Monday, March 20, 2017

Electron Configuration

Contrary to what people might believe, traditional, lecture-based teaching is actually quite simple. As a lecturer, teachers simply display a presentation or write notes on the board while explaining a topic. In this scenario, students are simply required to stay seated in place, listen, and take notes. Some students don't even take notes anymore, but rather take pictures of the presentation using their devices, or ask their teachers to send them a copy of it.

However, one might question: Are teaching and deep learning truly being achieved in lecture-based learning? Are students being provided with learning opportunities that involve questioning, critical thinking, and reflecting on their own learning? The answer to all these questions is simply "No."

These are some of the questions I ask myself when designing inquiry-based and concept-based lessons. My students learned about electron shell configuration in chemistry this year. My goal was for them to discover this topic rather than simply lecturing its contents using visual a presentation.

The first step involved accessing my students' prior knowledge to ensure they thoroughly understood the properties of protons, electrons, and neutrons, and their location within an atom. My students had to also recall what they learned about the groups and periods of the periodic table, and the significance of numbers and symbols in this table. Since I have taught most of my students for several years, it was easy to determine how much they already grasped from their previous years.

Students were then provided with a piece of paper and each one was designated an element from the periodic table. They had to display the symbol, atomic number, mass number, number of subatomic particles, and use the Internet to search for and draw a diagram of how the electrons in that element were arranged in an electron cloud. After completing this assignment in class, my students had to figure out on their own how to arrange the elements. They eventually arranged them into rows, whereby each row contained atoms that had the same number of electron shells, and the atoms in each row were arranged in increasing atomic number. Based on their arrangement, my students then had to make conclusions and reflect on the following:

* The maximum number of electrons in a shell
* The relationship between the number of electron shells and an element's position in a designated row of the periodic table

It is through these conclusions that my students were truly able to acquire new knowledge on electron configuration and how elements are arrange in the periodic tabled based on their electron configuration.

Monday, April 25, 2016


What kind of learner are you? Are you auditory, visual, or kinesthetic? Different learning styles require different teaching and learning strategies in order for students to achieve deep learning. Furthermore, there are times where I need my students to visualize a concept in order to truly grasp it.

I can show them a graphic organizer... But I know it'll go "poof" the next day because they didn't actually construct it.

Or I can have them draw it... But I know that my slow learners will probably not construct it in time... And as for my perfectionists... They'll probably erase their lines and squares over and over again till they achieve that perfect straight line or that precise 90-degree angle.

The nice thing about living in our technically and digitally advanced 21st century is that I can rely on technological tools like Popplet in order to have my students enjoy creating graphic organizers and mind-maps.

My students recently used Popplet to create a graphic organizer that classifies different types of mixtures. Their task was to research and come up with a description of each type of mixture, along with uploading a picture as an example. They then presented their work during an Art Gallery activity and commented on each other's work.

My students love using Popplet! They don't have to worry about spending time positioning their lines and boxes on a sheet of paper. They can incorporate texts, videos, and links which make their graphic organizers more interactive. In the mixtures activity, using Popplet has helped them in making connections between the different types of mixtures. Most importantly, constructing their own graphic organizers enables them to easily consolidate any concept permanently in their mind. In my opinion, this app is perfect for targeting both visual and kinesthetic learners, and is a great tool for enabling students to visualize certain concepts.

I'm proud of my students' work and they truly amaze me each and everyday in all their accomplishments!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Fun with Jeopardy!

Fun with Jeopardy!
If you were to ask my students to list the activities they enjoy in class, one of their responses will definitely be: Jeopardy! Playing Jeopardy has become one of our traditions as a revision for a test.

I was inspired with using Jeopardy from one of my university professors. When taking a Shakespearean course in literature, my professor would have us play Jeopardy as a revision before our tests. We looked forward to the day we played Jeopardy, and it motivated us to read and understand each play so as to answer the questions correctly.

