Think Cellphones Aren’t Distracting Students During Class? Think Again…


Think cellphones are being used responsibly by teenagers during school? Think again…. 🙄

This is the reason cell phones are such a distraction during class… My students conducted research on their own cell phone use during class. I had them turn on their phone sounds and leave their phones on their desks. Whenever they got a notification, they got up and put a tally mark under the appropriate category. I continued class as normal (after this many years, I can ignore anything 😂). Students got SO frustrated!! They also didn’t realise they were being interrupted as often as they were (Sometimes even by adults— parents & counselors and teachers via Remind. We didn’t even check notifications from Google Classroom!). It was insane!

So How Did We Use This Data?

We used this data to foster a very real conversation about cellphone use. It was eye-opening for students to see the actual numbers for the instances they are interrupted by their phone during the day.  They told me they felt like they were good at “multitasking” …. until everyone’s phone sounds were audible! Then, they said it was overwhelming.  I compared this to what their brain is feeling like while they’re trying to make sense of information in class.  It can only handle so much… then, it just wants to shut down. It was a good lesson for my students.

Was the Data Similar for All the Classes?

I teach 2 sections of Forensic Science (all Seniors) and 2 sections of Human Anatomy & Physiology (Juniors & Seniors mixed).  Neither class is classified as “Honors”, although most of my Forensic Science students and about 2/3 of my Anatomy students have taken Honors classes throughout their time at my school.  My 4th Block Anatomy class has the fewest students, as well as the least number of students who have taken Honors classes.  Here are the results from my classes: 

We analyzed the data as a class.  They were astounded that they were interrupted an average of around 30 times PER student in a 90 minute block! It was also interesting to me that different classes utilized different social media outlets.  The notifications via Remind were ALL from counselors and teachers.  It definitely made me rethink when I communicate with my students.  We forgot to track our notifications via Google Classroom, although I think it would be interesting to see if this is an issue (I know I post assignments during my conference block.  Now, I schedule them or post them right before class). 

How this Data Impacted My Classes

The reason I had my students participate in this data collection was because I wanted them to realize they are constantly being interrupted in class and it was affecting their ability to pay attention. Rather than just say “NO CELLPHONES IN CLASS AT ALL!” I wanted to help them learn a life lesson about negotiation and responsibility.  In my opinion, people have become increasingly addicted to their phones (I admit, sometimes I am too but I can control myself lol) and there is a time and place for everything.  So,  I wanted my students to participate in negotiating a “fair use” policy for our classroom.  It’s a “non-negotiable” that phones are put away during instruction. However, I wanted them to have input in what would be “fair” in terms of an opportunity to check their notifications (since they apparently get so many). I was SO proud of them!  They discussed the issue like the young adults they are. They listened to each other.  Then, they came up with a plan (that actually met with my approval yay!).  We decided that  access to their phones would be allowed only until tardy bell, 5 min before class ends, & when we have a class restroom break in the middle of class. Students also have to wait until I tell them it’s ok at these 3 times. Any “unauthorised” phone use lands their phone on my desk (in phone “prison” which is a plastic bin lol) for 3 class meetings. After their phone spends 3 class meetings in my plastic bin, it is on “parole”.  A second offense will get an office write up. Here’s our class policy:fa99bc7f-e9a3-470a-a07e-3ae7643d722a

I’m very proud to say that I have only had 6 students out of 4 classes whose phone has landed in my plastic bin (and no “parole violaters”). I think because my students had real input into the guidelines, they feel more compelled to follow our class rules.  I will definitely have students participate in this “life lesson” again next year.


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Anatomy Practicals: Life-Sized Nervous System Models!

The Struggle Continues…..

My students struggle because most anatomical diagrams are small and can be difficult for them to analyze. My class created big bodies with basic organs from an outline I drew for their Gallery Walk  at the conclusion of our first unit on the body systems. It was SO beneficial for them!  Check out my previous blog post on this here loved having such large-sized structures to work with and told me that it really helped them remember the organs. I looked for pre-made life-sized bodies with organs, but sadly only found things appropriate for elementary students.  Definitely not detailed enough for Juniors and Seniors in high school, many of whom plan to pursue a career in the medical field!  So, I decided that I should create LIFE-SIZED diagrams which I knew would focus on the important structures of the system but, at the same time, be RIGOROUS enough for my high school Anatomy students…

So here is a little peek at what my classes are doing for the Nervous System this week…

These easy to interpret diagrams are drawn over 8 pages and are easily trimmed and taped together to create a large human body. This particular project utilized the posterior view of the cavities (so it shows the cranial and spinal cavities).

