Creating Visuals for Nucleon Interactions

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-10-18-31-pmRepulsive electrostatic forces. Strong nuclear forces. Charged subatomic particles interacting with neutral subatomic particles. Stable nuclei contain a “magic” number of neutrons and protons, otherwise the nucleus will decay.

Students will act like they understand these terms  by attempting to memorize the definitions, and all the explanations written down in class. And that’s the problem…students memorizing information and not actually learning the concepts. Subatomic particle interactions has always been a complicated concept for my students. I’ve done graphing, picture visuals, number analyzing, lots of stuff that is supposed to work. Yet it’s always a lower scoring portion on quizzes and tests.

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Students Experience 3D Learning for the First Time

Picture this: A perfectly planned investigation, no unusual chemicals to hunt down, eager students, no complaining, and all actively writing down their science thoughts……sound too good to be true? It is, but maybe not for the reasons you’re thinking.

Two weeks ago I wrote a post about introducing my students to 3-dimensional learning using the investigation “Reaction in a Bag.” Now that all my quizzes are graded I’ve decided to write the reflection over how my students did with 3D learning, the thoughts of my two teaching peers who taught this way for the very first time, and what’ll I’ll do better next time (and not just next year “next time”).

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Safety Posters

I love when I can make learning rules less boring and one way I’ve done that is by having students choose a rule and make a poster based on it. I heard about this idea during the many, many hours of safety video training I had to endure. 7 hours of training resulted in 1 new idea BUT the students love it and we’ve now done this for 3 years! Once all the posters are completed (they get 1-2 days) we do a poster walk-through; the favorites are laminated and hung up in the classroom. Students love looking at their artwork and I can decorate a part of my room for free! It’s a win-win 🙂 I also did this activity with my Advisory using the school rules from our handbook. It made that discussion much more interesting! lol

Below are some of my favorites from the safety posters. Enjoy!

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Molecule Monday’s

“Why does this matter?” “How does [insert any subject here] even relate to my life?” “Chemistry has zero relevance in the real world.” Do these sound familiar? That last one is a real quote from a parent email to me during my first year of teaching; ah! It’s so easy to think of these questions as “dumb” questions; I mean really, did you really just ask me how science even relates to your life?! Did you brush your teeth? Wash your hair/body? Eat food? How’d you get to school? Are you breathing? Are you tired? Mad? Happy? Sad? ALL OF THIS INVOLVES SCIENCE!

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Now to make it clear responding with “That’s a dumb question!” and then following up with the above remarks is probably not the best way to approach students asking the question “why does this matter?” Students do not ask this question to be spiteful….okay maybe some are but most of them are genuinely curious as to how [insert any subject here] is relevant to them. They just don’t see the connection between cells and life, history and citizenship, the Periodic Table and explosions, etc… It is our job as teachers to help students make this connection; to show them why understanding the basics of English, History, Art, Foreign Language, and Science are so important. This conundrum I was confronted with during my first year of teaching was the starting place for Molecule Monday’s but I wasn’t aware of it just yet.

Fast forward to the end of my 4th year of teaching. During Tiger Talks (my school’s version of Ted Talks; implemented during some of our professional days; yes it’s awesome), one of my amazing teaching peers presented and let me just say, this teacher is brilliant. Students love him, his classroom is always full (before/during lunch/after school) and he teaches Physics! During his presentation he talked about dark matter, with his ideas starting from watching water on a trampoline!  I remember one of his points was about engaging students, and in his classroom he used Flashback Friday. He would play songs from all decades and the students would try to guess the song. Implementing something fun in my room to engage students sounded like an awesome idea. I went into the summer determined to come up with something.

A month later, on a plane ride home from a conference, I was talking with another amazing peer about my thoughts of implementing something fun in my room that connected science to the world around my students. I wanted to have an answer for how science was relevant. I wanted a catchy name so that student’s looked forward to it. She replied with, “What about Molecule Monday’s?” She said the title came from a scene in the movie 21 Jump Street…which I still have yet to see lol And that was it. Molecule Monday’s was the answer I had been searching for and is something I have been working on for the last year. So I present:

Molecule Monday's

Every Monday I introduce students to a new molecule. Student’s enter class while science-y themed music is playing (Weird Science and She Blinded Me with Science) and on the board is the molecule (to show how substances have different shapes) with products the molecule is a part of. When class starts, I give a little background information then play a 3-5 minute video. There is no quiz later. Student’s don’t have to remember any of the information I present. Molecule Monday’s is simply a way for me to show my students how science is relevant to their lives. My student’s LOVED it last year! They’d even ask questions after the videos. If I missed a Monday, I would get asked all week if we were going to make it up. It made me so very happy to see that the student’s loved this new creation of mine.

