Understanding Why We Have Rules in the Classroom!

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Develop and support a position on the validity of classroom rules by integrating information from multiple sources including text and data.

Big Idea

Brain science research helps us to understand why some rules and laws are age specific in society!


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 second day of class where students become acclimated to the rules of their new environment. Through various activities such as think-pair-share, graphic organizing and watching media explaining the brain science behind the teenage mind, students develop a fuller understanding of the how's and why's of establishing behavioral expectations in the classroom.

 Lesson Preparations:

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


a) The day's homework assignment are copied in roster specific quantities. 

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

c) For the "Quick Demo" activity, I set up materials for a  simple acid and base discovery challenge. I prepare 3 half-filled, Dixie bathroom cups of a 1:10 diluted vinegar to water solution and 3 half-filled, Dixie bathroom cups of 10% (1 gram to 10 ml water) baking soda solution and label each cup unknown with a random letter. I also prepare  a 3/4 filled cup of tap water and label it water and one half-filled cup of .04% Bromothymol blue solution labeled acid/base indicator solution. I supply these solutions plus gloves, safety goggles and two plastic pipettes for each group of four students in the room. These materials are dispenses during the extension portion of 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: Since these are the first days of school, 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 Standards:

SP4- Analyzing and interpreting data

SP7- Engaging in argument from evidence.


Standards Rationale: In the science classroom, students are regularly charged with tasks to collect and make sense of data from readings and investigations. What makes these science experiences powerful enough to retain however, is an instructor's ability to access, stimulate and develop students' higher order thinking capacities for cognitive growth and subsequently establishing sound learning practices. In this lesson, students access, analyze & interpret scientific data and to construct an argument for one of three positions on the topic of classroom rule construction and management. Each aforementioned skill is cited as either a level 5 or 6 action verb on the Bloom's Hierarchy of Cognitive Skills or Domains. Functioning on said levels is essential to science lessons because they offer students an opportunity to organize, collate and present data in ways that make sense to them using information interpreted systematically in the science community. In doing so, students invite teachers inside their brains to assess what strong connections or missing links exists. This in turn serves as a great evaluation tool for teachers and in this case, sets a standard from the second day of school that supporting statements is a critical activity to students' success of learning in the science classroom.



10 minutes

Section Primer:

     "In adults, various parts of the brain work together to evaluate choices, make decisions and act accordingly in each situation. The teenage brain doesn't appear to work like this. For comparison's sake, think of the teenage brain as an entertainment center that hasn't been fully hooked up. There are loose wires, so that the speaker system isn't working with the DVD player, which in turn hasn't been formatted to work with the television yet. And to top it all off, the remote control hasn't even arrived!" (How Stuff Works, 2014)

     The brain's remote control is the prefrontal cortex, a section of the brain that weighs outcomes, forms judgments and controls impulses and emotions. This section of the brain also helps people understand one another. Teenagers, in addition to possessing an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex region of the brain are also subjected to different biological rhythms and hormonal influxes that are nonexistent in post-adolescent persons. This makes the teenage mind a uniquely confusing, yet ideal landscape for rigorous learning in the science classroom. This section via a truth or false classroom survey explores the extent of teenagers knowledge on this specific subject matter and sets the stage for students understanding to why adults are responsible for establishing classroom rules.  

Section Instructional Sequence:

      In this section of the lesson, my goal is to initially engage students in the lesson while simultaneously learning teenage brain facts. It is a common understanding that people learn better when the subject matter is relevant to them in some form or fashion. I elected for my students to learn awesome facts about their brain in a true or false game fashion so that they can understand why they make some of the decisions that they commonly make and become excited about doing so. As such, I present this introductory or engagment activity in the following sequence:

a) I access slide two of the Classroom Rules and The Teenage Brain power point presentation. (The first slide is displayed on the screen as students enter the classroom and is intended to start their initial moments in the class with humor.) After moving to slide 2, I greet students with a general welcome back statement and then say to students that we are going to start our day by learning a little bit about one of their favorite people; them! I continue to state that I am going to specifically challenge them to find out what they know or think they know about their unique brains.

