‘Twas the Night Before Break

Twas the night before break, in the science class.empty classroom

Excitement was brewing, a feeling so vast.

The students were restless, with minds all astray,

Anticipating the freedom, the end of the day.


In the classroom, the buzz was very loud,

As they wrapped up the year, the teacher felt proud.

The whiteboard adorned with equations so grand,

Lessons taught, experiments planned.


The periodic table stood proud on the wall,

Elements and compounds, they knew them all.

From atoms to galaxies, they journeyed through space,

Exploring the wonders, at an electrifying pace.


But on this last eve, nostalgia took hold.

Emotions ran deep, memories untold.

The teacher looked back, reflecting with grace,

On the journey they’ve shared, the challenges they faced.


The classroom, a canvas, where dreams took flight,

Imagination sparked, like stars in the night.

They nurtured young minds, kindling a flame,

Igniting a passion for science’s noble aim.


As the final bell chimed, marking the end,

A bittersweet feeling, a message to send.

For in this farewell, a new chapter begins,

As the students move forward, their future wins.


So they bid adieu, with hearts full and bright,

Knowing they’ve made a difference, with all their might.

Twas the night before break, a poignant scene,

As the science classroom rests, awaiting the next dream.

Enjoy your well deserved break, Teachers. You’ve made a difference this year.

Try a set of Free Boom Cards!

Are Boom cards appropriate for middle schoolers?

I first tried Boom Cards in my middle school science classroom during the pandemic. We were teaching via Zoom (ugh – I hate to even think of those days!) and I was struggling with engagement (weren’t we all?). I remember asking all of my teacher friends how they were managing, and most of my elementary school teacher friends gushed over Boom Cards but none of my middle school or high school teacher friends had ever heard of them. Primary teachers in particular thought Boom Cards were great, so I kind of forgot about them for a while – after all, middle schoolers and primary students are different animals altogether.

But I continued to be frustrated with trying to engage my students and finally gave Boom Cards a try. (Here’s the blog post I wrote back in May of 2020 when I first starting using Boom Cards).

I was quickly a convert. My students are no longer passive recipients of information but active participants in their own learning. They eagerly explored the digital decks, experimenting with concepts, and gaining immediate feedback on their responses. The self-paced nature of Boom Cards allowed each student to work at their own speed, promoting individualized learning and ensuring that no one fell behind.

What are Boom Cards?

Boom Cards are a digital tool that provides interactive learning experiences with instant feedback. These digital task cards are designed to be self-paced, making them ideal for classrooms, homeschooling, and independent study. By incorporating multimedia elements, such as videos, images, and audio clips, Boom Cards offer an immersive and captivating learning environment.  (Here’s a blog post I wrote a few weeks ago outlining all of the ways you can use Boom Cards in middle school science!)

Try a free set

Don’t take my word for it. I’m sharing my plate tectonics Boom Cards deck with you for free. If your students are like mine, memorizing the vocabulary of plate tectonics is challenging. This deck of Boom Cards helps a lot. Here’s what it covers:

  • Types of boundaries with examples
  • Types of stress on rocks and effects
  • Types of faults
  • Layers of the Earth
  • Pangaea
  • Alfred Wegener

    free plate tectonics boom cards

You don’t need a membership to use these Boom Cards, but a membership allows you to keep track of individual students’ progress. You can save 10% on a membership if you use my affiliate link here.

If you’re already on the Boom Card bandwagon, drop a comment here so we can share ideas!


End of Year Activities for Middle School Science

You’ve finished your curriculum and your kids are ready to go! How can you keep them busy and entertained and, if you’re lucky, teach them a little science? Here are my top 8 end of year activities for middle school science.

Science activities for the end of the year

Virtual Field Trips

There are times when talking about something just isn’t good enough. Great examples are glaciers, deserts and canyons. There are plenty of places I want my students to “visit” that aren’t possible.  An interactive virtual field trip allows students to learn about a remote location without leaving their desks. Incorporating videos and interesting articles to read along with some guided questions allows students to experience places they would ordinarily not be able to go. One of my favorite interactive virtual field trips is this trip to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History  Among its truly fantastic exhibits, this museum’s presentation of the evolution of life on earth is engaging and easy to follow. The National Aquarium‘s virtual tour is a fun way to see still images of their huge collection. They also offer live webcams of coral reef ecosystems and jellyfish. Monterey Bay Aquarium offers 10 live web cams of jellyfish, sharks, and penguins, among others. My students also loved visiting Death Valley and the Galapagos.

