“I don’t want to just teach you science in this class. I want to teach you how to be a powerful learner”
Inspired by a workshop in Complex Instruction that I was introduced to by the Knowles Fellowship, I am focusing again this year on implementing three "actionable norms" in my classroom: Work Persistently, Communicate Productively, and Take Risks. I really like this list because it is simple, group-centered, and easy to positively reinforce. I also appreciate how all of these are framed as actions that students SHOULD do rather than actions that students SHOULD NOT do.
The Norms:
There are many ways that these norms can be presented, defined, and applied to situations. To help my students grasp the categories a little better, this is how I unpacked the norms. I find it helpful to explicitly state things that I'm looking for and listening for that show me the norms are being followed. This helps provide easy actions for students to try and allows a framework for the stamp quizzes described later in this post.
Work Persistently
Working through challenges especially when it is tough
Communicate Productively
Sharing ideas clearly using gestures, pictures, etc. OR listening closely and asking, pushing or explaining
Take Risks
Moments you appreciated others taking risks. Offering an idea before you are sure or asking when unsure.
Posters
I summarized these unpacked norms into posters that I hang up at the front of my classroom. Feel free to download, modify, and use :)
Actionable Norms - "Stamp Quiz"
One great way to highlight actionable norms in the classroom is by implementing a technique called a "stamp quiz". This isn't something that I use a lot in my class but it has definitely been a great way to give value to the part of the task that isn't graded.
Logistics:
Discussion Starters:
After the task, it's good to reflect on how the norms were present. These discussion starters are a good way to turn the conversation to the students.
Other Resources
Practicing Actionable Norms in First Week -
I spend most of the first week of school introducing these actionable norms one day at a time with group challenges and introductory activities
Complex Instruction at Stanford - Some excellent resources about complex instruction and all of the other great methods besides actionable norms that are part of this teaching philosophy
Equitable Groupwork - Great resources about actionable norms and their use in groupwork
Complex Instruction in Science Course - A Knowles Academy course focusing on complex instruction and it's use in a science classroom (many of the other resources out there are for math)
Examples of Complex Instruction Tasks
Downloadable Files
Comments
Goals for Writing Breakout TaskAs a content teacher in high school, I knew that if I was going to find a place for Breakout Tasks in my classroom, I would need to find a way to satisfy two primary goals
Writing CluesUltimately, the goal is to design clues that guide students to the combinations or keys for the different locks. This could be a 3 or 4 digit number combination, word combination, or hiding place for a key. BreakoutEDU has some great videos describing techniques for writing clues. I have compiled some of my favorite techniques below: QR Code QR Code Generator - https://www.qr-code-generator.com/
The FlowIt is useful to think about the flow of the task as you are figuring out how the individual clues will interact with each other. I have found that it helps to visualize this flow in a diagram like the one below to detail the Energy Breakout that I wrote: In this process diagram, you can see that some clues, like the QR codes on the top lead directly to the combination for one of the locks while others require information hidden elsewhere like the small lock box before they can be solved. As I mentioned above, I have found that the group work is the most effective if the task includes some "divide and conquer" moments. In the energy task flow shown above, the students have 7 separate cards that they can work on right away and anther 6 once they open up the small lock box. Thinking about the flow is important in designing a rich groupworthy task. It allows you to ensure that there are some parallel options that give students choice without many bottlenecks that place too much pacing importance on a single clue.
Optional StrategiesThere are many different techniques that you can use to mix things up so that using multiple tasks with a class throughout the year doesn't start feeling repetitive Storyline If you have ever been to an escape room, you've seen that there is usually some sort of story that goes along with the task of "break out of the room". These stories help provide motivation and excitement to the task. For the breakouts that I have designed I have decided to focus solely on the content and clue design rather than writing an integrated storyline. If I had more time, I would love to add this sort of layer but I would recommend starting with the task itself and build that out first. Red Herrings If you have already done a few breakout tasks with your class and want to raise the challenge, consider adding some clues that don't actually lead anywhere. That way they can get more practice with the content and take a little more time trying to figure it all out :) The Logistics in a ClassroomLots to Set Up As you might imagine, getting 8 sets of breakout boxes ready for a class is a pretty big task. Although it makes more work up front, I have found that laminating all of the clues makes for less work overall. This encourages students to write more with dry erase markers and makes it so that you don't have to have fresh clues ready to go for every single section of the day. It should also make it a little less work when you pull out the materials in future years. So, find some colleagues to help out and have a little party as you cut out clues and update lock combos :) Lots to Reset Having so many groups working on individual breakout boxes also makes it challenging for any classes that meet back to back. While it wouldn't be too hard to reset one or two boxes during passing time between classes, it isn't feasible to try to do them all yourself. Instead, I have found a lot of success in having students reset their own boxes when they finish. To ensure that they do this correctly, it works well to put together a set up diagram of Reset Instructions to guide them along. Below is an example of the reset instructions for my Circuits Breakout.
