Letting it go…… with Yr 10 Staying Alive

I LOVE year 10 Science. There is more freedom (still have to do standard tests/assessments that all the other classes are doing and have the exams at the end of the year but there doesn’t seem to be the same pressure….)  and you can take a little bit of extra time to get to where you need to go. We are introducing the Science Capabilities into our curriculum this year and so we got an investigation in there as well.

So this year I decided to tackled this topic a little differently and want to make it more inquiry based for the students while still within the constraints of the shared assessment tasks. I explained to them that they could have a mixture of ‘me’ class time where we went over what was going to be assessed and ‘them’ class time where they could explore an idea or complete an investigation of their own. I didn’t really like the me and them terms, but couldn’t really think of anything better at the time – teacher lead vs student lead might have worked but sounded a bit OTT when I was talking to the class.

For the ‘me’ stuff, I made up a document with pretty much all the information on it they would need for their assessment. Learn that and pass the test type stuff. I emailed parents and let them know I had given some notes and there was additional info on the class ultranet page. A few parents requested access to this, so I re did the ultranet pages as OneNote pages so students and parents could access the info. And for most lessons, there would be 20-30 minutes of me time (whether it be a ‘lecture’ or an activity etc) and 30-40 minutes of their project time.

Students did a great job of working on their projects – and there were some outstanding learning throughout the unit. I learned some thing to – mostly around minecraft but also about brain function and memories, more about blood types, a little about diabetes. A group did some amazing work on Minecraft building a heart and lungs, a group made a prezi presentation, other groups just did an open end research project about the brain (they made a poster but talking to them they preferred just reading up about stuff), so group/individuals did a resources sheet or a revision sheet (think crosswords etc). One group made this video about the heart

The topic has ended and on the whole the students achieved very well in the end of topic test. A couple didn’t do so well, which lead to a good opportunity to talk about how we can work together to improve for next time – students identified a number of things that could help but a couple could definitely have done with a little more structure.

I surveyed the students to get there thoughts too. (NB, while I am Office 365 in most things and at a 365 school, google forms are awesome for a quick survey of students. I have signed up for the 365 forms preview, hopefully we get on board with it soon)

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So most students enjoyed the individual project – the show of hands for who wants one in the next topic showed this too – they definitely want to do another one.

I asked what could have made the project better…. most thought it was fine or had practical suggestions, but a small group thought this

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Which is a little soul destroying…. but also these are highly motivated students who want to do well. So for next time, I will maybe offer 5-6 topics that relate more to the assessment so students who wish to can chose those options – while gently reminding them that life isn’t all about assessments 🙂

The other interesting piece of feedback I got was this…

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Which reminded me about the POGIL talk from BioliveChemED last year which talked about the fact that students didn’t feel like they had learned anything unless the teacher had said it, even if they had worked it out doing the work themselves. So despite the fact that most students got top marks in both pieces of assessed work (or missed out for something silly like UNITS which they will remember next time) they still felt like they needed more of me up the front. The videos were a mixture of youtube clips and Office Mix clips I made, so next time I need to distinguish this better on my survey!! The ‘other’ suggestions included a practice test (fair call) and more homework sheets/structure around home work. I am going to think about the home work one – part of the idea of this was to get students to be more independent… but if they have identified the need for more structure, then maybe this counts….

So for the next topic (electricity) I am going to change it up slightly, and have 2 normal lessons and one inquiry/own learning lesson a week. I will still provide an information booklet/OneNote with all the notes and some extras as a ‘safety blanket’ for myself and them so that those who ask for more notes can copy them down from them. I am also going to make the homework option but have a lollipop or something when someone hands in 3 sheets for feedback as a middle ground I think. I’ll ask the class tomorrow what they think and go from there.

My last survey question was what do you want to learn about for electricity.

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I loved the question about lightning hitting the sea, can’t wait to see what my minecraft fans come up with, and LOVE LOVE LOVE that there is a history question in there too – we are going to have some fun. I can see another attempt with the Lord Kalvin water dropper happening and some maker stuff and some motors and ……

Have fun


3 thoughts on “Letting it go…… with Yr 10 Staying Alive

  1. Hey Rachel, your post and the challenges presented fom your students – ie how they perceive learning – has both inspired me and got me thinking about the purpose of learning. It is very sad that some students feel that it is only worth learning something if it is going to be assessed. I wonder how we might change that perception…..whether we can talk to students about some of the bigger ideas…discussions about “what is the purpose of learning?”, “what learning from school have you used in your life outside school?”, “what sort of person do you want to be and what learning do you need to be it?” and so on. And then there is the “what is the purpose of learning science?” – an even trickier proposition.

    I recall my first year at Ormiston and our first three teaching themes were….’why trust science?’, ‘issues of skin cancer – students followed their own inquiry around risk factors, prevention or treatments – and because of the christchurch earthquakes that year students we added an option of exploring the science around earthquake proof buildings’ and “models in chemistry – strengths and weaknesses”. Then somehow we ended up doing (as nearly every school in the country does) a rates of reaction assessment and a student said to me….”Miss – what is the point of this…I get the point of everything else we have done….but this just seems like following a recipe”….which 1. was really insightful, 2. made me chuffed that he recognised the purpose of what we had been doing prior to that, and 3. made me think about how quickly learning can disconnect from purpose…and that I needed to rethink this part of the course.

    Anyway I guess this is why I am so drawn to learning that is open ended – where we don’t know what the answers might be – but we do know some processes to follow and some big science ideas that will help us build understanding as we go. And no-one really wants to engage in an open-ended context unless there is a purpose – be it a competition, solving real problems, making a difference in the community.

    This is a long winded way of saying – what is the purpose of the learning for the ‘them time’? Does there need to be a purpose? If so, does it need to be the same purpose for each student? Is the main purpose the opportunity to inquire? And will them time continue to be engaging and what place does purpose have in that?

    So, we have only just met (how great was educampScience!) but this response will give you some insight into how I think….it tends to be in questions – mainly cause I don’t think there is only one way of doing things and enjoy the rich understanding that develops from posing questions and getting different points of view.

    Thanks for sharing your learning journey with us.

    1. Thanks for your comments Gaye – and it was AWESOME to meet you yesterday!!
      Your question around purpose has really made me think. I didn’t give my students a purpose, I wanted it to be open ended so they could explore something of interest. But by doing that without a purpose, I can see how students didn’t see the point and felt let down about what they see the purpose of Science class as, which is to pass the test.
      It’s a bit late now for the current topic (a short sharp electricity topic) but for the next one I am going to explore some more relevant or purposeful inquiries we could do, or how I could make it more purposeful for the students who need that structure
      Thanks again 🙂

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