September 25, 2011

September 25, 2011

September 25, 2011

It's Bears-Packers weekend - GO BEARS!  This past week I did two new lab activities with the students.  As a result, some of the plans for the week had to be readjusted as I didn't know exactly how much time each activity would take.  Hopefully the students benefited from the new material this year more than the material in the past. 

Events of the Past Week

Monday - On Monday, I lectured to the students about important characteristics of carbohydrates.  Afterwards, they built paper models of carbohydrates.  The important idea from this activity,is that the students be able to identify a monosaccharide from a disaccharide from a polysaccharide (the three different types of carbohydrates).  They will also need to be able to distinguish those three types of molecules from the molecules we learned about on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Homework was to complete the questions in their biochemistry worksheet packet that dealt with lipids.

Tuesday - The students took notes on the important characteristics of lipids.  Following that, they built models of lipids.  The students need to be able to distinguish lipids from the three types of carbohydrates, as well as identify the building blocks of a lipid molecule (glycerol and fatty acids).  Homework was to complete the questions in their biochemistry worksheet packet on proteins.

Wednesday - This was the final day of introduction to a type of biomolecule.  Students learned about the important characteristics of proteins, as well as their building blocks, amino acids.  They will need to be able to identify an amino acid and a protein, as well.  Homework for first hour was to read about the importance of proteins, while my other classes tried identifying important functional groups and types of molecules on a worksheet.

Thursday - We began a two day lab using different indicators for carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids.  We began by using Benedict's solution to indicate the presence of monosaccharides, and iodine solution to indicate the presence of polysaccharides.  Homework was to complete through question eight in their lab packet, as well as to read the introduction of the lab.

Friday - Class began by taking our fourth prefix quiz.  Following that, we finished our identification of biomolecules lab by using Biuret solution to test for the presence of proteins, and the grease spot test as well as solubility in water vs. solubility in hexane test for lipids.  I also posted the following statements on the board for the students so they would know what they needed to know from the lab experiment:

1)  Know which biomolecule Benedict's is used to indicate.
2)  Know which biomolecule Iodine is used to indicate.
3)  Know which molecule Biuret is used to indicate.
4)  Know what a positive and negative test looks like for Benedict's, Iodine, Biuret, and the Grease-Spot
5)  Identify the types of solvents lipids will and will not dissolve in.
6)  Be able to distinguish between a positive and a negative control.
7)  Be able to use the results of the four indicator tests to determine the contents of an unknown solution.

Upcoming Events:

Monday - This will be a day of review for our test that is scheduled for Wednesday.  We will begin Monday by reviewing the results of our lab from Thursday and Friday.  Following that, we will review on Monday by using many different graphic organizers that I have put together over the years to help the students organize all of the material they have on carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids.  Homework will be to study for the test on Wednesday.  Today's them for homecoming dress up day is pajama day.

Tuesday - We will play a review game using remote control clickers with the students.  Homework will be to study for the test on Wednesday.  Today's dress up theme is "Under the Sea".

Wednesday - We will take our test on chemistry and biochemistry.  This will cover all of the material from the periodic table webquest through our lab on carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins.  The them for dress up day is "Happy Birthday" to celebrate Fremd's 50th birthday.  No birthday suits, please!

Thursday - We will review our results from the biochemistry test and begin our unit on the metric system, graphing, and scientific notation with a worksheet on scientific notation.  Homework will be to finish the worksheet.  Today is class color day.  Freshman wear blue, sophomores wear red, juniors wear green, and seniors wear gold.

Friday - We will review the scientific notation worksheet and then conduct a lab reviewing the metric system.  The focus of the lab will be units of length, mass, and volume.  Homework will be to complete the questions in the lab.  Friday is green and gold day.  The pep assembly follows 8th period, so the class periods will all be shortened by about 8 minutes.

Graba Geek of the Week

The geek of the week this week goes to Jennie Yang.  Jennie has done very well on all of our quizzes and tests, and is always willing to volunteer answers to any questions that I pose.  If more of my students were willing to take the risks she does in volunteering, more students would be very successful.  Way to go, Jennie!

September 18, 2011

September 18, 2011

September 18, 2011

I hope all of you had a wonderful weekend.  Sunday was pretty dreary, but I know we used it to get a lot of cleaning done inside our house, anyway!

Events of the Past Week

Monday - We began the week by finishing our acid/base lab.  Students investigated the concept of buffers, chemicals that prevent the pH of a solution from fluctuating, in this lab.  Homework was to finish the questions in the lab and study for a quiz on basic chemistry.

