Giving Notes Effectively in Middle School

The single best piece of advice on giving notes to MS students. It’s SO SIMPLE, but took me YEARS of teaching to realize. Try it out and be amazed at the difference in student retention.

Let me tell the single biggest, most useful, piece of advice I have about giving notes to Middle School students after over a decade of teaching them… lather, rinse, repeat.
I love using PowerPoint and fill-in the blank notes to introduce new topics. It allows me to give an overview. It hits those A-type students who like order. It gets to those auditory learners. I can tell stories, build associations between ideas, etc. Awesome.
YOU NEED SOME FOLLOW UP. And I DON’T mean activities and labs (YES, those are absolutely necessary. But I’m talking about something else here.) For the love of everything learning and those little developing brains that are like sponges. They NEEEED repetition. (Well, most of them anyway).
Here is an example…
New Unit:
Day 1: Give notes, tell stories, build foundation, etc.
Day 2: Take first 5-8 minutes of class. Go through PPT again (without notes, just student brains). Ask questions that review basic knowledge level information and revisit associations you made yesterday. (Do activities, extension, lab, or something…)
Day 3: (Lab or activity) Take first (or last) 3-5 minutes of class. Go through PPT again. Re-ask same questions (different students will have picked up on answers). Add some higher level thinking questions, asking students to relate knowledge level information to activity you did today, or yesterday.
Day 4: Sometimes I skip a day, particularly if I have a longer lab activity I want to do.
Day 5: Before introducing new section of the chapter, make one more run through.
(A week or two later, once you’ve been through all 2-4 sections of the chapter).
Review Days: Go through yet AGAIN, before you begin reviewing. Maybe have a student “teach” the PPT.
This is GOOD TEACHING. It also gives extended uses of that PPT you spent an hour making. Students LOVE to be able to demonstrate what they’ve learned. They LOVE knowing the answer. Be a good teacher. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Enjoy teaching again.

Crosscutting Concepts

Check out these ideas to help implement the CCC of the NGSS.

I gotta say, I don’t really like the next gen standards. I mean, really?!! The only part I can really wrap my brain around right now are the crosscutting concepts. Whether you point them out (the fact that you teach them) or not, I have to believe that a good teacher teaches these things anyway… because that’s what science is. But alright, the powers that be have given us yet another thing to do in addition to the already very full job. So being the positive chickadee that I am, I will find a way to make this fun.

I have 2 ideas pertaining to CCCs.

Idea #1: Interactive bulletin board: So I loooove the honeycomb pattern. Sue me. It’s so versatile. You can arrange any which way you want, and it SO lends itself to seeing how relationships exist among things. Pretty much ANY thing. Put it along the top of your classroom, a bulletin board, narrow cabinet doors, whatever. So I went and bought some AMAZE-BALLS clip art from NGSS Nerd, you can find it HERE. She’s amazing, btw.

img_02411Seriously, can you IMAGINE the possibilities with this one? You can have a separate part of the room for EACH crosscutting concept! You can be adding on to these ALL YEAR LONG. You can check these bad boys out in my store right HERE.

Idea #2: T-shirt, baby. Yes, you CAN get sharpie marker to set in cotton and not bleed. There are some tricks, though. First, create your shirt. Use permanent sharpie markers and 100% cotton shirts. Once complete, iron on the highest setting the shirt allows. Allow shirt to cool. Soak shirt in very cold salt water solution. I leave mine overnight, just to be sure. Wash it by hand first, cold water always. After that, you can wash it in cold water with other laundry. If you add one drawing per chapter, students will leave school at the end of the year with a super cool science shirt! So fun!




I hope you can use these ideas as you go about implementing the Next Gen Science Standards.

Enjoy teaching again!!!



Super Secondary Science Giveaway!

