My school had some in-house PD a few weeks ago and it focused on how to make our lessons more deliberately engaging. The scheme we discussed is GANAG, from the work of Jane E. Pollack (See link here for some ideas.) I’m not here to advocate for one version of lesson planning over another. I’ll even say that as a 20-year veteran, my lesson planning is often not as detailed as it was long ago when I was younger. But this was a nice refresher to make sure I am planning deliberate strategies to engage my students in the work of the day. One item that struck me is the “Goal Review” at the end. Lately I’ve done a poor job of wrapping up my classes with any sort of structured closure activity. So this week – now that we’re back to school after a holiday – I’ve focused on using a simple exit pass to gather some quick formative assessment data from my students.
For my grade 10 MYP chemistry class, we did a lab today about phase changes using lauric acid. The students – hopefully – will gain some understanding of the energy transfers involved in phase changes, along with a greater understanding of what is happening at the particle level. (On a quick aside, I’ve been inspired to work more on this particle-level model by the blogging of C. Kilbane – @CentralScience on Twitter, blog here. He shares a brief post each day, often with the work of his students and the diagrams he has them draw to show their understanding on the particle level.) Today I had my students answer the following on a piece of scratch paper as their exit pass, “On the piece of scratch paper provided, complete the following drawings, using water as the substance: 1.Particles in the solid phase. 2.Particles in the liquid phase. 3.Particles in the gas phase.” For most substances, their drawings would have been pretty good. However, for water there was a misconception present in quite a few responses. The response I’ve included below (graciously provided with permission from one of my students) is quite representative of most of the responses. The particles in the solid are quite orderly. In the liquid, the particles are less orderly – and spaced farther apart. Hmmm. In water, is that really true? Given that water is less dense as a solid, this is a misconception. And of course the particles are much farther apart for the gas phase. Given that many students had this misconception, I’m going to address it on Thursday when I see them again with the following opening prompt, “To access your prior knowledge about particles, answer each of the following: 1.create a working definition for density 2.Draw the particles for two substances A and B. Substance A has a higher density than substance B.”
I’m willing to predict that most students will know the relationship between particle arrangement and density – yet they didn’t apply that knowledge to water. So because of my quick adjustment to my lesson planning – being more deliberate with how I close the period – I caught a misconception and I get to address it right away next block. Sometimes it’s the little things.