Monday, October 12, 2015

Dichotomous Keys with a Touch of the Peculiar just right for Halloween in Secondary Science

I created two new dichotomous keys in October, one focuses on animals and humanoids with legends, myths and cryptids. I also threw in some real genetic diseases which are thought to have been the precursor to Halloween ghouls such as vampires and werewolves. The name of this dichotomous key is Cryptozoology Dichotomous Key: Monsters, Spooks, and Ghouls.

The second dichotomous key I created focuses on the odd members of the Plant Kingdom. In this dichotomous key students will classify carnivorous, poisonous or curious plants. The students will use knowledge of planting zones and plant anatomy to complete this dichotomous key. It is called Carnivorous, Poisonous and Curious Botanicals. 

Even if you do not get to use these mind boggling dichotomous Keys in class for October, there are plenty of other chances you can use these lessons, for your Taxonomy and classification unit, following a state of college board exam? They also make great end of the year activities. Be sure to check out my full collection of dichotomous keys!

This activity can be used in its power point format to upload to a classroom website and have the students use laptops or iPads to go through the pictures. 

You could use the power point for whole class instruction and work through the dichotomous key will all the students participating.

If you do not have a class website / laptops or iPads you could print the slides out and use them as task cards set up in small groups around your class like centers.

You could also print out handouts with a few slides on each page for the students to use. 
This activity has quite a few different ways it can be implemented into your classroom. 

Cheating in 2015...

 The fall of 2015 marks the beginning of my fifteenth year teaching. I have seen all sorts of elaborate schemes that students do in order to “get over” on actually doing their work. Now in the age of technology students stop at very little to do the least amount of work possible.

We all know that we have students who have mastered Googling their answers and with the new policy of BYOD (bring your own device), it is hard to always catch the culprits red-handed. Yet most veteran teachers still do, while shaking our heads that we have NEVER seen that one before! J

I learned quite a few years ago that I can no longer go online and download quick worksheets to share with my classes or leave as sub lessons, because my students do the same thing. I can tell because many keys floating on the web have mistakes, and ironically my students copy down the same mistakes.

I am ok with the way things have evolved, it has all worked in my favor though. I have always been a teacher who enjoys creating her own resources, so I get to do more of that.  Although time restraints do make it difficult I am satisfied that my students actually have to work to get the right answer on papers I am planning on grading. I can be neurotic so I may make multiple problem sets and hand different class periods or groups within the class a different set of problems. I let the class know there is no point is asking around, no one will have the same answer.

I recently just finished up a lesson called Dimensional Analysis: Zombie Survival. My students had work through a series of problems in order to escape the mob of zombies headed their way once the class bell rang. The students had to show me all their work and have the equation in the correct dimensional analysis format. The kids fussed a little or a lot. J Some thought they were smarter than me and ran to google for the answers. These tactics only wasted their time and once the class bell rang, those groups were eaten.

Some of students groups were successful. They tackled the math problems head on. The extra problem thrown at them as a surprise did little to hinder their progression. Other groups looked over to see if they could get a glimpse of a corner of the page. However, I warned all the kids that in a true zombie apocalypse it is each group for their own.

The students challenged me on whether such an event could ever truly happen. Well, I asked what do you think life was like after the plague? A hurricane? An earthquake or tsunami? We never know how life may change suddenly and your survival skills need to kick in. Sadly I did have a few kids give up and say they would rather just die. I told them, “Well, thank you for your sacrifice because many of us would like to live.”  

The next day when I met with my classes, I gave them 30 more minutes I told the groups who had been eaten they were actually hiding in a cave and would have 30 minutes to get out. I am aware that by this point lots of photos were taken and passed around. That did not help though since you have to show me all your work and explain your method. Only groups who finished on the first day received 100’s the other students had lower scores depending on how many answers they got right.

Overall it was a successful activity. It was nice to see the kids engaged. I will not let the self-sacrificed spoil the bunch. I know the kids cheat, google, take pics, snap-chat and it is making me become a more creative teacher. I look forward to designing more activities like this as the school year progresses. 

For teachers who are honestly strapped for time, you can also visit these websites to find great resources and innovative ideas for your classroom: 

Teachers Pay Teachers, TES, TeacherNotebook or Edmodo 

Lets keep our students guessing!