4 Visual Aids Physical Science Teachers Can Use to Make Classes Memorable

By Meghan Belnap

Are your students falling asleep during your lectures? From ADHD to rumbling stomachs, there are many reasons that young adults find it difficult to concentrate in school. However, sometimes you have to face the fact that your boring lecture is the reason for your class catching z’s. If you’re struggling to capture your students’ attention, try these four visual aids to create memorable lessons.

Show How Soundwaves Travel

For this demonstration, you will need two identical glasses, water, a sponge and a piece of thin wire. To begin, fill each glass with equal amounts of water and stretch the wire over the top of one glass. Then move your finger across the rim of the other glass and watch the wire move. The glasses have the same natural frequency because they contain the same amount of water, which means that sound can travel from one to the other.

Recreate the Process of Erosion

A stream table is a scientific model that simulates the process of erosion through different types of sand and soil. You can purchase beautifully crafted models that come with different types of sand for experimenting or create your own with a large roasting pan and sand collected from outdoors. Either way, your students can observe the process of erosion in real time and see how it varies when the type of soil and path of water flow is changed.

Observe Magnetic Fields

This is an easy experiment that only requires some iron filings, a magnet and a piece of paper. Just sprinkle the filings on a sheet of white paper and bring the magnet close to the underside of the paper. Like magic, the filings will form a line along the magnetic field so your students can observe its contours.

Visualize Gravitational Pull

The concept of gravitational pull can be difficult to explain, but you can make it simple with just a piece of lycra fabric, a frame and a couple of large ball bearings. Stretch the fabric over a round frame, such as a quilting frame. Then place one metal ball in the center. Now, have your students observe as you place another ball at the edge of material and the two balls move toward each other.

Although visual aids can be fun, remember not to take up too much class time with them. A good visual aid goes a long way in reinforcing the lesson, but lectures and reading materials allow students to cover more information in less time.

How to Pull Off an Inspiring and Educational Field Trip

Guest Writer: Lizzie Weakley

Source: https://pixabay.com/users/stocksnap-894430/

Whether you’re in charge of a large group of students or just need something to do with your kids over summer break, a field trip is a great way to connect education with the real world. These tips will help you pull off a fun and problem-free field trip.

Choose a Great Location

The right field trip location depends on the age of your students, the location’s relevance to their studies, and the activities that will be available when they get there.

Consider the material that your students are reading in their textbooks. Historical field trips are a good way to help students connect with their readings; if a relevant event took place in your area, bring them to the actual location. Try visiting art museums for budding painters, and take exploration enthusiasts to the local zoo.

Older kids do fine with museums, but younger children need shows and activities to keep their attention. You can always call the museum to find out what activities might interest your students.

Make the Car Ride Comfortable

Many field trip locations are several hours away from your home or school. You want everyone to feel fresh and excited when you arrive at the location, so make the car ride as comfortable as possible.

Make sure everyone has enough room in their seats. If you are traveling in multiple cars, split up groups so that no one is cramped.

Clean the cars out before the journey. You can purchase bulk car air fresheners to provide a pleasant smell. Little details will create a subtle but enjoyable experience for everyone.

Plan for a mixture of mellow music that the adults will enjoy and upbeat music that the students will be interested in. Create a playlist in advance; you don’t want anyone fighting over song selection.

Plan for Lunch and Snacks

Although premade lunches are a good low-budget option, consider getting lunch at the location. Many museums and exhibits have thematic restaurants. Students will want to visit the restaurant and might be disappointed if you have other plans.

If you pack a lunch, make sure there are picnic tables at the location. You and the students will need a place to take an actual break.

Always bring a few snacks when traveling with children. A hungry kid will not be able to enjoy the location they are visiting. Look for healthy options that contain protein and carbs. Remember to bring water bottles; thirsty kids can’t focus, either.

Bring Home Souvenirs

A field trip is intended to connect studies with reality. Look for souvenir options that will help your students connect with the information long after the trip is over.

Many museums host activities where kids can make their own souvenirs. Find hands-on experiences that will let kids learn more about the subject matter. Some of the best activities recreate traditional crafts from the time period being studied.

Even a cheap souvenir will help a student feel like they got something from the experience. A small keychain, a pressed penny, or a plastic toy

A good field trip is all about the instructor’s attitude. Plan ahead to minimize stress, and prioritize the students’ experience. If you choose a good location and take care during the trip, your students will remember the event fondly for years to come.

