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#MTBoSBlogsplosion: My Favorite

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I’ve been pretty quiet recently, partially due to being ridiculously busy learning how to teach AP Chemistry this year. But also because my district has very strict policies around social media.

Anyway, I saw the MTBoS post about returning to blogging, and figured it was a good time to procrastinate to start again.  And no, I don’t teach math; Honors Chemistry and AP Chem for me!

My favorite thing in class right now is whiteboards. I know… it seems to be everyone’s favorite thing, and for good reason! My students actually cheered today when I told them to fetch the dry erase markers. I am fortunate enough to have two sets of whiteboards! A large set (about 2.5×3′ or so) for groups, and small ones for individuals (one side is blank and one side has periodic tables.)

What do we do with them?

I’ve posted previously about Chemical War, The Mistake Game, particle drawings, and Battleship.

The little boards are great for “secret ballots”. Pose a question, everyone furtively writes down an answer, and either blindly (for my eyes only) or publicly shows it on the count of three. Funny for multiple choice / review days, when I need suggestions for stuff, etc.

Then just plain practice. Yesterday, my honors students took notes about stoichiometry and using BCA tables. Working in groups today made it so much clearer to them! Plus, the groups can do different things: one group made one set of charts/calculations; several groups worked individually and compared work; one group was pretty comfy already, so split into two teams that raced for the right answer.

AP Chem does similar work together. Especially with drawing, the group work is invaluable (these kids are generally fine with the math part). Somehow, whiteboarding lets these (very advanced) kids play with pictures that they would never do on paper, and thereby increases their understanding. I found that if I don’t have a whiteboard day, not only do they complain, but their conceptual understanding has been lower.

Soooo many marker fumes! So little time! (Maybe that’s why everyone loves whiteboards…)

Whiteboarding and Thinking in Questions

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I’ve joined Sam Shah’s group in  asking better questions. I don’t think this entry completely belongs there, but I did enjoy this particular bit of class today. 

Part of this year’s changes for me is a whole class-set of big whiteboards, and I’m making a conscious effort to utilize them during class. I really liked the things I saw at ChemEd this summer, and I want to see if I can get those benefits to my students this year. 

In class, we reviewed phase changes, then in groups, students draw a macroscale and a microscale version of a phase change. Every class had a group who made Frozen‘s Olaf melt, as well as the Wicked Witch of the West. Some pretty funny things with sublimation too. *

But here’s where I changed a thing. I had all of the groups present their drawings, and announced that two groups needed refinement or fixing. They went back to their drawings looking for mistakes. After a different class presented, I said for everyone to get up and see if any boards needed fixing or refinement, and to do so. This second class got a lot more out of really examining other people’s diagrams, and a lot of discussion chatter came out of it. I think they probably got more out of the repairs than the previous class. 

This probably isn’t ground-breaking for lots of teachers, but for me, it was good to know how I could trust my students (and how they trust each other) to honestly critique peer work. 

* I really want to post pictures of student work, but my district is really restrictive of it.