Friday, February 18, 2011

Teaching tools.

So, here are a few teaching tools I've observed, things that I really like and want to use in my teaching.

QoDs: Question of the days are great. They get students to get out their notebooks and start writing right away, and it gives you time to take roll. If they are occupied from the moment they step in from the hall, that definitely helps in keeping you from losing control right away.

Science journals: I can't emphasize how important these have been to students. Each student has a class journal that they use to put all their work in. It gives them a central location for all their notes, worksheets, project information, and everything else they may collect.

Flip books: These go inside the science journal. I can't really describe them well without a picture, but they consist of construction paper folded... hamburger/taco style, with one side cut into small tags. Another way to do it is to cut it in two along the hamburger line, then fold one, then scaffold the other along it, and staple it. The end result is a flip book of sorts where you can write a name, then pull away and see a definition. This is AWESOME for people who need hands on learning, and really feeds into that multiple modalities thing. Plus, it's explicit, and good for quizzing yourself. Very cool method for science stuff that requires a lot of memorization, such as cell organelles.

An attention getter: My teacher uses 5... 4... 3... 2... 1... The kids are conditioned to be quiet when they hear that. Whenever I teach, I use it, and it works wonders. Once I start teaching, that's going to be one of the first things I do, get that early conditioning, as it makes running a class so much easier when you have the ability to make it quiet in 10 seconds.

Standards based grading: Just grade to the standard. My school does this, and enforces mandatory retakes for failing grades. While this causes a lot of problems, I definitely like that students can be explicitly tested on standards knowledge. It makes things just... A lot easier. It's a bit hard to implement initially, but once you get the hang of it, it saves time. An example of this is, if you only grade tests, have each section of 3-4 questions based on one standard, and explicitly state what standard that is. Then, when you are grading, break up the test into the standard parts, so you know what areas the student needs to improve on. It's not perfect, but it makes a lot of sense.

Now, for something that we discussed in class, and by and large, we disagree with. In my practicum class, the teacher pointed out that, if we don't know, offer to have the student figure it out on their own, and reward them if they found out.

We all disagreed, for the most part. Students don't really want to do the work to find out something they don't know- that's the teacher's job. While it is a good idea for students to try to figure things out on their own, they are most likely going to either A: Go straight to their parents, who might not know, and then B: Go straight to google, which will probably give them an incomplete or completely wrong answer. They then report an answer that is not quite correct to you, who might not have had the time to do the research yourself, and you say, 'okay, here's your candy bar.'

Instead, what I heard some teachers do, and I agree with this, is write the question on the board. That might inspire other students to ask tough questions. Then, that night, take a bit of time to try to find out the answer. As science teachers, we are quite capable of determining good information and making sense of complex concepts. If the concepts are things we don't actually know and beyond our comprehension, then that's okay too. But I feel that teachers should put in a good effort to figure out the answer, then, the next day, report it to the class. That way, you retain your position as the teacher, the expert, while students get some degree of ownership over their learning. I'm not saying that I am going to let students derail me every day with questions like, "What does the edge of the universe look like?" or something, but if a student asks, during an anatomy lesson, 'how do neurons talk to muscles?' that would definitely be something I'd take a little bit to learn.

Thoughts? Any other cool teaching tools?


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