GWF Science Teaching

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What did students learn at your station?  How do you know (what's your evidence).
Last week I facilitated the Greenwood Furnace field trip for 5th graders.  One other intern and I were in charge of the Macro invertebrate station while we were there.  The students at our station were supposed to leave us understanding that the different macros we found in the stream tells us a lot about the health of the water at GWF.  We introduced what macro invertebrates were and many students did not know.  Some raised their hands and we called on someone who said "macro means you can see it with your eye."  Another student told us that "invertebrates" meant that they did not have backbones.  Later on in the activity, after the students got into the stream to collect macro invertebrates, I overheard several students talking about the fish.  They asked each other if they should collect fish, and other classmates (who had not raised their hand for the introduction) said "Well, but fish do have backbones so it's not a macro invertebrate."  This showed me that if they did not know what a macro invertebrate was before our introduction, they knew it well enough now to apply it to another creature.  Another thing that students learned while trying to catch crayfish, was that crayfish swim backwards.  After a couple of failed attempts, I heard student's yelling, "put the net behind it!" telling me that they had figured out a way to catch crayfish by understanding their movements.  Another thing the students learned about crayfish, was that their pinches definitely work!  It was an unfortunate way they all learned, because one of the students got pinched, but it really was a valuable lesson about dealing with and respecting nature.  After about 15 minutes in the stream, we gathered together with our different macros, and the students identified them using a dichotomous key.  We already knew what "Class" every macro they found was, which tells us if that macro is intolerant to pollution (Class I), somewhat tolerant of pollution (Class II), or tolerant of pollution (Class III).  Through their discussion and our facilitating, students were able to tell us that the stream must be clear of pollution because there were more Class I macros than there were anything else.  Their answers to our questions told me that they had learned something new about the water at GWF, and also how to use evidence to build a claim.

What patterns in the thinking of 5th graders did you notice?
One pattern that I noticed during both of the groups that visited our station was that many of the students made connections to their previous knowledge during this activity.  If they saw a crayfish or collected one, they would talk about other times they had seen or caught crayfish.  When they saw macro invertebrates that looked like another type of bug, they would call it that instead before the classification.  They made connections about how looking for macros in the stream was similar to other times they had collected bugs for fun.

What kinds of responses did they provide?  What kinds of questions did they ask?  How did they behave?
Our first group was much more engaged than the first group and mostly on task.  We had at least one student at all times raising his/her hand ready to respond to our questions (and it was the same few students), but many of the answers were not elaborate.  We got a lot of one-word answers that did not leave a lot of room for discussions from those responses.  The students had questions about what the macros they were finding were, how to classify them, and also about the fish.  Fish was a topic of great interest to our groups, and almost all of the students attempted to catch one at one point.  The behavior of our 1st group was not bad.  We also had more adults in that group which I think kept the students a little more under control.  I understand that field trips are very exciting in general, so I was not surprised that the students seemed a little more "wound up."  Our second group (which was also our last group) definitely had more behavioral issues.  We had many students who did not follow directions right away, which made them unprepared for the discussion at the end.  We were ready to collect data from them, but since they had been distracted during the classification/identification of their macros, they did not have data to give us.  There were a few boys also in the second group who talked back to us as we were trying lead the discussion, which was really distracting to the other students.

Were gender differences observed? Describe the differences and provide some evidence and reasons that could account for the differences.
There were definitely some noticeable differences between the genders.  Our second group was the best example of this.  We had a few boys who were loud and very disruptive.  This was mainly because they would say things like "I like to kill these types of things for fun!" when referring to the macros - most specifically the crayfish.  They talked about eating them and just killing them because they felt like it and I was actually really upset when I heard this.  These comments made by one or two boys made the other boy(s) in the group start joining in and talking aggressively in that same manner.  The girls were obviously very upset with these comments as well as they would make comments like "ewww!" or "stop saying that!"  I think this kind of talk by the boys has a lot to do with the misconception that boys have to be "tough" and "mean".  Also, the boys were not as attentive as the girls were.  I think they were just more distracted by each other.  One thing that surprised me was that I did not notice a difference at all when it came to excitement about being in the water.  I was expecting maybe that the girls would be a little more hesitant to get into the water and start looking for the macros.  I was glad that I was wrong, because it really taught me not to count on my assumptions.

What aspects of your approach to teaching the station changed during the day and why?
The first time we did our lesson, I was glad to have the original macro facilitator (who guided us through the macro station when we went to GWF) there with us.  She helped with our search for macros while we were all in the stream, and also helped us lead the discussion and conclusion at the end.  I think it was really beneficial to have her during the first group because it gave me a better idea of how to lead the discussion the second time.  We definitely had to change our way of talking to the students during the second group, because during the first group we did not have to tell the students more than a couple of times what they needed to be doing.  We constantly had to remind the second group of what they needed to be doing.  Although I learned a lot the two different times I led the station, I feel it really would have been a better learning experience had I gotten the chance to try a couple of more times.  Another thing that changed after the first station was the control I had over the class.  Although we had more help actually leading the discussion the first time, I think that the group saw us as the leaders of the activity.  With the second group, there was another adult who the students saw as more of the leader.  They were easily and constantly distracted by what this other adult was doing and showing them, although it contradicted our directions.  I would have liked to know how to handle this situation better.  Although we were warned that this type of thing could happen, it still did not prepare me for dealing with the situation.  This type of distraction slowed us down and messed up the time we had designated for a conclusion discussion, but we still made the best of our station and I really think that the students left with a solid claim based on the evidence they collected, which was one of the main objectives of this activity.

B2 - This reflection of my science station at GWF demonstrates my ability to monitor student learning in different ways.  As we were teaching our lesson, I was able to see what the students knew and what they were learning in order to make the lesson more relevant to them and their prior knowledge.

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I'm glad you decided to mention the issues we were having with the other adult present during the lesson. It did make things a little more difficult. I think that if I were to do it again, I would just ask the adult if he could have helped more with the identification so that he could still be helping without being distracting.

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