Second Thoughts About My Big Idea

I’m getting cold feet about my big idea for science class this year.  I wrote about restructuring Fridays in my classes to provide time for students to investigate their own scientific questions.  I still love this idea, but it’s easy to imagine this learning utopia after a summer of bliss.  I forget how behind my classes tend to get, how panic sets in when I see the big test date approaching, realizing I haven’t made it through all the standards.  This panic is all on my end of course; the students don’t seem to lose any sleep.  The fact is that I know that I won’t be able to let go of guiding student inquiry and assessment towards the state learning objectives every single Friday.  And maybe that’s okay.  That’s what I was hired to do.  But I do want to make it a priority for students to take the lead more often.

I’m modifying my original plan.  I still want students to keep a simple journal of observations they make about the natural world.  I still want them to share these observations with their classmates.  I still want to use these observations as springboards into discussions about the difference between observations and inferences, generating testable questions and planning experiments.  I think this can be done every Friday in about 15 to 20 minutes.

I’m going to post a running list of questions generated by students during these  meetings as well as questions they come up with during the labs we do in class.  Then, instead of the every Friday structure I described before, I could set aside one day a month for students to investigate a question of their choice.

So it could look something like this:

  • 1st, 2nd, 3rd Fridays: Share Observations/Discuss/Generate Questions/Carry on with current science unit
  • 4th Friday: Allow time for individuals or groups to select a question and try to answer it through experimentation or research

I could also allow students more time to work on their own investigations after school during tutoring if they chose to come in.

This seems like a more manageable way to pilot this idea.  I’ll get a better feeling for how effectively this time was spent as the year progresses, and possibly expand the time next year if all goes well.

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