I drew this project with a lift-the-flap labeled brain, as well as the basic spinal cord provided.  IMG_0349The example I colored (above) will be used in conjunction with my Oversized Brain Diagrams and the Brain Facts Sketch Notes (Check out the bundle here at ).

I will also have my students color and label the cranial nerves. Here’s a picture using yarn instead of coloring. IMG_0343

As an enrichment option, I will have my students create the spinal nerves with a different color yarn. Brain

This is new in my TpT store!  You can check it out here –>

It is the third installment in my newest project called Anatomy Practicals! These will cover each body system and provide your students with life-sized diagrams as well as the important organs included… all rigorous enough for high school Anatomy students! I have also bundled these with instructions for the project that my students did for each system.  Stay tuned for all systems to be posted!Slide1

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Ever Wondered How I Use Sketch Notes With My Anatomy Classes? Keep Reading!


Heart Structure & The Circulation of Blood

I drew these Sketch Notes the same way I taught my students to draw the heart easily (see original post with step by step instructions and video here).



I think it really helps them to see things done the same way.  Maybe it will help them remember it! (I hope so at least, it can’t hurt lol). These Sketch Notes are more detailed (intentionally, I promise 🙂 ) because it is always a topic that my students seem to struggle to remember.  Even my community college students trying to get into nursing school seem to get stuck on this sometimes.  Since these are a little more “involved”, I thought it would be a good opportunity to share exactly how I am approaching these with my students in my own classroom.

Here’s My General Plan for Using These Sketch Notes Next Week



I. Start Off with the Heart Structures

I will be using the version on the left with the vessel names already filled in (the version on the right is the  version without them). My students have already worked a little with the basic structures of the heart so this is not new to them (they made “Anatomically Correct Valentines” see post here ).

We will cover these structures in this order:

