Tuesday, November 29, 2005


I think that instead of assigning the labs that the students will write-up they should pick them. Next term, I will have the students pick three labs (one each six weeks) to do a formal write up on. The only question is how do I make sure that they are picking at least one lab that is qualitative (with numbers)?

Lab Reports

Most of the labs that we do in chemistry are ones where the answer sheets are fill in the blank with the data tables already arranged. I am trying to figure out if I can develop the labs into ones where the students need to use a comp-book during the lab. I am really struggling with the logistics of this. How often to grade them? Right now labs are graded weekly.

The other issue that I have is the "team" approach to teaching this class. There are some people who think that we need to do stuff the same way as each other. The problem comes from the idea that other people do not want to conduct their classes in the same fashion that I do. In chemistry, we do not have the same students in lab as we do in lecture so that complicates things.

I am trying to figure out ways that the students can improve their writing in science and the comp-book seems like the easiest way to do this. I would really like to see "original" student work and not just the fill in the blank kind. I just do not know how all of this works here. (Needless to say that I am experiencing frustration.) I would just like to try but with it causing issues in other people's classes, I think I need to be sesitive to that.

Inquiry........and patience

We are currently doing a couple of experiments in chemisrty that are inquiry based. The students are asked to reach a conclusion about the relationship between different variables that affect a gas. The problem that I see is that the students are waiting to be told what to do and what to think. How do we get away from that? Will students ever be comfortable enough to make a mistake? Are the grades that the students earn the stmbling block to this whole process?

The students want to know if they are conducting the experiment "right". I thought that true science was not based on the repeating of ohter experiments but by designing your own to test a process or theory. Should the students be developing their own experiments? I know this does not always go good but science, and education, are not always about success stories.

Even Winston Churchill said "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." I am wondering where all of the student's enthusiam lies?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Reading in science.

Before the break, I had my chemistry classes complete some assigned reading. The next school day, I had them work in groups and decide if there was anything that they still wondered about and wanted clarification on. They then wrote their questions on the board and that drove the classroom discussion. (I saw how this worked in Anne's english class and you know what? It also worked in a science classroom.) The students were all involved in the discussion and the fact that we were only talking about what they wanted to knwo about keep them really engaged. I need to rememeber how this worked.


Why is it that I seem to fall back on my old ways of teaching? Is it because I don't want to put the time into redoing my lessons?

Having the students in the "driver's seat" works so well for a lot of what I do but there I times when I need to present the information. I know that this is okay but when I do it once then I want to do it again and again. I think I am having a hard time letting go of being the one in front.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Other Schools

I was talking over dinner to a family member who teaches in another school district in Colorado. After sharing the things that we are doing at AHS he shared some of the things they are doing. The most interesting part of the whole discussion was when he shared the fact that at the beginning of each semester, he gives the students a list of possible subjects to study. The students then are allowed to pick and that determines the course of study. All parts of the curriculm are designed around this topic for example, the topic right now is "birds". Oh, by the way, the students are in an elementary school. It seems that if the teacher has the drive and students still have the want to know, then the constructivist approach works the "best". The teacher shared the fact that he was worried about not getting through all of the curriculm but it seems to "take care of itself." I know that I have had the same worry but this conversation made me feel better.

I hope that I can just make myself sure that the reason I am trying all the new stuff is because I value the student's learning and I hope that school becomes a life altering activity not just a time that they dread.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Student Perceptions

I wonder if students know the difference between a teacher who is "hard" and one that is "unfair"? I had a student tell their parent that I was a "hard" teacher. I think that the parent thought the term "hard" was "unfair". I also was told that lately my classes have been a lot "harder" than before. I think that the student is thinking that school should be the way that it always was. The student is trying to compare my class with other teacher's. I have started to move away from me doing all of the teaching and I am asking my students to do some of the teaching/learning themselves. I know this will be difficult for the students but will they eventually see the worth in this style? I am trying to change the way that students view a class. What is going to be hard is changing the way that students and parents talk about classes.

I guess that I should be glad the student thinks of me as "hard" and not "unfair".(At least, that is what I think....I might need to ask my students.)

What to do about a course?

There is a class that I teach that I am now wondering about. The class is titled "Pre-AP chemistry" and I am wondering if this is a good offering. My understanding is that the class is intended to be student centered. (At least that is my understanding from www.apcentral.com) The class is anything but that right now. The planning of the class is not just me and I do not know what to do with the structure of the class. I am not at peace with the splitting of students into different ability levels. I currently think that the students should remain together until they can take an actual AP class. I know that my thinking changes from week to week but this is one of the weeks where I am questioning what I do.

I wonder not just to what extent grades and points drive a student's work ethic but what about course titles? When we label something honors, AP or skills does that predetermine a level of student that will be in the class? Are we putting those students in our box?

How do we start to change the preception about classes? What do we tell parents? How do we convey the idea that a class is just as difficult as it always has been even if all of the students are together?

Does CCHE change my thoughts? Maybe.......I am confused by all of this but I know I want to learn more...

Opinion Paper

I recently had my astronomy students do some research into the Moon landings. I was hoping that some of them would argue that the landings never occured. When I asked them why they thought the Moon landings did occur they responded with "we ahve been told that they happened". I wonder if we are trying to get students to formulate their own understanding of the world, how to we begin to get them to question what they "have always known to be true"?

I would like the students to form their own understanding and not answer with statements about being told about it. I think that students who form their own explantions can defend and actually learn the information better than students who are told the information.


After listening to the presentation on grading, I think that I am ready to make a small switch. My questions come from the communication with parents and the other members of a curricular "team." I am wondering how to send information home that tells the parents how to use the new information that is included in the report. Do you change the class information page? What would I do with assignments that need their own category? If the class is a "team" approach what do I tell the other team members who might be a little resistant to change?

If the constructivist approach is a philosophical idea how do you change people's minds when they agree with the behaviorist view?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Moon Trip?

This week I was out of the building and had a sub in. The astronomy students started a webquest about the NASA missions to the Moon in the 1960's. The goal of the assignment was the have the kids form an opinion about the Moon landings and if they actually happened or not. They are to form an arguement on the topic and then produce a document to that effect. Next week I think we are going to have a classroom discussion/debate. The interesting thing was the sub left me a note saying that the kids were all really involved in the research part of the assignment. I can only hope that they will be as interested in the document and discussion part. Any ideas on how to structure this discussion/debate?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Time Management?

I would really like to develop a webquest for astronomy but I am having difficultly setting aside time to do this. There are a lot of things going on right now and I cannot seem to find a comfortable middle ground on all of the stuff. (I just told Cara that I am venting about time management buy using up more time venting, irony here?) The class meetings for the technology stuff seem to be coming very fast and I do not feel like I have given justice to any of the topics that have been shared.

I guess I am just a little frusterated with the amount of stuff that I want to do and the amount of stuff I have to do and how all of that fits into a busy schedule.

Any answers?

Blogs in Class

I have had my students work on blogs in the astronomy class and it seems to be going okay. I would like any feedback or ideas on how these blogs to be used to foster further learning. I think right now I am using them as an end in themselves and I am not sure where to go from here.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Today in astronomy

Today (11/1) I had my students setup blog accounts and then comment on their thoughts about the fieldtrip last week. While some students took the time to post thoughtful statements most just worked as quickly as they could. (A product of the educational system in which they find themselves perhaps?) Some of the students were wondering why they could not just "write a response." I was trying to find a good way to answer that question when Anne told them they would be wasting trees. What are some other ways to answer this question that the students have? I wonder if they will become more comfortabe with the blogs? Will I?