Grade 9’s owning their own consolidation

If I had my way, I’d rarely do lessons in class. We’d do labs and inquiries, and research and fun things that keep me engaged. Yet…it’s not all about me. I know how important consolidation is. We can do all the great learning activities in the world, but eventually students need to consolidate all that fun new knowledge.

I’ve come to the conclusion that for the combination of my specific students (after spending a few weeks getting to know my grade 9s as learners), my strengths/weaknesses and the nature of our content, that we need to have choice in how we consolidate. Many of my students have they told me that they learn best by writing things out. Fair enough. That is a valid learning technique. Other students have said that they HATE taking notes and that they never refer back to them. Some students say that they can learn from taking notes, but tend to lose them and never refer back to them later on.

In our class, for chemistry, we decided to do short, consolidation pieces every so often to make sure that we are all on the same page. Yesterday we did a consolidation piece (about half an hour) about the structure of the atom and an introduction to the periodic table of elements (the one thing that every student said that they wanted to demystify).

Some students have chosen to write their notes on paper and keep a physical notebook. Other students have chosen to keep all of their notes in Evernote. They type on their phones or laptops. When I questioned one guy about how he was going to do the diagrams (in that way a teachers questions when they think that they already know the answer and assume the student will do as I assume and grab a piece of paper), he showed me that he ALREADY had found similar diagrams online and copied and pasted them into Evernote. Wow. Ok. Great. I just checked this students evernote now (we have shared folders) and he has gone above and beyond what we did in class. He found more detailed diagrams. He found an extension piece of content (about how molecules act in the different states of matter). I’m thoroughly impressed. If he was using pen and paper instead of his phone, it never would have happened.

One other student used her wacom tablet and turned our lesson into a piece of art (that I of course, stole and posted on our class blog for others to use). Many of the students wrote their notes on paper and then took a picture of it to put into their evernote folder.

Its all about what works for them. I told them that they are responsible for proving to me at any time that they have an organizational system to be able to quickly, on a dime, pull up the information they need to know about WHMIS, Lab Safety, Online Safety and the structure of an atom. It makes me giddy with excitement to see them taking the initiative to choose what works best for them. Those skills will take them well beyond the content we will cover in grade 9 science that well may end up insignificant in their daily adult lives (but of course, I will never tell them this). 🙂

Have you had students who found an alternative method of organizing course materials or summaries for future reference? Maybe one that I could share with my students?

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