  • Myocardium- the heart muscle itself, it composes the walls of the heart
  • Septum- the “wall” of muscle that divides the ventricles into a right & left half; this will be very important in our study of the Conduction System coming up next.
  • Chambers– the heart is like a house in that it is divided into “rooms”, 2 on the top floor (atria or atrium is singular) and 2 on the bottom floor (ventricles). Since the chambers are like rooms, the valves are how you “exit” or leave the room– It helps students to think of it this way–> If you are staying within your house and simply traveling from room to room without going outside, you would use a door. If you would like to go outside but all the doors are locked, you would use a window. So, between “rooms” (chambers) are drawn as “doors” (the Bicuspid and Tricuspid Valves) and access to outside the heart (the major vessels) are drawn as “windows” (Pulmonary and Aortic Valves). 
  • Valves (Tricuspid, Bicuspid (Mitral), Pulmonary, Aortic)- I drew these as windows (going to the vessels) and doors (going between the atria and ventricles) so students would recognize that valves also allow entry into blood vessels and not just chambers (this is a common misconception with my high school students).  We will also talk about what might happen in a person if the “door” or “window” valves didn’t close well (especially the Bicuspid (Mitral) Valve), or if there is a “door” between the atria (or a “hole” in the heart or atrial septal defect (ASD)).  Both of these conditions are usually known by some of my students.
  • Major Vessels- 
    • Pulmonary Trunk/ Arteries- go to the lungs & pick up Oxygen (color these some version of blue because blood is deoxygenated here)
    • Pulmonary Veins- return from the lungs with Oxygen & dump it into the Left Atrium (color these some version of red because blood is oxygenated here- I used purple because it is a mix of blue and red and these veins are exceptions to our rule)
    • ** NOTE:  The Pulmonary Arteries and Veins are EXCEPTIONS to the rule that arteries carry oxygenated blood away from the heart and veins carry deoxygenated blood towards the heart… This is often confusing to my students because they tend to remember artery=away (& if it’s leaving the heart, it’s carrying Oxygen to the tissues).  There’s always an exception to every rule, and the Pulmonary Arteries & Veins are the exceptions to this one!
    • Aorta- largest blood vessel in the body; takes oxygenated blood and pumps it ALL over the body so the blood in it is under tremendous pressure (so that’s why it’s being shot out of a cannon in the Sketch Notes). Blood that leaves the Aorta is carrying Oxygen (that’s what’s in his pack) and delivers it to the tissues of the body. (Color this a dark red color because blood is oxygenated here and we will vary the shades of red getting lighter as the vessels get smaller from artery to arteriole to capillary)img_0302
      • Blood has to travel through increasingly narrow vessels– arteries (fairly large, maybe the diameter of a pencil; have thick muscular walls to contract and keep the blood moving!)–> arterioles (smaller, maybe the diameter of a spaghetti noodle; this is why the blood cell carrying O2 looks like he’s being squeezed!!)–> capillaries (TINY maybe the diameter of a single hair, red blood cells must line up single file to pass through them; this is where all the oxygen is delivered to the tissues in”capillary beds”; blood enters capillary beds WITH Oxygen (oxygenated) and leave capillary beds WITHOUT Oxygen (deoxygenated), this is the location that arteries transition into veins–> venules (small but larger than capillaries, about the same size as arterioles; these begin the journey of blood back to the heart)–> veins (largest, similar to the size arteries but walls are thin & don’t have to contract to move blood so it’s like a “lazy river” back to the heart. (On the picture, I forgot to vary the colors of blue for the venules& veins but you could do so if you want to show the difference in diameter)
    • Superior Vena Cava (drains from the upper body) and the Inferior Vena Cava (drains from the lower body)- the 2 largest veins that channel blood into the Right Atrium (color these blue because blood in them is deoxygenated)img_0303

