The Idea Factory
Topics:
* First Days of School * Last Days of School* Classroom Management* Parent Involvement*
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Class Starters* Words of Wisdom for New Teachers* Birthday Ideas & Holiday Activities* Miscellaneous*

Explore the Odds & Ends page at middleschoolscience.com for new ideas and tips for science teachers!

Submit ideas to Tracy (Trimpe) Tomm! Please include your name, grade level, school, address, and contact information.

First Days of School

8th Grade Scavenger Hunt (Tracy (Trimpe) Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL) UPDATED AUGUST 2009
After reviewing the class rules, my students complete a scavenger hunt to help them learn more about grading procedures, make-up, and computer rules. They also discover the location of the generic kleenex (toilet paper), extra supplies, reference books, etc. After allowing the students time to gather the answers from signs and posters in the room, we discuss my expectations for the year as well as their questions and concerns. The assignment must be taken home and signed by a parent to earn a grade. This activity allows students and parents the chance to know my expectations from the start of the year.

Sample Worksheet - Mrs. (Trimpe) Tomm's Scavenger Hunt (pdf)
First Day Presentation - Welcome to Mrs. (Trimpe) Tomm's Classroom (pdf)
NOTE:  I use several of the classroom procedures and an adapted version of the class rules from the Whole Brain Teaching method for classroom management. For more details, visit their website at http://www.wholebrainteaching.com/ and check out the First Tips or free downloads areas.

Getting To Know Room 302 (submitted by Nancy Nega, Elmhurst, IL)
During her "Getting To Know Room 302" activity, students work in pairs to scout out the room and find the answers to the "scavenger hunt". Following the old Chinese saying of "I Hear, I forget; I See and I remember; I Do and I understand", the students "do" the room ... finding all the important areas of the room, taking notice of safety posters, finding safety equipment, finding make-up work, etc. This provides an opportunity for her to observe students interacting with one another as they find answers to the questions. It becomes easy to see who cooperates with others, which students prefer to be loners, and how students approach this task. It is a great way to get to know them as they get to know the room. (Sample worksheet provided)

Photo Tile Seating Charts (Marcia Krech, Jefferson City, MO)
Make student "photo tiles" for a seating chart--a great way to connect new student names with faces! Print student names in a small font, last name below first, with enough space for photos above the names. Then photocopy yearbook pictures of each student and glue them above the names. Cover the entire page with wide clear tape, front and back, and cut them out. Put a blank copy of your seating chart inside a peel-back photo page. Using sticky-tack, affix each photo on top of assigned seat. Students can seat themselves the first day of school by finding their picture on the seating chart. This makes taking attendance a snap and is a big hit with subs and counselors. Since the tiles are removable, new seating charts are easy!

Friendly Favorites (Tracy (Trimpe) Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
I use this getting-to-know-you activity at the start of the year with each of my science classes. Students receive a card with a 3x3 grid after the have completed an All About Me. The students are allowed time to fill in their favorite items for each category and then spend time (5-10 minutes) talking to their classmates to see if they can find others who share their favorite things. Each student can sign a card only once, but may sign several cards for the same item.

Worksheet - Friendly Favorites (pdf)

Scientific Summer (Pam Watson)
One thing I did as a homework assignment but it could be used as a class assignment is "Scientific Summer", an idea I adapted from the Middle School Science list serve last year. The kids write a paragraph about something they did that summer that was scientific from using a cell phone to wakeboarding to rock climbing to riding a roller coaster to breaking thier arm. They need to have a picture of themselves doing the activity or they can draw a picture of the activity or find a color pic off the Internet that demonstrates the activity. They must write a second paragraph explaining what was scientific about the activity. I learned a lot about the kids... from their writing skills to their favorite thing to do to how much science background they have! It is also a great thing to have hanging up in the room and hallways for Open House/Paresnt's Night.

Worksheet - Scientific Summer (pdf)

Gradebook Tip (Submitted by Lela Thieme, Weston Middle School, Oregon)
Just a quick tip for managing grades: I assign each student a number that they include in the upper right hand corner of thier papers. This number matches their row number in my grade book. After I grade all papers I put the numbers in order from 1-30 (+/-). Then all I have to do is enter grades into the book. Works great! Or course you will have those students who forget--so periodically I award candy or extra credit for having it there. They never know when I will do that and it seems like there is always one or two students in each class that will remind the class. It is also important to explain to them why this is important to you and them. I explain that these numbers allow me to enter grades quickly and to update students grade each week. Our students have to be passing all classes in order to participate in any extra-curricular event so it is important to keep up to date. Also, I explain that the sooner I get grades entered the sooner they get their papers back! Also, I assign a different letter to go in front of each number that represents individual classes. For example, all students in first period have an A in front of their numbers, second period all have B's in front of their numbers, etc..... This is helpful if papers get mixed up from different classes. Makes it easy to sort and correct.

