Putting CER to Work
Classroom, Science

Putting CER to Work

This post is the 5th and final post in the CER framework series. To read any of the previous posts in this series click on those below: 

Putting CER to Work

The final part of the Claim – Evidence – Reasoning (CER) framework is putting all the pieces together. Now that you have explicitly taught, practiced both verbally and in writing, and employed the color visual cues; you and your students are ready to bring them together and see students’ writing improve dramatically.

As with each of the steps before, it is going to be important to employ modeling, collaboration and discussion before you release students to independent writing using the CER framework. Additionally you will always need to keep in the back of your mind that each time you have your students write, that they are applying new learning or content using the CER framework you have built. Because content is continuously changing there will be times that students will struggle and need more support. However, they will likely know what they need to do and be able to begin due to the scaffolds you have put in place.

Building a CER environment:

As you may have discovered, this often does not include ONE lesson in ONE day. Rather this is a cycle of inquiry, information gathering, discussion and collaboration that leads to a well written paragraph that can later be applied to an essay in the older grades.

So what would a CER lesson look like?

STEP 1: Backwards Planning

As with anything you will want to do some backwards planning. I am going to use a simple example for primary grades to walk you through. You first determine what you want your students to be able to do with the content you are teaching. You decide that you want your students to classify organisms into groups based on similar characteristics as your end goal for your unit on Insects.

STEP 2: Engage

You set the stage by showing students a video on insects that captivates their interest. 

STEP 3: Explore 

You set up a learning station in the room where students can examine plastic insects, create drawings, and make observations. 

STEP 4: Explain 

-You circle up with your students and create a Parts to Whole Thinking Map of the different characteristics that students observed about insects using the plastic ones at the station or image cards. 

-Then you watch a video and come up with the main characteristics of an insect and its definition (example video: https://youtu.be/iJlfBNyBKQA). 

-Students then independently read about insects and create a model with playdough

STEP 5: Elaborate 

You allow students to select an insect picture card and then a non-example picture card. Students create a Bubble Thinking Map to compare the insect and non-example from their previous Parts to Whole Map

STEP 6 Evaluate

-Do a whole class model CER for an insect of choice. 

-Give students an image or model of a millipede and ask them to write a claim for whether or not it is an insect using the class example and anchor chart for writing a claim.

-Have students write 1-2 evidence statements using the class model and anchor chart for evidence statements. 

-Finally have students write the reason by having them use the class model and/or anchor chart.

Preparing CER Primary:

Depending on how many times you have modeled will determine whether or not students can use your model and anchor chart to begin. To ensure success you should start by providing students with the model stems like these. 

I think ______________________________.
I noticed ____________________________.
The reason ______________________is because _______________________.

Example Primary CER:

I think that a millipede is not an insect. I noticed that it has too many legs to count. The reason a millipede cannot be an insect is because insects have only 6 legs.

Key Strategies for CER:

I have helped teachers at all grade levels help their students improve their writing. Some key methods have been described here. These strategies have included: 

  • Modeling
  • Thinking Maps
  • Color Codes
  • Sentence Stems/Anchor Charts
  • 5E Model of Inquiry


Additionally I have designed the teaching resources below that you need to begin the CER Framework at any level. They are in printable PDF or Digital Flipbooks. You can use these for yourself to create the framework in your classroom, distribute them to students and use them to model throughout the year and make your anchor charts. Each resource has all the steps for CER across content subjects and is ready to be used immediately. 

Help your students get writing with these CER Resources!!

Reasoning and the CER Framework
Classroom, Science

Reasoning & the CER Framework

This post is the 4th post in the CER framework series. To read any of the previous posts in this series click on those below: 

The third part of the ClaimEvidenceReasoning (CER) framework is the “reasoning.” This step seems to elude students without specific guidance. It really is the critical step in knowing that students have made the connection between their investigation and the concepts they are learning. 

Reasoning and the CER Framework

The purpose of the reasoning is for students to be able to explain the why and how their evidence supports the claim. They should be drawing on the content they are learning or learned at this stage by providing a definition, rule or principle which may also include examples. This may take some in depth modeling and training.

For example, if you were having students make observations of different living things you might ask them to decide if a millipede is an insect? They would make their claim and find evidence using their observations. But to truly make their claim they would need to understand the characteristics or definition of what an insect is.This would require them to give you the definition of an insect and why the milliped does not fit with this model. This is the reasoning. 

Continue with the color coding process.  I use the color green for the reasoning. Whether posting stems on green paper or using a a green highlighter , this visual support will remind students of the importance of the reasoning. 

At a higher level you might be studying the conservation of energy. So in their activity they would state the law of the conservation of energy and how their lab did or did not demonstrate the law. So at this stage you get to see how well your students understand the concepts they are learning. 

As with claim or evidence students will need a strong model and coaching for how to incorporate reasoning. Additionally students will likely need collaborative activities that focus on clear reasoning, which could include a sorting game. 

To help guide your students you could ask them the following:

  • How do you know?
  • Why do you think this?