II. Then Discuss The Circulation of Blood


  1. I begin the path of blood in the Right Atrium. In the Right Atrium, the blood is not under high pressure, it is simply “chilling” (maybe not piled up in bed, but you get the idea lol 🙂 ) waiting on the chamber to fill so it can make the journey into the Right Ventricle. (Outline the Right Atrium & Ventricle in blue or shade in lightly because blood is deoxygenated in these chambers. Color any arrows on this side blue. Red blood cells in these chambers as well as the Pulmonary Trunk and Arteries should be a dark red color because blood that is deoxygenated is a crimson or dark red color)
  2. When the Right Atrium gets full, blood enters the Right Ventricle. If you think of the heart as a house, in order to get to another “room” (heart chamber), you would need to go through a door. The Tricuspid Valve is the “door” between the Right Atrium and Right Ventricle.
  3. Blood is not under exceptional pressure in the Right Ventricle, however, it does need a fairly strong muscular contraction to help it break a “window” (aka go through the Pulmonary Valve). I highly doubt a red blood cells slingshot themselves out of the heart lol, but it does represent that blood needs a substantial “push” (ventricular contraction) so it has enough momentum to break a “window” (go through the Pulmonary Valve), exit the Right Ventricle, and enter the Pulmonary Trunk and Arteries.
  4. Once blood passes through the Pulmonary Trunk and is diverted into the Right and Left Pulmonary Arteries, it begins it’s journey to the Lungs where it will “pick” up Oxygen molecules.  I drew the Lungs as apple (oxygen) trees because it gives me an opportunity to introduce them to the bronchial tree and alveoli that we will study in the Respiratory System.  We talk about how the bronchial tree is branched into smaller tubes until it ends in bunches of structures called alveoli. These alveoli look like the fruit (in this case apples containing Oxygen) at the end of branches on a tree.  They are the site where diffusion happens and the oxygen we breathe in is handed over to red blood cells so they can deliver it to all of our body tissues.  It is also the place where wastes (carbon dioxide) is transferred so it can be breathed out.  I drew the “oxygen apples” so that students could visualize these molecules as they are “picked” up and carried to the tissues by red blood cells.
  5. Blood (carrying a pack full of “oxygen apples”) travels through the Pulmonary Veins from each lung until being emptied into the Left Atrium through 4 holes (2 on each side for each Pulmonary Vein). I remind students again of  that the Pulmonary Arteries and Veins are the EXCEPTION to the “arteries carry oxygenated blood AWAY from the heart” rule because it is quite the opposite here! I drew red blood cells proudly holding up their Oxygen molecule in the Left Atrium so students would be reminded that this chamber contains oxygenated blood. (Outline the Left Atrium & Ventricle in red or shade in. Color the red blood cells on this side (& any with the pack) a bright red color since blood containing Oxygen is a bright red color)
  6. When the Left Atrium gets full of oxygenated blood, it enters the Left Ventricle through the “door” (Bicuspid or Mitral Valve). I remind students that problems with the Mitral Valve are a fairly common heart issue because sometimes the “door” doesn’t close completely or sometimes is warped and sticks. This causes the blood to leak into the “room” (chamber) when it shouldn’t.  (ex. Mitral Valve Prolapse, Mitral Valve Stenosis)
  7. Once blood fills the Left Ventricle, the most vital part begins.  The myocardium (muscle) MUST contract so forcefully that blood will have enough momentum to travel through vessels that range in size from the diameter of your finger (aorta), down to the diameter of a pencil (arteries), down to the diameter of a hair (arterioles), down to vessels so tiny blood cells line up single file to pass through them! … All while giving away their Oxygen to every tissue in our body! Talk about pressure!!! This is why I drew the red blood cell (with his pack of “oxygen apples”) being shot out of a cannon. The blood is under tremendous pressure as it leaves the Left Ventricle and shoots up the Aorta. To maximize it’s effectiveness, the Aorta has branches that divert the oxygenated blood to both the upper and lower portions of the body.
  8. Red blood cells deliver their Oxygen to capillaries in capillary beds through diffusion.  These capillary beds are located all over the body so Oxygen distribution is most effective.  I drew the blood cell tossing Oxygen molecules into a capillary “stream” which leads into a larger lake representing our whole body.  After a wild ride so the red blood cells can deliver all of their Oxygen to the body, they can take it easy and simply float back (under low pressure) via veins to the heart.  That’s why they are drawn floating in a swim ring on the opposite side of the “body”. Their trip returning to the heart would be more of a “lazy river” float compared to the high pressure trip they took via the arteries moving away from the heart.
  9. Large veins channel these easy-going red blood cells back to the heart from the upper part of the body (Superior Vena Cava) as well as the lower part of the body (Inferior Vena Cava).  Blood enters the Right Atrium through 2 holes (1 at the top and 1 near the bottom of the outside) where it waits for the chamber to fill before starting the process all over again….. And all of this happens in under a minute! (and it could be longer or shorter depending upon which specific circulatory system it is traveling in 🙂 )
  10. Your heart beats 100,000 times a day, 35 million times a year. During an average lifetime, the human heart will beat more than three billion times. The adult heart pumps five quarts of blood each minute throughout the body – adding up to approximately 2,000 gallons of blood each day!


My students will perform some extension activities with this unit. (They will have a choice between #2 and #3 but everyone will do #1)

  1. Recall Race– They will try and see if they can recall the basic structures in the circulation of blood without looking.  My students are pretty competitive, so we will race.  As a final challenge, students will have to draw the quick heart (this one  ) then label and draw in the circulation of blood.
  2. A Traveler’s Story- Using my Sketch Notes as an example, students will create their own story of the adventures of a red blood cell as it travels through the basic double circuit of circulation.  They must include all structures and the final product can either be written as a creative story (with the structures highlighted so it’s easier to grade for me lol) or drawn as their own Sketch Note version.
  3. Stop Motion Video– Students will create a Stop Motion Video of the circulation of blood through the double circuit of circulation.  They can use anything they want to simulate red blood cells, however, they must make a distinction between oxygenated and deoxygenated so their circulatory path is very clear. They must draw (& label!) the heart themselves (either on paper or on my desks or lab tables with chalk markers) to use for their video.  Videos will be shared with me on Google classroom.


