One of the biggest challenges we face engaging middle school students is connecting them with hands on learning. Add the hybrid nature of the Covid classroom and it becomes difficult to envision a class where exploration flourishes. In this post I would like to share one of my favorite hands on learning resources for the Middle School Classroom.
TOPS Learning Systems was created by Ronald Jay Marson. His experience was gained by teaching science and math in the West Africa as a Peace Corps. With this experience he learned to make do with limited resources. I like his resources because they don't require complex materials, paper clips and tape goes a long way. Adding his low tech materials in physical classes while pairing with dynamic online content is the perfect way to help your kids grow and learn.
For example: This week we are exploring cell respiration and energy production in cells. Using our Cell Respiration materials, we had students do a simple calorie calculation lab using a bowl of water. Students could determine how many calories were used in heating a container of water with their hands. This idea helped us make a connection between cell respiration, mitochondria, calories and heat.
Please be sure to check out Mr. Marson offerings, they can be downloaded in digital forms along with the freebies in class. We have no affiliation with his products, but wanted to pass along a good resources
The key to any middle level classroom is structure. At the start of class each day, students learn best when they have the opportunity to focus their attention on learning experiences. On the other side, middle school learners are very social and easily distracted. The ability to “start class” is essential. Bell ringers or getting started activities should have a visual or verbal cue for students. Simply saying "its time to begin" is an important step. From that point on you can engage kids. By doing this on a regular basis, students get in the habit of preparing their minds to learn. In addition you can provide visual cues. Online or face to face, I prefer a presentation slide with the days “bell ringer” Many students will enter the room or log in online and casually read your prompt. This subtle victory is very important, other kids will see this occur and they will model the same behavior. Next thing you know the class will start all by itself. You may ask the question, what kind of bell ringers do I use? There are no limits, but here are a few I like
Science during the COVID-19 pandemic has provided numerous challenges to classroom teachers. First and foremost is science requires first hand exploration of the world using physical objects (in many cases). So how do we as science processionals provide hands on learning opportunities in a way that upholds current social distancing practices and safety measures? Here's few thoughts.
The 2020 to 2021 school year has provided a boat load of challenges to teachers. All of our classroom management tools and experiences don’t necessarily fit the Hyflex learning environments that we are working in. With that understanding, I would like to provide some concepts that can help manage the workload, allow you to breathe and flourish in this highly stressful time. These are posted in no particular order, but will assist you in the management of your day to day teaching activities.
Post online assignments everyday, for every student. All students can complete online work. This saves time and efforts making two different types of lessons (one for online and one for face to face).
Have students submit in class work online. Yep, skip the paperwork. This ensures that all school work is going to the same place. No more piles of paper to grade or excuses on turning it in. Consider a program like Kami if you have PDF files and worksheets you would like your students to edit to turn in online.
Upload pictures and videos to help at home students with any in class assignments that need extra work. This is vital to your at home students. They need a greater degree of communication for their assignment, video fills the gap and helps provide important details about expectations. Use an online editing program like Screencast-O-Matic or just grab your phone and hit record. As an added benefit, it provides an extra set of instructions for your face to face students that makes reteaching super easy.
Have all your work posted for the week by Sunday night. This is an important step. It allows you to focus on the teaching portion of your class because the content is already there. This frees brain space to make a great bell ringer (like this TED talk on hand washing versus soap). Setting up safe lesson activities that are engaging and provide social distance.
Automate assignments: Some assignments require time to grade while others don’t. Be sure you are not packing your week with manually graded assignments. This is a guaranteed way to reach burn out in a hurry. With the added burdens of lesson planning, communicating with online kids, maintaining all our pandemic protocols, it's OK to build in some breathing room. I like to separate days with manually graded assignments with days that use autograded activities. Whether it's an ED Puzzle or Quizizz, these programs are enjoyable and provide rich learning opportunities for our students.
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