Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Concept Map to End All Concept Maps

This week I did my book talk for all of you and together we created something that I had talked about in my book talk. In my book talk paper I had said that my book, Napolean’s Buttons by Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson, could stand as a single book or be broken into its chapters for use in a chemistry classroom. Whichever way the book is utilized it would be really beneficial to make a class-wide concept map for the major compounds and themes within the book, you could even include some historical figures as well but that would add to the complexity that is already outrageous.

As most of you who were there remember, I passed out short chapter summaries that were about two paragraphs long as ask you all to skim and pick out major topics. Because we were pressed for time I prepared most of the bubbles for the concept map already prewritten on the white board. These words included the compounds covered in each chapter as well as major themes such as war, trade, exploration, healthcare, etc. I made a practice concept map the night before in all black pen and the paper basically ended up looking like I drew a giant, blobby spider web. However, by including different colors for you all to write in our creation in class was much more appealing and even more complex. If I were to do this again, which I would like to, I would have made each team add their connections in a different color so that we could see which chapters and teams contributed to which connections. Below is a picture of our masterpiece, I’m sure with more time and possibly having read the actual chapters instead of just summaries, we could have made it even more fantastic.

Book Talk Concept Map

Reflections and Rochester

This week, as many of you are already aware of, is many of our first interviews for grown-up jobs. In preparing for this with the cohort I was prompted to reflect on all that we have done up until this point and find some shining moments for us to really highlight on Saturday. This reflection started for me at my first placement, since that’s where I really felt I got my teacher voice and persona down. However; after delving deeper into our journeys thus far it became more and more clear to me that all the hoops we jumped through for GRS are really rich experiences that, in retrospect, challenged me much more than my placements have. Now, that’s not to say that I haven’t felt overwhelmed and at the breaking point at either of my placements, but it does say, heck it screams, that science in all spaces (authentic, culturally relevant, scientifically relevant) plays a monumental role in a cultivating a student’s scientific identity.

At the placement I’m in right now I actually teach one of my campers from this past August. At camp this camper became my project for the week and I really wanted to get him invested like the rest of our team was at the time. However, at school these days that same camper, now my student, is a leader in the classroom and really identifies with science being a part of his life. Now, maybe at camp he didn’t want to be there, or he didn’t see the point, but something happened between camp and today where he gets it now. He’s already asking me what the investigation is going to be next year and was quite disappointed to hear that we wouldn’t be the team leaders again.

I have felt slightly out of place in middle school but have started to really get it as of late. Seeing as a good portion of my current students haven’t taken science formally yet in school many of them need many more scaffolds than at my other placement; where the students were older and more familiar with how to participate in science. These additional scaffolds that need to be included for my students have really started to push me back to camp and STARS where we had to make it relevant and fun for our learners to increase their buy in.

It seems like one of the ways to do this is to include the community, which is all over our evaluation rubrics and other Warner materials, but is a real challenge for some units. For my opening lesson in Evolution I taught about fossils and rock layers and based it all around the Rochester Gorge at Lower Falls, which is a familiar and relevant place to many of my students. My CT commented after the day was over that it all clicked together really well in that lesson, which was structured similarly to past lessons of mine, but it did have much more buy in from students of all abilities because they all have a story about the Gorge and all want to have some fun facts to take to impress their family members at home. Seeing how well this went for me I am publicly challenging myself to include more pieces of the community and surrounding areas of Rochester in my future lessons whenever it works. It really sparked some interest in my current students, including my past camper at camp, and I think it can promote the inclusion of science into a student’s identity, especially in students with less background in science who haven’t realized that it is really all around us all the time and so it is relevant to their lives.

Exciting activities versus structure and routine

Recently I feel like I’ve been challenged more at my recent placement and a lot of it stems from the space that I’m working in. The school where I’m at is currently working at full capacity, even slightly over capacity in some grade levels, and thus classrooms are being used almost every block each day (including lunch for the middle schoolers). Because of this and the added hurdle that my classroom is only slightly larger than my living room, I have recently felt more confined and stuck than usual. Also, because we are in the basement of a renovated nursing home my science classroom isn’t the least bit “science-y.” We do have lab table-style desks but other than that my room could easily be a social studies, English, or foreign language room with absolutely no evidence that science was once done there.

Because I am starting a new unit this coming week, that I hope can be more inquiry based and exploratory for my students, I am getting stuck with what activities are feasible in my space. There is a lab type workshop that Ryan developed and we worked together to perfect (that he blogged about) that I’m hoping to use with my students that spans over two class periods and talks about adaptations and mutations within species that are harmful, neutral, and advantageous. My struggle with this it that it asks for one “island” of desks that the students work around on day one and then two “islands” on day two. More specifically, being that I have 27 students, nine lab tables, and three or four teachers in each class there isn’t much room to arrange the desks in a way that would be beneficial during both the workshop and our bridge/summary/closure time.

