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The Lazy Teacher’s Guide to Implementing STEM in the Classroom

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The Lazy Teacher’s Guide to Implementing STEM in the Classroom

A well planned STEM related lesson will lead towards a successful class where students generate and test models, engage in real-life experiences, develop their testing skills, stretch their critical thinking skills, exercise their creativity, generate concrete experiences, and confront and discard a variety of misconceptions (Jadrich & Bruxvoort). Unfortunately, with after school activities, parent-teacher conferences and the endless piles of grading, who has time to prepare yet another lesson plan where you not only take into account the basic aspects such as time frame and materials but also risk additional preparation time if the planning is not done correctly? Who you ask? Exceptional teachers that follow these essential steps that will help maximize their lesson and minimize their time planning.

The premise of a STEM related lesson plan is student centered instruction. Teachers become guides as students lead their own learning through problem-solving, critical thinking, and construction. When taking a single subject like science or math, and incorporating additional elements such as technology and engineering, students are not only expected to solve the problem, but to make sense of it. Students must break down the problem into parts and solve it through reasoning, constructing viable arguments, critiquing the reasoning of others, using appropriate tools strategically, aiming for precision, looking for and making use of structure, and lastly looking for and expressing regularity in repeated reasoning. Leading students in this manner helps clarify any misconceptions, not because the teacher told them, but because they saw it and experienced it for themselves. Thus, the need to follow the 5 E’s when planning the lesson:

Engage

Ask students Who? What? When? Where? Have students think and turn to their peers to briefly discuss. Call on several students to tell the class. Discuss with the class. Review models, and previous related topics, as this will be the main review to help students build upon ideas as they explore.

Explore

Hand out materials. Tell students to organize their thoughts and ideas in a way that makes sense to them. Have students build and construct.

Explain

Have students explain the reason they organize their conclusions the way they did as a group discussion. Ask students What? Why? And show alternate examples.

Elaborate

Review main topics, ideas, and vocabulary. Ask students How? Discuss ideas with the whole class (lead students gently). Examine and write down the findings. Ask the students to look for other trends and talk about it.

Evaluate

Allow students to demonstrate what they have learned. Ask students Why? Have students explain their answer.

Creating a STEM related lesson takes time and lots of planning, even for the smallest experiment. It can be extremely frustrating for both students and teachers if not planned out right.  By following the 5 E’s and guiding students through each component of the lesson, as well as conducting these sorts of learning experiences in the classroom on a regular and consistent basis, students will learn to think about what they are learning and hopefully with time, learn to appreciate and even like science, technology, engineering and mathematics as a whole unit.  That makes it worth the investment.

For those looking for a concrete example of how to plan a great lesson plan using the 5 E’s format, take a look at the lesson below:

Real Lesson Example:

The Periodic Table is a Map of the Elements

Learning Goals 

Students will:

  1. Classify elements as metals, non-metals, and metalloids.
  2. Identify different groups of elements.
  3. Describe radioactive elements.

Engage

  1. Warm up activity (5 min)
    1. Discuss what organization is
      1. Have students think of their closet or CD collections
      2. Have students turn to their partners and briefly discuss several ways to organize their possessions
      3. Call on several students to tell the class how they would organize their possessions
    2. Discuss with the class that there are several ways to organize the same stuff. It’s the same way with science, there is more than one way to organize data.
  1. Review the Bohr model for atoms (5 min)
    1. NOTE: this will be the main review to help students build their model plates

Explore

  1. Hand out materials, Have students build their plate models in pairs. Each pair will build one plate, see student hand out for directions to make the plate models (10-15 min)
  2. Tape a piece of butcher paper to the board
  3. Have the students tape their plate models to the butcher paper in no particular order (This is so that all the students can see the plate models)
  4. Now have the class organize the plate models into a periodic table that make sense to them. This may require some guiding questions, some methods follow: (20-25 min)
    1. Tell students to organize the elements (plate models) in a way that makes sense to them

Explain

  1. Have students explain the reason they organize their chart the way they did as a group discussion
    1. What do you see?
    2. Why is it organized this way?
    3. Are there other ways to organize the elements? (If time permits have the students re-organize the plate models)
  2. Show alternate periodic tables

Elaborate

  1. Review the word “Structure”
  2. Ask students “How do you organize the elements based on the atomic structure?”
    1. Brainstorm in pairs (5 min)
    2. Discuss ideas with the whole class (lead students gently towards the traditional periodic table (5-10 min)
    3. Recognize the elements (plate models)
  3. Examine Atomic Size trends:
    1. Have students write the atomic size of their molecule on the butcher paper below their plate model in Black (found on element card)
    2. Discuss the word “Radius”
    3. Discuss what a “Trend” is
    4. Ask the students to describe the trend
    5. Ask student to propose ideas why the atomic radius decreases across the periodic table.
    6. Have students fill out their graphic organizer
  4. Let the students stick (tape) their element card to the plate model.
    1. Ask the students to look for other trends
    2. Talk about the trends
    3. Look for the metals and non-metals. Are they grouped together in any way? Can you guess what an element will look like based on where it is on the periodic table?
  5. Discuss the word “nobility”
    1. Ask for definition
    2. Ask how that definition could apply to elements in the periodic table. Get to a definition of “unreactive and stable”

Evaluate

  1. Look periodic table… ask students:
    1. Which elements are the most stable?
    2. Why?
    3. Explain their answers based on atomic structure

 

References:
Jadrich, J., & Bruxvoort, C. (2011). Learning and Teaching Scientific Inquiry:
     Research and Applications. National Science Teachers Association, 115

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/58037435@N08/8425369255″>Education in Viet Nam</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>

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