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Archive for September, 2008

The Chemistry Classroom

Posted by Mr. Oettinger on 20th September 2008

The Chemistry Classroom: Formulas for Successful Teaching
J. Dudley Herron (1996)

This book is a nice little gem for a chemistry teacher interested in constructivism, inquiry, and cognitive research as it applies to the chemistry classroom.  Although this book is written by a chemistry teacher, this book can be a very useful read for teachers of other sciences.  From the back cover of the book:

“This book will help researchers understand reasons that students are not learning, and it will suggest things they can do to improve the situation.”

One of the topics I found particularly interesting in this book is the Principle of Least Cognitive Effort which, simply put, “dictates that, faced with a cognitive decision, we make the choice that would appear to require the least effort over our lifetime (p. 50).”  You will immediately see why students don’t do their homework or try to memorize vocabulary or complex problem-solving tasks rather than try to understand the process.

Written like a literature review backed by the personal research and anecdotal evidence of an experienced science teacher, this book is complete in its treatment of relevant details, and is an easy and enlightening read.  Highly recommended for any science teacher interested in developing his pedagogical chops.

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Posted in Chemistry, Constructivism, Inquiry, Science Pedagogy | No Comments »

Cell Division as a Model for Exponential Growth.

Posted by Mr. Oettinger on 13th September 2008

Looking for an interesting way to introduce exponential growth early in your ecology unit?  Here’s a technology-based lesson in which your students can use computers, the internet, and spreadsheet/graphing software to construct this knowledge for themselves.

What you’ll need:

  • computer access (suggested one computer for each pair of students).
  • internet access to www.cellsalive.com.
  • about 45 minutes of class time (one period).
  • graph paper; OR optional spreadsheet software for graphing.

What to do:

Go to the CELLS alive! bacteria cell cam page.  First instruct students how to use the cell cam, and make sure you already have practiced it yourself.  Below the three cell cam frames are buttons you can use to step forward in time by 1, 5, or 20 minute intervals.  This will change the center intermediate frame only.  Or, you can enter a frame number below the frame and click out of the text box to see the frame change.

Start at frame number 1 on the intermediate frame and step forward in time by one or five minute intervals.  You will see the bacteria cells divide.  It is not important to be precise about the exact minute/frame that the cells divide.  As the number of cells increases, it can be difficult to identify the exact frame in which division took place.  Look for an obvious cleavage furrow.  Students will realize after the first couple of cell divisions that the number of cells doubles with each division, eliminating the need to actually count all of the cells formed.  It is okay to estimate which frame the cell division happens.

Have students keep track of time at which each division is observed/estimated and the number of cells at each division.  After stepping through about four hours of cell divisions (takes only a couple of minutes), there will be enough data to graph.

A sample graph of the data will look like this:

Clearly we have exponential growth here.

Note that if if using spreadsheet/graphing software in this lesson, you can first teach your students how to make a simple spreadsheet, format cells for data, and use the chart wizard to graph the data.  A fantastic technology lesson to support your life science topic!

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Posted in Biology, Biology lesson ideas, Ecology lesson ideas, Inquiry, Life Science, Technology | No Comments »

Biology Inquiries

Posted by Mr. Oettinger on 6th September 2008

Biology Inquiries: Standards-Based Labs, Assessments, and Discussion Lessons
by Martin Shields (2006)

Biology Inquiries.The title says it all–this book is the real deal, and is a must-have for any life sciences teacher.  Written by Marty Shields, a master teacher who I have had the pleasure of working with as my cooperating teacher during student teaching. 

From the back cover of the book:

Biology Inquiries contains lessons that:

  • Begin with mysteries, questions, and challenges
  • Emphasize evidence, explanations, and justifications
  • Focus on common biology misconceptions
  • Foster questioning, exploration, scientific skepticism, and reflection
  • Guide students to construct understanding for themselves
  • Bridge research-based theory with classroom realities

Do yourself a favor and buy this book today, then start working these ideas into your lesson plans ASAP!!!

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Posted in Biology, Biology lesson ideas, Constructivism, Ecology lesson ideas, Inquiry, Life Science | No Comments »

How to Talk So Teens Will Listen

Posted by Mr. Oettinger on 1st September 2008


How to Talk So Teens Will Listen.How to Talk So Teens Will Listen & Listen So Teens Will Talk
by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish (2006)

Another easy-to-read book along the lines of the last book post below.  This book deals more specifically with talking to teens, but is essentially the same strategy as the book about talking to kids (see below).

From the back cover of this book:

  • Listen and respond helpfully to your teenager’s concerns.
  • Express your irritation and anger without being hurtful.
  • Take action without punishing.
  • Encourage your teens to assume responsibility.
  • Work out problems together.
  • Talk about sex and drugs without preaching or alienating.

Posted in Classroom Management | No Comments »