You Are Not a Bad Teacher If Your Lessons Look Like This

Guest Writer: Isabell Gaylord

 

As a teacher, you have a responsibility to inspire your students. If your students are bored, it makes your job that much harder. For decades, educators have been trying new techniques to get students excited about learning. Explore the following ways to keep your lessons interesting and your students engaged. 

Relate the material to your students’ lives

Relate your teaching topics to their lives and give them concrete examples to show how they are relevant. When they understand the relevance to their own lives, they will naturally be more engaged. If they’re always asking you why they need to learn something and you just say “because,” it is not a good enough answer. 

Students will always respond more if it is something they can relate to. For example, read them a dilemma and have them write a short response about what they’d do in a certain situation. 

One Sticky Situation, for example, is about a young girl who receives a group text with mean photos of her friend. Your students will probably have a lot to say because they are exposed to similar situations in real life.  

Aim for interactivity

The traditional style of teaching where you stand in front of a class and present a lesson has its limitations. It is much better if you can interact with students and there are some free tools you can use to collaborate on projects and assignments. 

Edmodo is one of the most popular free education tools. It has many features, including functions to enable collaboration, share content, and even get parents involved. Vyew, a collaborative whiteboard, allows you to upload images, write over them, discuss them and more. 

Use a variety of materials

Books, speeches, music, and videos are just some of the materials you can use as a teacher to make your lessons more interesting. Students are all unique and learn in different ways. They will respond to some materials more than others. 

For writing help, they may respond to something like having to keep a gratitude journal. If you show them a video, make sure they do it in a directed way. Tell them why you are showing it to them and give them a question paper to answer. 

Introduce games

If you want to keep students engaged, introduce games into your classroom. For a simple game to test memory and writing skills, gather some objects and lay them out on a desk. Show them to all the students and then cover them after one minute. 

The students must write down as many items as they can on a piece of paper. Creating a PowerPoint Jeopardy game relevant to the content you’re teaching can be fun for students. A popular game that is being used in many classrooms is Minecraft. MinecraftEDU.com is an education dedicated site with resources. 

Flip your lessons

Many teachers are successfully using the concept that children learn new information at home and then use the time in class to reinforce new concepts and do critical thinking activities. 

Students can work at their own pace and then engage in more meaningful ways when they are in the classroom. When students have to write essays, reading essay writing service reviews may help. 

Change venues

Go on a field trip, or take learning outdoors. When you try something different, you break any ruts and your students are likely to respond positively. If you’re teaching them something that they can see outdoors, moving your class outside is a simple strategy that immediately makes students feel more relaxed and yet more engaged. 

Allow yourself to have some fun

To be an effective teacher, you need to be firm but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun in the classroom. Being a little more relaxed yourself and open to having fun helps you to build a good relationship with your students. 

They are more receptive to learning from someone they like. If you regularly use sarcasm, make students feel stupid for asking questions and don’t ever let your guard down, they are unlikely to open up to you. 

Offer your students choices

Be accommodating to the idea that your students may have different learning styles and interests to your own. The choice is often a powerful motivator. Give your students choices and it helps to foster their independence and interest. 

When you’re planning an activity, think about different options that give students a choice. At the end of the activity, you could ask students whether they felt they made the right choice and what they learned from it. 

A final word

You may feel a little daunted about what it takes to make your lessons engaging. However, the more thought you put into it, the easier it becomes. A well-planned week of stimulating lessons can make all the difference to your students and you.

BIO

Isabell Gaylord who writes College-Paper.org Reviews is good at journalism sphere and a lot of people find her articles helpful. She contributes to publishing a lot and her essays are referred to self-improvement, writing, blogging, inspiration. Find Isabell on Twitter.

What Should You Do If Your Students Start Using Chatspeak in Assignments?

Guest Writer: Agatha Singer

As it always is with the matters related to teaching, your reaction to some issue should be determined on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, if your students start using chatspeak in their creative writing assignments you should stop and think. Why exactly are they doing this? In some cases, this can be considered a legitimate method of expression. But there are also situations where you’ll need to correct this issue before it turns into a bad habit.

Is Chatspeak the Enemy?

There is this trend for demonizing chatspeak today. Demonizing anything social media and Internet-related really. You can see hundreds of articles and hear dozens of impassionate speeches on how children are wasting away staring at smartphone screens, how they make dangerous connections through social media, or how hanging out online, in general, lowers the IQ of an entire generation.

