Candy Land Path
The Candy Land Path is a Candy Land-style trail that runs across several walls in my classroom. Each tile on the trail represents a lesson my students have to master in order to advance in the course. This strategy allows my students' progress to be seen and followed on a day-to-day basis, ultimately giving transparency to the learning process. This is a powerful visual tool for every student - especially for over- and under-achievers - and allows me to reframe school as a learning journey and progression as opposed to just working for a grade. The Path also brings an element of fun to the classroom while preserving its motivational purpose.
By allowing my students to assess other students' work and then providing them with a Student Lab Development Rubric to evaluate their own work, they learn to design and refine high-quality experimental procedures. The Student Lab Development Rubric is one of the tools I use to help students build the experiments they've created and then display results and lab analyses. When students are the ones dictating how they will conduct their experiments, they invest more fully in the activity and come to realize that science involves constant critical analysis and reiteration. I like to move conversations away from "right" and "wrong" and more towards how we can improve each component of our lab activities. Initially, some students feel uncomfortable identifying that their work isn't up to the high standards of the rubric, but over time most come to realize that this process helps them improve their final products and understand the underlying purpose behind labs.
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.
The Demo Discussion is a strategy I use to provide an interesting and memorable in-class demonstration of complex concepts that my students will learn about in class on a given day, using a variety of digital resources. The Demo Discussion is an excellent way to promote student curiosity about scientific phenomena. The "demos" provide access points for my students to witness and wonder about complicated chemical processes that they will eventually explore and understand at a much deeper level. By leveraging additional physical and digital tools, I can facilitate in-depth analysis and support the development of models to explain the science behind the demo. This strategy also allows me to surface my students' questions and interests about the day's Learning Targets (please see the "Learning Targets" strategy video), to which I can refer and make connections throughout our exploration of that content.