Monday, 29 April 2013

Revising Hands-On Assessments (Science 9)

 Original test set-up (circuit stations at front of room)
This week we finally had our first physics test on current electricity.  The students were required as part of their test to create a simple circuit from a diagram provided.  I made 2 major changes to this lab question from previous years.  First, instead of using the front 4 tables as lab stations, I used the side counters.  The reason for this was that last year's students complained of feeling the pressure of performing in front of their peers even though no one was actually watching them (see photo).  I noticed that the less confident kids did indeed choose to wait for the lab stations near the back corners of the room.  I could tell this since these 2 were the stations that required the most support.

This brings me to the 2nd change.  I made circuit question out of 11 marks.  Sensing apprehension, I told the students that building the circuit was only worth 5 of the 11.  If they couldn't figure out how the components went together I explained that after they attempted to build the circuit I would come and fix anything that they did wrong, obviously subtracting 1 point per error.  So,  in worst case scenario, they might get 0/5 but in reality the lowest score (in this class) was 3/5.  However, knowing that their circuit was going to be perfect before they made their readings on the ammeter, voltmeter and resistor (which they needed to perform the calculations required for the other 6 marks), they felt good about getting at least 6/11 possible marks.  This also made my marking much more authentic. Last year I was giving out zero marks for their calculations since their answers were wrong due to errors on reading their meters.  I feel better now about not giving marks for construction and rewarding proper calculations since their raw data is now accurate.  Of course if their calculations were wrong, now I knew that they didn't know the formulas instead of not knowing how to build the circuit.  Both are important and I like having separated the two and the students felt this was very fair and actually reduced some of their anxiety.

Post Courtesy of Tim Haberstock

Monday, 22 April 2013

Five Senses Search

As an introduction to descriptive paragraph writing, I had students search for descriptions of the five senses in a paragraph.  Each sense was colour coded and corresponded to different coloured sticky notes.  I had them take turns grabbing a sticky note and sticking it on the screen.  As we discussed and agreed on their findings, I highlighted them in the same colour on my computer (mostly because they didn't stick very well).  Afterwards, they were to write their own descriptive paragraphs that included all five senses.  They really enjoyed this activity!

Post courtesy of Lauren Vallis

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Outdoor Adventures and "Doodling" in Science

We're into another science unit, this one is simple machines.  Again, being years since I've taught science, I didn't want to do the same old, even if it did involve more hands on than other topics.  Our first task was to explain force, with reference to friction, slope and load.  We spoke briefly, putting the terms on the board and telling the kids we would be having a lesson outside.  Afterwards, they would be using the given terms to label a 'doodle' illustrating the lesson.

We took the kids to the sliding hill with a sled and a mat.  With students making predictions and observations along the way, we had one child, then two, slide from a marked point where another teacher and I held them back.  This also gave us an opportunity to introduce potential and kinetic energy.  We repeated this with the slide, the smooth side of the mat and the woven side of the mat.  They could easily predict what would happen so they were just getting the science behind what they already knew. Below is an example of a student illustration of the outdoor experience.

Post Courtesy of Judy Schneider

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Interest and Relevance (Humanities 8)

I would like to share a one-day-at-a-time story about the bright, young, kindhearted, frustrated, disengaged and sometimes (very) difficult, student on whom I am focusing my "lens". He and I are learning alongside of each other in English and Social Studies (am realizing he is teaching me as much as I him). As I try new strategies to engage the class (and... hush... him too), our class CEA, Mrs. P, has quietly inquired as to how he is "feeling about his learning".  5= very good!  1= would rather poke out my eyeballs than experience this lesson again. You can probably see where this is going...  We did a hands on activity using playdoe in Social Studies... 2.5. (not bad).  We did a "stretch your sentence" exercise in English (he wrote a great sentence and I heaped on the accolades)...1.  We did a "scary story" exercise where students borrowed sentence structure to form their own sentence (he again wrote a great sentence)...1.  When asked why a "1", he responded, "That's just how I am used to feeling." So there it is... learned defeatism?  Whatever the case, I understood that the road that is the classroom experience was going to have to look different for this fellow.

Enter Minecraft.  In an effort to find a medium of engagement, my student and I came up with a project that was a good fit for him. In lieu of the essay writing/public speaking assignment that was the final summative assignment of Term 1, he would teach me (his old lady English teacher) how to play Minecraft via a directive video. That very night he completed the assignment. Using a microphone and a program he found and set up, he proudly, comfortably and confidently, walked me through "Minecraft". I had never heard him say so many words with such enthusiasm! Very cool.
This actually happened awhile ago - we celebrated the success of the assignment, and my student had an opportunity to feel success. I decided to hold off on assessment, partially because I was not quite sure how to go about it.  We returned to  "one-day-at-a-time" pace, but this afternoon I had a bit of an epiphany about the assessment of this assignment. In taking a 2nd look at Holly Colquhoun's blog on the competencies (or "21st Century Fluencies")  she had been exploring, I realized that this is what the Minecraft assignment was able to demonstrate, which is actually quite a lot!

1. Problem solving
2. Creativity
3. Analytical Thinking
4. Collaborate ( a bit less of this, but I understand when he plays regularly, he often must negotiate with other players...)
5. Communicate
Clearly - this student is part of the digital generation.

So - next the step for me is to sit down with my student, review his video, and see how the skills he is able to show in his assignment connect with the above elements. I am hoping he will see what a talented, capable person he is!

I'm shooting for a "3.5" on this one!  Will let you know how it goes!

Post courtesy of Andrea DeVito