Sunday, October 16, 2011

Simple Labs Don't Make for a Bored Class - Yay!

I tried this lab last year, mostly out of desperation with a difficult class teaching a course I had never taught before, but decided to try it again to see if the engagement it created the first time could be reproduced. Because labs require writing they are always going to be difficult with a class with a number of students with communication exceptionalities, etc. The students continually require attention from the instructor to get through the process and I was lucky to have a second body in the room to help out for Day 2 and 3 of this process.

When I showed the lab to the aspiring teacher who was helping me he was concerned that it would be too simple for them and would not engage them for three periods. The lab is simply investigating the combination of two ingredients to determine the best tasting mock champagne. It allows me to have them work on skills such as writing a procedure, hypothesis, identifying variables, creating an observation chart and drawing a conclusion. As well as have them practice an important skill - measuring liquid volume. And they love that they get to drink their lab!

The next one will be more complicated - measuring the pH of stomach acid and its changes as different antacids are added to it. We will probably have to practice a couple of the lab writing skills again before we get there. As this one will be a summative piece of their chemistry mark.

An aside: We changed our formal (but formative) lab in Grade 9 Academic this year to a simple, but fun, lab using Alka Seltzer tablets, water and film canisters and went "Smarter Science style". The kids loved it. Can't wait to evaluate the formal lab write-ups that went with it. I hope they learned something through all of the peer and self evaluation that we tried in my class with it this week. (Cross your fingers for me, next year I hope to do some action research with peer and self evaluation).