science teacher hacks

Science Teacher Hacks, Tips, and Tricks

Science Teacher Hacks, Tips, and Tricks

Recently, I asked my audience for their best science teacher tips, tricks, and hacks.

They shared the best ideas, so I’ve organized everyone’s contributions into this blog post.

💡 It’s a list for science teachers by science teachers, so you’re sure to find a few ideas to make your teaching life easier! Get comfy and settle in: there’s a lot!

So, without further ado, here are my audience’s best science teacher tips, tricks, and hacks!

Organization

  • Write. It. Down. Nicole says, “I keep a journal – one for each unit of study. I bought cheap ones in bulk to keep everything I need to remember for each unit in one place. Write down what lessons you do in what order. Make a quick note if something took too much time or not enough time. Remind yourself if there’s a supply that has to be ordered well in advance or if you have to make some ice. Write down if the kids always mess up one part to clarify it. I can’t tell you how much I thank myself the next year!”
teaching science tips
Keep a Journal for Each Unit
  • Schedule email reminders. Lori has a great way to remind ourselves of tasks that must be completed on a routine basis – schedule an email to yourself! She says, “Eyewash stations in our classrooms need to be tested/checked/run every month. So, I make an email for every month and ‘schedule send’ for the emails to go out each month to my department.”  
  • Keep supplies from disappearing. Check out this idea that my reader Mary wrote in. She said, “Giving my classroom gluesticks and scissors human names helps the kids to care about returning them. Do they care if glue has been returned? Nope. Do they care if Bob the Glue made it home safely? Yes, yes they do.” Simply. Brilliant. (Tangent: Why do middle school kids name everything Bob?”)
science teacher hacks
Bob the Glue
  • Keep running lists of good finds. Reader Stella told me she keeps a Google Doc with links to every good science video she shows in her classes. Seriously, why didn’t I think of that?! I’m always looking for a video I *think* I remember showing the year before! (Also, I asked Stella for a copy of that Google Doc to share. I’m still waiting to hear back. Stella… 🙏 we’re begging you!)
  • Keep a running list of supplies you need, too. Donna suggested that keeping a running list of supply needs is helpful, too. My friend Karen of SciencebySinai has a very convenient science supply list you can refer to!
Check out
Science by Sinai’s Supply List

Tips for Science Labs

  • Trays are your best friend. Ida shared she buys metal baking trays at Dollar Tree. She says, “They are great for setting up all the needed materials for a lab and cheap enough to have one for each group. They help keep spills under control. They take up almost no space and clean super easily. They are also sturdier than the foil pans and not as deep, so it’s easier for students to see through clear containers sitting on the tray without picking them up, which also helps prevent spills.”
Metal Baking Pans
(Check the Dollar Store!)
  • Take pictures of lab setups. No need to print any pictures! You can do this in two ways.
    • Beth has the students take pictures of the lab setup before they begin the lab. The students then use their own picture as a guide to reset the station before the next class comes in. She says, “Sure beats having the teacher run around like crazy trying to reset everything on her own!”
    • Kathi had a similar idea that works well if you don’t want the kids having their phones out for pictures. Take a picture of the lab supplies and digitally project it in the classroom for all to see. Or, project a list of the supplies that each station should have. At the end of class, project a picture of the proper lab setup for the next class.
  • Keep kids clean. Pam solved two problems with one solution. “In the lab, students use vinyl aprons and often had trouble distinguishing the clean side of the apron. I wanted to help them keep from putting the side exposed to chemicals against their clothes, so I had students use a Sharpie to put a safety rule on the front of every apron. Now, I just tell them that they should be able to read each other’s aprons. And it reinforces the safety rules at the same time.” Cleaner kids, check. Safety reminders, check!
  • Heat water fast. Karen said, “I purchased a 25-cup electric coffee maker at an auction for a couple of dollars to heat my water for labs. I simply remove the inside part where you place coffee. Easy spout to dispense water and holds at a constant temperature.” Brilliant! (This is definitely an upgrade to the small electric tea kettles I previously used!)
science teacher hacks
Coffee Maker to Heat Water
  • Speaking of water… We all know that any lab with water is going to make puddles everywhere. And we also know that school paper towels… well, they suck, but they don’t suck up water! So, my reader Jeffrey uses mini-squeegees to clean lab desks! “Simply scrape the water into a bucket or a small trash can. Done!” Smart!
science teacher hacks
Mini-Squeegee to Clean Water on Desks

