There are two primary methods that I use to guide students in a reflection of their identity as a member of a group. Different teachers tend to connect better with one or the other. Using the compass points protocol and color personality assessment to frame our discussion not only helps students reflect on what they contribute in a group setting, it also gives us a common vocabulary to use throughout the year.
After using one of these frameworks, it is useful to have students share out their categorization with rest of the class. Typically, there will be a pretty good mix of personalities represented in the class and it can be a great time to discuss the importance of valuing the different qualities that group members contribute. Each strategy is outlined below:
Compass Points Protocol
To make the challenge a little bit more exiting, I use and adapted version the challenge cards originally created by Liz Larosa on middleschoolscience.com. Instead of just asking students to build a pyramid, they receive a series of challenges to work through at their own pace. Not only does this make the task a little more interesting, it made it so that all students were continuously working even if they were not the first ones to finish a task. The added directions also added a fun element that required students to communicate in non-verbal ways. Rather than giving the groups all challenges at once, I like to award them the next challenge once they can show me that they have complete each task. This allows me to build in more interaction with my students at the beginning of the year.
The Set Up
I typically introduce the task with an opening like this:
"This board game was recently discovered in the back room but there weren't any instructions in the box so we don't know how to play. Luckily, we have a recorded history of 4 different games that were played by players that knew the rules. From these example games, I need you to recreate the list of rules so that we have something to add to the box for the next people that want to play"
After deciphering the games that were provided, each group was asked to write out the rules in as much detail as they could to reference when we compared notes together as a class.
Here are some examples of the rules that my students came up with:
The Follow Up
Groups will naturally finish their rules at different times. I usually encourage them to explore more specific scenarios in their rules but once they have something that is pretty complete, I let them play the game themselves a few times as the rest of the class is finishing up.
Once we came back together as a group, we added to our "Official Classroom Rules" document by each group sharing a rule one at a time until we didn't have anything new left to add. As we went through, different groups realized that the games that they had didn't necessarily represent every possible scenario that would require a rule and we also had some awesome conversations about how we determine if something is a rule or just a common occurrence brought about by the objective.
Ultimately, I close this task by bring the conversation back to how this process resembles the process of science, and more specifically, physics. In physics, the laws of nature were never provided as a list of rules or equations that were just written down somewhere. Instead, the "rules" that we discuss were formulated by observing how nature operates.
There are 4 other games without rules like this one included in David Maloney's post about "Learning the 'Game' of Science". The one that this is based off of is called "SciGame Delta". I found the other ones to be considerably more difficult and, honestly, I wasn't able to completely make sense of any of the others in the time that I spent exploring them. This doesn't mean the the students couldn't do it though. In fact, it could make it that much more exciting of a challenge. :)
This file contains the game board, game pieces, and the records of 4 different games. I printed out the game pieces of red and yellow paper to match with the Y and R designations on the game records but it isn't necessary to figure out the game play.
These sets of cards are modeled off of an activity by American Educational Products. There are four key features on each card: top number, bottom number, number and shape of middle design, and number of side triangles.
I put together a couple of files so that I could print out sets of these cards in color or in black and white. There are 6 cards on each page so a full set of 24 cards requires 4 printed pages. Some examples of the cards are shown below
I intentionally don't start the class off with any instructions besides "figure out what is on the missing card". From there I walk around and encourage their progress. I typically allow them 3 chances to check if they are correct but I don't give them any specific feedback about what they have right or wrong about their guess. I only tell them if they are correct or not ;)
As it getting closer to the end of class, it is often important to provide small hints to help students make progress towards a successful outcome. Some hints that help are:
The Follow Up
Groups will naturally complete this task at different times. For groups that finish early, I provide them with the following wrap up:
On a piece of paper, record every pattern that exists in your organizational structure
Once all groups have successfully described the missing card, we come back together as a class and discuss the approach that the different groups took when going about this task. If we have time, I show the Mendeleev video posted above and we connect this back to the nature of science and the role that pattern finding has in advancing our understanding of the world around us.
