything that will help them understand and remember the notes.

When I made my notes for my sub plan, I modified the idea. In the narrow left-hand column I wrote questions that I wanted students to answer or explanations that I wanted them to write down.

Normally in an assignment like this, I would insist on complete sentences. But in this case, since these were supposed to be NOTES, I left directions that students could use bullets, numbers, or check marks where appropriate to jot down their answers.

I think that simple change helped the students to write more complete answers. They were able to look at the question and find keywords and context clues to help them find the information in the text. Then they could write down the answers in NOTE form.

When these are used in the traditional way, Cornell notes are a way to take notes quickly. Students have been shown to retain the information better when taking notes this way.

More Uses

Once I discovered this happy accident, I started using these notes more and more.

I wanted to get my lower level kids to the point where they could actually use these the “right” way. I chose some lower reading level articles and filled in the notes in the main column myself … just enough to get them started. But I left the question area blank.

Then the kids read the article and fleshed out the main notes.

The students then worked in pairs to go back and read the notes to see if they could figure out what the questions would be. They may not have been worded the way I would have worded them, but the kids did a pretty darn good job at figuring out what they were taking notes on!

I modeled how to read a text and then use this method of note-taking too … one of the many uses of my document camera!

Cornell notes were so successful for my students that I started using them a lot. They really seemed to help with reading comprehension and the kids got better at note-taking. I didn’t abandon my interactive Cloze notes, but I used the Cornell notes a lot for informational texts. The kids even started using them on their own!

And it was a great motivator for students to take good notes when I would occasionally allow them to use the notes on a quiz!

I’ve started making products in my TpT store utilizing Cornell notes. So far I have one on The Structure and Function of DNA, with more related sets on the way. This blog post explains the product in more detail. They include two types of the notes … one set as Cloze-style notes and a set of open notes with just the questions on the side. These would be useful for students that are more able to pick out important information.

The notes are also in two sizes, so you can use them in a binder or a composition book for interactive notebooks. I wanted to give teachers lots of choices. There’s also a Powerpoint presentation to use with the notes, as well as a Google slides presentation if needed for distance learning. If you’d like to check it out in my store, click here!

Grab My Free Template!

So here’s the free template I mentioned earlier. It’s totally editable so that you can type whatever you want into it. Or you can always print it out and write in it by hand. I hope you find it as useful as my students and I have!

If you try it out I’d LOVE to hear what you think of it! How did you use it? Please let us all know in the comments below!

Happy Teaching!


Exciting New Features of Nearpod!

In my last post, I talked about Nearpod and how it’s such a great app to use for blended learning activities. Today we’ll be discussing some other features of Nearpod and how it can open up new ways of student-centered learning.

Nearpod does have a lot of great features in the free version. But if you’re willing to spend a little bit of money (as of this writing $12/month) for the Gold version, you can add several rich opportunities to engage your students. And by the way … I am in no way affiliated with Nearpod. I just love this app!

When you click the Create button, you get 3 options, each of which have several other options. As you can see above, there are some fairly “typical” options for content such as slides, slideshows, videos, etc. But then there are options for Nearpod 3D, which has some very cool images that students can manipulate.

More Features of Nearpod

virtual field trip

Nearpod also offers virtual field trips in the paid version. You can do a search and find just about any place you’re looking for. For example, I typed in “coral reef” and got multiple options. I chose the New Caledonia coral reef as seen above. The image is moveable in 360 degrees in the Nearpod preview.

I have used these field trips as writing prompts or exit tickets. I also love them just to give my kids a bit more of a world view.

When creating a lesson you have an option to click “Web Content.” This allows you to add the URL of a website you’d like your kids to go to, perhaps to do some background reading or to do a simulation.

The third option when creating a lesson is to “Add Activity.” Here are the options for activities you can add.

So this is where you would add questions, quizzes, polls, etc. Draw It works great if your students have iPads … think cell labeling!

The Memory Test works like the card game Concentration and is a fun way of helping kids learn vocabulary, or match an image with a label.

If you’d like to give Nearpod a try, it’s very easy to use and the staff is approachable. There’s also a lot of training on the site to help you get the most out of using it and creating your lessons.

I think this app is just fantastic for blended learning or flipped classrooms. There are just so many ways to engage students!

Let me know if you’ve used Nearpod! What do you like the most!

Happy Teaching!


Why I Love Nearpod for Blended Learning

Nearpod is an amazing app for blended learning lessons, whether you’re experienced in blended learning or just getting started.

If you’re not familiar with it, Nearpod is a browser-based app that lets your students interact with your lessons. You can upload Powerpoints or start making lessons from scratch on the website. There are also hundreds of teacher-made lessons right there on the site that you can purchase. Many of them are also free.

Nearpod is free to use, and in my experience you can do just about anything you might want to do with the free version. There is also a Gold level that gives you a few added extras.

So What Can Nearpod Do?

Let me answer that by showing you one of my Nearpod lessons. As you can see, this one is a review of our Photosynthesis/Cell Respiration unit.

I did a Google image search to find an image that I liked and used it for the background of the title slide. You can also put backgrounds on the content slides, but sometimes I find that makes it too “busy.”

Notice a couple of things … first, this is a Preview, found in my Nearpod Library. I can check it and edit it from here. Second, notice on the bottom where it says Live Lesson and Student-Paced. This is one of the features that makes it so amazing for Blended Learning.

You can do this as a whole class, which is one of my fave ways to use it. When you click on Live Lesson, Nearpod generates a code that your students simply input. That gets all of them “in” your lesson. Then, YOU control the pace of the lesson! I would use my iPad for this so I could walk around and help kids or manage issues. My iPad controls STUDENTS’ screens! How cool is that?