When students are ready to write their reasoning here a few sentence stems that will get them started and should be practiced verbally or through discussion before they begin the writing process. 


  • This happened because …
  • The reason the ____ is because…

Intermediate (or any primary examples)

  • The ____ showed _____ because…
  • An example of _____ is …
    (or any primary examples)


  • This means…
  • Due to _____ it is evident that…
  • There is little doubt that _____because…
    (or any primary or intermediate examples)

When students are preparing to write you could decide on the scaffolds needed by providing stems that you believe are the best for the type of claim they are supporting or have students discuss ahead of time with a partner or team before they begin writing. As long as you keep this process routine, then when it is time for them to do it on their own they will have a much better understanding on how to support their evidence with reasoning. 

To help you get started with some tools on the entire process, here are some great resources you can immediately put in the hands of your students and model with your class. 

Evidence & CER Framework
Classroom, Science

Evidence & the CER Framework

This post is the 3rd post in the Claim –  Evidence – Reasoning (CER) framework series. To read the first post called: Introduction to the CER framework, click here. To examine the 2nd post: Claim in the CER framework, click here. In this post we examine Evidence.

The second part of the Claim –  Evidence – Reasoning framework is the “evidence.” Think back to a time that you just completed a lesson and then asked students to give you evidence. Did they tell you a story about that one time they were at their house and… Well if they haven’t then you are lucky. Because to my surprise, I would sit down after a great lesson, class discussion and then independent work where they tell me their evidence. I often found recounts of a personal experience embedded either here with the evidence or the reasoning. And the worst thing about this, is you have to tell the kid that their personal experience does not matter in a case like this. So to prevent this from occurring, it is vital that you clearly explain to students what “evidence” is and is not. Evidence is the facts, data, and observations from whatever source you are using. It is not an opinion. It is important to make this distinction.

Evidence & CER Framework

When you are first beginning, give students the claim statement. (Side note: When I do this, it is either printed on blue paper or I write it in blue as a visual cue). Then ask students to find the evidence to back it up. This can be done using a picture or sequence of pictures, data table, graph, or other resource. Make it like a scavenger hunt and they will find you lots of evidence. You can then generate a list from their findings; and depending on the evidence they share, you can make that magic anchor chart of what evidence is and is not. Additionally you can use this same activity to rank the best evidence from the list. If your students are learning this for the first time, you might save this for another day, but we all know that not all evidence is equal. 

As with the color coding the claim in blue, I employ this same system for evidence with the color orange. So if students are sorting evidence they are on orange paper, or they are finding it in text using an orange highlighter and when writing, highlighting their evidence in orange. These visual representations continue to support different areas of the brain and help them. 

To support your students in writing evidence statements here are a few sentence stems:


  • I observed …
  • I noticed …


  • According to the (text/graph/data), …
  • The evidence from the (text/graph/lab) shows …


  • According to the (text/graph/data), …
  • Based on the (text/graph/data), …
  • Further evidence can be found by …

As with claims the language continues to get more complex as the students level increases. Have students practice identifying evidence from a variety of different media: text, data tables, graphs, observations and experiments. Reinforce the language verbally in a collaborative speaking setting and then have them put it into writing. 

It is likely that you will have to constantly reinforce facts and data and not opinion, so expect this to be something you need to constantly review. To help you guide them, you can ask them to show you the data they are using. When they point it out, then tell them that is what they need to write. For example students often try to tell you why, when they should be telling you the “what.” 

Here is an example of a common misconception statement you may see from students. The cheetah is the fastest. Remind them that this is a claim or a conclusion and not evidence. When asking what data did you get this from they are likely to point to the number. That is where you can then say, state that number as your evidence. So an accurate sentence for this example would be: According to the data collected, the cheetah ran at a speed of 60 miles per hour. This will take some training for your students as our brains automatically want to jump to the conclusion, rather than the facts. So expect to have to work on this concept with students. In doing this you will help your students develop strong arguments. 

Getting Started with the CER Framework:

Primary CER

Intermediate Elementary CER Framework

Secondary Science CER

Looking to get started with CER. Visit my TPT Store to get your CER Digital Flipbook and help get your students writing. 

Writing the CLAIM for the CER Framework
Classroom, Science

CLAIMS & the CER Framework

This post is the 2nd post in the CER framework series. To read the first post called: Introduction to the CER framework, click here

The Claim – Evidence – Reasoning (CER) framework begins with the “CLAIM.” A claim in general terms is the answer to the question being explored. Surprisingly, students struggle with writing a claim. However, if you ask students the question, they usually can verbally generate an answer. 

Part of developing an answer to any question is helping students identify the key parts of the question that need to be included in the answer. This is critical and needs to be developed as early as possible and will eliminate many of the challenges that students may face in the future and prevent answers that include: yes, no, it, etc. No matter the age, developing this skill will be invaluable. When developing this, have students speak it aloud as common practice in complete sentences. This step goes a long way. 