Are you ready to have the most fantabulous school year ever?
I’ve got THE best way to start… FREE STUFF.
I am, essentially, the new kid on the block! This summer I had the privilege of getting to know the most creative, encouraging, hands-down amazing bunch of secondary science sellers from TpT. And get this! They are letting me team up with them for a give-away! I could not be more humbled to be part of such a talented group of educators.
group giveaway image with logos-01 (1).jpg
We are giving away FOUR $100 TeachersPayTeachers gift cards that you can use to save a lot of time and get some awesome resources for your classroom.
It’s going to take about 5-10 minutes to hop from blog to blog and collect all of our secret words. They form a secret sentence. (Ha! How creative! Only Mrs. Lau could be so cool.)
Once you have the sentence, go to any one of the Group Giveaway Rafflecopter boxes, on any one of our blog pages, and type in the secret sentence in the right order.
We will pick four winners after it ends after midnight on Friday August the 17th.
My Secret Word is #18: “Pasteur
Many of the other sellers are also offering individual giveaways on their blogs, so be sure to enter! All in all, there will be over $1000 worth of prizes given away this week!
Once you have collected all the words, click on the link below to go to enter them to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Click on the button below to hop on over to the other blogs to collect the words!

NGSS: The Basics

NGSS: From the beginning. For any science teacher who needs to start at the beginning and figure out how to adopt and execute each part of the NGSS.

NGSS the basics

This entry is written for all those who have not had the time of day to even glance at the NGSS, and don’t know where to start.

We’re aligning to Next Gen Standards.

Yikes. Enough to put you over.

With each overhaul in education, new buzzword, or new set of standards, it means one thing for educators: more work. More work for you! More work for YOU! More work for everyone!

Curriculum directors need only say “we’re adopting this, that, the other thing,” and if you’re lucky enough to have their full support, they help guide the way. Not everyone is so lucky.

So I began. Research. Read. Print. Repeat. For the first couple of hours, it feels like you’re spinning your wheels, and that’s without even beginning the daily lesson plans.

First I printed these… the actual standards. All I’ll need, right? Wrong. This is an overview. The top section breaks it down by grade and area of science. Awesome.


Standards are written like an encyclopedia, but I can extract key ideas for sure.

Then I’m looking at the bottom- what the heck are these things? The bottom of the pages are broken into three sections: Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts. They have designated colors: blue, orange, and green, respectively. (This now makes sense with the icon used for NGSS.) And if you’ve seen the acronyms SEP, DCI, and CCC everywhere, this is where they came from.

My next step was to look into each of these areas more in-depth, and how I can integrate each of them into my daily lesson planning. After very little digging (if we’re being honest here) these are the links I found to be MUCH more helpful than the initial standards that I printed.

For each of these links, click on the “download” button in the top right corner, this will give you the matrices and break everything down- nice and pretty and understandable.

Science and Engineering Practices

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Crosscutting Concepts


Now we’re getting somewhere. I have to admit, the Crosscutting Concepts intrigue me the most. These are very basic themes that each run either directly, or indirectly, throughout nearly every topic in science. Example: Cause and Effect. One aspect of this particular concept is to use the cause and effect relationship to make predictions about outcomes. At the high school level, it addresses creating a desired effect by altering the cause.

So now what? How do I ensure that I  am addressing the CCC or the SEP while teaching the DCI? (Look at me being all technical!)

Enter your email to follow my blog and take a dive into the NGSS with me (along with a bunch of other cool stuff)! I am going to be looking at concrete ways to adopt and execute each part of the NGSS, so we can master all three portions: the DCI, SEP, and CCC. I promise to take baby steps.

Enjoy teaching again!


Science Fair

Expert advise for teachers who want to rock at running Science Fair.

Science Fair Header
Science Fair is my jam. If there were a queen of Science Fair, it’d be me. Well, alright… at least in my county. I’d be queen of the County Science Fair.

In all seriousness, I’ve been involved (a little too much if you’d ask my family) for over a decade. I sponsor (like a boss), run my school fair, help other teachers, dominate the county, and take middle school students as far as the National level. About 5 years ago one of my students won the Iron Man Award (top 10 MS projects in the country) from Robert Downy, Jr. himself. Pretty cool stuff.

And no, I’m not some grumpy old person who has been involved forever. I’m the youngest (by multiple decades) person, hanging with a bunch of old folks at the fairs (ha!).

So how do I do it? Great question. Here I’ve made a top 10 list of how to kick the freaking crap out of Science Fair. Not only can it be done… but parents, administration, and students (YES!) will be thanking you. Every year, even before the competition, I have students who are brainstorming for the FOLLOWING year. (Crazy!)

So here we go, in no particular order, are my TOP 10 Tips for having a freakin’ awesome Science Fair experience.