Throughout my years as a teacher, I modified the rules of Jeopardy in order to motivate all my students to work harder and ensure they understand the concepts. Our class rules are:

  • Students will work together in teams in order to solve a problem. Their team names need to reflect a concept they learned in the chapter they are reviewing.
  • They need to assign a different person each time to select a category and state the answer.
  • The answer should be in the form a question.
  • Each team will take a turn (usually in a rotating manner) to select and answer a problem.
  • If the team gives the wrong answer, the other teams will be given a chance to display their answers, and the points will be divided among the other teams. If none of the remaining teams display the correct answer, the original team that answered the question gets a second chance, but will only receive half the points. 
  • Students are responsible for recording their points on the board, and keeping track of which categories were already selected.
  • At the end of the game, they need to calculate their points and designate which place each team came in.

Through playing Jeopardy, my students learn to work in teams, which is an essential skill they need to master in order to succeed in the real world. They also solve all the problems during the game, even if it wasn't their turn, in hope that they might get a chance to receive partial points. Most importantly, they will have everlasting memories of having fun while learning!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Chromosomal Socks Activity

Sometimes, all it takes to spark an idea is simply... a picture. While searching online for fun activities for our human genetics lesson, I saw a picture of a karyotype model. This model was created by using colorful socks, whereby each pair of socks represented a homologous pair of chromosomes. For someone who has an obsession for colorful, funky socks, I jumped at the opportunity of recreating this model with my students!

In order to recreate this model, my students had to complete a set of tasks. They were first provided with a huge pile of mixed-up socks, and had to work together in order to arrange the socks in pairs.

After arranging the socks in pairs, their next task was to figure out how scientists arranged chromosomes in a karyotype. Eventually, they came to the conclusion that chromosomes are arranged by length, except for the sex-chromosomes, which are found in the lower right hand corner. Using the model they created, my students then learned about the number and types of chromosomes found in human cells.

The picture (saved on Pinterest from I found online gave rise to the production of an entire lesson plan that was applied by all our Grade 6 science teachers. It enabled all our students to ask questions and investigate in order for them to learn about chromosomes.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

FIS Numerology

"When will I ever use this in real life?"

This is one of the most common questions asked by students on a daily basis. As teachers, we should always try to break the barrier between school walls and the real world; to bridge the gap between what happens in the classroom and what actually takes place "out there" in the real world. Students should not only learn certain concepts and skills, but rather how they can apply what they have learned in the real world. This, in my opinion, is the essence of education.

We are currently at the end of our third unit in math, which is centered around decimals, percentages, and fractions. This unit will soon culminate with a summative assessment, whereby students will use the knowledge, skills, and concepts they have learned during this unit in order to complete their summative assessment.

When first planning this unit, like our students, we also asked ourselves, "How will our students use decimals, percents, and fractions in the real world?" Real-world applications are endless, and the challenge was in creating a structured, inquiry-based lesson that allows students to explore how they can use decimals, percents, and fractions. Through collaborative planning, we came up with FIS Numerology, which involves quantifying personal and cultural expression by using different forms of numbers (i.e. fractions, decimals, and percents).

FIS Numerology was a four-day, project-based learning experience. Our students were divided into groups, and given a survey topic related to personal and cultural expression. They had to come up with their own responses, and then conduct a survey by visiting classrooms and staff rooms. After gathering their data in the form of a tally chart, they had to convert it into fractions, decimals, and percents. The next step was to display their calculated percentages in a hand-made double-bar graph. Students had to also incorporate a technological aspect, where they learned how to input data and create a bar graph using Microsoft Excel. All of this culminated with a display of their work, a Gallery Walk activity, and a personal reflection of what they learned from this in-class project.

As a result, our students were able to quantify student and staff's personal and culture expression. They learned how to apply percents, fractions, and decimals in the real world as a means of conducting surveys to gather, interpret, and display data. I'm truly proud of their work!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Powers of 10 Lapbook

Earlier this year, my students created lapbooks to learn about multiplying and dividing by powers of 10. These lapbooks involve identifying powers of 10 less than and greater than 1, and the rules for how to multiply and divide with powers of 10. After creating their lapbooks, they then used them as a guide to complete both their classwork and homework. My students were able to express themselves through their creative lapbooks, which also enriched their learning process!

The template for this lapbook is available for purchase in my TPT store. This is the first lapbook I created, and there will be definitely be more to come!