So today I spent the day taking two more NYSTCE tests, first the chemistry test and then the students with disabilities test. Anyhow, because of the tests and the work I still need to complete and prepare to teach for the rest of the school year I missed out on a return trip to my undergrad college campus this weekend to celebrate with the TKE boys on shirt night. While I may not be there in person, tonight I was there in spirit as I made myself easy mac for dinner. As an undergrad I was certainly into easy mac because it was cheap and easy to make and I could make a delicious bowl
So my facebook post along with the fact that I’ve been focusing on chemistry gearing up for today’s exam have inspired this blog.
If you ever opened an easy mac container you’ll notice white flakes. On the container it warns you that you will see loose what powder in the pasta and that this is necessary for proper cooking. I wonder what this white flaky substance is. I figured that the flakes are in with the noodles to allow them to cook in 3 1/2 minutes and aid in heat distribution but I did some research online and others seem to think that its used to thicken the cheese sauce and to make it so the water did not boil over. Before this self contained bowl, in college, the macaroni just came in a package that you had to pour into your own bowl and I never noticed the white flakes before. Maybe it has something to do wit the size of the bowl. It seems that I can’t find the answer for sure but some people think that it is a modified starch called Maltodextrin, which is listed in the ingredients, and used to thicken the powder cheese sauce. I guess it would be interesting to do some experiments to figure out (1) what the heck the white flakes for sure are and (2) why the white flakes are in the bowl. Maybe I’ll have some free time tomorrow and see what happens if I cook it without the powder. Just thought it was an interesting concept of science in our everyday lives that I dont generally think about. If anyone has any insights about the powder let me know.
So on the bio listerv there has been a thread discussing the new literacy standards regarding common core. The author of the thread asks everyone how they “intend to accommodate the new emphasis on literacy in a curriculum that is already packed?” She continues to suggest the possibilities of in class readings, substituting of reading for lecture, or even lessening the amount of labs. While not shocked by this post seeing as current teachers probably have not had deep discussions about common core and are not as well versed in it as we are, I am troubled by the fact that there is the assumption that these standards will require an additional unit or two (also proposed by the author in a later post). Have these teachers not examined the standards for literacy in science closely? Do they not already embed relevant readings in their classrooms? Do they not have students follow multiple step processes to carry out a procedure? Are students not required to make claims and support their argument or write as part of reflection on learning activities? I was hopeful to see that some members on the listserv did point out that many of the common core literacy standards are already part of the learning process that takes place in classrooms. I am just amazed at the teaching that takes place out of context instead of embracing all the aspects of science as a whole and embedded the processes, skills, and thinking into the content that is being taught. I guess this particular thread really put it into perspective the change work that programs such as GRS are instilling into their graduates.
So this “week off” has been nothing of the sort. I have been diligently working on my innovative unit paper, greatly improving each section and adding the necessary details that are required for the other sections that I was originally lacking on. What a ton of work! It also doesn’t help that I have some sort of virus that I just can’t seem to kick and of course it hit me full fledged this week Anyways, it has actually been an interesting roller coaster going back and revisiting my innovative unit. Getting the opportunity to reflect on the wonderful work we did as a classroom community and going over arrows and ways that I might do or ask things differently if I were to do it again. Reflecting on all the deep thinking and hard work my 8th grades produced over the last two weeks makes me beam with excitement. Knowing that I had to implement my innovative unit in this particular class originally made me a bit nervous for several reasons; however, over the 6 weeks prior to my innovative unit my trepidation decreased and the excitement increased. It was with bitter-sweetness that I left. I was thrilled that I was going to have more time to focus on just classwork and finishing my degree; but I was saddened by the fact that I had to leave this class after we had worked so hard for 2 months. Luckily, I do get to return and I look forward to learning along with the students over the next few moths as we explore matter, density, and physical and chemical changes along with participating in the 8th grade state exams.
is now posted. The link to the video is posted in the original blog which can be found here
This past Wednesday was Rochester Teacher Recruitment day and I had two interviews with local schools. I felt that both interviews went very well and hopefully I’ll hear from them soon. Even though we had a session in seminar with our supervisors asking us “typical” interview questions, I disliked that “practice” very much. For me, that type of practice does not work well. While, I may have points that I always want to hit on as I’m interviewing I feel as though I cannot practice and script out what I might say. The genuine response and reaction to the person interviewing me is how I personally feel that I respond best. In one of my interviews I got the question, “What’s your X factor outside of teaching?” and I felt comfortable enough sharing with the interviewer that I ride horses and that I wrestle. I also shared with the interviewer that I’ve shared this information with my students at both of my teaching placements and it allowed for another level of connection between me and the students. Now, in the first interview, if I had been asked that question, I would not have taken it there. The way I read the other interviewer was much different and so my response would have been different, or at least I would not have mentioned that I wrestled. I understand that many people must have a constructed response to particular questions, but I also feel that the “in the moment” and feeling out the interviewer play a huge role in your response.
