Cool Day With Skull In Our Class

October 5, 2015, after we finished STARS program, we started with Dan D’s circle. He liked white board a lot, so he gave each one of us a white board, and asked us to graph a level 1, 2, 3 about science teaching on it. We shared our ideas one by one. And it’s great that we can always learn something from others idea.



Feedback is important in our class, because that helps us develop. Each week, we need give feedback to our partner’s lesson plan. But some of us might have question about how to give feedback, especially formative feedback. To help us give formative feedback, we brainstormed with the reason why we give formative feedback. Many of us contributed great ideas such as “inform teaching”, “help reach the learning goal”, “acting the good” etc. Finally April synthesized our ideas and emphasized that one of the critical purpose of giving feedback is to invite future thought. So we need practice giving feedback by giving feedback to the lesson plan.

Since we wrote our level 1, 2, 3 in the last two weeks, it’s necessary to discuss the purpose of level 1, 2, 3. I like Sharon’s idea that level 1was more about how students enter into the topic, and level 3 is more about how student come out. Also, I love all of other ideas such as level 1, 2, 3 gave a visual representation; it showed complexity increase, and showed the changing thinking; it support written reasonable, etc. Then to help us make better level 1, 2, 3, we walked around the room, and gave feedback to others level 1, 2, 3. Yellow sticker represented “+”, and blue sticker represented “suggestions”.


After a short break, Dr. John VanNiel came to give us a fantastic class about the mammals in New York State. First to help us engage in the class, he gave us a stack of paper with different names of mammal on it. What we need to do is working in group of two/three, and discussed which ones of them were found in the wild NY, which ones were not. In this activity, he didn’t give us any information before we started, so we found out the answer by using our previous experiences or the existing knowledge. We got some answers right and some wrong. But we did enjoy the activity. It’s also interesting some names of the animal might mislead us. For example, Norway rat is not in Norway but in New York State. For me, it’s a little hard to make decision, because I didn’t know much about the wild animal in America, and the wild mammals in China are so different from the wild mammals in here. But at the end of the activity, I learned some of them, hopefully I can recognize them next time.



Next we started another exciting activity. Dr. John gave each of us a skull of an unknown wild mammal. Then we need to observe carefully, and figure out what kind of mammal it is. He is very professional that he considered if anybody is not comfortable with holding the skull, he would provide a plastic container. It’s exciting for most of us to hold a skull in our hand. To figure the name of the animal step by step, first we used brain stormed to guessing what kind of mammal it might be. Dr. John wrote all of our ideas on white board. At that time, he also shared his rules about brain storm: Put any idea on the board; tell students can’t criticize others’ idea; the brain storm should be open ended. Next step, we began to limit the answer. We could eliminate any answer on the board, but we need offer rational. When we talked about the size of the animal, Dr. John gave us very important information, which is total length of that animal is 3.5 times the length of the skull. That’s so critical that helped us eliminate some animals that are either too large or too small.


After we limited the possible answers to mammals that had the right size, he brought another important point, which is the tooth. At first, we though sharp teeth might mean it was meat eater and flat teeth might be a plant eater. Soon he corrected us that we could not talk about teeth only by judging whether they are sharp or flat. We need use more professional way to describe it. So he emphasized, a more scientific way is to say is: carnivore has stabbers and slicers; herbivore has grinders and scrapers; omnivore has stabbers and grinders. Then we looked at our answered on white board, thinking about “who is got the wrong kind of teeth”. But after limiting the answers by teeth, we still had 3 answers. So we made use of the special characteristics. When we looked at the skull, it’s easy to find out the top of the head is very flat. As informed by Dr. John, the flat head means the animal would either live in the hole ( low exposure) or swim a lot( nose and eyes can easily expose in the air). Finally it turned out to be XX (sorry I forgot the name, if anyone  knows the name of that mammal, please comment  on below?) I really agree with his viewpoint that “the answer is the least important”. Like he said, the value of this activity is not finding out the right answer. Instead, it’s the process we analyzing the problem. And if we tell students the right answer at the beginning, they wouldn’t care about what you talked next. Then we practiced the knowledge we learned by guessing the name of other skull.

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