I am really loving the blogging challenge. It is stretching some brain muscles in a super good way. While I blog for myself anyway, it has been really good to have some leading questions to get me thinking about other aspects of my teaching and learning practice. For today, that is a resource I have made and used in my class room, and how/why/what can I do to make it better.
So, I am doing two – both quite different, but both super useful.
Digital Organic Map
So, sadly with the embed code, this doesn’t quite work as it is meant to 😦 But each word on the big mind map on page 2 is hyperlinked with the slide with the information relating to that group of compound. It is an effort to show how all of the different function groups are linked together. I have also made some office mix clips around different reactions and functional groups, but because of the size of the file, and that students have to download it, I have them seperate at this stage. (Although thinking about it, I should just link them in…. tomorrows project sorted)
I also get the students to make a big paper mindmap on an A3 piece of paper, and we use SOLO hexagons to link the different groups together as we put that paper copy together.
This helps students make links between the silo’d functional groups. A part of Organic Chemistry students struggle with is the ‘puzzle’ questions. Eg How would you distinguish between families? Filling in a flow chart? I have X, Y, Z bottles, how can I tell what is in each? Because the other standards are much more ‘discrete’ with their questions (ie in Atomic structure and bonding, you are not often asked about a properties of solids question in conjunction with a shape or polarity question) some students do tend to struggle with the connections required for Organic. On the flip side, other students love it, it just clicks for them. Which makes it even harder for those it doesn’t click for.
Making connections is hard – especially hard for students who are used to learning pieces of information in discrete packages. It is also hard to scaffold information by not putting it into discrete packages. When I teach Organic, I am so aware that I teach about alkanes, and then alkenes, and then the reactions between them. And then Haloalkanes, then Alcohols. We might then go over addition reactions and substitution reactions. But putting those ideas together is a challenge – for me, I just think them all at once. But how can you scaffold so many ideas to teach it all at once? If you know, please get in touch.
3 Level Reading Guide
I use this to introduce buffers in L3 Chem. Buffers are HARD. There is some funky maths, some abstract ideas around weak acids or bases, and assumptions you need to remember that don’t always make perfect sense to a ‘suspicious/critical’ mind.
I made this resource when I was at teachers college – so 6 years ago. I sweated over it, wondered if it was good enough, talked about it with my lecturer (the amazing Karyn Fielding – a super star) and then now that I still use it, I am glad of the effort I put in. But I have also realised that really, the questions are not quite so important as I thought at the time – it is the skill I am trying to get my students to acquire with this activity that is important.
To illustrate, I once shared this with my last school during staff PD. Seeing as I am a ‘tech’ person, there were a few raised eyebrows as I gave the staff room the reading, and said ‘you have 3 minutes to tell me what this is about’. Well, the injustice!!!!! Some took one look at it and sat back seeing it was an impossible task. Others diligently started at the beginning trudging through. Some skimmed over looking at the pictures. Some loudly said Chemistry and sports were stupid 🙂 Not one person did what somewhere along the lines I had been taught or learned to do when reading a non fiction article – read the intro, then read the summary. This tells you super quickly what the whole thing is about – you don’t need to know all the details to grasp the key concepts.
I do the same thing with my students. The panic on the diligent wee angels faces as they frantically try to read the whole thing in three minutes. The indifference from those that don’t even try to. The confusion of those not sure what to do. Some just smirk – although some of those doing PE will start reading through with a more genuine interest. None of them has ever skimmed it, they just try to read the whole thing start to finish. So I tell them about breaking the article down. Read the summary. What are the key points? Find them. What are the pictures? A picture tells a thousand words, and so does a graph/chart/equation. So try and get your head round those. They are there to help clarify the text. What about the subtitles? Do they give any clues? And the lesson is less about buffers and more about critical literacy I guess.
It is an important skill that is often overlooked I think. As I tell my students, even the most diligent, organised amongst you will still have those weeks were you have MILLIONS of readings at uni to do, and being able to skim/bluff your way through a tute is ESSENTIAL.
But also, there are real life situations too when this is an important skill. For example, when I was pregnant, I had a horrid time. I got so much paper shoved at me, with information about C sections, turning, induction, anathestics, risks and reviews – I was SOOOOOO confused. And I am pretty good at interpreting information from written papers. So being able to skim a document quickly and get the relevant information from it is not just an academic skill. It is a life skill, for mortgages, contracts, user manuals, info from medical people, all variety of things.
So there are two resources I’ve made and use with my classes, and how and why I use them. If you want a copy – sing out. And if you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them 🙂