Thursday, June 7, 2012

Line of Learning

1. How do elementary students learn science?

I believe elementary students learn science through almost every action they do. There isn't one subject that doesn't include a form of science in it one way or another. While I was in school, science was boring, it was something that only the "nerds" studied and was too hard and frustrating for me to understand. Or even enjoy. But now after being in the Education Program, I am being taught there are many different ways to teach students, and we must change the way we teach in order to engage students in every subject in order to succeed. While I did my own science experiments at home, I had a blast and I wanted to turn our kitchen into my lab any chance I could get. Although when I was in my chemistry class, all I could do was count down the minutes until my next class, and how did that happen? I believe that elementary students learn visually, but this doesn't mean that they should just have hands on activities, but they must also be able to understand and learn something from what they are doing. After reading Five God Reasons to use Science Notebooks by Joan Gilbert and Marleen Kotelma, I realize how important it is for teachers to use various forms while working with students because each student learns differently. In the article each student has their own notebook and they are able to draw visuals, make charts, take notes, and write paragraphs about any science topics. By doing this each student is able to be comfortable by asking questions, leading discussions, and learning in the best way for each individual student. Teachers need to present science lessons with different options for all of the students to be able to learn and understand the lesson. By doing this hopefully this will keep the students interested and engaged in science, and they will not end up thinking about science the same as I did...but instead wanting to continue their science educational experience in their future.

2. What classroom environments facilitate elementary students' learning?

I believe having a comfortable and open classroom is the best way for students to learn. Students need to be able to speak out during discussions, be able to volunteer for science experiments, and be able to use information in the room (from books, other students, and themselves) to back up their ideas and opinions. In order for the students to be able to learn properly, they will need to be able to be confident in standing up and backing up their ideas. If they are giving different opinions for being taught, then the students will be able to learn depending on what works for each of them individually.

3. What should teachers know and be able to do to design and foster effective elementary science learning environments?

I believe that teachers need to know that each student learns differently from one another, and that we can not think that teaching all the students the same way for each subject. Some may learn that one way, but not all of them, and in order for teachers to do their job correctly, they need to take the time and energy to be prepared to teach lessons for all of the students, not just the majority of them. In the article Environmental Education in the Schools Creating a Program that Works! by Judy A. Braus and David Wood, they explain how to think globally act locally. Teachers must keep the students engaged by having the lessons taught be directly connected to the students' lives, for example understanding the importance of recycling, and by how doing it in the classroom and in their home they can make a difference in the world.

Update: June 14th

3. What should teachers know and be able to do to design and foster effective elementary science learning environments?

According to Misconceptions Die Hard by Joseph I. Stephans, Ronald E. Beiswenger, and Steven Dyche it states
Teachers can take steps to prevent misconceptions or to break them down after they have formed. We can select textbooks more carefully, taking more time to examine the full range of texts available and then choosing one that not only is interesting and comprehensive but also presents concepts clearly.

After reading more articles and having a discussion in the class, I have come to realize how many misconceptions students have. This is not only in science, but in every subject. Once we started talking about major misconceptions we were able to look up and read about in 5 minutes on, I have come to accept that I have a lot of misconceptions too. But I don't need to worry myself about knowing and understanding everything, but instead I need to be able to know what to do when my students ask me a question and I don't know the answer to it. I need to assist them in working through the problem by them working on it. If I just give them the "correct answer" then they may not be able to begin the slow process of breaking their misconception. Instead I need to guide them into questioning the problem, and work through it by seeing the their misconception not work out. We need to make sure we do not just teach the curriculum because we have to, but we need to teach the students information that they will understand, remember, and that is relative to them. If teachers use only the given "school or principal's" curriculum and teach for the test....the students will learn just the terms and basic facts long enough to take the test and then they may forget everything after they turn it in. If you ask questions that will lead the students to ask more questions, and keep them interested in the topic, so interested that they want to look up information and do more research on their own, they will learn more. They will care to continue their education on the subject, and it will keep them engaged to continue their education hopefully into the future at higher and more complex levels.

