Prac Take 2. And what I’ll focus on.

So it’s time for my second teaching rounds and I got to meet my first class. Let’s make a list, I love lists. These are the things I will be focusing on this time around.

  • having a structure in my lessons. A CLEAR start, middle and end. This was a HUGE problem last time around and honestly I really regret it. There is nothing worse than a teacher that is running around fumbling trying to finish off the lesson. Aside from seeming unprofessional, it also suggests that your content isn’t so important cause you can quickly rush through it.
  • Developing my students reflective learning practices. I’m going to focus on plenary – 1 thing you learnt this lesson, 1 thing you’re thinking about (link to other subject, found something interesting…)
  • Differentiating my instruction. I will have a lot of group work and I’m going to try to organise groups based on learning styles and ability. This is because many of my classes have a huge varying range of abilities and it’s clear that some students need extra support, for example they are just transitioning to this school from an intensive English school. While on the other hand, in the same class, I have students who are so obviously beyond this content and really require more nurturing. My supervising teacher already does this in the form of different tasks but I feel like I could be more useful if I did it during class time.
  • making science fun! I want to have such a positive environment that (a) students are talking about their learning (b) they are actually happy in class
  • focusing on OPEN ENDED questioning! And allowing students response time. This is going to be my strategy: (1) ask an open ended question (2) allow students to respond in their books (so I must pick these questions carefully, because they are going to form the basis of their notes for that lesson). (3) pick a students’ name randomly to share (I’m going to do this with double sided paddle pop sticks that I stole from here).
  • focus on literacy and numeracy, not so much ICT this time around
  • being consistent when enforcing school policies
  • guided note taking using my pretty awesome, if I do say so myself template that you can totally use and abuse
  • exit cards – with a question on it about the lesson. You need to teach the students how to be reflective though. For example (1) I didn’t understand…. (2) I wonder if…. (3) Is this why…. (4) Can we use this to….. (5) How can we use this information? etc…
  • Greet students outside the classroom where possible and try to enforce good learning practices including having a diary out etc

ICT Tools I love

Organisation:

1. Blendspace: Allows you to curate resources and then share it as a package with your students. Allows collaboration amongst your students and allows you to ask questions of your students. Basically my favourite way to organise lessons to share with my students. 
2. Pinterest: One of the best ways to find new content on the internet. I see it as a curated Google because it’s what other people find interesting so basically it sifts through all the low quality material and gives you the creme of the crop. 
3. Evernote: 

Collaboration: 
1. Google Drive: THE best way to collaborate online. Allows you and your students to share work and be constantly up to date. Allows you to upload from within the site and share with people you want to collaborate with either as a View Only option or an Edit option. 
2. Brainscape: Creating flash cards in an easy to use platform. Also has a neat feature to “remember” which you got correct and which you got incorrect and retest you on those you aren’t sure of. 
3. Curriculet: A way to annotate passages of text. This would be fantastic in class when we are reading a new bit of information and it’s got a lot of new terms in it. Students can comment and ask questions on the text. 

Creativity:
1. Spicy Nodes: Absolutely stunning way to create mind maps. Students can collaborate on them and add images and websites. 
2. Venngage: Creating infographics! So gorgeous. So easy. The only downside to this site is you can’t export it to a PDF unless you upgrade your account but you can still view them online. 
3. Podomatic: Creating audio podcasts online. Students will love using this platform as a different method of submitting assignments. Students need to create the audio file on their devices and share them using this site. 
4. Make beliefs comix: Creating comic strips using templates has never been easier. The graphics are great and students can add speech. I can’t wait to use these. 
5. Label59: Allows you to add labels to diagrams. 
6. Edpuzzle: Allows you to edit, crop, add audio, add quizzes and totally transform videos either found online or that you’ve uploaded to the site. Totally flipped classroom worthy. 

Getting To Know My Students

 

00This is my own multiple intelligences chart.