STEM Challenges

There are a lot of great ways you can challenge your kids and get them solving problems. A perennial favorite is the Insulation lab – Keep the ice cube, or ice cream, from melting in the sun. When I do this, I have students mass their ice cube before and after solar exposure and calculate percent loss. I also have them “purchase” insulating materials from a “budget” – maybe they’re allowed to “spend” $1.00 and I charge 50 cents per 12″ square of aluminum foil or handful of cotton balls. Another favorite is designing a container to hold a beanie baby safely while it descends on a zipline. Once, I used painters tape to tape various pieces of candy to the wall just above the reach of my tallest student and had them figure out how to get the candy down.


While I’m not keen on taking the kids outside to play kickball, I do indulge their summer minds with a little science of sports. Learn about the science of the summer sports. How do helmets help cyclists? How do a runner’s muscles work? How does swimming demonstrate Newton’s 3rd law?

Escape Rooms

My kids never, ever have enough escape rooms. They love solving puzzles and finding clues. The key is to make the escape room hard enough to be challenging but easy enough to be rewarding. Once you find that sweet spot, you could do a different escape room every day for those dog days of summer. Here’s a link to a blog post on how to create your own escape rooms.

Problem Based Learning

Once the state tests are over, let the kids stretch their minds and get creative with a problem based activity. Here is a museum exhibit PBL I use for simple machines but it could easily be adapted to demonstrate mastery of anything from ancient Egyptian culture to the development of the space program. You could have your students research an endangered animal and design a habitat for a zoo to protect the animal. Students can research alternative energy sources and choose one for the imaginary island they’ve just inherited.

File Folder Games

Let your students create review games. A simple game is a file folder game. Open a file folder and draw a game board on one side. Write the directions on the other side and staple in zipper baggies to hold game pieces of question cards. Read more here.

Genius Hour

With no more state tests, your students can unleash their curiosity and work on their own passion project. Have students select a topic they’re curious about and create a podcast or TED talk, write a blog or pamphlet, create a poster, a cartoon, a game, or a 3D model, or build a website. Read more here.

Citizen Science

Your middle schoolers can participate in real science collaboration by collecting data and contributing to citizen science. Participating in citizen science with middle schoolers gives them a sense of how big the scientific community is and how important making observations and reporting what you know is in the real world of science. The goals of citizen science includes engaging the American public in addressing societal needs and accelerating science understanding. Students as young as middle schoolers can participate in addressing real world problems. Most projects take 5-10 minutes and actually contribute data that real live scientists can use. Here are some citizen science projects suitable for your middle schoolers.



How are you spending these last few weeks of school?

End of Year Science Awards

End of year science awards

End of year science awards are tradition in some schools, and just a nice “feel good” moment in other schools. I print certificates with the color copier, although I have occasionally sprung for mini trophies or medals that I doctor up with my Cricut. Use school colors, add your official signature, and maybe even a gold seal.

Who gets an award? Some schools like to give every student an award. That’s not my style – if everyone gets one, then an award loses its value. By this time of year, you know which students will value an award and which will throw it away – I try to make sure the kids who actually will care always get something.

What awards do you give? I avoid awards that are insults (i.e. the Sulfur Award for the smelliest kid) for obvious reasons, but I’m ok with a little tongue in cheek. I think it’s great if you can name your awards after something scientific. Here are some clever ideas for end of the year awards you can give to your middle school science students.

Scientist Themed Awards:

