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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Developing SEP Skills: Reaction in a Bag

The shift to 3-dimensional learning in science education not only means teachers need help and time to adjust, so do our students! How do we ready our students for this change? What’s the best way to do this? I’m not sure but I’ll tell you how I’m going to do it. Before my classes start diving into chemistry concepts I’m going to have them do an investigation in which the focus will be developing the skills necessary for using science and engineering practices (SEPs) to explain crosscutting concepts (CCCs). This way when we begin chemistry concepts we have a reference point. The disciplinary core ideas in this investigation are (hopefully) review for my students (matter is made of particles and energy flows). To do this, I’m going to take an old lab (Reaction in a Bag) and refine it to fit my needs. You’ll find everything below!

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Inquiry & 3 Dimensional Science Learning

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Don’t teach this linear method!

Teaching students how to “do science” using the old, linear scientific method is not truly reflective of how scientists study the world around them. The scientific method gives a false sense that there is a step-by-step process for how to approach research, including moving from analysis to conclusion without ever reinvestigating, retesting, and revising. Science learning is not a rigid process, it is much more fluid. What is a closer method for teaching science? Inquiry! Sometimes I think this word is used so much that it no longer sounds like a real thing.  Inquiry is simply an act of asking questions to gain information. Science education researchers have been looking into how inquiry fits with science learning since the early 1960s when Bob Karplus and J. Myron Atkin published a paper based on “guided learning” or more known as the Learning Cycle (Rebello & Zollman, 1998). Guided learning focused on exploration, invention, and discovery, and was mostly used at the elementary level. Over the next 30 years, educators noticed the lack in formal reasoning skills among secondary and collegiate level students so began applying the learning cycle at the upper levels as well. There have been many different models developed but all are based on the original learning cycle. One of the more common models used at the secondary level for science education is the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) 5E Instructional Model (5Es) lead by Rodger Bybee in the 1980’s. The BSCS 5E Instruction Model consists of 5 phases that all begin with “E” (imagine that 🙂 ): Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate (Bybee et. al., 2006). See the diagram below for more information about each phase. Continue reading

Science Sundays – Catalyst Investigation!

New year. New goals. One of them being more blog posts, so welcome to Science Sundays! Each Sunday I’m going to write something about science, and classroom activities, instructional strategies, or current events!

This week’s topic will be: Catalyst Investigations! I felt this should be the first ‘Science Sunday’ since my last post was all about the stress of implementing labs and it’s only right to write about the great parts too 🙂

The slow-mo video below shows my students testing a gas that is produced when hydrogen peroxide and potassium iodide interact:

The glowing wood splint reignites as it interacts with the gas being produced by the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide (into water and oxygen gas). While I used this lab to study catalysts, it could also be used for learning types of reactions!

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The Trouble with Lab is…

The trouble with lab is…said to the tempo of Kelly Clarkson’s song “The Trouble with Love Is.” Don’t know the song? Here ya go…

What’s got me singing the lab blues? Exhaustion, frustration, and well my belief that it will be better next time. We all know students can’t wait to do a lab. They beg for them starting day 1, “Mrs. J, when are we going to do a lab?” “Please can we do a lab?” I have 3 preps this year (Chem 1, 2 and college prep) so my Chem 1 classes have seen the set up for the others and have been particularly eager.

Last week the time had finally come for my classes to do a lab….all of them….at the same time….over multiple days. (Side note: we’ve been doing labs all semester but I’ve been able to stagger them….unfortunately not this time) To say the week was stressful would be an understatement. First, I want to say I work with amazing colleagues who help with set up when they can, but even with their help managing three different labs was a bit much. Chem 2 is working on Collision Theory and the conditions that affect reaction rates, CP Chem is beginning heating and cooling concepts, and Chem 1 is focused on mixtures, solutions, and chemical/physical changes. The only thing these labs had in common was a ring stand lol If you’re a teacher that has to set up labs I don’t have to tell you about the amount of time required to set up for ONE lab, let alone three! (It’s HOURS, for everyone else) Thank you Ryan Reynolds for knowing my pain….

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Let’s Get Organized!

Well it’s just about here, the first day of school! I don’t know about you but I try to get as organized as I possibly can before students show up in the hopes that I’ll stay organized all year long. During the first few years of teaching this never happened. My desk looked crazy and I could never find the paperwork I needed, or the worksheets for students who needed an extra copy, or that note I was going to give a student, or…..this list could really go on lol I don’t know why it took me 5 years to figure out how to get organized but it did and I’m here now to pass along that wisdom to hopefully spare you the countless hours of searching for items in a desk that is clearly more a Bermuda Triangle lol ;-p How do I manage to stay organized now? 3-Ringed Binders. I’m obsessed with these things! I use them to keep track of all my answer keys, for students, for general teacher stuff, and for my subs. Let me explain 🙂

Answer Keys – I teach 2 preps (3 this year) and make answers keys for just about everything. It helps keep me on track with what the students are doing so that when there’s a question I know what problem they are trying to describe. What I don’t like doing is making a new answer key every year for something I know I’ll repeat, or having to make a new one because I lost the original. Instead I now put the keys into their designated folder, place a blank copy of the assignment behind it or that’s where the left over quizzes go, and I’m done! 🙂

Students – this is probably my favorite. I always end up with left over worksheets on my desk. I make a few extras (you mean students will lose their work?!) and of course students are absent so those sheets are there too. As days go by these piles get bigger, and I have separate piles for each prep…..things can get out of hand. I now have 3-ringed binders for this. I pass out papers and the left overs get hole punched and placed in the binder. It’s become part of my routine….most of the time lol Students find “their” binder (I keep them in a crate by the student turn-in center in my room) and they can get the worksheet(s) they are missing. No more piles of paper on my desk. No more “the teacher forgot to give it to me” because let’s be real, yes that can happen….there are 30 bodies in here each hour! And, my favorite, no more “I wasn’t here yesterday so didn’t get that” from a student 20 mins into the class. Okay so that last one still happens but not as frequent. Students learn quickly the routines of the class, including to collect their missing work from the binder, and anything that helps decrease that type of distraction is good for me!

General teacher stuff – keeping track of meetings, parent contacts, ELL/IEP students/paperwork; all of this is in another folder. Each time I contact a parent I like to keep a log (paper trails are important!!!); I want modifications close by for easy access, a place to keep handouts from meetings….all the behind the scene stuff teachers need to keep track of. This folder also has a 3-ring binder pencil holder that contains teacher notes. I like to randomly hand out “your awesome because…” notes to students so having them pre-cut and ready to go is helpful. I also have “missing work” notes to remind students to turn in assignments. Both of these things happen more often when the prep work has already been done so that I can just pull a sheet out and use it.

Sub Binder – my district now refers to subs as “Guest Teachers” which I like. Prepping for guest teachers is time-consuming so anything that helps with that is awesome. so I present the Sub Binder. This binder has tabs on the inside where I place the work for each class, as well as seating charts. I don’t have to recollect this information each time. When I will be gone, I pull out the Sub Binder and just have to place directions for the worksheets into it, the rest is done 🙂

Wow, this post is much longer than I intended, sorry! I’ll post pictures once my binders are completed. If you don’t want to make your own contact logs, teacher notes, or binder covers you can find them at my TPT store, Teaching Elements. There’s a packet with everything together (contact logs, notes, and binder covers) or you can get the contact logs and teacher notes separate. As always, let me know if you have questions and I’ll help you if I can 🙂

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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