August 28, 2011

August 28, 2011

August 28, 2011

The first week of school is always exciting for me as a teacher.  It's always fun to meet, challenge, and have fun with a new group of students!

This blog will be a way for me to communicate with all of the parents of my accelerated biology students on a weekly basis.  One part of this blog will be a feature at the end of each one called the "Graba Geek of the Week".  I will pick one student each week to highlight.  Part of this will include a picture of the student, unless you would rather that I not post a picture of your child on this blog.  If that is the case, please let me know by e-mailing me at  I will have no problem with it if you do, and it will not impact a child's opportunity to be the "Geek of the Week".

Events of the Past Week

Monday - The students were not in school, but the teachers were, as we busily made final preparations for the first day of school!

Tuesday - We did quite a few things on our first day.  Some were exciting and some were, well, necessary.  As their schedules were checked, the students picked up their textbooks.  They then had to get themselves into order by birthday, but all communication had to be nonverbal.  It was interesting to see how the students approached solving their first problem of the year.  Many flashed hand signals, and then some realized that their birthday was on their schedule, which made communicating much easier!  The order the students arranged themselves in was then used to put them into their seats for the first quarter (unless I decide that someone's seat needs to be changed).

After that was done, we did a people search to help the kids get to meet other people in their class.  Biology is a class where we do a lot of group work in labs and activities, so I want the students to get to know each other early in the year.  Finally, we talked about some of the questions in the people search as a way to get to know a few things about several of our classmates.

Homework was to type an answer to the question at the end of "Look Out Below!"  The reading passage is a fictional description of a very odd behavior exhibited by some sloths kept in captivity.  Many of the students expressed that they were definitely interested in the article, and a few were pretty grossed out!

Wednesday - We first went over the policies and procedures for our class.  After this brief discussion, the kids were put into lab teams.  I have several quotations from John Wooden, the famous UCLA basketball coach from the 60's and 70's.  There were fourteen quotes, and each of the fourteen was found on two notecards.  The students had to find the other person in class that had the same quote as they did.  The person they found is their lab partner for the first quarter.  After discussing a few of the quotes that are some of my favorites (such as "If what you did yesterday still impresses you, then you haven't accomplished much today"), we moved on to our next activity.

We played a little memory game that was used to illustrate the importance of organizing information when you study, and breaking what you study down into small groups to study a little bit at a time.  The kids should be able to explain that activity to you.

Finally, we took a look at our first lab, which is being used to learn about the scientific method.  For homework, the students read and highlighted the introduction to the lab, and completed a portion of the lab on identifying and writing good, testable hypotheses.

Thursday - The students came into class and we got to work on our lab right away.  First, the kids got together with their lab partners to discuss their hypotheses from the night before.  Then, we came back together as a class so that we could discuss what the lab teams had determined in regards to the hypotheses from their homework.  Then, we took a look at a hypothesis regarding antibacterial soap versus regular soap.  After looking at the hypothesis, the kids were given the task of starting to design an experiment to test whether or not antibacterial soap is more effective than regular soap.

For homework, a worksheet was handed out to every period but 1st, which was moving a little slower through the discussion we had, that asked the students to identify what was wrong with seven different experiments, based on their knowledge of the criteria for a good experiment.  In addition, the students had to study for their first prefix quiz, which was given on Friday.

Friday - Class started with the first quiz of the year.  Most students did very well on this ten point quiz.  A few did not, most likely because they forgot about the quiz or studied some of the wrong material.  For example, one student let me know that they studied the examples of words with the prefixes in them, rather than the meaning of the prefixes that would be on the first quiz. 

After the quiz was completed, we got to work on setting up our lab.  Ask your kids to describe the procedure we developed together.  They should be able to explain what we did and why we did it.  Finally, I handed out the lab we will be running on Monday.  Students in every period but 1st period were asked to read and highlight the introduction, and read through the procedure for the lab.  We didn't have time to get to handing out the lab during 1st hour, so they did the Criteria for a Good Experiment homework that they did not get on Thursday.

Upcoming Events

Monday - We will analyze the results of our experiment on antibacterial vs. regular soap by checking our petri dishes that have been in the incubator over the weekend for bacterial growth.  After looking at the results, we will learn about how statistics are used to analyze data and draw some conclusions as a class.

Then we will investigate the characteristics of living things by trying to determine whether or not some "Mystery Matter" is alive.  This is another experiment we will set up on one day and analyze the final results on the next day.

Tuesday - We will be looking at the results of our Mystery Matter lab, and then also looking at several examples of objects that may or may not be alive.  It will be the job of the students to determine whether or not the sample is alive, and to defend their decision.  Homework will be to finish the questions at the end of both experiments.

Wednesday - Wednesday will be a day to review the scientific method and characteristics of living things for our first test!  Homework will obviously be to study for the test.

Thursday - The students will have their first test of the year on Thursday.  It will be multiple choice, so they need to make sure they bring a pencil to class!  Many of the questions will ask the students to analyze an experiment to identify parts of the experiment, like the hypothesis, data, conclusion, etc.  They will also have to identify the proper characteristic of life when given a description of a particular behavior, adaptation, etc.  These higher level type questions, where students have to apply their knowledge to a situation, will be typical of tests in accelerated biology.

Friday - Friday will be a day to review our results from the test on the scientific method and characteristics of living things.  Afterwards, we will begin our unit on chemistry and biochemistry by reviewing the periodic table.  Rather than be lectured to about it, the students will review the information in the periodic table by doing a webquest.  Most of the students in class have learned about the periodic table before, but need a little bit of a refresher here at the beginning of the year.

Interesting Tidbits

This year I have started a website for my classes.  The web address is  On that site I have links to all of the worksheets for our first two units (as of right now, the subsequent units will be updated as the year goes on), as well as all of our labs, this blog, and a calendar for our course.  The calendar is a tentative schedule that can be adjusted as we go and I assess the needs of the students in class.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have at  I also love to have people post comments on the various blog posts, so feel free to leave one here!