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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Using Real World Situations to Assess Science Mastery

     I will be honest, I have been lucky in my last 4 years of teaching, to have had students that truly enjoy learning about science.  For the most part, they see the benefit of learning about the physical properties of matter and how water changes the Earth's surface.  If a student should ask, "how will knowing this help me in the future?" I can easily say chemists and geologists use this information in their jobs every day.

     But why should they have to wait until adulthood before they can apply this knowledge?  I want to make it a professional goal to create performance based assessments utilizing real world problems.  I started doing this last year.  STEMScopes, a curriculum developed by Rice University, has done a great job of creating problem based learning assessments for every learning standard (TEKS).  These projects include developing a recipie for lemonade to study the properties of mixtures and solutions.  My favorite is creating an advertisement to reduce deforestation in the rain forest.  

    I created my own project based on the forms and uses of energy, the MELTS.  The students were asked to design an invention that would help them complete a household chore.  The invention had to use at least three forms of energy.  Students drew the invention and labeled the forms of energy that were being used and then they had to write a paragraph explaining how the energy was being used.  I loved that the assignment combined science knowledge with creativity and the oh-so-important writing aspect.  I want to build upon this project for next year and require students to explain how energy was transformed from one form to another, for example, if the invention had to be plugged in, the student would explain how electrical energy was transformed into sound or light energy.  

   I have made this assignment available at my TPT store.  UPDATE 4/23/2014--THIS PRODUCT IS NOW FREE! Please check it out and provide feedback.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Today's experiment in test review

Erosion Stations from The Science Penguin

This year I have discovered the amazingness of a fellow Texas teacher, The Science Penguin.

I started using her products this fall and have probably purchased every thing I thought I could use from her TPT store. The graphics are great, the notes are awesome and easy for students to follow and everything fits neatly inside a composition notebook.

The state test is just a few days away and I can tell my advanced students are growing tired of the review we have been doing.  Last year I loved what my district developed for review.  It was hands-on, involved critical thinking, and kept the students from becoming bored during this crunch time. 

This year is a different story.  A new group of kids and new personalities.  So I decided to modify the district plan by introducing another product I purchased from TPT.  The Erosion stations unit actually contains 9 stations but for my purposes and time limitation I have chosen 4 that my students will complete today, the Read It, Explain It, Analyze It, and Draw It. activities.

The students seemed to be much more engaged today then they had been last week.  Some of their artwork was fabulous.  They were talking about changes to landforms, using academic vocabulary and reviewing the information in a fun way.  Overall I think the choice to use these stations was a success.

To follow up tomorrow, students will complete a foldable and reflection in their ISN and take a "Readiness Assessment."  A 10 question quiz on the TEKS.  We will go over the questions together and studnets will have the opportunity to ask for clarification. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sometimes goals don't go as planned

It is April. I have not posted since September, so as goals go, blogging this year was not a huge success.  However it has been on my mind a lot lately, and like most goals it is about creating new habits.  Perhaps I should set a blog alarm and post when that timer dings.  Perhaps over the summer I will do some much needed research and develop a greater purpose for this blog.

The best part about goals...they can be re-evaluated.
While I was unable to make a habit of posting regularly for most of this school year, I still have about 6 weeks to try and develop a blogging system.  A goal is best met when clear guidelines are established for how one plans to meet their target, and I did not do that in September.  Today, April 13th, I will set up a set of guidelines.

1. Post weekly.  The post doesn't have to be long.  But I will make a goal to blog everyweek.
2. Share the link to my blog on Facebook, Twitter and my teacher webpage.  It will probably be very motivational if I can actually get someone to view my blog.
3. Figure out how to make my blog improve my classroom.  Maybe I can use this blog to communicate with students and parents.  How can this help me be a better teacher?

These guidelines will hopefully help me develop the blogging habit.