  • Albert Einstein Award: For the student who demonstrated exceptional problem-solving skills and critical thinking abilities in science.
  • Marie Curie Award: For the student who consistently adhered to safety protocols and demonstrated responsibility in the laboratory.
  • Nikola Tesla Award: For the student with the electric personality.
  • Rachel Carson Award: For the student who actively promoted environmental awareness and sustainable practices in the classroom.
  • Alan Turing Award: For the student who demonstrated exceptional skills and enthusiasm in utilizing technology for scientific research and presentations.
  • Galileo Galilei Award: For the student who excelled in collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data accurately and effectively.
  • Charles Darwin Award: For the student who showed a strong connection and appreciation for the natural world and its scientific wonders.
  • Tycho Brahe Award: For the student who consistently maintained well-organized and comprehensive science notes.
  • Neils Bohr Award: For the student with revolutionary ideas.
  • Thomas Edison Award: For the student who consistently displayed determination and resilience in overcoming challenges in science.
  • Isaac Newton Award: For the student who demonstrated inertia – always (or never) in motion.
  • Jane Goodall Award: For the student who took care of the class pets (or saved the bumble bee that accidentally got in the window).
  • Leonardo daVinci Award: For the student whose drawings were exceptional.
  • Louis Pasteur Award: For the student who demonstrated persistence and perseverance.
  • Alexander Graham Bell Award: For the student with excellent communication skills.
  • Edwin Hubble Award: For the student who shared creative ideas.
  • Rosalind Franklin Award: For the student who saw through challenges and found solutions others couldn’t see.
  • Carl Sagan Award: For excellence in creative projects.
  • Watson and Crick Award: For exceptional partnership
  • Dmitri Mendeleyev Award: For the student with tremendous organizational skills.
  • George Washington Carver Award: For the student who cared for the class plants.
  • Mae Jemison Award: For the student who bravely led the way into uncharted territory.
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson Award: For the student who creatively expressed ideas in a way that everyone could understand.

Download your copy of the awards here –> 50% off now until June 30th!

end of year science awards


Chemistry Themed Awards:

  • Hydrogen Award: For the student whose uplifting energy brightens up any room.
  • Oxygen Award: For the student who was essential to his/her lab group.
  • Carbon Award: For the student that was the building block of every class discussion.
  • Silicon Award: For the student who was able to make the technology work.
  • Iron Award: For a strong science student.
  • Sodium Award: For the most dramatic and creative student.
  • Copper Award: For the student with excellent communication skills.
  • Gold Award: For the student with the highest GPA.
  • Silver Award: For the student whose lab reports are polished.
  • Titanium Award: For the most reliable student
  • Neon Award: For the student who always stands out.
  • Fluorine Award: For the student with the friendliest smile.
  • H2O Award: For the student that everyone depended on.
  • Sodium Chloride Award: For the student that made every day a little better.
  • Sucrose Award: For the sweetest student.
  • Nitrous Oxide Award: For the student who makes everyone laugh.
  • Sodium Bicarbonate Award: For the student who could bring everyone’s mood up.
  • Acetaminophen Award: For the student who made everyone feel better.
  • Covalent Bond Award: Given to two students who are always together, best friends.
  • Proton Award: For the student with the most positive attitude.
  • Periodic Table Award: For the student who showed great organizational skills all year.
  • Evaporation Award: For the student who’s a gas to be around.
  • Condensation Award: For the student who brings others together.

Download your copy here50% off from now until June 30th!

chemistry end of year awards











Let’s talk about this – what’s your policy on end of year awards? What’s your favorite award to give?

Have your science classes outdoors!


It’s definitely spring here in the northeast! Daffodils are up, forsythia are blooming, and the kids have (just a touch of) spring fever! Here are some ways to take advantage of the warmer weather and have your science classes outdoors!

go on a nature walk6 reasons to go on a nature walkNature Walks

Take your students on a nature walk around your school or in a nearby park. Encourage them to observe the plants, animals, and other natural features they see along the way. Have them record their observations in a notebook. Provide them with field guides or identification apps to help them identify the different species they encounter. Give them scavenger hunt bingo cards (yellow flower bud, crawling insect, segmented worm, animal track, burrow, exposed root, evidence of erosion, plastic water bottle…)and challenge them to find 5 things in a row.

Soil Science

Check out the soil in your community. Is it light or dark colored? Does it feel sandy, loamy or clay-like? Is it fine or coarse? Compacted or loose and crumbly? Dig a small hole and observe the change in profiles. How does the color, water, and root content change as soil gets deeper? Take the pH of the soil or any body of water you have nearby.

Bird Watching

Bird watching is a fun and easy way to introduce your students to the world of ornithology. Provide them with binoculars and field guides to identify the different birds they see. Have them take notes on the birds’ physical characteristics, behavior, and habitat. Connect what they see to natural selection, animal habitats, or genetics.

Weather Observations

Set up a weather station in your schoolyard and have your students record the daily weather conditions. Have them track temperature, wind speed and direction, humidity, and precipitation. Give them pictures of the different types of clouds and see if they can identify the clouds today. Over time, they can analyze the data they collect and look for patterns and trends.

Water Quality Testing

If you have a nearby pond or stream, have your science class outdoors and let your students test the water quality. Have them measure pH, dissolved oxygen, temperature, and other parameters to determine the health of the ecosystem. This is a great way to teach your students about the importance of environmental conservation.

astronomy nightAstronomy Night

Take your students on a stargazing adventure! Teach them about the constellations, planets, and other celestial objects visible in the night sky. Set up telescopes or binoculars to get a closer look at the moon and stars. For a quick overview of what’s up in the sky tonight, check out the AstroGuy Podcast.


Any way you design it, a lovely spring day is a perfect day to have your science class outdoors!

Try Boom Cards!

As technology continues to advance, more and more educators are looking for ways to integrate it into their classrooms to enhance the learning experience for their students. One such tool that has gained popularity in recent years is Boom Cards. When I decided to try Boom cards, it was with the intent of creating fast and easy digital flash cards for my middle school students, but they have grown to be much more than that.

What are Boom Cards?women in science boom cards cover and thubms (3)

Boom Cards are an innovative, interactive digital tool designed to enhance the learning experience for students of all ages. They are essentially digital task cards that can be used by teachers to create engaging, interactive learning activities for their students.

Boom Cards are designed to be used on digital devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones. They can be accessed through a web browser, and they are compatible with many learning management systems such as Google Classroom and Canvas.

The cards are created using a platform called Boom Learning, which allows teachers to create custom decks of cards that can include text, images, audio, and video. The cards can be used to teach a wide range of subjects, from math and science to language arts and social studies.

What can you use Boom Cards for?

Here are my 5 favorite ways to use Boom cards in my 7th and 8th grade science classrooms:

food webs digital escape room using boom cards

  1. Practice and review – Great for rote memorization and practice, Boom cards have the added benefit of providing instant feedback both to my students and to me.
  2. Bellringers and Exit tickets – Boom cards are great for those 5 minutes at the beginning or end of class when you want a quick formative assessment.
  3. Assessments: Teachers can create assessments using Boom Cards. The immediate feedback feature of Boom Cards allows students to receive feedback as soon as they complete a task. This means that teachers can use Boom Cards for formative assessments to see how well their students are understanding the material.
  4. Centers or Stations: Boom Cards can be incorporated into center or station rotations. Teachers can create decks of Boom Cards that are focused on specific skills or topics and assign them to a center or station. Students can work through the decks at their own pace while the teacher works with other students.
  5. Interactive Notebooks: Boom Cards can be used as interactive notebook activities. Teachers can create Boom Cards that require students to input their responses directly into the card, and these can be downloaded and printed out as part of a student’s interactive notebook.
  6. Escape rooms – Boom cards can be set to act like a series of puzzles guiding students through a digital escape activity

Benefits of Boom Cards

These interactive digital task cards offer many benefits for middle school science teachers and their students.

  1. Engaging and Interactive Learning  – Boom Cards are designed to be interactive and engaging. Students are presented with a question or task, and they must use their critical thinking skills to come up with an answer. The cards can include images, videos, and audio, which makes learning more exciting for students.
  2. Self-Paced Learning – With Boom Cards, students can work at their own pace. They can repeat a card as many times as they need to understand the material or move on to the next card if they have a firm grasp of the content. This self-paced learning is particularly beneficial for middle school students who may have varying levels of knowledge and understanding.
  3. Immediate Feedback – Boom Cards offer immediate feedback to students. They are notified if they have answered a question correctly or incorrectly, and they are given an explanation of why their answer was right or wrong. This instant feedback helps students to learn from their mistakes and to reinforce their understanding of the material.
  4. Personalized Learning – Boom Cards can be customized to meet the needs of individual students. Teachers can create decks of cards that are tailored to a particular student’s learning style or ability level. This personalized learning approach can help to ensure that every student is challenged and engaged in their learning.
  5. Easy Assessment – With Boom Cards, teachers can quickly and easily assess their students’ understanding of the material. They can see how many cards each student has completed, which cards they struggled with, and which cards they aced. This information can be used to identify areas where students need more support and to adjust lesson plans accordingly.

Want to read more? Read my earlier blog post on basic Boom cards and Advanced Boom cards.



Teacher Appreciation Week

Teacher Appreciation Week is an annual event that takes place during the first full week of May. It is a time to show our gratitude for the dedicated and hardworking teachers who play a crucial role in shaping the future of our society. During this week, we have the opportunity to recognize and honor the contributions that teachers make to our lives, our communities, and our world.

