Looking for a Cute Thanksgiving Activity for Anatomy? How about an “Anatomically Correct” Hand Turkey…


Every Kid Loves to Make a Hand Turkey at Thanksgiving Right??

My students are in the middle of the Skeletal System right now.  Since they are having a lot of trouble remembering the bones of the wrist, I tried to think of a creative way for them to practice, yet still have fun (especially since Anatomy & Physiology can be so heavy on the memorization at times).  I always like to have a little fun around the holidays (and give students a reason NOT to check out of school right before a break lol) so what better way to practice than to go old school elementary school and make hand turkeys!! 🙂


I think students do much better in Anatomy if their diagrams are larger and easier to label (totally not a proven scientific fact lol! However, it is my own personal opinion but it really does help).  So, in addition to drawing Sketch Notes, I’ve also been drawing their diagrams in a manner that cuts through all the “extra” stuff and narrows it down to the important structures.  (another blog post on this later so stay tuned).

renderedimageAnyway, I drew the hand diagrams really large for my students and used the Ventral View of the Left Hand for this one (… before you ask, YES I did draw it from tracing my own hand lol and that’s how I got the idea for them to do a hand turkey from the diagram).  I made a chart of all the bones and the corresponding colors for each one.  To differentiate for my students, I will probably number the bones and put the corresponding number next to the correct bone in their chart.  That way, they can check themselves with the numbers and not have to just remember the name of the bone.  The picture above is how the turkey should look colored correctly. Students will add eyes, feet, feathers, etc and turn it into their own Thanksgiving turkey.  Hopefully, this will help them practice learning the bones of the wrist and hand.

Like to try it in your classroom?  Visit my TpT Store for the activity that INCLUDES the large hand diagram! https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Anatomically-Correct-Hand-Turkey-Activity-Lg-Size-Easier-to-Label-4191311

Like the LARGER diagrams?  Follow me on TpT so you can stay updated when I post additional things!  https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Drm

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Intro to Anatomy & Physiology Review and Body Systems Gallery Walk



Looking for a creative way to introduce the body systems in Anatomy?  Try a Gallery Walk!

The first unit in Anatomy & Physiology is HUGE…. I mean really huge!! So, I decided to try something different to really get my students engaged and ready to tackle what is often a very difficult course.  This year, we used a Gallery Walk for the body systems!

What did we do?

Each student group took on the roles of medical students who were asked to present information about their particular body system to patients at our “Medical Clinic”. They were responsible for creating a life-sized body from templates that I drew (Side note: At one point I wanted to create a life-sized foldable body for my Anatomy classes so I had many organs & the outlines already drawn.  I have pretty much finished it now because I have seen what an awesome learning tool it is for my Anatomy kids! Hopefully, I’ll get it uploaded to TpT pretty soon).

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Here is the main part of their project requirements:

body system gallery walk req clip

As you can see, I gave them guidelines, yet also gave them a chance to make their project meaningful to their classmates.  I collected the 3 questions each group wrote down about their own body system and typed them up for everyone to use during the Gallery Walk.  My kids loved it!  The groups then discussed their body system and everyone checked their answers.  Here’s a part of one class’ questions: gallery walk questions

I did this Gallery Walk as the last station of my review station lab for Unit 1.  Within the stations, they played “You be the Doctor” card game (that I made up lol~ They loved it!), as well as creating anatomical planes with pipe cleaners on my little skeleton.  img_0112They even played a game of Operation (the old board game that buzzes) where they had to remove the “organs” in a certain order according to the description (using anatomical terms).  Their favorite station was my light sabers (thank goodness for Amazon) where they had to cut their lab partner into specific anatomical planes.  My classes did very well on their Unit 1 Exam.  I’ll definitely use this again next year! Here are some pictures of their systems:

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Don’t forget to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers at https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Drm

Check out my website for my Sketch Notes! https://www.biologysketchnotes.com/


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Autopsy of a Dill Pickle- A Great Introductory Lab for Anatomy or Forensics!


img_9947A Pickle Autopsy? YES!

If you teach Anatomy & Physiology, you know the struggle of the first unit…. it’s HUGE!! … and jam-packed with things that are absolutely essential for students to know in order to be successful in the course.  I usually struggle with finding activities to review the body cavities and directional terms.  This year, someone suggested using the pickle autopsy and I’m so glad I did!

The lab I used was published in The Forensic Teacher and would be appropriate for either discipline (I teach both this year).  Here is the link to the lab I used http://www.theforensicteacher.com/Labs_files/picklelabsheets.pdf  A clever fellow teacher friend came up with the storyline that there was a gang war between the Claussens and the Vlasics in the fridge that resulted in no survivors. I loved it so I also used that storyline to frame my lab.