Saving Time

  • Two (hyphenated) words: Self-correcting. My reader Tom responded that he’s become “unhealthily obsessed” with finding ways to minimize the time he spends correcting student work. He wrote, “Google Forms makes life so much easier! Bonus: no more students asking when you are going to correct something.” (You can check out my Google Forms tests for Life Science, Physical Science, and Earth/Space Science if you don’t want to reinvent the wheel.)
  • Preorganized supplies. A few people wrote in about how they set up supplies ahead of time to save class time. What’s so cool is that each idea is helpful in its own unique way!
    • Roxana uses scrapbook bins to prepare supplies for classroom activities ahead of time. She said she makes enough bins for each table, and the kids know to grab a box and take it back to their group. She never has to pass anything out!
    • Carolyn puts kids to work to help her prepare labs ahead of time. A group of “lab assistants” show up early and help set up the lab.
    • Kathi uses the clear plastic shoeboxes to organize supplies. “I line up the boxes and put in all the supplies. Makes things go much faster when you are on a limited time frame! Plus, cleanup is quick.” 
Plastic Shoeboxes
    • Keep extra blanks of templates. Reader Ana told me that when she wants to make a review activity, especially for vocabulary, she uses the same templates over and over again. She keeps extra blanks of cootie catchers, foldables, graphic organizers, etc., and just quickly writes the words in for each unit. She told me to remind people never to write on the originals so you don’t have to go searching for them again!
    • Make groups in a flash. Amy told me the website Flippity.net. It has a feature that allows you to make random groups. Amy said, “At the start of every year, I make one for each class I teach and bookmark it as a webpage. Then I use it regularly to make random groups.” And she labels her lab desks 1 through 6, so the groups instantly know where to go.
    website for teachers
    Flippity.net

    Make Less Copies

    This is my contribution to the list! I make class sets of copies that don’t need to be written on – reading passages, lab instructions, etc. Instead of making 100 pages (one for each kid) every year, I make one class set plus a few extras. I save and reuse them class-to-class and year-to-year. Here’s the thing… I MAKE THEM ON COLORED PAPER. The kids know that if they have colored paper in front of them, THEY DON’T WRITE ON IT.  Whenever I pass one out, I say, “This is colored paper. What does that say to your brain?” Like a hoard of zombies, they drone back, “Don’t write on it.”  This way, they’re accustomed to preserving my “save” copies. The colored paper helps them easily remember.  

    Classroom Management

    • Keep kids on task with fun incentives. My friend Karen Sinai of SciencebySinai.com shared a great way to give a reward after working for a segment of time – she has a class dance party! She recommends the 30-Second Dance Party Button. She says, ” I promise the dance party after a certain amount of work, and they put their nose to the grindstone!” 
    science classroom management tool
    30-Second Dance Party Button
    • Assign jobs. Carolyn wrote that she gives individuals in each lab group specific jobs. I had heard of jobs within groups before, but Carolyn put a pretty cool spin on it. There’s a task manager, a safety officer (love this one!), a data keeper, and a materials manager to make sure the station is clean and stocked for the next rotation.
    • Don’t say “balls.” Amanda writes, “Every new science teacher needs to change their vocabulary a bit. It’s SPHERES not BALLS! Spheres.” Sage advice, Amanda, sage advice. Whether it be an energy lab with tennis balls or using atoms kits, there’s no such thing as the single word balls in the middle school classroom. You can have “tennis balls” but never “balls.” You can talk about the “spheres” of an atom kit, but never “the balls.”

    THE BEST TIP?

    👏Leave. 👏At. 👏Contract. 👏Time. I had to laugh when I read this, emojis and all, in Jody’s email! It needs no explanation… but it’s so true!

    More Science Teach Hacks on Instagram!

    If you like these ideas, please follow me on Instagram! And you can follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, too! And if you need any science resources for your classroom, please check out my website shop!

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