The Ultimate Guide to Classroom Management in Middle School

If you’re like me, perhaps you never received any formal training in classroom management strategies. I’ve met a lot of teachers living the way I did for the first several years of my career: grinding their teeth, counting down minutes, making idle threats, and generally living for the moment that the bell rings. If any of these sound familiar to you, read on.

Why Classroom Management Matters to Me

For the first 4-5 years of my career, I struggled a LOT. I walked into my first classroom in 2012 as a 5’2”, twenty one year old southern belle. I had no idea how to command a room. “Be nice to them and they’ll be nice to you” was my entire classroom management philosophy. I’m older now, but I’m still 5’2”. I’ve experienced everything there is when it comes to classroom management, including, but not limited to:

  • Fights in my classroom
  • Inclusion fiascos of every imaginable kind
  • Blame from administrators for sending “too many” kids to the office
  • Class sizes of over 30 (bonus point if your schools splits classes when someone is absent!)
  • All boys and all girls classrooms
  • Laptops/cell phones
Me as a first year teacher. Not very scary looking am I?

For me, not succeeding in classroom management was not an option. I had to find my strategies and my style or I wasn’t going to make it. By my fourth year of teaching, I felt sick every morning when I woke up, just thinking of the day ahead. I took antidepressants. I broke down in my principal’s office. There had to be another way.

Fortunately, there is. I’m beginning this series of posts for anyone out there who is like I was. Desperate and having no idea where to begin. You can and you WILL succeed in classroom management with some new strategies and practice! Without further ado, let’s jump into the step by step guide we all needed when we started out!

17 Classroom Management Strategies You Can Implement Tomorrow:

1. Self Care

If you’re drowning in a toxic classroom environment, it’s likely that all you want to do when the day finishes is to block out any thought of your students from your mind. If your role in the classroom is leading you to drink or avoid thoughts of problems in other ways, you are merely setting yourself up for further issues. Managing 30 kids isn’t easy for a healthy person, and you will not succeed if you aren’t taking care of your body and mind.

Get the full classroom management guide in PDF format here.

2. Setting Expectations

Setting and communicating clear expectations is the most important thing for getting your students to perform in the way you want them to. If they’re not giving you what you want, ask yourself first: Did I clearly communicate what I expected? A lot of time, you’ll find the answer is no. I review expectations every day for every task I’m planning to do using this presentation. Sometimes more than once a day! This cuts down on 80% of my classroom management issues.

3. Entering the Classroom

Classroom management for me begins before class even begins! I teach expectations for lining up outside the classroom, and monitor student behavior in the hallway as students prepare for entry. Using positive narration helps by providing cues to appropriate behavior. Students who are upholding expectations are allowed to enter the room first. When the hallway group dwindles to the last few troublemakers, I take the opportunity to have a private chat about my hopes for the day’s classroom behaviors.

4. Feedback Loops

A feedback loop develops when the outcome of an event begins to inform the beginnings of the same event next time. Pay very close attention to what kind of feedback loop you are in with your class and with individual students.

A negative feedback loop looks like:

I hate this class; they always misbehave > Yep they did it again, just like I knew they would. > Dreading the class for tomorrow already.

A positive feedback loop looks like:

I love Ms. Hill; I want to make her proud of me > I did well today. Ms. Hill gave me a sticker! > I’m can’t wait for science class tomorrow!

Students will never be the ones to shift your loop from negative to positive. This is your responsibility, as the adult. The sooner you start, the better the rest of the year will go!

5. Differentiation

Have you ever heard the phrase “kids would rather be bad than stupid”? Perhaps your problem child is causing issues simply because the work is out of their league. Try planning a day for coloring, copying definitions, or any other activity that is accessible to everyone. If behavior improves, incorporating more differentiation in your lessons could be a key to success for you!

6. Enforcing Boundaries

Healthy adults set and enforce limits for what kind of behavior they’ll allow in their presence. Providing consequences when students cross the line will be a critical part of your job. When a boundary is crossed be calm! Calmly describe the expectation which was not met. If the behavior continues, neutralize the student and the situation by providing a consequence that stings. See my E-book for more tips of what to do and not when handing out consequences and how to give the hardest hitting consequences.