Set Up– The Basics

Now that I had my lab picked out and my story to tell, I had to figure the logistics of how to get everything set up.

First, the pickles….


I found the big jars of dills at Walmart for $5.97 each. The smaller pickles I got because I wanted some of my “victims” to be pregnant (or they could also be small children pickles lol).  I had a hard time estimating how many pickles were in the big jars, but these 2 had a total of 33 pickles– more than enough for my classes. The picture below shows them separated by “male” and “female” victims (my “male” pickles are the ones with the stems lol).

Here are all the supplies I used for the lab: img_9916

How to make them look like victims….

I glued wiggly eyes onto thumbtacks for their eyes (so I can reuse them)img_9917

I also used pellets that go in pellet guns for bullet wounds (I smashed them a little with the hammer first and dipped them into gel food coloring before I stuck them in the “victims”)img_9922

I made their heads from an olive stuck on a toothpick– some I even squished so their “brains” fell out a little lol.  I also gave all of them a “spine” (a toothpick on the dorsal side just under the skin).  I also broke several of the toothpicks so this “injury” might be discovered and included in the story of their “victim”. img_9937.jpg

All the “victims” had a bead implanted in the vicinity of their heart.  If the bead was red, they had a normal heart.  If it was black or dark purple, it represented a heart attack.  I found that if you make a slit on the side of the pickle (choose a wrinkle), it will often be completely unnoticeable and students will wonder how in the world you got those beads in there!  I also slipped in a small green bead in the neck region of a few of the “victims” and told my students I heard that some of the gang members involved in the war were caught raiding the grapes from the fridge and several choked on them when their leader caught them.

I also told them that the gang members were not healthy and many had various diseases and disorders because they didn’t take care of themselves.  Many had white beads implanted in various areas.  These beads represented a tumor in the particular area.  Knotted pieces of rubber bands in the abdominal region represented parasites.  Many had broken toothpick “limbs”.  I also had several who were pregnant.

This is the sheet of “Helpful Hints” I gave my students with their lab:


A Snapshot of My “Victims”

I separated my “victims” into 4 general types based on their cause of death:

  1. Trauma or internal bleeding (Stabbed or gunshot, injected with red food coloring)
  2. Poisoning/ Drug Overdose (I soaked them in baking soda but didn’t get a very good result)
  3. Heart Attack (black bead instead of red bead in chest)
  4. Drowning (blue food coloring injected in chest area)


My “victims” had multiple things that could have resulted in their deaths, but having 4 major things just helped me keep it organized. I also put them in separate dishes while I plotted their demise 🙂 img_9926

I also kept them separate in labeled gallon ziplock bags to transport them to school. img_9927

The Lab Set Up

I set my lab up as a mini crime scene.  I had some fake vampire blood from my forensics class that I also added to help set the scene.  I also added in some extra plastic swords and pellets around the “victims”.  (I let my students pick their own “victim” from the scene). img_9948

Group Jobs

Students were in a lab group of 3 per “victim”.  In my lab, every student in the group has a specific job and job description.  It just helps my lab groups run more smoothly and tends to decrease the possibility that one student does the lion’s share of work.  These are the jobs I gave my groups for this lab: img_9936.jpg

My Take on the Pickle Autopsy Lab

Would I use it again? Absolutely!  My students became very proficient at actually using the directional terminology and identifying the body cavities that we talked about in class.  I heard many meaningful conversations within the groups… “That’s a break in his arm that’s intermediate between the shoulder and the elbow” “I think this sword went through the abdominal cavity and not the thoracic cavity”…. This was so much better than hearing them try to memorize a diagram or a chart of the directional terms!

They loved getting into our “gang warfare” story.  I had them fill out a Coroner’s Report detailing the abnormalities they found both in, and on their “victim”, as well as the location of these abnormalities.  Then, they had to determine the cause of death for their victim, supporting their opinion with specific details from their autopsy.  At all times within their report, they had to incorporate correct anatomical terminology.  Finally, they had to create a narrative of what happened to their “victim” based on the findings from their autopsy.  Several groups shared with the class.  It was lots of fun!



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A Fun First Day Activity for ANY Class- Free Download!!


What am I going to do on the FIRST DAY of class????

This question starts rattling around in my head as soon as the firecrackers go off on the 4th of July.  Ugh!

Since I know the first day(s) of class set the tone and expectations for the entire school year, the pressure in ON to grab students’ attention (and interest) right from the beginning.  I don’t want my first class days to be spent going over the syllabus and course rules/expectations ad nauseum.  Who wants to sit there while the teacher tells you over and over that you’re expected to do all of your work while conducting yourself in a rational manner?  Those things are important, don’t get me wrong, but working together and communicating are also important in my classroom, especially since we utilize teams & groups so often.  So here’s what I did with my classes, both Anatomy & Physiology and Forensics….


