Sunday, December 20, 2015

Inquiry/Research-Based Bio Strand

This was my first time teaching the Grade 10 Academic Science in about 4 years. Since that time my teaching styles and philosophy have changed quite a bit. As many of you know I implemented a flipped model in most of my classes - my primary goal being to help students to be active learners (if they do the work, they do the learning), become better independent learners, and to seek more time for collaborative problem solving. But when it came closer to time to start the Biology unit for this course I wanted something different, so I tried to seek a more project/inquiry-based method.

In large part I wanted to make this change from my usual methods for motivation. Biology is not my strong suit (I did not even take Gr 11 bio when I was in high school) and the last time I taught this involved too many power points. I wanted to motivate myself and, in turn, motivate my students to grasp the bigger picture. This really gave me a chance to remind them to focus on the overarching learning goals of the course so they will leave my course with a better understanding of the bigger picture.

A big part of the overall idea was to design the unit backward. To START with the big picture and END with the cell. I hoped to give students a better grasp of how parts work to create a whole (one of our overarching learning goals for the course).

Here is what we did:

Day 1: Intro to "The Whole" of a Living Thing
I had students do an inquiry as a group. Each group got a question such as "How does a long-distance run affect the systems of a human body" and had most o the period to do research. They then shared what they discovered with the class before the bell.

Day 2-3: Frog Dissection
Students worked through a procedure to dissect a frog (based on one I found on the net supported by some online video instruction that I showed in stages for the class). A couple of students opted to work through a virtual dissection in class instead on day 2. They had to document their dissection on the class OneNote file.

Day 4-8: Importance of Organ Systems (Debate)
This was also based on something I found on the net. Students were split into 11 groups to cover all of the human system. Each pair did some research about their system to discover what organs were involved, the role of each organ, the overall importance of the system, and a "slogan" for their system. We used butcher paper to do a life-sized diagram of the system with all of the necessary info and then students decided to post and do a gallery walk as their "opening argument" instead of a 5 minute share. Then they prepared a rebuttal supporting their system and presented that to the class. Finally students voted on which system was the most important to the survival of the human species. I ended up having them submit a paragraph about this to support, gave them feedback, and then used the same question on their unit test.

Day 9: Tissue Function
Each student was assigned a specific tissue (assorted between the 4 main types of plant and animal tissues so all would be covered) and had to do some research to complete a template of relatively basic information. Some were more challenging than others. They then had to walk around and figure out who their partner/group was which I verified for them to make sure they were in their ajor tissue group (i.e. all the epidermal together, etc) and then find why they were grouped to complete the next section. Then I grouped an animal group and a plant group together that have similar functions and they had to figure out why I paired them. Finally they grouped as all plant or all animal to look at how the tissues work together.

6 Days of Work Periods Throughout: STSE Bio Technology Project
Students started a major project. They had to work in pairs to: Do a topic proposal (that had to support the Overarching Learning Goal - related to society and/or the environment); Complete secondary research; Propose, create and carry-out primary research; and, Finally, propose and carry-out an action to educate a target group about their topic based on their research. At the end they also had to do a reflection to share their learning and to help me reflect on the project itself to see how valuable it really was in the end. (I have yet to look at these.)

Day 10: Cell Parts and Functions
I created a sheet to fill in to label cell parts and record their functions. A table was either assigned the plant or the animal cell to look at. They also had to create an analogy for their assigned cell and justify what each of the parts were within the analogy. The following day they made sure they had both plant and animal recorded on their sheets.

Day 11: Microscopes
Students got introduced to the parts of the microscope and basic skills for use. They then completed a "letter e" lab to build the actual skills and start doing biological drawings.

Day 12: Mitosis
Students completed a worksheet/note on the cell cycle, focusing on Mitosis and watched a video and animation.

Day 13-14: Mitosis/Biological Drawings
Used microscopes to identify the stages of mitosis and draw the stages (summative assignment).

Day 15: Stem/Specialized Cells & Cancerous vs Normal Cells
Students used videos, research, and notes to make sure they understood what the above ideas were.

Remaining summatives were a unit test (focused on learning goals published) and the presentaions of their STSE projects/actions with the rest of the class.

There are definitely things in this unit that I will reuse if I end up teaching the course again. It was definitely more engaging for me and students seemed to enjoy it - and the end results showed an improved understanding of the overarching learning goals - so I would say "mission accomplished."