So….what is your X factor?
PS. Here is the link that I shared with the interviewer who was highly interested in my wrestling personification and wanted me to share a video with her: Kaydin Kayge
I am so proud of my 8th graders. They’ve come so far from the first day that I stepped into the classroom. We’ve spent 5 days so far discussing weather and have 5 more days left of the unit. We’ve talked about different weather components, the instruments used to collect weather data, set up an inquiry based investigation studying different factors that affect evaporation, and we have discussed how to make and decode station models. The classroom culture has evolved. Seven weeks ago I entered a classroom where learning took place as an individual process using readings and worksheets. However, in the last 5 days the students and myself have been able to learn from one another, our peers, and make self discoveries. We have had whole class discussions, shared prior knowledge in a carousel brainstorm, better understood weather components through demonstrations and POEs, reflected on activities and our definition of weather, set up an inquiry investigation that allowed for small group work and choice, and we’ve used net-books to create different weather scenarios. I left school on Friday exhausted yet truly happy of what the students and I have accomplished. As I look back at the beginning of my placemen and how nervous I was to have to implement my innovative unit in this class, I cannot help but smile. I believe that it has shown how passion and persistence truly pays off. I am excited about next week as we’ll go more in depth about weather mapping and predicting weather using technology, group work, demonstrations, and self-reflection.
So like all the rest of the cohort I’ve been rigorously planning for my 10 day mini unit on weather as part of a larger unit “Cycles in Nature.” On Thursday I sat down and talked to my CT about my plan from the big idea to the unit essential question, standards, assessments, and daily lesson plans. My CT is just as excited for my unit as I am because she wants to learn from me. She mentioned that when it comes to this topic shes unsure how to teach the necessary aspects and make it truly meaningful and relevant to the students. My CT was able to give me some beneficial feedback and help hash out some ideas further to make sure all the proper scaffolding was there. I’ve applied the few changes that were suggested and I’m prepared and excited to being on Monday. Monday is also the last time that I will be formally observed by my university supervisors. I can’t believe how quickly time has gone by. It seems just like a few weeks ago we were all introducing ourselves and preparing for our beach investigation.
The unit is going to begin with a pre-assessment and carousel brainstorm activity to allow students to share their funds of knowledge that they bring to the classroom. My students get highly frustrated and concerned about questions that they can’t answer so I’ve included a confidence level rating for each question on the pre-assessment so that students aren’t worried as much about putting down a “wrong” answer. Each day we are going to talk about a variable that affects weather along with the instrument used to measure that aspect of weather and the units in which the factor is expressed in. We also will take time every day to add the weather variable to a station model so students can observe the pattern in which we fill it out each day and will have that knowledge when we specifically learn about station models and the other aspects of weather that they show. Students are also going to conduct an inquiry based investigation about the factors that affect the rate of evaporation that adds moisture in the air. Of course we will also go outside to measure weather variables and design a weather report. Through the use of reading, demonstrations requiring students to predict, observe, and explain, stations and groups, and technology we will further explore the aspects of weather and how weather is mapped and understanding cycles can be used to predict future weather.
This unit is going to be vastly different from how my CT taught weather before and I’m excited to work with my 8th graders and see what knowledge and experiences they come in with and how their thinking broadens over the next two weeks.
Hope those that have already started their IU are having a successful and wonderful time and good luck to those who are starting on Monday!
In my Living Environment classes we have been discussing body systems and this past week was the excretory system and digestive system. With the help of the wonderful Jo Ann and brilliance of previous cohort members (thank you Christopher Young), I tweaked a lab that my CT had and turned it into an interactive station activity that modeled the process food goes through while in the digestive system.
It begins with several White Castle frozen burgers microwaved for a few minutes. The mouth is represented by a food chopper and the students begin to chop up the food as the teeth would. Then they add saliva (plain water in a bottle) and continue chopping the food until its a good consistency for their model to swallow. At the esophagus, the epiglottis has to be lifted and a good sized bolus is moved down the esophagus with the help of muscle action by the students modeling peristalsis. The bolus makes its way down the esophagus into the blender that acts as the stomach. While in the stomach hydrochloric acid and pepsin (water with food coloring) are added and then the blender is turned on to help with mechanical digestion. The contents of the stomach are then poured into a stocking hanging from a ring stand to represent the small intestine. The liver and pancreas help with chemical digestion as they add bile and pancreatic juices (more water with food coloring) to the small intestine. The stocking has a clothespin about 2/3 the way down and then also at the end to represent the break between the small and large intestine as well as the anus. While in the small intestine the students massage the stocking and catch the colored juices into a tray labeled “body cells” to represent the nutrients being absorbed and used by the body cells. The first clothes pin is removed and the product moves into the large intestine where the students try to reabsorbed just the right amount of water to make the perfect poop. Once they think its just right the last clothespin is removed and students push the waste out of the stocking into a potty bowl.