It’s sad to admit that in a way, all of that is true. However, if you stop and think on the matter a bit more, you might remember that a few decades back you could hear all the same things about television.

And before that, there were radio programs, which ‘corrupted the innocent minds’ with scandalous stories.

And before that, people invented print and book burnings came right after that. During some of those, scholars, authors, and printers were burned or buried along with their works. One can only be proud that centuries of evolution made us less brutal and that today people prefer flaming through online comments as opposed to setting something on fire for real.

But do you see the pattern here?

Every time some new way to expand the limits of communication and entertainment comes along, a fraction of society resents it. In the majority of cases, this is the older generation, which grew up with the previous medium and is clearly struggling to master the new one. This begs to question whether the resentment comes from valid concerns over moral and ethical integrity or from one’s inability to adapt to change?

As a teacher, you have to adapt to the times and use the tools that appear every day to teach the skills that are timeless. For example, you can use comic books to teach creative writing and your students are bound to love those lessons much more than picking through some 15th-century poetry. You also can and should use language learning apps when working with ESL students. Acceptance of chatspeak is a part of this necessary adaptation to the times.

Why Do Students Use Chatspeak?

Youths use chatspeak today because it’s fun, because it’s easy, because everyone is doing it, or all of the above. Simply put, this informal language helps them have more relaxed conversations.

This is what’s really important because even a sliver of a chance for kids to be less stressed is extremely valuable. The lack of free time, constant stress, and pressure have devastating effects on the youths of today. They push students to cheat, make them depressed, and drive hundreds of teenagers to suicide. Stress is the main enemy of students, and one cannot deny that a requirement to write properly articulated sentences all the time would add to it. Not by much, but everything counts in such a dire situation.

Bear in mind that the kids of today already write more than their predecessors did 20 years ago. This means that they spend a large part of their life developing that writing skill, which it is your duty to teach.

Yes, they are doing most of that writing with chatspeak, which has little in the way of grammar and spelling that can make anyone cringe at times. However, studies from the University of Alberta and Coventry University prove that using chatspeak does not affect students’ ability to learn and use proper grammar. It doesn’t even interfere with their essay-writing skills and doesn’t interfere with distinguishing between formal and informal language situations.  

Therefore, the point is that students are writing more and you should use this trend to nurture their creative writing talents. The trick is to teach them when using chatspeak is appropriate.

When Using Chatspeak in Assignments Can Be Appropriate

The use of chatspeak can be acceptable in creative writing if it’s a tool for creative expression. Therefore, if the character or situation from the work allows for such informal language, you shouldn’t scold your students for it.

After all, how is using chatspeak as a valid form of creative expression different from Burgess’ Nadsat or the vernacular in Catcher in the Rye? Both of those are nothing short of atrocious if you try to measure them against the neat formal flow of ‘good English’. However, those are the details that fill the books with life and personality.

As a creative tool, language is flexible and it’s a joy when students realize this and start bending it to find their own voice. That’s exactly what you should be teaching.

However, there is a different side to this coin. The situation when your student uses chatspeak might not be justified by the plot. In this case, you have a problem on your hands.

It’s a fact that informal language can leak into situations where it’s unwarranted. This can happen not only in writing assignments but also in everyday life. And when it does, the person using such vernacular is perceived as uneducated or rude.

This is what you should be explaining to your students who start using chatspeak all over the place. Impart on them the distinction between the kind of creative situations when this is acceptable and when it’s not. However, do your best to be both gentle and reasonable when doing this. Make sure you explain the issue in detail instead of throwing a blanket ban of chatspeak. This is how your students will be able to understand the nuances of situations where formal and informal language can be applied.

Overall, chatspeak isn’t the devil. Regardless of how much of a traditionalist you are personally, this type of language is the norm today, so you can’t pretend it doesn’t exist or diminish its role in modern society. Therefore, the best you can do is to help your students learn how to use it without offending anyone.

I’m Agatha Singer, a work-from-home mom of two little nuggets. My interests range from the latest business management trends to healthy living and adventurous traveling. I always stay open to new ideas and expertise to make my writings handy and captivating for you. I’ll be happy to see you on my blog: http://www.agsinger.com!

Squeeze Fewer Lemons

 

I have, on a few occasions, enjoyed a delicious glass of fresh squeezed lemonade. I would say it’s superior to the kind of lemonade I usually drink, which comes from this:

But that could just be priming at work; tell me it’s fresh squeezed and I’m inclined to believe it’s going to be better before even bringing the glass to my lips.