I hope this is helpful for you (and your students)!  To purchase these Sketch Notes to use with your class, visit

Please follow my TeachersPayTeachers store to receive updates when I upload additional Sketch Notes!  

Also, don’t forget to visit my website to see some of my Biology Sketch Notes


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Anatomy Practicals- Stackables that Teach: A Life-Sized Human Body Project- The Muscular System!


3D Learning in Anatomy… I’m HOOKED!

This year, I’ve been experimenting with providing my Anatomy classes opportunities to learn the human body in different ways, rather than the traditional “I can label a flat diagram with all the correct parts” that I might’ve used in the past (Guilty as charged! lol). My students just love using oversized diagrams and learned so much from the Gallery Walk we did at the beginning of the course (in case you missed the blog post, you can see it here ). I decided to create life-sized bodies so they would have an opportunity to manipulate structures as if they had a real patient. Since I don’t have the facilities (or budget) for a cadaver, I decided that paper & markers were the best way for this thrifty teacher’s students to achieve this! lol. (You can see what we did with the Circulatory System here ) .

So My Mission …. How Can I Help My Students Go From Simply Learning Individual Muscles..

To understanding the Muscular System?…

Since my students had to draw in all the muscles on their skeletons for the Gallery Walk assignment, I really wanted to come up with something better to help my kids really practice and learn the surface muscles… They always have such a hard time transitioning from labeling a flat “muscle man” to actually pointing to location of the tibialis anterior on their own shin.  So, after COUNTLESS hours of drawing, fitting, and adjusting, I have finally finished the muscles for their life-sized skeletons.  (YAY ME! 🙂 )


I wanted them to learn the most common surface muscles on the anterior and posterior surface. img_0219.jpg

I also wanted them to see how their muscles fit together, with some overlapping others.  This is so difficult for them to visualize on a diagram on a flat piece of paper!

This year, like most years, I have several students who have IEPs, as well as those who do not speak English as their first language.  So, I always want to make sure I provide them with as many opportunities as I can to master the topics we were learning. I purposefully designed the practice activities, as well as the diagrams I drew for them, so that providing differentiation would be seamless in my classroom.  At first glance, the activities look the same for all students, however, one student might have 1 version of the activity, while another has a different version……All dependent upon their personal level.  Here’s an example of some of the diagrams.. img_2755

One student may have the version with the names already written on it (like the diagram on the left), while another might be asked to identify a specific muscle by number (as in the assignment below).  Students can be given work that matches THEIR own level. I just love the flexibility in designing curricula like this! img_2769

I also created a Quizlet to help my students practice the muscle actions (the muscles in this Quizlet are also the same ones they have to know the location for in addition to the action the muscle performs) ( ) We played Quizlet LIVE to review before our exam this time.  It’s so much fun! If you haven’t used it with your class, give it a try- Your students will love it! (See my post on Quizlet live here if you haven’t used it yet)


If you are interested in this BIG Life-Sized Muscular System Project (it’s BIG, I’m not kidding… over 100 pages! ), please visit  my TpT store (I will be uploading it this weekend)

This Muscular System project includes everything you should need to implement this with your class, including the Anterior and Posterior Life-Sized Skeletons (which you can use for the Skeletal System!).  It also includes 2 versions of a practice activity (so you can differentiate instruction with your class), as well as full page diagrams (like those pictured above) for the:  Head & Neck, Arm/Forearm (Anterior View), Upper Arm (Posterior View), Trunk (Anterior & Posterior), Hip/Thigh/Leg (Anterior & Posterior).



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What is My Process for Drawing Sketch Notes for My Students? Here’s A Step-By-Step Guide!

You’ve Used Prepared Sketch Notes & Doodle Notes But You’d Like to Create Your Own…. But How?

I’ve been creating Sketch Notes for my students for several years (ever since I had a student in AP Bio whose first language was Arabic and I drew cartoons for her… I was desperate to help her understand the concepts!).  See this blog post for more info.

Pretty soon, almost my entire class would come back during my conference block for our “cartoon reviews”. One day, I looked around an almost full classroom, and realized that sharing information via simple pictures was helping students make very complicated connections in their learning. It was my desperation to help my Arabic student that paved the way for using Sketch Notes with all of my students.

