This week I got to do a continuation of my science lesson from last week when we learned about vertebrates and how to classify them. My co-op suggested last week that the students might need a little more time to really wrap their head around the characteristics of the five classifications so she asked if I would do another lesson that would take them deeper into that understanding.
We started out by reviewing some of the things we learned the week prior, such as why we classify things and what the classifications of vertebrates were and what characterized them. We then moved into the activity portion of the assignment. Each student was to choose a vertebrate and make a poster detailing what classification they belonged to and what characteristics made them belong to that classification. They started out by filling out the blanks in their assignment sheet which doubled as a rough copy. They would then need to show me their information before I would give them the go ahead to start making a good copy on 8.5×14 paper. The assignment was going relatively well until we got to the stage where students were starting to finish their rough copies. A big line of students started to form around me with students who either needed help or needed me to check their rough copy. This caused the noise level in the room to rise quite a bit, which made it hard for other student to get their work done. There was also a large amount of congestion.
This lesson ended up being a learning experience for me in classroom management, because I had inadvertently created an atmosphere that was no longer conducive to learning. Yet, all the students were doing was following my directions. My Co-op eventually intervened and instructed all the students who needed my attention to write their name on the board and go to their desk and read until I was ready to see them. This quick bit of concise direction fixed the dysfunction in the classroom surprisingly quickly, and made the classroom a manageable entity once again.
Reflecting on this lesson, I’ve been trying to figure out what I could have done differently to make the assignment run a little bit smoother. Mrs. McNaughton’s directions were definitely a good idea, and that’s something I would implement right away if I were to do this lesson again. However, I think, and my co-op agrees, that there were some things missing that increased the need for further instruction by the students. At least half of the students struggled to fill out the fill-in the blank sheet I handed out which asked them to list 4 things that made their animal a mammal, as well as 2 interesting facts about that animal that weren’t necessarily related to their classification. Through out the assignment a lot of students asked if they could go on the computer to look up some things about their animal. I think this was a great idea because the students curiosity is aroused and they have questions, which means they’re now in the best position to learn. Unfortunately I didn’t build a research component into the lesson do to the lack of technology in the classroom. This particular class only has two laptops, so Mrs McNaughton isn’t able to do a lot of technology related things she would like to, an nor am I. I allowed students to do research on the one working laptop but that also created quite a line up that just left a lot of students waiting for their turn.
If I were to do this lesson again, theres a few things I would change. First, I would probably try and make sure I had several copies of and animal encyclopedia if I didn’t have access to internet technology. Simply having those resources on hand would eliminate 60% of the questions I had which were usually questions about their specific question. This way I don’t have to be the encyclopedia. Second, I would use the same classroom management technique my Co-op used to keep the students in a productive mode. This class is very compliant and is usually quite good at staying on task as long as you give them good directions. So while they’re waiting for me to come check their rough copies, I would have them write their name on the the board and have something else for them to work on while they waited.
Overall this lesson went okay, but I definitely felt it was the least successful of all my lessons so far. My professional target for the week was also classroom management and I feel as though I would have met my targets any other week, but this week it just didn’t come together. It was still a valuable experience though because this week probably taught me more about classroom management than any week before. It helped me to see where things can go wrong even for a really good class. This lesson helped me to be more aware of a class’s need for structure and direction. It also taught me that I need to always be ready to supply students with the means to satisfy their curiosity as young learners.
You can view the assignment sheet and rubric for the poster assignment here under DL6.3 Intro to Vertebrates.
UPDATE: Two weeks later my co-op handed me the pile of vertebrate posters my Grade 6’s made. I can only be there one day a week so she got them to present their posters without me there, and said they did a great job and that she’s confident they have a clear understanding of the characteristics of their chosen classification. Here’s some of the finished products!