Today, I’ve gone fishing. Next week my 7th grade science classes will shift their focus to geology. Personally, I’m rather excited about the topic and ready to get talking about the movements of the earth. But…what are my students bringing with them to this topic?
The room was a buzz with conversations as students worked in groups of three or four. Once reassured that my goal was solely to collect information regarding current understanding to help plan for an upcoming unit, student groups dove into working through a series of questions. Honestly, I was quite surprised by the level of engagement and felt good about the decision to give a group pre-assessment rather than individual questions. The collaborative nature of the task – talk to each other about topics you might or might not know anything about – stimulated vibrant conversations.
The questions came from the Project 2061 work on the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) site. The work has led to a series of questions based upon researched misconceptions. A wide range of topics are available and a user can create question banks based on need. Multiple choice solutions are based upon possible misconceptions. As my students worked together, a support hand-out was provided so that students could identify unknown vocabulary and put down questions relating to ideas.
I wonder if the strong level of conversation and exchange of ideas came from the fact that many choices “making sense” to students were available. At that point, they had a starting point to discuss. In the end, I will have a general overview of groups and will later work to tease out the understanding of each student.