Before jumping into writing anything let students share their ideas aloud with a partner, team or class. Allow time for students to practice developing sentences verbally by restating the major parts of the question needed. Techniques such as underlining or highlighting keywords can also be a common practice. (Sidenote: I have students use a blue highlighter for the claim as this provides a visual cue as well). Then once students are ready for the writing portion, it is time for them to use developmentally appropriate language. Below are some ideas to get you started. 

Writing the CLAIM for the CER Framework

CLAIM at the Primary Grades:

  • I think ….
  • I believe…
  • It is my opinion that…

CLAIM at the Intermediate Grades:

  • It is my opinion that…
  • It is easy to argue…
  • The effect of ____ on ____ is _______.

CLAIM at the Secondary Level

  • The effect of ____ on ____ is _______.
  • There is a lot of discussion on the topic of _____. It is my opinion that …
  • On the issue of ____, it is evident that …

While the language changes from a personal to specific language as students progress in academic level,  it is important to support students when they transition from speaking to writing no matter their level. Too often, students are given a writing prompt and asked to write right away. Rather students should be provided ample time to practice verbally with academic language in a collaborative activity, before they ever begin to write. . This simple step can make the difference not only in having something quality to read, but provide the student with stamina and confidence to write a high quality claim.

Primary CER

Secondary Science CER

Looking to get started with CER. Visit my TPT Store to get your CER Digital Flipbook and help get your students writing. 

Introduction to the CER Framework
Classroom, Science

Introduction to the CER Framework

This is the first blog post of an ongoing series to support integrating the CER framework into your classroom for students. In this introduction you will examine what the CER framework is. The following posts will dive deeper into each part of the CER framework and what it looks like in the primary, intermediate and secondary classrooms. 

ClaimEvidence – Reasoning (CER), is a model or framework that allows your students to show what they know as they go through the learning process. All kids are innately curious and easily can engage in discovery. All you have to do is watch them as they explore their world, play at the playground, or even visit centers in the classroom. But too often as learning progresses these natural characteristics dissipate. 

Introduction to the CER Framework

The CER framework, however, supports driving a student’s curiosity as a method to learning and communicating their discoveries. Unfortunately, these strategies are not always introduced to students until upper elementary, when they should be integrated as part of the learning process and inquiry right away. In addition, the CER framework is  seen as a science specific strategy, but it applies across contents and is embedded in the Common Core standards for literacy and mathematics. 

So, what is the CER framework?

The CER framework is centered around a question or phenomena that is either asked by the teacher or even better, generated by the student(s). Then like anything students are provided the opportunity to explore and investigate the question through activities which may include text, experiments, examining data tables or graphs, by making observations, etc. 

The three major parts of the CER framework is: Claim, Evidence and Reasoning.


  • Students generate an answer to the question being explored
  • Generally is only 1 specific sentence or statement
  • Is based on text, data, lab, specific to the question


  • Is data that comes directly from text, tables, graphs, lab, etc
  • Can be qualitative or quantitative as appropriate for the topic/question
  • May come from multiple sources depending on the student level
  • Is not opinion based or based on experience or background


  • Explains the how and why the evidence supports the claim
  • Uses definitions and/or rules or principles
  • Connects the evidence to the claim

While, on the surface this may seem simple for students it will take modeling and practice for students to bring their thinking alive. It is important for you, the teacher,  to plan on this being an ongoing process that is embedded throughout your lessons. One misconception that teachers often have is that they taught it and modeled it, but students still haven’t mastered it. While students might understand the process, they are continuously building new learning which means there will be some struggles with new content and concepts, as well as the development of language from each progressive year. Therefore the CER framework needs to be viewed as an  ongoing cycle in the learning process. Mastery is an ever evolving moving target, just as a learning content occurs in a learning progression. 

Looking to get started with CER. Visit my TPT Store to get your CER Digital Flipbook and help get your students writing. 

Designing NGSS Curriculum Map
Classroom, Science

Designing An NGSS Aligned Curriculum Map

As crazy as it sounds, one of my favorite things to do when summer break arrives is to reflect on the year. Although I have been using NGSS standards to drive my classroom for years, Colorado only officially adopted the standards this past year. With this adoption, our school district revamped all their standards because they were previously based more on the Colorado standards which is where our high stakes testing for science was based on. During this phase of transition I was the lead science teacher who helped facilitate our revised standards, but within the parameters the district laid out for us. One of those parameters was that each year 6th-8th we needed to have integrated standards, meaning some life, physical and earth in every year. Previously our standards placed Earth and Space in 6th, Life in 7th and Physical in 8th. So with these parameters we got to work. 

Working with a group of middle school teachers at all levels we carefully selected standards for each level in a way that they would build on each other year to year. However, many of the physical science standards remained in 8th due to the level of mathematics needed to acquire them. So this last year, these standards were implemented. To my surprise, many teachers took the standards and just taught them as separate content, but also continued to teach how they had previously been teaching facts, ideas and content and just attached the NGSS standard to it. In addition, many teachers would just pick a standard and spend 1-3 weeks on it and then move onto the next standard. 

