Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The End of the First Model Year

School's out.

I think.

It's been a strange year and it doesn't really feel like the end of school yet. Maybe it was the weather, but even the kids on the last day were just kind of laid back about the whole thing. Well, um, okay, see you next fall!

Now that my classroom is finally cleaned up, I've been able to sit down and think about the year. There are so many things I did differently this year that I am having a hard time sorting it all out in my head.

So let's start with Modeling.

If you didn't know, I accidentally took a workshop on Modeling Chemistry last summer that totally changed the way I teach. Well, that's not entirely true. It totally enhanced the way I teach. It filled in all those gaping holes and dead ends that I kept running into. I was so excited as I went through the workshop, and I still love the program. I am taking the Physics workshop in July and can't wait to go.

What I Like: The Plan.
Modeling isn't just a teaching method. A lot of work has gone into developing the curriculum and coinciding the information with the methods.The curriculum starts at the beginning of our understanding of matter and takes those kids through those observations and discoveries. Kids have to think about why matter behaves the way it does. They create their own "model" of matter, just like all those famous scientists did.

What I Like: The Interaction
At the end of our workshop, we were supplied with a dozen giant student whiteboards and even some dry erase markers. This is where it gets good. Instead of me standing up there telling the class what they should be getting as their model, the kids stand up there and tell the class what they got as their model. Even if you don't follow the Modeling curriculum, go get some whiteboards and have those kids work out and explain what they know. The idea here is that kids are able to ask questions of their peers in order to further their understanding. It's brilliant, it's interactive, I love it.


What I Don't Like: The Interaction
I didn't do this well at all. My kids never truly took ownership in their own learning enough to be able to ask the right questions. I would ask them questions, they would more or less answer them. The other students rarely asked questions and when they did, they turned around and asked me. It's hard to create a student centered classroom when they know where I am. This spring, my Chemistry class was the last hour of the day. I would leave for track. Girls would leave for softball. Boys would leave for baseball. Don't even get me started on the FFA teams. We more or less gave up on the whiteboarding toward the end. If I would do it right, it would be a better tool. As it was this spring, it was so much of a stressor that I simply dreaded it. I'm not sure how, but I definitely am going to come up with some ways of getting the kids more involved.

What I Don't Like: The Curriculum
I have never been one to blindly follow a curriculum. There were a few things that simply were not explained sufficiently for my kids. I just needed to come in from a different angle. This wasn't a big deal, but some of my kids needed more support than what this curriculum supplied. I wouldn't even go so far as to say this is a problem with the program, just that some might need more.

What I Don't Like: Inquiry
Now, before you get all in a fit, I don't mean to say I don't like inquiry. I LOVE inquiry. I want to do more. The program allows for inquiry, but isn't really set up that way. When we went through the curriculum in our workshop, we were supplied with all the labs*, so this is what I did with my kids. It's not the worst thing I've ever done, but I would like to do better. It is hard to turn kids loose in Chemistry (well, for me anyway) when they don't know much about the chemicals in the closet. Shawn has his kids apply for a grant in order to start on their labs. I really like this idea, and am going to come up with something like that. Or maybe I'll just use his. I love the internet. When I cleaned up my room, I more or less organized my books according to subject. I have 17 chemistry lab manuals collecting dust on my bookshelf. I'm thinking that if I give kids a question, if they get stuck coming up with a procedure, they can use the manuals to help guide them along. Someone might as well use them.

Now that I have that out of my system, I can honestly say I love this program and would highly recommend the training to anyone who can possibly get it. The problems I have had I think I can chalk up to this being my first year and not knowing what I was doing. Now that I have at least tried it in a real classroom, I can focus on those things that weren't terribly successful the first time around.

It'll be here before I know it.

*Thinking on this now, it's entirely possible this was done because of time constraints. We covered the entire curriculum (including doing the labs) in two short weeks.

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