Thursday, 23 April 2015

Inquiry - Earth and Space Systems

As I kicked off the Earth and Space Systems strand of my grade 7/8 Science programme, I wondered what sort of authentic task I could ask students to create in order for them to show me their learning. I have a Grade 8 class who in general are very creative and hardworking, but love their text book work and are very reluctant to accept any summative task that is not a test. I have a grade 7/8 class, who need a lot of structure, class time and encouragement in order to produce. Lastly, my grade 7 homeroom, loves to jump on inquiry tasks, but loses track of the big ideas and the curriculum along the way.

My answer: Bill Nye inspired Science videos.

The ironic part was that, while the Grade 8s were open to learning the facts and text books work, the unit content was not as heavy as the Grade 7 curriculum. I was able to get them started on their script writing right away. Some groups finished their script in the same work period! I decided to duplicate the same process that I use with my homeroom class, write the script, upload to D2L, give them feedback, and submit final copy. Some began by filming their footage (demos, lego stop motion) while others needed to practice their script or experiment with the app or program they decided on. They are very task oriented and were focussed on the due date and getting it done. I have no doubts this group will be the first to finish.

The grade 7s on the other hand, were thrilled to have the opportunity to "film at the creek" or try out white board explain everything type of programs such as powtoons I had to keep refocussing on the Science content, and in the meantime, I'm still teaching them procedure writing, proper lab execution as well as observations (I have given the option to do video observations) and conclusions. I'm hoping they will use some of their footage from their labs for their Science videos.

I did end up creating a rubric as well as a reflection task sheet that they had to follow in order to get their video done.

It would've been much easier for me to give them a study guide and a test. Committing to inquiry is more work for the teacher. You need to accept that some groups need more time and others need to be encouraged to experiment, push themselves and try things they didn't think they could, or maybe were not in their original plans.

Even though this is guided inquiry, the conversations most groups are having around what the message of their video will be, has been very rewarding. The written output may not necessarily show how much they know. I really need to make an effort to be near a group while they are discussing. The process is now become more important than the product, which is what I want my students to understand and enjoy before they leave my classroom.

I recently had a discussion with the grade 8s encouraging them to ask teachers to give them options next year. I can't guarantee that their grade 9 teacher will, but at least they can advocate for themselves feeling confident that they were able to show their learning not just with paper and pencil tasks.

On Earth Day, I proudly sent pair of Grade 8s to showcase all the videos to all the other classes in our school. Meanwhile, I'm patiently waiting for some Grade 7s to hand them in.

Without further are some of our videos! (There are more still coming, I will make them public on our Youtube channel.)

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