[Expect this page to be fully updated by September 2017]

5-MINUTE ESSAYS (aka. Quick-Writes)

In the last 5-10 minutes of the class period, the teacher (or a student) poses a question, problem or prompt. Students then freewrite (write without stopping) in response to the question, problem or prompt.

3…2…1 (aka. The Most Important Thing)

At the conclusion of an investigation, students are asked to write three facts they’ve learned, two terms they want to remember, and one question, concern or confusion they still have. Upon completion, the teacher might occasionally ask students to identify which of the three facts is likely the most important (significant) fact to remember.


Working with 6-12 teacher- or student-selected words and/or pictures from an upcoming investigation or reading, students (with individually, in partners, or in small groups) classify and group the words/pictures in any way they think they relate or go together. Peer discussion follows. At the conclusion of the investigation or reading, students are then asked to re-classify and re-group the 6-12 words/pictures if necessary.


Students examine familiar objects in ways they might have never considered before for the purpose of improving their “observation awareness.” These exercises also provides valuable opportunities for students to hone their observation skills, as well as extend their observations through the use of magnifiers and other devices (e.g., measuring devices).


Short writing assignments (500 words or less) that students complete in class. Some Microtheme examples include: writing a synopsis of a popular science article; choose an angle on a controversial topic and defending it; uncovering a thesis or general statement that gives meaning to a dataset either assembled by the class or provided by the teacher. Mircothemes are also sometimes used as Homework.


The invention of Professor Paul Heideman, the Minute Sketch method is designed to teach students how to simplify new terms or concepts to a sketch that has everything necessary to capture the concept for them. Minute Sketches are designed to be drawn quickly (30-60 seconds!) so that a concept or term can be reduced to “essential elements” and held easily in the mind once it has been learned as a “single chunk.” Minute Sketches are intended to mobilize motor (or ‘kinesthetic’) memory in order to provide a second way of learning that is independent of word learning.


Also the invention of Professor Paul Heideman, the Folded List method is meant to help students develop faster and more accurate recall and application of learned material. The method trains students’ brains to visualize any concept as a model and connect it to key words. Although it takes much work and practice to learn and use the Folded List method, once mastered it can greatly improve learning while reducing study time–but it also makes studying science more interesting.


Equipment Checks are regular occurrences in Dr. Merritt’s classroom. In fact, students can expect them to occur at least once per week. During a ‘check,’ Dr. M will ask students to produce particular (required) school items–for example, a piece of lined, A4 notebook paper, a blue or black pen, a sharpened pencil, a highlighter pen, or a metric ruler. If students can produce the requested items from their own personal belongings in a timely manner, then they earn full credit (1 point). If they cannot, then they earn no credit (0 points). If only one of two items can be produced, for example, then they earn half credit (0.5 points)…and so on.

Here is an ‘official’ list of the personal items that Dr. Merritt can ask students to produce at the start of any science class:

1 pencil (preferably a mechanical pencil)
1 eraser
4 ballpoint (or gel) pens — black, blue, red, green
2 highlighter markers — pink and yellow
1 Sharpie (permanent, water-resistant) marker – black
1 metric ruler (the ruler must have both centimeters and millimeters)
3 pieces of (blank) lined notebook paper – A4-sized
3 pieces of (blank) graph paper – 5 mm x 5 mm OR 10 mm x 10 mm


The following personal items are optional (but recommended!) and thus will not be requested during an Equipment Check:

2-3 additional highlighter markers (e.g., orange, green, blue)
Colored pencils (just a basic, 6-12 color pencil set will be adequate)
1 pair of scissors
1 glue stick
1 small roll of clear/SCOTCH/cello/sello tape
1 pencil case or item organizer
White-Out/TIPPEX/Correction Tape/Correction Fluid