Bond with James: February 2013

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Three-Variable Formula Triangle

Below is a picture of a formula triangle that works for three-variable equations, such as: speed, density, or acceleration. My first year I taught IPC (Integrated Physics and Chemistry). As a biology major, I was unprepared  to teach math to students in my class and struggled to assist students who did not understand how to manipulate mathematical equations.  

Apparently in Texas, the three-variable equation triangle is, or at least was, a major tool in helping students solve problems. I taught it in addition to teaching how to manipulate equations. Of course, with the new state exam in Texas, the STAAR EOC, only a few of the equations are able to use this tool. 

Okay...let me stop rambling and get on with the explanation. First, you need a three-variable equation as previously mentioned. The picture below illustrates the speed equation 
                                                            speed = distance

The variable on the left of the equal sign goes in the bottom left quadrant of the triangle. The variable in the numerator goes in the top quadrant, and the variable in the denominator goes in the bottom right quadrant. 

                              Horizontal line = division  ; vertical line = multiplication

The flaps on this particular foldable are not really needed if students know how to work the triangle. However, you could have students add the units and/or definition of each variable to the outside of each flap.

How it works...
....cover up the variable you are looking for. Let's say you wanted to find distance. You would use your finger (or whatever) to cover up the D. That leaves S (speed) and T (time). In this case, you would multiple the two variables (since the vertical line means multiplication).

If you were looking for Time (T), you would cover up the T leaving D (distance) and S (speed). In this case, you would divide distance by speed to solve for time. 

Again, this will work for any three-variable equation similar to the speed equation shown above. Most of the equations required for the Chemistry and Physics STAAR EOCs cannot utilize this particular tool, however.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Gas Laws Manipulative

Today I held a content workshop for the chemistry teachers in my district. Actually, I should say we - the curriculum specialist and I, contracted to an outside party to deliver materials for the teachers as preparing for these workshops ate up our time and took us away from our district-wide duties as science specialists.

However, I was able to share something that I had I learned from an AP Chemistry teacher about 8 years ago. I was surprised that many of the teachers there, including the external facilitator, did not know about this great instructional strategy for gas laws. I was happy I could share what had been shared with me a few years ago. 

On a Popsicle stick or sheet of paper (e.g. sentence strip), write and space out: P   T   V (as shown  below)

P = pressure,  T = temperature,  V = volume

How to  use:
  • Hold the stick by the letter of the variable that is held constant.
  • Then move the stick so that the variable you are changing goes up or down, the other variable will move as well to increase or decrease accordingly
    • For example,  if the temperature is constant [hold by T]:
      • If volume is decreasing [move the V side down], the pressure will rise [you will see that the P side is now up]

This is a great visual to assist all students, especially ELL and SPED students, in understanding the various gas laws – in addition to helping solve problems. I would suggest embedding this strategy with the Chemistry EOC reference chart (Texas teachers)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Warm Demander

A Warm Demander

This past Tuesday I hosted another science instructional coach seminar. I was extremely nervous as I embarked on an approach that we have never done before - actually, this is the first year, in a loooong time, that the instructional coaches are receiving professional development concerning instructional leadership. With that said, I decided that I was going to facilitate dialogue over three articles I assigned as homework a week prior to the meeting. All three articles were short - each three-pages in length and targeted at pedagogical practices in the classroom. The facilitated dialogue is actually an activity I had to do in one of my graduate classes; and I thought I would try to incorporate what I learned and experienced in my instructional leadership program with my colleagues.

 As each coach arrived, one-by-by, they thanked me for sharing the articles with them - one in particular, called The Teacher as a Warm Demander (the reference is listed at the bottom of this post if you are interested). I was pleasantly surprised and let out a sigh of relief as it made my job as facilitator a lot easier. As I mentioned earlier, I had not done something like this before with them - and they can be a tough group. :)

The main idea behind the article is: how can teachers create an engaging classroom and convince students that they care, while at the same time never letting up (Bondy and Ross, 2008). A warm demander is defined as someone who "communicates both warmth and a nonnegotiable demand for student effort and mutual respect" (Bondy and Ross, p.2, 2008). The authors contend that teachers should believe in a individual's capacity to succeed regardless of what students might say or do by exhibiting three actions: (1) building relationships deliberately, (2) learning more about students cultures, and (3) communicating an expectation of success (Rogers, 1957 as cited in Bondy and Ross, 2008). I specifically selected the article based on (1) my personal experience and teaching philosophy; and (2) comments made by educators I've worked with recently and in the past.