For the sake of this article, though, let’s say that fresh squeezed lemonade is, in fact, a better product than the stuff that comes from mixing flavored powder with water.

In spite of its superiority, how often do you drink it?

How often do you buy lemons and squeeze them yourself?

My guess is not very often, and for good reason. Fresh squeezed lemonade is a hassle to make, and while it might be better, it’s not that much better. The payoff is rarely worth the extra effort, especially when you have an alternative that takes seconds to make and tastes enough like real lemonade that you can overlook its inferiority.

We make choices like this all the time. We don’t need top-of-the-line running shoes because we just don’t log that many miles. The Kraft cheese is fine for our purposes; we don’t need the expensive artisan stuff for a cheeseburger. Sure, the $4500 saxophone produces a better sound, but the $270 one on Amazon will do.

Most people have no problem admitting they sometimes settle for an inferior product because it’s not worth their time, money, or effort to have something better.

But not teachers. We rarely make such an admission.

Teachers, many of them, are spending too much time and effort squeezing far too many lemons, and people who aren’t in the classroom are encouraging them to do so. Too often, we aim for “best” practices when “good enough” practices would be the better choice.

There is no better example of this than how administrators shove John Hattie’s work down teachers’ throats, the unmistakable message being that good educators employ those practices with the highest effect sizes, without giving any thought to what those teachers sacrifice to do so. They want their teachers to make fresh squeezed lemonade because fresh squeezed lemonade is better, but they don’t ask how much better it is and if making it is worth the effort.

It’s not just Hattie’s effect sizes that get misused by hard-charging administrators. There are many practices teachers are made to feel they ought to be using that are the educational equivalent of fresh squeezed lemonade. Sure, teachers could do them. Yes, they might work better than what those teachers would otherwise do. But teachers should always consider the tradeoffs. Before deciding on something you’ve been told is wonderful, you should ask:

Is this going to lead to significantly more learning, or just marginally more? If just marginally more, then is it worth my time and effort or might those limited resources be better deployed elsewhere?

Here are five of those times:

Having Students Track Their Own Progress

I love this practice. It’s motivating. It’s visual. It can help reinforce a growth mindset when students see their own progress recorded in hard numbers or pretty bar graphs. When I’ve used it, I’ve seen students excited to improve their performance.

But…

it’s a hassle. At least in the grade I teach (third), it’s time-consuming and I simply have too many other more important things to do (like, you know, teach). Have students record their progress on paper and at least three of them will regularly lose all of the data they’ve collected. Have them use a device and it takes even longer to get the thing out and enter their numbers.

Instead of squeezing this particular lemon, just keep track of the students’ progress for them and share it periodically. Even better, take advantage of digital solutions that score and keep a record of student performance automatically.  Many curricular programs do this for you, and websites like Quizizz, Kahoot, and Prodigy produce reports that can be downloaded, printed, and shared with students.

Class Discussions

I’ve been told time and again how important class discussions are. Hattie found that they have an effect size of .82, so they have the potential to make a real difference in student understanding. But, to his credit, Hattie also cautioned that it’s hard work to establish a climate of trust and respect where classroom discussions flourish. And that’s not even half of it. They’re difficult to manage. You’ve got students who want to dominate and others who won’t talk at all. To address those issues, you have to design systems that limit the speech of some while encouraging the thoughts of others. Then there’s the issue with what you do when someone says something certifiably wrong or universally offensive.

And they take forever.

You’re also never quite sure if those who aren’t talking are getting anything out of the discussion and you might have the sneaking suspicion that some of what students are saying is not what they actually believe but what they think someone else (possibly you) wants to hear.

Having sat through countless discussions at staff meetings, I’m left to conclude that discussions aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, or, if they are, then they’re so difficult to do well it might be better to avoid them altogether, which is largely what I do. I prefer digital alternatives that allow students to submit their thoughts anonymously. Padlet, the Google Question feature in Google Classroom (with student comments enabled), Jamboard, or even a shared Google Doc all work well, and they’re far easier to manage. You might also save discussion for smaller groups.

Inquiry-based learning

The idea here is that kids learn by doing and that knowledge uncovered in the pursuit of a (preferably student-generated) question sticks better than knowledge that is dispensed from the front of the room or absorbed from a textbook. Probably true.

