Thursday, January 8, 2015

Make a Bad Lesson Good

Good Morning Everyone!
Today is a ......... Wait for it......

I know many of my blogger friends who have wind chills lower than ours here is Ohio are still in school but I think EVERY school is Ohio is closed.

Sooooo I thought a perfect day to write a post on my blog. 
Also I had a blooper of a lesson yesterday with my fifth grade classes & what a perfect was to reflect on how to make it better.  Both classes you are saying to yourself...yep both! One was worst then the other though.

We are currently finishing up food chains, food webs & energy pyramids.  I had the kids do a lab on yeast which is a decomposer.  You know the one where they blow a balloon up....

First I told the classes that it will take 5 - 10 minutes for anything to happen.  Well the "instant gratification" generation could not stand to wait. They were shaking and squeezing the bottles and getting all upset that "nothing" was happening.  Vinegar & baking soda has ruined the wait time.  Ugh!  It was wonderful to hear the "yeah" where it did start to work & the excitement when the balloon kept getting bigger.

I also assigned jobs & went over what they were before we started.....that was a waste of time.  Nope they did not stick to their jobs especially for the supply getter (gets, cleans up & puts away all supplies) & lab assistant (preformes the experiment) jobs.  Everyone in the group was assigned a job. That's was one of my biggest problems with the lesson. 

The supply getter was suppose to take the balloon off in the bathroom (I do not have a sink in my room.) and pour the watery yeast mixture down the drain & then rinse the sink.  Half the class was in the bathroom "helping" not just the "supply getters!"  GRRRRRRR! You can imagine how that unsupervised making their own experiments (turning the bottle upside down & squeezing the balloon & bottle until it does exploded) & making a big mess.  GRRRRR!

So I do not want to totally throw out the lesson because I think it is a great experiment.

1.  I need to do the experiment as a demo and have the class research the answers to the questions I posed while waiting for the yeast to activate.  How is yeast similar & different to a green plant?  How does Baker's yeast work?  How is yeast a decomposer?  What does it decompose?

2.  Or have the class research the questions above.  Then assign each group member a job and really stress if the jobs are not followed the non-followers will lose a privilege.  Stand at the door so only the "supply getter" leaves.  Walk around and "grade" how they are doing their jobs.

Tomorrow is damage control with this lab.

 First I am going to have the kids reflect on how they could have made this experiment better.  Go over how important jobs are in a lab.  This is a learning experience for everyone.

Then discuss the questions I posed which will be written in their notebooks. 

I reflect daily on my lessons...what went well, what I can do to improve & what I am going to do tomorrow.

What do you do to control labs?  I would love to hear your input on how I could improve the lab.

If you are home...enjoy!  If not stay warm & safe!



  1. Sometimes the lessons that seem to go the worst, turn out to be the most memorable and best lessons you teach all year. There is something about seeing that things don't always go as planned that helps the kids really tune in at a different level. Hope you are staying warm!

    Mrs. D
    The Third Wheel

  2. Some years a lesson just sucks, yet with another years class it would go like a dream, its just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. It will be interesting to see if they did actually notice what happened during the experiment to do the follow up activities, cause they may have learnt more than you thought. Maybe an activity need to be included to fill in that wait time so they can still do their own experiments. And yes tell them how well they do their jobs is part of the grade cause that's how a lab works - even if you don't really - if they think it is then they are more likely to adhere to what they are assigned and they wont want helpers. At the end of the day every teacher has a lesson that they stand back and just want shout 'REALLY', shake it off and enjoy the snow day :)

  3. Recognizing that it needs tweaking is always the first step. I would do this lab as a demonstration and then have students work on figuring out what is going on. Check out this website for additional questions your students could be working on. Good luck getting everyone on the right track!

    4th Grade Dynamic Duo


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