Life Science

Avoiding Lectures When Instructing Life Science

Hello, my name is Adam Salberg and I am a student teacher in a middle school science classroom. I am preparing for my thirteen weeks of students teaching in the spring and have been beginning to think about my own personal teaching philosophy. I just completed a two week unit, and I had students fill out an evaluation of my teaching. One of the most common criticisms among the students is that they wish that science could be "more fun". They think that science is mostly just lecturing about a PowerPoint. I will be talking about a lot of life science topics next spring such as taxonomy, ecology, viruses, and anatomy. I was wondering if anyone had any advice about how to avoid lecturing, while also allowing students to learn the material. Obviously for anatomy, you could do dissections (I don't know if the school funds this), but much of the content is informational. Thanks in advance for any advice!

Adam Salberg
Adam Salberg
125 Activity Points

I love Life Science. When we learn about ecosystems, I ask students to bring in clean 2 liter bottles. I get a 5 gallon bucket and scoop up some dirt, water, and plants from a ditch. (Glamorous!) We cut the bottle in half, fill each bottle about halfway full, and let everything settle. We use duct tape to seal where we cut the bottle. Once the sediment settles and the water becomes clearer, we catalog what we observe. How many living/non-living things? We've seen mosquito larvae hatch, dragonfly nymphs, tadpoles, duckweed, etc. They are still covering the same content. Each group has a bottle and it's easy to compare if there are differences in each ecosystem. I got this from an outdated book titled, Bottle Biology. It may still be available on Amazon. There are other ways to use the 2 liter bottles for terrariums, water cycle, etc.
Check out http://ngss.nsta.org/ for resources and lesson plans.

Pamela Dupre
Pamela Dupre
85256 Activity Points

Hi Adam,

Several years ago I was able to attend a short course at an NSTA National Conference called Lecture-Free Biology. It was led by Bonnie Wood. In the course, she outlined how she transitioned her biology courses from strictly lecture to a more student centered approach. Here is a link to an American Biology Teacher article where she outlines the steps she did to make this transition. She also has a book in which she not only explains her approach, but also gives many of the activities she used with her students. We got this book as the end of the short course and it has revolutionized the way that I teach biology.

Hope you are having a good student teaching experience.

Ruth Hutson
Ruth Hutson
58310 Activity Points

Hi Adam,

Great question! While we want students to be engaged and have fun, we have to balance that with making sure the content is understood. I found a few articles with some ideas you may be able to incorporate; let me know what you think!

This article includes some fun ways to spend a week engaging with the different levels of classification:
http://common.nsta.org/resource/default.aspx?id=10.2505%2f4%2fss01_025_03_36

And this article includes many different types of graphic organizers to increase understanding through visual literacy:
http://common.nsta.org/resource/default.aspx?id=10.2505%2f4%2fss10_033_09_17

Anyone else have some ways to bring in a fun lesson?
-Megan

Megan Doty
Megan Doty
6832 Activity Points

Hi Adam,

Good luck with the student teaching, I finished my student teaching spring of 2017 too, it was a great experience and fun to teach middle school science. ! How is the technology available in your classroom? There are lots of opportunities to incorporate your whole lesson into the teacher controlled, technology-based way. I loved the use of Nearpod, https://nearpod.com, This helps you in a way that students don't feel that you are lecturing too much, and it is a one on one way of understanding your student's participation as well. You can add activities, videos, and powerpoint slides into the presentation. You can control the pace of the class and is a great way to have a fully planned week using this application. Check it out if you don't know already about this. Good luck again!

Ash

Aiswarya Mahadevan
Aiswarya Mahadevan
375 Activity Points

Hi, Adam, I think it's great that you want to introduce other ways besides lecturing for instructing your students. I believe that technology can be very useful for this, as you can use media and interactive games for your students. They would like that. Additionally, incorporating many hands on mini-experiments with easy materials is useful. Check pinterest!

Rachel Chaple
Rachel Chaple
610 Activity Points

I think it is very important to involve activities instead of just listening to a lecture and observing a power point slides. I believe every ( if possible) science lecture or new topic should have a hands on activity or a lab work whether it be individual, in a group, or as a class. Besides the classwork that is already assigned in order to provide the engage in the lesson. This is important to practice because students will not be interested in a lesson that is always lectured.

Claudia Corrales
Claudia Corrales
450 Activity Points

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