I still haven’t started teaching, and most of the lessons described below were not planned by me but in each of the classes, I took an active role to help student groups and answer questions when my cooperating teachers weren’t at the front of the room instructing. I will start taking over teaching completely mid next week.
Yesterday was very busy. I didn’t have an off period to do any of my planning for the next few weeks, so I’ll have to do a lot of it this weekend. The first period was “Bones.” It is essentially an anatomy class without the depth of physiology. It is a great class for the younger “high school” students (9th and 10th grade). To start off the year, the students were instructed to label the human skeleton with the use of a word bank. The intention of the lesson was for student to work in teams to collaborate their prior knowledge of the human skeleton to complete the task of matching the correct term with the correct bone. The group that I worked with had quite a bit of trouble at the beginning but after asking them to look at the terms closely, one of the students looked at the term carpalsand said, “This must be a term for the bones in the hand because of carpel tunnel.” Brilliant. It is just what I wanted them to do. Another of the students recognized humerus as the “funny bone.” Each of the students were able to make meanings from the terms that will more than likely resonate in their minds if they ever encounter a time to recall the information from memory again.
After the students attempted labeling all the bones, some of them asked if they could look them up. Of course, but how can you find what you are looking for? Students debated amongst their teams to determine which resource was best to use to look up the skeletal system. All of them agreed that the dictionary was not the best resource, many of them chose to use a laptop, and some of them went straight for the textbook in the front of the room. The idea was to allow the students to use the appropriate resource to find the answers they were looking for. In all, this was a successful lesson involving the establishment of prior knowledge and use of technology.
The next class was “Animal Inside.” The lesson started with the continuation of an activity that asked students to determine if a variety of objects were dead, alive, or non-living. There was disagreement among the class regarding a few of the objects including a seed, and an empty shell. The next task was to have the students write, in 2 sentences, what it meant to be living. I was surprised to find that many students thought that in order to be alive; you needed to have a heart. I posed the question, “are trees alive?” And then followed up, “do they have hearts?” Some of them were able to see where I was going with my questioning. If they knew much about trees they may have thrown it back in my face with, “trees have heart wood.” I wasn’t thinking about that at the time.
Students were then given a large piece of paper with various animals scattered on the page. With scissors and glue, students were instructed to cut the pictures out and paste them in their books by organizing the animals into groups based on their physical characteristics. Some of the students organized them by the number of limbs, whether or not they had fur, feathers or neither, and others had further ways of organizing the animals. The possibilities were endless. The students only got as far as cutting the pictures out and roughly grouping the animals by piling them up into stacks. I am coming up with an activity for the next lesson that will allow the students to make logical decisions on how they might organize a group of animals.
The next class was by far the most interesting. It was 7th grade biology. I was NEVER that small. Observing the students really made me realize how hard it may be to shift focus and lesson planning from an older class to a younger one. The lesson started with a concept map around What is Science? All of the students participated and contributed terms like- explosion, labs, experiments, solar system, gravity, test tubes, animals, and surprisingly one student even said photosynthesis. Although most of the students in the class had no idea what photosynthesis meant, I was pleased to see that one of them did, or at least had heard the term before.
The next task was to work in teams, or for one student alone, to use the computers to look up terms depicting different fields of study in science such as bacteriology, paleontology, botany, etc. This task was certainly not my favorite. Since it was the first time that we had met these students, it may have been a better idea to gauge the students’ prior knowledge regarding the use of the computers. Many of them had a hard time finding a website to look up the terms. Many of them used wikipaedia.com and read much of the article, of which most of them didn’t understand, to find some sort of meaning for each term. I asked many of the ones who were struggling what other resources they might want to use to look up the meanings of the terms. All of them agreed that a dictionary was a good resource to find definitions. With some help, I directed them to dictionary.com. I really think the students should have had some sort of discussion prior to getting on the computer as to how they should look up the terms. At a 7th grade level, students shouldn’t be expected to understand how to use Google effectively to find a simple definition. This is a lesson that I wouldn’t have used in my classroom. There was very little establishment of prior knowledge about technology. This should have been done prior to even the mentioning of computers.
