Biology Teacher Interview Questions

Biology Teacher Interview Questions

In this post, I will discuss some Biology teacher interview questions, how to prepare for an interview and land the job with the contract you want.

Whether this is your first interview for a Biology teaching position or your 21st you need to do what you can to prepare to give you the best shot at landing a job.

Being prepared for your Biology teaching interview questions is going to help set your answers apart from your competition and help you be more confident and relaxed.

Finding your Job

One strategy I used when trying to find a job near my family in another state was to identify all of the schools within driving distance of where I would live.

Next, I add the schools employment pages to my favorites. You could also pin the tabs and have all of the pages open every time you open the browser. Either strategy will work, just make sure you check in frequently since the deadlines for submitting you application are very short.

Applying for Your Biology Teaching Job

Have multiple packets of your clearances, references letters, resume, certification documents, transcripts and any other documents that you will need. Your cover letter and resume must be free of typos!

I have taken it a step further and included things like a copy of a newspaper article written about an award I received for exemplary employee of the year and even article about specific projects I did with students.

When applying at a job fair, I had photo of myself in a suit on the top right of my resume. I did it because I want to set myself apart and stand out from the crowd of people that were also interviewing. One of the recruiters commented “your a smart guy” when he saw my resume. Several days later, I was signing a contract with that district and years later I was recruiting other teachers with the same guy!

Below are some interview questions you can expect. When you practice answering the questions be sure to respond using specific examples from your own experiences. If you get caught off guard by a question just answer honestly.

Remember to dress to impress, relax (but not too much), have good posture, make eye contact and talk professionally.

Interview Questions for Biology Teachers

Tell us a little bit about yourself and why you want to work here.
  • Tip- Do not go on forever telling your life story, tell the interviewer information that is relevant to the position like your education, work history and personal history connected to the school if applicable.
In what way do you plan instruction to engage students?
  • Use specific examples of ways you have engaged students.
What do you believe is the most important part of classroom management?
  • Developing positive relationships with students and procedures. Explain specific examples of how you have done do these.
Describe a lesson that you think went well. What do you think made it successful? How do you know if it was successful?
  • Be specific about a lesson. When talking about why it was successful you may want to mention how you designed the lesson (i.e 5E model, differentiated for all learners), predicted areas where students would struggle and provided the necessary support and scaffolding at the right times, used specific questions techniques that fostered higher level thinking. You know it was successful because you use a variety of assessment strategies (be specific to your lesson). Check out this assessment strategy for an excellent model.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • Describe how you see yourself in their school, working towards a higher degree, fine tuning the curriculum, having a well-established positive reputation, coaching, sponsor a club. Ect.
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How do you handle a student who is disrespectful to you?
  • This is an opportunity to talk about how you manage the class. Mention that though you work hard at establishing an environment of respect, students do have bad days and act out. If you have not checked out the classroom management form <–click here and look it over. It is a specific tool you can mention in the interview.
How do you handle a student who has a negative attitude toward Biology?
  • Foster a positive relationship. Admit that not every student is going to love the subject as much as you do but you will try your best to get them to love it. Your passion is going to help them become passionate.
If I walked into your classroom yesterday, what would I have seen?
  • Describe the component of your lesson from start to finish. Describe your lesson in a way that shows your interview that you can design cohesive instruction.
What made you want to become a Biology teacher?
  • I can’t help you here. Just avoid saying “I couldn’t find a jobs anyway else with my biology degree”
Provide an example of how you have differentiated instruction.
  • Here you will want to discuss high differentiation and lower differentiation. Check out this activity to get an idea of what higher differentiation can look like.
Describe two strengths and two weakness you have as an educator.
  • This is a balancing act. Make your negatives sound positive. For example, instead of saying I struggle with classroom management say sometimes I care too much about the small behaviors that can get my students off task, however I am learning how to deal with them better each day (use a specific example i.e. proximity). This is probably the most difficult question.
What would you do if your lesson that involved technology did not work due to a technology issues?
  • Describe a situation where you have encountered this and describe how you made an adjustment.
Why should we hire you over the other candidates? Why you?
  • Mention experiences you have that are unique like you worked in a title 1 school for X number of years, you have a vested interest in the school, you will out work anyone, teaching is your passion and not a job, willing to learn, a team player.