The Activity:

Students were given 6 big yellow plastic cups at their lab station.  I placed them stacked up, one inside the other, on the lab bench as if they were waiting to be filled with water.  They were also given a “contraption” I made before class of 1 rubber band with 5 pieces of yarn tied to it at equal intervals (I had 5 students in my groups).  The rubber band was a medium thickness one (not one of the super skinny ones).  The yarn I cut was about 4 ft long per piece.  I folded it in the middle and used the center to make a knot around the rubber band so each student had 2 free “tails” of yarn (it helps them manipulate better).  You can see what it looked like in the picture below.


The first task students had was to take the stack of 6 cups, separate them, turn them over, and create a pyramid with 3 on the bottom, 2 on the 2nd row, and 1 on the top.  The catch– They could not touch the cups with their hands, elbows, chins, etc (don’t ask– they tried every way! LOL).  For my Forensics class, I made them do this without talking to each other (Oh gosh, this was so hard but so fun!).

teambuilding snap

They had to time their efforts and record their times in the data table.  We only had time to do 1 run through of each attempt, but you could do as many as time allows.  After they finished the silent trial, then they could talk as they built.  Each time, I had them begin with the cups stacked inside each other and on the table the same way.  They also timed themselves as they deconstructed the pyramid.  Once they had their data from the 6 cups, I gave them “extra materials”.  You could use anything, but I had styrofoam cups and clear plastic cups in my closet so I gave them 2 of each.  They had to repeat their pyramid building using ALL of the materials they were given.  It was challenging for my kids because the cups weren’t the same size.  They found they had to come up with a “game plan” and strategize the best placement for the cups so that their pyramid would be straight enough to stand.  Here are some of the different ways my students made their pyramids:

My Forensics class had an additional task of building a huge pyramid with ALL of the materials I had available (everyone’s yellow cups, as well as everyone’s styrofoam cups and clear plastic cups).  It was awesome!


Follow-up questions were completed as well.  teambuilding followup

So what did we gain as a result of this activity?

As students, they had to see that the importance of working in a group with communication between group members being KEY.  When I had them build the big pyramid as a whole class, it was chaos for a few minutes!  Then, the natural leaders emerged, the natural organizers got everyone in line, the natural critical thinkers put pencil to paper and figured out the logistics of what they were building.   As a teacher, it helped me figure out which students take charge..which ones quietly just get things accomplished.. which ones are analytical.. and which ones need a little extra “teacher presence”.  All in all, I think it was a successful activity for the first day of class.  We are on alternating block schedule and I had several students on the 2nd day say that everyone couldn’t wait for my class so they could try it for themselves!

I hope everyone has a great school year.  So far, mine is off to a fantastic start! (Translate= I survived the first week lol)

I put the worksheet in my Gdrive if you are interested in trying this activity with your students.  To download the data sheet, please visit this link https://docs.google.com/document/d/1D2ME1zVWGZt0218zY8hhelDRfW9qnmUNQMF-doDhroU/copy

If Google Drive link doesn’t work, please try this link Copy of Forensics Data Sheet for Teambuilding Task

Posted in Anatomy & Physiology, biology, Forensics, Instructional Coaching, Strategies, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just Launched! Biology Sketch Notes~ My New Website!!

clip Website home page

I’m so excited! My new website launched today!

Wow! This has been a labor of love!  Today, I marked something off my bucket list.  My very own website for Biology Sketch Notes has launched!  Head on over to https://www.biologysketchnotes.com/ and check it out!

Stay tuned for more exciting news coming soon!

Posted in biology, Forensics, Instructional Coaching, Professional Learning Team, Sketch Notes, Strategies, T.I.P Theory Into Practice, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An End of the Year Reflection on Using Sketch Notes With My Classes

sketch notes collage

Another Year Draws to a Close…

It’s hard to believe that I’ve finished up another year in the classroom.  Looking back, this has been one of the more enjoyable teaching years that I can remember.  I felt like my students came in as babies (I taught mostly 9th graders) and left (hopefully) with skills that will help them be successful in their high school “careers”. I am very proud of the progress that they made in my class this year.

So How Did Using Sketch Notes Work for My Classes This Year?

If I could sum up my feelings/reaction in a word, it would be… Awesome!

I had such positive feedback from my students about using Sketch Notes in different ways instead of traditional lecture, notes, etc this year.  Many times, they would request Sketch Notes for various topics or labs just because they said it made it so much easier for them to remember as compared to traditional notes that I also provided.  Granted, some students would rather study traditional notes (some of my most advanced kids), however, most of my kids (my “strugglers”) preferred to study their Sketch Notes.