Tuesday - The students began class by taking their quiz.  When they finished their quiz, the students worked on answering questions in their study guides for biochemistry.  The questions pertained to the element carbon, and why it is so important to living things.  For homework, they were to finish answering through question 43.

Wednesday - We began class on Wednesday by taking our 3rd prefix quiz.  When everyone was finished, I introduced our lab experiment on building models of molecules.  Included in this was an explanation of the difference between a molecular and a structural formula.

After introducing the lab, the students were given their quizzes from Tuesday back to go over.  There was a checklist that was used to help the students analyze their performance.  The list had them focus on which topics they needed to work on before the next quiz.

As soon as they were done checking their quiz results, students immediately moved into beginning their molecule building lab.  There was no homework, as no one finished the lab in class.

Thursday - Since Thursday was a half day, all we had time to do was finish building our molecular models.  Homework was to finish the 6 questions at the end of the lab.

Friday - On Friday, we began class by asking questions about the homework from Tuesday night about carbon.  After everone was finished asking questions, I lectured to the students about some important concepts related to organic molecules.

Students were then given the opportunity to begin their homework, which was to answer questions 44-54 in their biochemistry study guide.  Any questions that were not finished had to be finished for homework over the weekend.

Upcoming Events

Monday - The plan for Monday is to begin class by asking for questions related to the homework from the weekend.  Hopefully the questions will lead to a productive discussion of important ideas related to carbohydrates.  Anything that I consider important for the students to know that we don't cover during the question answer period will be covered during a brief carbohydrate lecture. 

The lecture will be followed by a modeling lab, where the students will be building paper models of the three different types of carbohydrates:  monosaccharides, disaccharides, and polysaccharides.

If there is time left, I will lecture on the topic of lipids.  Homework will be to answer the questions in their study guides related to proteins and lipids.

Tuesday - We will begin class by building paper models of lipids.  I will then lecture briefly on proteins, and then the students will build paper models of proteins.  For homework, the students will be asked to read over the lab we will do the next two days.

Wednesday - On Wednesday, we will do day 1 of a 2 day lab.  This is the first time I'm attempting this lab, so it may take more than 2 days, but that is the plan for now.  We will be using different indicators, and testing them with different types of carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids.  The idea is for the students to learn what the following indicators actually indicate the presence of:  Benedict's solution, Biuret solution, and Iodine solution.

Thursday - The students will be given an unknown solution, containing anywhere between 1 and 3 of the different types of molecules we will have used indicators with, and they will have to run the indicator tests on the unknown solution to figure out what is in it.

Friday - Friday will be day 1 of review for our biochemistry unit test.  We will play a review game with whiteboards and dry erase markers, or with cell phones (I'm not sure which I'll try yet), to help get the students ready for their test.  There is a website called, that allows you to type in multiple choice questions, which the site then saves as a PowerPoint slide that can be downloaded.  After downloading the slide, the user puts it into a presentation, and when the slide comes up, students text their answers to the question.  The results of the texting come up in real time on the PowerPoint slide.  I have used it before with kids, and they really enjoy it.

Have a great week!

September 11, 2011

September 11, 2011

September 11, 2011

On this day of remembrance, I hope that all of you are able to find some time to reflect and find some peace.  It is hard to believe that 10 years have passed since that terrible day.  It's also hard to believe that these freshmen were only 4 on that day.

Events of the Past Week

Monday - LABOR DAY

Tuesday - On Tuesday we discussed some of the questions from the students' webquest that they completed over the weekend.  Afterwards, the students took notes on four different types of bonds:  ionic, nonpolar covalent, polar covalent, and hydrogen.  For homework, the students completed questions 1-22 in a packet on biochemistry by using their textbook.

Wednesday - We began class by watching a video from the "World of Chemistry" series on the properties of water.  The movie was paused several times during the course of watching it so that we could discuss many of the concepts presented, and the students were supposed to take notes while watching the movie.

After finishing the movie, we began our lab activity investigating the properties of water.  There were several stations for the students to investigate cohesion, adhesion, capillarity, and surface tension.  They should be able to show you some of the activities done in class with materials from around your house, if you're interested!  Hopefully they can explain the science behind those activities, as well.

Thursday - The students were given 10 minutes to finish visiting each of our seven lab stations investigating the property of water.  Then, they were given a lecture on the properties of water.  I tried to draw on their knowledge of water properties gained from their lab experiment, the movie, and their reading to make the lecture as meaningful to them as possible.  The PowerPoint used that day is available under the "Worksheets and Presentations" of the accelerated biology page on

Homework on Thursday was to read the introduction to our lab investigation on acids and bases, and to answer the six prelab questions that followed.