Do not be surprised if you encounter a wild question. I recall my first ever interview being asked “if I could be any animal what would it be.”

What you could encounter in the interview.

You could be asked specific content knowledge questions. They are usually embedded into lesson design questions. For example, describe a lesson you taught on evolution. Yes, you may be asked about evolution.

As a biology teacher, you should expect this question. Regardless of how you feel about teaching evolution, for many states it is an assessed area and you must teach it.

You may be asked to answer a question (s) in writing.

After the interview

Send an email or a thank you card to the interview team.

If you are selected, you may be asked to come back and teach a lesson to the team. In fact, at my current job, I was ask to teach to the team (topic: evolution) and again to students another day (plants).

Signing the Contract

Do not sign the contract until you are comfortable with everything in it. Ask questions if you do not understand something. Ideally you will have read the contract prior to your interview to help you determine if you even want to work there.

Common Contract Issues:

  • Permanent vs Temporary Position (temporary can mean full time permanent but NOT tenured so be sure to read the contract)
  • Years of service may not be honored. You may have to negotiate your years of service. Know the contract before having this discussion.
  • Benefits-health, pension contributions. Your pay could look great however, when you look at the amount you have to pay for your health insurance, the competing school offering you $10,000 less per year may actually be a better financial decision.
  • Educational benefits- Most states require you to continue your education. Does the school pay for it? If so, how much? Do not be afraid to negotiate here.
    • If you get the job, you may want to take classes during the summer. Ask the school to pay for those classes even before your contract begins.

Finding your Job

One strategy I used when trying to find a job near my family in another state was to identify all of the schools within driving distance of where I would live.

Next, I add the schools employment pages to my favorites. You could also pin the tabs and have all of the pages open every time you open the browser. Either strategy will work, just make sure you check in frequently since the deadlines for submitting you application are very short.

 

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Punnett Squares

 

Inheritance Patterns: Punnett Squares

Recently my class was finishing up the unit on genetics and learning how to do a variety of punnett squares.

Click here for to receive an email copy of this lesson.

Prior to completing this punnett square activity students should have already have had exposure to examples, of complete dominance, incomplete dominance, co-dominance, multiple alleles and dihybrid crosses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After students have had some practice with those punnet squares, this activity will serve as a review or a great gauge for your their understanding of the content.

 

 

 

 

 

In this activity,  students will complete each punnett square (1 through 6) in order. Student will only receive one punnett square at a time and will only get the next one when they have correctly completed the preceding punnett square with their partner or independently. I have found that students generate great conversation when working together to complete these punnett squares.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each new punnett square will add a degree of difficulty as they progress through the activity. I walk around with folders that contain the problems. As they get them correct I give them the next problem.

If students complete the activity within 25 minutes I offer them a homework pass. The homework pass incentive takes their effort up a notch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Student always enjoy this and the discussion that take places are amazing.

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If you like this you will love our Biochemistry boxing activity!

The Best Assessment Strategy to Increase Achievement in Biology

The Best Assessment Strategy to Increase Achievement in Biology

One of my favorite models for assessing students in Biology comes from my current district. Even throughout my Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction I have not seen a better method for assessing students and holding them to a high standard.

In the assessment model that we currently use in the Science department, we allow students to complete retakes on quizzes which consists of about one chapter/topic worth of content.

There are multiple versions of each quiz  i.e version a,b,c which are all the same questions just ordered differently for quiz and exam security and authenticity purposes.

Note: Students have been known to take pictures of quizzes/tests and sell them to other students. Be vigilant. NO PHONE or DEVICES when a quiz/exam is being used.

