Reflection: Adjustments to Practice Identifying Organic Compounds in the Lab (Day 3 of 5) - Section 4: The Classroom Flow: Designing and Prepping for Student Driven Exploration


My biggest concern about having students design their own experiments for Day 4 of our five day organic chemistry lab was that students would forget to bring in their items and there would be groups off task or frustrated with each other and the lab experience as a whole.  My students are freshmen and sophomore students and personal accountability and organizational skills are things they are often still in the beginning stages of acquiring and I was concerned that specific students might feel a lot of pressure and anxiety about letting their group down by being absent-minded or forgetful.  I also didn't want that burden to then fall on parents to rush to school away from their responsibilities to bring student samples.  

By using a sign up sheet, I was able to check in with each student group in a formal way.  Because the sheet was posted in the room for public view with each item listed along with the name of the student who had agreed to bring it to school, students also had a broader accountability to the entire class.  The secondary, unexpected result was that as we went through our lab the next day, students would check in on the list to see which other groups they wanted to visit because they were curious about specific items being brought in or because there were similar items for which they wanted to compare results and discuss collaboratively across groups.  

In addition to the sign up sheet, setting aside time each day for students to think about, discuss, and plan was essential to making Day 4 a success.  Before and on Day 1, I mentioned that this Day 4 activity would be happening to plant the seed of preparation in their minds while on Days 1, 2, and 3, I set aside 5-10 minutes for students to get more specific about their sample ideas so that they were both creative and practical and to strategize responsibilities and storage as a team and with me.  I am very happy to report that every single group brought in all four of the samples that they said they would bring in!  I'll admit that I kept a few items from my pantry in the back room just in case someone wasn't able to come through with their item, but it turned out to be an unnecessary Plan B.  

Although the primary goal of the lab was to deepen student understanding about each of the organic compounds we were studying, this idea of group dynamics--how to work together, how to plan, how to break down tasks into steps and tasks--is something that is very much part of every lesson I create and implement.   A small tool such as a sign up sheet can do a lot to help direct students to attend to what is important in the moment as well as plan and prepare for upcoming events.  

  Using Documentation as an Opportunity for Further Discussion, Planning, and Collaboration
  Adjustments to Practice: Using Documentation as an Opportunity for Further Discussion, Planning, and Collaboration
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Identifying Organic Compounds in the Lab (Day 3 of 5)

Unit 4: Unit 4: Molecules of Life: Organic Chemistry
Lesson 3 of 15

Objective: Students will be able to identify proteins, carbohydrates, saccharides, and lipids in the lab.

Big Idea: Get your students acquainted with organic compounds in their everyday lives using this engaging lab activity!

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1 teacher likes this lesson
Science, Organic and Biochemistry, Life Science/Biology, carbohydrates, inquiry, lipids, saccharides, proteins, molecule
  50 minutes
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