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Monthly Archives: November 2014

Day 53: A Little Work, A Little Play

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Day 53/180: setting up lab notebooks and a demo

Classes were only 25 minutes today, and a lot of kids told me that they’d be “sick” today, so I didn’t want to start anything major. Monday’s lab has a step that has to be done in the fume hood, so I figured it’d be good to have a few kids ready to go at the beginning of class while others set up notebooks.

I like doing Elephant Toothpaste. It’s simple and easy to clean up and involves fire. Win.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Day 52: Stoich Test

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Day 52/180: Stoichiometry test

Another test for these kids. To me, it’s kinda excessive, but apparently, there’s district and school regulations regarding the frequency and final-grade-percentage of tests.

I finally finished grading the formal lab reports, but students sure didn’t need to see them before the exam. They’ll see them on Monday.

Today, I’ve got nothing much to say. I’m glad the break is almost here.

Day 51: Chasing Them Down

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Day 51/180: making sure they actually catch up

Recently, I saw a question regarding advice for new teachers and/or things experienced teachers didn’t know going into the practice. While I’ve learned a lot over nearly 10 years’ time, I couldn’t think of something in particular that others hadn’t already covered. Today, while going through the grade book, I found it: you’re going to have to chase them down.

There’s kinda two philosophies as far as assignments go (if there are required assignments in class): either students do the work and get credit (or don’t and fall behind); or students have every opportunity to do all of the work at nearly any time. To me, the former is a waste. The kids who miss one major assignment and then give up will either drop the class with a failing grade, or be forced to continue even though they’re already lost. There are some kids, especially in lower grades, who just can’t keep track of assignments and due dates and texts and backpacks, or who don’t have a good place to practice at home. It’s sure easier for the teacher to not accept in excused late work, especially grading-wise. The latter option is hard on teachers with a ton of extra grading and assignments and trying to keep up with the fast kids while maintaining the slower ones. Some kids may just be perpetually behind, and when the semester comes, they (and their grades) get cut off.

So what do you do, as a responsible teacher? Just let them go, or get them to do work by following them, sending emails and phone calls home, contacting counselors and parents, and keeping the kid and everyone immediately around them in the loop?

And where’s the right balance?

Day 50: Limiting Practice

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Day 50/180: corrected yesterday’s lab and started a limiting reagent worksheet

Kids were the usual amount of squirrelly for the Friday before Thanksgiving break. Generally spirits were good, but Tuesday’s pending test kept some on-focus.

When students correct each other’s labs, I collect the books and enter grades into the grade book. Two students didn’t think that I actually read the labs (I gotta know what kids understand and what they’d miss), so they wrote notes to each other and unrelated comments in each point of the last sections. I’m mad enough that I don’t know what to do about their scores or what conversation to have with them on Monday.

I’m pretty bad at confrontation, and this type of interaction is what gets me. I’m okay with contacting parents regarding grades and such, especially if the kid is working hard; its figuring out how to help that kid. But this level of disrespect I just don’t understand. I don’t know how I’m supposed to overcome that kind of disregard in order to have a productive conversation.

Day 49: Limited Labbing

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Day 49/180: a quick limiting reaction reaction

There’s a sense of accomplishment in long and complicated experiments, especially when the product generated is pretty or explosive or aromatic. But there’s a beauty in quick and simple labs, where there’s enough to pick through for analysis. It may only be baking soda and hydrochloric acid, but why did the mass go down and why is the percent yield higher than 100%?!

Today, a student asked why I couldn’t just demonstrate the lab for everyone while they wrote down the numbers. I asked if I should just play a video of the lab instead.

This is a good student. One who’s just trying to get classwork done faster because she already gets it. In fact, without watching the lab, she’d probably already predicted what will happen and why. And she didn’t suggest this in a mean spirit, but mostly as a joke.

