Practicing the Art of Control

A few posts ago I mentioned how I was terrified to give up control of my classroom and seriously concerned over how that would change the learning within my classroom. Now I look back on that thought and I must say, I’ll never go back – in fact, I am finding new ways to let the students LEARN without me TEACHING (in traditional senses of the words). However, I have learned a few things:

1. Students need direction: Each term I do a lab investigating how waves work using slinkys (and of course being loud in the hallways while shamelessly promoting Physics classes 🙂 ), and each term students generally have trouble getting started. This year I have been slowly teaching students with a consistent method of ask, predict, test, explain. So, I changed my usual assignment to fit this format and WOW what a difference it has made. Simply giving students explicit questions to answer instead of things to do kept them not only on task, but determined to figure out the principles. Frequently they were saying, “no wait, don’t tell us, we want to figure it out”, instead of, “is this answer right,”. A simple change in directions made all the difference in the world.

2. Students need to learn how before we shove it at them: As I mentioned above, I have given students smaller activities with the ask, predict, test, explain method and this made a huge difference when getting to the bigger project. Students were already familiar with the format and inquiry wasn’t randomly shoved into the class. Inquiry needs to be consistent and introduced immediately.

3. Let them talk and they will surprise you: Instead of jumping in to help during this lesson (as I normally do) I asked students how they came to their response. I had 2 separate students come up with ways to prove why waves pass through each other that were much clearer than I had ever shown! The best part was that after these were shared, all I had to say was, can you help this other group here and the students went over and asked them to do the process they came up with and the students in the ‘helpee’ group were all able to come to the ‘correct’ conclusion. Sometimes I would then see the ‘helpee’ group show the ‘helper’ group what they were thinking and why. AMAZING!

Needless to say, I had a fantastic day in my Physics class today and I saw some of the best discussion yet. I can’t wait to get them going on a bigger project that gets them into Lloydminster!


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