Why Bellringers?

What is a bellringer?

A bellringer is an activity or small assignment that students complete when they first enter a classroom. They can be writing assignments, quick formative assessments, or partnered activities.

Why should middle school teachers use bellringers?

  • Bellringers gives students an opportunity to transition from one task (or class) to another and mentally prepare.
  • Bellringers benefits students by giving them time to get into an appropriate mindset for the class.
  • Students who participate in bellringers are more engaged in the class.
  • Teachers can collect data on student engagement and retention by using bellringers.
  • Bellringers can help manage behaviors during a transition.
  • A 2 minute bellringer gives the teacher time to take care of housekeeping without wasting class time.

Examples of Bellringers for middle school science

  • In middle school science, a bellringer can be a “Turn and Talk” in which students discuss an idea or concept.
  • Another common bellringer in middle school science is a quick formative assessment – I often use self-grading Google forms quizzes with 3-4 questions on yesterday’s topics as a quick way to see how students are managing the content.
  • To support the common core standards, I also frequently use a writing task as a bellringer. Sometimes that writing task is related to the topic we’re studying and sometimes it’s random – “Describe the weather this weekend as if you were a meteorologist,” or “My favorite lab from sixth grade was…”
  • 4 corners – Have students start conversations with a prompt on the white board like “Go to corner #1 if you think GMOs are safe to eat and go to corner #2 if you think they are unsafe.”
  • Play a game of Wordle.
  • Engage with a phenomenon. This is a great way to start with a 5E lesson plan.
  • Review activities – A quick game of Boom cards or I have Who Has.
  • Scaffold review – Practice an old skill like measurement or graphing.
  • SEL check ns – How are you doing today? Pick an emoji.

Free bellringers

today in science freebie

The “Today in Science” resource that I created last year was a big hit for bellringers in my school this year. Every day, students received information regarding a scientific event that occurred on that day in history. There was an image of the event and a writing prompt to go along with it. Parents emailed me often that students were sharing what they learned at home and sparking dinner conversation about the space program or historical bridge building.

Try out 6 free writing prompts for April here. Reply below with a comment letting me know how your students responded!

Index of Spring Resources

Celebrate the spring equinox with resources for your middle school science classroom:

  • The Science of the Seasons – 9 interactive slides for students to drag and drop information about how the revolution of the earth produces seasons.This activity works for earth science units as well as aspecial lesson that you can use to introduce the seasons independently.spring resources




  • Rainbow Science – This is not the arts and crafts rainbow projects that primary students complete. This resource helps middle school students understand the physics of the formation of rainbows. Self guided exploration into refraction, dispersion and reflection.spring resources








  • A Week of Butterflies – Celebrate the quintessential spring animal in this week long unit on butterflies. Springing from an exploration into Monarch population declines, students complete independent research, a hands on activity, and a carousel activity to learn about complete metamorphosis in Monarch butterflies and learn about mimicry and camouflage in butterfly populations.spring resources




  • The Science of Basketball – Celebrate March Madness with some hands on  activities about basketballs in this easy to use 2 day activity. This activity works well as a scientific method activity in that itr eviews variables and controls. It also works well as an independent unit to engage middle schoolers in science during March Madness.spring resources




Do you celebrate the seasons in your classroom? What kinds of middle school science spring resources do you use in your classroom?

Virtual Field Trip to the Tropical Rainforest

What is an Interactive Virtual Field Trip

There are times when talking about something just isn’t good enough. Great examples are glaciers, deserts and canyons. There are still plenty of places I want my middle school science students to “visit” that just aren’t possible. An interactive virtual field trip allows students to learn about a remote location, as well as its geology and ecosystem, 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.

How do you do an interactive virtual field trip?

The format for your interactive virtual field trip can be any format that your students can access. The virtual field trips I use in my classroom are all hyperdocs with links to videos and articles embedded along with guided questions.

The Tropical Rainforest

tropical rainforest virtual tourThe virtual field trip starts out on the NASA Earth Observatory site.  Students learn the characteristics of tropical rainforests and where they can be found.   Then, students use the ActiveWild web site to learn about the layers of the rainforest. Students learn about the Amazon rainforest and explore the concept of biodiversity, warning coloration, and mimicry using examples of rainforest plants and animals. Finally, students learn about medicines that come from the rainforest and how it is affected by deforestation and climate change. tropical rainforest virtual tour

What do teachers say about the Tropical Rainforest Virtual Field Trip?

One teacher who took her 6th grade students on a trip to the Tropical Rainforest gave it 5 stars and said “This was a great virtual resource for my science unit!” Another teacher, who used the virtual field trip with her 4th, 5th, and 6th graders with learning difficulties, also gave it 5 stars and said “This was fantastic!” Click here to check out the Tropical Rainforest Virtual Tour for yourself!  

