Circuit Drawings and Squishy Circuits

The end of the year is coming up very quickly. Exams are just around the corner for my Grade 10s and 11s! I can’t believe that my third year of teaching up north is already coming to an end.

In science, we are wrapping up our course with the electricity unit. I know I was initially intimidated when I started teaching this course 4 years ago. I never learned much about electricity as a high school student in Ontario; only when I started teaching it did I realize how easy and fun it was!

For a third year in a row, I got up early one morning, cooked up a giant batch of conductive dough, dug up my secret stash of AA batteries and introduced “squishy circuits” to my students. It’s such a fun activity to break the ice with. I’ve put out circuits in the past and have actually had students refuse to touch the equipment. However, conductive dough is colourful*, easy to handle and non-intimidating, which is perfect if you are having issues engaging students**.

Here a few photos of the circuits that they made:

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After they got some “sandbox time”, we reviewed schematic diagrams today. They also got the chance to study the electrical symbols through a set of digital flash cards on Quizlet.

This morning, while I was reviewing series and parallel circuits, I got a bit carried away with my Smartboard drawing …

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Altogether, it’s been a great week so far!! I’ll be sad when my students graduate!

*I spice it up with some food colouring.

**I struggle with lack of engagement in science with my female population.

How To Have a Great Friday: Get Kids in the Lab

Fridays can sometimes feel tough for teachers and students, but on many occasions, I’ve found this to be a great opportunity to get the most work out of your kids.

To be clear, I don’t teach any new concepts during the last day of the week, but I use this time to consolidate vocabulary and ideas we’d learned through the beginning of the week.

As a science teacher, is that I tend to put lab days on Thursdays or Fridays. I will often set up the lab so that students must walk and move from station to station. A bit of movement helps keep them focused and shake off any excess nervous energy too! It also encourages social interaction with a variety of peers, as well as provide opportunities for students to help one another. Plus, at a glance, you can see who is on task and who is not!

Today, we worked on one of my favourite technology labs in the Grade 11 Science and Technology course. This lab actually comes straight out of the Observatory textbook and focuses on identifying links in mechanical objects. Students are given the period to practice choosing four pairs of terms:

  • flexible – rigid
  • direct – indirect
  • complete – partial
  • removable -non-removable

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Most of the terms are fairly straightforward and it doesn’t take long for them to catch on. I will let them work individually or in pairs and pop around the classroom, collecting anecdotal data to check for comprehension. When doing so, I often encourage them to answer verbally, just to get that oral-aural connection going. This is extremely important for English Language Learners, as my students speak Cree as their first language. The technology unit comprises of a lot of new terms, so it’s important they apply each set of words and become familiar with them.

If a student does answer incorrectly when I’m speaking with them, I’ll ask the student to check their foldable* (pictured above). The definition for each term is written inside and I’ll ask the question again until they give the correct answer.

Usually after the set-up, a quick check around the classroom and I see that they’re focused, at least I can take the rest of the period and just have a little tea break at my desk!

Easy end of the day activity! Win win!

*We created these on Wednesday, just two days beforehand.