A Journey Through Technology

Week 11: What are my challenges and successes in implementing my unit?

on April 9, 2016

Week one of my Understanding by Design unit is in the books, and I already have a list of things to do differently for next year. In terms of challenges, the first issue for me was not being able to start on Monday like I originally intended. My school operates on a block schedule three days per week, so this put a wrench in my planning times.

I started on Wednesday with two of my classes and Thursday with the other three.We started with a pre=test for me to assess what they current level of knowledge and understanding is with respect to gases and gas laws. Out of my five chemistry classes, one student earned 8 out of 30 points, with the majority of students scoring 0 or 1 out of 30. I guess I can consider this a success because I believe this is an accurate representation of my students abilities at this point.

After all students had finished the pre-test, I handed out a sheet for students to brainstorm the relationships between pairs of the three main gas variables, pressure, temperature, and volume. A challenge that I experienced in this activity for my first few classes was the realization that most students didn’t understand what pressure actually means with respect to gases. I fixed this for three of my five classes by explaining that before I let them brainstorm with their partner so they could better distinguish between pressure and volume. Next time I teach this unit I will make sure to use more scaffolding and define the variables for the students first.

A success that arose from this brainstorming activity was the interesting classroom discussions we had about the relationships between pressure, volume, and temperature of a gas. Students came up with some really good real world examples, some of which I hadn’t really thought of before. This was a really good way for them to connect their learning to the real world, and I hope we can expand on those thoughts and ideas as we move through this unit.

After the brainstorming, I had students pick the relationship they understood the least (thanks Kate for that idea!) and get ready to explore that relationship in a lab the next class period. This is where a huge difficulty came in to play, because I have never actually attempted to have students performing more than one type of lab at the same time in class. All day today, my students worked with a partner on a lab they selected yesterday, and in the first two classes of the day, there were three different labs being performed at the same time. I had made a few assumptions ahead of time that were not valid, so these class periods did not go as smoothly as intended. I quickly realized that I would need to spend a lot more time explaining the lab directions and set-up with students than I planned, and today was also not a block period, which meant students really only had about 30 minutes of time that were completely devoted to lab work.

By the end of the day, I got the labs sorted out and added scaffolding to the later classes, which really made a big difference, although not all of the issues were solved. I wanted to offer students a choice in the lab to differentiate the lab, but after today I think a better way of differentiating will be to offer different levels of the same lab. I think I will offer different levels of inquiry in the future to offer a challenge for all of my students.

Next week will have a combination of teacher and student directed activities, and I hope to have more successes, and probably a few more challenges, to report. I still really like how my unit is planned, even though this week didn’t go quite as i thought it would, and am actually looking forward to applying this method to more of my lessons for next year.

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