Friday - We began investigating the properties of acids and bases by using pH paper, red litmus paper, and blue litmus paper to determine which household substances are acids and which are bases.  Students will be expected to remember what blue litmus paper indicates, and what red litmus paper indicates, but not the exact pH of the household chemicals, nor will they be expected to remember which household chemicals were acids and which were bases. 

Homework was to read and highlight the procedure for part 2 of the acid and base lab, which will investigate the properties of buffers.

Upcoming Events

Monday - Monday's plan is to compare how many drops of acid it takes to change the pH of a weak basic solution versus an egg white solution.  The students should find that it takes many more drops to change the pH of the egg white because it contains a buffer, which is a chemical that prevents changes in the pH of a solution.  The egg white has a buffer because if the pH of the egg white were to change, the developing embryo inside could be harmed.  The basic solution does not because no living thing was dependent on the solution I made in the back prep area!

Homework on Monday will be to finish any questions remaining from the lab, and then to study for our quiz on atoms, chemical bonding, the properties of water, and acids and bases.  A list of the topics on the quiz was put on the board for the students on Friday.

Tuesday - Quiz day!  The students will need to bring their textbooks to begin working on the next section in their "Biochemistry Worksheet" when they finish their quiz.  Homework will be to finish the questions from that packet that are assigned in class, and to study for their third prefix quiz.

Wednesday - Class will begin with the third prefix quiz of the year, followed by time to process the results from the quiz on Tuesday.

After finishing those two activities, the students will be introduced to the difference between a molecular formula and a structural formula.  This is to prepare them for the lab activity for the day, which will involve using ball and stick models to build several molecules important in biology.  The lab will help reinforce the idea of a structural formula, as well as introduce the students to four important groups of atoms called "functional groups" that they will be responsible for knowing and recognizing.

Thursday - We will finish our model building lab.  There will then be a lecture on the properties of carbohydrates, again drawing on the knowledge the students have gained from their reading out of the textbook on the topic.  This is only a half day due to open house, so I may have to finish the lecture up on Friday.  I look forward to meeting all of you!

Friday - Class will begin with a lecture on the properties of proteins, followed by the beginning of a modeling lab to reinforce what students will have learned from their reading and lecture on the topics of carbohydrates and proteins.

For homework, students will read an article called "Why Structure?" about the important role proteins play in living things.  You may want to read it, too!  I think it's a pretty interesting read.  Then again, I am a biology teacher and a bit of a geek!

Interesting Tidbits

As part of our celebration of Fremd's 50th anniversary, each department in the school is planning activities for a different month.  This month, the family and consumer sciences department has chosen each Wednesday as a day to dress up from a different decade of Fremd's history.  Last Wednesday was 60's day, this Wednesday is 70's day, and next Wednesday is 80's day.  Encourage your kids, if  you can, to take part!  The more people taking part, the more fun these days become.

Also, Mrs. Gattuso shared with me a summer science program available to girls that is run through the University of Illinois.  Registration begins in February, but the sooner you are made aware of the opportunity, the better, as far as I'm concerned!  Now you'll know to start looking for it.  Here is the link to the program:

Come and learn how a little engineering can make a BIG difference! Campers will discover how chemical engineering and bioengineering are teaming up together to help cure diseases, provide alternative sources of energy, and make a real impact in developing countries. Young women will learn how tissue engineering is working to repair human muscles damaged by illnesses such as polio and how to harness alternative sources of energy to use it for constructive ends, as economically as possible, with the least damaging impacts on our environment. As part of the challenge and fun, students will work in state of the art UIUC labs to establish and observe their own culture of muscle cells, to develop medicine to prevent disease, and to create environmentally friendly alternative sources of energy.

Have a great week, everyone!

September 4, 2011

September 4, 2011

September 4, 2011

I hope everyone is having a relaxing Labor Day weekend with time to enjoy family and friends.  We had a busy week in class this last week!

Events of the Past Week

Monday - We completed our scientific method experiment by analyzing the results from the petri dishes we streaked on Friday.  There was some really impressive bacterial growth!  Unfortunately, we were not able to conclude whether or not antibacterial soap is actually more effective at removing bacteria than regular hand soap. 