1. MODEL: Keep old boards (and not just awesome ones, crappy ones too.) Pull them out. Do a demo presentation. And another. Do a crappy presentation. Ask students what they liked about the presentations. What didn’t they like? Students are Ah-May-Zing at pulling apart someone else’s work. Let them do it. Do this when you introduce Science Fair. Do it again when you introduce how to pull a board together. And again when you’re talking about how to present and talk to judges. You can’t over-do modeling. Don’t underestimate this tool. Don’t have boards yet? Use google images.

2. TIMING: You canNOT expect your students to do quality work without the time. There are multiple ways (and reasons) for building this into your school and homework schedule.
A) Space it out. I give students 4 1/2 months. They’re not always working. In fact, there are times I give them “2 weeks off! Don’t think about Science Fair for the next 2 weeks!” Schedule it out. You’re running a marathon, not a sprint. These are children, you need to set the pace. Spacing it out gives them time to let it sink in, rethink how to do the next portion, talk to others for advice, etc. So even when they’re on ‘break,’ there is still a lot of processing going on.
B) When you’re moving on to the next ‘part’ (whatever that happens to be), take a day (or two) of class and talk about it. Get out your SCIENCE FAIR GUIDE and read through the directions, look at examples, take questions, discuss in small groups, whatever your kids need.

3. ENCOURAGE: YOU are your students’ biggest cheerleader. If you think they can do it, they will believe they can… and they will. Kids are AMAZING. Get excited. If you’re excited about their project, they will be too. Check in with them as often as you can. Ask what they’re doing next. Where are they on the experiment? Who is taking pictures for them? Do they have any questions? The more importance you place on them and their project, the more they will follow through. The same goes for presenting to judges. Believe in your students. Tell them about how great they’re going to do. Be excited for them. Even if they don’t let on that they’re excited… they ARE. Building your relationship with your students through this experience will yield amazing results.

4. “THE MEETING“: I meet with every single student (and I sponsor 80-120/ year) individually to approve their project. We discuss idea, paperwork, research, experimentation, cost, locale, originality, possibilities, difficulty, category, etc. I fill in a contract that they need to get signed by a parent. They get a pep talk. I prep them for what to do next. This gives me a platform to build from with each project. It motivates the students. They feel important, capable, and empowered. Keep track of every student you meet with, recording their question and probable category. This will give you a list to work from to put together paperwork packets and begin making a program (if you’re doing a school fair). Once you’ve met with every student, put the typed list of categories and projects onto a projector and go over it with each class. Make everyone accountable. These steps will get your classes off on the right foot.

5. BE AVAILABLE: By email, before school, after school, during study hall, between classes. Middle school students need to have a relationship to be able to talk about their project, discuss their problems, and feel supported and encouraged. You get more back for that small amount of time than you can imagine. This is why you became a teacher. Go the extra mile. Be available.

6. GET PARENTS ON BOARD… AND KEEP THEM THERE: Every year I give a presentation immediately following back to school night. I go over what to expect, my role, the students’ role, and the parents’ role. I give parents a time line of due dates, their own copy of my Science Fair Guide, and a copy of the grading rubric. If you have a school system for posting homework assignments, post every time you’re moving on to a different portion of the project. After we’re done the research paper and experiment plan, I give a homework assignment where students are required to have a 5 minute conversation with a parent about who/what/when/where the experiment will take place. Students are required to bring in a note from their parent stating that they’ve discussed the experiment and what dates they put on their calendar. This help keeps parents in the loop and forces students to talk to their parents (ground breaking idea, I know). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been thanked for giving this assignment.

7. TALK IT OUT: Students need to practice talking it out. As much as middle school students love to talk, they’re not necessarily good at communicating. Form small groups often and have them practice just talking about their projects. What are they testing? How are they doing it? Have them question each other and practice explaining. Have each student give a formal class presentation and take questions at the end. Time it out so that this is one to two weeks before the first competition. This will get rid of their jitters and help them to see what they’re not explaining well.