7. Rewards

One of the most common classroom management strategies is the reward. You don’t have to fill your classroom with candy to reward students. A phone call home, sticker, or tally mark on the board will suffice. However you choose to structure it, though, giving students something to work for will definitely provide a motivation for their behavior!

8. Parent Contact

In particular, positive parent contact. At the end of every week, I pick a couple “borderline” kids (the ones that are sometimes good, but usually bad) who had a decent week and email their parents about what a great job they’e done in class lately. Nine times out of ten, that child comes back after the weekend absolutely beaming. A lot of times our kids seem like they don’t care if the attention they get is negative, but that may simply be because they’ve never had positive attention before. Once they get a taste, they’ll be hooked.

9. Provide Consequences

In general, the only real consequences are the ones that take away something that a child wants very badly. If you’ve been teaching in schools as long as I have, you know we don’t really have the legal right to take away any of those things… Or do we? There’s one consequence you can always administer that hurts the most: taking away your approval. But first, you must be the kind of person whose approval the child desperately wants to earn. You can do it!

10. Get A Head Start

I always chat with the teachers in the grade below me. I ask them to point out the behavior problems that I’ll be inheriting. Instead of scowling at these children or counting down the days until they become mine, I jump start my relationship with them. It’s easy to bond with a kid when you’re not the one they’re getting in trouble with. Take advantage of your chance to be a “friendly adult” before you become a teacher to boost your relationship with That Kid.

11. Cherish the Child

By nature, children are

  • Valuable 
  • Vulnerable 
  • Imperfect
  • Dependent (needing and wanting)
  • Immature 

Our role is to guide our students towards becoming a functional adult. Punishing or blaming a child for acting their developmental age results in later dysfunction. 

12. Choice

Adolescents naturally look for chances to take more control in their lives as they begin the transition to adulthood. Empower your students by giving them options. The trick, though, is that both choices are things you are fine with. For example, “Would you like to continue working with your group, or can you concentrate better if you move somewhere more quiet?” is a great alternative to “Sarah! If you can’t be quiet you won’t be allowed to work with your group anymore!”

13. Don’t Engage

We’ve all known teachers that allow themselves to be lured into verbal confrontations with students. Avoid this cringey pitfall by sticking to your guns. Calmly deliver a short, conflict ending one liner or offer a choice to the student. You don’t have to allow students to drain your energy in pointless back and forth battles.

14. Build Relationships

Take time to chill with your students. Talk to them. Ask them about their day. Sometimes, it’s important to take a small break from curriculum to make time for relationships.

Read more on how I use coloring time to relax with my students.

15. Praise Publicly, Criticize Privately

A very important closing note is the reminder to praise publicly, criticize privately. When we embarrass a child, we not only crumble their fragile self esteem, but we also can create an enemy. Be mindful of how you correct behaviors. Try to get on eye level with the child, and speak to them away from any friends they may want to impress. These techniques will be the stepping stones to a more positive relationship with That Kid, rather than a constant battle for control.

16. How to Win Over the Bad Kid

Sometimes, I feel stuck in a negative feedback loop with a kid. There’s just nothing they do that gives me any reason to smile! How can I turn these situations around?

3 suggestions:

  1. Ask that child for a favor. For some psychological reason, we like people who need our help. Make it seem like an important favor that only that child can accomplish. When they do it, you have your first foothold towards a positive loop.
  2. Turn a slightly blind eye to their misbehaviors, just for a little bit. See if you can catch them doing something (anything) good. Lavish them with praise. Begin the positive loop.
  3. Give an inch. In private, strike a deal with this child. I once changed a formative mark for a child from a minus to a plus. He knew I did it, and it saved him the shame of having ALL minuses for the quarter. Crucially, I later used this favor as a bargaining chip. You can too.

17. Positive Framing

This strategy made a huge change for me. I use it in several areas of my life. When classroom management is getting you way down, try to reframe your thoughts. At 3am when you’re up with anxiety about what That Kid is going to do tomorrow, instead of constantly replaying dreadful scenarios in your mind, try a slightly more positive mantra. Instead of “I don’t know how I’m going to get through tomorrow,” try “Tomorrow I’m going to implement one new strategy and just see how it goes.” Instead of “I suck at classroom management,” try “I enjoy finding new solutions to classroom management situations.”

