Thursday, 20 July 2017

Professional Learning Update

I may be on holiday but I've still been Twittering and Tweeting and Twerking - wait, ok I'm lying, not actually the last one! 

Hop on over to my professional learning blog for a summary of some research I engaged in before teaching at a boys school in England for 10 weeks!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Goodbye for a Year (or Two)

Kia ora visitors! 

This is just a short notice to let you know that I've been granted a year's (or twos) leave to go and travel the world! 

How exciting for me :) 

There won't be many blog posts from me during my time off.

To keep yourselves entertained during that time you can check out my teaching from 2016 at

or if you'd rather be kept up to date with current Class OnAir teachers then visit where I'm sure the glorious and golden Matt Goodwin will continue dazzling his students and watchers from around the globe for the second year in a row.

In the meantime, I have two New Zealand-based digital Science Curriculum projects up my sleeve that will hopefully be ready to roll by the time I return in 201*cough*9.

See you all then!

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Respiration Rap

Today our respiration rap from 2015's Year 12 Biology class clocked over 2,000 views on youtube! 

It was also retweeted by Dr Rich Allen, a teacher-trainer whose 2-day course was the most inspiring PD I have ever been to. 

His use of music and movement in teaching and learning is something that really resonated with me, as well as 'riding the wave' of engagement by 'changing state' near the peak of engagement. 

I'm so stoked that he thought what the Bio kids did was a good example of learning through movement and music :) 

Unfortunately this year I haven't had time to record and film another full music video in time for the Manaiakalani Film Festival, despite having 3 songs already written and ready to go about photosynthesis, genetic variation and hotspot volcanoes! 

Time seems short this year :( Hopefully we'll get on to filming one of the songs in Term 4 - the challenge is out to the 2016 Year 12 Biology class!! 

Instead, I'll just repost the Respiration Rap to enjoy :) 

Monday, 12 September 2016

Filming Year 13 Biology

This year I've been involved in the Manaiakalani Google Class OnAir project with my year 13 biology class - it's taken up most of my free 'blogging' time which is why this blog has been so quiet this year! 

I've just published lesson 12, which is the final lesson in a series of four consecutive lessons. 

I thought it would be interesting to film, publish and reflect on a full week's teaching and learning. 

The aim of this was both for me to reflect on my assumptions as a teacher and my view on the pedagogy of building understanding during one specific context (timing in plants and animals), as well as provide an honest view on how I incorporate technology into my average, daily teaching to anyone who chooses to view my Class OnAir project! 

My latest reflection was on how, overall, I'm quite happy with the progression of learning I laid out about the content of timing, the multimodal and rewindable learning opportunities offered and how many times we returned to information over the week, hopefully building both knowledge and confidence from new vocabulary up to more complex ideas such as the mechanism of photoperiodism.

However, on reflecting on the last lesson I have noticed that I did not follow a similar scaffolding procedure to introduce answering exam questions, and instead expected students (by the end of the week, by the end of Term 3) to be able to straight away apply their new understandings to an exam question. This proved to be quite a jump in skills.

Next Term when we return to revise for the Plant and Animal Responses exam I will work to support students in answering exam questions, and I reflect on how to do this at the end of my Lesson 12 post, which can be found under the green butterfly at this link here

Something else I tried for the first time OnAir was to include a full video of my explanation of the concept. I did this so students could return to it and help them study by watching it again at their own pace. You can watch it below:

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Pedigree Charts Intro with Y12

Today Year 12 learned about pedigree charts. To start with they each picked a cat and colored in the nose either pink or brown, and gave their cats a name. As they finished I put them up in a pedigree chart, to show the relationships between each of their cats. 

I thought this might be a good way to introduce pedigree charts. We did a 'mini whiteboard quiz' where I asked who the parents of Ziggy were, who the two grandparents of Nala and Mufasa were, etc.

On the side of the board I also drew the squares and circles used in pedigree charts to represent male and females. Then I colored in the symbols depending on whether the cats had a pink or red nose. 

The questions in the whiteboard quiz became harder; which trait is most likely recessive? (Brown, because Churry and King have pink noses but their offspring Jerry has a brown nose. Meanwhile, Lilo and Junior both have brown noses, and only produced brown-nosed Ziggy and Simba). What are the genotypes of Brown and Cat? Etc. 

