Summer Term 2017 : Easter to Summer
Chemistry: The Periodic Table
In this class, I aimed to introduced the first year students to the Periodic Table, the elements, the symbols and the atomic numbers.
I asked the students to find the periodic table in their school diaries. I asked them to question: why is this table printed in the school diary? Does that have any significance? What does that inclusion tell you about the importance of the periodic table? They wrote their responses on the A0 whiteboard. I note that some students were already aware of the periodic table, some were familiar that it was in their diary and others did not know what it was, had never heard of it, and required their partner to help them locate it in their diary.
I asked the students to make a list of the first 20 elements and their symbols on the whiteboard. The students worked in pairs and I set this as a race. They asked me about the numbers, what did they mean, should they included them and was the order of the elements important. I explained the atomic number, I told them it was important and to use it to order the elements. The students were in mixed ability groups and they enjoyed the co-operative and competitive elements of the task. There was a very high level of engagement with the task. It was quiet an easy task and it was a good introduction. It did not challenge the Gifted and Talented so I need to consider this more in future.
Each student took a 'post-It' and each student was nominated one element. I asked them to write the symbol of their element on one side of the post it and the name of their element on the other side - some asked should they include the atomic number so I decided to say yes and they included it on both sides. They worked in pairs to teach and test each other on their symbol.
Task 3 - Speed dating
This class are completely familiar with the speed dating technique, so with this culture in place, they were excited in anticipation when I mentioned speed dating - they love having the opportunity to talk and engage with all the members of their class during this activity. I explained how they should not know all the elements and the aim of the speed dating was to 'test and teach' their peers, so that at the end they know more of the elements and symbols than they know at the beginning. I told them our next task would be a test on the whiteboards with these names and symbols. I encouraged active questioning and teaching and the students rotated without delay, swopping cards and moving one place to the left, continuing until they returned to their original position.
Task 4 - Test for recall
The students were very keen to complete the test on the whiteboards. It was conducted in a fun and caring manner. I motivated the students and reminded them this was assessment to accelerate their learning and there would be no grade, only self-recognition of what they know so far. I told them we would be repeating the speed dating with the 'post its' which they identify as most difficult, creating a democratic learning environment, promoting student voice and allows the students to take ownership of their learning.
Task 5 - Speed Dating repeat
We repeated speed dating with the elements that the students nominated as most difficult - Ca, C, K, Na, Mg, Al, He, H. Once again, I told them we would test each other on the whiteboards after this round. I joined in with the questioning this time and rotated in the circle, as this allows me to assess and engage with each student. I can help each student and encourage them. They are delighted to have the opportunity to question me and they often want to impress and show their knowledge too.
Task 6 - Final test of difficult elements
We carried out a quick 5 minutes recall on the A0 whiteboards. The benefit of the large whiteboards is that I can see what the students are writing immediately, it provides instant feedback for me as a teacher.
I think that learning the elements in this class was quite an individualised task - with students remembering different elements. I trialled an option today where I allowed the students to 'allocate their own homework' in relation to the learning in class. They must provide evidence of homework and it must relate to the learning outcome for this section which they have in their scrapbook and one or more key skills from their chart at the front of their scrapbook. I am interested to see what they complete. I had some students remaining in the classroom, perplexed and wishing to be told what to do....I thought this was interesting and it reassured me of the benefit of allowing them to assign their own homework. We need our students to sail their own boat, and to become independent learners.