I’ve gotten a little behind on my writing, primarily due to the fact that WordPress is driving me crazy not displaying the links that I’ve placed in my post. I’m not sure what’s wrong; I’ve tried several different methods, but ultimately always have to revert back to doing the link in HTML (which is ok, but if there is a button, it should work.)
For the second day of Geometry we jumped right into the content. I really love the way the Common Core State Standards leads off with Transformations in Geometry. It lends itself to a more dynamic view of geometry, which I feel really benefits students as compared to the more traditional approach later in the course.
This summer I read a good amount about Piaget’s Learning Cycle (which is almost synonymous with the Modeling Cycle) and I am really trying to integrate it into every subject that I teach.
So for the Exploration stage (Piaget), or Paradigm Lab (Modeling), we played Tetris. Well, not exactly, I gave each student a unique Tetris board with pieces already in place, a 10 x 10 grid, and an assortment of tetriminoes. Their goal was to get their partner to perfectly recreate the puzzle without pointing at the board, touching the pieces, or showing their puzzle.
The students were very engaged and seemed to enjoy the activity and after, lead to some really good discussion about the basic moves of tetris: slides, turns, and flips (traditional tetris has no reflections; however, I did not include any mirrored pieces in the students’ set of tetriminoes which made them really think outside the box when it came to turning pieces over). The last little bit of class we spent discussing what you information you needed to know to perform each of the individual movements.
This activity was great, but it seemed liked it took a long time to get across a pretty simple point. Next year, I think I am going to do something similar to what Kate Nowak did to introduce congruence through transformations. I feel like her approach still allows students to explore while still getting the content across and it would allow me to go ahead and start teaching Translations the same day. I wish the entire country started school at the same time so I could steal ideas as I needed them instead of having to file them away until next year.
My physics class this year is only seven students big and each of them are very gifted, so I’m hoping to get much further in the curriculum this year than I did last year. To start the first day of content in class we did the classic pendulum lab. I allowed them to brainstorm variables that could affect the period of the pendulum and then allowed them to take data for each of these ideas. Last year, when I allowed students to brainstorm variables to investigate I got several interesting ideas; however, this year the traditional three (mass, angle, and length of string) were the only ones suggested.
The experiments went really well and had students asking some really good questions. Several took way too long doing the mass portion of the experiment, because they refused to believe that heavier objects didn’t swing faster than lighter ones. We ran out of time before we could discuss everything. I am that, after we have discussed curve-fitting techniques, I can use my six-foot bowling ball pendulum to verify the models they create.
This is my first time teaching Astronomy and, even though I have received some great advice, from some great educators (let me know if the links do not work, I’m not sure how the permissions work on dropbox and google drive), I am having trouble getting all of my thoughts and goals together for the course. I’m pretty confident with my plans later in the semester, but for some reason the introduction is proving to be very difficult. Our textbook (“Investigating Astronomy” by Slater and Freedman) jumps straight in to, what I call, Visible Astronomy, which involves the motion of constellations, phases of the moon, eclipses, etc; but I decided to take a different approach and start with a unit on the Scientific Method and Optics.
So for the second day of class I gave students the first lesson from Astronomy Labs: A Concept Oriented Approach, which is suppose to practice some basic mathematics: conversions, scientific notation, and equation solving through the lens of planning a trip to Mars. I thought that it would be a great way to introduce students to the mathematical difficulty that was going to be involved in the course while also exploring an interesting concept.
It was a disaster. I clearly took the mathematical ability of my students for granted. Some students did fine, but others refused to continue after only a couple of problems. I ultimately reverted back to lecturing them through the asnwers, but ultimately I felt like the day was wasted, lesson learned. Luckily, I get another try second semester.
P.S. with the addition of Astronomy to my course-load, I might have to change the name of the blog from the Inclined Plane to the Inclined Ecliptic Plane; but that opens a slippery slope, I’m not sure I’m creative enough to keep the name chain going if I have to teach something new next year.