Setting up my classroom


My classroom is long and narrow and in previous years, it has been set up as a traditional class.   This was becoming a problem for me with my class sizes and the amount of space left over to do activities.  I encourage group work during the students independent work time but his was becoming a problem for students to group together with my traditional style classroom.  So I decided to change up, the layout of my class.


I went through several initial ideas but they did not seem to work or at least work in the way that I had imagined.  The amount of usable space in my classroom was a big challenge for me.  I wanted something that allowed for small group work, activities, and learning stations, but also allowed students to be comfortable in the room.  I looked at several ideas on Pinterest about flexible-seating classrooms and loved the general idea.  The only problem, I don’t have the time to search for the items or the money, even if you find the items at resale shops or garage sales.  Temporarily, I have my room set up like this.

I am happy with it but will have to see how it functions once we get back to school.  I showed it to my administrators who really liked the change.  I will be looking at getting tables to replace the groups of desks if the set-up is functional.  Fingers crossed…maybe I will be getting different furniture soon to help make my classroom more flexible and inviting for my students.

Part 8: It’s Time to Show What You Know

Every student is different. I know this is not really a revelation for most of you, but do we really try to adapt our instruction with this concept in mind?

My family is full of very different learners. My husband hates reading (especially instructions), but he can do anything hands-on. He wants to take things apart and then put them back together to see how they work. On the other hand, my brother-in-law wants to read about everything and completely understand it before he attempts any sort of hands-on learning. I am somewhere in between.

I think my students follow this same pattern. Traditionally, school has been aimed at book learners. I have many students who struggled with tests and paper assessments but were great at labs. I wanted to even the playing field in my class so that these students could be successful also. I also feel like knowing something and applying it are two different things, so I decided to add in Mastery Demonstrations.

What are mastery demonstrations? Glad you asked. Mastery demonstrations are a time for my kids to show what they know. I typically use these after we have learned the material as a hands-on assessment.

How do mastery demonstrations work? I first tried this with my Circuits & Electricity Unit in Physics. I created two different demonstrations for this unit.

Mastery Demo #1: I put everything a student would need to build a circuit in a basket. Their task was to build a complete, working circuit using everything in the basket. They had ~8 minutes to complete this task. To prevent cheating, I had different materials in each basket in the lab. Once they had a complete working circuit, they had to draw the schematic diagram for their circuit.

Mastery Demo #2: I placed all of our circuit building materials on a table. Each student was given a schematic and required to build a working circuit that matched their schematic. They had ~8 minutes to complete this task.

How did it go? Students found this challenging. For my book learners, they had struggled to apply what they had learned. They did not understand circuits nearly as well as they thought they did. However, my hands-on students had no trouble at all. They met this challenge and blew it out of the water. Mission accomplished.

Part 7: Where are we now…

I love to read! My husband thinks I am a complete nerd, but I don’t care. I especially enjoy reading other teacher’s blogs for new and innovative ideas. Some teachers are doing some really great things in their classrooms, and I want to know if I can incorporate any of these great ideas into my own classroom.

One of the blogs I enjoy reading is by Matthew Moore, a high school math teacher. One of his ideas was to change his math curriculum from a linear format to a non-linear format. Instead of teaching Topic A, Topic B, and Topic C in order, what if we rearranged the sequence. Does Topic A really need to be first? Maybe. Maybe not.

Since I had already switched my class to a flexible-paced learning environment, I was really interested in the idea of a more non-linear format. What if instead of teaching the unit in the same order as always, what if I clustered the information around central topics. I decided to start with Circuits & Electricity and give it a shot.

I watched his video on how he creates a non-linear lesson using Google Drawings. So I started with my objectives and created my first ever Google Drawing. I decided that a completely non-linear unit would not work in this case, so I broke my unit into 4 parts. Here is a screenshot of my first attempt at non-linear instruction.

So how did it go? Glad you asked. It actually went better than I expected. It was interesting the first week because it was new and unfamiliar. Once my kids understood that they could do Part 1 in any order, it got much easier. They loved having more control and more choices over how they learned.

For some kids, having all 4 parts on one Google Drawing was overwhelming. So for the next unit, I made separate drawings for each part.

They also really liked having all of the links to assignments on one document. I had chosen to create all of the assignment for this unit in Google. This was great, because with all of these new changes, I was bound to make some a lot of mistakes. Using Google, it was really easy to make changes that were instantly live. Sometimes I just needed to clarify instructions or change a link to a video. Now I only had to change it in one place instead of 6.

Using Google also allowed for more variety in assignments. I was no longer limited to paper pencil tasks. Now my students could use technology to create all kinds of new products to show me what they learned. This provided great opportunities for differentiation that were easy for me to manage.

