Friday, September 30, 2005

Inductive vs. Deductive Teaching Strategies

Over the past two weeks I have been analyzing my teaching methods to determine which lessons could be taught with inductive teaching methods rather than deductive. In Physical Science, it seems as though an inductive approach will yield the most learning, however, this is not always the case. For example, my third period class is comprised of about 6 major trouble makers, 15 freshman, 2 seniors, and about 5 chronic sleepers. I know for a fact that my students in the third period would not be able to handle very many inductive tasks. Inductive teaching often involves more guided exploration than teaching, and I'm afraid if I let my third period explore anything, the result will resemble chaos more than learning.

That being said, I do prefer inductive methods to deductive approaches. I recently turned an old deductive-based lesson into an inductive lesson. I was trying to teach my students about bond angles and molecular interactions (like hydrogen bonding in water). I learned these topics through a combination of lectures and funny looking drawings on the chalk board, but instead of subjecting my students to the pain of another chemistry lecture, I gave them some molecular models (from the 60's!) and a worksheet. I instructed them to draw several different molecules despite the fact that most of them had never seen these molecules before. With minimal instruction, almost each of my students was able to write down the correct structural formula for each molecule. I was so impressed with them...and myself...that I have decided to slowly, but surely, incorporate more and more inductive lessons into my classroom.

One of the added benefits is that the students had fun constructing their compounds and they were learning at the same time. Sometimes I think that they forget the fact that they are actually learning something when they are engaged in a lesson. They see it less as a task and more as having fun. I have to be honest, I didn't let each of my classes construct their own molecules and compounds with the models. I let 3 out of my 5 classes do this while the others (namely 3rd and 7th periods) learned with colorful drawings on the chalkboard. I know that the periods in which I employed my inductive teaching method, faired much better. It seemed like they had a better grasp on the material and had more fun doing it. The only problem is that I know I cannot trust my 3rd and 7th periods. I almost feel as though I'm cheating my 3rd and 7th periods but what else can I do?

To sum up, I think that inductive teaching strategies are fantastic. I would love to employ them throughout all of my classes, however this is not possible. One can only use inductive approaches when he is sure that the students will benefit. Classes that are too immature, too talkative or, lets face it, just too obnoxious will not benefit from inductive strategies as much. I wish I could find some happy medium for these types of classes; a nice mix between inductive approaches and deductive approaches. I'm still working on it though. When I discover it, I'll let you all know.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Why are my kids so unmotivated?!

So today I gave my very first CMS test. For those who are lucky enough not to have CMS (I think it stands for curriculum management system...or I could have just made that up) tests, they are just tests which are created by the district and scored by the district. I thought my students would ace the test with no problems, but I'm not entirely convinced that was the case. When asked how the test was, about one fourth of my students said it was easy but another one fourth said it was hard. The other one half apparently couldn't make up their minds so they didn't choose one side over the other. I'm concerned about my students. I have very high expectations of them and the class unanimously stated that the CMS tests were much easier than my tests. However, many of my students are failing. If I had to give a rough estimate, I'd say about 40% of them are earning F's at the moment. Now many of those students are earning F's because they consistently fail to attempt, let alone complete, their homework. They do not study a lick and they expect to come into my class and ace the test. I mean, come on. What is with these kids? When I was younger...well, I suppose I really didn't have to deal with apathy. My parents knocked any and all apathy right out of me by the time I arrived at high school, but my students don't seem to care about their education at all. They are so concerned about the here and now, the short term rewards like what they will do Friday night after the football game, who's house party(where are the parents?!) will they attend this weekend, how can they get their hands on a fake id? Education is the last thing on their minds. How do I change that?!

I try to make it relevant to the students but orbital theory can only be stretched so far. Let's face it, these kids will NEVER see it again especially those who do not go on to college. I guess I'm just trying to create some science literacy for the future but if they can't remember what we did in class 2 days ago, how are they going to remember applications of orbital theory 25 years from now?

I guess the fact that I'm so bummed with the motivation, or lack thereof, of my students is a good thing. I feel as though I am slowly clawing my way out of the survival stage and into the um...well, the next stage what ever that may be. I desperately want my students to care about the subject matter so that they will want to improve their grades. Hopefully in another 2 months from now I will have more ideas and at least some more of my students will find science interesting.

On the bright side, I had 2 students tell me that my geekish energy for science not only makes them laugh but also makes them feel more connected to the lesson. While I think that was a compliment, I am just so incredibly happy that I have SOME students that I'm affecting. I think the fact that I'm younger has a lot to do with that. My students seem to connect better to younger teachers. They are the teachers that the kids are always talking about. Mr. Harris (Joel from MTC), Mr. Lance (some other younger teacher) and Mr. Lochen. We get all the publicity from the students. It's great! Students, in some ways, seem to be more receptive to us.

Anyway...I'm rambling. It's bedtime.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Evaluation of Classroom Management Plan

My classroom management plan was fairly typical; nothing out of the ordinary. For my consequences, which unfortunatly come to mind well before rewards, are a name on the board as a warning, followed by a checkmark if the negative behavior does not cease. The checks, of course, represent essays of 250 words for each checkmark. If they do not turn the essay in the following day, I send the student to the principal's office. Now before all of this starts to make sense, I need to give you the other pieces to the puzzle that I call my classroom management plan. I have a class reward system which works wonders! It follows a rubric and if the class is really good, they will earn the maximum number of points per class: 5. If they are having a slightly bad day (i.e. one name on the board) they get a 4 ect. In a 10 day period, if they have 45-50 points, they get a big reward; if they have a 40-45, they get a small reward; if they have 35-40, they get nothing and below a 35 is extra homework over the weekends. So it works as a reward system and a consequence system. It was the best thing I've come up with as a teacher...sad isn't it?

Well, what's the problem? Well, the problem is that I have eased up WAY too early. I basically got sick of stopping class and writing names on the board only to have the students try to argue their way out of it during class (despite the fact that I don't even acknowledge these arguments). Because I don't write names on the board, students talk and I assign them a completely subjective number based on how the class went. This worked for a while but now, I feel as though there is just too much talking. Students can't connect their individual poor behavior (i.e. names on the board) with a classwide consequence (i.e. less points for a day). That has become a problem. I am working on changing that but I haven't had much success as of late.

To further complicate things, I have an individual award system which includes giving the kids tickets and drawing those tickets from a box on Fridays for prizes etc. Sounds pretty simple right? Well, I get so bogged down with all my paper work (IT"S MY LIFE!!!) that I don't have time to go out and collect/decorate shoe boxes! So a month into the year, the students know about this reward system but have never seen it in action. It's so frustrating because I know I'm failing with my classroom management plan but there is no time to fix it! I'm jus tbeing completely inundated with more paper work for special ed kids, or gifted and talented kids, or ESL students...the list goes on. I barely have time for lessons. And now with 10 more students due to the displacement of Lousiana students to Southaven High, I have even more paper work because I have to catch them up on 3 chapters of material.

All in all, I think I had great intentions for my classroom management plan. I think it could have worked very well, but I really need to be more consistent. The only problem is time. I feel like I'm drowning.