This post is a letter I sent out to parents in advance of conferences. It provides some student feedback on the recent unit.
I hope that everyone is doing well on this rainy day. I apologize for the late email. Unfortunately, with my recent surgery (Thanks for all of your support!), I’ve been a bit behind. Parent-teacher conferences are this Thursday and Friday and I am excited to have a full schedule. With this in mind, please help me keep to the 10 minute appointment. If you would like, please feel free to bring your student to the conference.
Over the last two days, students received a detailed progress report that summarized their performance on the recent Force and Motion unit. I look forward to talking to you about your student’s progress over the term. As a general statement, I can say that I am overwhelmed by the improvement in the classes of students ability to explain science concepts and connect ideas. The year progressed from students adjusting to higher expectations of explaining their thoughts to improving on these skills. At the end of this quarter, students will walk out ready for 8th grade science.
Thanks for all of your support in this process!
Reflections: As an educator, I strongly believe that reflection is essential to learning. I have had students reflect on their performance and will share this with you during conferences. You will also be given your student’s design work on the most recent project.
Students also reflected on the past unit and below I am sharing this information. Thanks again for your time and I look forward to talking with you over the next few days.
Questions 1-3: Understanding of daily activities, performance levels and the grading system. As you will see in the graphics, the vast majority of students have a good to strong understanding of these topics. My goal is to have no student at a “poor” understanding and will continue to working with students who voice their confusion. An important part of being a learner is for students to voice this concern. Students were also given the opportunity to provide feedback if they had a poor understanding.
- I think that we should take notes and talk more during class. It will help and keep us informed, the overall expectation is that we are engaged and have a full on discussion. I feel that I was distracted by others during class, I would like to be more engaged and have more knowledge of what are upcoming check-ups are. [Aah, the balance of giving enough hands-on time and enough discussion time. I’m working on this. I hear ya!]
- I think that i sort of don’t understand some of the things that we learned. I did not really understand some of the words because i didn’t learn it before but now i sort of do understand after i search it up on the computer or ask my friends. I think that i didn’t really know much and i wanted to learn it so i don’t get left behind. I understood some things but i didn’t understand some others. [Vocabulary – I need to do more work on solidifying this base.]
- Science is hard but it seems like I’m doing okay-ish. But like..[yep…]
Questions 4-8: As a science learner…Again, I am generally quite pleased with the feedback as students responded that either most of the time or consistently, they were understanding, challenged, offered a range of experiences, engaged and had a safe space to build ideas. No students responded “Never” though a few responded “Rarely” in each category. My biggest concern of the “Rarely” answers is under the category of a “Safe space.” Unfortunately, no comments were provided that indicated what was meant by this ranking.
Some student comments:
- I wasn’t quite sure of certain things but it was hard to ask a question because i didn’t know what to begin with [This is a tricky one. I want my students to ask questions as it’s difficult to gauge some if they do not. I appreciate this student’s voice in saying the he/she does not know where to begin asking. More formative assessment? I’m looking for more ways to bring out the voices of those who are often not heard.]
- Sometimes I wasn’t really sure about Newton’s three laws of motion. I tend to get it mixed up so I don’t really talk in most of the conversations. [For many students, and those ELLs for sure, there are a lot of new terms and connections. It’s the double challenge to build understanding of a new concept when many students do not have a background base of words draw from and/or do not understand the differences between words that they think are synonyms.]
Questions 9-11: Understanding of concepts…The following questions pleased me the most. All students increased their understanding of the content with the majority indicating a large increase.
Student Comments: In this unit, two major projects were worked on. In one (Zip Line), students worked in groups. In the second (Hyperloop), students worked individually though had a few critique / sharing sessions. It is interesting for me to see the comments regarding student preferences.
- I think i liked it more, because we got to build things ourself. Instead of sharing the work which sometimes sucks since sometimes everyone wants to do the same thing. And because i liked seeing the eggs splat onto the floor… I can’t deny that was pretty funny.