Overall, this was a really positive change to my classroom. I am not sure how well it will work with every unit, but it will definitely work with most of them. I plan to continue teaching this way. My kids loved it, and I loved it.

Class Points

I normally drop a daily grade at the end of the grading period.  A few years ago I implemented something I call class points that correlates to the number of drop grades a class receives at the end of a grading period.

I made a poster that hangs at the front of my room that displays the class points.


This poster allows the student and me to keep track of their current points.  I have had some fellow teachers tell me that the concept seems very “elementary,” but it works wonders for my classroom environment in the High School.

The Basics of my Class Points System:

  • Each class starts the grading period with 2 class points. The goal is to keep all of your class points for the entire grading period.
  • Class points are maintained as a class. The students are responsible for monitoring each other to keep their points.
  • You can only lose points not gain them. The class can lose points for misbehaving for me or a substitute, being disrespectful to others, not returning the classroom to the way it was when they came in (I.E. not putting up their material like calculators), or not cleaning up properly after a lab.  The beauty of this system is you can use it to reinforce any behavior you would like for your classroom.
  • At the end of the grading period, the number of stars that remain on the poster for the class directly correlates to the number of daily grades I will drop. If your class does not have any stars left, then you do not get a dropped grade.

I continue to use this system because it holds students accountable for their actions and keeps me from constantly picking up after them.  At the beginning of the year, I will remind the students for about a week to put up their materials and straighten the class or lab room.  After that, my students take on this responsibility and remind each other to do these simple tasks at the end of the class. It’s a win-win for everybody.

Our Resources

In our TPT store, you will find resources for both High School Physics and Chemistry. Our current products include vocabulary for interactive notebooks, vocabulary interactive word walls, and vocabulary flash cards. We have bundled all three vocabulary products together for each unit. By purchasing the unit bundles, you can save as much as 20%.  If you like these products, you may want to check out our full year of vocabulary bundles for your physics classroom.

We have started new product lines for this school year, both of which will focus on lab activities for your classrooms. Our physics product line for this year is a series called The Physics Files and our chemistry product line is titled Mission ChemPossible. Both series will feature station labs that can easily be personalized for your classroom. You can customize each lab based on your schedule and your students.

Check out our TPT store on August 22 for the back to school bonus sale. Save up to 25% off in our store when you use the promo code BTSBONUS. Click the picture to start shopping.


Part 6: When You Give a Kid a Choice…

Here are the things that stood out to us from the student survey:

  1. Students love being able to work at their own pace. Students who needed more time were able to slow down, while our more advanced students could work more quickly.
  2. As teachers, we always have a plan of how a unit should progress, but we don’t always provide this information to our students at the beginning of the unit. When we changed to the flexile-paced format, our students now have all of the information about a unit on the first day. They know when all assignments will be due and can now adapt their schedules accordingly.
  3. It was evident that our students noticed that they were able to get more 1:1 instruction (if necessary) when they needed it, not just at the end of class.
  4. Students really seemed to take more ownership of the class. When we asked for ways to improve our instruction, they really gave thoughtful answers with practical ways that we could implement some simple changes.

Bases on our student survey responses and our observations during the unit, we made some minor changes for the next unit. Here are some of our changes:

  1. We added a class calendar for the unit. We created the calendar using a Google doc, so that if we needed to make changes on the fly, the student link was updated immediately.                                                                                                                                                                                       We color-coded the days to make it easier to see what was happening in class each day. We posted the calendar on our Schoology pages, and we printed a hard-copy and posted it in our rooms. Our kids loved this change because it made it easy to know what was happening each day in class.
  2. Our students really preferred having lab days as a class instead of working on them individually. They wanted to be able to discuss the lab with other people during the lab. This was a really easy change to make and actually made it much easier on us.
  3. We changed the Optional Assignments to Supplemental Assignments. To the students, optional implied that you really didn’t need to do the assignments and that was not our intent. By changing the title to supplemental, our students understood that these weren’t just busy work.
  4. The types of assignments are changing from online worksheets to more authentic, student-created assignments (EX. Real world posters, online discussions, comics…)

Coming Soon

Last year we focused on creating Physics Vocabulary products which included Vocabulary for Interactive Notebooks, Word Walls, and Flash Cards for the 16 units we cover in our classes. We bundled all three vocabulary products together for each unit. By purchasing the bundles of the units, you can save as much as 20%.



If you like these products, you may want to check out our full year of vocabulary bundles.