Check out these links for great back-to-school ideas:
Education World - Back-to-School - Are you looking for the perfect way to get to know your students and help them get to know one another? You'll find it here! This page also provides links to ideas from past years. Also try Fun Activities to Get the Year Off to a Good Start.
TeAch-nology - Back To School - Lots of goodies to help you start the year off right! Visit this page for first day activities for kids, name plates, name tags, tips for first day jitters, and lots more!
First Day of School Activities - Find a few new ideas for the first week of school!
Kim's Korner - 1st Day of School Activities - An assortment of great ideas and links!
Proteacher - Back-to-School Ideas - A large list of sites (with descriptions) to help you find new ideas!
TeacherVision - Back-to-School & More - Lots of great ideas for ice breakers, classroom management, lesson plans, and more!

Need great school clip art? Visit my Clip Art for Educators page - an assortment of sites with school related clips!

 

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Last Days of School

Letters of Experience (submitted by Patti Downs, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
At the end of each school year, this 6th grade teacher has her students write letters to next fall's class. From humorous stories to "survival tips", veteran 6th grade students provide "newbies" with an inside view of Mrs. Down's classroom. She writes, "During that first day of school, the students are encouraged to trade letters and read as many letters as they can. We then make a list on the Overhead Projector of all the advice the letters give--what to do and what not to do to be a success in this room. From this big list, we narrow it down to the top 5-6 suggestions that seem to be the most important. We then discuss if these seem reasonable behaviors. (They usually agree that doing your work on time, doing the best you can, etc. are 'doable'.) These 5 or 6 suggestions to live by then become our Class Rules!"

7th Grade Days (submitted by Patti Downs and Brenda Graber, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
Towards the end of each school year, Mrs. Downs and Mrs. Graber coordinate a 7th grade panel of students to answer questions from 6th grade students. In Havana, students are in self contained classrooms through 6th grade, then advance to a departmentalized setting in 7th grade. This program has provided 6th graders with an inside view of the 7th grade program easing their concerns to make the transition easier.

 

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Classroom Management

Need forms? Visit the Forms and Letters page of the Teacher Tools website for ready-to-use materials for classroom management, assignment sheets, and more!

Respect Rules (submitted by Cindy McGrew, Havana, IL)
Mrs. McGrew designed her class rules for her 8th grade classroom using the letters in RESPECT. The students had an easy way to remember the rules and got the message that respect was the main idea.

Race Car Challenge (Tracy (Trimpe) Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
I use an adapted version of the class rules from the Whole Brain Teaching method for classroom management. For more details, visit their website at http://www.wholebrainteaching.com/ and check out the First Tips or free downloads areas. At the start of the year, I use their scoreboard game in the form of a weekly Smiley Chart for each class period to keep track of good and bad behavior.  At the start of the 2nd quarter, I switch to the Race Car Challenge. Download the files below for more information.

Downloads: Race Car Challenge Teacher Information (includes car templates), Race Track #1, Race Track #2

Make-up Work (Tracy (Trimpe) Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
One of the best management tools I use is a system for make-up work, a task that can be overwhelming. I have set aside a special spot in my room for all make-up work. In this area I have posted a weekly assignment calendar, a "Make-up Work To Do" bin, and a "Make-up Work To Grade" bin. Students who have been absent can check the assignment calendar for a list of missed assignments and find their worksheets, notes, or exams in the "To Do" bin. Folders for each period/subject help to organize the papers in a way that students can easily find their work. Once the assignment is completed, the student puts it in the "Make-up Work To Grade" bin. This method reduces the chance of "missing or lost" papers as well as to avoid spending valuable class time getting absent students caught up.

Make-up Memo (submitted by Marsha Ratzel and Shelli DuPree)
My partner had a wonderful idea that I tried last year for makeup work. There was a pile of "makeup Memos"--half sheets of paper. Each table had a correspondent who was responsible for making up these memos each time someone was absent. The memo included the daily agenda, so the absentee knew what we had done in school. And the day's handouts were attached. That way they didn't need to ask me for copies. The correspondent also took classnotes on NCR paper, keeping one copy for themselves and attaching one copy for the absentee. Lastly if I had passed back graded papers or tests, the correspondent checked a "Graded Work Needs to Be Picked Up" box on the Makeup Memo. My district doesn't allow us to give graded work to anyone but the student. This box let them to come and get it from me and relieved me from chasing them around when they returned. I just kept a separate folder of stuff that needed to go back to kids who had been absent.