We’ve been told numerous times (and I’m sure that you will agree from your own personal experience) that rapport with your students is one of the most important things to build in a classroom. So many issues that arise in class that relate to classroom management stem directly from a poor teacher-student relationship. We have to know them! We have to know what they like or don’t like. How they learn. What their learning background is. So how the heck can we learn all of that while on Practicum? We have basically less than a week get to know our students.

I used this get to know you template. But I’ve tweaked it to suit my needs. Some of my students were quite offended about the Mothers occupation and Fathers occupation section so I’ve removed that and some other generic questions and tried to target questions that really tell me how my students are as learners.

To make the task less daunting I volunteered information on myself. In the updated version I’ve also added the Gardners Multiple Intelligence quiz and fill-in-the blank scaffold. It is my intention to use this template in my upcoming Practicum in order to facilitate group work. Students will be assigned particular roles in groups that align with their preferred intelligences. In a survey I had my Practicum 1 students complete 78% of them said they understood the purpose of the activity and most said that it was a positive way to get to know them. One student commented that she would have liked to get to know her usual classroom teacher in this way also! This task allowed me to build a rapport with students who were then more comfortable with me as they knew I was trying my best to treat them as individuals (Buskist & Saville, 2001).

You can download a PDF version here. or if you’d like to tweak it yourself: Here’s a Word Document.

Buskist, W., & Saville, B. K. (2001) Creating Positive Emotional Contexts for Enhancing Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from http://www.socialpsychology.org/rapport.htm

What my students say about me.

One of the most useful things I did on my first practicum is invite my students to complete a Survey Monkey about my teaching methods. I used the AITSL standards as a basis for my questions and tried to keep it nice and sweet. For each question it was a Yes or No with an option to leave a comment. The questions I asked my students were:

1) Did you feel like you knew the purpose of the Facebook get to know you activity?

2) Do you feel like I challenge you enough in class?

3) Do you feel like you can ask me questions in class?

4) Do you feel like I explain things well?

5) Do you feel like you learn in my classes?

6) Do you feel like the class environment is well managed?

7) Do you feel like I give you enough feedback on whether you are achieving the learning outcomes of my lessons?

8) What do I do in class that you like? Or what would you like to see What do I do in class that you don’t like?more of?

9) What do I do in class that you don’t like?

Obviously I kept it anonymous. However, I wanted to bribe my students to do it with candy so I added a second page that they could screen shot to show me that they did the survey. Side note – I would never give out candy as reward for doing class work. That should be a reward in itself. *off my soap box now*

You can view the results of the survey.

There are some things that arise from this survey

  • students felt that they knew the purpose of the get to know you activity however some questions were irrelevant
  • I don’t challenge my students enough. They feel like I’m just cruising them through on the bare minimum that they need to know. This has a lot to do with my inexperience at differentiating lessons. I don’t go into enough depth with the content sometimes.
  • I encourage students to ask questions in my class and I’m approachable
  • I explain concepts well but sometimes I go too fast. Using different methods to get my point across e.g. videos helps my students to understand better. The use of analogies was very helpful in explaining difficult concepts.
  • I try to explain things a number of times to ensure that my students understand.
  • Students need more guidance as to what to write down.
  • I don’t give my students nearly enough feedback on whether they are achieving learning outcomes.
  • Students overall liked: animated descriptions, humour in class, mini-whiteboards, videos, class discussions, guided note taking, practicals, fun facts, the questioning methods I use.
  • Students didn’t like: comprehension worksheets, that I didn’t challenge them enough, when I explained things too quickly, too much information, not revising previous lesson or outlining learning goals.

The Urey and Miller Story

download (1)This here is Stanley Miller.

When you tell stories in science and make it relevant to students they remember it better. Let’s take this example of the story of Urey and Miller and how their revolutionary experiments have impacted our ideas on the origin of life on Earth.

My Origin of Life on Earth story

So the first thing you should know is that the Earth is really old. Really really old. It’s 4.5 billion years old. But how old is that? I don’t know! So let’s do something else. If we imagine that the whole time that Earth has been around to be 24 hours. Then we can work with a timescale that we’re a little more familiar with. Ready to join me? Okay.