Several people would probably describe me as a warm demander. In fact, a week ago, I ran into a former student at my old campus. Actually, this gentleman officially was never in my class, I just tutored him during our Saturday TAKS camps (TAKS was the old state exam in Texas). He told me something that made my day and I just had to post it on my Facebook page: 

Ran into a former student today. He told me that I always had high expectations and could tell I believe in my students. He also mentioned that I would always say, "You could do better, you could do better" to push students. He is aspiring to become a teacher and wanted to thank me. Made my day! :)

When I read the article, I was immediately reminded of his comment and comments made by former students. I am a warm demander Students know I believe in them and that they can be successful. I knew many of my students came from low-income backgrounds or from other external factors that I had no control over; however, from the start of my career, I realized that I do have control over what occurred in my classroom. By providing learning supports, supporting positive behavior, and being clear and consistent with my expectations (Bondy and Ross, 2008), I was able to establish an environment and culture where my students recognized that they were important enough to be pushed beyond their normal expectations.

Bondy, E. & Ross, D. D. (2008). The teacher as a warm demander. Educational 
      Leadership: The positive classroom, 66(1), pp.54-58 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Collaborative Poster

I love utilizing collaborative posters in my classroom. Of course, in order for this to truly be a collaborative poster all students must contribute. do you get all students to participate in the collaborative poster process? First, I truly believe the teacher has to create a safe and non-threatening environment at the beginning of the year and create an expectation for success. Secondly, the teacher must also create the expectation for active learning and collaboration. I taught at a school that was low-performing five years in a row and was extremely successful in getting my students to actively participate in their learning (the posters are from students at this particular school). Usually I have students complete a collaborative poster the first week of school and present this to the class as a way of building the culture I previously wrote about.

  • Group 4 students together (this is easier if students are already sitting in a table group)
  • Each student selects ONE color marker - all markers must be different.
  • Instruct students to write their name on the poster with the color they selected. This will allow you to identify which student did what on the poster. (Students are not allowed to switch colors with each other or change colors once they begin)

Collaborative Poster (of the NASA Mishap). 4 students, 4 colors - no more, no less. Select a quote from the article and as a group, come up with an original quote. Be prepared to share with the class :)

What are your thoughts? Is this something you would do in your classroom?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Flame Test of Ions

When elements are heated to high temperatures, some of their electrons are excited to higher energy levels.  These excited electrons can then fall back to lower energy levels, releasing the excess energy in packages of light called photons, or light quanta.  The color of the emitted light depends on its energy.  Blue light is more energetic than red light, for example.  When heated, each element emits a certain characteristic pattern of light energies, which is useful for identifying the element.  The characteristic colors of light produced when substances are heated in the flame of a gas burner are the basis of flame tests for several elements. 

This is always such an easy lab to set up. My students like and want to do this experiment over and over again. During the expectations section of the lab, I explain to the students to carefully pay attention as each student will receive an unknown metal solution once everyone has done an initial run through.
  • Make sure to purchase wooden splints (you could also use Q-Tips) 
  • Prepare the solutions you wish to use. 
    • I really recommend prepping and storing the solutions early in the school year, if at all possible. 
      • If you are teaching chemistry for the first time and have no experience making solutions, please order a FREE Flinn Scientific Catalog . The back of the catalog has recipes for making solutions (e.g. how much of a compound to weigh out, etc.).   I do not have any affiliation with Flinn Scientific.
  • Place wooden splints into each of the solutions and allow time to soak. 
    • The difference between the top (2010) and bottom (2015) picture is that the wooden splints were broken in half. This will allow you to save resources.

Top Picture (2010). Bottom Picture (2015).
  • Place the solutions in a location that you can monitor and where access to them is open / easy. 
  • Instruct students - if working individually, in pairs, or groups - to test one splint per solution at a single time 
    • (e.g., Pair A goes and picks up a sodium-ion soaked splint. They test it and trash the splint. Pair A goes and grabs another ion soaked splint and they repeat the process until they are finished).
    • Also, instruct students to properly rinse and dispose of the wooden splint (i.e., they are not to be tossed into the sink).
  • Finally, if you wish, you can have an unknown beaker that contains a mixture of several of the solutions for individuals to test on their own.  
    • Alternatively, I have also had another set of beakers (labeled numerically or alphabetically) where students select a splint from the beaker and identify the unknown.  

Of course, you could use an inoculation loop.  I have also added a video (on 10/18/15) displaying the flame tests of lithium, sodium, potassium, strontium, copper (II), and an unknown.  

Can you determine what the unknown is? Let me know what you think of this lab setup and/or your thoughts on the unknown solution! :)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ceiling Anchor of Support

One of the perks of getting to visit other secondary (9-12) science classrooms is I get to see all the great things going on. This one actually was done before I student taught over 8 years ago. Great anchor of support. What are some ways you decorate your classroom?

My Return to Blogging....

I’m back!!!!! After a year and a half hiatus, I am back to updating my blog. Actually, I am switching blog sites.  Please forgive me as I make this transition and begin updating my blog more frequently. With that said, I thought I would start off my return with a demonstration that I do with my students every year – Elephant Toothpaste. While I haven’t used the proportion of chemical used here, the students still go wild over it. The demo is relatively easy to prep and clean up. (I shared this on Pinterest and it took off like wild fire) :)