Microteaching

October 1st, 2010 | Uncategorized |

Ok so here’s post #2 for the week. Microteaching! I was fortunate enough to talk Amy into being my partner (she’s a pro). We got together last week to work on our lesson. We were teaching at my school, and my teacher was scheduled to teach about macromolecules, so that’s what we decided we’d teach. After looking through some teacher materials and my students “biology workbook,” we decided to do a “Macromolecule Campaign Trail.” Our activity had our students getting into groups, each representing a different macromolecule (carbs, lipids, proteins, or nucleic acids), and then debate which macromolecule is the most important in our body.

Amy and I decided that we wanted to have a practice run before doing our first video session, so we taught my second period class before our first taped session at 4th period. Second period is only 50 minutes, so we taught them both days (all my other classes meet every other day but 2nd period meets every day) and got practice splitting up a lesson over 2 days. We were very glad that we decided to do that, because our lecture went much longer than we expected. Turns out the powerpoint that we created went into way more depth than my teacher said they needed to know. That is one of my biggest fears as a teacher. I tried my hardest to remember what I learned in high school, but I completely forgot to factor in that I was in the advanced classes and I’m teaching the general classes, so when our lesson went way over the heads of my class I was completely shocked. After asking my CT what we should take out of the lecture to make it easier and shorter, I was dumbfounded at the information that she said they didn’t need to know. For example, my CT said that they did not need to know the 4 levels of organization for proteins, but Virginia SOL Bio.3.b says that the students should know the structure and function of macromolecules.  I’m still not convinced that they shouldn’t know these, but she’s the expert so we only briefly covered them in the next classes.

During lunch Amy and I discussed the little things that we thought went well and things we should change before our next lesson, even though we only gave half of the lesson to the first class. Then we started putting together the camera equipment. I hope everybody reads this and takes this advice: set up your camera early beforehand, and, if possible, get the guys at the media center to put it together once before you leave. Amy and I got the media center folks to show us how to put ours together, and one of the cords in the camera was faulty, so had we gone to our school with it we would not have been able to get it work regardless. Anyways, we still had some issues and ended up calling IT to get everything set up and working, but luckily we were able to get everything up and running with time to spare.

Next came 4th period. This is by far my best behaved class, and they are the smartest of my 3 general biology sections. We started with our ENGAGING questions, 2 about sports and 2 relating to smarties and twizzlers (see Amy’s blog if you’re curious about the specific questions). Then we gave them twizzlers and smarties in order to EXPLORE the questions (dealing with monomers vs polymers). With our first class, we gave them the candy before explaining what to do with it (TERRIBLE IDEA….they didn’t listen to us after that). This time, we explained the activity before giving them the candy (BETTER IDEA). However, this class was not super excited about the candy, and we really had to push them to physically play with the candy to explore it. We finally had some students explain why they thought twizzlers were the same if they pulled them apart and why the individual smarties were similar or different (our questions). We then went into our lecture, which was still a little too long, but did go better than our first class. My CT and Dr. Matkins made observations during our lecture and gave us feedback afterwards. They both said they enjoyed our enthusiasm and our examples. We used examples of foods for different carbs, proteins, and fats. We used an example of how toothpicks fit into a box to explain why unsaturated fats are better than saturated fats, and we used an example about Austin Powers’ Mojo to help explain DNA (they seemed to enjoy that one, go figure).

Amy and I had decided beforehand who was going to lead which parts of the lesson. I introduced the lesson and asked the initial questions about smarties and twizzlers, and then Amy explained our exploration with their playing with the smarties and twizzlers. After they explored, Amy started our lecture with a review of chemistry (atoms, protons, neutrons, electrons, etc.). Both of us were surprised at how little they knew, but luckily Amy is a great reviewer and had the kids up to speed in no time. Amy then started the macromolecules with carbs, then I finished it up with the lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids. We ended up switching the order to lipids, carbs, proteins, then nucleic acids for our last class for better organization with our key elements (CH, CHO, CHON, CHONP) Afterwards, Amy explained the rules for our activity. Our first class did not seem to understand her explanation, so we made sure to be a little more specific about the purpose for the next classes. For our first run through with the campaign trail, we just had the kids number off and get into groups, and we did not have them assign specific jobs. For the next class, we made up groups beforehand (with the help of my CT) and had each student assigned a certain task to do in that group. This was better in some ways and worse in some ways, but my CT seemed to think the activity went much better the second time around. Although it did give more structure to the activity, the student that actually had to stand up and talk didn’t think that he or she had to do anything else beforehand, so they spent a lot more time doing nothing. Other students who worked on posters finished one and then tried to sit and do nothing else, so I had to keep an eye on everyone to make sure they were helping others in their groups when they were done with their part. In the first go round, we didn’t have the students stand up and actually debate. We just had a debate from where they were sitting and had students shout out their rebuttals. Although this wasn’t terrible, Dr. Matkins pointed out to us that only a portion of the class was actually participating. Had we designated students to stand up and talk or even called on students, it would’ve given more opportunities for the quieter kids to speak up. We tried this to an extent in our next class, but ended up calling on more of the vocal students who wanted to share their opinions. Actually having the students stand up in front of the class was an improvement, however.

Although my CT said that Amy and I did a great job for our first lesson, I definitely know many areas in which I would like to improve as a teacher.  Amy and I were like a doubles tennis team, with her being the more experienced player. If a ball is hit right down the middle, she’s going to get there first, and I’m going to let her and not even go for the ball, just like when our class got a little rowdy and needed to calm down, I let her take care of getting control without intervening at all. If the ball is hit straight to me, I believe I could hit it back, meaning that I do believe my role in the activity and lecture went well, but my shots aren’t quite winners yet. I am hoping that if I took her off the court, I would be able to successfully hit those mid-court shots back, but I guess I’ll have to wait until I teach a lesson by myself to find out. Another aspect I would like to improve on is knowing what to teach. All I’ve taken for the past 4 years have been science classes, so I have a hard time realizing that these kids know almost nothing about biology. I figured my first few years as a teacher will be difficult until I get a better feel for what my students already know and what they don’t know, but this lesson confirmed that feeling for me. Overall, I think our lesson did go well, but I think if we had one more chance to teach the same lesson, our improvement would be much greater.

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