Posts Tagged ‘Teaching Science’

… or is it possible to teach science without arithmetic?

© Diane Diederich - istockphoto.com

     I finished my first student teaching block last week.  It was difficult to leave as I had grown quite attached to the students.   As I look back on the experience, I am amazed at how much I learned about myself, my teaching, and middle school science.   It was a great placement with a very experienced teacher who connects with his students so well that there is a constant stream of high school aged visitors stopping in the classroom.  The students were enthusiastic to the point that it was very difficult to practice wait time because many hands shot up after each question.   The staff and environment were incredibly positive and friendly plus I had another student teacher from my program just down the hall.

     One of the difficult parts of teaching science was the near complete lack of ability to do simple arithmetic for most of the students.    They are not allowed to use calculators and the numbers are manipulated so that the arithmetic only involves whole numbers yet… they struggle.   For one of the last labs, I let them use calculators and they regularly reversed the numerator and the denominator.    We worked on motion and speed calculations – sadly there is division involved and there the brain freeze occurs. 

     Today I met with my cooperating teacher for my next placement.   He said that for the general chemistry classes, the work is mostly nonquantitative.   Sigh.   I guess I will learn to teach science without numbers.


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     This is the character that my younger son is portraying in the upcoming play in German class.    Today, he is home from school and making a costume by making a hat and mask to go with a Halloween cape.   The only actual touching of the mask that I did was to help him create a prototype mask that he traced, cut, and painted.    Fortunately, I have learned to keep a variety of craft supplies on hand for creative school projects.     It really doesn’t help that I now understand that this teacher is encouraging multiple intelligences and creative learning styles – I had other things that I needed to get done today including last minute lesson plans.

     I was supposed to teach my first lesson this Friday but on Monday when I walked in, I was told that I needed to do it Wednesday and Thursday, which meant I had to distribute the pre-Lab immediately because there is no school today.   Yikes!   I was ready for my first lesson but the next one, which I was supposed to be next week, got moved up to Friday.    I guess this is the part where I learned to be fast on my feet and extremely flexible.   It might not be the lesson I hoped to put together but it will come together.

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Secondary Science

It must have been my week for observations at the secondary level. I am feeling overwhelmed by middle school lately – my observation is middle school, the Science Stars program is middle school, and my own kids are in middle school. It was time to move up a level and learn more about older students.

I visited an urban high school, pictured above, on Friday and was fortunate to observe three different science teachers – two Chemistry teachers and a Physics teacher. The Chemistry teacher who hosted me was amazing and I took many notes about her classroom and her interactions with students. I even got a chance to practice “the look” on a student who challenged me while the teacher was out in the hall talking to another student. This class was pretty wild and I was actually a bit nervous when she stepped out; immediately, the other student involved in the disruption used the “N” word in a comment made directly to me, I raised my eyebrows and looked at him pointedly, he hastily rephrased the statement, I thanked him for making the correction, and went back to helping another student. That was a bit of a confidence boost.

At the school where I regularly observe, I visited an AP English class where the students were presenting their own version of hell after reading No Exit by Sartre. These fantastic students were enthusiastic, articulate, very creative, and welcoming.

I also observed a Physics laboratory there. It gave me hope that the eighth grade students in my regular observation classroom will grow into calm, mature upperclassmen. Eighth grade students can barely stop talking, let alone sit still – it’s like a watching a perpetual motion machine. The students in the Physics lab were organized; funny in an understated, more cerebral way; and executed a fairly open-ended lab investigation with skill and confidence.

I wonder where I will end up teaching. I’ll be certified for grades seven through twelve which is a huge range in both science concepts and student temperament.

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