In addition there are re-quiz versions that are  mostly different questions with the same content. If a students fails a quiz and wants to improve their grade they can. However, students must complete test corrections and tutoring one day and re-quiz the following day. (ASSESSMENT FOR LEARNING)

Re-quiz  Procedures:
  • Students can only achieve up to a 90% on a re-quiz.
  • They can only re-quiz once.
  • For me, re-quizzes are slightly more difficult because I want them to know their stuff if they are going to make me put time into regrading I want them to know their stuff. I let them know they are slightly more difficult.
  • If they get a lower score they do not take the lower score but I mention that if it occurs more than once I may change that.
What can’t they redo?

After we cover a unit of study, usually 3 or 4 chapters/topics, we take a Unit Exam worth 3 about times more than a quiz grade. These are NOT able to be retaken. This is where students demonstrate what they know. (ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING)

The Unit Exams offer me the ability to say confidently that the student know their stuff if the get an A in my course which demonstrates mastery of the content.

This assessment model also holds them accountable for actually learning the content and even if they do not do well on a particular topic.

A 2-3 day review/reteaching is done prior to the exam through labs and various activities such as quizlet live and kahoot. Again, this is another opportunity for students to solidify their content knowledge or relearn areas they struggled in.

Pros and Cons
Pros
  • Students have an opportunity to improve their learning and their grade.
  • It is extremely helpful at parent conferences to have mention that re-quizzes are available to the student.
  • Increase pass rate for the state assessments.
  • Puts the pressure on the students to achieve and takes pressure off of the teacher if they do not.
Cons
  • Not all student care enough to take advantage of it.
  • Some students care too much about a single point to get to the 90% and you will have to regrade a whole quiz for one point!
  • It requires a lot of work and time up-front to create multiple versions of high quality assessments.
  • It requires a lot of regrading = more time. However, I rewrote many quizzes to use Zipgrade and it has saved tons of time.
  • Your school schedule may not easily accommodate time for tutoring and re-quizzes. We have a 30 minute study period built in.

 

What are your thoughts or strategies? Comment Below.

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Evolution Activity

Teaching evolution is a difficult topic for a variety of reasons however, this is one activity that my students truly enjoy.

To begin the class period, I give the students each several pieces of printer paper. I keep them in suspense about what they are actually going to do with it. After all the students are ready I reveal my “artistic” rendition of a fish by revealing a PPT slide with my drawing on it like the one below.

 

 

 

 

 

After 90 seconds  of drawing students are instructed to put their pencils down and tape their fish to the board.

I explain to them that the fish they drew represents it’s offspring and as they can see there are variations between them. I continue to explain that though the differences in our fish are quite exaggerated, in sexually reproducing organisms variations exist. I then mention that environmental pressures also exist.

I ask the students to share some thoughts about what type of environmental pressures exist.

After the students identify the types of environmental pressure I then take the role of environmental pressure and start ripping their “beautiful” fish drawings off of the board to indicate that they have died and are not able to  reproduce.

In the end, 2 fish remain and the original female fish dies (old age or eaten by predator). At this stage, I ask the students to look at the two drawings and create an offspring fish drawing from the 2 parents. Students are given 90 seconds to complete their drawing. Again, they tape it to the board.

For round 2 of environmental pressure I include students as predators and also mention that some fish just die from freak accidents. This is done until only  2 fish remain. Sometimes I stop here and already have enough substantial structural differences in the fish to show how organisms change over time as a result of environmental pressure.

If more generations are needed and time permits the students will want to continue.

Students love this activity and you (teacher) will always have something to reference as you continue the discussion on how organisms change over time (evolve).

I start the class with this quick five question kahoot that touches on different pieces of evidence for evolution.