This led me to realize that many teachers needed support into how NGSS is different from the traditional standards. In addition, when we were working together to select the standards for each grade level, we had looked at how to bundle standards together to create the three dimensional units for NGSS. This had been lost with the roll out. So whether you are doing integrated science in grades 6th-8th or separating them by Earth, Life and Physical there are some key steps you can take to make your life easier and that begins without teaching the standards as separate entities. Rather, look for the standards that can be bundled together cohesively. Having said that you might also have a few stand alones. 

Middle School Science Curriculum Map

STEP 1: Lay out the Standards for Your Grade Level


I love technology, but I found having paper copies of the NGSS standards help me because I can see them, sort them and break them down easier. But if you can simply have them digitally and glance through them together–do what works for you. I have the standards sorted in two ways:

  1. Binder: I have taken all the standards and have 3 sections: Physical, Life and Earth & Space
  2. Binder: I have each grade level 6th, 7th, and 8th with the copies of which standards are by grade level.

Each standard also has a document called Evidence Statements. If you have not examined these I highly recommend that you do because it gives you observable features of what students’ performance looks like for that standard. 

Once you have the standards you need for your grade level you begin to examine them more deeply and find connections.

STEP 2: Combine Topics That Are Easily Taught Together

Now it is time to get messy. Once you have all the standards for the year in front of you you can see things that connect easily with each other. If you’re not sure and feel lost on where to start, you can always scan a textbook to see what was included within a unit of study. In general I try to have somewhere between 6-8 units for the year. But oftentimes I have somewhere between 15 plus standards and 20-25 major learning targets to cover each year to build into these units. 

My process for combining standards consists of writing out the major standards as phrases for the grade level and then I start creating a web of lines to connect them. Additionally, when we were mapping out all three years we started with all of them and looked at learning progressions to see what concepts build on another so we could place it in a previous year and then review the next year with the concept that builds upon another. 

What I found from doing this messy process is my creativity begins to flow and I have more ideas than previously when just looking at them individually. 

STEP 3: Creating Your Scope and Sequence Curriculum Map

If you are only teaching one specific Discipline (Life, Physical or Earth & Space) then you begin by either taking a look at the big picture and working to the small picture or flip flop it. But if you are doing integrated, like I am then you have to factor in what it taught in the previous year and where your students will continue in the next year. Additionally you might consider the time of year for certain disciplines and then teach similar ideas together. 

This is something I actually review every year to see if my sequence made sense the way I envisioned it. So depending on where you are at with your school and district if you have done step 1 and 2 above, I have included my Curriculum Map which is “integrated.” But you will also get a blank template so you can rearrange yours anyway you would like based on your school and/or district needs. Just click on the link at the bottom of this post to get your Curriculum Map and access to other resources OR visit my blog’s homepage at summerslearningcorner.com and scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Get Science Curriculum Map Now.”

STEP 4: Building Your Storyline and Phenomena

Save Create Debate

This is probably my favorite part because this is where you bring NGSS alive. Once I have my major units figured out I look at the Evidence Statements which closely grasp the Practices and Crosscutting Concepts, so I can have exactly what performance from my students should look like. 

Now I get to build the phenomena and storyline. This is where your unit comes alive because you provide students with a real world phenomena to explore and build upon throughout the unit and maintain the inquiry task that NGSS was founded on, the “real science.” 

For example, when I was creating my Natural Selection unit, I opened it up with a controversial topic of whether we should recreate an extinct species or save an endangered species. This allowed us time to look at the pros and cons of the topics, learn why various species went extinct and build upon this throughout the unit of natural selection. Throughout the unit we came back and revisited this idea. Then when it came time to look at local endangered species they were able to evaluate if this was similar or different to the patterns we studied with natural selection and make an informed decision. Students told me this was absolutely one of their favorite units because they felt like they were connected to the content and could make a difference. Additionally, they felt the debate itself has merit and that they really got a 3D perspective. 

Last, while you’re going through this process you might find you have to go back to step 3 and rearrange things and can easily do that.

STEP 5: Breaking your Unit in Learning Sequences

Some of my units can take 6-8 weeks. That means that you have to really think through the performance expectations using the evidence outcomes from the standards you are bundling together. Usually you will see big ideas come out. In general I try to break my units in what I call “Learning Sequences,” which really are the big concepts or subunits within your unit. Whatever you call them, they often follow a learning progression of some sort. 

For example, when I taught my Human Impact Unit it included: natural resources, human impact, uneven distribution of Earth’s resources and global warming. So we began with various phenomena through imagery and began to ask questions as to why this was happening. Building on these questions we looked at global warming data, conducted experiments to understand what causes the earth to warm at the molecular level, and then branched out to our human footprint, which led to natural resources and uneven distribution of earth’s resources and ultimately back to our phenomena of human impact where students got to choose a problem to dig deeper into and use the Engineering Practices to design solutions by looking at cause and effect cross-cutting concepts.

