When you teach a science lesson, do you start off with giving the kids the background information? I know for years the experiment/hands-on portion was last. It was kind of the reward for learning everything else. By the way, this is the first article in a series on science planning.
In the classroom, I noticed a pattern. Many kids had already checked out by the time we got there and felt intimidated, overwhelmed, frustrated and in the worst situations the kids just felt dumb. This was because I had created an obstacle for them to overcome on day 1 of the unit…. that obstacle was usually VOCABULARY.
When I became a homeschooler, I used the same approach because it felt comfortable to me. The same approach created the same results. Not good!
I started researching and adjusting my approach at home and work. I saw improvements immediately. An unexpected change was that my own attitude about teaching science improved. I got excited again. Excitement is contagious. You have to be excited first.
What were the changes? It goes back to the first question I ask you, do you teach first? I know I did, but I am going to suggest that we do a little flipping around.
Give students time to explore a topic with hands-on (if at all possible) or at least video BEFORE we get to explanations. This gives them a place to hang all the new information.
This is essential for getting kids to buy-in to our lessons. The idea is to “engage” before we explain. By creating engaging science lessons, we set the stage where kids want to learn.
What is engagement?
Engagement can mean lots of things. It can bring images of a ring on a finger or hand-to-hand combat (like the image above). For our purposes, engagement is just “educationese” for getting excited and ready to learn.
You are ready to find out more about a topic when you are engaged. You don’t have to be convinced to pay attention because you want to know more.
The first step is to capture the kids’ attention in a competitive world. There are a lot of distractions. Creating engaging science lessons is not hard. You might start with some videos, demonstrations, or models. The idea is to be short, sweet, and leave them with lots of questions.
If you want to grab my full list of engagement activities enter your name and email below and it will be delivered to your inbox.
Why is this attention grabbing step so crucial?
Simply put, it works. This tidbit from Justin Chando is a reflection of my own thoughts.
Student engagement is generally considered to be among the better predictors of learning and personal development. The more students think about their course material, the more they practice and study (directly or indirectly), the more they tend to learn about it. Our contribution to that stems back to the best ways of learning (1).
So the reason it is so important is that it sets the stage for kids to become life long learners. That is one of the goals of every educator (no matter the setting). We help nurture our kids’ natural curiosity so that they will be lifelong learners and ultimately have a positive impact on the world. You can start that entire process by getting their attention and getting them to buy-in and own their own learning.
Engaging Science Lessons require a few good resources.
This might seem like a big change and it might be, but I am not just going to throw you to the wolves. I have lots of resources on this site to get you started.
First, grab this engagement idea cheat sheet. I will send that to you immediately and you will be getting some follow up emails with additional links to projects, ideas, and templates.
I also have a couple of premium resources that will help you stress less and teach more.
The Lab Bench is a 25-project activity book ideal for anyone that wants to encourage young scientists. The activities include information to make your life easier- background information, demonstration activities, video links, extension activities, answers to common questions & more.
The focus of this book is to create simple science experiments that are not only easy to execute, but that help kids understand. These science projects for kids are cool experiments that let them explore science and ignite their passion. The target age range is ages 8-14.
(1) Chando, J. (2017). Why Student Engagement is So Important. Blog.chalkup.co. Retrieved 6 August 2017, from http://blog.chalkup.co/why-we-think-student-engagement-is-so-important