If this blog post was helpful to you, or if you think anyone else could benefit from these classroom management strategies, please consider pinning the following image to help me expand my reach.

classroom management strategies

Read more posts about classroom management here.

Protein Synthesis Worksheets

The following protein synthesis worksheets are intended for use with these NGSS standard:

HS-LS1- 1 Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the structure of DNA determines the structure of proteins, which carry out the essential functions of life through systems of specialized cells.

I was once like you, searching all over the web for a decent protein synthesis worksheet! I eventually gave in and decided to create my own. I’d like to share those with you now.

First, I have a very basic protein synthesis practice. It can easily be copied front and back. It includes several challenges. Students begin with the DNA given, and they subsequently determine the mRNA, tRNA, and amino acids. As they move through the worksheet, though, students will be challenged to figure out the missing pieces when they begin with different parts of the problem.

Both of the following resources include a link to a Google Slides version of the file for easy use with Google Classroom.

Learn more about how I plan and teach my DNA Unit here.

One teacher said, “This is great! It is extremely clear and to the point!”

Basic Protein Synthesis Worksheet

Give your students more experience with transcription and translation with this challenge. Each set of questions starts students with a different step in the protein synthesis process, and students will show their understanding of these processes by finding the missing pieces in each situation.

Get it here or through TPT

Next, I also offer a more slow paced guided practice. This resource includes short paragraphs describing transcription and translation. It also walks students through the protein synthesis process in a step by step fashion. I usually start with this one in my class. I set timers and check each students’ work before we move on to the next step.

protein synthesis worksheet

One teacher said, “My 7th grade students LOVED this activity. Great review of protein synthesis.”

Protein Synthesis Guided Practice

If your students need a little more guidance, try this guided practice.
Students will move through protein synthesis one step at a time covering first DNA to mRNA, then mRNA to tRNA. They will practice using the codon chart alone to decipher codons, and then finally students will put it all together to complete full diagrams.

Get it here or through TPT

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Additional Protein Synthesis Resources

If you would like your resources to be included in this list please contact me at

My teaching resources have already benefitted the learning of over half a million students. Please pin the image below to help me expand my reach.

protein synthesis worksheet

Punnett Square Practice Worksheet with Answers

Just like you, I was once scouring the web for a basic Punnett Square practice worksheet with answers. The the end of this article you’ll find links to all of the best FREE resources, but I ended up being much happier after I made my own. I’d like to share those with you now! All included resources come with an answer key too.

Learn more about how I plan and teach my Inheritance unit.

Punnett square practice worksheet with answers

This 4 page practice comes with a short descriptive passage explaining the key vocabulary required in monohybrid crosses.

Monohybrid Crosses


  • Vocabulary Matching
  • Practice Identifying Alleles (Dominant, Recessive, Heterozygous, Homozygous)
  • Practice Determining Genotypes and Phenotypes
  • Punnett Square Practice worksheet with answers

Get it here.

Punnett square practice worksheet with answers

3 whole pages of this product cover blood types alone, and can be split into two separate worksheets if desired.

Codominance and Incomplete Dominance

5 page genetics practice covering co and incomplete dominance. Includes a short reading passage describing what co- and incomplete dominance are and questions of varying levels.

Get it here.

Punnett square practice worksheet with answers

Sex Linked Traits

A 3 page worksheet to practice sex linked Punnett squares with answers. Includes a short reading passage describing how sex linked traits are inherited.

Get it here.

dihybrid practice with answers

Dihybrid Crosses

3 page practice worksheet which includes one page describing what a dihybrid cross is and how to find the parental gametes.

Get it here.

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Additional FREE Punnett Squares Practice Worksheets with Answers

Monohybrid Crosses:

Co and Incomplete Dominance:

Sex Linked Traits:

Dihybrid Crosses


These resources represent the best of what I could find for free. If you would like your resources to be included in this list please contact me at

My teaching resources have already benefitted the learning of over half a million students. Please pin the image below to help me expand my reach.

