Getting to Know You!

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Objective

Students will become acclimated to the course's focus and their learning partners within the course.

Big Idea

Learning about the neuroscience classroom culture/environment!

Introduction

Lesson Background & Justification:

     The first days of school in the science classroom are instrumental in establishing safety procedures, behavioral expectations, content overview and classroom norms. Establishing this foundation early on helps to develop and instill a sense of purpose for  students, prepares them for scientific practice (lab skills) and provides a foundation for inquiry. This lesson specifically focuses on the first day of class where students become acclimated to their new environmental via a) a facilitated introduction icebreaker and b) content introduction icebreakers. Days two and three address behavioral expectations, safety procedures and introduction to scientific inquiry.

       During my first day, I use a combination of both facilitated and content icebreakers respectively to help my students adjust to an environment conducive to learning neuroscience or science in general. I begin with a general icebreaker to establish students' personal comfort levels first and follow with a content icebreaker which formally introduces students to what they should expect to see and learn in a neuroscience course. In tandem, these two types of icebreakers and their corresponding activities have the potential to stimulate students enthusiasm in the classroom and interest in the course from the very first day.

       After formally introducing myself, I introduce a question prompt to the entire class by way of physical presentation on the smart board and verbal expression, and give students time to process and record their responses before each verbally shares their written responses verbally with the class. I use this opportunity for students to a) introduce themselves by name and b) for me to ask a follow up or extension question to their initial responses in the effort to encourage and establish an environment of respect for individualism and diversity therein. This also gives students in the audience a chance to ask clarifying and/or extension questions to bond with their fellow classmates. Discussion is highly encouraged throughout this activity to maximize on their social capacities.  

      Subsequent to the personal icebreaker activity, students are prompted verbally to share what they know about the area of neuroscience. As this can be a very intimidating topic for students, it is important that I first give them an opportunity to share what they know. I accomplish this by facilitating the construction of a class word tree. This activity not only helps to cement value in what students will bring to the table before I formally introduce a content overview of neuroscience to my classes but it also can help to reduce any anxieties related to internal inadequacies that some students can and do bring to my classroom. Essentially, in this word tree activity, I collect students thoughts by first verbally requesting for them to summarize what our root term, neuroscience is in 1-2 words and second having them share these responses aloud. I record this information by writing/recording their responses as they come in on "leaves" that are attached to a topic trunk which graphically develops a tree like figure. Overall, this activity helps us all to organize and collate our thoughts collectively as a group and produces a tangible artifact that we can continuously use to revise or update our knowledge on the topic as we grow in our understanding throughout the lesson and if needed, throughout the course.   

 Lesson Preparations:

 

In the effort to prepare for this lesson, I make certain that I have the following items in place:

 

a) The course's syllabus should be copied in roster specific quantities . 

b) A Powerpoint presentation which facilitates individual activities, their transitions, presentation of activity goals and/or instructions and embedded video clip links.

c) A variety of writing utensils (pens, pencils and markers). Pens and pencils should be readily available and accessible to students throughout the lesson.  Markers only need to be supplied if I am a teacher who will need to record word tree responses on a physical white board or will have students record their individual responses on the board. 

d) Post it notes stickers should be available and accessible to students throughout the lesson.

 

Additionally, I familiarize myself with the sequence and nature (specific details and execution) of activities to improve the flow of transitions throughout the lesson and/or to modify the lesson when faced with any unexpected classroom events.

 

Note: It is a good idea to secure extra copies (beyond the original roster totals) of all items listed and lesson agenda written on the board to account for any potential mishaps which may occur and are beyond your control (loss of internet access, added students, etc.).

 

Common Core Standard:

W.11-12.2a Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information so that each new element builds on that which precedes it to create a unified whole; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.

 

Standard Rationale: Meaningful and organized writing can be a difficult task for the technologically savvy students of today's classroom. As such, it is important to integrate writing exercises in the classroom frequently with particular emphasis on those which encourage scaffolding and physical organization of content. The first day of school is ideal to bring these elements together alongside multimedia presentations because it establishes writing as an expectation along with behavioral and content expectations. Furthermore, implementation of the standard's content helps to make the writing process stimulating enough to promote student metacomprehension skills which then can be utilized to successfully navigate writing and comprehension tasks throughout a neuroscience course.


 

Teacher and Student Introductions

20 minutes

Section Primer:

         An icebreaker is a facilitation exercise intended to help a group to begin the process of forming themselves into a team. A Facilitated Introduction Icebreaker is one primed with a stem or template for others to utilize when introducing themselves to the group. Introduction icebreakers are best used on first days of school when trying to learn student's names and a little bit about them and can alleviate anxiety that some students face when trying to establish their place in the social hierarchy within the classroom setting. Here are two examples of facilitating introduction icebreakers that I have merged into one icebreaker for this lesson & for time efficiency:

1) If they made a movie of your life, what would it be about and which actor would you want to play you?