Other Interactive Virtual Field Trips

If the Statue of Liberty sounds like fun, here are some others that my students have been enjoying:

Learning about Women in Science

Why do we teach about women in science?

March is women’s history month and March 8th is International Women’s Day. The purpose of both is to reflect and learn about the often overlooked contributions of women to American history. In my science class, I like to make March women in science history month in my middle school science classroom. We learn about the men in science often – Newton, Galileo, Darwin, Armstrong – and I fear that gives girls the wrong impression that they can’t be influencers in science. Representation matters – showing girls that women can and do make a difference in the field of science, and in all fields, is important. The theme for this year’s women’s history month is “Women providing healing, promoting hope.” I think naturally of women like Clara Barton, Florence Nightingale, Virginia Apgar and Sally Ride.

How to incorporate women in science into your already busy day

  • Have a conversation about “scientists.” I usually have students draw what they think a scientist looks like and then compare. Almost always, students draw men (usually with nerdy glasses and a pocket protector). Then show them pictures of women in science like these women in science. Ask your students to challenge their own preconceptions of what doing “science” looks like. Lead the discussion to analyzing why people think science is for boys and how to change that idea. Share this video as a springboard.
  • Talk about Rosalind Franklin as much as you do James Watson – both made discoveries that opened up the field of molecular biology. Talk about Sally Ride as much as you do Neil Armstrong – both were groundbreaking astronauts.
  • Have students research women in science. Start with a list to choose from (so you don’t have 45 Marie Curie posters) – I include as many different fields as I can ranging from Rachel Carson to Katherine Johnson and Ada Lovelace.
  • Hang pictures of famous women in science around your room and encourage students to explore the lives of the women they relate to. This activity includes 12 photos with mini biographies and guided questions.
  • Assign an exploration into famous women in science with these digital Boom cards.
  • More great ideas on the Classroom Innovation site “7 Women Scientists to Integrate into Your Lesson Plans.” Check it out here.

Share your ideas to incorporate women in science by commenting below. Let’s all celebrate Women in (Science) History month with our students!

Reading Weather Maps

Do you teach weather maps? Middle school students love learning about weather – it’s fun, practical, and easy for them if they get enough practice. An important skill is being able to read weather maps. My “Reading Weather Maps” resource is a printable or digital tool that many teachers have used to help their middle school students understand how to use the symbols on a weather map to predict the weather.

NGSS ESS2-5 asks students to be able to “Collect data to provide evidence for how the motions and complex interactions of air masses result in change in weather conditions.” It’s also an important life skill to be able to read a weather map.

To begin this unit, students first learn what the various weather symbols mean.

By learning the symbols for high pressure, low pressure, cold front, warm front, occluded front and stationary front, students can begin to read weather maps to form weather  predictions. Lots of practice helps here – I use maps with symbols and ask students to predict the weather before each type of front, after each type of front, and while each type of front is passing through.

Teachers who have downloaded this resource tell me:

  • “AWESOME resource to go along with our unit of study.”
  • “Amazing resources as a summative for this section of the Weather Unit!”
  • “This resource was helpful and time saving!”
  • “This was very helpful in teaching weather maps…it also gave my students great practice using/reading weather maps!”

One teacher used this resource for a demo lesson for an interview. She said “I was a little lost on preparing a sample lesson revolving around weather! This was perfect in teaching me what I needed to know!”

Click here to buy your  Reading Weather Maps resource!

Wordle for middle school science


science wordle

Students come in all sizes and shapes. Some students understand concepts more easily, and some struggle a bit. Some finish assignments fast and some need remediation. I always have at least one or two enrichment activities on hand for my middle school science students to grab when they’re ahead of the pack.

An activity my students are loving right now is Science Wordle. In the game Wordle, there is a mystery 5 letter word. For each turn, you guess a 5 letter word and learn if any of the letters are correct or in the correct spot. The goal is to guess in 6 tries or less. In Wordle for middle school science, there are a few dozen words students can pick from – some with 5 letters and some with 6. Each game takes 2-3 minutes to play so this is a great activity for those few minutes at the end of class when the fastest students are done and the others need some more catch up time.

If you want to download an editable copy and make your own words, click here.

Have fun with Wordle for middle school science!

Color By Number for Middle School Science

Why enrichment?