8. MAKE IT FUN: I have multiple categories of awards for my school fair. And NO, not everyone gets a trophy. (I really dislike that). I do like to celebrate different accomplishments for students who deserve them, though. In my county, I can only bring 24 projects to the county fair. When you have over a hundred students completing projects… that can be a problem. That’s why we have a school fair, to select county participants. I have other awards, though. We have a best in show for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. There are category awards. Then I have “Special Awards.” Some of these are chosen by my board judges (two art teachers). They determine who gets the “Da Vinci Award”: For the best combination of art and science, the best 6th, 7th, and 8th grade board awards, and then some silly ones like “Pretty in Pink” if there happened to be a very pink board. This past year I added my very own category of special awards that got funny prizes. The purpose of these was to recognize aspects of student work that might otherwise not receive it. You can download these for free HERE.Science Fair Special Awards

9. RELATIONSHIPS COME FIRST: I’m realizing as I’m writing this that this should have maybe been #1. Middle school students are in DIRE need of positive, nurturing relationships (especially this day in age). BE THAT TEACHER. Science Fair is long and tiring. Recognize that and nurture your students. Talk to them about what’s going on and how you can help them. Meet them where they are OR you will get absolutely no where and your student will hate science and science fair. This is NOT why we became teachers. So check yourself. You can have high expectations, you can penalize late work, but for goodness sake, please remember that these are children. These are someone’s babies. These are precious gifts. Our goal here is to instill a love of learning and of science. To grow their minds. To encourage their hearts. Don’t forget to be a human being.

10. HAVE A PLAN: You need to be organized and have a plan… not just for your students, but for yourself. Anticipate times that may get stressful. Get help. Delegate. Every year I hostess 20-25 judges for a home cooked meal after judging. I get friends to come set up. I have a sign-up genius for parents to drop off the meal. I sign up other teachers to walk around during judging to help monitor the students. I have someone get the auditorium ready for awards. This is a big job. Do as much in advance as humanly possible. Make lists. If you’re a Mom like me, plan for a pizza night if you need to not make dinner.

IN CLOSING: I hope this list has been helpful. Science Fair is HUGE. It’s also immensely rewarding. The growth I’ve seen in students throughout Science Fair is just absolutely inspiring. THIS is why I became a teacher.

Do great things. Enjoy teaching again.

You can find my Science Fair Guide for parents and students, my grading rubric, my contract, and other documents HERE, and my free Special Awards HERE.

Don’t forget to add your email to my mailing list.

Happy teaching.

Free Stuff for Back to School

back to school free stuff blog post

It’s that time of year again! Time to head back to the classroom. Whether you’re a first year teacher, or heading back for the ump-teenth time, it’s always nice to have a few new items. This blog post is devoted to providing FREE back to school items for Middle School Science.

I’ve gone through a few of my favorite stores on TpT, and collected some of my favorite back to school freebies! (Because who doesn’t like free stuff?)

Personally, I like to refresh my classroom before getting class materials ready. It’s like getting the dishes done before sitting down to read a book… it just feels better.

Let’s start with a bulletin board. This one is from my TpT store. Be sure to check out my other great freebies while you’re there. I also have a collection of FREE Albert Einstein quote posters you might enjoy.
bulletin board cover

One of my favorite TpT-ers is Nitty Gritty Science. Her stuff is Ah-May-Zing! I love her free lab posters and her -ology poster set, both FREE!!!

Looking for something NEW to do on the first day of school? Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy (who you should TOTALLY visit if you teach Middle School Life Science) offer this free Scientific Method Cubing Activity.
scientific method cubing

Will you be using microscopes this year? Head over to Science with Mrs Lau (who is a genius, btw) for FREE Microscope Proper Use Posters. Getting Nerdy has your first Microscope Lab, free and ready to go!
microscope signage







Last but not least, if you’re a structured teacher, you can score some FREE EXIT TICKETS, which are awesome for formative assessment.
exit tickets

I hope this (my very first actual useful) blog entry has helped you out some! My goal here is to make your life easier, so that you can enjoy teaching again. After all, when we love what we do, the kids love it too.




Remember to enter your email address to get updates- You can do this at the footer of the page. Have a great day.


The Journey Begins


Welcome! My name is Lisa, and I am the Crazy Science Lady. The name Crazy Science Lady was given to me by the elementary students I visit to do science labs.

I have taught middle school science for 10 years, directed Science Fair, and choreographed musicals. In addition to creating quality science curriculum, I enjoy photography, cooking, and the outdoors.

My husband and I have three children. We all live in a cabin in the woods (that we built ourselves.) We have 3 dogs, 2 bee hives, 1 cat, and about 20 chickens. As a family we enjoy hiking, kayaking, and visiting state and national parks.

Join me as I embark on the task of collecting the best practices of middle school science teaching. I do hope you’ll come back and visit!

My husband, Zeke, and I at Homosassa Wildlife State Park in Florida.