Communicating and SharingOne final step for your task is to share it with others! These activities truly are a bunch of work to design but it is all worth it when someone else can also benefit from the work that you've done :) In communicating these tasks through my blog, I've developed an outline that others have found helpful in understanding and implementing these ideas. The links below contain a template that can be used to help with the creation process or just document so that others (colleagues, friends, other teachers online) can learn about your brilliance :)
Files
Example Breakout TasksOne easy way to get started is to modify a pre-existing breakout task to work with your context. For example, you could take the same process and general set up to create a math task out of my Circuits Breakout. You could either design problems that fit the numbers that I used or just use the structure and make your own combinations. Here are some tasks to get you started:
"Spreadsheet savvy" served me well in college and beyond and even though there are many many professionals that use tools like Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets daily, it hasn't been a skill that we have made much time for in our curriculum. A major reason for this has been the fact that I teach in a 1:1 iPad school and as most science teachers will tell you, the spreadsheet capability of these devices has been extremely limited. That is, until the recent arrival of the Microsoft Excel app. While the app still isn't the fully equipped version that one can find on the computer, it finally provides my students to the tools in a way that it can demonstrate the value of this real world skill.
Note about AccessibilityWhile all of the features needed for the activities we designed shouldn't require anything more than a basic account, our students had trouble saving the pre-made Excel files unless they had a Office 365 account. Luckily for us, our school just set up Office 365 so we were able to continue forward without too much disruption. Microsoft makes this access available for free but the school has to enroll first. More information can be found here. I should also state that these same lessons would work well on desktop Excel too! Opening and Saving a WorksheetTo help my students get the hang of Excel's features without focusing our attention on the formatting details, I put together a series of worksheets saved as different tabs with examples and data for the class to work through. With these files, the first step of course is for students to download an editable copy of this file to use as their starting point. Step 1: Open up the Link When students click on the link, they should be able to open the file into Microsoft Excel. Unless they save a copy on their iPad, they will be confined to "Read Only" mode which is pretty much worthless when the goal is to practice editing these files. There will be a yellow Read Only banner that allows them to Save a Copy. Step 2: Save a Copy With Office 365, student will have options to save the file to their OneDrive Cloud. We found it easiest for this project if students just saved the files to their iPads. This way, it is easily accessible later on if they ever need to refer back to it. Follow the links below to get details and materials for the rest of this 4-day unit on Excel Incorporating Excel on the iPadDay 1: Solving with FormulasDay 2: Graphing from DataDay 3: Graphing Data Collected from a LabDay 4: Excel Skills AssessmentIn an age where the ability to program is so valuable, I see formulas in Excel to be a gateway in understanding programming logic, syntax, and process. Note: In this tutorial, I am focusing on using these files on Excel's iPad App but the materials and structure of the lesson will work just as well on a computer :) Structure of the LessonTo maximize our time practicing formula skills, I put together a file where the structure, formatting and data is already done so the students are only required to use formulas to complete each task. Each worksheet is in its own tab along the bottom of the file and is intended to walk students through several different skills that will be useful to them when using Excel. In my classroom, I typically use the first few tabs as a full class tutorial and allow them to complete the rest on their own while I circulate the room. Below is a list of the tasks and skills introduced for each of the worksheets:
Excel Skills on the iPad - How To
Formula Propagating One of the most powerful uses of a spreadsheet is to propagate formulas to eliminate repetitious number crunching when the mathematical procedure is always the same. The Grade Calculator is an excellent example of this method because each cell needs to divide the value in the left-adjacent cell by the total points possible (in this case, 30). The process for copying this formula to the rest of the column is slightly different from the desktop version but not too hard if you know where to find it. First of all, you must either "tap-pause-tap" or "hold and release" the cell that contains the formula that you wish to copy. If done correctly, you will see a menu bar appear with the options to cut, copy, edit, clear, and fill (along with some others if you have data stored on the clipboard). If you select Fill, the shapes in the top left and bottom right hand corners of the highlighted cell will turn from circles to squares.
