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Monday, February 28, 2011

A new term

Today was the start of a brand new trimester at my school.  We are no longer on the tradition semester system;  we are on a trimester system.  So today I started Biology I with 23 brand new students who need the second semester of Biology.  Only I don't have a semester to teach them in;  I only have a 12 week trimester to teach a semester worth of work.  Confused?  So are we.  Each class period is 15 minutes longer, but we see the students for only 12 weeks.  It is a daily challenge to figure out how to teach so much material in such a short period of time.

We started genetics today.  These are 23 students who don't know me or anything about the way I teach.  I introduced genetics with some information about one of my Biology heroes, Gregor Mendel, and then we were off to the lab.   Taking the students to the lab on the first day of class??  YES!  I wanted these new students to know that my class will be fun and interesting.

We didn't do anything earth shattering.  We just planted some corn seeds for my "Heredity or Environment" lab.  These are high school students, and do you know how many of them had never planted a seed??  Most of them were so excited, and are anxious to see how they will grow.  In a week or so, we will count the number of albino stems versus green stems to see if our observed ratios are close to the expected ratios.

Here is a link to the lab:  The Effect of the Environment on Gene Expression

Saturday, February 26, 2011


If you have taught AP (Advanced Placement) Biology, then you know that the amount of material that must be covered before the exam is daunting.  I have had great success with my AP exam scores.  I normally have between 60 to 80 students take the exam each year.  Currently, I am averaging 76% of my students earning a 4 or 5.  That is way above the national average!

We have to convince our students that they must review, review, review before the exam.  I have written a set of powerpoints that I use for review.  They are not teaching powerpoints.  These are just slide after slide of question and answer.  The students are not going to remember every little detail, so I try to make sure that they are solid on the basic facts.

I am in the process of listing all of these review powerpoints in my store on  I have listed one for free.  I hope that you will check it out.

AP Review: Carbon and Organic Compounds ---- It's FREE!!

Best Deal!

I just listed a new product on  I have put together an entire biology unit on a CD. This unit contains 10 - 15 days of materials depending on how many lab activities you want to do. The title of this unit is "Viruses and Bacteria". This unit has everything that a Biology teacher needs to teach a unit on viruses and bacteria to Biology I students. This unit is also very appropriate for middle school students. You will receive:
1) A 58 slide Powerpoint Presentation
2) Teacher Notes
3) Student Notes to be filled in as the powerpoint is presented
4) 2 Homework Assignments
5) 2 Quizzes
6) 4 Labs / Activities
7) 2 Jeopardy Review Games
8) 2 Crossword Puzzles
9) 1 Unit Test

All answers are included. There are 14 products on the CD. These are also sold separately. (If you bought them individually the total cost would be $30.24. You save money by getting them all on one CD.)

Viruses and Bacteria CD

Friday, February 25, 2011

Fun Review Game!

We have just finished our unit on bacteria and viruses.  I wrote two Powerpoint Jeopardy review games to play in class today.  The kids had a great time with this.  They paid far greater attention to the review than they normally would.  I am expecting great test grades as a result!  Have a great week end!

Bacteria Powerpoint Jeopardy Reveiw Game

Viruses Powerpoint Jeopardy Review Game

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Don't miss the Thursday Round-Up!

Don't forget that a group of teachers from have come together to form the Thursday Round-Up.  Each of us has an item on sale through Saturday night.  My item on sale goes right along with the Bacteria lab in the last post:
Bacteria and Viruses Powerpoint with Notes for Teacher and Student

To see all the other sale items click here:
Thursday Round Up

The results are in!

My biology I students have completed their lab on "The Effects of Antiseptics and Disinfectants on Bacteria Growth".  The results turned out great and the students had a great time growing the bacteria.  Many were very surprised by the results of the lab!

Soil samples were used as a source of bacteria.  The bacteria living in the soil are less likely to be human pathogens.  Nonetheless, if you do this lab, be sure to have the students securely tape up each dish after the dish has been inoculated with the soil sample.  After the bacteria have begun to grow, I do not allow the students to open the Petri dish.

These photos show the results of the lab.  Dishes were incubated for just 24 hours at a temperature of 30 degrees Celsius.  An amazing amount of growth will occur in just 24 hours.  Descriptions of each dish are found below the photograph.

