Teacher summers: Rest, Relaxation, and READING

Hello again!

If you have already started your school year, I hope it is going well so far.  If your year hasn't started yet, I hope you are enjoying your last few weeks of freedom.

Naturally, when summer rolls around teachers establish some high hopes for their summer breaks: Rest, relaxation,  and of course READING. This summer I indulged in quite a few books including:
Your Atomic Self: The Invisible Elements that Connect you to Everything in the Universe
Periodic Tales: A Cultural History of the Elements from Arsenic to Zinc
The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction

I thoroughly enjoyed each of these, but by far, I believe my teaching practices will benefit significantly from the implementation of The Fundamental 5.  While I include many of these practices already, there are definitely some things I hope to incorporate this year.

The whole premise of the book is that high quality lessons have five major components:
  1. Frame the Lesson
  2. Work in the Power Zone
  3. Frequent, Small-Group, Purposeful Talk about the Learning
  4. Recognize and Reinforce
  5. Write Critically
My plan over the next few blog posts is to discuss my implementation of these five aspects of quality instruction in my classroom.

1. The beginning and the end: "Framing the Lesson"
What knowledge and skills do you want your students to acquire out of your lesson?  How might your students demonstrate they have learned these skills?  Framing the lesson begins with stating the objective of your lesson in student friendly verbiage.  For example, objectives can be posted on power points and student note sheets in a "We will..." statement.
  • "We will identify and provide examples for the steps in the scientific method."
  • "We will identify matter as pure substances or mixtures."
When ending your lesson, your students will need to demonstrate they have acquired the necessary skills and knowledge.  To do this, the second part of framing the lesson uses a task-based objective in the form of an "I will..." statement.
  • "I will create an an experiment using the scientific method."
  • "I will complete an exit ticket that classifies matter as pure substances or mixtures."
Notice that the beginning lesson objective is low on Bloom's taxonomy ("identify") but as the lesson progresses to the ending objective moves to higher order skill sets ("create, classify").

Personally, since I teach older students, I prefer to list my objectives under the following heading: "After today you will be able to..."  I just feel it gives my lesson a little more of a young-adult-like feel to it.

2. Where you teach matters: "Work in the Power Zone"
Do you teach from your desk?  Most likely - no.  Why?  Because you know that when you are too far from your students, the less likely they are engaged in your lesson and classroom management issues will arise.  Positioning yourself right in the middle of all the action in your classroom will not only decrease poor student behavior, but will also allow you to instantaneously address misconceptions and increase student performance.  Furthermore, positioning yourself in this manner allows you to take a continual assessment of your students' understanding of the content.  It's a small change, bit it can yield some BIG results.

In my classroom I like to spend time in the center and the two furthest corners of the room.  Students in these areas are often inadvertently overlooked during lecture-based teaching.  During small group guided inquiry, I tend to move about the room from the perimeter to observe student interactions.

Try implementing these easy changes into your lessons and you will certainly be amazed with the outcome!  And if you haven't already done so, pick up The Fundamental 5 and read about #3 in preparation for my next blog post.

Until next time...
Karen (MsRazz ChemClass)

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