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Archive for the 'Constructivism' Category

An Easy Food Web Lesson

Posted by Mr. Oettinger on 15th October 2008

An Easy Food Web Lesson

Looking for a way to get your students out of their seats and up to the board for an interactive lesson?  Looking for a way to get students to rally around a lesson like fans at a sporting event?

Here’s a quick and easy way to introduce food webs to your class. 

  • You might first introduce this lesson in a constructivist manner with some socratic discussion.  Perhaps a question like “Where do organisms get their energy from; and where does the energy go?”
  • Print out and distribute enough of the aquatic food web cards so that each student gets one or two cards.  Announce to the class “I AM THE SUN” and draw a sun on the board.
  • Ask the students to look at their cards and to raise a hand if they have an organism that can use your sun energy.  Any student who volunteers a consumer at this point serves as a springboard to develop the discussion about who can use energy from the sun.
  • Have students with producer cards tape the cards to the board, or simply write the names of their organisms on the board and use arrows to show the movement of energy from the sun to the producer.
  • Continue with the next organisms that can consume the producers, working your way through the trophic levels.
  • Challenge students to draw the arrow to represent the movement of energy between organisms.  Inevitably, a student will draw the arrow in the wrong direction.  Other students will often notice and suggest the correction.  Otherwise, you may call attention to the issue and ask students to scrutinize the arrow for accuracy.  When this error does occur, make sure all of your students are paying attention when the correction is made.  The direction the arrows face is a huge aspect of this activity.  It can be difficult for some students to “get” the right direction for the arrow.  Spend the time it takes to make sure all students understand what the arrows represent.
  • Finally, ask students what the arrows represent, and ask what the diagram you just created is called.  Depending on the student responses, this may give you an opportunity to point out the difference between food chains and food webs.

Students tend to love this activity and it allows one to approach the topic from a constructivist perspective in which students work together to construct basic knowledge of this essential foundation to energy transfer and nutrient cycling.

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

The Power of Analogy: Teaching Biology with Relevant Classroom-Tested Activities

Posted by Mr. Oettinger on 5th October 2008

The Power of Analogy: Teaching Biology with Relevant Classroom-Tested Activities
Marcella W. Hackney and James H. Wandersee (2002)

Teaching Biology with Relevant Classroom-Tested Activities.I stumbled upon this book and it has been quite fortuitous that I obtained a copy of this publication — it is fantastic.

The book begins with a discussion of the basics of analogy, simile, and metaphor to help the teacher understand how bridging figurative language and meaning can have a valuable place in constructivist education.  The rest of the book presents chapters of sample activities using analogy, simile, and metaphor to teach typical biology concepts.

Each chapter has a detailed description of the activity, implementation guidelines, notes, specific example lesson blackline masters which have everything clearly listed (purpose, materials, guide to action), and generic activity blackline masters so you have an outline to follow for creation of your own lesson based on the example activity type.  Also provided are sample responses to the example blackline masters.

This book is as complete as it gets in terms of conveying a unique pedagogical technique, and provides enough scaffolding to aid the teacher in implementation of sample and generic lesson activities.  You’ll be up-and-running with a new activity for your classroom in no time.

Published by the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT), you can’t go wrong with this quality book.

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

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 »

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 »