b) I prepare to display the first statement and ask students if they are ready. Once I have everyone's attention indicated by eyes oriented towards the me or the Smart Board, I press enter to display the first fact. I verbally instruct for students to read the fact silently and then after about 5-10 seconds, I solicit for one student to read the statement aloud to the class. Once the statement has been read and I edify any needed terms (mispronounced terms). I then prompt for students to vote on whether they believe the statement is true or false.

c) To ascertain the rough percentages of student votes, I verbally request for students to raise their hands if they believe that it is true and record this number next to the statement on the Smart Board. I then repeat this process for false related votes.

d) I then repeat steps b-c for the remaining 5 statements on the screen.

e) After all statements have been voted upon, I advance the screen to reveal the honest nature of each statement display (this appears in green T or F letters on the left side of the screen). As a class, we then discuss or reveal any surprises through casual classroom discussion.

f) Finally, I advance to slide 3 of the presentation and repeat steps a-e for the statements on the subsequent slide.

The ideas here are to get students excited about learning brain facts and prime the students minds with information which informs them of the nature of their brains as compared to adults that they interact with daily.


15 minutes

 Section Primer:

      Grey matter is brain tissue that houses most of the brain's unmyelinated (lack of fat covering) neuronal cell bodies and is characterized by a light grey colored tint (see image). The grey matter includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control, and sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control. While 20% of all oxygen taken in by the body goes to the brain, 95% of that goes specifically into the grey matter. In this section of the lesson, students learn to interpret the changes in grey matter as humans progress in age via MRI images and use this data in conjunction with other information to materialize evidence for position in the overarching question.

Section Instructional Sequence:

      In this section of the lesson, my goal is to transition students' mindsets of the previously presented facts from being merely questions of entertainment value to statements of scientific credibility. This primes students to receive the more in-depth science data which proceeds the engagement activity. The idea here is to stimulate students mental branching capacities and hope that they are already making the connections between classroom and societal restrictions on them and their peers before I present the behavioral expectations of the classroom themselves. I present this section in the following sequence:

a) I advance to slide 4 and verbally instruct for students to consider the scientific facts that we just discovered in our game and think about how they may aid in us addressing the following questions. I then advance the first question by pressing enter and read the first question.

b) I then open the floor for discussion. This is facilitated by me first sharing that I am going to open the floor for any thoughts and that input can be made without students raising their hands. However, students may only add value to the discussion and speak when one person has completely finished articulating their thought. I allow time for discussion and encourage conversation through positive verbal praise throughout. I maintain the flow of conversation by advancing the subsequent question on the slide roughly every minute or so. I transition the display of each question with the statement, let's consider the following as well.

c) Once all questions have been exhausted, I move to slide 5 and tell students to rhetorically consider who should be in charge of setting the classroom behavioral expectations: students? teachers? or both?

d) I continue to advance the next term on the slide and say that we are going to utilize some of the research explored in our conversations, in addition to medical research video and representations of data to further explore the teenagers brain in the effort to build a case for a position in our overarching question "Who should be responsible for rules in the classroom?" I then advance the next word and click on the term to move to the hyperlinked video (see below) 

e) At the conclusion of viewing the video, I probe my student audience verbally for first impressions or thoughts of the information presented. After allowing a minute or two for general and open floor discussion.

f) Next, I proceed to the next hyperlinked term, display the MRI images of the age progression of human grey matter in the brain, and explain the significance of grey matter. I then move forward with classroom discussion similar to that explained in section e.

g) Finally, I advance to slide 6 and proceed through the question and information statements one at time by reading each aloud to the class and ask before the final displayed statement, so what can gain from this information? I allow roughly 1 minute for open class discussion and move to the explain section of the lesson.