I wasn't given that opportunity of learning when I was younger. Instead I was taught the basic information, at a very quick pace because we had to get through the whole text book in the school year, and I feel like I can't remember much from these classes. From taking methods classes here at Iowa, I have begun to get more and more interested in looking up more information about the topics we have learned in class on my own time. I have only been in science methods for 2 weeks, but I feel like I have learned more interesting, and actually fun facts than I did all year in Chemistry in high school. To me that is ridiculous. I want to become a teacher that doesn't educate the students in the same form I was taught, I want to keep them intrigued and excited about learning, even if it is in a subject that I need to do a lot more research on before/while I am teaching it! :)

Update June 19th:

1. How do elementary students learn science?

I believe that students learn science by experiencing it. By being involved with the lesson, not just sitting in a classroom and listening to a lecture. During class we learned about School of the Wild, and how students starting at a young age are able to go outside and be educated about science in the natural habitat outside. And not just about beaches and mountains, things that we do not have in Iowa, but rather about items that are in our lives, prairies, reservoirs, specific animals and plants to Iowa, and so much more. By having students learn and work on items that are local to their lives and their community is more important than just following a textbook word for word. Instead of just educating them for taking a test at the end of a unit, they need to work with lessons that are valuable to their life. Something that they will encounter everyday.

I have been hearing this since I started the education program, how much I need to work with my students by listening to them, by learning about their interests, and by making sure they become educated about subjects that are local and involve their everyday life.

I am looking forward to going out to the School of the Wild to see how it is set up and how much the students learn (and how much they enjoy it!) I am a little nervous about teaching a lesson outside, but I think that with the help of creating the lesson plan with my classmates, and having the assistance from one of the teachers will be nice. I love being outside, and I think I know "enough" information to teach the students, but I have to realize that even though I am going to school to become a teacher doesn't mean that I will know every fact about every subject. Instead I need to be able to lead and assist the students in the correct direction when they have a question that they have. And if I don't know the answer, then that is fine, I just have to let them know, "Hey I don't know, but let's find it out!"

Update June 28th:

For this post I am not using any of the questions that are posted above, instead I want to blog about using the Inquiry Continuum. I have never used this chart before, but after using it a few times I believe that it is something that I will be referencing quite often.

I like being able to see the different stages that a student should go through with a lesson. I have obviously been using it with science lessons, but it could be used for any subject. While we were in class talking about the chart, I was reminded that in the first few years of teaching I will be just trying to survive, but I need to take the time and energy to let the students lead some of the lessons with their own questions and ideas. Even though it would be a lot easier to be in control of every lesson, and not let the students go off on their own to work on their ideas. Although I need to stay over on the left side of the chart when I can, even if it is for just a few steps of the lesson, this will not only keep the lesson engaging and interesting for the students, but it will hopefully make them want to work towards continuing their thoughts and ideas even after the lesson is "completed."

I think the most important step of the inquiry continuum is when the learner communicates and justifies explanations. This part is when the students have to actually take the time to explain what they have learned from the experiment, and they will need to show what they had figured out. Maybe they were able to prove that their predictions were correct, or maybe the predictions were wrong, but either way if they have to justify and explain they will use their own research (along with supporting research) to assist their ideas, thoughts, and beliefs.

Update while in class:
What is scientific inquiry?
It is when there is a question that is conceived and then steps are taken to figure out how to answer the question. This could be by doing research, asking peers, drawing images, working on an experiment, reading, and more. It includes the questions of how and why. And it usually requires the process of making an educated guess or an hypnosis/prediction about what could happen.

How is it used in the classroom? Or seen?
In the classroom this is seen when students are working towards figuring out a problem that has arisen. This could be from a teacher, a classmate, or by theirself.

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