 

 

 

Food Web Activity

Food Web Activity

In this hands-on food web activity, students use manipulatives to correctly arrange the food web using the descriptions of the organisms provided. After students correctly arrange the food web they have to identify the trophic levels and the energy levels based on the given energy units. In addition, I have students identify the carnivores, omnivore, herbivores, parasites, consumers and heterotrophs. This activity is great for a review or teaching the content to them the first time. There is a worksheet that goes along with it. It is amazing how much students do not remember even though they have had this concept in the middle school. All of the misconceptions are exposed during this activity. Check out the video I use below to introduce the topic and engage my students. It is incredible.

Get the printable version of this activity here

 

 

 

 

 

Battle at Kruger

Each year I use this video to introduce ecology. It definitely is one of the most engaging videos I show. Watch it all the way through. So much happens!

Cell Sidewalk Chalk Activity

Last week the weather broke and we had near record high temperatures for February. I decided to do an impromptu outdoor Cell Sidewalk Chalk Activity.  The students really enjoyed having the opportunity to get outside and so did I. They created some beautiful cell drawings (I am slightly bias) and labeled the functions using a color coded key. You can get a copy of the handout I created here. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prefixes and Suffixes with 9 Quizzes

Use these prefixes and suffixes help you students. One of the biggest struggles for students in Biology and Science is vocabulary. To help your students learn the foundations of many of the “big words” used in Biology, introduce them to these 90 prefixes and suffixes. I give the students 10 words each week. Depending on the class, I either assign them to learn on their own with a weekly quiz or we go over a few terms each day after the bell ringer and then quiz weekly. After we get through all 90 words I give them a quiz with 10 words chosen randomly from the first 45 words and another quiz the following week with 10 randomly chosen the remaining 45 words.

Update: I have made a Quizlet for the each set of first 45 and last 45 terms.

Here they are: I use these in the class with Quizlet live prior to the 1-45 and 46-90 quizzes.

1-45 prefixes and suffixes review on Quizlet

46-90 prefixes and suffixes review on Quizlet

Bonus: I have also created a Quizlet the includes the prefixes and suffixes but it applies them to Biology vocabulary terms.

Click Here for a Copy of the 90 Prefixes and Suffixes and 9 Quizzes

 

 

 

Mealworm Inquiry Lab

This week my students have been working on the Mealworm Inquiry Lab. In this lab, students apply everything they have learned about experimental design by creating their own experiment using mealworms (Superworms actually). Superworms can be purchased at the local pet store and are great for this activity. The Superworms do not jump on the kids and they move slow enough to easily control. They also have an interesting life cycle that the students learn about in their research.  In this inquiry lab, students make observations, conduct research, develop a question, identify variables, create a hypothesis, create procedures,  create choice chambers for their experiment, collect data, analyse data and draw a conclusion based on their results.

GET YOUR COPY HERE

Here are some example of their set up:

Note: About 40% of the students in this class have an IEP. The experiments were not perfectly controlled but this lab offers so much opportunity to address their weakness through questioning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have the students create a lab report when they are finished using my lab report rubric and guide

Hypothesis Practice- Get your Students to Practice Hypothesis Writing

Hypothesis Practice

This week my students practiced writing a hypothesis. To practice writing a hypothesis have  your students complete this engaging activity that gives the them a chance to practice their hypothesis writing.  This activity requires a 2 liter bottle, water and tape (masking or painting). Prepare the bottle by drilling three holes vertically in a straight line  about and inch apart. The holes should be  slightly smaller than a pencil eraser. I have used scissors and twisted them until the a hole was made but a drill is much easier if you have it.  Once the holes are drilled place some tape over the holes and fill it with water.

3 hole bottle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your bottle is now ready for the class.  Prior to getting started  with the hypothesis practice have the students create a chart that looks like the one below making sure they save room to write inside the chart. If students are using an interactive notebook have them place this chart on the right side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the left side of the their interactive notebook students will record their initial observations and their sketch. When students are done  with the entire activity it will look like this.

