In my never-ending quest to simplify my instructional process, I created this template for my students to record their activity (laboratory) investigations for next semester. Make a copy for yourself! Below is a GIF of the template in action.
Lately I have been obsessed with simplifying my curriculum. That is, drastically decreasing the Extraneous Cognitive load of all materials, technology, etc.
Perhaps I'm just maturing as an educator? Perhaps I'm just EXHAUSTED by all the options out there. Or perhaps I'm just developing a much deeper love for the content I'm teaching rather than the tools used to teach it?
I'm sure it's a combination of all things. Either way, I find it fascinating, and somewhat paradoxal, how attempting to deeply simplify the tools I and my students are using poses as a greater instructional design challenge than leveraging a system of complex tools.
Either way, this coming semester (classes at my school are a semester long) I am going to be transitioning all of my class websites from traditional Google Sites to simple Google Documents.
I use our class website to not only curate resources, but also deliver all instructions (link documents, practice problems, activity templates, etc.). In transitioning to a Google Doc based system I plan on having one document, that is broken into individual learning cycles where students will access all class materials.
I will use one hyperlinked bookmark to identify where we are in the document for that particular day so students feel a sense of flow and organization to the document. Students will click on the link at the top of the page and be shuttled immediately to the portion of the document for that day.
Click here for an example of an old website using Google Sites, and here for an example of the beginning (2 of 6 units have been completed) of my new system.
I will also be including a "Teacher's Corner" (under construction...apologies) link at the top that will outline how each unit is designed according to the 5E/Hero's Journey learning cycle format.
I do not explicitly indicate the curricular jargon to students, rather I want them to experience the journey authentically. However, I want you, and other fellow educators, to be able to access my thinking.
Not sure if this post makes any sense, but I am SUPER excited about the challenge in simplifying my curricular materials for both learning and instruction. I will be updating this process as I progress over the next few months under the "Projects" tab.
About three months ago I did something I often do but I am embarrassed to admit:
I assigned a "sub lesson" when absent, asked students to submit evidence of completion, and then...
...wait for it...
DIDN'T EVER LOOK at the document!
Yes, I suppose it's a combination of my confidence in the accountability created by having students submit images via a collaborative google doc, and the pure hecticness during the school year. More of the later.
Anyhow, here I am, sitting at some random cafe enjoying my summer and cleaning up my Google Drive, and I stumbled upon a Google Doc that contained a sub assignment I had asked my students to do when learning about balancing ionic compounds.
I have been striving to incorporate more inquiry into my sub assignments, and this was my first stab at it.
A little bit about the lesson:
My 4-year-old twin boys were gifted a set of HUGE, generic legos, and I had a thought! See image below:
While my kids quickly realized that they were not "real" Legos and went on to doing whatever 4-year-old twin boys do, I saw a potential sub lesson!
In my chemistry class we had just got done learning about the Periodic Table of Elements and how positive and negative ions form. I had yet to introduce the idea of ions transferring electrons to form balanced ionic compounds. Hence, the entry point for inquiry!
I was to be gone the next day of class, and I decided to cut all the legos into blocks of 1, 2, or 3, bumps (not sure what the correct term is?), that, in my mind, represented the +1/-1, +2/-2, and +3/-3 ions. It is a common activity to have students form ionic compounds by fitting them together correctly.
But, my students did not know this. Hence, the entry point for inquiry!
After placing all the pieces in the center of the room, I emailed my sub the following prompt:
Ask students to model the formation of Ionic Compounds using this document. Ask them to insert images of their models into the document.
To be honest, I had know idea what they would produce, as the prompt was very open-ended in general, let alone for a sub assignment.
Back to the point of this post. When I looked at their responses...today...I was blown away. They completely nailed the activity. Shame on me for not even following up with them the next day in class...It is so easy to lose track of the most important things as a teacher at times.. Embarrassing, but true.
Below is screenshot from the shared google doc where they uploaded their responses:
*Note: The below lesson is only an outline meant to encourage deeper thinking about the 5E cycle.
NGSS: HS-LS2-3: Construct and revise an explanation based on evidence for the cycling of matter and flow of energy in aerobic and anaerobic conditions.
Display the below image and ask the question: What are you curious about?
Desired student questions include, but are not limited to, the below:
*Purpose: To surface content related questions without explicitly asking students.
Teach how to leverage Arduino Uno to create their own Pulse Oximeter. Click here for instructions and materials. Once complete challenge students to design and conduct an experiment to determine the impact that various types of exercises and activities (breathing through a straw, etc.) have on pulse and oxygen saturation. Students will then hypothesize the relationship between pulse, oxygen saturation and energy use. Experiment must be conducted using appropriate research design methodology. (Control, independent, dependent variables outlined clearly)
*Purpose: To challenge students to think deeper about energy during exercise and strain, as well as revisit research methodology and promote crosscutting NGSS integration such as engineering, etc. into the lesson. By not addressing "Blood Doping" directly, students are left wondering the relationship between the "Engage" and "Explore" phase further intensifying their curiosity and desire for more content.
Conduct a lesson on Cellular Respiration, clearly outlining and diagraming the process of Glycolysis, Krebs cycle, and defining organelles such as the cytosol and the mitochondria. Once complete, ask the driving question: How does the processes outlined relate to "Blood Doping". After students share their responses, play the video below:
*Purpose: To deliver basic content (diagrams, processes, vocabulary) to help students make a deeper connection between the "Engage" and "Explore" phases.
Pose the below medical case study to students and challenge them to:
A, 23-year-old, 5’ 9”, 105 lb, caucasian female presented in her physician’s office with a sudden onset of weight loss along, pain when urinating, and chronic extreme hunger. The patient also reported a strange mold-like substance forming in her toilet over the past week.
*Purpose: To facilitate connection between information obtained during the "Explain" phase and applications of content in the "real world" (note: I hate the term "real world" but application can extend beyond medical diagnostics, etc.).
As a science teacher, I often get the following statement when working with other educators: "Sparking student interest in the Sciences is just easier. You get to show cool demonstrations and stuff...".
Yes, this is very true. It can be easier.
BUT, I recently had an incredible conversation with a Humanities teacher at my school, and she shared some incredible great resources for leveraging data visualization a method for sparking student curiosity in the humanities.
If you are not familiar with data visualization, check out this talk.
By finding a visualization, downloading it, removing specific information (titles, legends, keys, etc.) and displaying it to students, questions emerge.
For example, this visualization of drought patters over the course of the past 100 years in America can be a powerful spark to build student interest in the Dust Bowl.
Show students the image, say: "What are your curious about?".
Questions will emerge that will vary but ultimately, because of the nature of the visualization, students will not only ask "What does the orange region represent?", they will also notice that similarities exist between the the 1940s and parts of the 2000s.
Questions will emerge related to differences in farming practices, the economy, polities, etc.
Suddenly a conversation related to the core causes of the Dust Bowl emerges without even discussing the Dust Bowl directly.
THEN, the next day (or for homework) show Ken Burn's documentary on the Dust Bowl. Delay the instruction. Delay the mentor! It's how the Hero's Journey operates.
Below are some excellent Data Visualization Resources: