Saturday, February 11, 2012

Deconstructing the Word “Wonder”

 The concept of wonder as being essential to science was not immediately apparent to all of my students. Some of them got it right away and were able to articulate it, “Science is all about the questions”.  Some of them sort of got it but couldn’t explain why while others had no idea at all where I was coming from or why there were question marks hanging all around the portal into my classroom.
To help them make the connection between science and wonder I had the grade eleven biology students work collaboratively in deconstructing the word “wonder”. We did some simple paper folding to make large placemat-style posters which we used for graphic organizers in our activity.
In the center of the place mat each group wrote the word wonder. In each of the four quadrats they:
  1. Used “wonder” as a noun 
  2. Used “wonder” as a verb 
  3.  Listed synonyms for “wonder”
  4.  Listed antonyms for “wonder”
During this activity the students were encouraged to use their electronic technology to help them. As you can see from the accompanying photos some of them got it and some of them are not there yet. What would you do to make this activity a richer learning task?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Setting the Tone

All teachers know that the classroom environment is an essential component in setting the tone for their class. It is essential to provide an atmosphere where the students feel safe, nurtured, and risk free. As a high school science teacher I have designed my classroom as a location where the students will not only feel these emotions but are encouraged to think critically about science and to do the appropriate research, either lab based, internet based or a combination of the two, to find the answers to the questions they are  wondering about.

To set the tone for a new semester I have relied on the real estate adage of “curb appeal”. I have redesigned the doorway to my classroom to give one the sense that they are entering a portal into Wonderland. Question marks dangle all around the recessed door, arrows point into the opening and a large sign reads “Welcome 2 Wonderland”.

In setting the tone for the students we invite them to engage in the wonder and awe of their natural universe. They are encouraged to think critically about what they are hearing, seeing, and reading both in the class and outside of the classroom walls. Tools are available for them to search for the answers to their questions; both traditional lab tools, such as beakers, test tubes, and microscopes as well as 21st Century tools such as laptops, open wifi access and they are encouraged to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).

How do you set the tone in your classroom? Please leave a comment to share your thoughts.