The idea of Teacher Appreciation Week was first proposed by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1953. At that time, the National Education Association (NEA) and other education organizations were lobbying Congress to declare a national day to honor teachers. In 1984, the NEA finally succeeded in getting President Reagan to proclaim the first full week of May as National Teacher Appreciation Week.

Teacher Appreciation Week

I remember the teacher that made me want to be a teacher. Her name was Ms. DiCandia and she taught biology. She was funny and cared about us as people. I wanted to be just like her. I still do.

Miss DiCandia made it look easy. She was able to explain complicated processes like the Krebs Cycle in a way that everyone could understand. She never got tired of answering questions.

She must have been exhausted. Now I know how fiercely she was paddling under the surface to keep up. Now I understand the early mornings and late nights and piles of lab reports to grade while your friends are playing volleyball in the sand.

teacher appreciation week




I’ll never be able to find words that adequately express my appreciation not only for Ms. DiCandia but for all of the teachers that have inspired me, helped me, and challenged me.

From today through May 31st, coupon code THANKS will get you 30% off everything in the JustAddH2OSchool store.

Why should we appreciate teachers?

So why do we need a week to appreciate teachers? The answer is simple: teachers do more than just teach. They inspire, encourage, and guide us in our personal and academic growth. They challenge us to think critically, to question assumptions, and to learn from our mistakes. They provide a safe and nurturing environment where we can explore our interests, develop our talents, and discover our passions.

Teachers also play a critical role in our communities. They help to build the next generation of citizens, leaders, and innovators. They instill values such as respect, empathy, and responsibility in their students, and they model these values in their own behavior. They work tirelessly to create a better future for all of us by equipping students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life.

How should we appreciate teachers?

So how can we show our appreciation for teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week? There are many ways to do this, depending on your resources and your creativity. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Write a thank-you note. This is a simple but meaningful way to express your gratitude for all that teachers do. You can write a note to your own teachers, or to teachers in your community. I still have every thank you note ever given to me in 37 years of teaching.
  2. Send a small gift. This could be something as simple as a homemade card, a bouquet of flowers, or a box of chocolates. It doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate; the thought is what counts.
  3. Donate school supplies. Teachers often have to spend their own money to purchase supplies for their classrooms. Consider donating pencils, paper, markers, or other supplies to a local school.
  4. Say thank you in person. If you see a teacher in your community, take a moment to thank them for their hard work and dedication. A kind word can go a long way.
  5. If you’ve got a teacher to thank, stop by our Facebook page and shout them out!

Teacher Appreciation Week is an important time to recognize and honor the contributions that teachers make to our lives and our communities. Whether through a small gift, a thank-you note, or a volunteer opportunity, there are many ways to show our appreciation for these dedicated and inspiring individuals. Let’s take this opportunity to thank the teachers who have made a difference in our lives, and to support them in their ongoing work to educate and inspire the next generation. A week is not enough so I’ll say – Happy Teacher Appreciation Month!


Food Chains and Food Webs Lesson Plans for Middle School

What do your food chains and food webs lesson plans look like? During my food chain unit last year, I tried to introduce interdependence by asking what would happen to the other organisms in a food web if one animal in the food web decreased suddenly due to disease.  “The other animals would catch the disease,” was a common misunderstanding. Another common answer was that the animals that depended on the missing animal would switch their diet to eat the other things. Students struggled with understanding that populations were balanced in healthy ecosystems and depended on each other in intricate ways. The diversity of energy relationships in food webs is complex and often misunderstood.

Teaching food chains and food webs helps students understand the complex interactions between different organisms in an ecosystem. By learning about how energy and nutrients are transferred from one organism to another, students can better comprehend the delicate balance of nature and the consequences of disruptions to that balance. Moreover, understanding food chains and food webs provides a foundation for learning about important ecological concepts such as population dynamics, energy flow, and the effects of human activities on the environment. Through hands-on activities, students can also develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills as they explore the interconnectedness of different organisms and their roles within an ecosystem. Hopefully, these food chains and food webs lesson plans will help you in your middle school classroom!


The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) that are addressed by the topic of food webs in middle school are:

  1. MS-LS2-3: Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.
  2. MS-LS2-4: Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
  3. MS-LS2-5: Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.