So at 0:00 the Earth just formed.

At 2:35 am prokaryotic life (bacteria + archaea) form

Nothing much else happens till 4pm. Bacteria are just hanging out there. Making the world oxic.

At 4pm eukaryotic life appears. These are organelle bound remember.

Again, nothing much happens until 9:45pm where insects appear.

10:33pm Dinosaurs appear

10:54pm Mammals appear

11:57pm Modern Homo sapiens appear

1 second ago – first Aboriginal cultures appear

All of recorded history lasts only 0.03 of a second.

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Mind = blown. That’s pretty incredible isn’t it?

So then let me introduce you to two men: Oparin and Haldane. These guys both independently hypothesised the conditions of Early Earth. Haldane goes hmmm I wonder if biomolecules began to exist on Earth as a direct result of the conditions of Early Earth. And Oparin goes: oh man! I thought of it first, but I didn’t publish it in English and so no one knew about it! *sad face*

What did they think Early Earth was like?

  • it was HOT
  • it was gaseous
  • there was no oxygen
  • there was a lot of water
  • there was a lot of lightening storms
  • there was a lot of UV radiation as there was no atmosphere

Now introducing another two guys. Harold Urey and his slave graduate student Stanley Miller. Mr. Urey says “Hmmm I wonder if I set up an experiment with all those conditions, would it give rise to those biomolecules? If only I had a grad student to do all this research for me….Oh Stanley!!!!” And Stanley of course says “Yes Boss”.

If you’d like to see a set up of their experiment this site has a fantastic video to explain it.

In my powerpoint I have a whole series of other useful questions to ask of your students regarding the Nature of Science.

Collaborative Timeline on the Evolution of Life on Earth

timeline

I wanted to do something a bit fun with this. I thought if I made it online, I could make it a whole class collaborative project. I listed the different events in the history of life on Earth and gave my students a brief run down of what the different events were. Then asked them to create a very short summary answering the following questions:

  1. When is this event occurring (provide the best estimates of time period)?
  2. Describe the event that you are researching. Outline key features of the event. Provide references for your research.
  3. What evidence (such as fossils where possible) do scientists use to describe this event? Include images/video.
  4. How does this event contribute to the diversity in the evolution of life on Earth? I.e. what implications does this event have on future life on Earth?

I then asked my students to peer assess another groups summaries against the same above criteria and fix up any suggestions that the other group made on their own summaries. Finally this edited version was to be uploaded onto a class timeline generated on Timeglider. I’m not sure this was the best Web2.0 tool to use for this purpose. It didn’t allow collobration between members so basically we all used the same login and password to create this timeline. In future I would like to look for another tool that allows each pair of students to create an account and then they upload their work from this source. It would aid in me keeping track of who’s submitted their work and who hasn’t. My class’ timeline can be found here.

Modelling the Inheritance of Linked and Unlinked Genes

To model the difference between linked and unlinked genes I used an activity I created that you should view here.

How it works:

By keeping some “alleles” linked and some “unlinked” we observe a difference in the inheritance pattern.

My initial instructions for this worksheet weren’t very clear but I think they are much better now. Ideally it will be printed so that the maternal genes are printed in one colour (let’s say pink, even though it’s a socially constructed convention. Let’s talk about that another time) and the paternal genes are a different colour. If I were to teach this again I would create a class set of laminated linked genes and laminated unlinked genes. The students spent far too long cutting them out themselves and I don’t think the actual process of cutting them adds anything to the learning experience.

Why is linkage important? The linkage of genes has huge implications for the inheritance of alleles. Genes which are on the same chromosome do not randomly segregated in meiosis. They physically cannot because they are on the same chromosome and so are inherited together.

Oh if only biology were so simple. NOT. That would be boooooooring! Evolution is way more sophisticated than that.

In fact, we have a process called crossing over that swaps a little bit of DNA between homologous chromosomes so your maternal and paternal DNA can be rearranged into each of your gametes. So if you can imagine, genes which are closer together are more likely to stay together. It would be very unlikely for a crossing over event to happen right at the exact spot where one gene ends and the other starts and so genes which are closer together tend to stay together.

