It's that time of year for those of us on the semester block system - end of course content state exams loom large and student stress is at an all time high. The longer I teach in this environment, the more I see how these tests push teachers to provide packet after packet for review. The stakes are so high for everyone - and teachers are afraid they missed something.
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This month I spoke with Debra Johnson who teaches a variety of science subjects, chemistry and AP chemistry among, them at North Muskegon High School in North Muskegon, Michigan. Below she tells us how inquiry works in her classroom. Let us know what it looks like in yours!
Late last school year at a staff meeting, teachers were informed that we were going to be coached and encouraged to introduce more vocabulary instruction to our content areas.
There is a traditional stoichiometry lab I have done before. It involves adding dilute hydrochloric acid to sodium bicarbonate, boiling off the fluid and then getting the mass of the sodium chloride. Students then can solve the percent yield for the sodium chloride based on the amount of sodium bicarbonate they use. It is not a bad lab.Something about having hot ceramic watch glasses with acid just makes me a bit nervous.I am not sure where I got this new lab, but it has been one that has evolved over the years It is quick, dirty, relatively simple and uses over the counter (mostly) materials.
Are students reflecting on what their calculated values indicate? This question constantly runs through the minds of chemistry teachers across the country. Recently educators have seen shifts in instruction that promote connections to real-world phenomena using conceptual depth in understanding.
“So what corners of the periodic table do I have to memorize in order to get an A on the trends quiz?” This was a question that was asked by one of my students at the beginning of our periodicity unit. For countless educators we teach chemistry because we have a passion for trying to understand the world from an atomic level. However many of our students have extrinsic motivators which result in attempts to find shortcuts to recall the material. If we want to avoid responses like the one stated above we have to identify if we are asking thorough questions when assessing our students.
For decades, aspiring bomb makers - including ISIS - have desperately tried to get their hands on a lethal substance called red mercury. There's a reason they never have.
In an earlier post, I discuss some of my unit planning that (I hope!) further breaks down a few of these misconceptions - my students are not teaching themselves on google. They are weaving back and forth between learning content and the larger reason for learning the content.
However, every single one of these comments above are valid. It is really difficult work to ultimately balance individual accountability and group accountability. Every student needs to master basic stoichiometry before they leave my general chemistry course.