By studying food webs, middle school students can learn about the interconnected relationships between living organisms and their environment. They can develop an understanding of how energy flows through ecosystems and how matter cycles within them. They can also explore the impact of human activities on ecosystems and the importance of maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Food Web Lesson Plans

Day 1: Introduction to Food Webs

  • Introduce the concept of food webs and explain their importance in understanding ecosystems using visual representation. I use a slideshow or an independent workbook depending on the mechanics of the class. (Either way, the workbook becomes a great review tool.)
  • Introduce the concept of food webs and explain their importance in understanding ecosystems.
  • Use pictures or videos to illustrate examples of different organisms in a food web. The more examples you can give, the better. Students need to see various organisms participating in food webs in many niches.
  • Explain the different roles within a food web (producer, consumer, predator, prey) and provide examples for each.

Day 2: Building a Food Web

  • Review the concept of food webs and the different organisms that make them up.
  • Explain the different parts of a food web (producers, primary consumers, secondary consumers, etc.) and how they are connected.
  • Use pictures or diagrams to illustrate how the different parts of a food web are connected.
  • There’s always the string lab – you pick a food web and assign each student an organism. Then, use string to connect organisms that either are eaten or eat another organism. This becomes a three dimensional food web. There’s a great example of this in our Shark unit plans.
  • An extension of the string lab is to remove one organism from the ecosystem after you’ve created the web. Imagine an illness killing off one species or a drought killing the plants. Even better, tell a story of an invasive species competing with one of the organisms in the ecosystem. All affected organisms drop their strings and it’s easy to see how the entire food web collapses with that kind of disruption.
  • Have students work in pairs or small groups to create a simple food web for a chosen ecosystem, including at least three different organisms in each of the producer, consumer, and decomposer categories. Encourage students to be creative in their choices and to think about the specific environment they are working with. I like to use either printable task cards or digital task cards.

Day 3: Energy Flow in Food Webs

  • Explain how energy flows through a food web, starting with the sun as the source of energy.
  • Show examples of energy pyramids and explain how they illustrate the flow of energy in a food web.
  • Have students work in pairs or small groups to create their own energy pyramid for a chosen food web.

Day 4: Practice

Day 5: Assess

These food web and food chain lesson plans can be modified based on the specific needs of the class and the resources available. Additional activities could include research projects on specific organisms in a food web, role-playing activities to simulate the interactions between different parts of a food web, or field trips to observe real-life food webs in local ecosystems.

Food Chains Picture Reveal Self Checking WorksheetFood Web 2 player digital game



Food Webs color by number

Food chains and food webs digital escape room

food web magic reveal picture for Thanksgiving

Fun Test Prep Ideas that don’t feel like Test Prep

You’ve finished a unit and the test is on the calendar. Some students are hyper-vigilant – overwhelmingly anxious and frantic. Others are totally indifferent – “What test?” they ask casually. Either way, you don’t have the time to create fun and interesting test prep activities – you’ve still got that last set of labs to grade and there’s never enough time in the day anyway. But we know middle schoolers – they neither have the inclination to study nor the skills necessary to study. Incorporating fun test prep games into the classroom can make the process more engaging and interactive for students, and can also help you identify areas where specific students may need reinforcement. Here are some fun test prep ideas for middle school science you can use in your classroom this week.fun test prep ideas for middle school science


Fun digital test prep ideas: There are some easy to use websites that allow teachers to create a Q-and-A type game for their students. The benefit of digital activities is that they are usually easier to create and use than non-digital activities. There are also a lot available for purchase to save you even more prep time. Here are my favorites:

  • Quizlet Live, Blooket, Quizziz and Kahoot  are all free with paid upgrades and perennial favorites. Gimkit has a free version that’s ok, but for $5/month you’ll be rolling in tons of activities that kids beg for.
  • Boom cards are digital task cards are super simple to create and free to use, although there is a paid membership that improves the data available to teachers. If you’ve never tried Boom cards, here’s a free deck for you.
  • If you have a little tech skill and you’re willing to invest a little time, you can make your own custom game that students can play as well. I’ve loved using 2 player digital racing games in which two students work on their own device but sharing a document so each can see what the other is doing. Students have to answer a series of questions to advance their player to the top of the maze. If you haven’t tried them, here’s a free one for you! 
  •  Magic Pictures or pixel art – When students get the answers correct, parts of a picture are revealed. Instant feedback helps students build mastery and take ownership of their own learning. If you’ve never tried one, here’s a free one for you!
  • Digital escape rooms – A digital escape room uses content-related puzzles to find clues and solve a mystery. Try a free digital escape room to see how they work.

