This week my planning was based around the learning outcome NOS 3 and 4 and LO 3 from the Elements Systems and Interactions from the Physical World contextual strand. I decided to ask the students to design and build a zipline for Portumna Forest Park. I got this idea from McGraw Hill science. It is an activity from a problem based science learning series. I spent four classes on this acitvity this week.
Monday 40 minutes
I placed the students in mixed ability groups and I ensured they were working with new students. I wanted to place the students outside of their comfort zone and challenge them to work with new team members. I have noticed a huge improvement in all students over the past three months. I have noticed an improvement in the engagement of all students to some extent. In particular, students who were not engaged or who had low self efficacy have improved. They are more enthusiastic, more confident and they have enhanced belief in their own ability. I think this is as a result of a combination of praise for small steps of improvement, support towards improvement and differentiated tasks and homework that allow all students to improve from their individual 'home base' or starting point.
The students researched the purpose, structure and possible locations for the zipline in the forest park. I chose a local amenity to encourage them to apply science to their locality, and who knows, maybe one of them will actually build this zipline in the future! The students realised this and one stated that he might become an engineer and build this zipline in Portumna. In relation to recording time, one student asked me could he count 'one mississippi, two mississippi, three mississippi' instead of using the stopwatch-I asked him did he think this would be scientifically accurate and would he pay to go on a zipline where they enginner had tested it by counting like thath and he gasped 'oh no not really!'. I also reminded them about how many times they had to test a unit to show accuracy. They agreed that 3 times would be fair. I suggested that they also include a trial for each unit measured. The students described the scenitific principles to account for when building the zip line. The team manager at the Adventure Express had given them criteria to match when designing and building the zipline. They zipline must be safe, able to hold multiple riders, have minimal impact on the environment, and it should include the location and construction of the launching and landing pads.
I set a countdowm timer to 12 minutes. The students were given A2 white paper, metre sticks and pencils and I asked them to draw their plans for the zipline, to scale. I circulated and facilitated students in groups by prompting and explaining scale. When the 12 minutes was up, the buzzer went off. The students were asked to stick up their plans near to their work station. I asked the students to begin contructing their ziplines according to their plans. There was dismay in some quarters as they did not realise that their actual model had to match up to the scales and plans of their drawing!! I explained how they would be marked on the process, their evaluations, problem solving and how well they worked with others and not necessarily only the end product-the process of learning was prioritised at all times. All students were fully engaged for the following 50 minutes, this is the first time that this has occured. The room was so busy and energetic-there was a definite learning buzz. Another science teacher entered the room to get a book, he was so entrigued that he went around to the students and asked them what they were doing and how they were doing it, in addition, the students did not even notice people entering or leaving the room and they did not hear the bell going in the middle of the double class. For me, this is also evidence of the high level of engagement in learning, problem solving and creating.
I circulated asking the students to calculate Distance and Time in order to calculate the speed. I asked them to infer the units for distance (m), time (s) and speed (m/s). This was a very effective way of teaching the students distance, speed and time. It was certainly my most creative attempt in seven years teaching JC science. I began to think how boring I have taught it for the past six years and in addition I have a new love for Physics! The active, creative and applied teaching of the physics concepts has not only engaged my students, but had engaged me, as the teacher.
I gave each group a Newton Meter and I asked them to measure the weight of their different passengers. I faciliated small group discussion with each team about mass, electronic balances, weight and newton meters. I showed them how to convert mass to weight and I asked them to research a continuum of mass for possible visitors to their zipline. They must test the zipline for a variety of weight across the spectrum.
It rains frequently in Galway. I questioned the students in relation to the weather. Can you zipline operate in winter when it rains? None of the groups had considered the weather. I informed them that tomorrow it will be raining in the lab and your zipline will be tested.
Before time was up, I asked each group to present their zipline, to say what went well and what they want to improve on tomorrow before they submit their project. The students were very proactive in their thinking and they had many comments on their ziplines and they were looking forward to improving them tomorrow. I heard some students say 'I can't wait for tomorrow, I really want to make this zipline better!'
The application of the NOS as the medium for which to teach physical observables brought Physics to life in my classroom today. I really enjoyed the class, the students really enjoyed the class and there was alot of learning taking place for every student.
I found some great Physics resourcers on www.scoilnet.ie recently and I wanted to plan a class to incorporate/try them out. Aoife McDonnell works in the PDST in ICT and as a Physics and Science teacher, she is assimulating wonderful resources, and I am a particular fan of the simulations that she has organised on the website. It is very easy to search by type and by topic. The site has really improved over the past year. In my double class today, I decided to set up six stations, three practical stations and three interactive simulations. I rearranged the lab tables and writing spaces to suit this arrangement.
I set up the following stations:
Station #1: Filtration - Rock sand,water, filter, filter paper, retort stand, labels (beaker , filtrate, funnel, solute, solution, solvent, retort stand). I also threw in a few appartus to throw them: test tubes, graduated cylinder, and a hot plate. Task: Invetigate methods to seperate the sand from the water so that if you were on a desert and this is all you had, you could get drinking water.
