JuicyGeoGossip

Friday, November 24, 2006

Big Idea Concept

The “big idea” concept is definitely something new for all of us. To me, it seems like teaching thinking skill in a very refreshing way. This approach requires the teacher to have a sound content knowledge in order to weasel out the key concept for the students.

We have to first find the “big idea” which must be something that the students can easily relate to and something that they can easily understand and recognize. Perhaps, inductive enquiry approach is a good way to get students thinking and for them to construct their own understanding. In this way, they tend to retain knowledge better and learn faster in a more meaningful way. This may make learning more independent and more interesting. Some students find that geography is about memorizing facts and may find the subject bored and dull. Perhaps with concept teaching, students can see the bigger picture and relate it to their daily activites, etc. Once the concept is understood, there is no need to regurgitate information. This may aid them to answer questions with understanding and not memorization.

In this concept teaching approach, providing scaffolds for students is very impt, we can do so by listing facts and then abstract concepts and finally provide an overarching framework which cuts across a variety of topics. Instead of providing them with hard cold facts, we should teach them how to learn. Teaching them to think and to learn geography is tantamount to teaching them to fish. Thus we should help students see the big pictures by relating geog to their daily lives and activites.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Webquest Reflection

Finally finished our webquest! Really feel a sense of accomplishment, the feel good factor after completing this task. Anyway, Yunbing and I choose the topic on Coast because we are poor in this topic so this’ll force us to read up more on coasts and top up our content knowledge. We have chosen to focus on coast management issues since Singapore is surrounded by water bodies. Thus we decided to choose a real case study to make our task more authentic.

Webquest helps students to learn and gather information outside their syllabus and promotes a thinking classroom in school as webquest promotes problem based learning. I feel that webquest meets the aim of Teach Less Learn More scheme where students actually learn more through solving authentic task. It is an interesting way to learn; students may not feel compelled as the task is not taken from textbook but from websites.

We find that Webquest is similar to problem based learning where we have to create a problem for students to solve. We manage to find this video “line of defence” which shows the rate of erosion in Suffolk in a year. Flags are planted along the coast line to investigate the rate of erosion. It is really an interesting video and students could see for themselves the power of coastal erosion. Our objective is to let students understand the plight of the residents in that area and come to a conclusive decision whether coastal protection strategies are essential and what types of coastal protection strategies could be used if it is essential. Having a more open ended task, the students would have to come up with their own arguments on whether to protect the coasts and what types of protection strategies (both man-made and natural) should be employed. To educate them that protection works are expensive we included in our webquest cost estimation for their suggested strategies. They have to come up with a ten year plan to protect their coast from erosion. This will let them think further that coastal erosion management cannot be a short term solution but involves long term planning. We did take into account that some may feel that coastal erosion cannot be stopped then why bother to waste so much money to protect the coast. Thus we have a 3rd group who is against coastal protection and they have to find another coastal location to convince the other residents to move out to a new coastal location. The purpose of doing this is to make the students think where to locate your home in coastal area, preferably not on erosional coast but perhaps on depositional coast or further away from the coasts. In this webquest, the different groups are required to convince their fellow residents that their protection plan is the best. In doing so, students will have to provide reasons and justify their plan.

It is good that students would be inspired to find information on their own and education is at a click of a mouse. This may also surfaced another issue, what about those students who do not have computer at home, I felt that this group of students may be disadvantaged in a way. Perhaps, we should not set this task as homework but give them time to complete in class or set it as a holiday assignments so that this group of students have more time to gain access to the internet. Hopefully webquest can help students think that learning geography doesn’t mean memorizing information but help them to answer questions with understanding.

http://www.geocities.com/juicygeogossip/overview.html

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Fieldwork Package Reflection

Initially, a few of us wanted to do an overseas fieldwork package. Intended to go kota Tinggi and Desaru. We approached Mr Yee and asked him for suggestion and he told us to email his friend Prof Teh who is an expert in physical geography in Malaysia. He sent us an email which show pictures of landforms and coral reef and i tried uploading on my blog but the pictures didnt appear.

Due to many factors, coordination with agency, time constraint, endless assignments, etc, we have to give this fieldtrip a miss. The seven of us decided to do a local fieldtrip thinking of the fieldtrips that Mr Yee conducts. He brought us to Bukit Timah, Labrador Park and Pasir Ris Park. Since the other group has decided on Coast, our group then choose Vegetation. Partly because Mel and I did vegetation for our ICT project, so we have researched quite abit. Our group decided to bring the students to Bukit Timah tropical rainforest but we feel that this may be a see see look look fieldtrip for them. Therefore, we decided to compare the tropical rainforest with mangrove.

We went down to Sungei Buloh Mangrove Reserve; most of the trails are at least 2km, we decided to take the students on a boardwalk trail. The NPark official told us that the boardwalk has everything that the students need to know. This trail is roughly 600-800m long with around 25-30 learning stations. We do find similarity between mangrove and rainforest, example: ferns and liana. We covered the trail in 1 ½ hours with lotsa photo taking. Towards the end of the trail, we find that some fauna and flora keeps repeating, we then decided to do a recap session towards the end so that students can have a clearer impression.

We actually plan to bring students to both forest and mangrove on the same day but after the mangrove trail we find it quite tiring and quite a lot to cover. We decided to conduct the field trip on 2 consecutive days. Our considerations include how to conduct a fieldtrip for 40 students in the class. How are we going to bring 40 students to rainforest and conduct lesson in the field? We find it hard to gather 40 students and listen to the teacher in both rainforest and mangrove. WE are assuming that only 1 or 2 teachers are conducting the field trip. We decided to split the class into 2 groups of 20 and conduct the fieldwork. Ideally, we feel that students shd get into group of 10 and the fieldwork can be conducted in the form of a few learning station but that will mean one or two groups of students may at times have no teacher’s supervision. We find that it might b unwise to leave students unattended; therefore we have to compromise with the number of students per group. We also thought of the idea of engaging guides to conduct the fieldtrip. At Sungei Buloh Mangrove, there is actually a guided tour which cost I think 50-100bucks. We were thinking teachers can plan the activities and the worksheet for the students to guide them to discover certain things in both mangrove n forest. Perhaps, we can engage the guided tour services to help us solve the issue of large group in the field. We designed our worksheet in the form of small booklet which we thought is more personal. We leave ample space in the booklet for them to construct their own understanding of both mangrove and forest. We find that worksheet can be very dull and very task oriented. The booklet is meant for them to keep, something like a field notebook which we don’t intend to collect but just briefly go through the main points with them in class. I quite like the notebook idea where students can deco this notebook and make it personal. I still keep my field notebook and I thought this might be useful for the students too.

Fieldtrip is definitely an important aspect of geography and a fact discovered by a child for himself through his direct observation in the field becomes a part of his being and is infinitely more than the same fact learned from textbook. Fieldwork in geography provides armchair geographers like us and students in classroom with the opportunity of studying the local environment around us which I thought will make learning more meaningful and enriching. It is only by being there in the field that one is able to grasp the meaning of distance, scale and dimensions of landscape elements. For example a picture of Grand Canyon, no matter how well taken, can neva communicate the awesome and magnificent experience which one gets when you see the real landform. Conducting fieldtrip can be daunting but worthwhile if students can remember for life.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Post Micro Teaching Thoughts

The much anticipated micro teaching is finally over! It’s a surprise for me definitely. During my lesson planning, I was thinking more of the pedagogic content part and never think of classroom management issues. Too used to Mr Yee’s micro teaching lessons. I thought we were quite bad in terms of misbehaviour during some of the micro teaching sessions under Mr Yee.

When I was out of the class, I thought can’t be that bad since this is the first session under Kenneth. In my mind, I was like how bad could it be. I try to recall my enhanced school experiences where I did encounter a few real bad misbehaviours in class and I did manage to handle so I try to calm myself down by telling myself my classmates won’t be as badly behaved. Haha. I was wrong. I totally didn’t expect the moment I step into the class, my so called students will start to display bad attitudes. I felt helpless when they just refused to co operate and give me answer to my recap questions. At that moment, I don’t feel like dwelling on this issue and I just want to move on with my lessons. If I don’t go on, they won’t get much out of this lesson so I decided to try again by providing some hints for them. They still refuse to co operate, my last resort is to provide answer for them and repeat those answer so that at least they have some ideas about the previous lesson before moving on to today’s lesson.

The types of misbehaviour during micro teaching:
Latifah did put me in a difficult position when she displays defiance and rudeness as the class is watching how I’ll deal with her. I know that she is discontented with her marks and attribute the blame on me. The way she put me down with her words in front of the class did make me feel a bit uncomfortable. Personally, I feel that I’ll not fight back or say anything harsh just to save my face. We should try to understand why she is behaving in this way and tackle the root of the problem. That’s also why when Yunbing tore my worksheet, I prefer to go up to her and talk to her nicely. At that moment, I was really shocked. I felt that I didn’t do anything to provoke her to tear my worksheet. The next thing that came to my mind is that perhaps this student may have some personal issues outside class. Thus by scolding her in front of the class won’t help the situation and I feel by doing so may further provoke her to do something more drastic which I do not want. Thus I told her like yunbing is there anything wrong with you today? You are normally not like that. She refuted and say “what? I’m always like that one ma. You don’t know meh?” Such words reflect that the student has always been labeled by others as problematic. Thus I thou when u tell students normally u don’t behave in such manner will send out the message that now you are not picking on them but on their misbehavour. In my ESE, I try not to distract the class by scolding students who disrupt my lesson. I’ll just pause my lesson and ask that student are ready to move on? If he/she still continues, I’ll ask them to help me answer some questions. At the end of the class, I will go up to them and ask them what happen today? Normally they’ll say nothing and keep quiet. I’ll continue to say normally you are not like that, so I don’t expect this kind of behaviour the next lesson. Is that ok? I’ll wait till they nod their head or say yes. I find that this works and students won’t feel that you are picking on them as you try to talk to them privately instead of humiliating them in front of their classmates.

The class in general is unhappy with me and keeps distracting my lesson by asking irrelevant questions. Through out the lesson, whatever I say the students will always pick on me and show me bad attitude. I think this is a very serious problem as it is going to be a lose-lose situation for both teacher and students. They refuse to learn and the teacher may find it hard and unmotivated to teach. The teacher needs to build rapport with the students by trying to know them personally.

Some mistakes I made during micro teaching:
As the class keeps giving me problems such as throwing their answer in the form of crushed paper. At that moment, I just hope students can learn something out of this lesson so I decided to do a summary of main points covered in class. I thought some incentives may help so I decided to dismiss students who can give me one learning point for this lesson. After I said that, I realize it is a mistake but I just can’t take back my words as I know they are going to pick on me and say that I always don’t keep my promises which I do not want. I just have to carry on from there. The table that I gave to the students may be overloaded with information, should have leave out some details. The quality of that worksheet should be improved. Overall, I find this micro teaching session meaningful. I hope I’ll not encounter such a class. Throughout the whole period, there’s no moment without misbehaviours. I hope my worst bunch of students are you guys. Haha.