Punnett square practice worksheet with answers

A Personal Milestone

As teachers, I know we already know the importance of setting goals. I do this all the time. My goals are SMART too! But I have one special goal that I’ve been keeping close to my heart for years: the chance to mentor. 

Like many people, constantly battle imposter syndrome. For that reason I’ve been rather hesitant to step into any kind of leadership or coaching role. But when admin recently sent out an email calling for volunteers to help build a new internal coaching program at our school, I took it as a sign from God. I responded and found myself in a 5 hour training on a Saturday. I didn’t mind, though, because it means so much to me to have even the opportunity to help a fellow educator. 

To my surprise, though, my moment came earlier than planned! I’m friends with a first year teacher in my school. She’s a great person and I genuinely cherish the friendship. Like any first year teacher, classroom management has presented some interesting challenges for her. I’m honored that she is willing to share these struggles with me. 

One evening as we sat together over a table of chicken wings and a game of trivia, my friend shared again about how the boys in a certain class were giving her trouble. I don’t know why, but right then and there I launched into a detailed description of exactly what I’d do:

I’d line those boys up outside, and I wouldn’t let a single one into the classroom until their behavior aligned with expectations. I’d stand outside with the noncompliers, calling out names of students with appropriate behavior and allow them to enter. As they pass by me, I’ll tell them to read the board and follow the instructions there. On the board should be a detailed list of steps called “How to Enter the Classroom.”

Once I’ve allowed most of the students into the room I’ll have a little chat with whoever’s left. “I need you to do this for me,” I’ll say as I kindly and calmly request their appropriate behavior for the day.

When I finally enter the room, I’ll launch into another slide in my Expectations Presentation called “How to Listen when Someone is Talking.” I’ll go over a slide with expectations for each task of the day, and the moment expectations are apparently forgotten, I’ll go right back over it AGAIN. AND AGAIN AND AGAIN. We’re no longer teaching [insert subject here], we’re teaching how to act!

“Maybe I’m talking too much…” I begin to realize. I look at my friend, her fingers covered in BBQ sauce, and wait for some feedback. “What if that doesn’t work?” she asks. “I don’t know,” I admit.

I drop the subject, and spend the rest of the evening laughing and enjoying the company of our friends. I forget about my diatribe until the next morning when I’m sitting at my desk and my friend busts through the door. “I LOVE YOU RIGHT NOW!!!” she exclaims.

“What did I do????”

“Everything you told me last night, I did it. And it worked!”

She goes on to tell me how she’s never had a better day in that class, and shows me lots of pictures on her phone of certain impossible students working and on task. She’s so proud, but I’m prouder. I never want to forget this feeling, and I hope that God will continue to give me opportunities to help.

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Meiosis is an important process that occurs in sexually reproducing species. Its purpose is to create gametes, which are special cells contain only half of an individual’s DNA. In humans and many animals, meiosis creates gametes called sperm and egg. In plants, these gametes are called pollen and seed. Gametes eventually combine with another gamete from an individual of the opposite sex to form a zygote, or fertilized egg.

Meiosis vs. Mitosis

Meiosis and mitosis have many similarities. They both begin with interphase, in which the cell copies its DNA. They also both include the phases: prophase, metaphase, anaphase, telophase, and end with cytokinesis. Unlike mitosis, though, meiosis requires two divisions. The first division (called meiosis 1) does not reduce the chromosome number; the cell would still be considered diploid. After the second division (meiosis 2) the chromosome number is reduced by half and the cell is now haploid. Mitosis is a form of asexual reproduction, and is intended to maintain the number of chromosomes in a cell. Mitosis results in the formation of identical daughter cells. Meiosis, on the other hand, is a process that prepares for sexual reproduction. Meiosis seeks to increase genetic variety as much as possible which helps the species adapt to changing environments. Let’s look closer at two ways meiosis builds in genetic variation to the gametes it produces:

Crossing Over: During meiosis, a special process occurs in prophase I. Crossing over is a process in which homologous pairs of chromosomes exchange some of their DNA. This further increases the genetic variety present in the gametes produced.

Independent Assortment: In anaphase I, the homologous pairs are split apart. Which chromosome goes to which side is completely random, further increasing genetic variety.

