A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of working with the science educators at D211 in Chicago's Northwest Suburbs. As part of the workshop, all teachers were challenged to work in discipline specific teams to create an outline for an NGSS aligned, 5E Learning cycle. They were too good not to share! Click on the image below to access all lesson outlines. Enjoy!
I have written many times before about the connection between the 5E learning cycle and Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey. Click here for a diagram that pairs the two processes together well.
Perhaps the most important part of the shifting one's instruction to an inquiry learning cycle approach is challenge of "Calling Students to Adventure", engaging them by strategically sparking their curiosity. The goal of this process is to STRATEGICALLY elicit spontaneous questioning about a topic in such a way that students begin to ask question about the lesson plan you have already created.
Yes, you could ask them the questions directly.
However, I find when the questions come directly from the students they are markedly more engaged and empowered.
Below is an example of a "spark" I recently found that I plan to use in my chemistry class during the 2018-2019 school year:
Electrochemistry, specifically the intricacies of oxidation and reduction tend to be challenging ones to engage students in. The process of electron flow can be a challenging one to visualize, and beyond making batteries with lemons, nails and pennies, finding a simple, tangible, and engaging way to created a window into the topic and spark spontaneous, natural intrigue about the topic is something I have yet to do successfully.
Keeping this in mind, this summer I spotted one of my 5th grade science camp students dropping a AA battery and watching it bounce. When I confronted him he said:
"If it bounces it's empty. If it doesn't it's full".
At the time wasn't yet aware that this "bounce test" was a viral internet phenomenon.
After sitting there watching this young camper test battery after battery I found myself asking questions:
"Why does it bounce?"
"Why does it not bounce?"
"Is this real?"
"Is this a hoax?"
After contemplating the process, and scribbling the inner workings of an electrochemical cell on the adjacent whiteboard in search of a personal explanation, I finally resorted to the internet and found a few articles on the topic. This article was the most comprehensive and successfully quenched my curiosity.
I also found this video on the topic, which gave me an idea of a potential student activity on the topic.
After spending a few hours reviewing all of the videos on the topic, I decided to create my own battery bounce test curiosity spark on the a few day ago. A simple video that gets to the heart of the issue, and makes the information gap as salient and as clear as possible with the goal of tunneling students into the same questions I asked above.
Click here to see the video or view below:
Essentially I had gone on my own Hero's Journey..Embodied my own 5E Learning cycle..Lived the metaphor that I speak of so much when working with other teachers or writing blog posts (like this one!).
The young 5th grade science camper ENGAGED me with his battery bounce test.
The subsequent information gap forced me to EXPLORE reasons for this by accessing my prior knowledge.
My lack of ability to resolve this perplexity led to a need for a mentor (the internet) to help me EXPLAIN the concept.
I am now EXTENDING this concept, converting it into a lesson plan for the upcoming school year, and will EVALUATE the lessons efficacy when done.
If you found the information in this message useful to your practice, I invite you to learn more about becoming a site member. Monthly membership includes, but is not limited to, frequent distributions of detailed online video courses, lesson plans, teaching websites, curricular resources, and access to webinars exploring the world of curiosity, inquiry, and technology in the classroom. Additionally, you can find a copy of my new book, "Spark Learning: 3 Keys to Embracing the Power of Student Curiosity", by clicking here.
1. Use a Learning Cycle Template. (click here for an example)
Lesson planning can be an empowering, but also arduous process. New teachers often fall into the trap (as did I) of lesson planning day by day, often losing site of the lesson's big picture. In my recent book, Spark Learning: 3 Keys to Empowering the Power of Student Curiosity, I note the serendipitous connection between the 5E Inquiry Learning Cycle, and then traditional cycle of the Hero's Journey as outlined by Joseph Campbell. The above template, designed with the 5E/Hero's Journey connection in mind, can help streamline and empower the lesson design process by providing a more holistic approach, empowering us to lesson plan in chunks, with a focus on student curiosity, and leveraging lecture as a responsive, rather than directive tool. The template also provides a structured space to outline necessary tech interventions at each step, promoting pedagogy, before technology.
2. Leverage a Google Slide Template to Collect Student Work (click here for an example).
As a science teacher, collecting, curating and grading student work during and after various class activities (labs, projects, etc.) can be a complicated process. Over the years I have tinkered with using paper notebooks, type written lab reports and a myriad of tech interventions to empower this process (Evernote, Google Docs, Google Science Journal, etc) . Each method has had its benefits and drawbacks, ultimately simplifying some steps in the process, but overcomplicating others for students. Although not as aesthetically appealing or as "innovative" on first glance, Google Slides allows for easy text editing, photo inclusion, table production, and video embedding, four features that are essential to student documentation of work. Moreover, upon conclusion of the year, students can then embed each presentation in a Google Site, creating a very simple, self-curated portfolio of work.
3. Teach from a Website (click here for an "in progress" example).
Much like the the collection of student work noted above, many different options for structuring how the information is presented to students in class exists. I have tinkered with teaching from slide decks (PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Slides, etc.), printing handouts (my least favorite), and the every popular, "just winging it", method that I embraced for my entire first year of teaching. As is evident from this blog post, I value simplifying the process for myself and students. Keeping this mind, I have transitioned to a system where unit plans are transported from my template (see #1 above), to a website. By using a website for class "presentation", teaching can be done using any device with internet access, and in a one-to-one environment Google Documents can be linked with various tasks and information, but sharing permissions can be altered to promote the gradual release of content that inquiry learning values.
If you found the information in this blog post useful to your practice, I invite you to learn more about becoming a site member! Launching on July 15th, site subscription include, but is not limited to, monthly distributions of detailed online video courses, lesson plans, and access to video webinars all exploring the world of curiosity, inquiry and technology in the classroom.
Mother's Day 2018 is almost coming to a close, and in the name of my amazing wife and Mother to our four children, I am struck with the urge to use the last little bit of energy I have today to giveaway 10 copies of Spark Learning to fellow educators in her name. An incredibly talented Special Educator Teacher, my wife was instrumental in supporting and counseling me as I prepared for TED and subsequently unpackaged the TED Talk's tenants in Spark Learning.. I will mail a copy directly to the first 10 people to register by completing the form below. In reading the book you are supporting work I am extremely passionate about, and in turn, sending love out towards all of the amazing mothers and wives in the world who serve as models of intellect and wisdom for all of us.
In her lecture, The Hungry Mind: Origins of Curiosity, Susan Engel of Williams College beautifully explains the benefits of curiosity not only on student motivation, but learning. See Engel's talk below:
Corroborating Engel's conclusions, Min Jeung Kang and his team at Caltech concluded via fMRI, in an article titled The Hunger for Knowledge: Neural Correlates of Curiosity, that when an individual is curious, they are able to negotiate complexity in the content domain they are learning, as well as unrelated content domains! Perhaps it is the Biology teacher in me, however I do not think it is a reach to say that Kang's observations can be extrapolated to a Darwinian hypothesis. That is to say, increased curiosity = amplified awareness = survival fitness.
After reflecting on Engel's video and Kang's research, I slipped into a nerdy state of reflection regarding the relationship between curiosity, health, survival, etc. I have always been a very curious person (to a fault at times...), and was immediately "curious" about any direct experiences with the relationship between curiosity and "fitness" to survive. After reflecting, it was clear that my current obsession with curiosity isn't by accident. Without exaggerating, my curiosity has indeed saved my life. Below is a workflow of thoughts that emerged from this reflection. TMI warning: