Sunday, November 16, 2008

Teaching the Organelles

This past Thursday, I tried two new activities as I taught the entire class for the first time this semester.

But first:
At the beginning of every class, the students typically have a journal question. On that day I asked each student to write down something related to biology, health, disease, or living things that they had a question about. I plan on answering 1-2 of these every time I come into class now, and may try to integrate my answers with the material they are covering at the moment. I have read their questions, and there are some really interesting ones (more on that in some other post).

On to teaching:
While preparing to teach the organelles, I was thinking about my Cell biology course during my undergraduate. It was during that class that I first enjoyed really learning about cell biology. I was going to try to replicate their teaching style - no powerpoint, no artificial figures, all chalk and chalk board, hand drawn pictures, and very straight talk. The more I thought about this method of teaching I though it may work very well because this is a completely different style of teaching than Ms. Papke. I knew I couldn't just talk to them though, and it would be better to integrate the class. I ended up teaching an activity where the students would tell me all of the rooms, components, and/or functions of a house and I wrote these on the board. Then we went through the list comparing each room or function to an organelle and its specific function in the cell. In general, I think the activity worked very well - some organelles worked much better than others. The second half of the class we watched the video, "The inner life of the cell" and I walked the students through certain organelles and processes within the cell. The students who were paying attention to the video got a lot out of it - I heard many students asking, " Is this happening in us? Right now? all the time?" Overall, I think the combination of board teaching and technology seemed to work very well.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Midterm Progress

Hello all, the semester has become increasingly busy - for myself and the students at YPSH. Two weeks ago Ms. Papke handed my students their current grades including all of the assignments, their grades, and what was missing. The day was needless to say, extremely hectic. The majority of the students were not doing very well at all. One of the most disconcerting observations I made that day - and I beleive Ms. Papke already knew - was that the majority of these "failing" students were very smart. Most of them had done very well on their graded homework; however, these among these same students they all seemed to have trouble turning in assignments.  I was also surprised by the amount of students who seemed to have no idea why they were failing and were not happy with the result.  I spent the majority of that day - this was a make up day - comforting many students and trying to convey to them that they had plenty of time to fix their grade.  I remember saying - "you're doing pretty well if you can turn some of these items in, you just have to start knocking away at this "to-do" list" or "here, start with this project, its not too hard and if you can turn in some of these project you have 0's on you will be just fine."  I think many of these students - once past being overwhelmed - took the day to heart and worked diligently through the hour.  There is always an exception though - a few students seemed to be turned off by their lack of success and failed to seize the opportunity to turn in work they had previously failed to hand in.  I will find out tomorrow how many of these students were able to save their midterm grade.