Friday, August 6, 2010
It's in the Cards
When my girls were school age, I started teaching High School science and I loved it. However, it soon became clear that what I was trying to teach and what the kids were learning bore amazingly little resemblance to one other. I realized they needed to give me their undivided attention and have the lessons repeated. I read an article once that said you have to hear something new - like a new word or concept – an average of 7 times before it is really yours. But with those teenagers in front of me, it was game over if I started repeating myself.
I’d say: ‘Chemistry is easy if you are able to follow what I am talking about, but I have found out that most of you don’t seem to be getting it. That means either my teaching is not clear enough for you to understand, or you need to stop me and ask me questions.’ However I rarely got a question, quite a few students were getting lost and nothing I did seemed to work.
Then I happened on the idea of using cards with students' names on the back. At the beginning of a class, I would get one student to shuffle the cards and another to cut the deck. I’d tell them I was going to talk for around 10 minutes about something new they needed to understand, and I would write any new words I used on the board. When I had finished, I would then ask the person whose name was on the top card in the deck to tell the class what I had said.
No one knew whose name was on that card, and suddenly I had a captive audience paying rapt attention - a joy to teach. Very often the kids on the first couple of cards got something muddled and hands would go up waving - so I'd thank the student and turn up another card. Usually after we were 4 or 5 cards into the deck, there would be questions or a request to repeat some of what I’d said. My classes oftentimes became pretty lively with students discussing and arguing with each other, but they were talking chemistry and the topic always got a thorough airing. Best of all - they were involved in their own learning and they really liked it.
Like Confucius said – Involve me and I'll understand. Rie