So Many Choices

Since starting my career as an educator I have seen more and more different approaches to teaching surface. At first it was just using ‘fancy’ power-point animations where things flew on and off of the screen. Now the hoppers are full with more activities/presentations than one could possibly look through in a weekend.


Students photographing fudge they made during our solutions unit.

I take a three pronged approach to working with so many choices to use when educating my students.

a) Stick to the big picture-I want my students to be active learners and active consumers/evaluators of information. This doesn’t mean just building tooth-pick homes and ooooing and ahhing over them. It means researching options, selecting the most appropriate, testing it and reflecting on other alternatives. It means actively engaging in reflection and evaluation on how the students used the activity to meet key class objectives. These results are the keys for shifting and taking the risk on something new out of the many choices out there.

b) Varying my instructional techniques. I absolutely LOVE POGIL activities. POGIL activities will make up ~60-70% of my instruction. Sometimes I utilize guides from target inquiry. Other times activities from TeachEngineering, molecular workbench, card sorts or phet. I even just do normal labs in class. All of these items are perfect for specific class lessons.

Given that we have so many choices, why would someone choose just one methodology with students. I can even say that some years I’ve used different methods with different classes based on how well the students responded the options. Much like my grand-mother used to say “variety is the spice of life, continually change things up”.

c) When varying your instructional techniques it can often be scary to select something ‘non-vetted’. I have become crazy active creeping on twitter and blogs. I am looking to see what the students are doing and what the teachers approach to instruction is. It is often amazing what can be learned from surfing around. I have also found, if I c


These students had a crafty structure to share with the class.

ontact someone they respond. This has been my most efficient and (to date) effective way of sorting through the many choices for instruction in my classroom.

So many choices, so little time. What do you use? Why did you select it? How do you know it is effective? Please share any tips, tricks or techniques on this!