Meiosis Stages

Prophase I: The nuclear membrane dissolves and chromosomes condense. Homologous pairs form tetrads and crossing over occurs.

Metaphase I: Homologous pairs line up at the cell’s equator.

Anaphase I: Spindle fibers pull each of the two homologous pairs to opposite ends of the cell. Unlike mitosis, sister chromatids are not split apart.

Telophase I: Chromosomes are now at opposite poles of the cell. Depending on the species, the nuclear membrane may reform and the chromosomes uncoil. In other species, these steps will not happen since the whole process is about to begin again. At the end of telophase I, the original cell splits into 2 new cells.

Prophase II: Cells begin their second round of meiosis without replicating their DNA. In prophase II, the nuclear membrane dissolves again and DNA condenses.

Metaphase II: Chromosomes align at the equator of the cell.

Anaphase II: Spindle fibers pull sister chromatids to opposite ends of the cell. The centromeres are finally broken.

Telophase II: Both cells divide, creating 4 haploid cells. Each cell has exactly one half of the original cell’s DNA, or one of each homologous pair.

Learn more about how I plan my unit on the cell cycle here.

More Meiosis Resources:

Guided Practice

A 6 page practice with in depth descriptions of the stages of meiosis, summarizing questions, and a graphing extension.

Get it here.


A best selling 4 page webquest that allows students to dive deeper into the topic on their own.

“Excellent resource for initial investigation OR review!”

Get it here.

Color by Number

Practice identifying similarities and differences using this fun worksheet!

Great way for my students to remember the differences between mitosis and meiosis. Plus, they love the coloring. Thank you for a great resource!

Get it here.

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More Meiosis Resources

If you would like your resources to be included in this list please contact me at

My teaching resources have already benefitted the learning of over half a million students. Please pin the image below to help me expand my reach.

Evolution Unit – Teacher’s Guide

Welcome! This post has been written with the intention of helping you plan an engaging and comprehensive Evolution unit for your middle school science class. If you’re arriving to this page from somewhere other than the Teachers Pay Teachers site, this is the product that this guide was written for. Here’s how I teach using these resources:

Note: Items are listed in the order in which they would be used. Lessons are not broken into specific “days” as many of us have vastly different timings per class period. 

  1. Natural Selection Presentation
    I’ve moved away form a lot of teacher focused instruction, but I can’t resist the urge to tell the story of Darwin’s journey on the HMS Beagle! I usually follow this lesson up with one of the several Youtube videos that cover this same journey.
  2. Evidence for Evolution Presentation
    This presentation covers the main evidences for evolution as described by the NGSS standards.
  3. Homologous, Analogous, and Vestigial Structures Practice
    Use these fun examples to examine the skeletal structures of several vertebrates. Are some ancient signs of evolution still present in their anatomy? It’s one of my best sellers!
  4. Punctuated Equilibrium Case Study
    Use this case study on tuskless elephants to discuss the possibility of rapid evolutionary change in a species. It’s happening in our world today as elephant populations become more and more tusk-free in the face of poaching pressure.
  5. Sub Plans: Darwin Awards
    A little morbid I must admit, but the kids love these hilarious Darwin awards. What’s the dumbest way to die?
  6. Darwin’s Theory Quiz
    A quick formative quiz to check for understanding.
  7. Inquiry Based Online Evolution Lab
    I absolutely love this lab. It covers fossil evidence of evolution and also vestigial structures. I’ve used it for several years to teach evolution in an inquiry based way, and also to reinforce the practices of scientists. Last year I even extended this portion of our unit and had the students write a formal lab report.

This product is designed to be affordable and useful to teachers in middle school science. Help me serve you and others through this bundle (or the creation of new resources) by leaving feedback. My work is meaningful when it takes some of the stress off of YOU.

Other Useful Link for your Evolution Unit:

  • Learn.Genetics – This site is absolutely stuffed full of awesome resources. It includes interactives and FREE downloadable lessons. You’ll have to spend time searching through it yourself. I can’t believe I’ve been teaching for 8 years and just found these guys. I highly recommend them!

Teaching is a weird job. I’d love to connect and discuss our successes and failures on my instagram (@laney.leee).  Please reach out and ask me anything.

