Alright my few followers, this may not be a post that interests you, so if it is not, I totally understand! Let me just say in all of this, I am praising God for the rain that He is bountifully blessing my home area with right now. We were at the point where we were about to go to Stage 4 water restrictions in my hometown, and our lake has risen 3 feet since Sunday! Glory goes to the Lord!
First of all, my poor guided math presentation, neglected presentation..... This training this week has me coming back to my sweet cousin's house (she is nice enough to let me crash so I don't have to drive 2 hours each way for 5 days) with my brain completely fried with no brain cells left to sort through my presentation! However, this afternoon, I met with the lady that is putting on this idea share at our Regional Educational Service Center (ESC) to discuss my presentation. I am officially on the calendar, and she told me that even though my focus is stations in Grades 3-5, she is going to add 6-8 teachers to my list of possible audiences. YIKES! I want them to be able to walk away with something as well, but goodness I have some thinking to do! I know how my JH students are and what I can trust them with - I do use stations with them for some Science activities that I don't have enough equipment for everyone to do it at once, but I am hoping I can give those teachers who come something useful as well. We will see! I am working on a Prezi for my presentation, but my cousin has very poor internet out here in the boonies, so I am not really able to work on that part here at her house :/! I know where I will be all weekend and what I will be working on, but I am super excited. Speaking of this weekend, someone remind me to go get an anniversary gift for my poor husband who did not get a birthday gift because I am such a slacker!!!!
I have been sitting for the last 2 days in an awesome training on Force and Motion, but it is meant to help with teacher understanding and how we can help minimize the misconceptions we can unknowingly cause in students. (Not that any of us ever mean to cause any kind of misconception ever). This post is more about me trying to process the first 2 of 5 days of this training... By the way before I go much further - this training is out of the book Making Sense of Science: Force and Motion by Kirsten R. Daehler, Mayumi Shinohara, and Jennifer Folsom - it is put out by NSTApress. If you are a 6-12 teacher, I highly recommend looking into this - while it will challenge you, I know you will have many ah-ha moments like I am having.
Big Ah-Ha #1: We have spent a lot of time looking at the many ways students represent situations and go about describing situations. While I am a very strong math student, I was a math student who always liked the justify your answer part because I got to use words to explain something. Many of my colleagues went from reading situations straight to drawing a graph or drawing a picture. What I realized as I watched this happen and as we discussed is that all to often we "limit" our students in their mode of response. I do it all the time, but that goes back to being a math person where I see things in black and white sometimes. I am not saying we don't need to teach students all modes of responding and encourage them to use them to make sure they know how to use them appropriately, but sometimes we need to step back and let them decide.
Big Ah-Ha #2: Science-Content Reading is HARD for students (and truth be known many adults) and now I am starting to see why. One of our ESC Facilitators made the following point about reading in content areas that I think is really worth considering. When our students learn reading they mainly read fiction which has a plot that builds until a climax and then the book is pretty much over. When our students read in social studies, they are taught to look for those cause and effect relationships that circle back like a figure 8 over and over. When students read in Math, we teach them they are looking for what the question asks and the parts of some story problem they will really need to solve the problem. When they read in Science, it is still another type of reading where we are introduced to some fact or law and then given all of the proof to support it and then finally wrapped up in a conclusion. I might add this is the types of writings we expect from our students when we ask them to write in the content areas at times, but through this conversation this afternoon, I realized that possibly students struggle so much with Science reading because we don't spend enough time modeling for students how to read a passage. I know I am super guilty of this, and now I understand why one of my projects for my JH kids flopped when I left it with a substitute. They did not understand! I am planning to integrate more reading in my Science classroom next year to teach my students these skills.
Big Ah-Ha #3: The vocabulary of speed, velocity, and acceleration are all to often used interchangeably when really they are not. In calculus terms, speed would be our first graph, velocity graph would represent the first derivative of the speed graph, and the acceleration graph would be the second derivative. But think for a minute about the word acceleration - what does it mean in most situations? If we accelerate a car or a student or a process, we speed it up, and what I have come to realize is that students are not truly understanding acceleration in the way scientists use it. Acceleration to them is speeding up (so speed) and if we decelerate, we are slowing down. What most students don't realize is that acceleration in science means 1 of 3 things: speeding up, slowing down, or changing direction - scientific formula says to divide the change in velocity by change in time. There were some great graph pictures we looked at today and after I spent time figuring out the relationships, I was quickly able to identify them but many others in this workshop were very frustrated because it did not fit the picture that was in their head. Again, this workshop is about teacher understanding, so we spend a lot of time talking through these things. Velocity too is often a tricky topic because it is speed with velocity. We looked at some situations that involved negative velocity, and what I realized is that just because it was negative did not mean the object got slower, it meant that the object changed direction and move back toward the starting point. This concept blew people's minds, so can you see how just from talking about acceleration and velocity how warped my brain is?!? This is just the surface of our discussions, but it is some big ideas I walked away with today and yesterday. This makes me think twice about how I use these words as I talk to my 6th and 8th grade students about motion. I know I probably fed into some misconceptions now, but good news is at least for my 6th graders I get to fix those next year or in 8th grade!
Those are just 3 of the many big ideas that we have discussed this week. I am still processing on some others, but I have to say I am excited about tomorrow. I just read my homework, and we seem to be looking at Newton's Laws and unbalanced forces. These are some things my elementary kids start to understand, but I am sure based on what I read I will learn more tomorrow from the discussions and find myself up late trying to wrap my head around it all..
It is WAY past my bedtime, and I need to be awake for this tomorrow, so I am off to dreamland! To those of you that read the whole way through this post, I applaud you and thank you - feel free to discuss your knowledge or insight on anything above!