Another approach (maybe for elder students) would be to give students a list of resources to choose from to find the definitions of the terms. After completing the assignment, the students would be able to have a discussion regarding their use of the different sources. They could discuss the ease of use of each. This approach would also allow the students to have a list of sources they could use later in the year for various projects/assignments as they come up.
I will now reflect a little on the student who worked alone. The student approached me prior to getting the laptops and asked if he could work alone. I asked him if he wanted me to find him a group to work with. He obliged with a nod and I asked one of the other students if he wanted to work with another person. He was happy to and I introduced the two young students. They seemed happy. After retrieving the computers, the young student who originally asked to work alone, quietly told me that he didn’t mind working alone. At that point, it was clear that he didn’t want to work in a group so I nodded and told him that it was perfectly fine to work alone. I was very curious as to why he wanted to work by himself. After coming back to class from the computer storage area, the young student said that he didn’t have a pen or paper. I asked him to borrow the materials from a peer. He was very hesitant and couldn’t get the words from his mouth. I reached into my pocket and grabbed my pen and tore a page from my book for him to use. He seemed grateful and started on the task. I made sure to keep a very close eye on him and his work. He managed to get a lot more of the task completed that many of the groups. Unfortunately, it was evident that he didn’t completely understand what he was reading or writing. After class, he made it known to some of his classmates that he finished 8 terms and that he did them alone. I am curious as to why he wants to work alone but seeks the attention of others after completing the task. My assumption is that he doesn’t know many of the students and is still finding his way around to see where he fits in. In all, this class is going to be the most challenging.
The final class of the short week was 11th grade biology and came after a quick lunch in the staff room. I am really going to enjoy this class! It is very unusual to go from teaching the youngsters in 7th grade to teaching the elder students of 11th grade. There is a vast difference in maturity. One of the students was extremely talkative and seemed to not care when the teacher was speaking; I will have to keep an eye on him, and would be more than happy to invite him to the front of the class at a chance to teach if it gets bad while I am teaching! Most of the students hadn’t completed their summer assignment but lucky for them, it wasn’t due until next week when their assignment books are due. My cooperating teacher will be responsible for the first chapter of the year, and I will be for the rest of them. It will be quick transition, but I am thrilled!
After class, it was back to the teachers lounge to pick up my things to go home, but there was a surprise for the teachers! Beer! What a great way to end the first week! Supposedly, it isn’t allowed on school grounds but it isn’t infrequent for teachers to have a beer after a difficult week. I don’t blame them, and enjoyed one with the rest of the faculty. Would you ever see this back in the USA? I’m not 100% sure but I would have to say that it would be extremely frowned upon. Just another thing to learn from the Aussies- have a beer and relax, quit being so uptight! Couldn’t agree more.
I arrived home and got on the bike; I had to work the beer off! I rode into town and back, which equated to about 6-7 km. I have really enjoyed riding the bike around the area and along the Mitchell River but it took a bit of time to get used to riding on the wrong side of the road, especially when turning left!
That night, we sat around the TV and enjoyed watching the Australia-India Twenty20
cricket match. India won by 8 wickets, if you were interested. I went to bed right after.
I slept in today but not for too long. I really wanted to get up and check out the farmer’s market, which is held on the school grounds on the first Saturday of every month. I was told that farmers from 250+ km away come to sell their products and produce. There were about 20 stalls with various products, anything from garden plants to butchered meat to jams and salsas. My Pappy would have loved it because every stall had samples! I felt somewhat bad because I tried just about everything. I hope they don’t think that I tried their products and just left because I didn’t like it. That wouldn’t be true in the least. Everything I had was fresh and seemed to be of the highest quality. I really enjoyed the experience.
After a trip to the store for some bread and lunch at home, I helped with a few chores around the house. I volunteered to mow the lawn. Not a terribly hard task but boy was it hot outside. Thankfully Bairnsdale gets a nice constant breeze from the ocean only 20 km away!
Dinners up, and I’m hungry. I’ll be back to write on Sunday after any adventure comes my way!