Here is a shot of the first slide. It’s just a simple multiple choice question. The beauty of Nearpod, though, is that as students choose the answers on their device, I see their choices in real time! That feature makes it so easy to differentiate a lesson, or to see where students are having problems.

nearpod lesson

As you can see in the pic below, you can also add short answer questions. Students just type in their answers, hit ENTER, and you as the teacher can see their answers … very helpful! And you can also share examples of great student answers to the whole class. I was amazed at how much my freshmen would say “Is my answer good enough to share?” It was a great little motivator!

nearpod lesson

You can also do these as student-paced lessons by choosing that option at the bottom. They can be embedded in Google Classroom or a website, or sent via email or by text message so that students can do them as individual assignments. You still get individual reports on answers too.

But this is where Nearpod is so great as a Blended Learning app. You can set this up as a student-paced lesson in a station in your room, maybe with a few chromebooks or iPads, or even a single computer. It can be part of a Station Rotation lesson or as a review for students who are struggling.

I’ve used some of my Nearpod lessons as extension activities, too, for those students who are early finishers or who have a good grasp of the material. The possibilities really are endless.

My next post will showcase more ideas for using Nearpod and also show you some of the other types of lessons you can build! Stay tuned!

Have you used Nearpod yet? Do you have some great tips and tricks? Please share them!

Happy Teaching!


6 Reasons Why I Love My Document Camera!

I Love Using a Document Camera in My Science Classroom!

One of the tools that I couldn’t live without is my document camera. I really love how it makes my teaching life so much easier and how it helps make resources and content more available for my students.

I admit that I was a bit slow to jump on the “document camera bandwagon.” When it was first demonstrated to us, it was used to show textbook sections. Since I rarely use a textbook at first I couldn’t really see how it would be useful in my teaching.

When I first started using interactive notebooks I realized that I would need a way to show my pages to students, since I kept a notebook right along with them. So that summer I asked our IT guy for one. I started using it along with our notebooks and from that point on I was hooked! The best part was that I was able to do a lot more with it than I had originally thought.

document camera

This is the document camera that I use in my classroom.

1. Use the document camera for close reading activities.

I had a lot of students with 504s and IEPs in my classes, especially over the last 10 years. Many of them had pretty poor reading skills.

The document camera was a perfect tool to do close reading activities as a group.

Make sure each student has highlighters. We all used the same colors for our activities. Then I’d place my article under the doc cam and would model the close reading which would usually focus on one or two specific skills.

For example, one day we’d use the blue highlighter to highlight the main ideas in each article. Or we’d preview by looking at the comprehension questions first and then read while highlighting possible answers or evidence.

I loved showing students how to annotate an article to help them understand it. Thinking out loud while showing it under the doc cam was a great way to help students start practicing this skill.

2. Use the document camera for notes and drawings.

Sometimes I found that certain types of content lent itself better to being shown under the document camera than as a Powerpoint … anything where there drawings and/or labeling.

My kids tended to be more engaged when I used the document camera to “give notes.” I would write the information on the notesheets under the doc cam while discussing the information and they would copy it into their own notesheets.

Drawings were fun with the doc cam! Everyone had colored pencils and highlighters at their tables so it was easy to say, “ok everyone, grab red, blue and black colored pencils. We’re gonna draw a glucose molecule.” Drawing cells, labeling organelles, cell membranes … all of these were fun and much easier using the document camera.

3. Make videos with the document camera!

This is something that not a lot of people realize you can do. It’s easy to make videos with your document camera, as long as yours has that capability. I think most of the newer ones do.

There were multiple ways I used my own videos in my classroom. One of the best things I did was to start making lab introduction videos. These were invaluable to both me and my students. If someone was absent, it was so much easier to have them watch the intro video than to find time after school to explain to them what they’d missed. They could watch it on their own and come in knowing what to do.

Here’s a lab video that I made for our “Letter e” microscope lab. I did the wet mount demo right under the document camera and then went through what they’d need to know and do. Very effective!

I also made videos when I knew I’d be having a sub. Here in NY we have lab classes that are separate from our daily classes. The labs meet every other day. So if I had to be out there were 2 lab classes that had to be covered, and I hated to leave “busy work.”

Making videos to explain class and lab was immeasurably helpful on those days. The kids had no excuse to not know what to do!

4. Use the document camera to review.

Document cameras are a great review tool! I love to use it to go over homework, practice problems, Constructed Response Questions, CERs, etc. Being able to “show” my thinking, to point out things on diagrams, and to write answers together makes it so much easier to keep everyone engaged. I feel very strongly that it helps a great deal with understanding.

5. Let students show their work.

Whenever we did group work or POGILs, I would have the students come up to the document camera and show their work.

They knew ahead of time that they would all be responsible for this, so I never had a problem getting kids to come up. A lot of them actually like doing it!

This also works very well for jigsaw-type activities where groups of students are each responsible for a specific part of the whole activity. Having the groups show their work under the doc cam holds each group accountable and makes it easier for them to share with other groups.

6. Use the document camera to show randomness in your actions.

In my last post I talked about some cool ways to use index cards in the classroom. I firmly believe that showing transparency in this way goes a long way toward establishing rapport with students and a sense of fairness in your classroom.

Unfortunately, some students don’t have a lot of reasons to trust adults, so even a little thing like this can help.

Do you use a document camera in your class? Do you have any other ways to use one? Please share!


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