Using FormulasUse formulas to analyze these coin masses
Calculating DensityBuild a calculator that can find the density for any two mass and volume measurements Level 1
Grade CalculatorUse formulas to calculate the test percentage for each student in the class for a unit test out of 30 points Level 1
Every step is the same as Level 1 with the exception of Step #3. Since the table indicates the number wrong instead of the number correct, the formula must read "= (30 - G6) / 30" (make sure to use parentheses appropriately so that the formula follows the correct order of operations) Level 3 Every step is the same as Level 1 with the exception of Step #3. Since the table indicates the number wrong instead of the number correct, the formula must read "= (30 - K6 + L6) / 30" (make sure to use parentheses appropriately so that the formula follows the correct order of operations) Distance TableCollect information from a table of distances
Lab DataUse formulas to calculate the average
Files
Follow the links below to get details and materials for the rest of this 4-day unit on Excel Incorporating Excel on the iPadDay 1: Solving with FormulasDay 2: Graphing from DataDay 3: Graphing Data Collected from a LabDay 4: Excel Skills AssessmentGraphing is enormously important to the world of science and math (not to mention standardized testing like the ACT). Before using Excel as a tool to help us analyze data and model our natural world, it is useful to practice with the tool on its own first. This lesson is a tutorial on using excel for graphical analysis of data and creation of mathematical models. Note: In this tutorial, I am focusing on using these files on Excel's iPad App but the materials and structure of the lesson will work just as well on a computer :) Structure of the LessonTo maximize our time practicing graphing skills, I put together a file where the structure, formatting and data is already done so the students are only required to use the graphing tools to visualize and create models. Each worksheet is in its own tab along the bottom of the file and is intended to walk students through the entire process of graphing with Excel. In my classroom, I typically use the first few tabs as a full class tutorial and allow them to complete the rest on their own while I circulate the room. Below is a list of the tasks and skills introduced for each of the worksheets:
Graphing Worksheet - Printout
Warm UpBefore starting on the graphing portion of the lesson, the first tab is meant as a warm up to review and practice the basic excel formula work that was presented in the previous lesson. This warm up covers the following topics:
This can be presented as a full-class guided practice, group work, or individual warm up depending on the students' comfort level. For more information on these topics, see the lesson plan write up for Solving with Formulas #1 - Heating of Compound XAdd a scatterplot with title and axis labels
#2 - Car Value by YearAdd a scatterplot with title and axis labels
#3 - Roth IRAInsert a scatterplot for each set of data
#4 - Growth Rate of a Pine TreeThe data provided tracks the height of a specific pine tree over time after it was purchased at a nursery. Plot the data and add a best fit line to answer the following questions:
#5 - Jump Height vs Bike WeightIn BMX dirt-bike racing, jumping high or "getting air" depends on many factors: the rider's skill, the angle of the jump, and the weight of the bike. Here are data about the maximum jumping heights for various bike weights. Plot the data and add a best fit line to answer the following questions:
#6 - Distance vs Time for a Rolling TireA tire is rolled down a flat road. Data for the tires distance from the starting point was collected and placed into the following data table. Plot the data and add a best fit line to answer the following questions:
#7 - Lab DataYour lab group collects the time it takes a battery powered car to move in 0.5 meter increments. For each distance, you collect 3 trials worth of time information. Average these times and plot the distance vs average time and add a best fit line to answer the following questions. You will need to rearrange the columns on your table in order to create a graph with time on the x-axis and distance on the y-axis.
Files
Follow the links below to get details and materials for the rest of this 4-day unit on Excel Incorporating Excel on the iPadDay 1: Solving with FormulasDay 2: Graphing from DataDay 3: Graphing Data Collected from a LabDay 4: Excel Skills Assessment |
Joe CossetteFather, Physics Teacher, Knowles Fellow, Friend, Techie, and Musician Blog Posts |