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.
I would describe my classroom model as a tweak on a flex model of instruction. I start each class period by giving students a problem I want them to solve, such as “How would you use the gas laws to explain how popcorn pops?” Students then have the opportunity to create their own learning paths by accessing a variety of curated online and offline resources and activities. I determine if a student has achieved mastery on a given concept by evaluating the online and offline work products they have produced during class and by administering more traditional assessments. However, if a student fails an assessment, he or she can always go back and re-take it. My classroom is 1:1 with a mix of MacBooks and iPads, which have become the vehicle for my students to move at their own pace through difficult chemistry content.
Number of Students: ~ 36 students/period
Number of Adults: one teacher
Length of Class Period/Learning Time: 120 minutes (M, T, Th, F); 45 minutes (W)
Digital Content/Ed Tech Tools Used on a Regular Basis: CK-12 BrainGenie; Google Apps for Education; eduCanon; Formative; YouTube; Screencast-O-Matic; Wikispaces; Weebly; Versal; Common Curriculum
Hardware Used on a Regular Basis: MacBook computers (1:1); 2nd Generation iPads; SMARTboard; Surface Pro 3 (for teacher)
Key Features: competency-based; content in multiple formats; problem-based; gamification; student agency
At the beginning of each trimester students are given a checklist to track their own mastery. As they progress through the lessons, they mark off what they have completed, in addition to the grade they received on each lesson. This acts as planner, letting students know at any given moment what they have completed, and what is left for them to learn to finish the trimester.
As a blended learning practitioner, I have learned that it's critically important to develop a classroom culture infused with respect and a collaborative spirit. Cultivating and nurturing this culture is especially important in my classroom where so much of the learning is self-paced and the content is largely accessed digitally. The Meet and Greet is a strategy I use to start each day in order to model positive student-teacher interaction, to assess individual student's state of mind quickly, and to motivate my students to engage with the content right away. Our weekly Class Meeting is another strategy that promotes a positive and collaborative classroom culture. In first part of each Class Meeting, my students are nominated for "shout-outs" by their classmates for specific effort and achievement they have demonstrated in the previous week. In the second part of the Class Meeting (please see the "Class Forum" strategy video), my students identify ways in which the class can improve and they suggest potential solutions to difficulties they are experiencing. The Meet and Greet and the Class Meeting are strategies that allow me to express my respect for my students and their experience of learning. Implementing these strategies has resulted in higher degrees of student ownership, responsibility, and engagement.