I used a hole punch to make filter paper disks.  The disks were then dipped into different solutions of antiseptics and disinfectants.  You can see the filter paper disk on each side of the Petri dish in the above photo.  In this dish, two disinfectants were tested.  The disinfectant on the right did an excellent job in inhibiting the growth of the bacteria.  Notice the large zone of inhibition around the filter paper disk.  This disinfectant was Palmolive Antibacterial dishwashing detergent.  The disinfectant used on the left was Lysol.  There is only a small zone of inhibition around the Lysol disk.

In this Petri dish two antiseptics were tested.  The filter paper disk on the right had the larger zone of inhibition.  This antiseptic was Bactine.  The antiseptic tested on the right was Triple Antibiotic Ointment.

This was the control dish.  The filter paper disks were dipped into distilled water only.  Notice that there is no zone of inhibition around either disk.

I hope that you will give this lab a try.  It is so much fun for students to grow bacteria.  Here is the link to this lab in my store on

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lab is going great!

We set up the bacteria lab today.  We inoculated each dish with soil bacteria.  Each student had three Petri dishes of agar.  In one dish, we tested two disinfectants:  Lysol and Palmolive Antibacterial dishwashing detergent.  In the second dish, we tested two antiseptics:  Bactine and Triple Antibiotic Ointment.  The third dish is the control.  It was inoculated with soil bacteria, but received no further treatment.  We will check for "zones of inhibition" tomorrow.  The link to this lab is posted in the previous post.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bacteria for Biology I

I am teaching a standard Biology I class this year.  I have not taught biology I in about 21 years.  We have just finished a unit on Viruses and Bacteria.  The students were receptive and learned a lot, I think.  We are going to try a lab on Tuesday that I hope will work out okay.  I have used this lab before with my upper level students and it worked great.  I hope my Biology I students will like it as well.

The Effect of Antiseptics and Disinfectants on Bacterial Growth

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thursday Round-Up!!

Well, it's Thursday again.  That means it's time for the Thursday Round again on the blog that I love called Teacher 2 Teacher .  This blog is written by a group of awesome educators.  All of them (including me) put one of our items on sale in the Thursday Round -Up.  It covers all subject areas and all grade levels.  These items are on sale through Saturday night.  I hope that you will check it out!

The product that I have on sale through Saturday night is here:  "Let's Learn to Use and Build a Dichotomous Key"

Have a great day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

This teacher got "schooled"!

In my 28 years of teaching high school students, I have spent the last twenty years teaching only the "cream of the crop".  Only students who take Honors Chemistry or Advanced Placement (AP) Biology walk through my doors.  Or so I thought until this school year.

Roll back to last summer.  It is two weeks before school is to begin.  The "letter" arrives from my school to let us know what we will be teaching and what day/time to report for teacher inservice.  I open my letter with the usual "I already know what this is going to say" attitude.  BAM!  In addition to the honors courses I always teach, I'll be teaching a........standard Biology I class!

Our school went to a new schedule this year, requiring most every teacher to pick up an additional class.  After a time of pouting and griping, I started planning fast and furiously.  I had no lesson plans, no materials already prepared and waiting in a filing cabinet;  I had nothing.  I spent the next two weeks preparing the first unit.  I prepared a powerpoint, notes, labs, quizzes, tests, worksheets, and homework assignments.  The first day arrived and I was ready.

The Biology I students walked into my room with great trepidation.  They knew my reputation around school.  I was the teacher that teaches all the smart kids.  They were scared as they walked into my room, and little did they know, I was just as scared to have them walk into my room.  I called roll, passed out textbooks, and started teaching.  My powerpoint "Introduction to Biology" was an immediate hit.  It was packed with cool pictures and the students got so excited!  They started firing questions at me and before I knew it, the class was over.  As the students filed out, a young lady came up to me and said, "Ain't nobody ever taught us like that before.", and she gave me a bear hug.  I cried.

I don't know how much the students learned that first day, but I learned the biggest lesson of my life.  All students deserve the very best we can give them.  All students have the capacity to learn.  All students need a teacher who is willing to work double time and triple time to teach them.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten this.  This has been the best teaching year of my life.  I have absolutely loved teaching my standard Biology I class, and have already asked my principal to let me teach it again next year.  I have re-discovered the joy of teaching.  This teacher got "schooled" !

Here is a link to that very first powerpoint:  Introduction to Biology Powerpoint and Notes

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Thursday Round-Up!

Once again, school is out for snow.  So let me take this opportunity to tell you about a blog called Teacher 2 Teacher.  An amazing group of educators (who also sell their products on have come together to write their stories about teaching and the state of education.  It is a very diverse group of people covering all grade levels and all subject areas.