- I learned a lot such as momentum and crumple zone and this helped my egg container to survive. Also compared to the zip line challenge the Hyper loop egg drop challenge required lots of individual thinking which I think will later help me a lot in the future. I think this challenge was pretty successful for me.
- I chose the Hyperloop because the zip line challenge was very messy and I didn’t know what to do sometimes or the instructions were vague.
Because during the Hyperloop unit, I felt like I concentrated more, because after a while I understood a good process of learning. Also, it was fun, building the egg containers, and learning. Even though the zip line was just as fun, I understood more during the Hyperloop unit because I felt like before doing the experiments I learnt more, and had more knowledge before going into the experiments.
By studying mass and velocity, combined known as momentum, we had the chance to expand our knowledge by making an actual design based on science.I liked the zip line challenge more, because I got to work in a group. When you’re working by yourself, you get less done.
During the Hyperloop egg drop challenge, my final design was different from my third design because there was so little time, and so much to be done. The Hyperloop egg drop challenge was also very hard for me, because ‘crumple zones’ were completely foreign to me. It was hard for my designs to just stick together, and with the time limit and all, it was just too challenging for me.
- The zip line challenge was fun to do with the group, but then the work wasn’t evenly distributed so some people were doing all the work and others were doing none. The Hyperloop egg drop challenge was more fun because I got to make several designs and actually build it myself.
- I feel like I learned more by doing by myself rather than in group and I also feel like I could be creative than the zip line challenge for the egg and the final drop was fun so I chose Hyperloop egg drop challenge.
because you could build things on your own without other’s opinions get in the way
It definitely challenged me more and it seemed more hands-on than the zip line challenge. The constraints of time made everything way more exciting and gave me sort of the drive to complete the design.
- because I felt like I was able to actually do something rather than floating around at the sides of the group, like during the zip line challenge. The hyperloop challenge was fun itself, and I feel like I learned more about Newton and his Laws of Motion than I did with the group zip line challenge. I was also free to create and use my own ideas and thoughts. I feel like everyone was having fun.
- I Really Enjoyed The Zip-line Project Since We Got To Work In Groups and Share Opinions on Ideas and Ways to Make The Zip-Line.
The Zip Line Challenge was my favourite because there was a chance to work in a group and share our understanding. Every team member gave their own opinion of each meaning. Everyone in science has their strengths and weaknesses, so the ones that had strengths on a specific topic would share their understanding with the rest, making everyone have strengths in all areas of science learnt.
The Zip-Line was fun really fun, first of all. I learned about about friction and action. I think testing the zip line was a challenging process too, you might mess up in anyway, and that is how i learned from it. For the egg drop project, I didn’t really like it, because the material was hard to reduce the momentum, so it was a critical chance that you success.
- Through the design cycle, I got to look at my mistakes and improve it in my next design which gave me a better understanding. (Yes!)
- The design cycle didn’t help that much because the time wasn’t enough to get the container built well. There should also be more class time discussions to share ideas so everyone could know how their design could be improved.[Yes, I agree. I’m working on that balance of work time / talk time.]
There’s a lot of hands-on work, applying skills, and I think that’s the best way to learn and understand, through doing it yourself.
Challenges and problems along the way, along with success helps a lot.
If your first design and testing did not go well. You had a second chance to try again with a completely new design
This design cycle helped me a lot. Exchanging ideas with other classmates was helpful, because it helped me realize what I needed to change. The failure analysis made me (partially) realize what I needed to change in my design.
I thought my device was perfect but it failed so i still have some problems.
- It was a good idea because we could go through making new and better designs and showing them to other people to see what they can help us improve and change. It was also good because we could talk to people and use some of their ideas to make our design better. I liked how we had a failure test so we could remake our design for the final test to make it better. [Note: This time the failure test was under “smaller” conditions. Next time, make similar to final testing criteria.]
Well, I figured out that white glue does not ever dry in 20 minutes and your project will be an utter failure if you depend on it. And that rubber bands will be your savior. The design circle helped though through the analysis worksheets by guiding me towards thinking, “Why?” and it was good.
It helped me to go back and think. Then modify what i did wrong. and kept on improving.