Once we started to try and work out genotypes based off relationships and offspring/parents, students became a little more confused. We moved on to some activities on my genetics website and I moved around, trying to help. 

I thought I would try to show my thought process while working out genotypes based on phenotypes in pedigree charts:

IF pink noses were recessive, Churry and King would both be homozygous recessive; nn. How, then, could they have produced brown-nosed Jerry, when neither of them has a dominant allele to pass on? They couldn't! 

Therefore, brown noses must be recessive. 

That means Jerry must be nn, because Jerry has a brown nose. 

Where did Jerry get his two recessive nn alleles from? Both of his parents must carry at least one recessive allele. They must be ?n,

What is their other allele?

Jerry's parents Churry and King both have pink noses, the dominant colour. They must have at least one dominant allele, to have pink noses. That means their other allele must be N. 

Therefore both Churry and King are heterozygous; Nn. Both parents are showing the dominant phenotype, but must also carry a recessive allele each to produce children with both pink and brown noses:

To produce both phenotypes, both parents must be heterozygous. If they were both NN, then 100% of their children would also have the dominant trait of pink noses. 

As you can see, Churry and King produced offspring with both pink and brown noses. The offspring with pink noses (Bestfriend Stealer and Tom) could be NN or Nn - we will have to see what their  genotypes are based on their own offspring! 

Hopefully this blog post helped people learn how pedigree charts can reveal genotypes, as well as relationships between individuals. Maybe you can even work out Bestfriend Stealer's genotype, based off her offspring Nala and Mufasa's phenotypes! 

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Bingo with Year 11 for Acids and Bases

Last week I played bingo with Year 11, for the first 20 elements of the periodic table. I sort of found bingo sheets online - the only one that included the first 20 elements was in the format of lines rather than the familiar table format, and the kids did query me; "don't you know what bingo is Miss?!"

By changing up some of the clues we were able to revise electron configuration, ion formation, and the periodic table:

The electron configuration for this element's’ ion is 2,8 and it has LOST 2 electrons

Water molecules have two of these in them.

The electron configuration for this element's’ ion is 2 and it has LOST 1 electrons

The electron configuration for this element's’ ion is 2,8,8 and it has LOST 2 electrons
The electron configuration for this element's’ ion is 2,8,8 and it has GAINED 3 electrons
This atom has 7 protons

Has three full electron shells
This atom has 3 electrons shells, and gains 1 electron to become a negative ion.

Water molecules have one of these in them.

The first noble gas in group 18.

Has four electrons

This atom has 9 protons.

This atom makes up diamonds.

This atom has 2 electron shells, but loses 3 electrons to become a 3 plus ion.
Has two full electron shells
Has eleven electrons

The element now used to make tin cans.

The element often used in breast implants.

This element is found lots in Rotorua, it is often yellow, it stinks like rotten eggs and it’s found around volcanoes and volcanic vents.
This element has 4 electron shells but is not Calcium

They ended up enjoying it anyway, and it was so popular that I've decided to try this tactic again to help students become familiar with names of different ions, as they will be given an un-named Table of Ions in their NCEA Acids and Bases exam at the end of the year.  Unfortunately I couldn't find a good game of Bingo online (again), so this time I painstakingly made 20 bingo cards and to save someone else the trouble in the future I thought I would share them here:

Feel free to make a copy and use it! 

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Colourfloo, Octarabbit, Flonty, Flurtle

Today Year 13 learned about taxes, and practiced answering NCEA questions about imaginary, made up species by using just the cues in the question that they recognized. 

To finish the lesson they each made an imaginary critter and made a question about it, to test their classmates understanding of chemo-, gravi-, hydro-, thigmo-, thermo-, photo- taxis. 

Here is my critter:

Here is my question: 

The colourfloo is an insect with six legs and two wings that flies around and lands on people to paint their nails while they are sleeping. After it paints their nails a fabulous pink colour, it also takes a bite out of the human's finger using it's sharp teeth, then quickly flies away.

What is the environmental stimulus it is responding to?
What is the orientation response it displays?
What is the adaptive advantage for the colourfloo?