Student digital example

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To begin this activity, walk around the room to each student so they can closely observe the bottle and record their observations. This is where  you can emphasize details in their observation records. After walking around ask the class for a volunteer who isn’t afraid of water. Bring the student to the front of the class and sit them in a desk and give them a paper towel to put on top of their head (optional).  The only purpose for involving a student is for dramatic effect and student engagement and it works very well! They shouldn’t actually get more than a drop or two of water on them if all goes well.  While holding the bottle over the volunteers head ask the class to record their hypothesis about what will happen when the tape is pulled past the first hole. Ask students to write the hypothesis as an “if-then” statement. Have the students share their hypothesis with the class. Next, pull the tape past the first hole while holding it over your volunteers head. If everything is done correctly, no water will come out of the first hole. Students record their observations and record why they think it happened the way it did or any questions they may have.  Move on and repeat this for the next two holes. Have the students make a hypothesis before each  a new hole is exposed. Water will come out of the next two holes so I strategically have a trash can to catch the water and avoid getting it on the volunteer. Though this activity is simple, students love it.

I overheard one of my IEP students talking to the Coteacher and he said: “This is actually pretty fun!”

Try it out. Comment below on how it goes!

 

Independent and Dependent Variable Worksheet

Independent and Dependent Variable Worksheet

Many students struggle when learning about the independent and dependent variable. When teaching them the independent and dependent variable I try to simplify the two terms to be as simple as possible but still allow students to apply the definitions to an actual scientific experiment or scenario.

The independent variable can be defined as the variable that is manipulated. It is what the experimenter is adding to the experimental group. To simplify the independent variable for students I use the single word (changed) for the definition.

The dependent variable can be defined as the responding variable. The depend variable  can be simplified for students by mentioning that the dependent variable is the variable that is measured or counted.

To help my students get plenty of practice with this concept I have created a simple independent and dependent variable worksheet that gives them  some practice applying the independent and dependent variable to actual experiments.

This worksheet is one of many the my email subscribers regularly get delivered right to their inbox. Sign up here  to get more free worksheet and printable and so you do not miss out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IV and DV Scenarios-PDF

Classroom Management

Classroom Management

One of my most successful tools in managing my class is the student intervention form. This form is great on so many levels.  The form requires me to conference with students whenever they are not following the classroom procedure.  It allows the student(s) to know that if expectations are not met they will conference with the teacher (step out of the room or to the back of the room). The form requires a signature as well. When students see the form the usual response is “What is this?” That is when I explain what happens next and they can see it on the form! They know I am documenting evidence of their behavior because they are apart of the processes. The best part of this classroom management practice (other than the fact that it works), is that when you get to the end and send the referral to the office, administration is going to see what has already been done with the students signature all over it. With this type of documentation your administrator is more likely to take real action. Though there are distinct levels on this form, I have skipped over steps depending on the level of the infraction. There are no rules for using it but I do know that when the students see it, it make the situation very real for them even if it is a minor infraction. It gets results when managing a classroom.

Click Here to Receive a Copy, Regular Updates and Free Documents. 

 

Collaboration with the Span System

Today’s class involved my students collaborating to identify areas in the community that were environmental issues and then proposing solutions. Students worked together to categorize their solutions on the spam wall. The Nureva Span system at our school covers about 20feet and allows 20 touchpoints at a time.This system is incredible  and the students love it. We are lucky to be one of the few schools to have one. This is definitely something I would put on your school leaders radar!!


Station Teaching

Station Teaching for Evolution:

When introducing evolution I like to use the station teaching model. I set up stations for collaboration, independent and teacher assisted or direct instruction. Each station is broken down into about 20 minute rotations and can span multiple days depending on your schedule, I am on a block schedule but have done this with traditional scheduling and it works well.

Collaborative: Students work together to examine skulls and the similarities and difference between them from an evolutionary perspective. Students will also color code homologous structures in the station.

homologous-structures

I use any skull samples I have available.
I use any skull samples I have available.

Independent: I set up Ipads or laptops with headphones and have the students watch the by Nina Jablonski video on skin pigmentation and complete a video worksheet.

