I’m loving this… Virtual Circuit Builder!

With DISTANCE LEARNING I wasn’t able to do the hands-on electrical circuits lab with my wonderful 8th graders so I had to come up with another way for them to learn the basics. A web search brought me to this really cool VIRTUAL circuit builder that does NOT use Flash – which is awesome because Flash is no longer supported by Chrome.

Here’s a brief video of how this Phet interactive works.


  • easy to learn how to use
  • can build series and parallel circuits
  • there are a few different components to experiment with such as the light bulb, resistor and switch
  • can experiment with how adding and subtracting components affects resistance.
  • multiples of all of the components can be added, such as adding two batteries to increase voltage
  • the anmeter is fun to play with!
  • you can view the parts of the circuits in symbols to practice with engineering pictograms


  • There are no particular directions so if you want to be sure your students really learn what you want you’ll need to come up directions for them.

Don’t have time to design an activity? No sweat – use mine!

Internet Activity:  Build Circuits Virtually!

My worksheet guides students in
constructing series and parallel
circuits using the Phet interactive.
No prep required – just have
students watch the video above so
they know how to attach/detach

Unit Confusion SOLVED!

Many of my students struggle with solving basic physics formula, and most of all, in understanding which units go with the answer to the question being asked.

Is this familiar to you… The question ask for “HOW LONG does it take for the skateboarder to roll 25 meters while moving at 2 m/s?”, and the student answers 12.5 m/s!!!

Students MIGHT use the right equation (time = speed/distance) , but the answer nearly NEVER has the right units – the question is about time or distance and no matter what the student puts “m/s” as part of the answer! Mind boggling to one degree, but this is all new for them and it’s normal to have trouble applying old skills to new problems.


speed square

The first formula is use in my 8th grade physics class is the equation for speed (or velocity). I have found that by guiding my students through the process of choosing the formula, writing the formula, and forcing them to pay attention to the units involved through this graphic organizer, greatly improves their success!

See MORE about SPEED SQUARES here.

speed squares cover

I also have created DENSITY SQUARES and I’m working on making resources for all of the formulas I use in my science classes.

3D Cell Models – Go beyond basic plant and animal

I wanted my 7th graders to make cell models this school year, but I didn’t want everyone just making the same thing so I searched the internet for a variety of labeled pictures so that the students could make a variety of cell types.

Bone Cell
Amoeba Cell
Euglena – single-celled Protist (with both plant and animal characteristics)
Plasmodium Cells – protists that cause Malaria
Fat cells
Paramecium – single-cell protist
Budding Yeast Cell
Plant Cell
Nerve Cell

Send me an email at generationscience3@gmail.com if you’d like more information about how I did this activity, including a rubric.

Are students off-task and unruly during labs and activities?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Hands-on learning is an important part of science education, but it can be miserable for you and for many of the students if your class lacks lab behavioral expectations that are taught and enforced.

At the beginning of the school year I take the time to explicitly teach and model behavioral expectations for working in a group and/or lab activity. Why this is essential:

  • students begin the year with an expectation of an orderly and safe classroom
  • students begin the year thinking that my class might be better than what they usually experience
  • students cannot claim that they do not know what I expect when they are unruly and off-task
  • I will be much happier and more motivated to engage students in hands-on learning

Better Science Teaching Task 1: Teach My Expectations

  1. No interrupting members of other groups – no talking to or bothering anyone in a different group. This disrupts the lab and gets lots of people off task quickly.
  2.  Stay on topic – fooling around and talking about other things results in delays in work being accomplished and diminishes the learning opportunity for everyone involved.
  3.  Use lab supplies appropriately only – any lab supply, including the Slinkies and toy cars, are for scientific use as allowed in the lab. Students will not respect the science supplies if this expectation is not fully expressed and enforced!
  4.  Stay at your station unless otherwise directed. Students cannot just wander around at their leisure. Doing so leads to misbehavior so be clear about this and enforce it!
  5.  Follow clean up procedures (as directed). As we often do in life, I had to learn the hard way about this important procedure. Students need clear instructions on what they are expected to do for clean up.

Teach, demonstrate and practice lab rules and procedures. Believe in their power to promote learning (they do NOT diminish fun, they stop chaos!). Rules are meaningless without (emotion-free) enforcement.

Better Science Teaching Task 2: Enforce My Expectations

There are two parts to me enforcing lab behavioral expectations:

  1. All rules are enforced for all students at all times. The is the only system that is fair and that is effective. Much of my success with lab/classroom management comes from the wonderful work of smartclassroommanagement.com. Check them out if you have a hard time believing in the educational power of enforcing your rules.

  2. Students earn a Lab Performance grade for any substantial group activities that promotes following rules and collaboration.

My Lab Performance Rubric

  • each student begins with 10 points – 2 points per category

  • categories are:rubric cover image
    • Disrupt – lose points for disrupting other groups
    • Teamwork – lose points for poor collaboration
    • Supplies – lose points for misuse
    • Effort/focus – lose points for being off-task
    • Completion – lose points if did not complete the activity as expected

Save yourself time and make labs more productive and fun (for everyone). You can purchase this editable rubric for only 99 cents!

Students are told that they are being graded and each category is explained. They understand that they begin with 10 points and lose a point (or sometimes 1/2 a point) when they break a lab rule or are showing lack of effort and teamwork.

Should I give a warning first? My recommendation is to not give a warning before taking off a point. I have found that the best way for students to take me seriously regarding my expectations is to for me to be serious about my behavior rubric. As soon as I see an off-task behavior I quickly (but respectfully) point it out and take away a point. This usually results in the particular student staying on-task the rest of the time and everyone else getting the message.

So, my recommendation for Better Science Teaching – Set Expectations – Teach Expectations – Enforce Expectations