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Archive for February, 2009

     This was the week I started teaching in my second student teaching placement after observing for two weeks.   The students are learning about pressure and gases so I started with the can collapse demo – results shown above.  The students were really surprised and I think I did well introducing the demonstration and connecting it to previous learning.  The students had many good questions and an exit ticket showed that most understood the reason for the collapse.  It was a good start.

     This week, there were things that went well but there were also plenty of learning opportunities.   For a lab we did involving balloons, marshmallows, and water flow, I designed a generic lab sheet for Predict/Observe/Explain and used instruction sheets at individual stations.   There was some initial confusion but the students adjusted and it will eliminate throwing out lots of extra lab sheets when students don’t show up for class.   I have some learning to do about classroom management – both in learning what I am willing to tolerate, and how to effectively and appropriately set boundaries about the rest.

     I have been fortunate to work with two Cooperating Teachers (CTs) who have great relationships with their students.   They connect with and engage them with the result that science class becomes a highlight of their day.    I have learned much from watching these teachers teach.   The downside is that many students are not enthusiastic about a student teacher taking over the class.

     Students are not afraid to let you know when they are not pleased and several have made it clear that they are counting the days until my CT comes back.   In my current placement, getting students to come to class is half the battle so keeping them interested and engaged is huge.   If I am going to be more entertaining, I need to get more sleep – by Friday, after five nights in a row of less than five hours sleep, I was definitely not at my best.

     I really like this placement.   I already know that I will be very sad to leave these students when my placement is finished.    This week, I definitely moved their cheese and I need to convince them that it is going to be OK.   (Book reference:  Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Spencer Johnson and frequently quoted by my current CT.]

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Ode to the Library

The View from the Top of the Library

Last week was winter break in our area so my kids and I both had a week vacation from school and teaching, respectively.   My graduate school classes continued and there was enough work to keep me in one of my favorite perches, pictured above, at the top of the library.    There is a desk which overlooks the main quadrangle and faces west so I spent as much time as possible there basking in the sunbeams.   It wasn’t enough because I am still feeling overwhelmed but they tell me this is normal.

This is one of the buildings with a rooftop in the picture.

Where I\'m spending my summer

This is an interior view.

A detail on the front door.

Another view of the doors.

The quote says:   The doors of the present open to those who seek to know what man can do to master his fate by science, sustain his spirit with arts, and guide his life by wisdom.

It’s a very beautiful campus!

A nod to Chris who helped me with my picture posting problem.

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© bluestocking – istockphoto.com

     The last two weeks have caused me to redefine the term busy. It has been action-packed with my graduate classes ramping up and the start of my new student teaching placement. In addition to that, I had two separate, awesome professional development experiences. I went to a workshop for science teachers that Chris blogged about here and an observation of an experienced Chemistry teacher that he blogged about here. I’m not being lazy – at least I don’t think so – by piggy-backing on his posts, but there are other things to ponder and on which I need input.

     I have been thinking a lot lately about assessment.   In my brief classroom experience, I have seen many tests with a format that seems to be standard in test generating software:  a) multiple choice, mostly vocabulary section – usually at least one-third of the total points;   b) constructed response, short answer section – again mostly vocabulary;  and then c) problems both qualitative and quantitative.     I did most of the grading in my first placement over the first five months of school and started grading tests in my new placement on Friday.     This experience is limited but I have already graded too many tests on which the students got every problem, and most of the constructed response questions correct, BUT most of the multiple choice questions wrong.   The result is that students barely pass even when they can do all the problems which is the transfer of skills section.    The students really seem to struggle with vocabulary.

     Vocabulary is an important part of science teaching and learning.  I’m not ready to throw up my hands as I am about math which I blogged about here; I think I have a reasonable expectation that math teachers will teach them arithmetic at some point prior to high school.    Science vocabulary, on the other hand, is my responsibility and important if the students are to have sufficient science knowledge to evaluate new information they encounter throughout their lives.    I need to learn how to effectively teach and encourage them to want to learn science vocabulary.   However, I am also pondering alternative assessment strategies including a) more constructed response – although sadly, in today’s testing environment, they need to learn to do multiple choice;  b) fewer test points allocated to vocabulary; and c) putting the vocabulary portion at the end so the students aren’t so frustrated and were exposed to some of it while working the problems.   The last one I’m going to try on the next quiz or test written by me.

     I would really love to take a course on assessment.   Sadly, I have no electives in this program and it isn’t on the list.   Someday.

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     Well after spending the first half of the school year in a Middle School student teaching placement, I have finally been promoted to high school. I am really enjoying it. I like this level of science much better!

     It’s also great to be doing Chemistry. Most of the project work at school has been Biology, my summer camp experience was Biology, my after-school science club project was Physics, and my first block of student teaching was 1.5 weeks of Chemistry followed by 2.5 weeks of Physics. This caused my lament about Physics as Destiny but now, finally, Chemistry. Don’t misunderstand – I enjoy all science (well macroorganisms, not so much) but I majored in Chemistry because that is by far my favorite.

     This week, I am just getting oriented and observing. My Cooperating Teacher has a great classroom style and I have already learned a great deal from him. Being with older students is a nice change from the fun crazy that is Middle School and I have enjoyed meeting my new students. I am really looking forward to the next two months!

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