Currently, we are working on two new product lines, both of which will focus on lab activities for your classrooms. Our physics product line for this year is a series called The Physics Files and our chemistry product line is titled Mission ChemPossible. Both series will feature station labs that can easily be personalized for your classroom. You can customize each lab based on your schedule and your students.

Each investigation contains 8-15 lab stations to get students engaged and moving around. All stations will come with step-by-step instructions and are easy to prep and clean up. No special materials are required. You should already have all materials in a typical science classroom.


We will also be adding chemistry vocabulary in the same style as our physics vocabulary products throughout the year. As the school year unfolds, we will post these products to our TPT store, Learning 365. Check back periodically to find our new products.

Hope you have a great 2017-2018 School Year. Make sure to check out the TPT Back to School Site wide sell on August 1st and 2nd. Save up to 25% off in our store when you use the promo code BTS2017. Click the picture below to start shopping.

Part 5: The Results are In…

Well, Week 2 went much like week 1. Now that the initial unit is complete, it is time for another self-refection.

Things we thought we well:

  • Students were engaged and worked diligently.
  • Overall student learning increased. Most students improved their assessment scores; although, it did take some students more attempts than others.
  • Students seemed to take more ownership of their learning.
  • We were able to spend more time with individual students.

Things that didn’t go so well:

  • As usual, there were some technology glitches, but we seemed to have worked these out.
  • We need more equipment for some activities. It seemed like everyone wanted to do those activities at the same time.
  • Some students still needed some help staying on task and struggled with independent work.

Things that surprised me:

  • I didn’t expect to have so much free time during class.
  • I didn’t expect it to be so quick and easy to get assignments graded during class.
  • I was surprised at how long certain activities took compared to others.
  • I was pleasantly surprised at how well they adapted to the changes overall.

So what did the students think? Glad you asked. We did a survey using Google Forms to hear what they had to say. Here are the results:

So I guess you could say they liked it, so here goes Round 2…

Part 4: Are we ready for this???

Teacher’s Log Day 1: The kids seemed excited about the new changes. As expected, there were A LOT of questions, so the discussion took a lot longer than expected. I don’t know that the kids accomplished much on their assignments today, but it seemed to have gone well.

Note to Self: Student’s need earphones or earbuds for watching videos.

Teacher’s Log Day 2: Everyone came in and got started. They were ready to work. We did field a few more questions about the directions for the unit, but overall, it was a pretty productive day. I was even able to talk to most kids individually as they worked on their assignments.

Teacher’s Log Day 3: I noticed that many students had completed some of their assignments but had not turned them in on Schoology, so at the beginning of class, we discussed why it was important to turn in assignments as they were completed. Do not procrastinate and wait until the deadline. I need to keep reinforcing time-management skills.

It was also interesting that student’s grouped themselves according to the assignments that they were working on at the time instead of sitting with friends. This is new.

I also noticed that some students were breezing through assignments while others were lagging behind. I used my class time to focus on the students who were struggling and prod them along. I also was able to grade assignments as they were being submitted.

Teacher’s Log Day 4: All assignments are due by midnight tonight. Some students did not get a perfect score on their Momentum & Impulse HW even after 2 attempts. I spent today in small groups with those that were unsuccessful going over what they struggled with on the assignment.

Some students were already finished with all of the required assignments and were just working on the optional assignments today. A few overachievers were already finished with all of their assignments, so they either helped other students or worked on homework for another class. Overall, today was really productive.

Teacher’s Log Day 5: Today is quiz day. I created a timed, online quiz on Schoology using Question Banks so each quiz is different. This quiz is open-note. Students have 2 attempts to take the quiz. They must make at least a 75, or they will be required to do remediation.

I handed out the assignment sheet for Part 2: Impulse for them to work on when they were finished with the quiz.

Fingers crossed, it appears to be going well, but we will have to wait for the final results….

Part 3: Creating the Plan

We started by looking at our objectives for the unit and identifying possible assignments for the student’s to complete during the unit. Since this was a two week unit on Momentum & Impulse, it was split up into a Part 1: Momentum and Part 2: Impulse.

Since we wanted our student’s to have some choice in their assignments, we created required assignments that everyone must complete and a list of optional assignments.

***Disclaimer: Implementing this plan, requires an astronomical amount of front-loading for the teacher. All assignments for the unit have to be created, copied, and ready to go BEFORE you introduce the new unit in class.***

The plan for class on the first day of the unit:

  1. Give each student a copy of the assignment sheet.
  2. Have a class discussion explaining why some class changed are necessary, how the unit is structured, and our expectations. We had never done anything like this before, so we expected a lot of questions.
  3. Give the students the rest of the week to complete these assignments during class.
  4. Take the Part 1 Quiz on Friday.

We’ll see how it goes…