My goal this year is to not miss a single Monday. I have already collected all the information I need for the Fall semester and I’m half-way done with the Spring!  I idea for something else as well 🙂 I teach both Chem 1 and Chem 2 so I’m going to eventually need something different for my Chem 2 kiddos.

Have you implemented something fun in your classroom that connects your classroom topics to the world around your students? I’d be interested to hear what you’ve done!

Also, if you’re interested, I have a free sample of Molecule Monday’s at my TPT store, as well as a paid version with everything you’d need for 16 molecules. I’d love to hear any feedback 🙂

No More Boring Syllabi

As the school year approaches and I prepare for the depressing end of my afternoon naps excitement of being back in the classroom, my mind is full of thoughts. Sometimes it can be overwhelming so I like to take breaks and peruse the wonderful world of Pinterest. Teachers make some pretty amazing things and looking at the wonderfully decorated, arranged, organized classrooms makes me happy 🙂 Somewhere in the middle of this I thought about my classroom syllabi. My students and their parents always read/understand/reference/use this right? HAHAHAHAHA That would be a dream world but who can really blame them? Students receive 6-7 syllabi in 1-2 days that are all on plain white paper with black type….easy to see how things can blend in. I decided this would be something I’d like to change so used my trusty Pinterest resource, searched “fun syllabi” and voila! What I learned from my search is that I need to keep my sections short and sweet, and maybe use an image that will help them remember. Which makes sense because our students live in a world bombarded by images used for communication (emoticons, memes) and we need to be able to get them to focus on us for more than 2 seconds. I’m in the beginning stages for my Chem 1 classes but I’m hoping the new syllabus will stand out and be easier to remember. I’d love to hear your thoughts and words-of-wisdom!

***I forgot to add how I made the syllabus in my first post, sorry! I used Microsoft Word and their newsletter options. I ended up deleting a lot of text boxes and inserting my own. I used the fill options to do the grey boxes, and found the images by using Google and Pinterest. I tried to keep the colors printer friendly (colored copies would cost a ton for 120 students!). I used colorful memes on worksheets last year that looked fine in black and white so hopefully this turns out okay too! If you have other questions let me know!!

*******For those of you who would just like to have an editable product, I’ve posted that option on my TPT account under Not Your Average Syllabus 🙂 The preview images look jumbled but I promise once it’s downloaded it will be similar to the pictures below! If for some reason it’s not just let me know and I’ll send you a better copy! Thanks!

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Creative Exit Slips

This year one of my goals was to incorporate quick formative assessments to check for student understanding. Exits slips seemed like an easy place to start and I have learned to love them! Over the summer while perusing Pinterest (I LOVE this site!!) I came across an awesome poster board (see below) made with sticky notes then laminated for easy re-use.

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I used sticky notes with a fully sticky back so that the poster would easily slide through the laminator. Students “stick” their exit slips to the squares in a nice orderly fashion and my OCD side is happy! lol I have students write their names on the back of their sticky note to keep their answers anonymous. I love how I can just look over the board and get a general idea of where the class is on a concept.

 

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“What Stuck w/you” isn’t the only heading I use for my exit slip board. I’ve come up/found a few other ideas that I like to use to keep it from becoming monotonous.

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Parking Lot – Student’s leave a question on the board which will be their starting point the next day.

Hash tag – students love to “#” everything so with this exit slip they must come up with a three-four word summary of what they learned in class that day/key concepts.

Tweets – using their favorite form of social media, students write a summary in 120 characters or less (bonus points if you can get them to really tweet out their thoughts!).

Ticket to Leave – I like to have students come up with Movie/Concert titles.

I also really like the 3-2-1 Method where students write down 3 things they learned, 2 interesting facts, and 1 question they still have. I haven’t used this one yet but hope to incorporate it with our readings.

How have you used exit slips in your classroom? Any helpful suggestions or ideas on keeping exit slips as a useful tool in the classroom?