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Monthly Archives: December 2014

Day 69: New Year, Lab Final, Day 6

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Day 69/180: more lab final

It being the first day after break, my kids were pretty distracted. The classes in the morning were definitely more focused than the afternoon classes (and this isn’t anything new). I want to figure out how to encourage work from extra-social groups.

It also makes me wonder again about introverted vs. extroverted teachers, and how interactions with groups is probably very different. I like the ideas behind TLAP, but don’t think I have the personality to pull off the outrageous stuff. My students say I have a strange sense of humor, but I’m not much for the loud shenanigans that some of my coworkers do on a daily basis. I’m not the teacher who will yell, “NICE GOATEE!” at kids through the crowded hallways, or the one who will use student names on tests. I will, however, use crazy hand-waving to describe chemical reactions, and quietly suggest cheering as a viable method to make lab time to pass faster.

I guess what I’m thinking is, there’s clearly different ways to get through to different kids. Maybe there’s also different way that different teachers can communicate to students.

Day 68: Lab Final, Day 5 (and Break!)

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Day 68/180: ‘Twas the day before Winter Break…

Despite my protests, my enthusiastic 4th period class threw a going-away party for me. And gave me this:


It’s about 12″x 24″ and double-sided, signed by most of my students through the day. I need to find a place for it on my wall.

I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity to get my head back in a game I love, and to show me what a difference a change of venue can have for my mood and outlook and enjoyment. Thanks, kids!

Day 67: Lab Final, Day 4

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Day 67/180: day 4 of the lab final

Kids are mostly, if not entirely done with the actual lab work component of the final. I’m kinda sad about that, since it means that it’ll be pretty boring for me to watch. I’m not sure how to encourage kids to do another trial, if their three trials didn’t agree. We’ve drilled the “explain your errors in your error analysis section!” idea a bit too much. Or they don’t see the benefit of doing things accurately if they can explain away the outliers (unless I attach points to final answers, which I don’t do). It’s all about points, I guess. Kinda disheartening, but that’s how the course is set up.

Day 66: Lab Final, Day 3

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Day 66/180: Day 3 of the lab final

Most kids are done with the first lab (which is long and has three trials), and are on the second lab. Some have even finished the second, and now just have to research and write. I’ve been catching up on grading.

The regular classroom teacher came in to chat, so we could discuss the transition back for her. I have two more days in January before her return is official. We discussed particular students, current assignments, grading, cheating and attempts… all of the classroom stuff. And some general parenting stuff, life-work balancing acts, building politics.

My current fear is that all of the district computer access will turn off for me at Winter Break, and I’ll have nothing for those two days in January.

Day 65: Lab Final, Day 2

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Day 65/180: Day 2 of the lab final

Reminders that their work is not to be shared, as well as conserving (but using as much as necessary) material-wise. It’s a hard balance to keep. On the one hand, students are still just learning this chemistry stuff, and probably have always had labs more-or-less dictated to them. The giant 2kg jars of crystalline materials, which made them gasp on the first day, are nearly empty. And that’s okay to me, but they think much waste has happened.

Kids were also way more comfortable today, after seeing just how fast they could work yesterday. Suddenly, two weeks in class doesn’t seem so short.

Day 64: Lab Final Day 1

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Day 64/180: Day 1 of the lab final

It’s kinda cool to let the kids loose on the lab final. They have this week and a week in January to do a four-part final and write it up formally. I was told to watch for cheating, which is kinda weird, since they’re all used to chatting during lab. I think it’s kinda strange to ask them to sequester their phones during class, when they’re all talking to each other.

In other news, it’s my last week (sorta) at the school. Kinda sad. More thoughts on that this week while the kids continue the final. There’s stuff pending in my head.

Day 63: Energy test and Intro to The Final

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Day 63/180: one more test and an intro to the lab final

Students mostly took took 25-ish minutes to finish the super-short test. I spent the rest of the time going over the ground rules for the hands-on lab final. Pairs of students get next week and a week in January to finish a giant practical and write-up dealie.

Day 62: Cramming Calories

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Day 62/180: completing “Thermo lite” and studying for tomorrow’s test

It’s kinda sad that we’re only touching on thermodynamics, and it’s mostly on calorimetry. There’s so much more to energy and thermo than that. I know they’ll get more next year in physics, but it’d help in AP chem. It’s part of The Why that helps things make more sense.

Day 61: Lab Corrections and Self-Confidence

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Day 61/180: corrected the specific heat capacity lab, and starting to think about the test

I have a good feeling for the next test. Kids seem to be okay with the material on (really basic) energy and heat. They’re actually surprising themselves with how much they understand, which is actually kind of sad that they assume they’re not going to do well. Granted, the last test gave a lot of them a not-great grade (the average was still a C), and this test covers a lot less material. But I don’t want any kid to go into a test with fears. There’s some research that says that just thinking about positive test outcomes raises scores (I should find that paper again). I should find ways of improving my students’ confidence going into tests (and other work too), and perhaps the outcomes (including course outcomes, grades, and/or view of topic in general?) might be improved. Wonder if there’s research on that…

Day 60: Calorimetry Lab

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Day 60/180: doing the lab and not freezing

Because of the hot plates in the room, it was finally around 20 degrees in the room all day. Normally, it starts around 20, and slowly drops to 17 through the day, especially with the ventilation on.

I like lab days. I have a pretty hands-off approach, so the kids have to talk to each other. I hope this bodes sorta well for next week’s lab final, where I can’t talk to them at all. I wonder just how much they will talk to each other, and how much cheating actually goes on. We’re going to have a lot of set up in the next few days for all of the lab possibilities, not to mention reagents, and different sets of materials to minimize cheating.