This is part of a Link-up, September Link-up: Fave Start-of-Year Activities. September fave start of year activitiesFor more Link-ups search Categories “Linking Up.”

The last year I was in the classroom was 2008-2009. The last three years I was in the classroom I taught Earth Science to sixth graders. Loved the content, found the edge of how young I should go…. These students were new to Middle School and maybe that was the “newness” which complicated my students behavior. They also were not teamed, which was heartbreaking or bolstering – and it varied student by student as those things often do.

The advantage I had was that these students rarely had a science teacher, and almost to the student, did NOT have the same amount of time for science as they other subjects until they met me. Science is discovery and exciting and I had that going for me. Believe it or not, that trumps being confronted with learning how to use a locker, honest.

I needed to get my kids into the “lab” as soon as possible. The first day was about lab rules, expectations, and then getting that Lab Safety Contract signed by the student and parent. In fact, as soon as a student gave me that signed paper I sent them to the lab area to complete a getting to know the lab activity. In front of the others who are used to a teacher waiting until everyone has turned it in before moving on; let’s watch those kids “play” with science equipment while you sit and think about when you can get that Safety Lab Contract signed. I had 99% by the second day, welcome to Middle School!

Day One: I reviewed this document with them:

How is Middel School Science Different than Elementary School Science?

I was still using an overhead projector back then and we would fill this in together in class.

Homework: take this to their parents AND I would also handout the Lab Safety Contract for signatures.

Day Two: Draw-a-Scientist Test

Any students who had a signed Lab Safety Contract to turn in may start through the “Get to Know the Lab” Activity.

Any students who do not have a signed Lab Safety Contract started working on Safety Symbols worksheets. This was sometimes 5ish students per class period.

Day Three: Read Science Verse to class.

Any students who had a signed Lab Safety Contract to turn in may start/complete the “Get to Know the Lab” Activity.

Any students who do not have a signed Lab Safety Contract, usually only 1 or 2 the second day, we call/message/email a parent.

Once I had more than 5 and then we addressed envelopes and sent the papers still needing to be signed home via the USPS.

The first unit consisted of:

  • Lab Safety Contract
  • “Get to Know the Lab” Activity (I usually had to customize this to what was available – I put out usage information for each tool and gave directions how to use, clean, and what to measure with the tool)
  • Group Lab Safety Posters (similar to what I used to do)
  • Lab Safety Quiz (similar to what I used to do)

Then I would move into the second unit measurement:

Cornell Notes: Measurement teacher key, student versionMeasure around the Room for a grade.

Then we would work through lab exercises which familiarized us with laboratory tools.

And wrap up the Start-of School units with a (much less exciting) unit on how to organize/keep your notebook/Table of Contents.

I would love to take another crack at Earth Science with all the digital resources available now-a-days!