I tend to miss class from time to time. I hate missing class. I love nothing more than being with my 9th grade Biology students and 10th grade Honors Chemistry students helping them to negotiate the complexities, and beautiful intricacies of science. Teaching is my hobby.
Unfortunately, missing class is a reality when trying to juggle being a parent of four young children (two being 3 year-old twin boys), managing a career as an educational consultant, and working online an adjunct profession of education, all while trying to maintain my role as a full-time high school teacher.
I am committed to this. I am sure many of you reading this can empathize. It's just what I'm dong. I'm blessed.
However, missing class means creating sub lesson plans.
I HATE creating sub plans.
I have experimented with many different models: guided reading notes, instructional videos, etc. etc., etc. I want the sub lesson to be meaningful, and not just a lesson that all to often becomes a "study hall".
Unfortunately, none of the above methods seemed to lead to anything other than the typical responses. : "Can we have a study hall?", or "Can we watch a movie?", or "I didn't know we were supposed to do it?".
Totally normal, and totally age appropriate. No matter how much I LOVED my teachers in high school, there was always something novel, something surprising, and something fun about having a sub. I get it.
That being said: How can I improve the process? Provide meaning while not being there?
These are simple questions that I'm sure many of you have answers to already, however for me, it has been a significant part of my journey as an educator.
A tangible, grass roots problem that full-time teachers often overlook. How can I be better?
Out of frustration, I sat down a few years ago and wrote down exactly what I wanted a sub lesson to accomplish:
Given that we are a one-to-one school, over the past year there is a method I KEEP COMING BACK to.
A method that ALWAYS seems to work, and checks off each of the boxes above:
Embedding short videos IN a google form with associated summary prompts.
Here's my workflow:
Here's my logic:
Click here for an example of my most recent Google Form sub lesson.
See screenshots of my most recent Google Form sub lesson below:
I have written in the past about how much I am enjoying teaching Biology this year. After graduating with a degree in Biochemistry, my first teaching job, and thus the subsequent 17 years, led me to the world of chemistry education.
Upon switching schools, the opportunity to teach a few courses of Biology surfaced. Two years in, I am humbled by how much I don't know/forgot, both related to content and pedagogy of Biology instruction, and how much exciting opportunity there is in the field.
Keeping the above in mind, I have been experimenting with a "Medical Case Study" approach to teaching the course, leveraging hypothetical patient intake exam symptoms, and subsequent student diagnosis to spark curiosity, and inspired initial research, around specific themes. Click here to read more.
After leveraging case studies as points of entry for inquiry for the past two years, students appear, in general, very excited about facets of science I did not expect.
For example, in researching patient symptoms, students are exposed to medical journals and pharmaceutical research to help validate their hypothesis and gain more information on the topic.
Given exposure to applicable, and important research has appeared to inspire my students to want to conduct their own research in a way that transcends that which can be found in a traditional school curriculum, textbook, or lab manual.
To quote a few students just today (note: students call me by my first name)
"Ramsey, can we do a science fair project? I miss those..."
"Ramsey, the Diabetes article I we read was really interesting. I would like to do a similar study"
"Ramsey, have you heard of the Google Science Fair? Let's do that in our class."
I was drawn to the last quote above, re; the Google Science Fair as I had not heard of it. Turns out, Google sponsors a science fair that is incredibly well organized, and rather than motivated by poster boards or projects that mirror more "arts and crafts" than science, the Google Science Fair designed in such a way that students are inspired to turn their thoughts and ideas into a format that address a gap in the world, and thus, change it!
Serendipitously, the the deadline to submit for 2018 is December 12th, the day my final project (yet to be designed) is due in my 9th grade Biology class. The stars aligned!
So, this year (literally beginning today) I'm going to do the below with the hopes that the public audience will motivate better work, but also, more importantly, leverage the increased interest in scientific research that the medical case study curriculum mentioned above has inspired.
1. Introduce the Google Science Fair (Read rules, show past projects, etc.)
2. Assign each student the task of developing, and prototyping their own idea as the FINAL EXAM.
3. Use the format, already designed by the Google Science Fair, to guide the research process.
4. Require projects to investigate, or build upon, a concept we have explored this year from our curriculum.
5. Cross my fingers.
*Yeah yeah....there will be rubrics and stuff too. I'll share those as they are developed :)
Per #3, the Google Science Fair website includes past examples that provide great reference points for student work, and built in templates for rubrics and research design. As you can see in the screenshot below taken from a past project, the required format empowers students to truly embrace the scientific method and true research methods when conducting their projects. I am so excited to see where this idea goes. Carpe Diem!
I have been dying to learn how to link specific topic headings within my external class website directly to specific portions within Google Document that contains information about those specific sections!
The Google Doc serves as a summary of the unit at hand. A running and flexible document that I, and students contribute to. The external website serves as a static location for all class lesson plans and resources.
By linking the headings within the website we use on a daily basis, to the specific portions of the Google Document, students can target their studying strategically, directly from the website to the summary notes.
I finally sat down and figured it out. Super easy! Check out the video below:
Before every major assessment I like to facilitate review activities in class. That being said, I can only handle the Kahoot theme song so much, play so many games of "Chemistry Jeopardy", or figure out another variation of Periodic Table Battleship to satisfy review of the whatever skills we are learning that topic.
Not that there is anything wrong with the above games, or the myriad of variations. Indeed, if I played Kahoot everyday my students would be STOKED!
However, the above review games, in my mind, always fall short in one area: student creation/invention.
This is where Google Forms is a powerful tool! During the past unit on Formula Analysis, distributed a different problem to each team of students.
I then asked each of students to input their solution AND a Youtube video of them solving their problem on a whiteboard into a Google Form.
I then made the output spreadsheet public, and students spent time solving one another's problems, and watching one another's solutions when they were stuck.
Although not as superficially engaging as Kahoot, watching students invent videos to explain their problems, and negotiate not only the problem, but also how to teach it, was incredibly inspiring, and IMO, much more engaging from an outside perspective.
Although this post is represents an extremely simple application of Google Forms, one I'm sure many of you have already done before or experimented with in the past, the power of immediately sharing the output formula with students, containing live links to the videos THEY created, was worth sharing.
Click here for the Google Form and here for the output spreadsheet. See screenshots below as well.
Yes. I know what you are thinking. This entire post is mute given the functionality of Google Classroom or the myriad of other scripts. However when I want to quickly share a Google Doc template with students or teachers whom I am working with for a short period of time (workshop, science camp, etc.), this process works great. Below is the logic and video tutorial.
Creating a template from a Google Doc is extremely useful when you want to streamline the way students gather data, or engage in a unified activity. When the ridiculously long Google Doc URL template is created (see below video for method), writing a short version, customized URL on the board is very efficient. By customizing the link students do not confused "1" for an "l" an "O" for an "0", etc.