As an eighth grade science teacher I encounter many challenges to get content across in fun and interesting ways but to also prepare my students for the real world. I do my best to have my students engage in learning through hands-on experiences and connect it to their daily lives. I present my students with a phenomena to introduce a topic. This gets them thinking, asking questions, and wanting to know more. I refer back to this experience throughout the entire unit in order to help the learning make sense, so that all students share a common experience. This also allows for equality in my classroom because all have experienced that phenomena instead of just a select few who have been on vacations, etc.
I firmly believe in the three dimensional learning of the Next Generation Science Standards and push my students to experience engineering practices, core ideas, and crosscutting concepts in each lesson. My students are constantly building, designing, and modifying learning. This can look like lab, drawing, reading, carousel of learning, and all sorts of other instructional strategies. My students learn a lot from each other as well. They are in partners or groups of four almost everyday. I rarely spend time lecturing at the front of the room but guide my students to desired outcomes and core ideas through their experiences.
So many times, students just want the right answer and try to remember information just for a test. I want learning to stay with my students for longer than a test. I make it my goal to make them think and tell them there is more than one right answer for many of the things we do in class. This really frustrates my higher level students at first, but my lower level students flourish in that environment. Lower level students are typically used to being “wrong,” so they do not stress as much as my higher level learners about possibly not having the one right answer. My classroom environment is one where failures are okay and there are a lot of trial and errors before one succeeds.
I create this environment by using strategies I learned from “Capturing Kids’ Hearts” training. I greet my students with a handshake every day, every class period. We have a social contract that governs our class instead of rules. We start each class with good things that are going on in our life, and we write positive notes of encouragement to each other. I have learned so much about myself as a teacher and person by using these skills. My classroom has gone from one that I ran well, to one that my students run well. I have been freed to help my students experience learning by building rapport with them and taking time out of class for that. I have actually gained content time by building relationships with my students.