I have taught grade nine applied science many times, because it is one of my very favourite courses to teach. This semester I decided to shake things up a little. I would continue to embed literacy into an inquiry based curriculum but I would also use the Smarter Science framework to direct the students’ thinking throughout the inquiry process.
So here I am on day one of a brand new school year. I am ready! I am full of plans and ideas. When the bell rings for the students to move to the next period there is the usual excitement and nervous tension in the halls, students getting lost, students screaming with glee at seeing each other after being parted for a summer, a week, a day or even a minute. Of course it is only the girls who scream the boys are more likely to grunt and do some variation on what passes for a handshake nowadays – perhaps their shoulder bumping satisfies some deep primal need for a hug yet maintains their macho image?
Eventually we end up with the right students in the right class room and most of them even manage to sit down. Interestingly, although they just received their agenda last period, three of them have already lost it! Typically there are more girls than boys in the class, which appears to be a hangover of the “girls can’t do science” myth. (Not a battle for me to fight at the moment.)
When all else is said and done it is on to a nice diagnostic literacy activity which allows me to observe the students working in small groups, their ability to follow instructions, their metcognitive abilities and even leaves me with sample of their hand writing and sentence writing skills. In order to achieve all this wonderful assessment information I put Chris Hadfield’s official NASA photograph, which shows him in his full space suit regalia, on the LCD projector. The students were each provided with a “Question Starter Template” and each group given a pair of dice that had the words from the question Starter Template on them. As they took turns rolling the dice they wrote sentences into the appropriate box of the template using the Chris Hadfield photo as a cue.
Although they were clearly instructed to write complete sentence that start with a capital letter and end with a question mark here are some examples of what was submitted: (sic)
“go to an astranot”
“his jod be handy”
“When will he pass off.”
“This picture remember”
“When would he get in the suit before departure.”
“What might happen if you go to space without a suit?”
“When can we go to space?”
So, not big surprises here! There is a wide range of writing and thinking skills in this group of students. It is promising to be a fun semester!