Probably the thing I am most proud of this year was their confidence to try to create their own Sketch Notes during the 2nd semester.  First semester, we tried but they just struggled no matter how much scaffolding I provided for them.  Second semester, we began trying to develop their own Sketch Notes as a review before the exam.  The last unit we did on Classification, they developed their own before we ever began to talk about the unit! I was so proud of them! Here are a couple of examples:


This one was done by one of my students who resisted using Sketch Notes and preferred “traditional” notes that I also provided.  She told me when she turned them in that she learned SO much and is going to try and use this skill in other classes (especially history) next year.


These Sketch Notes were drawn by one of my autistic students who rarely speaks.  He was SO proud of what he had done.  We decided to have a little contest in his class and his classmates voted his Sketch Notes “Best in Class”.  I’ve never seen him smile bigger than he did that day.


This has to be the example that brings the biggest smile to my teacher face 🙂 This student spoke very little English at the beginning of the year.  He made such tremendous progress with his language skills during this year.  He helped me many times by translating my instructions into Spanish for the other EL students.  He told me at the end that if he had not had notes with pictures (aka my Sketch Notes) that he would not have ever been able to understand Biology.  He went from barely passing at the beginning of the school year… to an A the last 9 weeks! These are his Sketch Notes- they may be in broken English, but they show me so much about his understanding of how living things are grouped and classified.

Will I Continue to Use Sketch Notes With My Classes?

Yes. yes. yes. Sketch Notes were so versatile and my students just loved them!  I plan to create several others for Forensic Science as well.  Next year, I also have an Anatomy & Physiology class so that will be my next Sketch Note project so stay tuned 🙂

I have drawn as I progressed through Biology this year, so I have created pretty much an entire course of Biology Sketch Notes.  I have also condensed student notes into 1-2 typed pages to correspond with each drawing.  These can be found in my TpT Store at https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Drm .  I am in the process of creating larger bundles of them.  I am also in the process of publishing the entire curriculum in a book.

Check Out My New Website!  www.biologysketchnotes.com


To Learn More About Sketch Notes in the Classroom, Please Visit the Following Links:

1.  Oodles of Doodles Sketch Notes in the Classroom


2.  Getting Started with Sketchnoting


3.  How Visual Notes Helped a Student With a Learning Disability Thrive


4.  Epic Sketchnoting Resources:  How to Get Started Teaching Sketchnoting


5. 10 Creative Ways to Use Sketch Notes in Your Classroom


Posted in biology, Instructional Coaching, Sketch Notes, T.I.P Theory Into Practice, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Forensic Fairytale– Day 2 Crime Lab

img_8948Forensic Fairytale– Day 2– The Crime Lab

On Day 2, my students had to analyze the evidence they collected when they excavated their “graves”.  Each person had a job or responsibility from Forensic Geologist to Forensic Anthropologist to Coroner.

I set my lab up by designating different lab tables for each “grave”.

img_8934 I also fixed 2 lab benches for “Evidence Sign Out” so that the students who were the Evidence Technicians could come to the tables and sign out their evidence maintaining the chain of custody. They also picked up the supplies their team would need for examination of their skeletal remains.


Microscopes were set up around the perimeter of the lab as well as on the front lab table for Forensic Geologists to perform their soil analysis from their grave.  img_8945They had to examine the soil microscopically as well as measure the pH of their sample.  Their sample was also compared to an examplar from the crime scene I set up on the front lab table.


Forensic Anthropologists worked alongside the Coroner to reconstruct their skeleton, note any defects or wounds, and try to determine what caused the death of their victim.

I also put my half-sized laminated skeletons I use teaching my college students on the tables for reference.  Several years ago, I drew this skeleton and used it life-sized for my classes.  For these little guys, I shrank it 50%, cut out the bones and laminated them, then put them back together with little brass brads so that they joints are movable.  Since they are laminated, students can write on them with dry erase markers.  It’s really been an awesome addition to my Bio201 class.  img_8937


Overall, my students have really enjoyed this “Forensic Fairytale”.  In the next step, they will prepare a 5 slide CER (Claim, Evidence, Reasoning + summary) presentation in Google slides.  Each group member will be responsible for a single slide as well as an Infographic of the entire case linked to their slide.  They will be using easel.ly to create their infographics.  For more information on this, please click here–>  https://ateacherontheedge.wordpress.com/2018/03/06/making-infographics-easy-with-easel-ly/

Stay tuned for the final step in the Forensic Fairytale!

Don’t forget to follow me on TpT for sketch notes, activities, and project-based learning!  https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Drm

Posted in Forensics, Instructional Coaching, Project Based Learning PBL, Sketch Notes, Strategies, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment