Sunday, September 22, 2013


As a teacher, I found myself on a few occasions teaching things like common sense, or how not to be foolish to some students more than science.

Teachers have an arsenal of classroom management techniques, some of mine included stopping what activity was being done and write things from the board, swapping groups, moving onto next activity, distraction, you know...the usual.

I realised however, that I was in a science classroom and I can use science to change the activity yet still using the topic or concept to say "Hey guys, get back on track," as well as "check this out, it's science, it's relevant"

Here are 3 examples of my science classroom management techniques where I got to investigate relevant science concepts as well as get the class back on task.

1. Peripheral vision
In a year 8 anatomy class, I noticed in my peripheral vision, some students were being less that model students. I stopped the activity and got them all to sit down. I asked the students to show me their best spirit fingers with their hands either side of their head about where their ears are, so that they couldn't see their hands. I asked the slowly move their hands forward (while still giving it some sparkle) until they could see their hands still looking forward.

Firstly, it is pretty amusing to see a whole class of year 8 students doing spirit fingers, and secondly, they have instantly realised that their peripheral vision is quite wide...and so is mine! I barely had to mention the fact that I could see what those students were doing. The message was effective and I got to talk about science in the process.

2. Total internal reflection
Very similar situation, but instead of using jazz hands, I used the door to the classroom that had a large glass panel in, opened in a way such that through total internal reflection, I could see what some of the students were up to. So, in a physics class on the properties of light, I could stop the class, talk about total internal reflection, then simply turn to the door and wave at the students behind me reflected from the door. Again, I didn't even need to mention the classroom management point of the excersise, that was fairly obvious, and so was the scientific one.

3. Waves
This technique wasn't really about showing the students they had done something wrong, just disrupting their disruptive behaviour. In the waves topic, I would get the students to create a mexican wave in class, complete with shouting etc! The beauty of this is that there are heaps of things like reflection, interference, refraction, speed, transverse vs longitudinal that you can do with waves. So each time I had to use the technique (which worked in terms of classroom management) I got to talk about something else to do with waves, and build upon what they had 'learnt' from last time.

I found myself looking to relevant scientific principals to make an educational point as well as a behavioural one. I think it worked too. The students would mess up less cos they weren't getting the usual teacher reaction and everyone involved got some unexpected science!

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