Several years back, I was moved from fifth grade math to second grade self-contained. I had never taught self-contained classroom and I had never taught science. I had no idea what to do with my kiddos concerning science activities, so we did lots of nature walks, weather observations, etc…
Seeing that they really liked going outside into our school garden, I pounced on the opportunity to incorporate it into any and every science lesson I could. But… you can’t garden every day, and I needed more. I had come to see that young children are naturally curious about the world around them, and since the study of scie
nce is basically our attempt to explain the world around us – well children and science are a natural fit.
One thing led to another, and soon I had my M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction with an Emphasis in Science Education. My whole philosophy about how to teach completely changed.
Have you ever noticed that much of the materials provided with our the adopted curriculum usually doesn’t meet the needs of the teacher or the students?
Some of the issues I was dealing with at the time were:
- if it was a worksheet activity, then it was visually boring and the content was either too easy or there wasn’t enough of it;
- the activities provided were few, and there wasn’t a good variety that allowed students to really reach different learning styles
- what materials we did have on campus (such as FOSS kits), were held under lock and key (for real) and no one could get to them to use them. Hmmph. (Although this situation was later remedied.)
I desperately needed activities that would accommodate constructive learning and help develop meta-cognition skills. Sure, multiple choice questions have their place. But do they really reflect what our students have learned? What they really get?
So, like every other teacher out there, I improvised.
I decided that if I wanted to know what my students had learned, I would just ask them!
One of the first activities I incorporated in which I was essentially asking what my kiddos have learned was the student reflection page. It is open-ended in that the students reflect on their learning in an authentic manner. I love using these with my kids, because all of them can participate and they all have something to share!
Reflection pages can easily be adapted for differentiation purposes, and I’ve highlighted a few tips in red above. I remember the first time I had my students (second graders!) fill one of these out, I was completely amazed at how seriously they were taking the assignment. Then when I sat down to read their reflections I was hooked. Every single student had something to share and to feel successful about! And, I began see many of my students in a brand new light!!
Click the image below to sign up for the Little Smarticle Particles newsletter and to receive a free set of journaling pages that you can start off with when teaching states of matter (which is usually one of the first topics covered).
I’d love to hear your feedback and… until next time,