We have spent the past two weeks in class learning about plant and animal cells and all of their organelles. It's been quite the adventure! My students have worked hard to do research on their own and are in the process now of truly taking their new knowledge to the next level. Writing stories! Here are some samples of the great work so far:
Our stories will have an elementary school audience. The students have complete freedom in the theme of their story and the grade level they are writing for (within elementary school). When students are able to take the knowledge they've gained and simplify it to the point that very young students can understand it, they've mastered the content well enough to teach it themselves.
Overall, when students are having fun, they want to learn. If I can help them reignite a love for learning, I consider that a big win! Thanks for checking out our progress!
It's the first week of school and I'm using some of my time to give my new 7th graders a refresher on measurement and units. We put to use graduated cylinders, triple beam balances and rulers to "grow" gummy bears and compare the differences between one straight out of the bag and after it had sat in a cup of water over night. Here's the result:
The students had a blast with this lab and it was a great way to start the year and get them back into "lab mode". We talked through mass, volume, density, and change over time in this lab and did it in a fun way! Excited to keep doing stuff like this and encouraging them to develop a deeper love for learning.
Follow me on the go at @BClarksonTX on Twitter.
I'm guilty of being a bad teacher. I have worked very hard in my profession of teaching for the past five years. I've put in hours on end to ensure that my students learned what they were required to learn according to the state of Texas. I made huge efforts to ensure that they had fun. I have taken time to touch on every aspect of the tests that my students were going to be taking. I reviewed test material, played review games, made review sheets. For the first four years of my teaching career, I was played by my students. I fell right into their trap. They tricked me into letting them get off easy; giving them information so they could temporarily store it in their brilliant minds and regurgitate it onto an answer document. Then...
...BAM! Just like that, it's forgotten. As if they never learned it. Never heard a word about it. No clue what the function of the excretory system is (I'll let you figure that one our for yourself). No, forget that...no clue what the word "function" even means. Yes, I'm serious and I swear to you I don't own a neuralyzer (pictured above). If I did, I would use it on you to erase from your memory what I've just confessed to you. I've been a bad teacher. I have allowed my students to skate by in school without a developing a love for learning.
Not anymore. From this point forward I commit to engaging my students with real world, authentic, eye-opening activities. My plan is to use a flipped class/Project-Based Learning (PBL) model. Yes, I realize this will be a huge undertaking. But it will be worth it! It will require reaching into the depths of my creativity (which is not very deep, mind you). But it will be worth it! It will require long hours and the wisdom to know that I can't do this on my own. But it will be worth it! By helping my students develop a passion for learning, they will be able to take information learned in my class and actually apply it. Imagine that!
To help accomplish this, I've blown up my Professional Learning Network (PLN). Who does it include? The entire world. Literally. Educational technology guru Todd Nesloney (@TechNinjaTodd) puts it this way: "I'm only as smart as the people I surround myself with and I'm surrounding myself with the smartest people in the world." Smartest in the WORLD. That's what Twitter has done for me and thousands of other passionate educators. I have access to the world's largest PLN. Prior to this discovery, I was stuck leaning on teachers that I knew face-to-face. Don't misread this...I've worked with some brilliant minds. However, Thanks to Todd, and many others like him, I am learning ways in which I can truly encourage a love for learning in my students.
This coming school year I encourage you to do the same. I don't have this all figured out but neither does anyone else. Rest in the fact that we are all learning together. To help you get started (or just grow your Twitter arsenal) TeachThought (@TeachThought) has a great list of hastags and how to use them here.
A lot can happen 140 characters at a time. Now, get out there and learn with your students!
Brent Clarkson, M.Ed.