Each Thursday, you will find the "Thursday Round Up!"  The round-up features 20 super products that are currently on sale through the TeachersPayTeachers website.  I hope you will check it out;  the educators you will read about there are truly amazing teachers.

Of course, one of my own products is listed in the "Thursday Round Up" today.  It is a 55 slide powerpoint on mitosis, meiosis and cell division.  It comes with a set of notes for the teacher, and an outline of notes for the student.  Students will fill in their outline as the lesson is being presented through the powerpoint.  Check it out here:  Mitosis and Meiosis Powerpoint With Teacher and Student Notes

Monday, February 7, 2011

Arrrgg! It's snowing again!

I stayed up late last night.  I had to.  I am essentially a new teacher all over again.  I am teaching a Biology I class for the first time in 21 years.  I have been teaching AP Biology and Honors Chemistry for many years, and so it has been 21 years since I last taught a standard Biology I class.  21 years ago we didn't have computers;  I have no materials "saved" to a hard drive (except the hard drive in my brain);  I have nothing to whip out of a filing cabinet to use with these kids.  I am a first year teacher all over again.

I grumpily entered the school year.  I didn't want to teach Biology I!  I didn't want to start preparing materials from scratch all over again!  It turns out that the year has not been nearly as bad as I thought it would.  In fact, I have discovered that I love these standard kids!  But I digress, and that is a topic for another post.

I stayed up really late last night.  Today (Monday) I was to start a unit on Viruses and Bacteria.  I had to finish up the amazing powerpoint and notes that I was preparing for my students.  I discovered early in the year that these kids love a good powerpoint.  The more pictures I can pack into them,  the better.  And since this is a Biology class, there are some great pictures out there!

I put the finishing touches on the powerpoint at 1 am and head to bed.  Rise and shine at 5 am and head off to school by 6 am.   Stand in line at the copying machine to make copies of the student version of the notes.   Now I am ready to wow them with viruses and bacteria!

The snow begins.  We live in the south so this is a really big deal.  One inch of snow puts us out of commission for days!  Kids are eagerly eyeing the windows all morning long.  My Biology I class meets at 11:30, and then comes the announcement!!  School will be dismissed!  A cheer goes up!

My powerpoint will have to wait until Tuesday unless, of course, there is a single snowflake left somewhere that causes schools to be closed.  I have posted my powerpoint on Viruses and Bacteria in my Teachers Pay Teachers store if you want to check it out.  Here is the link:
Viruses and Bacteria Powerpoint with Teacher and Student Notes

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I Love

Each Sunday, a newsletter is sent out from  I am honored to have one of my products in the newsletter this week.  It is a lab on enzymes and it is perfect for both high school biology and middle school science.  It does not require any fancy lab equipment, it works every time, and best of all..... You can download it for free!
FREE Catalase (Enzyme) lab

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Ramblings of a Veteran Teacher

Just recently I learned what a "blog" is.  I had heard the word bounced around from time to time, but just pretty much ignored it because it didn't seem like something that was worth my time.  I am a newcomer to facebook as well.  My teenage daughter, mustering all the patience she possibly could, showed me how to set up my facebook page.  She can't imagine life without facebook;  I can't imagine life with facebook.  She doesn't have a blog, but it only took her about 5 minutes to teach me how to set up my blog.  You gotta love the way kids jump right in to any new technology and completely master it in minutes.  If only it were so easy to teach them biology and chemistry!!

So what does this veteran teacher have to blog about?    LOTS!

I have a wealth of wonderful, fun and exciting ways to teach biology and chemistry.  I can look at a potential lab and immediately know which parts of it will work and which parts are best re-written.  I have labs, worksheets, powerpoints, videos, projects, a deep knowledge of my subject.....but most of all, I have a love for kids, and I am a science nerd.  I want my students to learn a lot of biology, but more important than that, I want my students to learn to LOVE biology.  It is just the neatest subject in the world!!  I want to instill in my students the same excitement for biology and chemistry that I have.

What will be the purpose of this blog?  I have things to share.  I have great ideas.  I have wonderful teaching strategies.  I have failures.  I have stress.  I have students who love biology so much they become scientists.  I have students who hate it so much they never take another science class.  My plan is to use this space to share the good times and the bad.  So let's begin.....

Here is a link to a worksheet that I just put together for my standard level Biology I class.  The worksheet provides practice on working simple monohybrid genetics problems.  I have just learned that even my high school students love clip art!  They found this worksheet fun.  I found that it did a great job reinforcing simple genetics concepts.  You can download the worksheet for free by clicking on this link:   Monohybrid Mice!