My teaching resources have already benefitted the learning of over half a million students. Please pin the image below to help me expand my reach.

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DNA Extraction Lab

At the end of this tutorial you’ll find links to a free, student-friendly presentation (with pictures) to walk your class through this DNA Extraction Lab one step at a time. You’ll also find a free download for a student lab sheet.

I’ve been teaching life science for 8 years, and I’ve always found (to my dismay) that students have a hard time connecting with the miracle of DNA. This molecule carries instructions for all life, and it’s self replicating! Small changes in this molecule are the reason that we have the varieties of life on Earth that we have. Don’t let your genetics unit just be diagrams in a text book. You owe it to your students to bring this molecule to life. Let them get their hands dirty and touch science. Use this lab as phenomena to pique interest before diving into content.

I have to admit, at first I was scared of the DNA Extraction Lab. I knew it was simple; I’ve done the process myself. Rather, I concerned about classroom management and where I’d find all the materials. I had nightmares the night before as I envisioned my classroom going crazy. All for nothing, it turns out. This lab is simple and easy to implement! Best of all, it’s cheap! I’ve prepared this step by step guide for you so that you can bring the joy of hands on science to your classroom too!

Lab Materials:

  • Strawberries/kiwi (at least 2 per group)
  • Zip lock bags (one per group)
  • 2 tbs dish washing liquid per group
  • 2 tbs salt per group
  • 1 coffee filter per group (or cheese cloth)
  • 1 clear plastic cup (or any other clear glass lab equipment) per group
  • ¼ cup cold rubbing alcohol per group
  • 1 coffee stirrer per group
  • A few extra plastic cups for passing out materials
DNA Extraction Lab Strawberry

Rubbing alcohol is a perfectly good substitute for ethanol – like you’d get in the pharmacy section of any grocery store.

DNA Extraction Lab Strawberry

Salt and dishwashing soap. Any brand will do.

DNA Extraction Lab Classroom Setup

I split my students into table groups of 3 and 4 for this lab. To keep everyone engaged, I make sure each student got their very own strawberry to smush. I also give every student a copy of this FREE DNA Extraction Lab Student Sheet also. Everyone is required to complete and submit the lab sheet upon completion of the lab.

If you’re using my lab sheet, I like to begin by reading the included page on the history of DNA and the reasons for each step of the extraction process. This is a great extension if you’ve taught Cells or the Cell Theory already.

When you’ve got everyone and their strawberries ready, begin the lab. Remember, you can also use my presentation (linked at the end of this tutorial) to keep students on task during the process.

DNA Extraction Steps

  1. Give every student a strawberry, or at least 2 strawberries per group. Have the students remove the leaves of their berries.
DNA Extraction lab Strawberry

2. Pass out a zip lock bag to each group. Set a timer (I like 5 minutes for this step.) for the time each group will have to smush their strawberries. Each student will add their strawberry to the group bag and take their turn smushing. Emphasize that the bag should be passed to each group member and that everyone will get a turn. Remind the students that they want a very liquid consistency by the end.

While the students are busy smashing away, I prepare the mixture for the next step. I make a small cup with salt (a couple tablespoons), dish soap (a tablespoon or so), and maybe a third or fourth a cup of water for each group. Exact measurements are not a concern.

Before you move on, student bags should look like this:

DNA Extraction Lab Strawberry

The mixture you’ll prepare (soap, salt, and water) should look like this:

3. Pass out the cups filled with DNA Extraction Liquid. Have the students pour the whole cup full into their zip locks and then smash the mix up a little bit more.

As students do this, I pass out one clear cup to each group and a coffee filter.

DNA Extraction Lab Strawberry

4. Students will now strain their strawberry mix through a coffee filter (or cheese cloth) to remove the solid pieces. They’ll need to have one student hold the filter and cup while another student pours.

Students may want to really wring out the mix. That’s a great idea! Get as much liquid as you can from the strawberry mix! Some students broke their filter and I had to give them a new one and let them begin again. This is important because you really don’t want chunks left in the final cup. It should just be red, soapy strawberry juice.

