Friday, November 24, 2017

Blended Learning in the Science Classroom using the stations model

How to set up your science stations?

Some teachers design each station so that they only take 10-15 minutes to complete and the students then rotate through all three stations in one day.   

I have found that my middle school students do better with stations that take 30 minutes to complete and focus on one station per day.  

Most of my students have English as their second language so I also discovered that they do better when they work in groups of 2-4.  This way they always have someone to discuss the information and problem solve with.  

I feel the main point of the blended learning is for students to take charge of their learning and letting them collaborate with other students during each investigation helps them achieve that goal.

Online Station

At this station students will learn about the topic using technology.  I like to have them do an investigation during this station.  

There are great websites that offer free online labs that I create simple guided instructions for my students to follow and complete the lab.

I have also created pictures with hyperlinks that direct them to websites or videos for them to learn about.  And I have created digital notebooks that help them investigate the information. 

Group Collaboration Station

At this station students work together in groups to complete a task.  This is where I like to incorporate hands-on investigation activities.  

It is also a great station to have them do jigsaw readings and then create a group poster on the information.  You want it to be a station where they need to work together to complete it.  

Teacher-Led Station

This is your opportunity to focus your instruction on a small group.  It is so much easier to meet the needs of your students when they are in groups of 12 than when you have a class of 36.  

This is when direct instruction can occur.  You could use the same lesson for each group or differentiate the lesson slightly depending on which group you have.   

I like to use this time to challenge my advanced learners and do extra practice for my struggling learners.

How to set up your Groups?

I like to use different methods for setting up my groups.  The method I choose depends on the purpose of the unit, the background knowledge my students have of the topic, and what my teacher-led station will be.   

For example, I might just put them in groups based on their last names if I feel that they all have them same general background of the topic.  

If the topic is more math based however, I would place them in groups based on their math ability so that I can challenge some groups and help with the basics with other groups during the teacher-led station

Grading the Science Stations

For me personally I do not put an academic grade on the science stations.  I want my students to feel free to investigate this new topic and make mistakes without the fear of it hurting their grade.  Instead I give them a work habits grade based on their effort and a citizenship grade based on how well they work with others and followed the class expectations.

My students put all their information for their stations into their notebooks.  I can quickly look through their notes to see if they were on task and if they got the basic ideas.

To make it easier on myself, while they are doing their daily warm ups I have them open their notebooks to the station they were working on the day before.  Within a few minutes I have written a rubric score at the top of their page and I also have a general idea about what I need to cover in class once the science stations are complete.

This also shows the students that they are being held accountable each day during the activities.  

Creating blended learning science stations is something you could do by yourself.  However, if you want to save yourself some time I have done all the work for you.   

I have created many science stations designed to cover common science topics in middle school science.  You can buy them individually or save money and buy the bundle.

For more information on Why you should do blended learning in your science classroom and what blended learning is check out this blog post: Blended Learning in the Science Classroom

Blended Learning in the Science Classroom

Why do Blended Learning?

Blended Learning is a great way to incorporate different modes of learning so that you can reach more students and help them understand in the method that works best for them.  

It helps students learn about the topic through guided inquiry, group collaboration, and allows them to become responsible for their learning.  

It also allows the teacher to focus on a smaller group of students so that you can better meet their needs.  

What is Blended Learning?

Blended learning can take on many models but all of them involve integrating technology into the classroom.  The three most common models in schools are stations, flipped learning, and lab rotations.  

Stations involve three areas set up in one classroom.  One area is for online instruction, another area is for group collaboration, and the third area is for teacher-led instruction.  

Flipped learning is where the students learn the basic information outside of class, usually by watching a video and taking notes.  They then use class time for practice and projects.  

Lab rotation is similar to stations however the online learning occurs outside of class in a computer lab.  The students learn the information and do some practice on the computer which tracks their progress.  They then meet with a teacher that will do some direct instruction based on how they did on the computer.  

How to do Blended Learning in the Science Classroom using stations?

For how to do blended learning in the science classroom follow the link that you are most interested in.

- Science Stations

- Flipped Learning

Friday, May 12, 2017

Get Started Creating Student Led lessons

      As a teacher I sometimes feel overwhelmed when I think about teaching the Next Generation Science Standards.  How can I possibly have my students creating, designing, and modeling when they are struggling with just understanding the basics.  I teach at a school of mostly low income language learners.  The students do not have a lot of background experiences to apply and struggle with the vocabulary. The old California Science Standards were mostly in the depth of complexity level one asking the students to just know and identify. It was challenging to get through teaching them the concepts and still have time in the pacing to have them demonstrate their knowledge in an end of the unit project that was teacher directed. Now I am suppose to get them into the depth of complexity level four with creating, designing, and modeling.  Thinking about it makes me feel like I am at the bottom of Mount Everest and I have to get to the top with no supply of oxygen.  Until I decided to let go and just see what can happen when I put the students in charge of their learning.

This is the hook I created for my Newton's laws unit.  

        It started with me creating a hook for Newton's laws that got the students questioning why.  I had an idea of the type of questions the students would come up with based on what they were seeing but the ones they actually came up with far surpassed my expectations.  I took their questions and as a class we decided on which ones they wanted to find the answers to.  Then instead of me directing the lessons and giving the students the information I provided them with different ways for them to investigate and learn while trying to answer the question.  I gave them video options, online investigations, hands-on stations, and readings.  The students could choose which ones they did each day.  My job was to monitor their learning and offer support when they asked.  At the end of the day the students meet with their groups to discuss what they learned and how it applied to the questions.  The students were engaged for days and the best thing was that they were actually learning the concept and enjoying themselves.

       I admit that as I started this unit on Newton's laws I had a rough roadmap of what I wanted the students to learn but I didn't have all the details figured out.  I was letting the students fill them in and seeing where they would take us.  At the end of the unit I wanted the students to create a zip line that could carry a raw egg but I had never done the project before.   I found different ideas online but nothing that seemed to have what I wanted so again I decided to let the students take the lead.  I set up the challenge and gave students the parameters and then I let them go.  They created their own containers.  They created their own way to test the different variables like rope type, angle of the line, and amount of weight in the container.  Some groups struggled with making it work and some groups struggled with problem solving when things weren't working.  The conversations that were happening, even with the struggling groups, showed how much the students were actually learning and that they were applying the concepts they learned during their earlier investigation of the hook questions to this activity.   I discovered that by allowing the students to take the lead they were able to accomplish a lot more than I originally thought possible.  Even the students that struggled throughout the whole unit still learned more through this type of investigation then they would have learned if I took the typical way of teaching.

              Doing this unit reminded me that not only were the students acting like scientists but I was also.  Scientists ask what if, why, and how and that was what I was doing.  I changed the variables of how a lesson was taught to see what if.  What if I let the students take charge? What if the students decided on what they wanted to learn?  What if the students decided how they wanted to learn?  What I discovered was that by giving the students the control I also helped them to become better decision makers, better problem solvers, and they became more confident in their ability to learn.  So I challenge you to do the same.  See what happens when you let students take charge of their learning. See what happens when you ask what if?