Instructional Openings

The Catalyst

Chemistry is a combination of the comprehension of scientific content and the application of mathematics to those concepts. My students have to be prepared to think deeply about difficult concepts the minute they step into my room. Starting the class with a relevant "Catalyst" helps them initiate their own thinking processes in preparation for a productive day in the same way that biological enzymes catalyze chemical reactions. During The Catalyst, I model my thinking process for how to approach a mathematical problem by having my students identify the key steps in the calculation and establish a foundation that students who struggle with math can fall back on when they're confused.  

Strategy Resources (3)
Students In Action
 
 
Student Handout
 
 
This Daily Work Organizer for Wednesday classes has a space carved out for the Daily Catalyst, as well a spot for my students to analyze the current state of their weekly goals. After writing down the daily learning objectives and assessing the three clues for the mystery element of the day, my students will complete a Catalyst question that will get them thinking in a mindset conducive to high-level chemistry learning. Organizing their thoughts and planning the day ahead ensures that my students have a safe place to visit when they lose focus during the chaos of normal class.
Presentation
 
 
When my students know that the problems they are solving will help them comprehend the material they are dealing with in the lesson, they are more comfortable putting forth their best effort. This Google Slides lesson asks my students to solve problems around the concepts of temperature and pressure and then asks them to extrapolate their answers to a new scenario in an attempt to get them excited about the lesson.
Students In Action
 
 
Student Handout
 
 
This Daily Work Organizer for Wednesday classes has a space carved out for the Daily Catalyst, as well a spot for my students to analyze the current state of their weekly goals. After writing down the daily learning objectives and assessing the three clues for the mystery element of the day, my students will complete a Catalyst question that will get them thinking in a mindset conducive to high-level chemistry learning. Organizing their thoughts and planning the day ahead ensures that my students have a safe place to visit when they lose focus during the chaos of normal class.
Presentation
 
 
When my students know that the problems they are solving will help them comprehend the material they are dealing with in the lesson, they are more comfortable putting forth their best effort. This Google Slides lesson asks my students to solve problems around the concepts of temperature and pressure and then asks them to extrapolate their answers to a new scenario in an attempt to get them excited about the lesson.
Jeff Astor
Cindy and Bill Simon Technology Academy High School
Los Angeles, CA


 

About this strategy

Prep Time:
Long
Subject:
Science
Grade:
Tenth grade
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Routines and Procedures
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Independent Student Learning
Answer Key

To give students greater independence, there is an answer key for the practice problems of every lesson. I know what a lot of teachers are thinking at this point: what if the student just copy all their answers from the answer key? As an Algebra teacher told me when I asked them the same question before starting flipped mastery, they'll just fail the mastery quiz. It only takes a few correctional assignments for them to realize that the answer key is there to check answers, not copy them.

 
Instructional Closings
Quick Write Summary

Truly understanding science requires my students to think in ways they might not have experienced before. Conceptualizing something that our eyes can't always see is difficult, and so it's valuable to provide graphic organizers, visual models, and other support tools as resources that my students can access while diving into content. One of the richest ways to get students to build their own methods and approaches to solving problems is to allow them to think on paper. Lessons involving direct instruction are always broken into small segments with short, casual writing periods built into the end of each one. These Quick Write Summaries are meant to focus on content construction and are free of structural analysis. I don't grade them, but I'll always help students put together their thoughts and present them with questions that guide them to the answer. Writing-to-learn strategies like the Quick Write Summary help visual learners with long-term comprehension of scientific terminology and sets the stage for students demonstrating their knowledge through writing in future assessments. 

 
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