Sunday, August 28, 2011

Engage = Connect

As the beginning of the school year gets underway I ask myself this question:

“What learning environment will I provide so that my students can’t wait ‘til the next class?”

I believe that every person is unique and every child can learn, but I recognize that students learn best when engaged, where expectations are appropriately challenging within an environment that is both safe and that contributes to the dignity and self-worth of all. Students respond to encouragement and to a structuring of time and activities that reinforces their striving to meet and exceed those expectations while at the same time recognizing their increasing capacity to manage responsibility and independence.

I also believe that engagement depends on quality interactions resulting from connections that happen inside and outside of the classroom.

Here are some of my Engaging-Connection ideas to make learning exciting and enjoyable in Honors Physics this year:

1. I will engage my students by making connections to their passions:
In Sports:
Our first major project is to design a special issue for a sports magazine (similar to “Sports Illustrated”) for their selected sport. This project will engage them as they construct their knowledge of the concepts of kinematics and forces.
In Music:
- As part of our unit in waves and sound, the students will design and build their own musical instrument.
- Our last day of school before the holidays in December, my students will create and perform their own Physics Carols.
In Art:
For the 6th year, my students will participate in the AAPT Photo Physics Contest taking their own photos and explaining the physics behind them. For the past two years we’ve had three students showcased at the AAPT Summer Meetings where their photos have been admired by hundreds of physics teachers and professors from around the world.

2. I will engage my students by making connections to popular digital games.
Take a look at our classroom bulletin board:

Students were thrilled when they found out that I am an Angry Birds fan (well, who isn’t?).
We will have an opportunity to do a quantitative analysis of the game in order to answer some of these questions:
a. What is the mass of each of the Angry Birds?
b. What is the gravitational field in Angry Birds world?
c. Using energy conservation, calculate the coefficient of restitution when a bird bounces off the wall.
d. Is momentum conserved when the blue bird splits into three?
e. Does the white bird accurately represent projectile motion when it drops an egg?

(Thanks to Frank Noschese for his ideas!)

3. I will engage my students by making connections to the physics concepts through investigations and experimentation.
The development of physics concepts occurs best in a hands-on, inquiry-based environment. My students will design and test their own investigations as opposed to just following directions in cookbook type labs.
In the unit of Simple Harmonic Motion, my students will investigate the factors affecting the period of a pendulum. The culminating activity of this unit will be their constructing their own snake pendulum just like this one:


4. I will engage my students by facilitating their connection to the world through their own blogs.
The use of digital tools will afford them the opportunity to deepen their skills in communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creation. At the same time, as part of a connected global community, my students will become self-starters who can model and coach while knowing how to learn and share with transparency and respect.

5. I will engage my students by enabling them to connect their learning progress to our physics learning objectives.
Our current educational systems, in both public and independent schools force the students to focus on their grades as opposed to focusing on their learning.

I have modified my grading policy to shift this focus from “getting an A” to “becoming proficient” in physics though a modified version of performance-based assessment. My students have received a copy of our Learning Objectives. As we move through the topics, the students have the responsibility of keeping track of their own progress. Their final grades will reflect their most recent learning. One nice caveat of this approach is the opportunity to skip homework assignments if they have mastered a specific topic. (Shhh, don’t tell them yet!)

6. I will engage my students by making professional connections:
a. With my colleagues at school:
Working together in vertical and horizontal teams will allow me to bring opportunities for cross-curricular activities that will enrich my students’ learning experience.
b. By participating in vibrant learning communities through Twitter and blogs and connecting with members of my PLN (Personal Learning Network) I will continue to grow as a learner and an educator.

I would love to hear your strategies for having your students engaged through connections!

Cross-Posted at Voices From the Learning Revolution (PLP Network #vflr)

Image Credits:

10 comments:

Mr. Lulai said...

How are you evaluating the performance based assessments? This doesn't quite sound like sbg.

dgende said...

I am doing my own modified version where the students evaluate their own performance on each of the learning objectives (expert, proficient, developing and beginning). They get additional opportunities to master the content and their final grade will reflect the latest information.

Steve Goldberg said...

This is great stuff! I came here via Will Richardson's blog, and I plan to visit regularly. I love the section about the mass of an Angry Bird :)

dgende said...

Thank you Steve! Looking forward to seeing you here often:)

krogers said...

Great post! I am sure your students will appreciate the time you take to make learning not only engaging but relevant to them. Kudos!

Jon Freer said...

Wonderful post. I teach Biology, but love the outline and want to write my own version of this post. Inspiring stuff.

Thanks.

Jon Freer said...

Had to pop back again with this link. Just a fun article about our love of the "parabolic ballistic trajectory through space."

Thought you might enjoy it.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703779704576074222543274268.html

dgende said...

Great link Jon! Looking forward to reading your posting about engaging your students in Biology.

S' said...

In my view, I always agree that interesting is the best teacher.During my searching other blog which about the education and teaching methodology, I was attracted by a title Engage = Connect. In your article, you first post a questionI thought it’s a really good and effective way to every teacher should ask her/himself about this, because I believe teacher’s task is not only transfer the knowledge, but also inspire the students interesting and passion to learn and explore the knowledge.

bambache said...

The way you used Angry Birds as a setup for Physics was an amusing way to engage the students by connecting something from popular culture to their learning. Did you happen to contact the people who made the game to see what the values like the masses were?

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