While You Were Out (submitted by Karen Stefl)
I use a "While You Were Out" board in my 7th grade science class room.  When a student misses class I take the papers for that days class and put the students name on them.  I then use a pushpin to put them on the "While you were out" board.  This way when students return to class they know where they can find the papers they need and I don't have to stop what I am doing to get the class going to find the information from last class.  I have a banner above the board so it stands out to the kids.

Class Helper (aka Teacher's Pet) ( Tracy (Trimpe) Tomm , Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
At the beginning of each year, I divide my different classes into 8 groups (2 to 3 per group depending on the size of the class. Helpers read the Daily Trivia question and collect answer slips, pass out and collect papers, assist absent students in getting missed notes and work, and act as lab assistants (materials, clean up, etc.) Helpers rotate on a at the start of a quarter and midterm (we have four quarters). Students are rewarded with a coupon for 5 extra credit points. Being a class helper allows every child the chance to be "Teacher's Pet" and has been a big hit with substitute teachers!

Seating Charts & More (Tracy (Trimpe) Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
At the beginning of each year, I create a packet of information that includes class schedules, class rules, and a list of important items and where each is located. I print the Sub Notes pages on 5x8 index cards and use a metal ring, similar to those used in 3-ring binders, to hold them together along with the seating chart for each class (also printed on index cards.) When it is time for a sub, I've got a lot of the prep work done! Several teachers in our school prepare a special Sub Folder filled with the same information.

Post-It Notes & Seating Charts (submitted by Rene Buchanan, Dale Junior High, Anaheim, California)
For a seating chart I use a blank classroom template of the student's desks. I put each student's name on a post-it note and cut the post-it note to fit the box for each seat. Then, whenever I need to move a student's seat it's easy and quick to peel off the post-it and place it in the new position. Also, when a student has dropped a class or moved to a different class period I take the post-it and place it on a reminder card to move the student's grade information, materials, etc. to the new class or to take it out all together.

Seating Chart Tip (submitted by Bonnie Coldiron, Willis Jepson Middle School, Vacaville CA)
My seating charts are in sheet protectors. I can write on the sheet protectors with the via vis pens and then erase it later. This is great for the assignments that I only need to check to see if they completed it. Its great for writing quick comments on and it saves paper.

Fillers Folder (Tracy (Trimpe) Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
During my first year teaching, I started a folder of quick activities, such as worksheets, puzzle pages, and discussion questions that could be used to fill extra time. As I find new ideas on the Internet (TeachNet Take 5, Squigly's Playhouse) or in a book, I make a copy and slip it into the folder. I also make sure I leave a note for my subs so they can grab an activity or two if needed. Visit the Sub Station at Education World for some great ideas to get you started!
ALSO AVAILABLE ....
Science Bingo (pdf) - Includes a description of my version of bingo that I use for review as well as a blank bingo card you can use for any topic!

Pick-A-Project (submitted by Lisa Berry-Koeppen, Rogers Jr High)
I think this would be a wonderful addition to anyone's file cabinet. Download the Plate Tectonics Assignments (pdf) worksheet for various ideas that you can let children choose from to show their talents and understandings of specific ideas/concepts. The sample provides ideas for plate tectonics but it is easy to change and personalize. Provide students with simple rubrics for each project and have them self evaluate as well as evaluate in a group of 3. The first set of projects I received were so-so but from then on they were spectacular. I hope you find it to be the same. Enjoy the creativity of your students.
Other ideas from Lisa in Word document format ... Chemistry and Earth Science games

Think Tank (Tracy (Trimpe) Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
One corner of my room is called the "Think Tank" and is filled with a wooden marble maze, matching puzzles, wooden peg puzzles, cool science toys, and an assortment of books. If my students finish an assignment or lab early, I allow them to work on something from the Think Tank. For those puzzles that have a solution, I place the pieces into ziploc bags and provide an index card. Students who complete the puzzle correctly are able to write their names on the card. Each year I have several students who try to get their name on every card.

