Monthly Archives: October 2019

Always do this before you try to answer a question on a worksheet or a test.

I would have thought it was obvious but it wasn’t obvious to (at least) three Year 11 Physics students in a class of about 20.

I had just finished teaching them the Law of Refraction using LEM’s Shedding Light on Refraction program. The bonus feature on this program explains how to calculate the angle that light will refract when it passes from one transparent medium to another. I then gave them the The Law of Refraction Worksheet. The worksheet has a list of formulas and other data. Here is a screen shot of part of the worksheet.

Question 3 asks:
A ray of light travels from air to glycerol at an incident angle of 38° and is refracted at an angle of 24.6°. What is the refractive index of glycerol?

Two students over the span of about two minutes asked the same question which was basically, “Sir, can you help me with this? I don’t know the refractive index of glycerol.”

Neither of them had read the question!!

Just as I was telling the second student that it’s the refractive index of glycerol that they needed to find, I heard another student (a third student) ask the same question to one of his mates.

I’ve been using this worksheet for years now and this had never happened before, but I thought this was a golden opportunity for an important teaching moment and I immediately stopped the whole class.
“Three students have just asked about question 3. They got confused because they didn’t know the refractive index of glycerol. This might sound a little crazy, but before you try to answer a question, you should always READ THE QUESTION first!!!”

A colleague of mine served as a Year 12 examiner for the Year 12 Chemistry exam for many years. A few years ago he told me that students routinely didn’t read the question in full before writing down their answers.
A common mistake was to answer only part of the question when the question was clearly in two parts. Another common mistake was to focus on a particular word in the first sentence of a question and then assume that the question was related to the definition of that word.

So, in summary,
STEP1: Read the Question
STEP 2: Answer the Question.

Never attempt to do it the other way around.

A Much Easier Way

What a teaching round! I recently had to supervise a pre-service teacher (what we used to call a student teacher). This was the last of three rounds that he did with me this year.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to let him teach the recommended number of lessons on his previous rounds because of the fact that I only work part time as a teacher. This time, however, I suggested that he teach both of my junior classes: a Year 9 class studying Heat and a Year 10 class studying Chemistry.
This would have been a huge workload because he also had to take a Maths class with his other supervisor.
To make his life easier, I suggested that he use the Shedding Light on Heat series to teach the Heat unit and the Shedding Light on Atoms series to teach the Chem unit.
So, on Day 1, he used Shedding Light on Heat Episode 2: Changes of State and its accompanying worksheet to teach the class why things change state. The explanation side of the teaching was taken care of by the video with animations, actual footage, and explanations. The students then used their memories and the online text book on the Changes of State page to answer the questions.
It was so easy!
I’ve seen plenty of pre-service teachers struggle to explain things verbally while using white-board markers and hand-drawn diagrams. Unfortunately, I’m also guilty of giving students less-than-satisfactory explanations that take too long. 🙁 A short sharp video, though, can take care of the explanations, which frees up a lot of time so that students can get on with actual learning activities.
The pre-service teacher also started teaching my Year 10 class about electron shells using Shedding Light on Atoms Episode 6: Electron Shells. Once again it was so much easier than legacy approaches.
By the end of his round he had taught the Year 10 class about electron shells, covalent bonding, and ionic bonding. During lessons, he would move around the room helping students who needed additional support.
He didn’t use just the Shedding Light programs, though. Interspersed throughout his round he organised a whole lot of pracs and a few mini-assignments. He also regularly asked students to read out their answers to the class, something I always do when I’m teaching to encourage better literacy. See The First Thing I Tell A New Class.
The reason LEM started making the Shedding Light videos was on full display during the teaching round. A good video makes it easy for any teacher, regardless of expertise, to communicate science concepts easily and effectively to their class, especially when the video is accompanied by learning activities and pracs.
The work the students did during the teaching round was of a very high standard. The pre-service teacher regularly collected it and then gave feedback.
Overall, he ended up teaching about twice as many periods as he needed to since the Shedding Light programs helped him in quite a few of them.
So, whether you are a beginner or an old hand experienced, try using a Shedding Light program to teach your class. They are available to schools that have ClickView, Learn360, Films on Demand, and SAFARI Montage, or you can order directly from the LEM website.
I wish the pre-service teacher, and you, dear reader, every success.