My CT, her co-teacher, and our inclusion teacher are very against letting our kids move around mostly because of space and because many of them can’t handle themselves in a less constricted classroom setting. I’m torn over whether I should modify the activity to fit my space and limitations or if I should work to make my room arranged as I would ideally have it for this activity and give my students more freedom than they’re used to. The latter of these has the potential to completely blow up in my face, but the former would require me to really scale back the sample size for the activity (working as a whole class gathering data vs. working as a table of three to gather data).

What would all of you do in a situation like this, give the students more freedom for a more exciting workshop or provide more structure and scale back the variety in the lesson? Reasons why will be helpful as well, of course. A link to the activity I’m talking about will be added once Ryan blogs about it.

How does my body protect itself from what I can’t see?

Hi everyone, so today I taught a lesson on the immune system and wanted to share it with you all because it had a lot of engaging pieces that might work well for all of us in the future. Because I worked with some chemicals today I had my students wear goggles and gloves as they would if they were doing a regents level lab. Also, because of the size constraints of my room I ask that my students stay seated for class, which did limit one activity significantly.

My focus question for the day was “How does my body protect itself from what I can’t see?” It was interesting for the students and they really did gasp the main idea in the end, using connections from most of my activities.

I started with a bridge that asked how the students thought germs were spread and how quickly they could spread. This brought up a lively discussion in all three classes of the different types of germ transmission between people.

Following my short bridge I did a model of a cold spreading, like Jill did for STARS. Unfortunately because of the size of my room all my students stayed in their seats for the first two classes, and then in the third I modified the model to be entirely a demo that I manipulated with the help of my CT. For my first two classes students were instructed to share a part of their liquid with four other people and to record their names. In the last class my CT and I mixed the cups while a timer counted down one minute. After this I shared that we started with two cups being infected with a cold and this indicator (phenolphthalein) would indicate if someone was sick but it turning the liquid pink in each person’s cup. Students were asked to take about a minute to make a prediction and then I went around adding a drop of indicator to each student’s cup. I asked that infected students raise their hand to keep track of who got sick. This got them very engaged as they were all hoping that they hadn’t contracted the cold. In the end I averaged about 25 out of 30 infected cups, which was what I was hoping for.

I ended up making major modifications to this model after further talking through the safety considerations with some teachers in the building and considering the typical behavior of my last class. My first class handled the activity very well, which I can’t say surprised me because they are my best class. However, my second class is my most challenging, and in hindsight I think it would have been best if I had cut this demo out for them, they were very off task and distracted and it led to a small spill at one table. Because of all this I decided to have the class observe me while I did a shortened version of the demo at an open table. This still got the point across to everyone but was less exciting for them, especially when I was walking around with the phenolphthalein.

I was torn about this part of my lesson because I was really excited to do this model with my students. However, because of the chemicals involved (bleach) I got advice telling me to avoid it all together and to take very serious, strict safety precautions. Done over I’d like to try to model with a more safe base (or acid) and was wondering if anyone had some ideas. Obviously I could change indicators to account for using an acid, like white vinegar, but it hadn’t crossed my mind until I debriefed with Jo Ann that that was an option. Also, there is something cool to be said for the hot pink that the phenolphthalein turns in a basic solution.

Following this demo/model, two of the classes this segued nicely into my showing on “The Sneeze” because students identified sneezing without covering your mouth as a way germs spread; my third class required a bit more facilitation from me to make the jump to the video. The link for this video, if you haven’t seen it is below.

Then we spent a majority of the remaining class in reading stations with short blurbs about specific pieces of the immune system. This section worked well for me because I gave two of my three classes two minutes to silently read and then three minutes to answer the corresponding questions. For my third class I read the blurbs to them as a class because of some of my students’ lower reading levels.

I had an additional YouTube video that I found that appears student made that put a nice review on the four stations together. Unfortunately we only got to watch this video in one class because of time constraints but in the one class it made a world of difference in tying all the major concepts of the lesson together. Below is the link to that video.

We followed this video up with summary and closure, as we always do at my placement.  The summary asked students to answer the day’s focus question and the closure asked students “If a vaccine allows your body to produce antibodies against a specific germ, why do you think we need to get a new flu shot each year?”  This question worked well and got a variety of responses, including some variation of the right response; that is, that the flu “germ” changes slightly each year and so the antibodies aren’t as effective between flu season.

I attached my 4.9 Immune System Workshop4.9 Immune System Readings and 4.9 Immune System HW materials below for this lesson. It was done in a 70 minute class period but could also be broken into two pieces if need be. Ideally, to not be rushed, I think I could have used an extra ten minutes or so but given the hurdles thrown at me it went better than I expected in two of my three classes. I’m open to any suggestions or comments, as I’m sure you all have ideas that could improve on this work.