Focusing on skills and science practices is super important in a science class whether its an AP
® or a regular class. But students still need content and essential knowledge. What are some methods of content delivery?
There is no one best way to deliver content. As a professional educator, you have to decide what is best for your own group of students, school, and community.
I developed sticky-noting over 10 years ago as a way to balance the needs of my high level students who could understand everything from reading the book and the kids who needed more from me to understand the material. You can read about this method on this post.
Students can learn a lot of content at home by reading the book. In an AP class, there is not enough time in class to cover all content and train students in the Science Practices. This is a form of “flipping”. You can read more about reading quizzes and flipped method on this post.
Reading quizzes can be implemented to make sure the students did their reading. They can be on paper, or online. I use my textbook’s online portal for my quizzes, but Google Forms is another good platform. My quizzes are timed (11 questions in 7 minutes), randomized, open book/note. I usually assign one quiz per two sections of reading and they are low-level questions that ONLY check if they read. They are not AP-caliber questions.
Edpuzzle can be used to supplement reading assignments. A few short videos assigned (2-4 minutes) per section of reading can help students understand what they’ve read. Embedded questions makes sure students pay attention to the video. I grade the questions on accuracy as part of their homework grade.
One way to ramp up learning with your Power Points or Google Slides is to use an interactive presentation site such as Pear Deck. Students answer formative assessment questions and engage in discussion during notes to keep them engaged and learning.
This is a popular way of doing notes. Much of the feedback from teachers I talk to at workshops around the country, however, is that students generally dislike it. But many also say that it can be done well and some teachers have developed modifications that work for their students. You can read about the method on the Cornell website.
A increasingly popular method of notes are sketch notes. A good website that gives a lot of advice for this process is the Shrock Guide. Teachers who use this method find that students need training to do it well, but it can be a method very useful for certain learners.
Labeling diagrams can also be a good way to cover content. Here’s an example of geology diagram notes on TPT. Diagrams can also be drawing with chalk outside or on lab tables. Read about one example of chalk drawing on this post.
Another “hot topic” in the teaching world are interactive notebooks. This website has a good tutorial on how to do them.
A fun way to mix it up is to use doodle notes where there is a template for students to write information or draw pictures on. I use doodle notes for a few topics such as plate tectonics and the nitrogen cycle. There are many good sellers of these templates on TPT including SheCartoons.
File Folder Notes
Another idea for unit content or even exam review are file folder notes. Each students must write important information, graphs, charts on a file folder. The folder is sturdy and can be a long-lasting study tool.
Charts and Graphic Organizers
Charts and other graphic organizers are good tools for list of topics that kids need to know such as biomes, energy sources, diseases, air pollutants, toxins, etc. This is better than assigning projects and having kids research and share only one of them. This way kids learn all of the information well.
Newspaper, journal, or internet articles are a good way to develop critical reading and text analysis skills while learning content. Be sure to train students how to identify the author’s claim and the evidence that backs up the claim. I do not spend time having students find and present current events. Time is precious and I prefer to have them read articles I picked out that meet strategic content and literacy goals.
Many of our students need scaffolding, however, with readings. If you can, provide a graphic organizer such as a Frayer model, provide annotation training, do discussion diamonds, or have students read to each other to help with difficult articles.
Project-Based Learning (PBL) can be used for content and skills in more authentic learning based on research about how students learn. Free curriculum is now available at Sprocket from the George Lucas Educational Foundation. Also, many teachers have developed their own PBL units that they freely share.
Remember, you cannot do it all and whatever you decide, you are the most important learning tool for students. Teach with enthusiasm and passion, but be kind to yourself and only do what you can do at that moment. Resources build over time.
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