Sense Making and Wrap Up
Wow, I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since attending the NSTA conference in San Antonio! I did learn a lot from my sessions and networking, and definitely did not waste time tweaking my instruction and teaching strategies. One of my PD goals were to spend more class time for sense making and wrap up. I have been using a lot of sticky bar graphs, and poster charts lately to get students thinking about what they know and what they’re learning.
Another thing I’ve been working on from my sessions is being more deliberate with academic vocabulary. I used to have visual vocabulary word walls, but now I have gone back to tiered vocabulary and picking key vocabulary words at a time explained in kid friendly language. I have noted that students seem less overwhelmed this way, and are showing more understanding of core ideas in class.
We have seven or eight weeks left of the school year, and I still have one more action research project for NSTA. I’m focusing on how to make labs more inquiry based. It is quite difficult trying to explicitly modeling sections of an inquiry lab during the last few weeks of school, but I have noticed that students are more motivated and engaged when they are designing their own experiment than they were when I was using direct-inquiry cookbook labs.
One of the online mentors shared her “design diagram”, which I think will come in very handy next year. I aim to spend the first weeks of school really talking about the scientific process, and introducing them to more student-generated inquiry labs. That will help increase the academic rigor in my instruction, and provide students with more practice on inquiry skills.
Bringing In Speakers
Another thing that I have been working on these past few weeks is inviting more people into the classroom to share how they use science in their careers. Last week, we wrapped up our unit on the Digestive/Excretory systems. In one of our morning conversations, I learned that the cafeteria manager loved talking about nutrition and was looking for ways to introduce students to new foods that will be brought in for next year. I quickly invited her to speak to the students about her work as a nutritionist, and we both came up with the idea of tasting stations. Students were able to try dark leafy vegetables such as kale and Swiss chard, whole grain pasta, exotic fruits such as dragonfruit and lychees, and veggie burgers.
It was a great experience for everyone! The students were able to see her in a different setting and experience new foods; she was able to spend time out of the cafeteria and share her passion for nutrition; and I was able to help students make real-life connections with what we were learning in the classroom.
Another person who enjoyed her visit to our classroom was our school nurse. On our quest to design our own experiments to find out how physical activities affect heart rate, students needed to learn how to find their pulse and measure heart rate. The school nurse was able to stop by, talk about how to find pulse points, and even demonstrated with a few students on how blood pressure is measured. She loved interacting with the students, and it was a good experience for them to learn from someone else other than me. By bringing in other people to the classroom, I noticed that students are asking a lot more questions these days about what we are learning. They are more curious, and ask more in depth questions about why and how things work. I definitely will have to spend some time over the summer and find more people to come in throughout the year.