If you’re like me, you might have reviewed the research on the effectiveness of using Sketch Notes in the classroom. See this blog post for more info on the research.   But, research is one thing and practical implementation into the classroom can be quite a different thing….

The Research Says Students Should Create Their Own Sketch Notes In Order To Learn Something….

Part of me agrees with this, but the real-life teacher who tried (and failed several times) to get her 9th grade non-honors Biology students to create Sketch Notes on several topics last year, disagrees. It’s one thing to take simple notes on a lecture, speech, or reading passage using Sketch Notes…. But, it’s a whole different ballgame when you are faced with a complicated, multi-faceted scientific topic or process. In my experience, you really have to have a good conceptual understanding of the WHOLE topic (especially a complicated scientific topic!) before you can create a graphic that represents it visually in a simple way.  Think about the process of Cellular Respiration. You have to understand the “big picture” of what happens in the whole process before you can visualize the individual steps involved in the process.  I’m a “whole-to-part” kind of learner. I need the overview so I understand why the individual parts are important. While some students might come into your class prepared, on grade level, with the previous year’s science standards mastered, sadly most students do not (or at least they don’t in my class). With my 9th graders last year, I tried having them create their own Sketch Notes several different ways:  1) at the beginning of a topic (so I could possibly see their misconceptions about it) 2) after our discussion/exploration of a topic (I tried after an inquiry lab so I could possibly see the connections they were making) and 3) as a review at the end of a topic (I thought they might be able to apply their knowledge of a topic to another situation). How did it turn out? Epic FAIL in all 3 situations! While #3 (as the review) was slightly more successful than the other 2 situations, I still wasn’t really impressed with the results my students produced. See my reflection of last year in this blog post.

So, What Was I Missing With My Students?

To help me help my students, I took a good look at the steps I used to draw Sketch Notes for them.  I understand that my subject matter knowledge of most scientific concepts is greater than my students, so I really needed to figure out a way to help them learn to draw Sketch Notes for themselves.  I decided to change my approach with our current Cardiovascular unit for my Anatomy & Physiology students and be more deliberate in developing the skills they might need (Blog post on this coming soon!) In the meantime, here is the process I personally use in drawing Sketch Notes for my students…..

1. Pick ONE Topic for Your Sketch Notes and Take Notes On That ONE Topic

Learning is messy. My initial notes are messy. I’m only interested in gathering information about a topic, not creating anything.  As an example, here are my initial notes for my latest Sketch Notes on how opioids/opiates work and how Narcan can reverse their effects (We are studying Toxicology in Forensics and I’ll use it in A & P with the Nervous System). I watched 3 videos on Youtube and utilized 2 different books for this topic.  img_2736

2. Refine and Polish Your Notes

I’ve done this ever since I was in high school. I ALWAYS go back and re-copy/reorganize the notes I took in class. I think this is key to helping me understand something new.  Here’s what my notes look like at this step: img_2735

I also look up anything that needs more clarification in my mind (for this topic, one of the things I looked up was the respiratory feedback loop).  I try to make connections and have my notes paint a picture in my own head.  I use doodles and anything I can think of to help me visualize what the words actually mean. It’s these connections that help me create my Sketch Notes. I also usually type up these notes and try to keep them to no more than 2 pages. This limit helps me be concise with my explanation of a topic.

3. Produce A Rough Draft

I tend to sketch out my ideas on a piece of paper to make sure I get all of the important concepts included.  I also put them in the general area on the page I think will work best. This is my rough draft for the Opiates Sketch Notes. img_2738-1

Since I now use my iPad Pro with Procreate to draw my Sketch Notes, I will use the picture of my rough draft as a guide as I draw.

4.  Create Final Sketch Notes

For a long time, I drew my Sketch Notes in pencil, then inked them in with permanent pens.  One of my absolute favourite things is not knowing exactly how they are going to turn out until everything gets erased lol. When the new iPad Pro came out in November, I decided to use the money I’d been saving and purchase one and the new Apple Pencil. … Game.Changer! I love drawing on it. I use the Procreate App and it creates Sketch Notes that print beautifully clean lines. It’s really a fabulous combination. Here are my final Sketch Notes on Opiates img_0285 The Procreate App allows you to draw in “layers” so it is really easy to hide labels and words on the Sketch Notes.  It really makes creating fill-in-the-blank versions of my Sketch Notes really easy!