Students come in all sizes and shapes. Some students understand concepts more easily, and some struggle a bit. Some finish assignments fast and some need remediation. I always have at least one or two enrichment activities on hand for my middle school science students to grab when they’re ahead of the pack. I was surprised to learn that my 13 year old middle schoolers love color by number worksheets.  Color by number worksheets for enrichment in middle school science engage students with content while also allowing them to chill out. Providing down time without chaos reigning has become my signature move 🙂

How do you make a color by number worksheet?

It’s easy peasy to make your own color by number. Students immediately knew what to do when they saw the worksheet – it was as if they’d been coloring by number their whole lives.  They got to chill while I worked with other students. No chaos.

Step 1: Choose a picture. The hardest part for me was making a decision about which picture to use – maybe kids will like this elephant? Will they like the geometric mandala? How about a minion or a minecraft picture? I debated over those decisions a million times.  Try googling “black and white drawing” or “mosaic drawing” if you need inspiration. Make your picture simple if you want a 5 minute activity or more complicated if you want it to take a little longer.

color by number color by number color by number color by number color by number





Step 2: Number the pieces of that picture. I found that the numbers 1-9 works fine (I happen to have a class set of 10 colored pencils each – red, dark blue, light blue, brown, light green, dark green, purple, yellow, orange, pink), but if you want to get wild and crazy, go for it.

Step 3: Write matching questions – if you have 9 colors, you need 9 questions. For each question, provide choices. Each choice should correspond to a color, but the correct answer choice corresponds to the correct color.

Step 4: Print your worksheet. I print on 2 sheets of paper so students don’t have to flip back and forth. I also usually make an answer key for the type A students that want to check their work.

color by number color by number color by number color by number





What kinds of color by number for middle school science are in the JustAddH2OSchool store?

I have a bunch of resources I’ve collected available in the JustAddH2OSchool store, priced at $1.50 each (with 25% off now through Valentines Day). Here are some to check out:

weather vocabulary color by number diffusion and osmosis color by number DNA color by number protons neutrons electrons color by number simple machines enrichment activity for middle school





punnett square color by number density mass volume enrichment plate tectonics color by number states of matter color by number planets color by number





absolute dating color by number relative dating color by number






Teach and Touch the Future


When I was 7 or 8 years old, my sister and I were playing school in the backyard. We always played school, and I was always the teacher. I remember using marker to write “page 2” on the wall of the garage because that was the page I wanted my sister to read in her imaginary text book. Oh, man, were my parents furious! Twenty years later, when they were selling the house, my scribbling was still there, never cleaned and never painted over. I was always going to be a teacher.

I went to college in the 1980s. There was a glut of teachers. My parents warned me that there were 20 teachers applying for every job. Since I had an affinity for science, they argued, I should probably major in nursing. No, that didn’t appeal to me. But I did like science, especially biology, so I majored in biology and minored in calculus. A few months before I graduated, I realized I would be grossly over educated and at the same time underqualified for any job I wanted. While my friends started interviewing in their chosen fields, nothing appealed to me and I felt lost.

On January 28th, 1986, a week into my last semester of college, a New Hampshire teacher named Christa McAuliffe was to become the first civilian in space when the Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart, 1 minute and 13ChristaMcAuliffe seconds after launch.  The footage of the Challenger was relentless for days, interspersed with footage of McAuliffe and her students. The lesson I learned that day was that the impact of a teacher was truly infinite. Even though McAuliffe had died, her legacy would live on. 22 year old me was transfixed, and inspired. I was going to be a teacher.

A friend of my parents was a principal at a local Catholic elementary school. She offered me a position teaching 6th grade math (private schools don’t have the same certification requirements that public schools have) and I LOVED it! I think my first year’s salary was $12,000. (I hesitate to write that even now because it makes me sound so ridiculously old!)  The principal helped me get my certificate a few years later and then I blinked and 30 years have passed in the classroom.

It’s different now, to state the obvious. One of my first years teaching, a 3rd grade teacher gave me some of her books and supplies. I remember one book in particular was well worn. “Oh,” she told me. “I used to use that as a resource for my 3rd graders, but it’s too hard for the kids now. Maybe the 7th graders can do it.” I still have that book, more as a tribute to a cherished mentor than anything, because it’s way too hard for my 7th graders now. What happened? When did basic skills become not so basic? When did work that a 3rd grader used to be able to do become too hard for a 7th grader?

I was always going to be a teacher. It’s what I was made to do, and I love it. I love the time in my classroom, I love the relationships with the thousands of students I’ve known through the years. I still love the excitement of a lesson that went particularly well or the lightbulb moments in their eyes. I have no regrets. But it’s different now. I lose at least 2 preps a week covering for my quarantined or sick colleagues. I have more IEP, 504, I&RS, PDP, PLC, SGO paperwork in one year now than I had in the first 25 years of my career combined. I still love teaching, but I really don’t love management.

What’s can we do?

If you’re a teacher, we can make it easier for each other. Cover my class when I have to use the bathroom and I’ll do the same for you. Don’t spend your whole prep period, and mine, complaining without solving anything. Hold our students accountable so they’re not surprised when I do.

If you’re a parent, you can make it easier for me. Teach your child to wear a mask properly. Provide him or her with pencils every day. Make education a priority in your home.

If you’re an administrator, you can make it easier for me. Don’t have a meeting when an email will suffice. Don’t add more to my job without taking something else away. Tell me you recognize what a great job I’m doing and that you appreciate me.

Comment below to share your ideas to help each other!

Atomic Structure Magic Picture Reveal Worksheet

What are Magic Picture Reveal Worksheets?

Any time you can make learning and reviewing vocabulary fun, do it!

Magic Picture Reveal worksheets are digital vocabulary or practice worksheets created using conditional formatting on Google Sheets. As students correctly answer each question, a few pixels of a magic picture are revealed. Once they get all of the answers correct, the whole picture is revealed. are a great way to engage students and reward them for learning their vocabulary.  Here’s a breakdown of how to create your own magic picture reveal worksheets digitally. As a self-checking activity, magic picture worksheets are the best!

It’s easy for students to self-check their work and they’re engaged while doing so.

How does the atomic structure magic picture work?

The atomic structure magic picture reveals an image of a snowman in a snow globe when all of the answers are correct.

It starts out with a blank screen and 25 questions.

atomic structure digital worksheet

Each question asks students to correctly calculate either the protons, neutrons, electrons, atomic number, or mass number of an atom given other information. For example, the first question asks how many electrons there are in an atom with 3 protons and 4 neutrons. Entering the correct answer, 3, reveals some of the pixels of the picture.

atomic structure digital worksheet

The pixels that are revealed all contain the conditional formatting “=$E$4=3” which tells the individual pixels to be a certain color if the correct answer, 3, is entered into cell E4.

The second question asks how many neutrons are in an atom with atomic number 9 and mass number 17. The correct answer, 8, reveals a few more pixels.atomic structure digital worksheet

The new pixels that are revealed wit that answer all contain the conditional formatting “=$E$5=8” which tells the individual pixels to be a certain color if the correct answer, 8, is entered into cell E5.

Finally, when all of the answers are correctly identified, the entire picture is revealed.

atomic structure digital worksheetWhat do teachers say about the atomic structure digital worksheet?

Teachers have unanimously given the atomic structure digital picture reveal worksheet resource 5 stars. One teacher said, “Students loved it. I will definably buy more of your magic reveal resources!” Another teacher called it a great resource and said, “I love that this self corrects and is so simple to use!” 

Click here to check out the atomic structure worksheet for yourself! On sale now through Feb 28th for 50% off!

How can you create your own magic picture reveal worksheet?

To create your own magic picture puzzle, check out my blog post “Magic Picture Reveal Digital Worksheets.”

Other magic picture reveal worksheets in my Store:

3 Ways to create Self-Checking Worksheets

Do you use self-checking worksheets? Our students love them, and we do too. Not only are they a huge time saver for the teacher, self-checking worksheets are also a great way for students to take some ownership of their own learning. Students can practice at their own pace, self-identify what they need to study, and repeat the process until they’ve achieved mastery.

There are a few types of self-checking activities:

  1. create a self-grading quizGoogle Forms – Using Google forms, you can create a self directed learning experience in which students must answer correctly before moving on. If you’ve never tried one, here’s a link to download a free self-checking assessment. If you’ve tried them and love them, here’s a link to the blog where we gave step by step directions to creating a Google form self-checking resource.
  2. Boom Cards – Technically not worksheets, Boom cards offer students an opportunity for self-guided practice and reinforcement and serve the same purpose as a self-checking worksheet. We love Boom cards, and our students do too. They can be as interactive and engaging as you want. If you’ve never tried them but are curious, here’s a link for a free set of Boom cards. If you’ve tried them and love them as much as we do, here’s a link to the blog where we gave step by step directions to creating your own Boom Cards.
  3. Google Sheets – Google Sheets enables you to create a self-checking worksheet by using conditional formatting. Set the conditional format to one color for correct answers and another color for incorrect answers. There are a million ways you can customize this from creating pixel art to images that get revealed by blocks. If you’ve never tried a conditionally formatted Google sheet, here is a link to download a free block reveal of Snoopy in the Starry Night. If you’ve tried them and want to create your own, here’s a link to the blog where we gave step by step directions to creating your own self-checking Google Sheets.


How do you use self-checking worksheets?