I am happy to share any of the above lessons if you are interested in anything. And also am open to ideas, suggestions, comments or questions that you may have. Please post below :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

My Favourite Things: A December #BlogHop

Hello #peel21st & other readers!

We are writing this month to share 5 of our favourite things related to education. The list of contributors to this blog hop can be found at the bottom of this post. Here goes! (In no particular order...basically the first 5 things that came to mind tonight!):

1. For creating video lessons I choose Explain Everything

This is an app for iPad that is fairly user friendly and has had quite a few features added to it this past year (i.e. I can now add mathematical equations). You can upload your videos to a large variety of places from the storage on your iPad to YouTube to Google Drive.  It does have a cost to download, but it has been well worth it for me. I know that some schools have paid to have it put on school devices for student use as well.

2. For a LMS I will be switching to Google Classroom (either next Semester or in Sept)

A lot has been developed for this system since it was first introduced. I currently use Edmodo and while I like to be able to give parents the option to have a connected account (and while they have added Microsoft online, which is a bonus) the fact that students in my board already have google accounts means this change makes sense at this time. There are a lot of connected apps that you get immediate access to by switching to Google. Though I must admit, I do not look forward to redoing my online assessments...again. But such is life!

If you have google apps/add-ons to suggest please comment below or catch me on Twitter :)

3. For organization I live off of Evernote

I use this app on all of my devices (it is cross platform and can be accessed on their website) and use it instead of using bookmarks on my browser - mostly to save education related resources - because you can tag each item with as many tags as you would like. I also use it to go paperless at home (i.e. keeping car repair/maintenance records), save recipes, and it is where I note-take when I attend PD (this is handy when it comes time to update my resume, or I need to review something from past conference, etc).

4. For teacher-directed PD I am often found on Twitter

I participate in formal chats on twitter with groups of like-minded educators. It is usually through these times that I undergo the most professional growth. I am able to get ideas from others, ask questions, share resources, and work on discovering new things on my own time, at my own pace. I have found that in many circumstances, finding like-minded people is more valuable than finding people close by. Of course there are times when face-to-face meetings are more beneficial, but I have done most of my learning around tech and flipped learning online.

5. For reading/assessment professional learning - Rethinking Letter Grades

This has been the driving force behind a lot of my work with #AssessPeel to go back to focus on backward design (by creating overarching learning goals) and letting this inform all assessment decisions - from creating a course learning map to learning goals/success criteria, and evaluations. I have blogged about this resource and our work earlier in the year. The entry can be found here.

Please check out the other blogs below!

Jason Richea
Heather Lye
Amit Mehrotra
Jason Wigmore
Melanie Mulcaster
Jonathan So
Jim Cash
Tina Zita
Maggie Fay
Pam Taylor
Gina Loutrianakis
Laura Smiley

Monday, December 7, 2015

Digital Citizenship: A #flipclass Flashblog

This week on our #flipclass chat we are discussing digital citizenship - what we teach (or don't) and what students need to learn.

I have always been a big supporter of the need to USE technology with students so that they have a change to learn about being positive digital citizen, to be safe, and to learn to cite and respect the work of others. I am sure I have blogged about some of these ideas in the past particularly when I was developing my ideas for doing formal Twitter chats with students as review. Essentially my point of view is this - if kids are usually ahead of their parents online, then if we do not teach them, who will?

Since I have stopped using those chats the need to explicitly teach the first two has dwindled. Since I am teaching science teaching the third one comes hand in hand with any research project we do. Creating research notes and reference lists are a much and is scaffolded throughout our department's program.

Our board uses a BYOD (bring your own device) model and my school often has a student run day somewhere around the topics of bullying/self-esteem, so aspects of digital citizenship often get touched on. I wish I had a photo of the poster most of us have up in our rooms to share with you. It uses the acronym THINK to help remind students to think before they post. Here is a link to a PDF of it instead. The description is also below:


When instances for a teachable moment come up in class (or on our online classroom) I always cease them to discuss - sometimes with a particular student, and sometimes with the whole class. But maybe I should do more. I would love to have some kind of simulation I could run. Where students are participating in an online chat and they get spammed with inappropriate comments or something...then we could discuss what they could do, etc.

Food for thought, anyway.