STEP 6: Pacing Your Curriculum Map

I think every teacher struggles with this and I modify this every year. I try to guesstimate how long I expect each lesson will take and then build a one to two week buffer as I have found even if everything I thought is about perfect, something will come up with unexpected schedule changes. Once you have taught your unit then you have a better idea and can rework if needed. 

STEP 7: Be Flexible and Relax

By just making your Curriculum Map, you feel a huge weight off your shoulders and know what you are going to teach. If you are new to NGSS then give yourself some grace and start small, steal some of my ideas here or within my Map. 

Join other Middle School and High School teachers to get my Middle School Science Curriculum Map. Simply click here and join for FREE! Along with the Curriculum Map you will get updates, tips and free resources sent directly to your inbox! (Note: Sometimes this will go to your SPAM box, so double check there if you don’t see it right away and mark it not Spam for future resources). 

Get 100% Engagement with Nearpod

Get 100% Engagement With Nearpod

As a teacher I am always looking for ways to increase student engagement. With Nearpod you can have 100% of your students engaged. And often this can feel impossible, as we know not every kid is actually interested in what we are teaching. I am sure almost every teacher has that moment when they pause for a second and hand goes up, followed by questions that you literally just answered or another kid asks the same question another student just asked. So you might be thinking, how would a technology tool, Nearpod, change this. 

Nearpod allows you to engage with all your students simultaneously. Before I get into how that works I want to explain more in depth about Nearpod (www.nearpod.com). I also include some examples of how I used Nearpod to build engaging inquiry based Science Nearpods at the bottom of the post. 

Get 100% Engagement with Nearpod

About Nearpod

Once you sign up for a Nearpod account (free versions available) you can find lessons already created (free or paid) or you can design your own. All you need is to create your lessons in PowerPoint or Google Slides and upload them as PDF or PNG files. When you first set up your account I recommend finding a few FREE lessons to try out, so you understand how they are designed and how the interactions work. 

Nearpod Home Page

Facilitation of Nearpod

Once you are ready to deliver the lesson with your slides, students log in with a class code you give them. Immediately on their screen they see exactly what you want them to and you are ready to deliver the lesson. As you shift to the next slide on your teacher dashboard, their screen changes too. This ensures that students see exactly what you want them to and you can facilitate the lesson. While this is a great way to deliver you lesson in class you can also use this with distance learning. To read more about this see my blog post titled: 5 Powerful Way to Teach with Zoom

Content Options of Nearpod

Next is the versatility in content. Nearpod allows teachers to go beyond a typical slide show and integrate a variety of content sources. These include: video, audio, virtual reality field trips, specialized slides, pHet simulations and many more. You can also embed a website so that when you transition to that slide students click to go the web location. Students can then be facilitated through the content. For science teachers, the ability to add a pHet Lab simulation is a great tool. Additionally you can either watch a video on your screen with the whole class or have students view it on their screen and then come back to the whole group. There is so much you can do.

Nearpod Content

Activities - Student Interactions with Nearpod

Now to the best part ofNearpod. Neapod has what is called Activities which are student interactions slides. This is where you can ensure all students are engaged and with you. Once you have your slides uploaded you can add interactions, which are outputs that students respond to. Immediately on your teacher screen you see every student’s response. If you are not getting a response you can see that too and prompt the student. This gives you immediate formative checks for understanding. Here you can stop and reteach right there, see that every student understands and even share students’ responses (with or without names).This allows you to show different levels of understanding and discuss the types of responses. This data alone can help you differentiate and form small group instruction if needed in real time. No more hands raising and the same students responding–you can see all students right there live on your screen. These interactions can be collaborative posts to share ideas amongst all students and for individuals. Here are some of the activity(student interaction) tools you can add to bring your students learning alive: 

  • Open-ended responses
  • Polls
  • Collaboration board
  • Fill in the blanks
  • Draw It
  • Quizzes
  • Matching

I really love using these because I always plan on getting an output from students about every 3-6 minutes. You are not the sage on the stage, because students are communicating live with you and you are able to share responses, model and so much more.  

Nearpod Activity Interaction Tools

Student Paced Option with Nearpod

Another great feature of Nearpod is that you don’t just have to do this live with your students in class or on a zoom session if online, but you can also assign the lesson to be student-paced where they complete it on their own. So even if they are able to transition the slides on their screen they will still have the same level of output through the Nearpod and you are able to see their level of understanding. This gives you feedback that you can use to drive your instruction, differentiate and so much more.

Science Specific Strategies

If you are a science teacher like me and are wondering about how I used this in science, here are few examples. I have always been an inquiry based teacher which means I don’t do a lot of lecture or direct instruction except when needed. So I think that is why I was initially hesitant as google slide shows was not my style. But once I began playing around I found creative ways to maintain my values and style of inquiry. 