Concluding Thoughts

If you are interested in creating your own Sketch Notes, or guiding your students as they develop their own, I have a couple of words of advice……

  1. Find an example of a font you like (maybe bubble letters), along with some basic arrows, page dividers, frames, etc. and print them out or pull them up on your computer.  Having a few examples of things to look at as you create can make a blank page less frightening!  There are a lot of great ideas on Pinterest.  I especially like the simple step-by-step instructions for drawing basic doodles. Check out my “Journaling” board on Pinterest if you need ideas to get you started.
  2. Do your research FIRST before you start to draw.  Your notes = your plan.  It’s very difficult to create Sketch Notes on a topic if you don’t have a clear, big picture of the idea you want to convey to your students.
  3. Practice!  It gets easier, I promise! You don’t have to be an artist (goodness knows I’m not haha). Much of the impact will come from the way your Sketch Notes are set up in an orderly, logical arrangement.  They should tell a story in pictures.
  4. Use the graphics in your Sketch Notes to “connect the dots” for your students.  Make connections.… Give them concrete, simple examples to associate those complicated concepts with so they can recall and remember.  That’s the point right?  My students use their Sketch Notes to study for exams more often than they use printed or handwritten notes.  They always tell me it’s so much easier to remember pictures than words.
  5. Finally, HAVE FUN using Sketch Notes!  This tool has truly transformed my classroom! My classroom environment is so different now. Students are relaxed. We color together and talk about complicated processes.  It really brings the stress level down a notch.  My students love it!


To see all of the Sketch Notes I have developed for my students, please visit my new website  (subscribe to my newsletter and download a FREE  Sketch Notes sample) and also my TpT Store at  Make sure you FOLLOW ME to be notified when I post new Sketch Notes!

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How to Draw an Anatomically Correct Heart the EASY Way! Just in Time for Valentine’s Day

Learning the Structure of the Heart is So Easy When You Can Draw It!

When we cover the structure of the human heart, I like to draw it for my students as we discuss it. This is an easy method that I learned one summer in an anatomy workshop. It is amazingly easy and my students rarely ever have trouble recalling the structure of the heart. You start by drawing 2 elementary school era “birds” connected by 2 circles. Like this:


Then, add in the Vs (V= Valves) img_0270-1

Connect the wings of the outer “birds” and create the myocardium (the muscular outer walls of the heart) and draw in the septum (division of the ventricles) between the 2 circles. img_0271-1img_0272-2

Off the first circle, create the pulmonary trunk and the pulmonary arteries. The pulmonary trunk is a major vessel of the human heart that originates from the right ventricle. It branches into the right and left pulmonary arteries, which lead to the lungs. Each of these vessels has elastic walls similar to those of the aorta, though somewhat thinner, and they are considered to be arteries even though the blood they carry is not oxygenated. The trunk itself is relatively short and wide. The function of these vessels is to transmit oxygen-depleted, carbon dioxide-rich blood from the right ventricle to the lungs. img_0273-2.png

From the second circle, create the aorta which is situated behind the pulmonary trunk and arteries. The aorta is the largest artery in the body. The aorta begins at the top of the left ventricle, the heart’s muscular pumping chamber. The heart pumps blood from the left ventricle into the aorta through the aortic valve. Three leaflets on the aortic valve open and close with each heartbeat to allow one-way flow of blood.

The aorta is a tube about a foot long and just over an inch in diameter. The aorta is divided into four sections:

• The ascending aorta rises up from the heart and is about 2 inches long. The coronary arteries branch off the ascending aorta to supply the heart with blood.

• The aortic arch curves over the heart, giving rise to branches that bring blood to the head, neck, and arms.

• The descending thoracic aorta travels down through the chest. Its small branches supply blood to the ribs and some chest structures.