While students complete this step (which tends to be a very messy and exciting one), prepare cups with a fourth or third cup of cold ethanol or rubbing alcohol.

DNA Extraction Lab Strawberry

5. Pass out the cups of rubbing alcohol and instruct students to carefully pour them into their clear cup of strawberry liquid. They should pour down the side of the cup not directly into the mix so that they do not damage the DNA.

6. At this time, students can throw away and clean everything except the clear cup of strawberry liquid. I like to nominate one student to wash all the ingredient cups so that they can be re-used.

It takes just a few minutes for the DNA to precipitate from the mix.

DNA Extraction Lab Strawberry
DNA Extraction Lab Strawberry

7. Using a coffee stirrer, allow students to remove the DNA from their cup to touch and examine!

DNA Extraction Lab Strawberry

To help you in the classroom, I’ve created a version of this process on Google Slides that you can display on the board as you go through the lab.

Click here to download the free step by step presentation.

Download the student lab sheet by clicking below.

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Finally, if you’d like to learn more about how I teach my DNA Unit, check out this blog post for a teacher’s guide!

My teaching resources have already benefitted the learning of over half a million students. Please pin the image below to help me expand my reach.

Student Lab Sheet Image Downloads below:

DNA Extraction Lab
DNA Extraction Lab
DNA Extraction Lab
DNA Extraction Lab

Cell Theory Worksheets

Need a worksheet for your lesson on the cell theory? Scroll to the bottom of this page.

Cell Theory Definition

The cell theory is a widely accepted and proven set of three ideas which describe life at a microscopic level. The three parts of the cell theory are:

  1. Cells are the most basic unit of life.
  2. All living things are made of cells.
  3. Cells only come from pre-existing cells.

Cell Theory Timeline

cell theory robert hooke laney lee

Beginning in 1665, Robert Hooke is credited with first using the name “cells” to describe the tiny rooms in the cork he was able to see using a microscope that he designed himself. Although he had no idea that he was witnessing the building blocks of all life, his discovery laid the foundations for modern microbiology.

Not long after that, Francisco Redi performed a famous meat experiment in 1668 that helped to disprove the concept of spontaneous generation which was widely accepted at that time. Spontaneous generation is the idea that living things can pop into existence out of non-living things. For example, at the time, people thought that maggots (fly larvae) “spontaneously generated” or arise from old meat rather than being born of parent flies. Redi disproved this idea with an experiment in which he covered a piece of rotting meat with a cloth that blocked flies from reaching it. No maggots developed from the meat.

Later, Anton Van Leeuwenhoek developed his own microscope using a technique that required grinding glass lenses. As a matter of fact, he was so successful in his craft, that there was no further progress in the development of the theory for over 100 years! Leeuwenhoek was a curious man and looked at a lot of different samples with his lenses. He observed everything from pond scum to teeth scrapings. He saw the first living cells (bacteria) in 1674, and called them “animalcules,” thinking they looked like tiny animals.

(Note the large gap in time since anything was done to develop the theory.)

Finally, in 1827, Robert Brown first described the nucleus of a cell.

In 1839, Matthias Schwann studied animals and determined that they were all made of cells while Jakob Schleiden did the same with plants. Together, they developed the second tenet of the cell theory.

Cell theory theodor Schwann laney lee
Cell Theory Matthias Schleiden Laney lee

In 1855, Louis Pasteur further settled the matter of spontaneous generation with an experiment using meat broth. Through his work, he was able to prove that even microscopic life can only come from other life. This discovery led to the process of pasteurization (named after him) which involves boiling liquids, such as milk, for sanitation reasons.

In 1855, Rudolf Virchow finally settled the matter of cell reproduction after watching cells divide. He famously wrote Omnis cellula e cellula which means that cells only come from cells. This idea went on to become the third tenet of the cell theory.

Learn more about how I plan and teach my cells unit here.

Cell Theory Teaching Resources:

Cell Theory Worksheet #1

Use this comprehensive reading with questions as an introductory activity or for reteaching. Great as a review before a test or as homework! Also compatible with Google Classroom.
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Cell Theory

Cell Theory Worksheet #2

Use this best selling review. Students use answers to fill in a riddle that makes this worksheet self checking!
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Cell Theory

Cell Theory Quiz

A quick an easy quiz to review the scientists who made contributions to the Cell Theory.
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“Perfect activity to use for review, homework, or a quiz. Simple and effective! Thank you.”