Common Core Standards:

SP4- Analyzing and interpreting data. In this section, students employ both of these skills in order to gather data about the teenage brain which they will then utilize in the next step of the lesson to constructively organize and produce a sound argument for a select position to the question at hand.


15 minutes

Section Primer:


        A Comparison Matrix Chart is an effective analytic tool which serves to determine the basic characteristics of an object. Using the aggregation method, this graphic organizer outlines the most typical features of an item without drawing a conclusion directly, but by simplifying the process of analysis. When using this tool in the classroom, students can make in-depth comparisons of three or more features, confront multiple items and their aspects all at once. Consequently, the use of this visual teaching method contributes to the development of analytical skills among students.        


Section Instructional Sequence:

      In this section, my goal is to provide students with opportunities to organize data collected on the teenage brain up until this point of the lesson. This information after collected is collated using a Comparison Matrix Chart to organize students thoughts and to provide them with a visual on the diversity of thought within the class. The ideas here are to model analytic processes for students and to aid in their ability to develop sound evidences for an argument. I present this part of the lesson in the following sequence:

a) I proceed to slide 7 of the presentation and verbally say to the class that we are now going to simplify our thoughts on our overarching question. I then bring their attention to the visual on the screen of the Think-Pair-Share graphic by pointing to it and proceed to explain how the process works.

b) I now advance to slide 8, unveil the comparison matrix chart and verbally instruct for students to find & partner up with someone in the room to develop one of three positions listed on the first column of the chart. Finally, I instruct for students to take 5 minutes and utilize the T-P-S technique to develop and list at least 2-3 evidences on a post it note which supports their position.

c) After five minutes, I verbally announce to the class that we will share thoughts on each position. I lead by reading the first position at the top of the chart aloud and ask for students to raise their hands if they and their partners support this position. I then scan the room and tally all raised hands into the box next to the position statement announced (under the vote column).

d) Finally, I probe the student mass who voted on that item of the matrix to provide one of their listed statements that renders support or evidence for their position. These statements are recorded in the box next to the vote tallies under the heading: Support Statements for the Position by me simultaneous to student sharing. If students find that all of their statements have been taken before granted an opportunity to speak, I continue to encourage them to speak and simply place a check mark next to the repeated statement.

e) I repeat steps c-d until all boxes are filled and ask the class if the positions are adequately supported by the evidence listed. This is when I allow an open discussion to pursue, but try to direct the classroom conversation specifically to focus on if we as a class should go along with the most voted and supported view to guide our classroom practices. I encouraged students to respond verbally and contain this part of the lesson to a 2-3 minute window before transitioning to the extension part of the lesson.  

Common Core Standards:

SP7- Engaging in argument from evidence: In this section, students engage in the process of condensing information presented and utilize the information to stake a position and support it credibly and formally. This is a skill needed in this area specifically as it helps students to explain how they know what they know and why they support a specific position on rule making in the classroom with lesson emotion and more objectivity.  


15 minutes

Section Primer:

      In the prior lesson, "Getting to Know You", students were assigned a homework assignment where they were to research the learning/retention pyramid and address questions specific to how they think that learn best in the classroom. The products of this assignment is used in this section to extend students experiences when demonstrating one of the presented behavioral expectations for the class.

      Bromothymol Blue is a pH indicator for weak acids and bases. It is mostly used in applications that require measuring substances that would have a relatively neutral pH, such as managing the pH of pools and fish tanks.  