Going, Going, Gone! - A great idea for problems with late or "lost" papers! (submitted by John Brishcar)
When you collect papers in a class, staple them together with a "going, going, GONE" for the latecomers. Any paper after the staple is LATE. Then you have all the class papers in one place, in one pile. For 5 classes of 25, you have only 5 things to worry about - not 125! Have the kids do Name, date and Period on every paper in the upper right so that the staple doesn't cover the name when you staple the pile. You can have students put the papers in alphabetical order later - and then restaple them. Your kids will see that there's no "I handed it in and you lost it" going on. Same with tests, quizzes and the rest.

Study Packets (submitted by John Brishcar)
After a chapter, I make a cover sheet for the test which lists all the papers that were used to learn the material. The sheet says "TEST ON FRIDAY" (or whatever day) and a day or so before the test we put all the papers in the correct order and staple them to the cover sheet. This way the kids have a study packet, their folders and binders are cleared out and they can actually study instead of look for papers at home. This study package is the admission ticket to the test. Before I collect the test, the kids staple the test on top of the study package. A poor grade means that the entire packet goes home for signature. This is embarrassing when much of the work is missing or incomplete and a low test score was made on the test. Collect the test/study packet and place in the student's own folder - (Color code them with crayons) and kept in the classroom. When you need to chat with a parent, just grab the folder and all tests, homework and quizzes are there! The key is to combine work into chunks.

Amazing Binder (submitted by Judi Flaherty, Quincy, MA)
At the beginning of the year, in the letter I sent home to parents, I explained that each child would need a 2" 3-ring binder, with at least 5 dividers and some lined paper. This binder must be exclusively for science and would become their "Amazing Binder." By the end of the year, it would contain every piece of paper from the class. For quizzes, and for the cumulative final exam, they are allowed to use their Amazing Binders. It worked quite well for many of the students, and throughout the year I encouraged each child to develop a system that would work for her. These binders became amazing works of art and scholarship. They took great pride in identifying and decorating the covers and dividers, and everyone in school came to know that Science stuff was kept in an AMAZING Binder!

About once a quarter, I'd devote a class to Binder Fixup. The kids who had perfect, organized, amazing binders, enjoyed bringing in stamps and stickers and markers and hole reinforcers and dividers and helping the "binder-impaired" students achieve "amazing." This made a big difference and helped some kids who thought the process was hopeless in September get A's for binder checks in later quarters. One thing I learned halfway through the year is that parents must be warned NOT TO MESS WITH the binder. Some parents thought they were helping by cleaning out the "chaff," and when the cumulative final exam came their kids were at a disadvantage. The new teacher in me didn't realize that a year's worth of work wouldn't fit in one binder. So at the end of each quarter I told the kids what should be kept in the current binder and would could be moved into a folder to be saved. Some of these folders got lost at home, I think I'll keep them in the classroom this year.

Tame the Paper Monster (submitted by Cynthia West, Bowling Green, KY)
After 11 years of teaching 7th grade science and killing myself each night with a mountain of papers, I finally figured out how to tame the "Paper Monster". I teach in 10-14 day mini-units. Four years ago, I decided to put all the required lab sheets, practice pages, vocabulary activities, internet activities, etc into one mini-unit packet. At the beginning of the mini-unit I have a list of my essential questions (test questions) written on on easel and a due date/test date for the packet on the board. This packet has saved my students and myself many frustrating hours trying to find missing or lost individual papers. Everything is all together for the entire two weeks. I have had very few students lose their packets but if they do, they know that they must make their own copy in the school library AT THEIR OWN COST. Best thing about it, great study guide all in one place and you can spend more time planning fun activities instead of grading papers night after night.

NOTE from T. (Trimpe) Tomm:  I use a similar process, but do not put the packets together at the start of the unit. I have the kids keep all the papers from a unit stapled together as a "note packet". As we work through the unit, they staple new pages to the packet - sometimes right after we discuss the page or after they have been returned if it was a graded assignment. I post a blank copy of each worksheet on a side cabinet and number them to show the order to help the kids organize the pages. I collect the note packets on test day for a grade. Since many of the pages have already been graded, I just check to see if they are all there and the student put forth the effort required to complete the ungraded pages.

Organizing Papers (submitted by Kathleen Hamilton, Yakima, WA)
When preparing worksheets/ tests or any handout, I always clip the right hand corner.  The kids could be trained to always put them in the turn in box facing the same way but if they forget its so quick to organize all papers facing forward. No more of the organizing papers before grading.  I also hand out 2 versions of a test:  "A" tests have the right top corner clipped.  "B" tests have upper right and lower left.  You can quickly see if some are in the wrong stack.