These files contain a version in color and a version optimized for black and white. The only difference is that one will have a rainbow spectrum while the other is gray scale so it can be printed out using a black and white copier. Personally, I have never used the color version since the black and white works just as well but doesn't cost as much to print :)
Class of 2019,
You’ve made it once more to the end of a year
Only this one is different, so lend me your ear
In science, I don’t always get to give life advice
But this is my chance, and I’ll keep it concise
You’ve made it through quarks and Einstein’s Equation
Through parsecs and coulombs, and on this occasion,
I just want to notice the work that you’ve done
I hope it sparked interest and I hope it was fun.
But that’s not really the theme of this talk here today
In our last class together before you all go away
It was 12 years ago, when I sat where you sit,
And from that time since, I’ve learned some things to transmit
Looking back, it’s okay if high school wasn’t the best
A transition is coming, it’s time to start a new quest.
The time up ahead will look different, no doubt
The scenery will change but you’ll still need a route
So as you advance to your college of choice
Put yourself out there and search for your voice
The time for decisions won’t soon be complete
But you can start fresh. You can restart your beat.
It’s also okay if you loved these four years
You can still “close the yearbook” without too many tears
And it’s ok to look back, with love and affection
At the times that you’ve shared: your memory collection
But someday these years will be a blip on a map
From your first day as freshmen to your funny, square cap
But especially right now, this journey means more-y
4 years to you is one fifth of your story.
So don’t take for granted your friends on this ride
People change people. You’re better inside.
It’s okay to have passion. It’s okay to succeed.
Take note of these things that you long for and need
Someone once told me to focus on gaps
To keep putting time in so I could clean up the scraps
But I’ve started to see that this isn’t all true
It’s your strengths that need practice, they’re the things that you’ll do
Why stop at good when you can work to be great
Put your weakness aside, you should load up your plate
With the things that are natural, the things that you love
The things that from day one seemed to fit like a glove.
If you don’t know where to start, ask your family and friends
They’ll help you see strengths in a completely new lens
It’s okay to quit, I know this doesn’t sound right
It doesn’t seem that inspiring, not too happy or bright
But sometimes, just sometimes, quitting is good
If there’s something else out there that you don’t do but should
Ten years ago this would not have made sense
I never admitted when it got too intense,
Or boring, or painful, or too far in to change
But that prevented me from new things from looking down range
The hardest thing that I did, is the reason that I’m here
It’s when I chose to quit my job as a well paid engineer.
At the time I wasn’t sure, I think it would have happened sometime
But if I didn’t change my path, then you wouldn’t have read this dumb rhyme
It’s not too late to change, no one knows for sure…
But if you aren’t afraid to jump, you might be better than you were.
None of these, by the way, are things I thought of by myself
They all came from others and some books off my shelf
You are only as smart as the company you keep
So surround yourselves wisely; keep that learning curve steep
Somebody once asked me “what have you made?”
“What have you done to be showcased, displayed?”
To be honest, at the time, my answer wasn’t great
I know what I’d say now, but my response is years too late.
So I ask the same of you, so that you can all reflect,
Because, “What have you made?” doesn’t have to be an object
It could take the form of friendship that you’ve fostered and sustained
Or maybe its a change that you have worked on and attained
Right now, “What WILL you MAKE?” motivates me more than ever
It gives life to daily chores and has led to new endeavors
And now that I am a father, with this role to live up to
I hope my baby girl grows up as wonderful as you.
And I hope when someone asks you what you’ll “make” and what you’ve “made”,
You can proudly reflect back upon the deck of cards you’ve played.
You are all special, you have all been quite blessed.
To have what you have so I have one more request
Whatever you do and wherever you go,
Pay attention to moments that force you to grow.
It’s the times when we’re stretched that push us beyond
When you face these tough times, how will you respond?
It is my hope that you’ll do what you can
To step up and proudly stake your flag in the sand.
The world will be yours take care and take heed
Set the example and we’ll follow your lead.
Father, Physics Teacher, Knowles Fellow, Friend, Techie, and Musician