But as anyone who has led an inquiry-based unit knows, it’s fraught with peril. An experiment doesn’t go the way it’s supposed to and students’ misconceptions are reinforced instead of challenged. Some kids do a lot of inquiring, while others freeload. Experiments are inefficient; they’re time-consuming and usually include a number of false starts. There’s also an incentive problem: students aren’t tested this way, so a teacher who’s concerned about standardized test scores might decide that reading about a topic makes more sense than designing and executing experiments that will be a management challenge and might not lead to the kind of learning the standards demand students attain.

Students might learn better this way, but there’s a real risk they won’t learn anything at all. And, of course, this all assumes your district is willing to spend the money to purchase the materials you need for whatever students are inquiring about. Experiments are fun. Students will like science class more if you do them, so do them you should, but it’s worth asking if this method of teaching and learning is worth the costs.

Feedback

Feedback is great. Research shows that timely feedback works; kids learn more when they receive it. But providing timely, individual feedback is labor-intensive and many teachers give more than is useful. I’m thinking specifically of writing. Whenever I write about not taking student work home, I inevitably hear from writing teachers who tell me such a practice is impossible because when would they ever read and respond to 25, or 75, or 160 student papers?

And the answer to that is they should not be reading and responding to all of those papers. I wrote about this in detail in my book Leave School At School, but to save you the purchase, here are some ways to stop squeezing the feedback lemon:

  • Have students give each other feedback. Yes, feedback from you will probably be better (it’s fresh-squeezed), but student feedback isn’t worthless (it’s Country Time). If you’re using paper, do a gallery walk where students have sticky notes that they can leave their classmates after reading their work. Require they leave two positives and one area to improve (and for the love of all that is holy please don’t call these “glows and grows.” Ick). If students are typing, have them share documents with one another and require a certain amount and type of feedback.

 

  • Provide feedback while students are writing. I have my students write their papers in Google Docs inside of Google Classroom, which allows me to jump into their work at any time and leave comments right on the screen. This saves me tons of time at the end of the process and gives them assistance when they need it and are still willing to use it. If you want it more personal, you could try Catlin Tucker’s station rotation model.

 

  • Limit your feedback to just one or two areas. Don’t overwhelm yourself or your students by trying to “fix” everything; you’re not the only writing teacher they will ever have. Focus on some high-leverage areas that will translate into other writing genres and provide feedback on those. If students can’t write a complete sentence, then it doesn’t make a lot of sense to tell them they need richer imagery.  Feedback to student writers is like salt: a little has the potential to make the final product better, but too much makes kids want to gag.

Feedback to student writers is like salt: a little has the potential to make the final product better, but too much makes kids want to gag. Click To Tweet

Rubrics

I used to be guilty of squeezing this particular lemon. Before any writing unit, I’d design my own rubric or I worked with colleagues to design them for our grade level. The process was messy and not worth the results. To start, designing a rubric is a painstaking process. You have to figure out which writing traits to include and how much weight to give each of them. Then you’ve got to come up with language for each level. Those levels have to be distinguishable from one another and you’ve got to make sure you imagine every possible contingency. What happens if a student writes beautifully but off-topic? What exactly constitutes a detail? What if the spelling and grammar are on point but the kid forgot to paragraph? And finally, on top of all that, you have to make sure the rubric is student-friendly and not verbose so there’s actually a chance it will get used.

And what usually happens after you pour in all that work? You go over the rubric in class and start explaining your criteria and students nod off after about three minutes. Then, when they turn in a draft, it’s obvious they haven’t used the rubric. Finally, when it comes time to score student papers, you wish you hadn’t created the thing in the first place and you’re chagrined to find that most papers need little consideration and you only need to refer to the rubric for the handful that fall somewhere in the middle.

These days, my first stop for a rubric is the Internet. If it’s already made (and with the Common Core standards, why wouldn’t it be?), then there’s no sense recreating the wheel. I look for single-point rubrics because they’re easy to use for both teachers and students. If I can’t find one, I’ll make one, but because they’re single-point rubrics, they take much less time to create and are quicker to use.

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If you read this article then you’re probably interested is optimizing your practices as a teacher so you can focus on the stuff that matters the most. The master class for this mindset is Angela Watson’s 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club, of which Teacher Habits is an affiliate partner. If you’re looking to cut back on the hours you work without sacrificing your effectiveness, then give the club a look. Here are some links that may help you decide if it’s right for you:

12-question quiz to see if the club is right for you

Reviews from club members

Summer Secrets Video Series