Reflection: Rigor Natural Selection: Pre-Requisite - Section 5: Sexual and Asexual Reproduction


Deciding HOW MUCH to teach is often a more complicated question that deciding WHAT to teach.  I think this is the most difficult at the middle school level.  (Though I may be biased!)  Elementary school is about getting a strong foundation in literacy and math.  Science and Social Studies have become secondary content.  This is indicated deeply in the schedule the students follow that feed into my school. These students do EITHER a half hour of science OR social studies once a day.  

This means that students come to middle school with very little content information. On the other hand, middle school teachers do the same training in college that high school teachers do. I have a degree in Molecular Biology!  I come to school passionate and interested in rich science content....that my students are not ready to handle.  

Sometimes the temptation to teach at a high level is like standing in a candy store filled with hundreds of kinds of chocolates. There are just SO MANY places where advanced connections could be made. This sweet path of getting to open students' eyes to the amazing complexity of knowledge out there can be difficult to withstand. In fact, I hear many teachers telling me on and on that their students were raptly engaged as they discussed a complex topic.

Unfortunately, the truth is that most of the students are getting very little SOLID information that they can hook onto. They like it, they like to take these walks and feel like adults, but they aren't doing the thinking. The cognitive load is on the teacher not the students.  

This doesn't mean that you can't ever make the choice to expose students to high level information. That type of exposure can spark inspiration and imagination. It just means that you have to PLAN to do it.  You must know the levels that you are supposed to be teaching at and then have a solid reason and plan for why to exceed those levels. And most of the time, the students will learn more and accomplish more at their level.  

The National Science standards do a great job of helping teachers with this. For example MS-LS3 states; 

Develop and use a model to describe why structural changes to genes (mutations) located on chromosomes may affect proteins and may result in harmful, beneficial, or neutral effects to the structure and function of the organism.[Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on conceptual understanding that changes in genetic material may result in making different proteins.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include specific changes at the molecular level, mechanisms for protein synthesis, or specific types of mutations.]

 Notice at the end of each Performance Indicator an Assessment Boundary is described. This shows you the level you should consider teaching to. By using the assessment boundaries and clarification statements, and your own state standards, you can get a strong idea of how much to teach. That doesn't mean you shouldn't sometimes break the boundaries...but it does mean you should have a good reason and do it infrequently. 

  Depth Decisions?
  Rigor: Depth Decisions?
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Natural Selection: Pre-Requisite

Unit 10: Adaptation: Natural Selection
Lesson 2 of 5

Objective: Students will be able to learn the basic concepts and vocabulary of natural selection.

Big Idea: Stories are fun...but they aren't science!

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Science, natural selection
  47 minutes
elephant child story
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