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Parent Involvement

Parent/Grandparent Days (Tracy (Trimpe) Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
Several times throughout the year, parents and grandparents are invited to join their child for science class. No matter the topic, visitors enjoy experiencing a day in her 7th grade classroom. Students enjoy having their parents/grandparents visit especially when they receive homework assignments!

Student Evaluations for Parent/Teacher Conferences (Tracy (Trimpe) Tomm and Patti Downs, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
To prepare for parent/teacher conferences, students complete an evaluation of their performance and analyze their grade reports. This method provides parents with helpful insights of their child's performance and highlights the areas that need improved.
Download the worksheet - Personal Evaluation worksheet (pdf)

Duck O'Grams (Tracy (Trimpe) Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
Larry Bequeaith, a former principal at Havana Junior High, developed Duck-O-Grams based on the school's mascot. Duck-O-Gram postcards allow teachers a quick and easy means to keep parents informed of their students progress and achievements. At the beginning of the year, students write their parent's name and address on two Duck-O-Gram postcards. When it is time to share good news, I write my note on the back and pop it in the mail. Parents love to receive good news from the school!

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Class Starters

Do Nows (submitted by Sarah Bynum, Atascadero Junior High in Atascadero, CA)
I start every day with a "Do Now" on the board so my students can look to see what they should do with the first few minutes of class. I have do nows like.. "Read the instructions for today's lab and start your prelab." or "Get out your homework and check to make sure you know all the steps of the scientific method." or "Spend 5 minutes studying with your lab partners for today's quiz."

Make The Connection (submitted by Judi Flaherty, Quincy, MA)
This is something I did last year which is similar to the "do now" idea. Every day there was something written in the "extra credit corner" which was about an 10" square at the top right of the white board. The task was to write 2-5 sentences defining or explaining what was written AND explain why this thing would be of interest to a SCIENCE teacher. It was fun to choose things for which the science connection would be a stretch for an 11-14 year old. Many were people, Mary McCloud Bethune and Sojourner Truth during Black history month, Basho during poetry month. Some others were "trash removal from the space station", pachyderm, osmosis, anorexia, malacology, and "who were the Anasazi people?" One day a week it was a concept or vocabulary word directly from a class (physical science, say) which made it a "gimme" for one group of kids and something they could share (or withhold) from other classes. Some students enjoyed choosing the topic or writing the question. They got extra, extra credit because in order to put up the extra credit question they first had to convince me they could effectively grade the responses. The end result over all was that many of the kids looked forward to it, and it served some of the kids who don't always excel by giving them successes they enjoyed and a few extra points.

Daily Science Trivia (Tracy (Trimpe) Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
Each class period begins with a Daily Science Trivia question. My classroom helpers read the question and collect the answer slips while I take attendance and check with students who have been absent. For more details, visit the Daily Science Trivia area of this site!
NOTE:  I now use the Science Starters as my class warm-up activity each day. 

Daily Warm-Ups (submitted by Sharon Tatum, Cypress, Texas)
For my daily warm-ups, I use the format outlined below. I also use them one or two times a grading period to give a quick quiz. I give enough information to "guide" the students back through their journals to locate answers. It really shows them the importance of keeping neat and accurate information in their journals.

M- Happy Birthday to a scientist-giving name, birthday and short description of what he/she was noted for.
T- We try to reinforce skills needed by all students for our state assessment in all areas -We concentrate on graphing.
W- I ask a question about the current unit -to include objectives and/or vocabulary.
Th- Another skills day wherein the students are working on graphs - either reading, completing or creating their own.
F- Red Herring- This book can be purchased at your teacher supply store or you may have to request it. It's a fun way to work on science objectives as well as get the students into thinking.

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Words of Wisdom for New Teachers

Friendly Advice (submitted by Cheryl Robertson, Knoxville, TN)
My number one piece of advice to new teachers is to get to know not only fellow teachers, but the school secretaries and custodians as well. Many times those are the people who you go to in order to get things taken care of, and it is much easier if you know them. They are truly a teacher's best friend!

Find A Friend (Tracy (Trimpe) Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
During my first year, I was lucky enough to find several people in my building who were willing to help me learn the ropes. I met most of these people during the weeks before school started as I tried to get my room ready for my first year. It was great to walk into that first meeting of the year and know some friendly faces! Take a day or two to work in your school building before school starts and meet some of the people who work in your building. Next year, take the initiative and seek out the new teachers in your building!