After analyzing our results, we moved on to our next experiment, which was used to investigate some of the characteristics of living things.  The students were given some mystery matter (yeast), sugar, and water that they had to warm up a little bit.  All the materials were placed in a flask, tested for the presence of glucose (to see if the mystery matter was metabolizing the sugar), and then a balloon was put on top of the flask.  The setup was then allowed to run overnight.

Tuesday - We gathered data from our characteristics of life experiment by testing for the presence of glucose in each flask, and observing how inflated the balloons on our flasks were.  There was one question to answer about whether or not the "mystery matter" was alive or not.  Everyone figured out that it was, and most students knew that it was yeast.

The next class activity was to observe 15 different specimens set up around the room, and decide whether they were alive, dead, never alive, or the product of a living thing.  Some groups in some classes had to finish observing some of the specimens on Wednesday, so the questions in the lab were not assigned for homework.

Wednesday - We began class with a reading about a fish hitting the windshield of an airplane.  The students in every class were able to correctly figure out that a bird must have been startled and dropped the fish, which then hit the plane!

After getting our brains going with that activity, we finished looking at all of the specimens and had about 10 more minutes to answer questions from the handout that went along with the activity.  Any unfinished questions were homework.

We spent the next 10-15 minutes, depending on the class and how many questions that they had, reviewing the characteristics of living things and the levels of biological organization.

Finally, we had a review worksheet that the students had to complete in class.  There was a reading about the scientific process in action, followed by 11 multiple choice questions that the students answered in regards to the reading.  Afterwards we briefly discussed the passage and the questions.

Thursday - Everyone got their first taste of an accelerated freshman biology test.  This was the shortest, and probably least difficult, test of the year.  Overall, each class did pretty well!  When the test was completed, every student picked up their very own copy of the periodic table (which I personally believe everyone should have!), and began a packet reviewing the characteristics of atoms, ions, and isotopes.  Any parts of the packet that were not completed by the end of class were to be completed for homework.

Friday - We took some time Friday to go over the results from our first test.  The kids had some good questions!

Once we were done going over the test, we discussed the homework, "Exploring Atoms", from the night before, and then we began a webquest to review the information found in the periodic table, which will be important for us to know during our biochemistry unit!  Homework was to complete any parts of the webquest that were not finished in class.

Upcoming Events

Monday - LABOR DAY! 

Tuesday - The students will turn in their webquests, and I'll answer any questions that they may have.  Hopefully their questions lead into a discussion of atoms vs. ions vs. isotopes.  If not, I'll be trying to lead them there so we can have a discussion about the differences between them!

Afterwards, I will review with them the different types of chemical bonds that will be important in biology.  Those are covalent bonds, ionic bonds, and hydrogen bonds.

For homework, the students will be completing a chemical formula writing worksheet.  This will involve looking at the charges on two different ions, and determing how many of each ion would be needed to make a molecule.

Wednesday - We will begin class by watching about 15 minutes of a video on the properties of water, an essential molecule for life!  Afterwards, we will be doing some experiments investigating the properties of water at various stations set up around the classroom.  Ask your kids to show you some of them.  Most of them can be done at home, and some of them are pretty cool (at least if you're a geek like me)!

For homework, the students will be getting a packet that corresponds to the chapters in their textbooks on biochemistry.  The assignment will be to complete the section in the packet related to the properties of water.

Thursday - We will finish our properties of water lab.  Once every team has completed all of our stations, we will process the science behind each station, and the students will be taking some lecture notes on the important characteristics of water.

For homework, everyone will be reading the introduction to a lab we will do on Friday investigating acids and bases, and then completing the prelab questions that go along with it.

Friday - We will investigate several household products using different pH indicators, both pH paper and litmus paper, to determine whether they are acids or bases.  The students will also be expected to remember the color changes associated with red and blue litmus paper when they are each placed in an acid or a base.  I try to help them with a little rhyme:  "Blue to red it's an acid" (I emphasize and slightly mispronounce acid as "a-SAID" so that they remember it better). 

Homework will be to complete the questions in the lab that go along with the investigating household chemicals portion of the lab.  There is a part 2 to the lab that we will do on Monday of the following week.

Interesting Tidbits

I wanted to remind everyone one last time that if you do not want me to post a picture of your child on this blog, please let me know by e-mailing me at  If I don't hear from you by next Sunday (the 11th), I'll assume that it is OK with you.

Also, I sent an e-mail from Mrs. Oakes, who coordinates internships for us, about an opportunity for those interested in becoming a doctor to intern at Northwest Memorial.  If you have any questions about the internship, please contact her at  If you did not receive the e-mail, please send me an e-mail at so that I can resend the e-mail to  you.

Have a good week!