Class 2 - 80 minutes
The students were engaged in exploring and ranking the key skills of the new Junior Cycle. I sourced the key skills PDF from www.juniorcycle.ie. I created mixed gender and mixed ability groups, with four students in each group. Each group was given a whiteboard, a resource sheet per student and a whiteboard marker per student. The student were asked to split their board and to create 8 squares. Their task was to convert the text explaining each key skill into images. The groups were given ten minutes and a countdown timer was put on the overhead projector using an Online Stopwatch (google online stopwatch, and click to show as full screen). In addition, to motivate the students I made the task a race, with ten minutes the maximum time to complete. However, I emphasized that quality was also important and that the winning group would be the fastest group with the highest quality images. I think I need to refine this in future and to give a more specific marking rubric with success criteria for high quality images. The groups exceeded my expectations with their enthusiasm, group work, communication and images throughout this task. I asked each group to number themselves 1-4. I chose a number at random and that person acted as the spokesperson. I think that I will assign group role cards in future classes. I gave them the option of choosing a co-presenter if they were overwhelmed at the thought of presenting alone. Each group presented their images and the other groups guessed which image matched a key skill. This created dialogue and discussion between the students in relation to the key skills. They made valid arguments that some images could represent more than one key skill. There were excellent images - particular my favorite image was for 'managing information and thinking'. The student explained that the image represented a farmer who was listing the pros and cons of selling or keeping a cow on his farm. The farmer was searching for information from different sources while judging and discriminating between his cows to decide which one he should sell or if he should sell any of them. I asked this group why they created this image and they replied that they wanted to create images that were relevant to real life on a day to day basis. This group argued that a farmer would use higher order reasoning and problem-solving to decide which cow, if any, to sell.
The students were asked to cut out the key skills headings and the descriptor bullet points for each key skill. Each group were asked to discuss the importance of the key skill. We created two 'clothes lines' with string which ran from the back of the classroom to the front. The students ranked their key skills according to their own opinions, from the most important to the least important. The teacher was rotating around the room and questioned the students in relation to their justification for the position of each of their keys skills or key skill descriptors. The students used clothes pegs to pin their key skills or key skill descriptors to the line. The clothes lines will be hung on either side of the lab and the students will review them regularly throughout the year. Students will get an opportunity to review and reflect on their choices as the year progresses. This was a fun activity, and the students surprised me with their ability to critically analyse and rank the skills and descriptors according to their own preferences. This task also required the students to communicate and to work with others effectively to reach an end goal. I think that the students developed their confidence in communicating and expressing their opinions throughout this task. I noticed that as students chose the position for each of their key skills or descriptors that they were interested to investigate where other students had placed their key skills or descriptors in position of importance. This exposed the students to the key skills and their descriptors in an active, engaging manner.
I assigned the following homework:
1. Glue in your key skills sheet
2. Divide page two of your scrapbook into 8 squares and draw an image that represents each of the key skills. (I hinted to the student that they can draw the images that your group created in Task 1). I regularly assign homework that requires the students to recall their creations from class contact time. I think that they often review and improve from the in class creations. This teaches the students to reflect towards improvement, allowing them to build on their knowledge and skills. This homework task is also an extension from 'working with others' to 'managing information and thinking' independently.
JC Science : week 1
Class 1 - 40 minutes
I decided to focus on ice breakers for my first class with my new first year science group. I chose three simple ice breakers, that I have outlined below.
Line up alphabetically, by first name, along the aisle of the science lab. No talking allowed.
Line up numerically, according to your birthday, along the aisle of the science lab. No talking allowed.
Create a semi circle around the lab.
Student number 1 begins: 'My name is Alannah and I like apples.
Students number 2 continues: 'My name is Eleisha and I like eggs.'
This continues from student 1 to student 24.
I allowed the students to hint and to help each other. I emphasised the key skill of 'working with others'. I also explained that there will be other times when you are rewuired to work independently and to 'manage your own information and thinking.'
The students were happy, engaged and relaxed throughout this activity. This activity was beneficial for the teacher as I learned the students' names, it was also beneficial for the students as they learned each others names. I think positive learning experiences in first year are vital to continued engagement, improvement, motivation and attitude as the student progresses through junior and senior cycle. I believe that a great strength of the junior cycle curricular reform is the focus on positive, active learning experiences.
I concluded the class by asking the students to record the equipment that I require them to have for science:
1. A large scrapbook
3. A small scissors
4. Science Matters experiment book.
My Fifth Year Biology class (Aged 17) are currently studying Ecology. The following is a reflection on how I taught them the 'Carbon Cycle' section of Ecology. I put the Carbon Cycle up on the overhead projector from my laptop. I had it on a power-point set to full scree. I asked them to process the cycle from words into images only, keeping the arrows and the flow. They did this in pairs on their AO whiteboards and I recorded the best ones on my iPad. I asked them to draw their images on card, cut up their carbon cycle images and arrows and to jumbled them. They swapped their set with another pair and solved their set. I then asked them to convert the images of the new set to words, to draw it on card and to cut it out. Each pair had card and scissors. This resulted in all 24 students having a Carbon Cycle that was either words or images. All students stood up and I asked them to jumbled their Carbon Cycle and to walk around the room and stand at another carbon cycle. When all students had moved, I explained to them that they would now race to sort the set in front of them. We moved and sorted several times. The students were then beside a new partner with a new set of words and a new set of images between them.
The next learning activity, Paul Ginnis inspired, was called 'Silent Sentences'. All the pieces, from all sets, were jumbled on the table. Each person took 8 random pieces from the jumbled sets and stood at their table. This left many pieces on the big desk, all jumbled. The rules: no talking, direct swop with others allowed - if they agree, only allowed take one piece at a time from the main table. The first pair with a full correct word set and image set of Carbon Cycle win. This activity worked really well and reinforced the learning of all.
The final activity: the students sat with study music on and recalled the carbon cycle in words and images together on a blank sheet. The Carbon Cycle was then put on the board and the students peer assessed each others work with two stars and a wish feedback. I then collected all diagrams for assessment feedback for my next class.
Student feedback on this learning activity was very positive and one student expressed 'I won't need to study this now, I know it already!' This made me very satisfied as I think core to my teaching style is learning here and now, and revising later....if necessary.