21 December 2011

Another chapter in the book of crazy

I've decided that if I ever have the chance to (and motivation) to write a book, that's what I am going to call it.  Sometimes my ideas are just too crazy to be believable.  Let me tell you what I did this week.

I flipped my honors chemistry class for the previous unit and it went exceptionally well.  The students seemed very eager to try a new method and were so supportive of everything that we tried.  I went back to a more traditional method for the current unit, and since I really wanted them to see the difference, I went really traditional.  Lectured for the majority of class, went too fast without a lot of examples, and did labs that did not have a clear objective.  Problem was I HATED IT!!  It was torture using a method that I had just proven does not work.  I felt so so bad for my students having put them through a week and a half of hell.

I am sitting down to write the test on Monday night and I realized that since my teaching methods had been so low level, my test was going to be almost all recall.  We made very few connections between the material which would virtually eliminate all ability to write critical thinking questions.  So, completely on a whim and not really thinking it through, I sent the following email to my students:

"During this marking period I have flipped the classroom, let you make s'mores, and made you make apple pie out of saltines.  So, why not continue the crazy behavior.  I have decided that I have no interest in giving you a "test" on Atomic Theory.  I didn't want to give it on Thursday, but since I wanted to have some fun this week, that's the only day left.  To be honest, I have been struggling with the idea of major assessments all year, hence the reason I have been making things more objective based instead of assignment based.  This unit has had three objectives:

1.  Explain where radiation comes from and why it is important to the understanding of the atom.
2.  Compare and contrast the models of the atom and explain why the Quantum Mechanical Model is the theory we use today.
3.  Identify an element based on either its electron configuration or orbital diagram.

The problem is I have to have some sort of formal assessment to prove that you have met the objectives, but I don't want to give a test.  So, I am going to let YOU decide how YOU want to prove YOU understand the material.  I am going to put no restrictions on you other than whatever you decide on must demonstrate understanding of the above objectives.  I know that some of you are freaking out right now because you have no idea what the hell I am talking about or what you are going to do.  Random ideas that are going through my head are podcasts, models, drawings, make your own test, interpretive dance, make a review game, develop a class activity, act out a skit....um I'm out.  I don't care what it is as long as it is yours and it demonstrates the above objectives."

The reception has been mixed.  All are relieved that there is no "test" this week with all the other things going on in other classes (1 student said she had 4 tests scheduled for Thursday) and this allowed them to relax a little in such a stress filled week.  But, when faced with the idea that they have to come up with their own method for demonstrating understanding, most are very concerned.  Now the ones who are embracing this and starting early have had great ideas.  A group of 4 are making a music video, 2 girls are doing an interpretive dance (totally was joking about that in the email, but they love the idea) and 1 is going to make her own test.  

They have 2 weeks to figure this out and I am excited/nervous to see the results.  

So, was this crazy enough?