Entry and Artifact #5
Title of Entry: Visual Learning in High School Science Classes
Artifact: Mitosis Posters – Student Work
Date of Entry: March 30, 2011
Focus of Entry: Teaching Practice, Secondary School Program
As a student teacher at my second practicum placement (Thomas A. Blakelock High School), I was responsible for teaching the grade ten science unit on Biology. This unit begins with the basics on cells, differences between cell types, and cellular reproduction. During this unit, a lot of time is spent using microscopes and looking at the different cell types. This can be a challenging unit for the students as there are many new (and often large and hard to pronounce) words and techniques that have not been covered previously. The posters included in this entry serve as the artifact for the secondary school program, relating to my teaching practice. The topic of mitosis is one that is outlined in the Ontario curriculum documents and must be covered in this unit. For this reason, after a lengthy lecture style lesson on this information I gave the student the opportunity to work quietly on a visual representation of this process. The results are what you see in this artifact. As part of my teaching practice I want to be able to teach my students using one method or style and then have them complete an assignment or activity using the information they have been given using another means or method. Using multiple teaching techniques like this, and having students do repetitive work while not feeling repetitive is a good way in science courses to make connections. These multiple techniques are something that I value and have seen many teachers in my practicum and volunteer experiences use to their benefit. I would for that reason like to include these techniques into my teaching practice in order to better serve my students and ensure that all are learning to the best of their ability. I also need to always ensure that the secondary school program is being represented as outlined in the ministry documents. I have planned several units at this point and understand the need to plan using backwards design and to incorporate the various elements outlined in the curriculum documents. These posters serve to demonstrate my commitment to teaching the students the information outlined in the ministry documents, as well as to highlight my learning of what to include in my teaching practice.
Creating this assignment for my grade ten science class was fairly easy. I had taught the lesson about mitosis earlier in the period to the students so knew that they had the necessary notes to complete this type of assignment. I also understood from having worked with this class for the previous several weeks that they often needed breaks in the lessons and that Fridays could be a tough day to get them engaged as thoroughly as other days of the week. I had read about various techniques like this in the book, ‘The First-Year Teacher’s Survival Guide’ (Thompson, 2007). With this in mind, I created a worksheet that included pictures of the various stages of mitosis. The students were instructed that they would be making a poster to represent mitosis to someone who had never heard of the topic previously. I left the details of how the posters should be made up to the students, with the only guidance being that there should be a logical flow to the series of pictures and that each stage must be named. Students were then given the remainder of the class to work on the assignment, and it was handed in the following week.
I think that this assignment demonstrated to me the need for a variety of mediums when dealing with science students. For the most part when we speak about science and or science students we expect that they will choose to write up an assignment rather than draw a picture to represent it. While this may be true of those students who continue on in the sciences, people who go on to do lab work and research in their field, this is definitely not the case for our grade nine and ten science students. These students have not yet determined what they want to do for the rest of their lives and only know that the grade nine and ten science courses are mandatory. So while at the beginning of my schooling at OISE I thought that science students should be taught how to write a lab report and would prepare many written projects, I now think much differently. These students come from all types of backgrounds and interests, and it is my job as their science teacher to do a couple of things. It is my job to introduce them to the world of science and interest them in at least one aspect of it. It is also my job to provide these students with the opportunities that will help them to learn best, and that is not always a written lab report or a typed up project about some scientific topic. Giving these students the opportunity to draw or cut and paste these images into a visual in order to learn about mitosis gave me a new vision that I was previously lacking. I understood that students should be given choice but had difficulty knowing how and where I could use these choices within a science class. I learned through this experience that different mediums are extremely important to my junior science students and that they truly appreciate being given options when it comes to presenting the information they are learning. This class had proved to me that they picked up the material quickly and after completing this assignment I tried to incorporate other methods for the different types of learners in my class. We often had ‘check-ins’ during class where I would fire off questions and they knew that I could potentially call on anyone for the answer. This method was great in terms of the auditory learners in the class, and also got the students who were quick memorizers engaged. I also tried to use visuals on the board when we were learning about certain topics, and would draw the outline of something and ask for volunteers to come up and help me finish the drawing. This got my visual learners engaged, as well as those students who just wanted to draw on the board. I also after completing this assignment put the students into groups of three and told each group that they represented a stage of mitosis. I asked the groups to stand at the front of the class and get in order so that mitosis could occur, and then act out the stage they were representing. A few of my students are involved in the drama and improvisation clubs and thought this was a really fun activity. It also got my kinesthetic learners up and engaged. All in all, this assignment proved to be one of significant learning for me, not only in terms of other methods that I can use to engage my students, but in learning about my students and some of the methods they learn best.
This assignment will be used in every grade ten science class I teach. I found it extremely helpful to use a variety of teaching techniques in this case to demonstrate a difficult topic. I would like to take this assignment and model it for others so that I can have many more assignments available as multiple learning opportunities. I believe that students, especially those in the junior grades have not yet determined how they study best, and how they learn best, so giving them choice in their learning is a good thing so that they may attempt to figure this out. I think it would be beneficial at the beginning of a course to learn about the specific students in the class in terms of their learning. Using a multiple intelligences test of some sort would give me a lot of information in terms of what kind of learners my students are, and could be very beneficial when assigning projects and or class work. Another resource I purchased this year, ‘The Sourcebook for Teaching Science’ (Herr, 2008) is a great resource for activities, strategies, and resources for teaching high school science. I believe that this book could also serve me well when creating assignments in the future. I would also like to have several versions of the assignments so that students would be able to choose how to complete. I think the choice for students gives them a sense of empowerment and confidence which can only help in a difficult subject area like science. This assignment taught me that I need to be more diverse in my teaching and offer more differentiated instruction in terms of choice for my students. My goal is to continue working on other assignments that could be completed in multiple ways and to create new assignments and projects with the various types of learners in mind.