Example 1: The Periodic Table

My slide deck was designed to guide students through inquiry about the periodic table. I was able to provide images and thinking questions and hear what students thought from the collaboration tools. Then I had them examine the periodic table and make observations. They shared their ideas through the collaborative board. Once they posted their idea I gave them time to look through other students and “like them.” Next we looked at the top likes to see what we noticed collectively. This was followed by an activity where students used color so they could make more observations and they record these. Our list of observations was growing. From this I was able to build on their ideas and provide some direct instruction to give them the vocabulary for the observations they had already made. I was able to use both the video and slide features of the Nearpod. Then I got to the drawing tools. My drawing slides had students apply the vocabulary they learned, so I could get immediate feedback on their depth of understanding. Students could circle, label and draw lines based on the background images I provided on the slides. So the periodic table came alive. 

Example 2: Natural Selection Introduction

Save Create Debate

I created a slide deck that was designed to “Engage” students in a controversial topic I called the Save, Create Debate. They responded using a Poll on whether they thought we should recreate the mammoth and in another Poll on whether we should save endangered species. This allowed me to see what they thought before we get into the different pressures that drive natural selection. I used the Collaboration board for students to type in the Pros and Cons of each and again had students review each other’s ideas and discuss them. I then used the Slides option to have them explore extinction events and its definition which was followed by a short video on different thoughts of why the mammoth went extinct. This gave students to see if they still felt the same way or not. Then I set up another exploration on the Asian elephant through slides, observations, and data. Next students revisited their ideas. We ended with a short video that discussed both sides of the controversy and I had the students complete a constructed response with the CER model to tell me what they thought and why about saving endangered species or recreating the mammoth. We would visit these ideas as we went through their natural selection unit more. 

So if you are like me, the versatility for inquiry lies in how you build your Nearpod lesson. So have fun and try it. Share your ideas too on how you used Nearpod with your Science class. 

Get Started with Nearpod

So what can you do to get started? Go to nearpod.com and sign up for a free account. Search their Free Library and find some content you teach. Run through a preview by opening two screens. One that you have in teacher mode on your teacher account and another that you use the join code to see the student view. See how it all works. 


Then take some slides you already have created and add the content and student interaction activities to bring it alive for student engagement. Don’t be afraid to try it like I was for years. Within about an hour I was creating my own and brought what would have been a boring lesson alive. 

And if you fall in love with Nearpod like I did, then I would recommend paying for an account. It is definitely one of the few resources that I would personally pay for. But I used the Free version for a while and later made the investment.

5 Powerful Ways to Use Zoom to Teach

5 Powerful Ways to Use Zoom to Teach

Zoom has become a hot topic in education due to the unfortunate pandemic of the Coronavirus, along with other video conferencing tools. With this increase in the use of Zoom, they took many steps to ensure educators could feel safe with their students with added security and settings. So when unfortunate circumstances arise, there are often advancements and updates to technology. Zoom was no different. Today I want to discuss 5 Powerful ways to use Zoom to teach.



So, first, what is Zoom? Zoom is a video conferencing or chat tool that allows teachers to connect with their students online with video and audio. Teachers simply can share a link and students can use that to access online learning with their teacher and classmates. It offers a variety of security settings to prevent hacking and also includes many other settings that can support teachers with classroom management with mute, private chat to teacher only and many more. Zoom has a variety of resources to get started with Zoom by just setting up your account and then accessing their resources.

So now let’s get into the 5 powerful ways to use Zoom to teach your students. The most powerful strategy for zoom is teaching a “live lesson” with your students because students want to see and hear from their teachers and work with their classmates. If possible to host live lessons, I believe this is one of the most important ways to continue to connect with your students and support them with online learning. Let’s dig deeper now into some powerful ways you can interact with your students on Zoom.

Zoom Discussion

#1 Classroom Discussion

During a Zoom session you can continue to hold classroom discussions, just like you would in class and not just a question and answer session. Depending on the age of your students you can call on students to share ideas by muting and unmuting as a classroom management strategy or with older students let them pop in the conversation after setting up some ground rules. Either way you can continue the communication skills and talking that students need to continue to learn. 

Another great strategy is the flipped classroom, where students watch a video or complete a reading and come with prepared questions ahead of time. Or you can now extend their learning with an activity and discussion where they apply that skill.  

#2 Screen Share

Depending on your comfort level you may only allow you, the teacher to screen share so that you can teach your lesson in whatever method you prefer (PowerPoint, Google Slides, etc). This allows you to talk students through the content, watch a video with you and take notes and much more. And if you are feeling students are ready you can allow them to share their screen to show you their progress or work and coach them through.

#3 Whiteboard

The whiteboard tool can allow you to model on a whiteboard like you would in class while screen sharing. I used this to help my students work through punnett squares and balance chemical equations. So they were able to go through example problems with me and then work some on their own and share them.

Zoom Whiteboard

I was also able to provide each student their own task card by posting a link in the chat and let them know which card I wanted them to do. Then students were able to share their screens to show how they tackled it.

