Welcome to the new school year! I hope you are ready for an exciting year of science discussions, lab activities, Science Fair, and maybe some field studies! Keep in mind that while you may be excited about the coming Science adventures, your students may still be in summer break mode. You can awaken their curiosity in the first few days by using some of the suggestions below.
Before that, however, let’s consider our classroom culture and procedures. You want to create an environment in which everyone feels valued, that no one is made to feel as if their questions are dumb, and particularly with the past pandemic years in mind - that no one feels like they don’t have enough Science background to learn and grow in this year’s Science content focus. Consider ways to set this tone. Maybe you will ask a few basic Science questions or some Science Trivia to jumpstart student thinking.
In every Science classroom or laboratory, there must be rules. I’ve been teaching long enough to know there must also be consequences for when rules are broken. The hands-on aspect of Science is pertinent to student understanding, so it’s not a good idea to withhold the hands-on labs from students as a consequence for misbehavior. Consider other consequences such as the student must complete the lab alone without partners, or they complete the lab with a group, but they must clean up after everyone.
For other infractions, some teachers assign lunch or afterschool detention, contact parents, or write an office referral. Be clear with your rules and procedures, and be ready with consequences that will help redirect and refocus students on the reason they are present.
Maybe you would like to lead an ice breaker during the first few days to help you learn about your students and for them to learn about each other. I’ve read through some of these icebreakers and really like them, particularly the snowball game.
You will want to guide students to setting up their notebook, whether you are using paper composition notebooks, spiral, an interactive notebook, or a virtual notebook, students need to know your expectations and it’s helpful if they make their table of contents with you.
If you are a secondary Science teacher, you will need to explain the lab safety procedures with your students and have them sign a lab safety agreement. Take a look at your standards with your students. Initiate some discussions with them to see what questions they may have, what misconceptions they may have that you can address early. Look at the Science and Engineering Practices with students and begin to encourage them to enter the Science Fair.
Of course, you will also want to break the ice with a few STEM challenges. Students could compete to build the tallest spaghetti tower or you can add in the twist of the tallest tower that will also support a jumbo sized marshmallow on top! Students could build paper airplanes and test their designs to see which flies the farthest. You could even have students make catapults from plastic spoons.
Before you really begin your content, you will want to design a measurement lab for students to review their measurement skills and possibly their unit conversion skills. To help students realize the relevance of your course you could lead them in some Science career exploration. To help students learn to work together, in groups they could cut and paste pictures from magazines to give the year of Science a theme after they have reviewed the standards.
I hope you will find some of these ideas for the first two weeks of school helpful. I know these are exciting times and sometimes we don't know what to do first. Get to know your students, let them know what they will be learning this year, and help them to begin thinking scientifically. Always know that I am here to help. Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kimberly G. Massey
Science Instructional Specialist, Rock Hill Schools of York County
The views/opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Rock Hill Schools of York County SC.
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