Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Learning the Literacy Habits of my Students

At the beginning of the school year, all the students are new and we must learn how we, as teachers, are going to best be able to teach our students. My co-teacher planned an activity called Mystery Boxes that was designed to introduce the scientific method and how science works, but I thought it would make a great opportunity to help get to know my students' literacy habits, strengths, and struggles.

The activity begins with the discussion of what science is and the kinds of questions it answers. This is a class discussion with think-pair-share time with peers. Students are then given a paper cube with numbers on it but one side is blank. Students then worked in groups to determine what should be on the blank side and why. The next cube they get is more complicated and students must find patterns and relationships to determine the blank side. Again, they must provide written evidence for their conclusion. We provided several sentence frames and vocabulary to help students express their evidence and conclusions.

I was able to assess their literacy habits, strengths, and struggles because I got to spend quite a bit of time with students in small groups as I walked around to help, as well as in grading their papers that where they wrote their evidence and conclusions. I was able to learn that most of my students were able to pick out complex patterns and describe what those patterns were and what they meant. Some needed more prodding than others and some students needed to be lead to those conclusions and assisted with using evidence to support their conclusions. After grading papers however, I found that many of the students who were able to explain their conclusions verbally, struggled with putting it into words on paper. Again, I discovered who the students were that were right on, who had the concepts but not the grammar and spelling, and who wasn't getting it at all.

This activity has helped me learn which students will need me to spend time with them on written portions of assignments and labs, and begin thinking of ways to assess them verbally in a small group setting so I can find out what they are understanding and what they are not!

In addition to this activity, I have since included a student survey as well to help be get a better sense of their educational needs, interests, and their views on science.

Science Survey
1.            Do you like Science? Why or why not?
2.            What is your favorite topic in science?
3.            What is your favorite school subject?
4.            If you had to rate your school experience over the past 5 years on a scale of 1-5, 1 being Terrible and 5 being Very Enjoyable, how would you rate it?
5.            Did you like your science classes in middle school? Why or why not?
6.            Do you prefer to work in groups or alone?
7.            How do you learn best? (for example: by doing, by seeing, or by listening)
8.            What do you do after school during the week? Hobbies? Sports?
9.            What do you like to read?
10.          Do you enjoy being outside? If so, doing what?
11.          If you needed to ask for help in science, when is the best time for you to get it? Before school? Lunch? Right after school?
12.          What can your teachers do this semester to help you learn and enjoy science?
13.          So far this semester, what part of this class do you struggle most with?


1 comment:

  1. Using an engaging activity in your content to get students interested in science as well as to gauge their literacy levels, at least to some degree, is a good idea. You were assessing without them even knowing it!