2) If someone made a movie of your life, would it be a drama, a comedy, a romantic comedy, action film or science fiction

Section Instructional Sequence:

      In this section of the lesson, my goal is to facilitate student to student introductions and to set the tone for proper and engaging social interactions within the classroom. This begins with a brief and warm welcome to the course and introduction of myself as the course's instructional facilitator and transitions into a Facilitated Icebreaker Activity which gives everyone an opportunity to introduce themselves to the class in a creative and nontraditional fashion. I present this introductory activity in the following sequence:

a) I transition to slide 2 of the powerpoint presentation and introduce myself and role.

b) I verbally state to the class: "Now that you are familiar with my name and my role, let's get to know one another a little better through an interesting icebreaker activity." I then display slide 3 of the powerpoint and read the projected question to the class.

c) I inform students that I will give them 5 minutes to think about how they would response to the question and to record their answers on a post it note sheet once they have a response. I start my timer for five minutes and announce to the class verbally that they are to begin. While students are thinking and writing, I circulate around the room to edify any task related questions and confusions.

d) When the timer sounds, I instruct students to take a few seconds to finish if needed and enthusiastically solicit volunteers to share. I then give every student and myself an opportunity to first state their first and last name and then to share their recorded responses in 30 seconds or less. I continue to prompt for volunteers throughout, but interject my personal responses if and when the class seems to taper off with them volunteering their responses. I continue to encourage responses through verbal solicitation and/or select students with eye contact and verbal requests to share their individual responses until everyone has shared.

    The ideas here are not to only help students become initially comfortable and familiar with one another and interests but also to establish an environment where students are  comforted in knowing that everyone's input is valuable.

 Common Core Standards:

W.11-12.2a Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information so that each new element builds on that which precedes it to create a unified whole; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.

 

Content Icebreaker!

20 minutes

Section Primer: 

     Content Introduction Icebreakers directs the students into the content that will be taught. These icebreakers can be used to generate interest in a topic and activate the student's prior knowledge. Topic lead-ins will encourage the sharing of information and resources (Dover, 2004). In this section of the lesson, I used a combination of two activities/strategies to introduce students to the course's topic. They are as follows:

a) Word Tree Exercise. In this strategy, the teacher generates a list of words related to a topic to be taught. The students then have to suggest words related to the topic while the teacher writes it on the board and clusters it by theme. This serves as a means for students to organize the various facets (physical, biological, chemical, and computational areas) of neuroscience and build an a rudimentary understanding of the course.

b) Syllabus Scan. In this activity, students are challenged to scan the listed unit descriptions and corresponding listed activities/labs in the effort to absorb as much information regarding the course within a brief designated timeframe. When time is called, students turn down their syllabi and use this collected information to contribute to the fine tuning of a previously constructed word tree based on prior knowledge alone. This activity proceeds their first attempt to describe the course's content and is developed on the class's original word tree. This gives students an opportunity to interact with the syllabus and establish a content basis for the course in a fun and engaging manner.

Section Instructional Sequence:

      Now that I have established student introductions, it is important that I provide students a basic premise of the course to initiate student investment. So, in lieu of traditional course overviews and content introductions via teacher delivery, this section of the lesson accesses and factors in student prior knowledge to build upwards and outwards from. The goal is to essentially grow students from their fundamental understandings of neuroscience when and while offering a glimpse into the course's overview. I sequence the of activities for this section as follows:

a) I transition to slide 4 of the powerpoint and read the contents of the slide to the class. I then give students a moment to process the question. Then, I hit the enter key to bring in the words "word tree" and verbally explain to students what a word tree is and that as a class we are going to share what we already know or think we know about neuroscience by constructing our own word tree.

What is a word tree?

b) I transition to slide 5 and physically point out the term Neuroscience on the trunk of the tree with some pointing device or my finger. I then verbally solicit and welcome students to take ownership of a leaf on the tree and to share their personal thoughts of neuroscience in 1-2 words to develop the branching areas of the tree. I allow students to offer their thoughts and record their individual responses on a different leaf. I collect and record responses for roughly 3-5 minutes.

c) Next, I transition to slide 6 of the powerpoint and say to students "Now we are going to see how well your thoughts of what neuroscience is compares and contrasts to what we are planning to learn in this course." I continue to say "we are now going to have a look at our course's syllabus and will challenge ourselves to learn as much as possible from the unit descriptions in two minutes flat". At this point, I begin to pass out a copy of the syllabus face down to each student and tell them not to turn over the sheet until told to do so. While moving, I explain that they are going to perform a syllabus scan at the start of the timer. Finally, I begin the timer for two minutes and tell students to turn their syllabi over and begin their scan. 