Zoom with Nearpod

#4 Integrate Other Tech Tools
(Nearpod or Peardeck, other)

One of the best things I ever did was teach a live lesson using Nearpod. Peardeck would work similarly. You can send students the link to your Live Lesson in the chat box and they can then copy and paste it in their web browser and be in the lesson alongside you. This allows them to hear you talk them through the lesson and ensure every student is seeing exactly what you want and participating visibly on your screen. Meanwhile, you are getting immediate feedback on how your lesson is going by being able to view every student’s work live on your teacher dashboard. And a super plus is that students are actively engaged as they type in and interact with the lesson. You can then immediately share student thinking or have them share their thinking while you display their response. Of course when sharing student work you want to have the classroom community established and/or remove student names–which is a feature of Nearpod. By using this tool, I felt confident that I was engaging my students during the difficult distance learning period and I was able to assess them in the process of the lesson. This means that I had data to support how all my students were doing and could immediately see who was being successful and who might need more support and plan for these. 

#5 Collaboration with Partners and Teams

With Zoom we can often feel in isolation, meaning you realize that you are doing a lot of the talking. So one way to curb this is to use tools such as Nearpod and Peardeck. But you can also build this into your system easily. A few ways you can do this are adding the collaboration structures you would have in your class with partners and teams. Once you have established your rules and procedures you can explore with the Chat options and breakout room. Here are a few ways I did this. 

Chat: At first I set the security settings so that students could not chat or it was to everyone or just me the host. But once I felt more comfortable I was able to establish partners. Students would know who their partner was and I could ask a question and their “Turn In Talk” was a private chat to their partner. On my share screen they would see the Partner A timer and then Partner B timer. Then I would call on students to share either what they shared or their partner shared. I could expand this to a group or even clock partners so they chat with a few people. If I was looking for brainstorming I would just use the Chat to everyone features so we all learn from others ideas.

Breakout Rooms In Zoom

Breakout Rooms: So I am not going to lie. I was terrified of putting middle school students in a breakout room with no adults. And I would have not done this in the first weeks without knowing my students and building the classroom community. But I finally got the courage to try it and it went amazing. If you are familiar with Kagan Cooperative Learning structures, it is always suggested that you do something non-academic first. So that is exactly what I did. I told students what I wanted them to discuss and then sent them to a breakout room for 2 minutes to complete a round robin share (this is when all students share their ideas aloud). Then we came back and shared out as a whole class. I also was able to email a document or share a document with students in their break out rooms, like a Would You Rather and let them go through that for a few minutes and then they came back to the whole group. I had teams work together in a digital escape room and had students work through a short assignment together after a mini lesson. I was able to bounce to the rooms and they could signal support if they got stuck. In all of these activities students had fun and did an amazing job. 

What great things did you try in Zoom with your students? I would love to hear other great ideas!!

3 Ways to End the Year Remotly

3 Awesome Way To End Your Year Remotely

With remote learning, many teachers and schools have been thinking about how to end their school year in a fun and engaging way. And if you are teaching a grade level where students are moving on to another school next year, you really want to make that last week fun, engaging and memorable for your students since it is your last week with them before they move on. 


So in addition to planning a virtual continuation, I have been working hard thinking of the best ways to give students an amazing experience in their last week.

1. Create A End of the Year Digital Escape Room

I knew I wanted to have a fun activity for the last week of school and had a hard time coming up with ideas for what to include. Then it dawned on me that the students can help. I told them that I wanted them to take a survey that I made in Google Forms. I then used their answers to create many of the questions and/or clues for the Escape. 

If you are new to Escape Rooms and need something simple and easy then there are a variety of resources. Here are some great ideas from Ditch the Textbook that I used to learn from and great ideas for finding clues. I also found another blogger, (mamateaches.com)  who was so kind to post Free escape rooms that only take a google form. 

2. Create A Digital Yearbook

As a middle school team we created in Google Slides a Digital Yearbook, where every student had a slide with their name on it. We then posted this in our shared Google Classroom and gave students editing rights during a 1 hour zoom with our students. 


Students could add pictures and their own personalized messages to each other and we as teachers could ensure digital citizenship. Then at the end of their yearbook signing hour we closed it and send it out to our students as their own copy.

3. Send Digital or Physical Cards to Your Students

Everyday I would tell my students that I miss them and care about them. And during this time I have learned so much about my students as we were able to build a relationship in a way that may not have occurred in the classroom. Some kids really let you into their daily lives and some were more elusive. Regardless, I felt I had a great connection and wanted to send my students a personal message. 


Because I knew my student physical address could change or changed I decided to do this digitally. I decided to create a digital card for each of my students using Google Slides. On our last day, I will see all of them in zoom and will tell them that when they leave zoom they will be receiving an email from me. I got all my slides pre-ready over the past week and saved each of them as a PDF and scheduled them to send to my students. Get your FREE simple and fully editable cards in Google Slides: Get End of Year Cards!

I am sure there are other amazing things that teachers are doing to make this digital remote learning year end in creative ways. I would love to hear your ideas too. 