Cell Theory Clipart

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Cell Theory

Why I Incorporate Coloring Time in my Middle School Classroom

One of my favorite classroom management strategies is mandatory coloring time. I use this activity once per unit. Everyone gets a different word wall word (purchased through TPT) and I also supply the coloring supplies. Then I set a timer. 30 minutes. You can finish late but you cannot finish early. (This is to stop those kids that zoom through everything.)

During mandatory coloring time you’re allowed to listen to music or sit however you like. Most kids choose to just chat though, with me and with each other. We use this time as a brain break. A chance to relax and enjoy one another.

Although this coloring time may not be considered “bell to bell” instruction by strict administrators, I believe it’s one of the most important things I do for classroom management. It’s my chance to step out of the role of “The All Knowing Answer Giver” and simply spend time relating to the kids. I chat with them and find out what their interests are or what they’re currently watching on Youtube.

You’ve probably heard before that the most important part of classroom management is relationships, so why not take time to build them?

A Charge for Veteran Teachers

In our school this year we have exactly one first year teacher. ONE. That means we have lots and lots of veteran teachers. The new teacher just so happens to be my friend, and she often expresses to me a feeling of being judged or looked down on. My question is this: where does this attitude stem from? Why are we, as teachers with more experience, not rallying around the newbie in our school to support her?

I’m going to tell two stories, one from her perspective and one from my own. My first year teacher friend is (no surprise) having some issues with classroom management. How difficult it is to learn how to manage 5,000 different decisions a day overlapping with 30 children’s unique personalities. Making the right choice all the time is impossible for all of us, especially for someone with less experience.

Recently, my friend told me a story of how another teacher invited herself into my friend’s classroom while she was teaching. From there, she proceeded to dominate the situation. She completely took over classroom management, demanding everyone get back on task. At one point, she leans over to my friend and reassures her. “I’m here to help and support you.” When my friend told me the story, it was obvious that the situation made her feel small. Since when was undermining another teacher or commanding their classroom a form of support? In this day and age of informed consent, would it have not been better to whisper a question first? Something along the lines of “Do you mind if I correct some children?” or even “How would you like me to support you?”

The second story I witnessed for myself. My friend bravely called a meeting of all the teachers who have a certain group of kids. The hope was that management strategies could be shared for everyone’s benefit. The meeting was to begin right after school finished. The first to arrive was a seasoned veteran teacher, exactly 45 seconds after the bell. As I happened to be the only other person standing by and no one had shown up yet she directed her question to me.

“Is this the room we’re going to be meeting in?”

“Probably?” I responded.

“Oh. I guess I’m the first one here then,” and then she leaned in and whispered to me, “I guess it’s because my class actually had their act together to be able to leave on time.”

Now, maybe I’m reading too much into things, but that comment sounded extremely judgey to me. I could be wrong, but I’m going to continue this blog post as if she meant what I think she meant. I think she was taking a stance of superiority in the fact that her classroom is more well run than someone’s who has been teaching for approximately 1.5 months. You don’t say?

As experienced teachers, I’m sorry but we’re going to have to do better. We’re going to have to stop using the failures of new teachers to build up our own egos. We’re going to have to remember what it felt like to be new and terrified. We’re going to have to create an atmosphere where vulnerability is SAFE and not rewarded with judgement. We’re going to have to look more critically at ourselves and stop assuming that just because our room is silent that we’ve got it all figured out. We’re going to have to be critical of ourselves too. We haven’t arrived. We’re still learning too.

I can’t believe that in a building full of experience, our only new teacher is afraid to speak up about her struggles. I am shocked that the “support” she does get feels more like a form of bulldozing or “watch what I can do.” I find it even more ironic that we are TEACHERS. Read that again. TEACHERS. Isn’t our passion supposed to be helping people improve? Are our egos so fragile that we genuinely think this is a zero sum game? If someone else succeeds then I must be failing? It’s time to drop the competitive mindset and build each other up.