Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Is Student Motivation in a Science Classroom Possible?

With each year, I have to really think about how to grabbed student attention and increase motivation levels.  In elementary schools, you have bear or color systems that seem to keep the little ones in line and task completion possible.  Once you enter the world of middle school somehow motivation really changes.  You really can't get your students to enjoy science without finding reasons that make science relevant to them.  I find that as one way to help increase motivation in class, but once we increase motivation how do we sustain it all year long.  Maybe it's time for teachers to share ideas of what works in the science classroom.  So I am going to put down the books and the research articles for now and starting asking my fellow science teachers about what works.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Information in a Cinch

This year, I have a great variety of students and with that comes a variety of learning styles.  When incorporating technology I want to make sure I am not just tailoring technology for my visual and verbal students alone.  I must provide something for my audio learners as well.

Over the summer, I came across Cinch, which is a website where you can record audio and post to share later.  I really like how it allows for individuals (in this case, my students) to follow and reply to podcasts.  I decided that I wanted to upload the widget to my classroom site so that my students could HEAR information.

I already can see that countless ways that Cinch can be used in the classroom:
1. share directions on assignments
2. record lectures
3. share student discussions on a group activity
4. share homework/project information

How can you use Cinch in your classroom?  Well, here's my sample of Cinch.  I hope to let you know how it turns out in my classroom.  Stay tuned...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Breadth vs. Depth

As I look over the last several years of teaching in the classroom, I always wonder if I was able to make a difference in the lives of my students.  Did they take anything from my class?  Had they met or exceeded my expectations?  Were they thoroughly prepared for science in high school?  I consider self-reflection a key characteristic of professional growth.  One thing I find that doesn't help self-reflection for the purposes of perfecting your skill is placing blame on other teachers and grade levels.  This won't be one of those conversations.  Instead, I want to revisit this idea of breadth versus depth in science education and address its impact on our students.

Each year students go over the scientific method.  The idea is that if they memorize the steps that they are sure to remember it for next year, right? WRONG! In fact, taking this approach is quite a disservice to our students.  I understand that there may be times that we are trying to keep up with pacing guides and curriculum maps, but why sacrifice depth for breadth?  The only thing breadth of content is good for is ensuring that students will ask you, "Ms., How does that go again?"  Breadth doesn't support critical thinking and application skills.  

If we want our students to understand the scientific process, we must make the time to go IN DEPTH from the very beginning.  We need to help students analyze each step and apply each step to different situations.  We need to provide our students with more opportunities for discovery and exploration and stop feeding them all the information.  THIS IS A DISSERVICE TO THEM.  I don't have time to point fingers at anyone else to felt breadth was more important the depth, but instead this is a great learning moment for me to capitalize on.  I want my students to delve into the inquiry process and not limit them by a pacing guide that tells me how long I need to address a topic.  A pacing guide doesn't serve learners' needs.  

What do you want your students to leave with when they move on to the next grade level.  For me, I want them to love and understand the scientific process.  For this to happen, I must want them to do more than just memorize steps. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Back 2 School

While many of you are still enjoying your breaks, some of us have returned to school.  Over this past summer, I have done my research on technology in the science classroom and found so many tools I wanted to use to enhance learning.  You can imagine the frustration that occurred when over 90% of the sites were blocked.  Although disappointed, I realize that this is only a minor obstacle.  It doesn't stop me from using technology, but forces me to be a bit more creative.  Technology doesn't define my classroom and shouldn't yours.  Instead we must look at technology as a vehicle to support learning.  Learning should occur through technology.  I am not sure what obstacles you might find as you integrate technology.  Don't become frustrated or disappointed by what you can't use.  Instead just get more creative!  I want to wish everyone a wonderful year teaching science.  My journey begins here.  As I stated before, the purpose of this blog is to share my experiences teaching middle school science with other educators.  I hope that my experiences this year are an inspiration for you and your classrooms.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Animoto for Education

Today marks Day 3 of Preplanning and I am excited that school is about to start.  Of course, there are so many ideas running through my head about what to teach and how to teach.  However, I am also thinking about setting the tone for my class and giving parents and students an idea of what to expect.  For that, I turned to Animoto for Education.  Because Open House is this evening I wanted to put something together for my new families so that they can see that science plays a role in daily life.  Animoto is a great presentation tool for sharing music, videos, images, and text.  Once you put together the presentation, it can be shared or embedded on a number of websites.  Here's the first of two presentations that I have made already:

Application in Science:
1. Let students take pictures during an experiment, share them on class blog.
2. Create presentations on a topic or concept (teacher or student created).
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