As I mentioned last week, I have been writing lesson plans based on the University of South Florida’s template. The lesson that I taught in this past week was science that was called “Rubber Ducky Relays.” In this lesson, students explored forces (pushes and pulls), motion, and direction by moving a rubber ducky in a tub of water using a variety of tools.
This lesson was a suggestion from the team meeting of all the teachers in my grade level. I really liked the idea of this lesson because it connected to my previous science lesson (pushes and pulls with a boat) and the Aquafoils lessons from Science Olympics. By doing this, I meet FEAP 1B: “Sequences lessons and concepts to ensure coherence and required prior knowledge.” I was also able to meet FEAP 3E: “Relate and integrate the subject matter with other disciplines and life experiences” by relating the content to other experiences that the students had. I also really like when students are able to participate in Total Physical Response because it supports kinesthetic learners and provides students with engaging and fun lessons.
When I wrote the lesson plan, I made the lesson very structured; however, I wanted to give my students the opportunity to explore freely. I showed this through my explicit connection to the Nature of Science Standard: SC.1.N.1.1: “Raise questions about the natural world, investigate them in teams through free exploration, and generate appropriate explanations based on those explorations.” By doing this, I meet FEAP 1A: “Aligns instruction with state-adopted standards at the appropriate level of rigor.” I decided to give my students the opportunity to explore using their choice of tools from a selected group. The students then had to use this tool to put the rubber duck in motion, change its direction, and make it stop moving.
When I taught this lesson plan, the structure slowly disintegrated as the students began exploring. I know that I was nervous and kept referring back to my plan because I was afraid of making a mistake. (I had been sick that entire week and I had a headache during the lesson before science). But I internally told myself to stay calm and to learn to let go.
I noticed my first mistake when, after I had set up the materials and gotten students excited and ready to investigate, that they did not have their journals out to make observations, nor did they have the chart that I made to record their data. Instead of panicking about my mistake; however, I simply asked the students what we were missing. Some of the students were able to answer that we needed our science journals in order to record our data. The students then got out their journals and glued in their charts through this seemingly seamless interaction. After the lesson, I talked to my collaborating teacher about this incident and she told me that she did not even realize that I had made a mistake; she thought I was doing what I had already planned. I really appreciated this comment and I feel like it is very important to show my growth as a teacher.
After gluing in the charts, I made sure very explicitly explain the chart. Last time there was a lot of misunderstandings because there were two charts and the students were confused about where to write their data. This time, I spent a good period of time explaining the chart; however, it turned out that the students were more focused on the exploration that filling out the chart. At first I tried to redirect the students back to the chart; however, I realized that although record keeping and data collection was important, it was also important for the students to investigate through free exploration, which is exactly what they were doing. So I began to let go and allow the students to explore using all of the tools available to them.
In the beginning of the lesson, I passed out bags with a pipette, a ruler, and 4 straws (one for each group member so there would be no cross-contamination between students because I knew someone would put it in his or her mouth, which was perfectly acceptable as long as they used it appropriately). I wanted the students to explore and discover that an object can move even if the force is not directly applied to it (meaning if a student blows on the duck, it will still be pushed away) and I was very pleased to see that students discovered this mostly on their own. It was very interesting; however, because when we discussed what happened, the students were very talkative about pushing the duck away by blowing but no one wanted to talk about pulling the duck. I believe this happened because the students did not want to say the word “suck.” I think this was due to the fact that I have informed the students that I do not appreciate, nor do I want to hear words like “stupid” or “duh” in the classroom, so I think they assumed that “suck” is always a bad word even though it had a different meaning in this situation.
I was very surprised that my students were so engaged due to using the straws. I was very excited that they picked up free exploration quickly and easily. I was nervous to include this in my lesson plan because I was not sure if the students could handle it; however, I was clearly mistaken.
At the end of the lesson, I had students reflect on the experience and then self-assess using a smiley face system. In my classroom, the students self-assess their knowledge of the content using 🙂 , . and ? The students write a 🙂 when they believe they fully understand the content and could teach it to a peer. The students write a when they think they need extra help. The students write a ? when they know they need a lot of practice and help to understand the content. I did not yet collect and analyze this data; however, I was intrigued because one student who clearly mastered the content based on my informal observations put a ?. I asked her why she made this choice and she told me that this was because of what my collaborating teacher and I had said about self-assessment. In the past, we noticed that students would lie about their abilities in order to seem like they were doing well. My collaborating teacher and I had a long discussion with the students about honesty when self-assessing. I think; however, that we may need to remind the students that being honest does not mean under-estimating your abilities, but writing what you truly feel about how well you think you know the content.
I think that my second lesson went well; however, I know that I definitely did not explicitly follow my lesson plan. I do; however, this it is important to make adjustments as someone teaches a lesson based on the needs of his or her students that are observed through informal or formal observations. I am very excited for next week because I will be teaching my first STEM lesson based on Sheep in a Jeep. I have heavily modified this lesson with some help from my collaborating teacher and the science content coach and I am very hopeful that the students will learn and enjoy the lesson.