Difficulties in defining Health and Disease

This is quite a controversial and murky topic when it comes to science (which is something scientists are not always comfortable with let me assure you!). This is because, as you will see for yourself, it is really difficult to define health and disease. I tried to come up with a list of different conditions that might be difficult to classify as “healthy” or “not healthy” if we are to use the World Health Organization definition of health. That is a “complete state of physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.

Complete the poll to see what you think. Also, I’d love to make this list even longer, comment with suggestions as to other conditions, which may be difficult to classify. This form of assessment for learning allowed my students to engage critically with the syllabus requirements and is an integral part of my teaching practice (Quality teaching in NSW Public Schools, 2003). Scroll to the bottom if you want to download the lesson in Word format.

Difficulties in Defining Heath Word Document

Quality teaching in NSW public schools. (2003). Retrieved from https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/proflearn/docs/pdf/qt_EPSColor.pdf

Using an Encyclopedia analogy to describe DNA organisation

While teaching Year 12 students I noticed from their questions that many of them had not yet grasped the concept of DNA structure and organisation clearly. This was very surprising for me, mostly because (1) they were at a selective school so I naively thought that that must mean they would miraculously grasp concepts (2) we were in our 3rd term in the HSC, they should know it by now! To me, huge red flags started signalling and I approached my supervising teacher asking if she would allow me to deviate from the plan and take a lesson to revise key issues. Thankfully she agreed, although I know a little reluctantly, there is a lot of pressure to “get through” content. I couldn’t have these kids get to their final exams and not understand what a chromosome really is. After all, they were doing the core topic in biology – blueprint of life and they were also doing the genetics option. Effectively they could’ve been tested on this content twice. It was a huge gamble if I didn’t go through it.

So I prepared a series of questions aimed at pinpointing their issues. I projected these on the board and handed out laminated sheets of white paper – that I call mini-whiteboards – to each of the students and some markers and we had a quizzing and intervention session. I’d ask a question they’d respond and if it was clear that a few of them (I think I revised concepts if even 3 of them were unsure) weren’t clear we’d go through it.

From their questions it was clear that the concepts of DNA organisation was completely lost on them. They still weren’t clear on what an allele was, what a gene is and how chromosomes organise DNA or what their functions were.

It’s an abstract concept so I totally understand this confusion. If you’re teaching students about DNA, the following analogy I used might help.

All the DNA that we have in each somatic cell is a complete set called a genome. Let’s pretend this is the Encyclopaedia Britannica. You know how we have A-Z and each book has one section of the Encyclopaedia, well our DNA is organised into a similar mechanism. Each large of DNA is called a chromosome. Our chromosomes are different, just like an Encyclopaedia. The A entries are totally different form the G entries. But we need a complete set of A-Z for a complete encyclopaedia. Similarly, we need a complete set of chromosomes 1-23 for a complete genome. To add a little complexity to it, we don’t just have one set of DNA we have two. One from our mother and one from our father. So if we continue with the Encyclopaedia example this is like if we have a whole set of Britannica and another set of the World Book Encyclopaedia. We find the same entries in there, like you’ll find a definition for apple in each but they might be slightly different.

So let’s take it a step further. Each entry in the encyclopaedia is like a gene – it has a meaning and in cells that meaning is a protein. Each gene is made up of DNA in a combination of a series four bases (ATCG) these letters are what make up DNA. Similarly, definitions are made up of words.

So let’s recap.

 

Encyclopaedia Our cells
Broken up into books, A-Z Broken up into chromosomes 1-23
Come in different brands Come in different alleles. We have one of each of mum’s alleles and one of dad’s.
Each book has different entries Each chromosome has different genes
Entries are made up of words Genes are made up of nucleotides
Words are made up of letters Nucleotides are made of sugar, phosphate and bases. Each base is made of either an A, T, C or G. 

 

What do you think? My kids loved this analogy and their relief was the most satisfying aspect of my first practicum. I want to know if you think it will work for you!