Monday, August 8, 2016

Secondary Science Sellers' Back To School Blog Hop 2016

Welcome back!  It's always a bit sad to see summer coming to and end, but I hope that it's balanced with that flutter of excitement about the new year with a fresh start and eagerness to try all the new ideas and resources you've been storing up for the new school year.

It's funny how we always think that no matter how well a unit or lesson went last year, there's gotta be a way to make it even better!  We just can't pass up a new idea that we recognize as something our students will love and will learn from.  I've been busy this summer creating and uploading some new resources for you, that I hope will give you that moment of recognition that "this is good".   Here are a few of them:

This is the latest in my biomes series.  Like the others, it contains reading passages about the biome itself and about an iconic animal of the biome.  In this case -the timber wolf.  It also includes questions with a unique twist - the "answer sheet" is a color-by-number picture of a timber wolf!  Students LOVE and stay engaged with learning when you give them a fun way to demonstrate their understanding!

Temperate Forest Biome Reading, Mapping, and Color-By-Number

Would you like to create your own color-by-number worksheet for a different unit?  Maybe you have a great idea for using the wolf for an endangered species unit.  Or perhaps you have an idea for using it with a populations lesson.  You can get an editable wolf to create your own color by number activity.   Just click HERE to see the editable color by number wolf product.  Or see my entire collection of color-by-number products HERE

Another recent addition to my store is this Atomic Structure Flip Book.  Each page provides a short explanation of one of these topics:

     1.  Parts of an atom
     2.  Atomic Number
     3.  Atomic Mass
     4.  Electron Shells
     5.  Ions and Isotopes

Each page also has a question or two for students to answer.  It can be stapled as a flip book, or each tabbed page can be used for bell work or a quick end of lesson assessment.  And it goes really well with the companion product Atomic Structure Task Cards

You could get ALL of these new products (or any others you prefer) FREE by winning my $25 Rafflecopter Giveaway.  Look below for details. 

Entering is easy!   To enter my giveaway, just choose one of these options:  

1.  Leave a comment on my blog about what you think is the toughest concept for your students to understand, or for you to teach. 

2.  Follow me on Pinterest 
3.  Follow my store on Teachers Pay Teachers.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You could also get a chance to win $100 worth of science teaching resources.  To kick off this new school year, I've joined with some other Teachers Pay Teachers science teacher/sellers to hold Rafflecopter contests.  After you enter my Rafflecopter giveaway, go to each blog pictured at the bottom of this post and enter their individual Rafflecopter giveaways. That makes 13 MORE chances to win individual TpT gift cards. 

In addition to our individual giveaways, we put together one HUGE blog hop giveaway, just for science teachers teaching grades 6-12 science: Four $100 Teachers Pay Teachers gift cards! 

Here's how to enter the $100 giveaway:  Each blog post has a secret code word and a number.  My clue word is Neil.  Is it astronaut Neil Armstrong? Physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson? Or maybe biologist Neil Hammerschlag? - keep collecting clue words and find out! Collect the words from each blog, write them down in number order, and copy the secret sentence into the joint Rafflecopter giveaway. My clue word (Neil) is #14 in the sentence.   This Rafflecopter form is the same on every blog, so you only need to enter once from any one of our blogs!  

Get started!

a Rafflecopter giveaway 

Terms and Conditions:

“Giveaway ends August 12th 2016 at 11:59 PM EST. Open to Residents of the US and Canada only.  Winners will be selected at random and be notified by email. Winners have 48 hours to confirm their email addresses and respond before a new winner is selected. The gift card offered for the giveaway is free of charge, no purchase necessary. My opinions are my own and were not influenced by any form of compensation.  Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram are in no way associated with this giveaway.  I do not share or sell information and will use any information only for the purpose of contacting the winner.”

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

When Wrong Answers Are More Important Than Right Ones

We're about to start a new school year, so I have to haul out my soapbox and talk about testing.  But it's not the kind of testing you might think I'm going to write about.  (I'll save that for next spring.)

I'm talking about a different kind of assessment.  The kind that might actually make you a better teacher.  Most science teachers have, at some point, seen a video of interviews done on graduation day at Harvard, in which students and professors were asked to explain the reason for seasons. If you've never seen it, let me just say it is a little depressing because science teachers work SO HARD to teach things that are, on the surface, so simple.  So simple that Harvard graduates (and professors) don't get it. That's just sad.  But it's a vivid demonstration that misconceptions are so strong that you can go through a lifetime of being taught the REAL reason for seasons (and graduate from HARVARD) without the correct concept sticking because of a misconception you held in childhood.

In a recent study researchers gave both teachers and their middle school science teachers the same multiple choice test.  Teachers were also asked to identify which wrong answer would be chosen most often by students. You can breathe a sigh of relief that the teachers scored better than their students in most cases.

Here's an example.  (It's not from the test referred to in the study, but it is similar to the questions on the survey test.)

     True or False.  When water boils, the bubbles are air being released from the water.

In an American Association for the Advancement of Science survey, 29% of middle school students selected "true" on a similar question.  In a class of 30 students, that means about 9 of your students would not really understand phase changes well enough to know that the bubbles are water vapor, not "air".  But they've "learned" about phases of matter every year since kindergarten haven't they? THAT'S how strong misconceptions can be.  Just for fun, I asked a few non-science teacher adults that same question.  ALL of them said the bubbles were air being released from the water, but a couple of them on reflection corrected themselves.  Still, it made me really think about the persistence and pervasiveness of misconceptions.

It made me realize that wrong answers can be more important to a good teacher than right answers. Wrong answers can actually make you a better teacher.

The study mentioned above also showed that students whose teachers were able to identify the common misconceptions of students were more effective (as measured by student outcomes) than teachers who were not able to identify the likely misconceptions.

A few years of teaching will definitely teach you a few common misconceptions.  We probably all go out of our way to address those we know of when we are teaching.  But here's the problem with that. You might know that some students hold a specific misconception. But you don't know WHICH students hold that misconception. Maybe none of them do. Maybe all of them do. Unless you pre-assess, you'll never know. And, because you're a science teacher, you probably don't hold many of the common misconceptions yourself. That fact, paradoxically, handicaps you by making it difficult to write a pre-assessment.

If you don't hold common misconceptions yourself, how do you know what they are? You can write a pre-assessment based on your own post tests, or unit activities, but they will only assess whether students know what you know.  They might not tell you what students believe instead of what you want them to know.  They're not coming to you as empty vessels.  They already have conceptions about things like the phases of matter, some of which are misconceptions.  Pre-assessment shouldn't be just finding out that they have misconceptions.  It should tell you what those misconceptions are.

To make pre-assessment a little easier for teachers, I did research on common scientific misconceptions held by different age groups of students, and created several pre-assessments that you can use.

Here's an example from my
Uncovering Student Misconceptions About Matter

Students are also asked to self-identify how sure they are of their answer.  That gives you a chance to identify the students who hold a misconception most firmly.  On the back side, they are given an opportunity to further explain their answer to you, or to clarify why they selected their answer.

To help you identify students who still hold a misconception at the end of your unit, before the unit test, you can return the pre-assessment to your students and have them reflection on the changes in their understanding.  That will help you to see if they get the "right" answer but for the "wrong" reason. Then you can address lingering misconceptions before the unit exam.

A teacher guide is also included with an explanation of the misconceptions commonly held:

Check out my Bundle of Pre-Assessments for these units:  Cells, Energy and Living Things, Matter, and Heredity.