Fun non-digital test prep ideas: It’s nice to get away from the devices sometimes, and there are lots of non-digital games you can play with your middle school science students to help them review for tests.

  • Team games: When I first started gamifying my classroom, I would draw a football gridiron on the board and move a magnet 10 yards to the left or right whenever a team would get an answer correct. Adapt this idea to play Charades – students can act out vocabulary terms and try to get their team to guess – try this with the stages of mitosis or the rock cycle and you won’t regret it!  Another version of this is Taboo – give one student a vocabulary term to try to get their teammates to guess, but give them “taboo” words as well – words that they can’t say as they’re playing. If the word you want them to try to guess is “inertia”, for example, make the taboo words related to it, like motion, rest, Newton, and first.
  • File Folder Games – Give teams a file folder and some index cards. Have them draw a game board on the folder and questions on the index cards. Super engaging, but also a little time consuming.
  • Scavenger hunts – solve this puzzle (in teams or individually) to find a clue in a different part of the classroom.
  • Escape rooms or Breakouts – My students will literally beg for more escape rooms. They’re a lot of work to create, but the payoff in terms of engagement and motivation is huge.
  • Scoot Lay task cards around the room or hang them on the walls. Students travel from one card to another, recording their answers to each task card on a recording sheet. Sometimes I let students move to the next card at their own pace. Other times, I play music and they move when the music stops. I also might set a timer to let them know when to move.
  • I have Who has – I play this with a timer and record how long it takes each class to complete one round. I write each class’s time on the board and leave it there for every other class to see. They love being the class with the best record. If you’ve never played, here’s a free I have Who has template for you!



Sketch Notes for Middle School Science

What are Sketch Notes?

what are sketch notes

Sketch  Notes are a form of visual note-taking that combines words and images to create a visually engaging and memorable representation of information. They have become increasingly popular in recent years as a tool to help students better understand and retain information. This is especially true in middle school science, where students are introduced to complex concepts that can be difficult to grasp.

This form of note-taking can be used in a variety of contexts, from classroom lectures to personal journaling.

Sketch notes are created using a combination of text, drawings, and other visual elements such as arrows, borders, and shapes. Sketch notes are often colorful and playful, and they are designed to engage the brain and make learning more enjoyable.

How do Sketch Notes work?

Sketch notes work by engaging multiple parts of the brain at the same time. When we use both words and images to represent information, we activate different areas of the brain, which can lead to better understanding and retention of the material. Additionally, the act of creating a sketch note requires active listening and processing of information, which can help students stay focused and engaged during lectures.

To create a sketch note, students start by listening to the lecture or reading the material and identifying the main points. Use a combination of words, images, and symbols to represent each point, using colors and other visual elements to make the information stand out. Don’t worry about making the drawing perfect – the goal is to capture the essence of the information in a way that is meaningful and memorable.

Benefits of Sketch Notes

benefits of sketch notes in middle school science

Sketch notes offer a number of benefits for students, including:

  1. Improved memory retention: By combining words and images, sketch  notes engage different areas of the brain and can lead to better retention of information.
  2. Increased understanding: By incorporating drawings, symbols and colors, students can better understand and remember complex scientific concepts. This is because Sketch notes encourage students to engage with the material in a way that is both visual and tactile.
  3. Increased engagement: Sketch notes are visually engaging and can help students stay focused and engaged during lectures or while reading material. Active learning increases student motivation, interest and retention.
  4. Enhanced creativity: Sketch notes encourage creativity and allow students to express themselves in a visual way. This is especially beneficial to struggling students.
  5. Personalized learning: Sketch notes can be personalized to each student’s learning style and preferences, allowing them to create a representation of the material that is meaningful to them.


Sketch notes can be a powerful tool for middle school science students to improve their understanding, retention and engagement of the material as well as improve study skills. By having a clear and concise visual representation of the material, students learn more actively and take stronger ownership of their own learning.


Click here to download some sample sketch notes templates you can use in your classroom today!

free sketch notes templates

These are some sketch notes templates I have used in my middle school science classroom – offered for 50% off now through the end of April in the JustAddH2OSchool store!