Teaching students to be creative is a major part of the curriculum in my classroom. The lessons taught in my classroom on a daily basis emphasize creativity by allowing students to perform labs, color and draw, as well as many other activities. For example, one lesson we had students work on a few weeks ago was to invent an Alien real estate company and sell properties on the different planets in our solar system. Students were required to create a brochure and write a persuasive essay in order to convince their peers in class why their property on their planet was best suited to meet their needs. Activities such as this one allows students to learn the material while having fun doing so. Science can be extremely boring for a lot of students, but a successful teacher finds ways for the students to have fun while learning the content.
While teaching these same labs and activities, students will be challenged to think critically and solve problems. Not only are students thinking critically while conducting labs, they also are required to answer a challenging daily warm-up question. One example of how we teach students to think critically in my classroom came when I was discussing features of our ocean. I decided to do a discrepant event in my classroom called, “Ocean in a bottle.” The experiment is a great example of a processing activity. During the experiment, I filled a 32 oz. bottle halfway full of water and a few inches of sand on the bottom. I took a thermometer and placed it in the middle of the sand. I told the students that I would be shaking the bottle for 5 minutes and asked them whether they thought the water would warm up or cool down. The students were required to write their answers on a piece of paper. Secondly, I asked students what type of energy was being displayed. I then asked students to tell me where in our environment this action occurs. I continued to ask different questions until the students were able to figure out the correct answers.
Communication, discussion, and collaboration happen on a daily basis in my classroom. Students work in groups while conducting lab experiments, projects, as well as other activities. While I am teaching a lesson, I will frequently ask students to ask their partner what they think about a particular topic. I will also ask students to tell their partner what they think the correct answer is. After students talk amongst themselves, I will then facilitate an entire class discussion about the topic.
As an educator, I think one area where I could improve is allowing my students the ability to conduct more research and activities online. The majority of the lessons I teach are taught in a classroom that lacks computers and other helpful technological tools. For the particular Alien lesson, students were able to work in the computer lab for two hours to obtain the information they needed to complete the assignment. I think I would implement more media centered activities if the school had more resources. On two occasions, I was fortunate enough to be able to take my class to the computer lab to access information. Other than the two times in my class, students have only been able to utilize computers at school at their leisure.
Information literacy is extremely important in my class. Often times, students are required to read newspaper articles about a specific topic that we are covering in class and by using an AVID strategy (NEWS, Noteworthy, Evidence, What does it have to do with me, and Science connection) are able to write about the main ideas. We then, as an entire class, discuss those ideas on how they are related to what we are doing in the classroom.
We try to teach the students autonomy whenever possible. Students need to develop ways on how they can think independently. The warm-up questions we ask students every morning on done independently. After all students have received a stamp for achieving the correct answer, we then discuss the topic as a class. Homework assignments and certain worksheet activities are completed independently. For the homework assignments, students are given nine different assignments where they are asked to pick three to complete. Only one of the nine assignments weekly has to be completed. For the rest of the assignments, students are given the opportunity to choose which other two they would like to complete. Group settings are also encouraged in our classroom. In a few years, the majority of the students will be entering the work force and it is important that we allow students to develop as “team” players. Students work together as a team in our classroom to complete labs and certain activities. I think it is important for me to allow students to work to their strengths. For example, students were able to decide amongst themselves which part of the Alien assignment they would complete. Some students really wanted to use their creative skills to draw the brochure while other students used their creative strengths and chose to write the persuasive essay. I believe it is extremely important to give students choices, allow them to be creative, and to teach them how to effectively use technology because all of these skills will be used throughout their entire lives.