Direct or Teacher Assisted:

Honors:
  • Each student will research an example of one piece of evidence for evolution.
  • Choices: fossil, anatomical, physiological, embryological, biochemical, and universal genetic code
  • Research for 10 minutes and gather information to share with the group.
Academic:
  • Direct instruction where the students will use guided notes as the teacher presents an evidence-for-evolution  PowerPoint to a small group.

 Station Rotation Handout:Evolution-Stations

 

Evolution Video

Evolution Video on Skin Pigmentation:

This TED talk is one of my favorite to show students. It does a great job explaining how organisms evolve and how our own skin pigmentation is evidence for evolution. I use the video with this Video Worksheet to introduce evolution.

 

Biochemistry Lab

Biochemistry Lab- A Murder and a Meal

This week my students enjoyed a fun biochemistry lab where they had to examine the stomach contents of a victim to determine where the victim had his last meal. Through this investigations students practiced procedure writing, lab safety and used chemical indicators to test for carbohydrates (glucose and starch), lipids and proteins.

Biochemistry Lab

Biochemistry Lab Resources

Biochemistry Lab Presentation

Biochemistry Lab (adapted from: Lesson adapted from Camron J. Stanley 2008http://sciencespot.net/Media/FrnsScience/MurderMeal)

 

Macromolecule Activty

Macromolecule Sidewalk Chalk Activity

This week as the students were learning about macromolucules I decided to do something a little different to get students outside on a beautiful day. I thought it would be fun to have students create sidewalk chalk drawings of macromolecules instead of doing a poster. The students loved this activity. I even saw other students who were not in a Biology class posing and taking pictures with the designs after school.

Biochemistry Sidewalk Chalk
Biochemistry Sidewalk Chalk

Macromolecule Activity Handout for this Lesson (Click Here)

New Meaning to a Gallery Walk!
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A true gallery walk!

 

Don’t forget to share this activity!

Macromolecule Graphic Organizer

Macromolecule Graphic Organizer

One of my favorite units to teach is on macromolecules. When I introduce this topic I use this macromolecule graphic organizer to help students organize the information.

Click Here to Get your Macromolecule Graphic Organizer
Click Here to Get your Macromolecule Graphic Organizer

macromolecules-4-way-chart

After introducing this concept I use one of my hands-on biochemistry boxing activities that I created and have for sale on Teachers Pay Teacher (4 Star rating!). I have several different activities that I use with the lesson. You can get the lesson plan (and others) and printable boxes free by signing up here. You will be emailed a link to the biochemistry boxing activity lesson plan and receive weekly post updates . The lesson plan includes:
-5 printable boxes and instructions for 3 games/activities.
-Score Cards
-Biochemistry Boxing Answer Key
-Macromolecule organizer – graphic organizer.
-4 exit tickets
-detailed lesson plans for 5-7 (50 min classes) days of instruction.

Boxing Collage 2

 

You will also get access to my printable cell organelle boxing activity and my lab report rubric and guide. Enjoy!

How to Differentiate Instruction for Gifted Students

How to  Differentiate Instruction for Gifted Students in Biology

One challenge that many teachers face is differentiated instruction for gifted and talented students. To have a classroom that is truly differentiated teachers need to address the learning need of all students. To do this, the gifted and talented students also need to remain engaged and challenged in the curriculum. One way to address this is with the use of a Compacting Plan. For a compacting plan the teacher examine their current curriculum and identifies content or skills that can be accelerated or eliminated after conducting a pre-assessment. When I complete a compacting plan I am sure to open the opportunity up to all of my students if they are able to achieve a certain score on the pre-assessment. It prevents accusations of being unfair and they may be some students who surprise you.  After determining what students are eligible you present them with the compacting plan. I have attached an example of a compacting plan that I have developed for the unit on cells a topic that many students are exposed to in middle school.  Check out my sample compacting plan on cells here.

Please comment below on strategies that you use to differentiate instruction for gifted and talented students.
How to Differentiate for Gifted Students
How to Differentiate for Gifted Students

 

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