Monday, July 12, 2010

Good First Impressions

As mentioned, I am suddenly involved in a chemistry modeling workshop. I have pretty high expectations for this class and I am sure you want to know how it goes. That and Jason wants to know :)

After all the required paperwork, we started class. You know it's going to be a good class when the first thing you do is blow up a coffee can. Well, try to blow it up. It didn't quite go as planned, but hey, fire was involved.

We were divided into groups of three and given a whiteboard. Not one of those shoe box size whiteboards found in the math department. I'm talkin' table size. Awesome. We were to draw the particles inside the can and how the particles changed over time.

Now, since I minored in chemistry, this was not too difficult of an assignment. For me. But this is something you do with your kids, like, on the second day of school. Each group then presented their ideas to the rest of the class. The teacher* asked clarification questions, support questions challenging questions. The rest of the class is also expected to ask questions of the presenters. One of the key ideas here is the creation of classroom climate. You want the kids to feel safe. They need to accept the fact that this is a science class and it is perfectly fine to be wrong. In actuality, we shouldn't point out something that might be right and wrong, but instead ask the kids to explain what they were thinking. If you see something that is wrong, move on to the next group with a transition such as "let's see what they did."

One pattern I noticed right away was our teacher asked most groups the same question. As we all know, kids don't always pay attention when a presentation is going on.** This forces those kids to listen to the questions as well as the presentation itself. And if they ARE paying attention, then by the end of class, they have heard the same idea five times.

Alan (our presenter) has been at this for several years now and has his questioning down to an art. He can get you to say the same thing three different ways really without you even realizing it.

This wasn't all we did today. We really got into lab writeups, lab data and lab data discussion. I am still processing this and will let you know more on that later.

So far, I love this. This is how I teach. Only soooooo much better. One of the problems that has been bothering me lately is the pace I move through the material. I always come away from a lesson feeling rushed and, I don't know, incomplete. Unsatisfied? I get the feeling that going through this process with my kids would not only involve the kids more in their learning, but also slow it down to make it more digestible.

A nagging feeling I have had in the back of my mind is how this is going to be reconciled with my other obsession (SBG, where have you been?). I am a bit worried I am going to have to sit back down and redo all my targets. I haven't even printed them off yet.

*It should be noted that we have two modes in this class. Teacher mode is us talking about our classrooms and asking classroom questions. Student mode is when we are supposed to be in the position of our students and act as they might during class. This is much more difficult for some than you might think.

**What? That's just me?


Anonymous said...

Hi Tracie,

Sounds like a great first day! The questioning is key. Master modeling teachers can get the kids talking and asking question to each other (not the teacher) with very little guidance. Of course, this requires climate-setting and explicit modeling of good questions by the teacher early on.

Don't worry about SBG. I bet your targets won't change to much. You may have to add some targets and most likely change the order.

Looking forward to hearing more about the workshop!

Jason Buell said...

Gah! You and Frank on the modeling train. Guess I better sit and watch those videos Frank keeps sending me. Sounds interesting. Is there a book I can read or is going to be pointless if I don't go to the workshops?

Tracie Schroeder said...

Frank - I looked closer today and think (hope) the targets will line up pretty well. Plus this just gives me one more way to assess those targets.

Jason - I don't know of any book or even if you can access the curriculum if you haven't been to the workshops. I think the PD side of it is crucial, though. I honestly don't think I would have been able to sit down and read the notebook and be able to do it justice. The workshop is taught in the same way it is supposed to be taught, so we see first hand how it will play out in our class. Our presenter has been modeling in the classroom for years, so we are getting all kinds of tips that would otherwise just come with experience.

Mrs. Tenkely said...

This sounds like loads of fun! How many professional development opportunities begin with explosions (or at the very least, fire)? None that I have been a part of!

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