Station #2: Simultion 1: A4 whiteboard per student: reflect and record what you learned by completing this simulation. http://www.eduplace.com/kids/hmsc/content/simulation/
The students love the simulations, and they were very engaged moving from station to station. I set the timer to 8 minutes. When the buzzer went, they moved on.
Station #3: Evaporation - salt water solution, hot plate, evaporating basin, water, beaker, funnel, filter paper. Task: Your dinner is tastless and you would like some salt. Please seperate it from the water!
Station #4: Simulation 2: A4 whiteboard per student: reflect and record what you learned by completing this simulation. http://www.physics.org/interact/physics-life/web/physics_life/
Station #5: Distillation: Coke is a solution. I wonder if we could seperate them using our knowledge of states of matter and thermal energy. I set up the Liebeg condenser and I put a can of coke beside it. I asked them to reflect, record and explain their learning, in particular, explaining how the liebeg condenser works and how it interacts with the states of matter.
Station #6: Simulation #3: Virtual Physics Lab. The students loved this activity and when I asked them to complete a sentence strip as an exit pass for the 'what I learned today' board, many students mentioned something that they learning about physical observables from this virtual lab.
This was one of my favourite classes with First years so far this year. They were all engaged and on task. The stations allowed me the freedow to rotate, facilitate, support and probe the students learning. I will definitley be using this again. I had sixth year biology after and it worked so well, I left the lab set up as it was and I used theory flash cards at stations 1,3 and 5 and I used the following Biology simulations for human reproduction. They also experienced enjoyment and deep learning. They also commented how fast the class went by - I always think this indicates a high level of engagement.
Female reproduction simulation http://www.123esaaf.com/Atlas/Reproductive_01.swf
body map http://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/stomach
menstrual cycle https://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/images/menstrual-cycle.swf
I decided to engage the first year students in the design of their christmas 'assessment of learning'. This is worth 50% of their report comment. The other 50% is an investigate that they design, carry out and report on within a double class period.
I began by asking them to match up the verbs with the meanings. I cut out the action verbs pdf from www.jct.ie, laminated it and cut them up. I asked them to mix and match in pairs. I then asked them to mix and match and race each other. I swopped the pairs and repeated. I repeated this cycle five times. Finally, I asked them to stick in their solutions to their scrapbook.
I put the students in pairs and I assigned them an action verb. I asked them to create an exam questions that began with their assigned action verb. I asked them to be creative and to 'think outside the box'. I assigned each pair a different action verb. This was very interested. For example, one group were given:
'Outline' -they proceded to list 3 to 4 questions beginning with 'Name....' with Outline as a heading at the top of the whiteboard. Another group decided on 'Describe the digestive system'. I had asked them to look back on what they had learned and to reflect on the learning outcomes that we had touched. I encouraged them to think about their knowledge, skills and understanding that they may have learned in relation to a learning outcome. For me, the JCT CPD day, was most valuable for highlight the breakdown of a learning outcome to understanding, knowledge and skills and this will be a core aspect of my teaching and learning going forward. I will also be asking the students to engage democratically, to break down the learning outcomes into learning intentions through these three three pillars. I had the stopwatch set to six minutes. We reveiwed their work when the time was up. I gave them a coloured card cut into a circle and I asked them to write their question on it and to rub out the whiteboard. I collected the cards and redistributed them to different pairs, and I asked them to complete the questions. I set the countdown timer to five minutes. I circulated, faciliating and probing the answers. I encouraged the students to critique the peer created questions: were they the best that they could be? After five minutes, I asked for nominations of what the students thought were the best questions. This was intriguing, they picked the questions which required the deepest understanidng. I asked them why they picked that question and they answered because 'it tests if you really know it, if you like understand science'. I asked the students to reflect on their questions, to compare their creations to the best question from that round and to make plans for how they were going to make a better question that tested deeper understanding, skills and knowledge.
I swopped the pairs and I assigned different action verbs to each pair. I asked the pairs to create the deepest, most challenging question, based on a learning outcome they had encountered since September. I gave an example (which I thought of aon the spot..!) 'There is a cow grazing in the field and she has a calf, therefore they must be living things. Justify this statement, demonstrating your knowledge, understanding and skills of science.' I also told the students that the questions created in this round would be the questions that I would ask on their formative, assessment of learning, written test in two weeks time. They were very surprised that I was inviting them to contribute to the creation of their exam, but they were also very happy about this! They became more interested and engaged when I offered this democratic opportunity. They did very well and they produced very creative questions that will require deeo understanding to answer. They wrote their questions on the coloured discs and hey stuck them up on the noticeboard on the way out, so that everyone could see every question. I told them I would leave them uo for 24 hours and that they would be taken down and that they wouldn't see them again until the exam. They were not allowed write them down in front of the board but I allowed them to come back and read the board as many times as they could. This resulted in students popping in at break and lunch to review the questions....and their learning.
I enjoyed trying out this approach. I am interested to see if it focuses their approach to the exam. They will be prepared for the type of questions. This idea came from a methodologies lecturer that I had in DCU, called Mary Lee. Mary taught us to do this with LC Biology students as formative assessment and as summative assessment ton include some of their questions in an exam. She was clearly a women ahead of her time.