Week in Lab: Success, Failure, and the Lessons Learned


As I’m starting new units, one of them has offered examples of both success and failure, and some lessons for me. This isn’t one of those big “ah ha’s” but one of those smaller moments of enlightenment that make up the day-to-day practice of teaching, and improving that practice.

The unit is on Astronomy which we started by learning about Galileo. The next part was to transfer what we learned about the findings of Galileo (heliocentrism) and some more information to an understanding about seasons and what causes them. Part one went well, and many of the students got that our solar system is  heliocentric part on a straight up recall basis. The last two slides on the VoiceThread below have some of the students sharing what they learned in pairs:

The second part, on solstices, equinoxes, and seasons, did not go as well. As you can see from their responses, they didn’t get it.

What worked with the first task? First, they read a story in their regular class, then watched a movie on his life with me, so they had it not just once, but twice. The second lesson was  based on a short lecture with images, and a BrainPop video, proving Gary Stager’s point that they aren’t enough, and my point that they should be used as an into or review, rather than alone.  Still, many seemed to abandon a heliocentric view altogether in their written comments, which shows they still don’t have a firm grasp on it. What might help? I think they really need more on how the tilt of the earth interacts with the sun to create seasons, and I think they need more “hands” on activities, where they manipulate and create. I’ll be having them do some work with objects in Inspiration, chalk, lights, and globes in the period before Thanksgiving break to do this.
Link to Astronomy Unit posts
Solstice Take 1
Solstice Take 2

by posted under reflection, weekinclass | 3 Comments »    
3 Comments to

“Week in Lab: Success, Failure, and the Lessons Learned”

  1. August 13th, 2010 at 9:50 am      Reply Jason Brooks Says:

    I saw your comment on BrainPop and totally agree! Do you use it as a review or as a introduction? Just find that sometimes it meshes well with my curriculum and sometimes it leads the class in the wrong direction.

    • August 13th, 2010 at 7:57 pm      Reply alicemercer Says:

      I use it as an introduction. I can see where it could lead things in the wrong direction. I think you need to be selective about using it even if the subject would seem to be a good match? I’ve had to be stricter with myself in enforcing the rule that you don’t have to use a resource just because it’s there.

  2. July 14th, 2011 at 1:06 pm      Reply Marisa Serra Says:

    I am not a teacher just yet, so a lot of the reading and researching I am doing these days involves simply exploring what’s out there. I plan to teach general science and Biology and am a starting to feel a bit intimidated. It nice to see/hear that trial and error are normal parts of the profession and that there are so many educators out here in cyberspace that I can look to for support in the future. Thanks for blogging!

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