Woodside Biology

#ModBio Workshop Day 3


Our tentative plan for the day was:

  1. Teacher Talk & Parking Lot
  2. Seeds – Question, Design, Implement
  3. Goldfish – Question, Design, Implement, Analyze, WB
  4. Controls & Variables w/ the Simpsons – Deploy – WB
  5. Experimental Design Model Summary WB
  6. What is Living?

We started with “teacher talk”.  We discussed assessment of whiteboards.  Is it necessary to grade student whiteboards? Does a grade cause motivation in students? It was a brief philosophical discussion.  Angela shared her experience that if you grade whiteboards kids often will not “take a chance”, and we want our students to take chances.  She mentioned that some teachers check for completion or grade for participation.  I think my assessment of whiteboards will fall into a new category of grade for next year, HoW (Habits of Work).  This category includes all those “being a student” components of the classroom.  I’ve clumped them into 3 main categories: Quality Worker, Collaborative Worker, and Involved Class Citizen.  In the last couple years I’ve removed the “being a student” component from my grades of class assignments by taking completed work for credit for full credit (but flagging it as late) up to the assessment.  My rationale being, what’s the point of doing the work after the assessment.  But I’ve had lingering doubts in the back of my mind about this practice.  I’m hoping the HoW grade will help reconcile these doubts.

Our next question was about grading the Interactive Science Notebooks (ISN) that we and our students will be creating throughout the year.  Angela suggested a strategy of checking them for specific items during test day.  This seemed reasonable to me if you think the fear of a bad grade will motivate kids to maintain their ISN.  I really like the idea of the ISN because students will be building this combination journal/lab notebook/3-ring notebook/textbook throughout the course of the year.  It will be the one course resource to rule all course resources.  I remember back to a program I taught 10 years ago in my second year teaching to Honors Biology students were the students could use their laboratory notebooks on any assessment.  It was an interesting idea.  It really made me think about the types of questions I asked on assessments.

Finally we agreed to (attempt to) limit the “teacher talk” to the final 10-minutes of the day.  Seeing how we accomplished our plan today, I think we did a better job of staying in “student mode”.  I think the parking lot will help.  We can park our ideas there by writing them on the whiteboard until an appropriate time for discussion.

Angela uses stories to introduce topics and she is not afraid to “play dumb” with us as a class.  She asks us questions about what we know to determine our prior knowledge.  The vocabulary is provided on an as-needed basis.  This is an interesting idea.  My school is really big on pre-instructing vocabulary.  In science there is generally a good amount of vocabulary, but in biology there is a ton of it.  I used to introduce all the vocabulary at the beginning of the chapter and the first assignment would be to define all the words.  Often it would be weeks before we got the the vocabulary from Section 4 of chapter.  Then I divided it out into the sections and that helped with retention.  But in the lab before lecture style of modeling, the just in time approach to vocabulary development is intriguing.  Angela will ask us if anyone has heard of the term and someone will respond with a definition and we’ll provide a student constructed definition.  Then she’ll ask someone else to tell her of the original student’s definition.  I really like this strategy because it forces the students to listen to each other, and that plays a huge role in MI.

In the Seeds Experiment, Angela started us with a story about being at the feed store and buying these peas.  The guy at the store said soak them overnight, but she remembered her aunt as a kid just putting them in the ground.  So she was confused about what really needed to do with these seeds to get them to grow and she was looking for our help.  As a class we determined some things that seeds might need to germinate (definition – grow little “things” from them): light, wet, dirt, pH.  Our question became “What environmental conditions are needed for germination”.  We developed an experimental design that was consistent across the class and determined our control conditions and constants.  First we observed our pea seeds and made an annotated diagram.  Then each of us then choose an environmental condition to investigate.  Our experimental design changed as worked, but the class was sure to make sure everyone was always aware of the changes.  We’ll be letting our seeds grow for 6 days.  You’ll have to wait on baited breath until my summary of Day 6 to find out what happens.

Next up was the Goldfish Experiment.  Angela was out walking by the pond outside school after class yesterday and she noticed at the goldfish in the pond were opening their mouths very often [it was a sunny day yesterday for the record].  She thought that was odd because the goldfish in the classroom open their mouths less often.  She was wondering what was going on there.  Why was there a difference in the two groups of goldfish.  We agreed on a possible question, “Does temperature affect the rate of mouth opening?”  As a class we designed an experiment and choose different temperatures to investigate.  We made observations about our goldfish and produced an annotated diagram, collected data, and constructed our whiteboard.  At the beginning of the whiteboard session we produced a graph on the classroom whiteboard of the averages for each temperature.  Instead of presenting our whiteboards like we did in previous sessions this time each group was expected to ask a question of another group about their white.

As a class we now have a pretty good conceptual understanding of experimental design.  It was time to exercise, because we are biologists after all, our model in the deployment phase of the modeling cycle.  The first exercise in this model was Controls and Variables.  In this exercise characters from the Simpson’s cartoon are engaged in different scientific experiments and students are asked questions about the scenarios.  I’ve used this worksheet in my own class for the last several years so it was nice to be able to play student with some of my questions and responses.  After working individually we discussed our answers with our lab partner.  Each group then whiteboarded their situation.  I may actually use this worksheet as a pre-assessment with my classes to find out were my kids are before conducting the isopod, pea, and goldfish investigations.  My sophomores have a pretty firm understanding of the basics of experimental design, so I may not need to do as many model development laboratories.

We finished the model deployment phase with a reading, The Way Science Works from the textbook Exploring the Way Life Works: The Science of Biology by Mahlon Hoagland, Bert Dodson, and Judy Hauck.  There is an additional assignment Experimental Design Model Review that we did not complete.

At the end of each modeling cycle the students will be producing a model summary board.  This model summary board will serve two important purposes; 1. it will be a representation of everything they learned, and 2. it will be the review sheet/study guide for the assessment.  The Model Summary Board will be concise and use multiple representations.  Angela recommended assigning the model summary board as a homework assignment to the students.  On the next day the students would share with a partner and then collaborate with a group to make a group summary board that would be presented to the class.  These are our model summary boards.  The next unit would be introduced and the students would have the assessment the next class.  Our homework for tonight is to take the test.

Finally we began our next model.  Angela started the discussion by reminding us that we’ve studied isopods, peas, and goldfish.  She inquired about what these organisms had in common.  We developed a list of characteristics that living organisms share.

My Reflections:

Most of my reflections I incorporated into the summary, but there was one idea that didn’t fit anywhere.  Angela provided us with a list of Socratic question stems to assist us with asking questions of our students.  Starting tomorrow we will be asking each other many more questions.  From my experience helping another group during the Playing the Game of Science Activity, the stems will be helpful because good questioning is hard.  The stems are organized by topic: conceptual clarification questions, probing assumptions, probing rationale/reasoning/evidence, questioning viewpoints/perspectives, probing implications/consequences, and questions about the question.  I’m also thinking of writing each stem out on a small colored index card, using different colors for the different types of questions, punching a hole in the pile and sticking it on a key ring so that I can refer to it during the year or even just practice by using them as flashcards.