Along the way the students that were modeling each station share details with the class (ie. types of digestion–chemical or mechanical, what the different pieces represent, what molecule is being broken down, etc.) and describe what is happening. Once the the system is completed each station is left up and students are free to explore each station and read more about it on the station cards.
This was a great experience for both me and the students. I saw many more students engaged and participating in the activity than I normally see and tons of great discussion and questions being asked during the whole lab. I was able to get a video of one of the classes during the activity and will post that soon! And if anyone wants any resources or materials let me know.
Although I know this is not a huge part of the LE curriculum, it is part of the intermediate curriculum, so if anyone else has other ideas or materials for human body systems pass them along
Food to Feces Video Enjoy!
Last night I spent a couple of hours at the second annual Collaborative Conversations in Science hosted by the GRS program. What a great experience and networking opportunity. I learned so much from these dedicated teachers and plan on incorporating some of the practices that I saw into my future classroom. There were 10 action researchers each presenting an approach they implemented into their classroom to better meet the needs of their students to engage in rigorous science learning. Discussions ranged from using PhET animations, teacher-created videos, diagraming and describing, graffiti walls, and the use of reflection and metacognition. I had the chance to sit with 3 presenters for an extended amount of time and then was able to mingle with many others after the sessions. The 3 round table discussions that I sat for were Nicole Calzi’s “Picture it! Deepening student understanding through diagramming and self-analysis”, Meaghan Kirsch’s “OMG, What just happened? Reflection for retention in science class”, and Mike Calzi’s “Increasing student confidence on exams through question deconstruction”.
The round table discussions were presented in a ventures and vexations format and not only allowed the presenters to share their action research in a way that we could walk away with materials that could be implemented into our classrooms, but also, it provided a forum for the researchers to tweak their practices or push it to that next step.
Nicole’s session allowed me to see more examples of diagraming and describing, which we have experience implementing, but not in a true classroom setting. As I sat there and listed to Nicole present and then listened and participated in the round table conversation, I realized how helpful this practice was for helping students to conceptualize the unseen. I then had the wonderful idea to use this practice as a way to assess students’ prior knowledge and then as a post-assessment on the upcoming digestive system mini unit in LE. This is a practice that I have been exposed to but had not given it much thought since and I can’t wait to see the results of student work.
At Maeghan’s presentation I was reminded again about how “Do Nows” and different lesson closure activities not only lend themselves to a means of formative assessment, but are also important for students to reflect on the previous lesson, prepare for the day’s lesson, and recap what they are taking away from the current lesson. Maeghan used this practice as a way to help students remember and retain information and connect concepts back to other units and big ideas. In my first placement we had daily “Do Nows” that required the students to think about something or answer a question that led to sharing out and a transition into the day’s lesson. The closure activity was a way to quickly assess that learning had taken place and was a way to wrap up lessons and identify any misconceptions. In my current placement, students have daily questions that they are supposed to write down and answer, but because they are only collected once a week on Friday’s it is not as useful in guiding future lessons. I’ve also noticed that not having question to answer or ponder immediately does not prepare the students as well to focus on science and that day’s lesson.
Mike Calzi presented an approach he uses to help increase students’ confidence when answering exam questions. His tactic requires students to slow down and deconstruct questions and rate their confidence in their answer. I have always struggled seeing quiz or unit test scores because the students’ test scores, I felt, were not an accurate reflection of what the students truly knew or could do. I notice that many of my students will rush through exam questions, barely reading the question, and randomly choosing answers based on a couple of key words that they skimmed over. After discussing and deconstructing the question with the student, they could describe their thinking and would ultimately choose the right question, but at the time of the test they were rushing and did not understand what the question was asking. The practice that was presented by Mike seemed extremely useful and a practice that I’d like to implement with my current students.
Overall, a great time spent discussing different practices to meet the diverse needs of our students. I encourage all to participate in next years or even to become an action researcher!
In my placement there has been a routine set in place to have a quiz every Friday on what we’ve been discussing during the week. I’ve noticed that the students tend to rush through their quizzes, barely reading the questions and circling random answers. Listening to and having conversations with students during class verified that the students were in fact developing an understanding of the concepts being discussed; however, their demonstration of knowledge on weekly quizzes said otherwise. The week before February break we had been discussing ecological succession and biodiversity and decided to change up the format of the quiz. I put together a mini book of pictures showing ecological succession along with 10 multiple choice questions at the end (mainly to practice for the format of questions that they’ll find on the 8th grade exam). The students were to write a story of ecological succession based on the pictures and then answer the questions and could receive bonus points for using any of their weekly vocabulary words. At first the students were hesitant about the new quiz format, but as class continued I noticed something that I’ve never seen before during quizzes. Students were concentrated, focused, and were engaged in the work they were producing. Over break I was finally able to sit down and read their stories. I am so proud of their work and understanding of ecological succession as well as basic biodiversity. I shared their work with Jo Ann (who was also impressed by their work) and I wanted to share their hard work with all of you. Enjoy!
[Pics of student work]