Pre-testing academic vocabulary interactively

August 27, 2011 at 12:10 PM Leave a comment

First day of school: procedures, course outline and an excerpt from Po Bronson’s “Nurture Shock” about how intellect is a muscle that gets stronger when you use it. Based on Dweck’s research and shared to prod the dominant culture of our school and community. It’s enshrined in the redo policy where there is never a downside to trying an assignment and getting it wrong. Felt like it resonated with both special ed and GATE students, both of whom labor under their labels.

And the second day, in a break with tradition, I got real insight for where my students were with force and motion concepts with a much more entertaining and interactive way, using the Concept Construxion cards from Teachers for Learners.

Had selected the F and M cards and smacked them up randomly on the white board. Invited students to come and take one they had some idea about back to their desks. Then they did the best they could to define it and give an example, maybe with a little sharing at their tables, wrote down some notes on scratch paper and gathered into a big horseshoe around the whiteboard.

There are two reasons to start units this way: 1. So I know what to emphasize and what they already know and 2. because it helps them bring re-activate their prior knowledge – the basis for a more robust understanding of new information.

Asked them to hold up words they had heard of in math class – stuff like ‘rate’, ‘f=ma’. Words they had heard of in common speech ex. ‘friction’ between people, and finally technical science-y words like ‘vector’ and ‘Newton’s Laws’.

Then the student with the Motion card put it in the center of the white board, defined it and gave an example and picked someone else to follow. The next students had to say how theirs linked with any of the posted words, define and give examples.

I let THEM talk and gave only encouragement. Getting them to look at each other and talk to each other was tricky, they kept wanting to just talk to me. So I stood at the back and reminded them to call on the next person. Taking notes helps me avoid jumping in too often. (Time for all to share is a real issue and it’s important to keep it moving so as not to rush the later students.)

Most classes put up words in neat and tidy rows and columns, instead of schmooshes. Interesting…

At the end, we discussed why they would not be taking notes from this as it’s a pre-instruction brainstorm.

I selected out the concepts we’ll be studying next and left them up. We’ll be building a scientifically accurate concept map throughout the unit.

Here are some conceptual challenges around force and motion concepts that emerged:

– Inertia is a force.

– Mass is the same as density. Mass is how much weight or space an object takes up?

– Gravity pulls down heavier things faster.

– Velocity and speed are the same.

– More mass makes things accelerate slower. (Cause and effect were often reversed, perhaps due to nervousness.)

– Time and distance is unclear to some ex. LA is about 5 hours away.

– The concept of rate is hazy.

The philosophical questions are clearly interesting: What IS time? came up several times ,and this year I am so going to run some of these, including What is Truth? and why does it matter?

We are up and running. Excited to be teaching 8th grade for the second year in a row, and working with my new colleague Greta.

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Entry filed under: Assessment and grading, Critical Thinking, Education Psychology, Math Concepts in Science, Physics Topics, Starting the School Year. Tags: , , .

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