Sunday, May 15, 2016

Testing Is Over...What Next?

Many students believe the school year ends after testing is over sometime in the beginning or middle of May.  Students think their time left in school will be a mixture of yearbook signings, class parties, and movies.  However, for many districts, there can be anywhere from two to four weeks of school left.  Sorry to bust your bubble, but in my science class #maymatters!

The end of the school year is one of my favorite times of year (the first week of school is #1 on my charts) because I am no longer crunched for time and I don't have the heavy burden and stress of a state assessment lingering on my shoulders.  In May, I pull up my sleeves and try new things, take classroom risks, and most importantly have fun with my students!  Here are a few things that have worked for me in the past and have kept me and my students fully engaged in #belltobell year long learning.

Sample student work from the
Chemistry Water Purification PBL
1. Try a PBL (project based learning) - Many teachers are afraid to try a long project such as a PBL because they don't have enough time or they are too afraid to let go of their reigns on the class.  Teaching doesn't have to be a dictatorship where the teacher is the center of attention.  Actually it should be the opposite, where students are in the driver's seat of their own learning adventures and PBL's are a great way to start.  Find some ideas from the Buck Institute and let your students loose...I guarantee they will surprise you! Here is a great idea for a chemistry PBL that I made with my teachers.  Water Purification PBL Video

2. Create a Class Newsletter - One of my first years in teaching I would create quarterly newsletters for all of my biology parents.  By my second year of teaching I decided to let my students reflect on the cool labs we had conducted by creating short summaries for their favorite labs.  I chose the best ones and included them in the digital communication I sent to their parents.  

3. Evaluate the Teacher - Create a short teacher evaluation for your students to complete at the end of the year.  I was always looking for their constructive criticism to make me a better teacher and I always wanted to tweak labs to make them more inquiry based and engaging.  I also got some insight on what my students really remembered from the year, and why those particular activities, labs, or projects resonated with the students.  Here is a very basic sample Teacher Evaluation .

Stafford Science Club Members at a
Keep Stafford Beautiful Clean Up Event
4. Plan a Field Trip - My master's degree was all about field research while taking bite force measurements of different species of sea turtles around the globe and I am all about supporting students through hands-on learning.  When I can, I try to take my students on educational beach journeys since the ocean is near and dear to my heart.  When in Miami my students and I went to the Bio Blitz at Biscayne National Park where they literally got their hands and feet wet while seining for marine creatures.  Once I took students to the NOAA sea turtle facility in Galveston where they got to learn about how conservation efforts are saving these precious sea creatures.  Yes, the paperwork is a pain in the butt, but it is so worth it and the students will never forget it!

Sample Visual Acrostic Poem
5. Bring in Guest Speakers - Sometimes it is nice to get someone else to do the teaching for you with a focus on real world applications.  Bring the real life science to your students.  I always try and involve the community in my science class and seek out science professionals to speak to my students.  One year I brought in representatives from ABC Dental to talk about bacteria's role in tooth decay and everyone got a free toothbrush!  SCORE! With all the technology now available your guest can check in via Skype or a live webinar from anywhere around the globe!

6. Acrostic Name Poems - The day after the biology state assessment my students and I always create acrostic name poems.  It is a way for everyone to debrief in a creative way.  All students pull out their book and interactive science journal and spell out their first name on a piece of construction paper with colorful markers.  Then they create a simple acrostic poem using keywords and visuals.  Sometimes it gets a little tricky with difficult letters like Q and Z, but the class helps out as needed and some words get a little creative!  These are also great review activities for unit exams using key vocabulary terms.

7. Take a Multiple Intelligence or Personality Test - My students love learning about the way they learn.   There are a plethora of online personality tests, surveys, questionnaires, etc. available online.  I always spend a day where students figure out their multiple intelligence and then we create a project where they are grouped with students that have similar interests.  Normally we are preparing for a final so students have to use their strengths and creative abilities to teach a concept back to their peers using their multiple intelligence results.  In the past some students have created and performed songs, skits, videos, and comic strips to review units of study.  The students now become the teachers in their own unique ways. Try this 40 question online Multiple Intelligence Test to see where your strengths lie!

8. Book Study - One of my favorite units of study was when I did a cross curricular project with an English teacher at my school.  We shared Pre-AP students and we decided to do a class book study together on the "Secret Life of Bees."  She had the students read and reflect in her class, while I taught the science of plant systems and the symbiotic relationships they hold with insects and other animals.  This was great for me because sometimes it is hard to get students excited about plants.  

These are just a few ideas that can spice things up a bit in your class.  I challenge you to try something new with your students at the end of the year that is engaging for both you and your students and don't be afraid to take some risks.  Let the creative juices flow for you and your students and don't forget to have fun throughout each educational journey!

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