• The abdominal aorta begins at the diaphragm, splitting to become the paired iliac arteries in the lower abdomen. Most of the major organs receive blood from branches of the abdominal aorta.


Just under the pulmonary trunk and arteries, connect the lines to create the left atrium and right atrium. These are the top 2 chambers and receive blood returning to the heart from the body. Label the Right Atrium (R.A.), Left Atrium (L.A.), Right Ventricle (R.V.) and Left Ventricle (L.V). img_0275-1.png

Connect the pulmonary veins to the Left Atrium on the right side and left side of the heart. Make sure to draw 4 dots to represent the places where the pulmonary veins return oxygenated blood from the lungs into the left atrium of the heart. img_0276-1.png

Draw the Superior Vena Cava above the Right Atrium and the Inferior Vena Cava next to the Right Ventricle. Make sure to draw 2 dots to represent the places where they return deoxygenated blood from the body into the Right Atrium. img_0277-1.png

I draw this heart as we go over all the parts and have students draw along with me. Once we are finished, we set a timer and see who can draw it the fastest (correctness counts 🙂 ) Hope your students have fun with it!

Posted in activity, Anatomy & Physiology, Sketch Notes, Strategies, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Need Inspiration for an Interdisciplinary PBL for High School Students? Check Out What Our Students Did!

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Etowah students explore DNA, databases, and the Fourth Amendment

The teachers of Etowah High School have come together to give their senior class the learning experience of a lifetime.

The project was based upon the premise of whether or not people own their own DNA, because of the recent arrest of the Golden State Killer. In the case, authorities worked with, an open data personal genomics database and genealogy website. It was created as a genealogical analysis tool for amateur and professional researchers and genealogists.

An investigator from the case was able to match DNA from one of the crime scenes of this elusive ’70s killer to a distant family member.

“Instantly, the pool of suspects shrank from millions of people down to a single family,” according to a Washington Post story by Avi Selk, published April 28, 2018.

The Etowah seniors were given a fictional arson case to investigate, with a DNA component similar to another case, Maryland v. King, in which the defendant’s DNA was obtained for one crime, which linked him to an unrelated cold case.

The project culminated in a mock trial, exposing students to a real-world situation. The trial also allowed them to examine ethical issues as well, such as what really happens to DNA in the justice system. Every senior played an important role, from the prosecution to the defense, judge to jury.

The project was the result of previous years’ seniors becoming overwhelmed with individual class projects at the same time. The strenuous workload became such an issue that the students had to decide which ones they had to pass and which ones they could afford to fail.

To combat this issue, the science, history and English departments worked as one to come up with a cross-curricular idea that would allow all of the students to work together to solve an issue relating to a current event.

Each department was responsible for its own different component of the project.

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In the science department, science teachers Karen Hammonds and Dr. Shelley Montgomery dealt with DNA, DNA profiling, DNA fingerprinting and DNA in court cases. The history portion, over which government and economics teachers Ryan McClendon and Brandon Johnson presided, dealt with court proceedings and the Fourth Amendment. The English topics, which dealt with research and legal briefs, were guided by English teacher Sandra Bost.

In addition to the high school’s teachers, real expert witnesses from the community, such as firefighters and policemen, volunteered their experiences to support the seniors’ verdicts. Even Attalla City Schools Superintendent Jeff Colegrove was called as a witness by the defense in one class to give testimony about a fire he and his family experienced.

The project lasted two weeks total, concluding in six trials that spanned across two days. In the end, no two trials reached the same verdict, despite covering the same case.

In addition to the senior class, the project reached some juniors, sophomores and freshmen as well. With the help of Bost, who also heads the journalism department along with Anna Usry, as well as the art department’s Rodney Jackson, they acted as courtroom photographers, investigative journalists and sketch artists, documenting the scenes as they happened and interviewing members of the court and audience.

The project was such a success this year that Etowah’s teachers plan to do it again next year, using this year’s experience to improve their ideas and correct their mistakes in the future.

Caylie Moore is a junior in Etowah High’s journalism department.

* Original article posted in The Gadsden Times on February 9, 2019.  Source:
Posted in activity, Forensics, Instructional Coaching, Project Based Learning PBL, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
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