Make A Plan (Tracy (Trimpe) Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
Before the first day, make a list of all the activities and lessons you'd like to do the first week of school as well as a list of things you need to do. Staple the list to the front of a file folder and organize copies of worksheets inside as well as a few quick time fillers, such as discussion questions, puzzles, and fun worksheets. As you complete each activity, use a post-it note to jot down ideas for the next year. Even after 17 years of teaching, I still prepare my "first week folder" to help me get the year off to a good start!

Get Organized (submitted by Sarah Rightmer, Marshall Junior High, Marshall, Texas)
All manila folders look the same, and one years files flow into the next. I started investing in a box of colored file folders at the beginning of each school year. Last year I only used blue, this year I will use a different color. I know without even opening the folder how long it has been since I used it, or where to start looking for something based on how long it has many years it has been since I used it. This may sound simple, but it has really helped me in my organization skills in the classroom.

Stock Up on Post-its (Tracy (Trimpe) Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
I use three-ring binders to organize all the worksheets and other info for each unit. After completing a lesson or lab, I stick the lesson worksheets (master and answer key) back in the binder along with a post-it with notes as to how the lesson worked, how much time it took, and changes that need to be made for the following year. During the summer (or when I find some free time), I review my "posts" and make any necessary changes. Since all the units are already organized, any new material or ideas I find can easily be added.

Great Sites for New Teachers:

Don't miss the New Teacher Community at TeacherVision! Lots of great ideas, printables, links, and tips!

A to Z Teacher Tips - This site provides over 150 ideas for new teachers organized by topic.
Beginning Teacher's Tool Box - This site provides an assortment of great ideas for your first year!
Teachers Helping Teachers - Inspiring ideas on classroom management, grades, and more to help you get your year off to a great start!
Yes! I Teach - This site from the Florida Education Association provides lots of great tips, lessons, and other ideas for new teachers.

 

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Birthday Ideas & Holiday Activities

Christmas Cookie Mystery (Tracy (Trimpe) Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
An annual favorite, Christmas Cookie Caper, challenges my students to use their scientific skills to solve this mystery. For a description and worksheet, visit the Chemistry Lesson Page in the Science Classroom.

Birthday Celebrations (submitted by Jo Crow, 2001 Illinois Teacher of the Year, Metamora, IL)
In Mrs. Crow's classes, homeroom students celebrate their birthdays during two celebrations. A birthday party is scheduled before Christmas break for those students with birthdays between August 1st - January 31st. Another celebration is scheduled at the end of the school year for those students with birthdays between February 1st and July 31st.

Birthday Tie (submitted by Marisa Fisher, Highlander Way Middle School, Howell, MI)
I wanted to share how my homeroom celebrates birthdays.  This has worked with both sixth grade and seventh grade classes.  At the beginning of the year I bring in the tackiest tie I can find.  Students can then bring in pins, patches, etc. that are school appropriate to add to the tie.  This tie then becomes our homeroom's birthday tie.  When it is a student's birthday, he or she gets to wear the birthday tie to all of his or her classes.   We also have a birthday chant that we all sing to celebrate.

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Miscellaneous

Open House Tips (Tracy (Trimpe) Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
To prepare for Open House each Spring, I give each student a file folder at the beginning of the year. Throughout the year, students add their favorite lesson worksheets, grade A papers, and anything else they want to keep. The folders are stored in small file boxes in a corner of the room. During Open House, students can share a year's worth of fun with their guests. Not only do parents enjoy seeing their child's work, the folder provides me with a record of each students' progress.

Review Game (submitted by Gena Sommer, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
Through the use of a McDonald's Happy Meal toy (Zach - a stuffed animal), Mrs. Sommer brings a little fun to her review days. During this activity, students are "chosen" to answer review questions by catching Zach. As the critter is tossed around the room, everyone has a little fun while preparing for the next exam.

Junk Drive (submitted by Tracy (Trimpe) Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
Each year I send a note home with my students asking for junk, such as shoe boxes, plastic containers, film canisters, CDs, plastic bottles, and other junk that I can use in my classroom. Shoe boxes or large plastic containers make great containers for lab materials. I pack all the supplies needed for one group of students for a lab. When it comes time for the lab, all I have to do is pull out those boxes and everything is ready to go. Once they are done with the lab, the students are responsible for restocking the boxes and putting them away. Film canisters are great for holding all kinds of little items as well as for labs. I use them for masses for the metric unit or to hold paperclips, toothpicks, or pennies for labs. If I am running short on something, such as plastic bottles, I offer a treat (Jolly Ranchers, pencils, etc.) for each bottle brought in. I place a large box outside my room for junk and it is always overflowing with materials!

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