BASED ON A CLASS SIZE OF 30 STUDENTS
DETERMINING GROUPS: Classes all have different "flavors". Some classes work well if each child has a partner, other classes prefer to have group cooperative learning. This is dependant on the teacher's judgement of that particular class. However, many times the amount of materials will determine the groups.
The number of samples may determine the size of the group. The fewer number of samples, the smaller the group size. For example, if there are 5 sets of 6 samples per group, then a class of 30 students is divided into 5 groups (each group consisting of 6 students) resulting in having enough samples per group for each student to rotate one at a time.
Some materials, especially in kindergarten and first grade, should be per students. In many cases this is not practical, especially for the upper grade materials, so we suggest that students work as partners. Partners receive enough material to complete the lab independently. Students share the work of the lab exercise. Each student maintains their own lab sheet.
STATION TECHNIQUES: 1 large quality item is placed at a designated station around the classroom. Samples are placed in well marked areas either with a number or letter. Students in groups determined by teacher then rotate from station to station until the lab is complete. Allow appropriate time per station. You may want to time students, it allows the students to direct their attention to that item. Classes with a discipline problem, may want to use this technique at the beginning. This techniques helps focus students' attention on science. If moving the class around is a problem, you may want to rotate the items to groups of students. Make sure your flow of the class is logical. Grades K-2 need to be shown how you want the movement of class.
DISPLAY TECHNIQUES: 1 quality sample of a provided specimen is placed in a prominent place so students can find it easily. These samples are generally intended for observation (i.e. comparing with other specimens used in a lab, conclusion of a lab, matching exercises). Display samples are to be kept in a controlled area of the room (ie. front desk) and students go up a few at a time to look at display and answer questions about those samples.
ADDED STRATEGIES FOR DISCIPLINE PROBLEMS
PROBLEM: Students will not cooperate.
Working with hands-on materials is sometimes hard to initiate in the classroom because students are not familiar with this method. Some students with discipline problems, will try to disrupt the class. We have found it very useful to have two people in the classroom. Behavior problems are removed from the lab situation into another room. Because the material is so interesting, we have found that the other students "tease" the other students for not being there. In our hardest cases, it took only about four missed labs before they realized that it just isn't worth it.
We have also found that if you have problems with students it is better to have one teacher that is male and one that is female.
PROBLEM: Some groups do not seem to complete work.
Grouping students into groups can make a difference in the group's performance. Group students with respect to their ability to help other students. For instance, students with limited English should be grouped with a student that can speak the two languages fluently. Students with a lower reading level should be paired with a student with a higher reading level.
PROBLEM: Stealing of materials
Students of all economic incomes will try to "borrow" materials that they may have never seen before. Hands-on experience makes students "want" some items. Some specimens are small enough that the students can walk away with them. We have found that you must leave enough time at the end of lab to have the students be responsible to put the materials away. The way the modules are designed is that there is a set number. It is very easy to account for all materials. It is important to do this at the beginning of the school year. We have found that once the students see that you are serious, they will follow the rules.
PROBLEM: Not enough time for lab.
If you are starting this program for the first time, you might not be able to finish each lab in the allotted 50-60 minutes. You must be aware of the clock at all times. At the beginning, you should take the children slower through the labs. Out of the possible 34 hands-on labs per year, you may only be able to finish 20. This is fine for the first year. You may need to develop a teaching style just for lab.
Making it Work K-6