Are activities really worth the time of my high school students?...YES!!!
As teachers, we are sometimes tempted to cast-aside those simple activities. You know the ones that look more like they belong in an elementary or middle school classroom, but let me encourage you to give those simple activities a second chance. Now please understand that I in no way believe high school students should be treated like little children. They should definitely be held to high standards, but some of those standards can be effectively taught and practiced with small or simple activities.
Students enter chemistry with very little chemistry knowledge. Students are aware they are drinking calcium in their milk but have no idea that this is a metal. Students know helium is used in balloons but can’t tell you it’s a nonmetal. I don’t blame students for this. Chemistry is not your everyday elementary or middle school science class. Students simply do not have a lot of exposure to chemistry terms. All this to say, students need practice with the material and activities can provide an effective practice method. In addition, until students are older the abstract concepts of chemistry are difficult for their developing minds to understand. Anything that makes those abstract concepts feel more concrete (such as an activity) is helpful for student learning. So let me just lay out a few of my arguments for using more simple activities in you chemistry classroom.
#1: High school students prefer activities to worksheets, and a more engaged student will learn more!
#2: Practice makes perfect. High school level students need practice and anything that gives practice and is engaging is always a win in my book.
#3: When doing a worksheet, my students’ goal is to complete it and turn-it in for a passing grade. When I turn something into an activity (often accepting only perfection – redo until its perfect!), students often find they can no longer just place an answer on a paper and turn-it in. Activities make it much more difficult to cop-out of the assignment.
#4: Requiring students to think about material in different formats (ie. different activities) challenges their brains and encourages students to think a little more about the questions or topic.
#5: Students can work in partners or groups on an activity, and the activity can provide excellent structure for encouraging academic conversation.
We've laid out the reasons that simple activities can be helpful and effective in the chemistry classroom, but what exactly does such an activity look like??? Read the next blog post, "Effective Simple Activities", to learn more!
Happy Teaching :)
- Founder of Chemistry with Confidence