Sunday morning

Sunday morning is a tough time for a presenter. Early departures, church services, brunch dates, last minute sightseeing/souvenir gathering, or too much Saturday evening make it difficult for some to attend sessions at this time. But those die-hards who made it to the convention center this morning were treated to some excellent presentations.

Digital Cameras: An inexpensive tool for motivating, assessing, and enhancing instruction

Cameras in the classroom have come a long way from the Kodachrome days. Michael Kittel, Brian Gross, and Brian Heeney from Delcastle Technical High School in Wilmington DE shared some suggestions for teacher- and student-created photographs and videos: capturing teachable moments to review or debrief on, providing continuity between lessons, visually activating prior knowledge (and then re-activating after instruction), adding visuals to lab directions, illustrating misunderstandings, and showing examples of quality work. They walk around the classroom with their cameras to record those moments. They also showed the Eye-Fi wireless memory card that lets you upload photos instantly from your camera to your computer (no cables required). I know what I’ll suggest for my birthday next month!

Readers' Theatre in the Secondary Science Classroom

In working with elementary teachers, I was familiar with the Readers’ Theatre strategy to improve fluency and as a motivational tool. Students would take a role in a brief “play” and rehearse reading their parts (much like a radio play or a podcast). But Jill Purdy from Cedar Crest College in Allentown PA wondered how the strategy would help 9th graders who struggle with reading in science. She summarized her research on the topic, showing the positive results in fluency, comprehension of science topics, and attitudes. The small number of participants was conducive for a “seminar” setting. Lots of ideas to extend the practice were discussed: logistics in the classroom, using the strategy with ELL students, creating original “scripts,” and recording the performances as podcasts.

Wetlands Inquiry

So, you’re a presenter and your time slot is the last one of the conference. Will anyone come? Those who came to hear Judith Lucas-Odom from the Chester-Upland School District in PA were treated to a hands-on demonstration of how to help students make models to investigate watersheds, erosion, and point source and non-point source pollution. The activities are part of real-world investigations on water quality.

The presenter gave us directions for making a stream table with materials that can be found in discount stores. At first, I couldn’t visualize how the model would work (perhaps a lack of coffee was involved). But what made it real was actually creating the models ourselves. We found ourselves asking more questions: What would happen if…? Why did this happen? What does this represent? So the session ended with questions—perfect!

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