Getting students engaged with a lesson can be the hardest thing about teaching. You can come up with the most engaging things possible, and then realize that it will cost way too much to actually carry out. Obviously, we can’t bring in exotic zoo animals to our class every day, but there are plenty of things we can do.
Many teachers use videos or movie clips to start class, but just have students watch them to watch them. By using PlayPosit teachers are able to add in questions at specific points in videos. Students have to answer these questions before they can move on in the video. This tool helps use both an engaging video as well as a formative assessment in the questions.
Here is an example of a “bulb” made for the introduction to ecosystems: https://www.playposit.com/share/405500/760313
Brain teasers can be used to just get your students talking and thinking. Some days your students are going to come into your class just tired and very unmotivated. By giving them a brain teaser, they are engaged and have to pull on every piece of knowledge you have.
Brain teasers can be word play like the ones above, or they can be more story like.
Science in the news
This one could be hit or miss with the whole engaging thing. But, I think it is important and can really help students appreciate what is going on around them. You could do this by picking a news article that has science involved, or you could give students a choice between multiple and have them pick one that they want to talk about in class.
One resource for this is the science news section of Google.
We get it. Students love their phones. We hate when they use their phone. But what if we find a way to let them use their phone in a that they can learn from it while still being engaged?
You could create polls on Twitter while posing a hard question or a controversial question which could lead to a class discussion after taking it.
Patriots or Falcons? #SuperBowl
— polls (@polls) February 5, 2017
You could have students look up a recent National Geographic or other science related user and find ways that the picture relates to the topic you are currently learning about.
Other free(ish) resources!!!
Phet Simulations allow students to manipulate variables and see what happens quicker than if they were actually conducting the experiments themselves.
- Each simulation has a “For Teachers” section that has lesson plans and worksheets made by other teachers. These lesson plans are free for registered uses and registration is free!
Edheads is not a completely free website. There are a few free simulations like a hip replacement, sickle cell DNA, and trauma that you can use without registration. If you have 30 or more students, you could purchase the website for $30 dollars and have up to 250 students use it.
- Each game on this website also has a teacher resources section that has worksheets and even a quiz
- The website also breaks its games into grade levels so you can pick appropriate games for your students
This blog has a whole list of different interactive websites that are free or low cost that science teachers can use! They are mainly geared towards Life science, but they are awesome!
The Biology Corner
The biology corner is a website with a bunch of free lesson plans and worksheets. I am not completely sure how engaging or fun these activities would be because I have never used them in practice, but hey, free is free my friends.
Teachers Pay Teachers
Teachers Pay Teachers is another website that has a bank of lesson plans, activities, labs, and worksheets. The catch: they aren’t free. That’s the whole “pay teachers” part. But, the majority of the lessons are not that expensive and once you buy them you have it forever.
Model Lesson Plan
- Have students take out their phones or computers and answer your twitter poll with the question “Would you want to know if you have a genetic disorder that you could pass on to your children?”
- If they don’t have a twitter account and do not want to make one, have them answer it on a piece of paper
- After the class has all responded engage then in a class discussion about why they would want to know or why they would not want to know
- Have students complete the Sickle Cell DNA interactive from Edhead
- This should take about 30 minutes
- Give students a short lecture of genetic diseases and pedigrees
- Have students create an infographic on one of the following genetic disorders
- Huntington’s Disease
- Cri du Chat syndrome
- Tay-Sachs Disease
- Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy
- Other: a student can pick a disease they are interested in as long as they check with you first and if it’s genetic
- This infographic should include the following
- Sex linked/ autosomal?
- How common is it?
- What are the symptoms?
- Personal opinion: would you want to find out if you are a carrier to be able to prevent passing the disease to your child even if it meant you will know you are going to die earlier than expected?
- After students are done, have everyone do a “gallery walk” to look at the other disease their classmates have researched
- This should be done in 2 class periods, 1 for research and 1 for the gallery walk
- Have another discussion after the gallery walk to discuss the pros and cons of knowing you have a genetic disease
- Have students write a letter to an imaginary family member who is pregnant or their wife is pregnant. The couple has been contemplating getting screened for genetic disorders to know if they can pass something on to their future child.
- The students should write a letter to their family member stating why they should or why they should not get genetically screened.
- This does not have to be for a big grade, you should just check that students have formed their own opinion and used evidence to back it up
The way I have the science in the news set up I will have already gone through and picked reliable articles. I do want to help them learn what sites are reliable and how to decide, but for this activity I just want it to be a quick, fun reading and not discussing the reliability of the article. I will help students discern real and fake articles, but that would definitely be a whole separate lesson.
Wonderful resources and ideas!
I do have one suggestion regarding the “current news” activity: if you could provide a short info sheet that helps students practice critiquing the reliability of articles, I think they could benefit from learning how to identify legitimate sources, and how to know when something is “fake news,” so to speak. I think it is a great way to engage students! Great blog!
As soon as I realized where I was going for this topic, I knew I needed to include that video somewhere. That student completely encompasses what it means to be engaged. Yes, it was because there were so many new animals, but why can’t we do that with something else?
Great post. I am not sure if it was on purpose or not, but I appreciate how engaging your first part of the blog is! Other than that you’ve provided some wonderful examples, as well as some insight into or society on engaging, budget friendly ways we can engage our students.