Target labs, Reviews and THAT kid...

What am I doing to help kids achieve?

How do I know when they are there?

What is the evidence?

  Every teacher I know of has a certain student. It is THAT kid. There is always the one kid that when other students are cruising along or at least trying to cruise along, there is always the one student...THAT student...who for whatever reason does not want to play by the same rules as everyone else. He or she may just text and think you do not notice, not turn in homework or take a test in five minutes. I learned the hard way to try not to judge THAT kid. I have no idea what is happening in his or her life, if they are hungry, if they been bullied or how their home life is. It is really hard to get to know THAT kid especially when I have classes of other kids who are important and have needs also. Stack on top of this teenage hormones, spring, nice weather, prom, AP tests, state testing and trying to sell as hard as I can how fun "stoichiometry" is....I now run the risk of turning a bunch of other kids into THAT kid pretty quickly.

  I was about ready to give up...sort of. I finally tried a "plan B". The Flinn E-Learning series has a great target stoichiometry activity. I adapted it for my students. I basically gave them these instructions..."When you come in, you are going to be provided a test tube filled with baking soda. You need to heat the test tube to decompose the baking soda and predict the mass of the test tube and solid material remaining. I will have the only balance. You will have to give me your work and prediction BEFORE I place the tube and solid on the balance. The closer your prediction is to the correct answer on the balance, the higher your grade. By the way, everyone gets different starting amount of baking soda."

  It quickly changed the dynamics of the situation. THAT kid saw that it did not matter if you were the student who was the smartest or struggling the most. What mattered in this situation is that you would have to actually DO something other then a pen or paper test to get a grade. THAT kid went crazy and took over. Long story short, he predicted the correct answer within 5%. I can't say for sure this will work with every student every time but there is something to be said about doing a lab and searching for answers on a "need to know" basis instead of just saying "Let's prove and existing theory."

  Another idea I would like to toss out is the idea of test reviews. We are currently in the middle of a weird schedule and I know the best thing to do is to review a bit before a unit test but the kids are tired. So here is what I hope to do...I made up a fake test, took it as a student and am going to have the students grade it as their review instead of watching me lecture or go over problems. I am sure that one of the responses I will get is, "I can't read this writing and there are no units...." Really?

  Anyone else having end of year struggles? Got any ideas or clinchers that are a big hit with learning and the kids? Don't be afraid to comment...we are all on the same journey fighting the same battles.....

Join the conversation.

Comments 5

Deanna Cullen's picture
Deanna Cullen | Mon, 04/18/2016 - 15:34

Hi Chad,

1 - Did you have students work in groups or individually? Interested in how well the choice worked for you. 

2 - Did you label each test tube ahead with mass of test tube and mass of baking soda? 

Thanks! I may use this to replace a lab I have used for years. I think this is a greener alternative. I like to use household chemicals that students can relate more to as well.

Chad Husting's picture
Chad Husting | Tue, 04/19/2016 - 11:25

1. Students got to work in groups or could choose to work solo if they did not agree with their lab partners.

2. Students had to record and label on their own.

Also, if they were WAY off and made a huge mistake, I provided one "do over" that I would do after school.

Hope this helps.

Juleen Jenkins-Whall | Fri, 04/22/2016 - 07:26

I have some very high needs groups, one of which is high energy boys who really don't want to sit for hours (pretty sure I am the ONLY teacher who has such a group, right?)  Target labs such as these do work great for them!  Additionally, I have learned that almost any skill concept I can turn into a manipulative.  Time and time again, my co-teacher and I have seen that when I give them the exact same content as on a worksheet but on a manipulative cards, allow them to stand at a lab station and do the task, we get much better engagement.  We also have used the manipulatives as an way to formatively assess or even a final assessment (this we have used for SE students when there are processing issues;  removing the handwriting step helps).  For example, I can take a stoich problem and put each conversion step on a separate card, with a few extra fake cards thrown in, and ask them to select the cards needed and put them in order to solve the problem.  My kids know when they see a pile of ziplocs on the counter that today is a manipulative day!