Archive for the science Category

Testing Student Patience

Posted in Musings, science on February 8, 2012 by roxteacher

I teach at a HS that for decades was in the top 5% of high schools in our state. Last year we were in the top 15% for our state science scores yet over half of our students were not proficient by the state standards. By 2014 all 100% of our students must be proficient. In our haste to improve our scores we have turned our classrooms into places where these state exams are talked about all the time. Valuable instructional time (that should be used to work on inquiry skills) is spent worrying about state tests. Lost in the confusion are the students, the joy of learning and the joy of teaching.

The emphasis on test preparation HAS revealed a lack of interest and effort on the part of the students. They have very little stamina when it comes to reading the test questions and they have poor reading skills to begin with.

Here is a question from a benchmark Study Island assessment that is supposed to mirror the types of questions that the students will see on the state test.

Most of my students got this wrong. The students were very clear that they “gave up.” They all complained that this was “so much reading.” When I write questions like this on my own assessments I find the same thing. The students just don’t have any “stick-to-it-ness.” Many students have grown accustomed to assessment questions that are short and sweet and never rise above lower order thinking skills.

I don’t see this changing anytime soon. What are the rest of you seeing?


Time for a Change

Posted in science on May 20, 2011 by roxteacher

It is nice to be back. It’s time for a change. I want to try to keep Rox for Brains an active site for me. I have taken a huge break from writing on this blog but not a break from blogging. As part of a professional development target (goal) this year I maintained a class blog for both of the high school courses that I teach. Blogs for Astronomy and Integrated Science II provided students with a summary of what was covered in class. I embedded photos, linked to other helpful sites, added videos, provided links to class handouts and assignments, and posed questions. With 15 days left in the year I have written 340 (2 x 170) entries. The students soon understood that the blog was a great place to go for review (look over the posts from 5-10-11 to 5-18-11 for the seismology quiz for example). Allowing them to comment meant we needed to discuss what it means to submit germane and responsible posts. Will I continue to do it? You bet. A colleague of mine shared a site that will me to archive the blogs so that next year’s students can have entries that are not recycled and don’t seem canned.

Simple Things II

Posted in science, Uncategorized with tags , on January 6, 2009 by roxteacher

geoscience-008Today my four geoscience classes conducted one of my favorite activities of the year. It is so simple yet evokes such wonder and interest in the students. They simply investigate how two fluids of different densities (hot red water and cold blue water) interact. The preceeding day they had diagrammed warm and cold fronts. They come away from this activity fully understanding that fluids of different densities DO NOT mix easily. They have to diagram the set up before pulling out the divider and then draw an “after” diagram. They have to make predictions and geoscience-001support their ideas and then get to “test” their predictions right away. After the blue slide under the red, they reinsert the divider, mix the one side (to produce warm purple water) and go again. There is often a chorus of “that’s sick Mr. W,” which I know means they are finding the experience interesting.

Simple Things

Posted in science, Uncategorized with tags , , on December 1, 2008 by roxteacher


Teaching has become a bit of a conundrum lately. Increasingly we are using more and more technology to engage the students and make learning more interesting. I support this effort fully and have agreed to be a CFF (Classrooms for the Future) teacher in my school. This means lots of training and the access to some great technology for the students. Having said that, I always marvel at the power of “low tech” demonstations and activities where there is no electronic/computer/internet component. In order to illustrate the umbra and penumbra of the Moon during a solar eclipse, it was marvelous to see students “get it” when a light source, styrofoam ball, and a globe were positioned in just the right way. Understanding the synchronous orbit of the Moon requires a student to circle the room, while always facing the earth in the center. Currently, my students are determining the percentage of oxygen in the air by observing the reaction of iron and oxygen (rusting) in a simple set up (see photo). Ah, the simple things!

Fabric of the Cosmos

Posted in Physics, science, Scotland with tags , , on January 28, 2008 by roxteacher

On the flight home from Scotland (to see universities with son) Dan had me start Brian Greene’s “Fabric of the Cosmos.” It got me thinking that my whole science department should read it. It looks back at the thinking that went into space-time theory and then looks forward to the development of string theory. We needed to be more scholarly I thought. We need to have one shared experience. Six of the eight agreed to read the book and discuss it in “book club” format. Tomorrow we meet off campus (so we may have adult beverages) to discuss the first two chapters. I am intrigued by how much I keep coming across Scottish physicists like James Clerk Maxwell and Lord Kelvin. The connections are wonderful given Dan’s interest in physics and going to university in Scotland.