d) At the conclusion of the scan, I go back to slide 5 and prompt students to verbally either add new information to or affirm current responses on our constructed word tree. I record new responses on a blank leaf in a different color ink and reinforced responses on the leaves with similar responses in the new color as well. Varying the ink color provides an immediate visual for students to compare and contrast what they know to what they will learn. This also positively reinforces and rewards student input and consequently helps to build students' confidence in their ability to contribute and perform well in the course. I wrap this section up by verbally asking students if they feel that the course will be difficult and why or why not. I close out and transition after taking a few student answers by selecting students with raised hands.

 

Common Core Standards:


W.11-12.2a Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information so that each new element builds on that which precedes it to create a unified whole; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.

 

Personalizing Content!

15 minutes

Section Primer:

     Vignette Writing and Sharing. A vignette is a short description of a personal reference or account of an individual's experience with the topic at hand. In this case, students give a personal story connecting how neuroscience relates to something or someone they are associated with after having it modeled by the instructor. This strategy, completed after the syllabus scan and discussion gives students personal investment in the course's content from the first day and generates a basis to develop their own personal learning goals throughout.

Section Instructional Sequence:

       In this section of the lesson, students extend their newly acquired background on what neuroscience is by participating in a learning strategy and content icebreaker called "Personalize it!". In this activity, students develop a brief vignette or personal experience related to a specific topic and verbally share their experiences with the class. This activity helps students to mentally associate a significant event or experience with anticipated content and therefore, has great potential to translate into internalized learning goals for each student in the course. The big idea here is to establish student investment and interest in your upcoming lessons throughout the academic year. I present this section of the lesson as follows:

a) After advancing to slide 7, I read the question at the top of the screen to the class. I tell them to ponder this question based on what they have learned.

b) I then verbally share with the class "We are now going to add to our understanding of what neuroscience is and means by watching those who are currently in the field speak on it". I play the video "What is Neuroscience (Major in a Minute)?" below to the class and ask if they have learned anything new from the video once it is done playing. I take a few responses from raised hands in the class and proceed to step c.

What is neuroscience? (Major in a Minute!)

c) Next, I advance the next question on the slide and read the question to the class. Without taking responses from the group, I continue to advance the next animation on the slide and read off some or all of the questions on the screen to the class. I share with students "While there are more questions that can be answered in this field of science, I would like for you all to think about how these questions or others may relate to experiences that you may have or hope that will someday be answered by work in this field. For example, I know someone who is paralyzed and I wonder if there someday will be a drug or therapy developed to reverse this condition". I rhetorically ask "What do you wonder?"

d) I advance to slide 8 and tell students that we are going to put these thoughts to paper and hopefully use these thoughts to mentally map out some learning goals for ourselves in this course. I continue to say that we will all take a moment to develop a neuroscience vignette to potentially share with the class or to just actively think about what we want to know about or care to have addressed within this course. I explain to students what a vignette is and verbally request that they all write out one on a post it note according to the template on the slide's post it note. I demonstrate to students what a completed one looks like by filling in the note on the slide based on my personal experiences. Then I give students 1-2 minutes to record their responses. After all students have stopped writing, I verbally request for some students to share their vignettes. After share time, I collect all student vignettes for planning purposes throughout the year. I share with the class how I plan to utilize their vignettes in the course. In this case, it will be utilized to cater lessons to their specific interest. This activity can be utilized to initially establish a personal rapport with your students.

Common Core Standards:


W.11-12.2a Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information so that each new element builds on that which precedes it to create a unified whole; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.

 

 

Homework Assignment!

5 minutes

      Even though my students aren't crazy about homework on the first day of school,  I utilize the final moments of the class time to explain their first homework assignment to them. This specific assignment serves as an informal assessment of my new students preferred learning styles and will provide great feedback to me as an instructor. More specifically, this assignment is designed to provide me as the teacher with the following information:

1) Insight of student learning styles so that you may shape your lessons more effectively, and

2) Serve as an example in the subsequent lesson about classroom readiness as you instruct students on the importance of the classroom rule or expectation: Come prepared for class daily!

To dispense homework to students, I advance to slide 9 of the powerpoint, and read aloud the specific tasks which is inclusive of students researching the Learning/Retention Pyramid Model (see image) and addressing listed questions. I verbally instruct students to record the assignment and clarify questions asked by students.

I wrap the day up by advancing to the final slide and asking the class if there are any questions.