During teacher training, I remember one class where our professor was talking to us pre-service science teachers about kids without motivation. He reminded us that we were becoming teachers soon, and we probably liked school since we intended on spending our vocational lives there, but that some kids — a lot of kids — don’t like school for some reason or another, and to be understanding of our students. Most of us took that realization and nodded. The student teacher next to me was absolutely incredulous that anyone could not like school. She knew that some people didn’t get good grades, but that was no reason to not like it. I never understood this woman, and I don’t know if she’s still teaching or not.

So what’s the purpose of labs? Besides the whole hands-on-is-generally-better-for-retention thing. Why make kids do work in a science classroom? Why stand up and read plays in English class? What’s the purpose of simulating WWII battles or Model UN? Why not just have someone else do it?

Day 48: Limiting Reagents and BLTs

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Day 48/180: limiting reagents and percent yield notes

I’ve thought about this day as one of my favorites, in terms of lecture/notes. I mean, when Monday’s notes involve pound cake and today’s involve BLTs, it’s a pretty good chapter. And makes them hungry (not entirely metaphorically, either). I do like a good sandwich. Pastrami, please.

A few meetings and tasks ate up more time than I was expecting, so lab set-up, even though it was relatively quick, kept me later than I’d like. Still have to clean up the last one tomorrow morning. And write the rest of an answer key.

My goal is to finish correcting these formal lab reports this weekend. Done. Done done. I need them to be done. There are so many, I think I’m getting inconsistent with grading them, and am resisting (for now) the temptation to go back and see if I was too harsh/lenient with the first few.

Day 47: Stringing Stoich Together

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Day 47/180: sequences of events and repetition

Students had time to work through a bunch of stoich problems in class, and could ask me or other kids for help. An awfully productive work day, actually. I’m trying to anticipate work with next week’s Thanksgiving break, and how to deal with pending make-up tests and labs. Also, The Sick has been going around and make-up work is everywhere. Just when I think I’ve caught up with stuff, there’s extra assignments to go through. And I feel like I have to make comments on them, since those kids weren’t there for the conversations when they were corrected in class.

Day 46: Stoichiometry Begins

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Day 46/180: handing back tests, starting something new

I’m glad my students appreciate that I graded their tests all weekend (and more lab reports). And I’m glad I get to do stoichiometry with them. I know this is the stuff of some students’ nightmares, but I love trying previous chapters together, especially when it’s finally useful in a lab setting. It’s also the chapter where I talk a lot about food and recipes (today was about pound cake), and with Thanksgiving around the corner, it seems kinda appropriate.

I also found possibly the most ridiculously amazing picture ever and put it into the stoich notes:

Day 45: Another Test

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Day 45/180: net ionic equations tests, and productivity

While my students took their tests, I recorded their packets of stamped homework and the graded labs from yesterday. There’s a lot I need to put into the online grade book. The next unit also goes pretty fast, which means it’s another test soon. I’m starting to wonder what the purpose of all of these tests is. Yes, they’re more focused than, say, a single test every quarter, but what function do they serve other than closing out a unit?

I also acid-washed a bunch of glassware today. Strange memories of grad school came back. Lab requirements were to wash everything until the water sheeted off the glass, no drips left behind. It was beautiful, in a very OCD kind of way. High school lab beakers almost make me long for a good base bath… Almost.

Day 44: Corrective Lenses

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Day 44/180: checking labs and test review

Tuesday was Veterans’ Day, and no classes. Yesterday, I was at home, sick. My students saw random in-house subs through the day. Fortunately, it was supposed to be a work day, so (according to the subs), most of them actually worked. I gave them 15 minutes today to ask me stuff and finish the lab before correcting it. In each class, there was at least one kid who needed me to explain how the equations worked from the beginning. Makes me wonder what they’ve been doing for the last few days.

This is my homework, and what approximately 130 lab books looks like:

In some ways, I’m glad I’m catching them before the test (which is tomorrow). In other ways, I know that they also may not be prepared for the next chapter of material. Getting to the test is one thing; retaining the current information for the next section of work is another.