A Glance At My First Week of Remote Learning

A Glance At My First Week of Remote Learning!

Did you start remote learning this past week like I did or are you getting ready to soon? I am writing this post to share how my first week went, what I learned, things  I would do differently  and unexpected successes. I am sure all of you will have your own story to tell too. 

A Glance At My First Week of Remote Learning

Preparing for Remote

After learning that I was going to begin teaching remotely I did my own personal survey of my technology tools, what my students likely had access to and other tools I might need. I discussed many of these in my last post: Simple Ways to Plan Remote Learning! But once I got into action things evolved quickly!

Day 1:

I jumped in head first. After preparing all my digital resources; I prepared my Monday email to students and their families, scheduled my Google Classroom posts for all my classes with directions, and included the resources they would need to complete their assignment. Then Monday came and by 8:30 am, emails began to roll in, 50+ to be exact. So I began responding to parents and students who had questions. Instead of filling overwhelmed, I thought to myself wow–look how many of my students are on and engaged. Then at about 12:00 pm I realized I hadn’t eaten–so I quickly ran to eat. Then I continued to respond to emails and had a Zoom meeting with my team. By the end of the day I was still energized, feeling pretty successful, but knew I was going to have to make some adjustments to make the next few days better. 

Day 2:

Realizing the first day was a little messy since I spent so much time at the computer going back and forth, I knew I needed to organize differently and make a schedule. Something I went back and added to my previous post as an amendment. So I prepared my student and family email and scheduled my Google Classroom post, this time with a schedule and Zoom meetings (zoom.us). I noticed a decrease in initial emails and to my amazement about 20 kids per class showed up for the zoom meetings I had made optional. I was able to go through the assignment and answer questions. Each meeting lasted about 30 minutes as I was showing them the features and figuring out how to help them manage participation. Overall it went great. But again with back to back zoom meetings, it was lunch time before I realized it and now emails were rolling in, assignments were being submitted for review and the day flew by. I also took notice of students (as I have about 100 middle schoolers) who had been on or had not, who turned in work and what their work was looking like when I began reviewing them. 

Day 3-5:

Even though I realized I needed to make adjustments I continued with the skeleton schedule I made on day 2 with zoom class meetings and going through emails, submitted work and providing feedback. In addition I had a team meeting each day, staff meeting and district meeting with zoom.  And like a crazy person I signed up for some webinars that I came across for nearpod (nearpod.com) and an online school that a friend sent me. By Friday at  4 pm, I told my computer I didn’t want to look at it anymore. Overall I felt like the week went pretty well and I learned a lot. 

My Learning, Failures and Successes:

So having shared all this, you are probably wondering–what are the secrets? What did you learn? What did’t work and did? If I could start all over, here are the things that I would have done differently. 

  • I think I would have started my first day with students like we do on the first day of school. Do a classbuilder and something fun to adjust to this new territory. Use Zoom or other collaborative platform for this. Instead I jumped right in and continued like it was just another day. The truth is, kids and families are going through a lot–so a simple “fun” activity and Zoom meeting could have helped a lot.
  • Have a realistic schedule. At the beginning I did not have a schedule. The rest of the week I made one, but I’ll be honest—I didn’t stick to it with the exception of my scheduled meetings.  
  • What was really powerful and I realized this after my first zoom meeting, was kids were so excited to see me and talk to me. They wanted to interact and talk. I learned so much more about my students as their siblings came into the our meeting, a cat walked across the screen, and much more. I was building relationships in a new way. I knew I had to continue face to face time virtually. 
  • Something I viewed as a failure was that at the end of the day I only had about 50% of the assigned work from my students. So I realized I needed to reach out to those I had not heard from at the end of day 2 and also probably assigned to much. I reminded myself I need to go slow to go fast later. So what you think you would normally do in a regular class period, cut that in half. 
  • Also in lieu of workload I think I needed to look at how I can make the lessons more interactive and either use my zoom meetings as a mini lesson, or video my mini lesson and then use zoom for question/answer. 
  • What I did do by day 5 was add the classbuilders in. I let them know that it was Pajama day and we would do a fun zoom activity in pajamas. We had a lot of laughs and reflected on the week. 
board, school, task

What's Next:

So now I am on spring break and like many teachers I am really not taking a break. I am thinking how I can make this better moving forward. So I am working out how to make my schedule more manageable with 5 classes of students and how to help students manage their schedule too. (Get FREE Scheduler here) I am also having to work with my team in other subjects to make sure we don’t overlap critical times as we want to have zoom meetings with our classes.  I will likely be creating some videos with Screencastfy so there is always a personal touch, making lessons shorter with varied activities, and will likely maintain a specific format for my lessons using Google Slides as the major structure for daily work. Because I am a perfectionist, I will likely look at testing out some of the FREE digital resources that are being provided to teachers and attend some more webinars. Kids are amazing, resilient, and want to be in our lives. So it is all going to be wonderful as we learn together!!