Section Instructional Sequence:

      In this section of the lesson, my goal is to present students with behavioral expectations of my classroom and opportunities to see them in action. The idea here is to demonstrate why specific rules are selected and necessary for teachers to provide an effective and safe science experience for all students throughout the year. I present this sequence of activities as follows:

a) I advance to slide 9 and say aloud to the class, now that we have a better understanding of why  rules are critical for persons of your age group, let's see what I am specifically expecting of you in class to maximize on our classroom experience this year. I move forward in the presentation and display my 3 R's (Ready, Responsible and Respect) on the screen and read off the rules after they appear.

b) At this point, I verbally express to the group that rather than describing examples of these rules that we will see them in action by participating in few demonstrations.

c) I progress to slide 10 and verbally instruct for students to take out their homework assignments. I then tell students that I want to learn more about the learning styles that they explored so that I can plan better lessons to accommodate their needs. This is proceeded by me reading the title of the graph and asking a series of probing questions (Where is the x axis? What information is best served on this axis?, etc.) to solicit student knowledge of constructing a graph that will display most and least preferred learning styles of students in our class. I record the variables (including the types of learning styles from their homework) and units on the graph when the majority of the group agrees upon these items. This is assessed by students simple verbal agreements of yes or not, no.  

d) Once, I record the graph's information on the board, I ask students to record their names on two yellow post-its and two blue post-its. They are then verbally instructed as group to place their yellow post-its on their two best learning styles and blues on the least two effective styles. This is then followed by a simple trend analysis of most favorable styles of the group and least favorable styles and a brief discussion on how the nature of the teenager's brain may have influenced these choices. Finally, I display the "Be Ready" rule and ask how the flow or time spent on this activity could have been different had everyone not been prepared. This statement of course varies based on the number of students who completed the assignment, but still exemplifies the point of readiness in the classroom.

e) I advance to the next slide and tell students that we are going to run a quick science demonstration and read the instructions of the quick demo on the slide. I then pass out materials to students in groups of fours and tell them that they have 3 minutes to execute the demo based on the directions of the screen. I then start the timer and allow for students to work. Once time expires, I ask for students to unveil the chemical nature of each cup as I call out the cup's letter one at a time. If any discrepancies are shared, then I prompt for possible means of error and its potential source . This activity is followed by the display of the second rule "Be Responsible". While students are given a water cup, its purpose is not revealed in the instructions. It is the responsibility of the students to ask about its relevance to the demo which is to serve as a rinsing station for the limited number of pipettes. I wrap this activity up by discussing how being responsible students could have changed the outcome of some demo stations versus others.

f) After moving to the slide 12, I tell students that I want for them to take out their cell phones and send a text someone when I state go. At the word go, I verbally give students instructions to record a the main idea of couple of statements that I am sharing. When I notice that all students are either done texting or writing, I instruct the class to share their responses as I advance the other terms on the slide. I follow with a discussion on why there is a shortage of responses and who's responsibility it is to repeat the information shared. This activity concludes with a brief classroom discussion on if and how this show's a lack of respect for the teacher's readiness and preparation for a successful lesson.


15 minutes

Section Primer:

     Studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory (the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have greater volume in people who exercise versus people who don’t. The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells. Indirectly, exercise improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety. This substantiates the need and value of frequent movement, specifically walking in the classroom.

Section Instructional Sequence:

      In this section of the lesson, my goal is to give students an opportunity to reflect on what they have learned and further process their classroom experiences by applying teenage brain science and the value rules in the classroom to incorporating safe and brain stimulating movement daily in the classroom. I present this set of evaluative activities in the following sequence:

a) I advance to slide 13 of the presentation and guide the class into a choral response reading of the rules on the slide. I then verbally express that I would like for them to consider these rules when they complete their homework assignments for the evening.

b) I move to the next slide, display a copy of the homework assignment on the screen and explain the nature of the homework assignment for the evening. This occurs as I distribute copies of the homework to all students. I entertain any questions and move on to our close out activity.

c) I close out the entire lesson by explaining to the class verbally that they will complete an exit ticket out of the door for me. I advance to the final slide and read the instructions aloud to the group and direct them complete this assignment on a post-it note. Finally, students are instructed to leave their exit tickets on the dry erase board at the front of the room. These thoughts are read by me prior to the next class, so that I can use it address any lingering questions at the beginning of our next lesson together.