Monday, February 15, 2016

"I see screws everywhere!"

Partnering with the teacher-librarian looks different, depending on the classroom teacher and other circumstances. With a certain Grade 2-3 class, the home room teacher and I arranged things so that I would take the Grade 2s while she kept the Grade 3s and we would both do hands-on activities for the students with science in January and February of 2016. This is only for one double-block period (70 minutes); I am not completely responsible for the Grade 2 science unit, and I have flexibility in consultation with my teaching partner.

I've been quite pleased with how this partner time has progressed and the various forms of formative and summative assessment we've been able to incorporate. Another benefit has been the meta cognitive exercises and the amount of descriptive feedback the students have been able to receive. For instance, before giving a short quiz, we gathered in our "meeting area" (which is a group of comfortable couches by the window) and had a fascinating discussion about how to study. One of the students voiced her objections to this task initially.

"Why are we talking about this? We already know how to study!", she exclaimed.

I asked this student to bear with me. Each student was given talking time to describe what they do to prepare for a test. I took notes. Afterwards, I gave some feedback on their favoured and chosen techniques and offered a couple of strategies that no one used that might be beneficial. The students had class time to explore a new strategy before taking the quiz. Even my student with the healthy skepticism saw advantages to the activity.

The classroom teacher and I discussed what sort of culminating task would work best to conclude their study of Simple Machines. Most of the teacher resources recommended that students build a toy of some sort, but with only 70 minutes to devote to the construction, and limited materials, this task didn't look possible to complete entirely at school, and we realized that parent involvement, although welcome, could compromise and complicate the evaluation. The final projects might not indicate exactly what the students knew about simple machines.

Another concern that the classroom teacher and I had involved accurately assessing one of the Grade 2 students who is also an English Language Learner. His ESL class time occurred at the same time as the Grade 2 Science partnering time, so he only received 30 minutes of this smaller class science instruction time. Building a toy at home or school and having him describe which portions were simple machines would be extra challenging for him.

Inspiration hit as I drove to school one morning. We could still allow students to build their toys incorporating simple machines at home, but, more importantly, the students could have a much more authentic way to demonstrate that they understood what simple machines are and what they do ... with a couple of field trips!

The first field trip was to the playgrounds outside. Students were given cards and had to write the six main types of simple machines on their cards. Then, we went outside and they had to locate examples of each type somewhere at the playground. I took photos of their discoveries. The students still had time to play outside, which earned them a lot of envy from the Grade 3s.

When we came inside, we flipped through the iPad and commented orally on whether or not students were correct in identifying the simple machines. Afterwards, I printed the photos in wallet size and wrote descriptive feedback on all visuals. Each student received a copy of the photos and feedback, so they'd be prepared for their  SECOND field trip.

Our second field trip was to the weight room at our local high school. The visit to the playground was diagnostic assessment for the students and for me - I noticed that certain simple machines, like pulleys, weren't commonly found around at the playground. Going to a secondary school gym meant that some of these machines would be more obvious and the students could search with greater ease for the examples they were unable to find at the playground. The Grade 2s were excited. The Grade 3s were jealous. Our trip cost nothing. We arranged a visit time with Ms. Chandhi, one of the vice principals of Albert Campbell C.I. and walked over. Mr. Fisher, the other vice principal, escorted us to the weight room and stayed with us to answer our questions. Ms. Richardson, one of the Campbell science teachers, happened to be exercising in the weight room during our visit, and both educators helped our students discover many examples of simple machines in action.

The students had a great time. One student got very excited about her discoveries.

"Mrs. Mali, I see screws EVERYWHERE! Here's a screw ... and here's another screw!"

I noticed that the number of simple machines they were able to identify increased since their last field trip and students found more examples of simple machines. My ESL student was very successful with this task. There were a couple of objects that he misidentified, but with such a small group and three adults present, I was able to explain and correct misconceptions and he was confidently telling me to take his photo as he pointed to many different simple machines.

Here are some photos of the students in action, finding and identifying simple machines. (I've blocked out their faces for privacy. I took ten times as many photos as you see here, and they will be going on display at school as part of our final task. I'm so proud of these students!)

Inclined Plane

Lever - one of many in the weight room!


Screws make the world ... go round? Stay together?

Wheel and axle (while another wheel is in use!)

Thanks to the administration of Albert Campbell Collegiate Institute for allowing us to visit and learn in a new environment.

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