Saturday, October 20, 2012

Science Rotations in the Primary Classroom

My colleagues and I decided earlier in the school year to teach our science content as a team. In my building we have four first grade teachers. We would use our first science unit, Weather Watchers, to rotate our first graders around four different lessons. We chose Friday as Science Day. Friday is the day we have no special classes and it makes for a very long afternoon of teaching and learning. Additionally, we have to teach this unit during the fall and winter in that it's a weather unit and many of the lessons require observing the weather and using snow (which we didn't get much of last winter here in Michigan).

Last Friday, was our first rotation day. Each of us would teach one of the first 4 lessons. I was given Lesson 1, another teacher was given Lesson 2, and so on. Each of us taught our particular lesson to our own students on Thursday. On Friday we would only need to teach 3 lessons having taught our own students the day before. One of the benefits to teaching rotation style is that each teacher needs to prepare and set up for one lesson rather than 4 different lessons. Our rotations consisted of three sessions that were 35 minutes long with a 15 minute recess in between the second and third rotation. We also scheduled in transition time of 5 minutes between each rotation. The schedule looked something like this:

Rotation 1: 1:15-1:50
Transition: 1:50-1:55
Rotation 2: 1:55-2:30
Recess: 2:30-2:50
Transition: 2:50-2:55
Rotation 3: 2:55-3:30
Transition back to homeroom: 3:30-3:35

 Our first rotation day was exhausting!  There were some things to consider and a few minor problems to work out.  I've listed them below:

  • Two of the teachers didn't have their students wear name tags-Interacting with students is more difficult when you don't know their names.
  • One of the teachers sent her students with pencils-The kids were playing with them during my lesson and were very distracted.
  • Behavior was not at it's best.  Students interrupted the lesson because they wanted to use the bathroom, some were arguing over where they would sit, and several were playing around and not following directions.
  • We have a lot of content to teach in 35 minutes and every minute counts.
Honestly, I wanted to throw in the towel.  It would be so much easier to teach my own students and a lot less stressful.  However, I'm not one to give up so easily.  I had committed to trying the rotations and I wanted to see this through to the end.  What we needed was to make a few adjustments.  These are the adjustments we made prior to our second rotation day:
  • Everyone would remember to have name tags for their students.
  • Each of us would have our students use the bathroom prior to rotation time.
  • Students would not come with pencils since each of us have plenty in our classrooms
  • We would provide students with an incentive to maintain good behavior during the rotations
What would that incentive be?  McGregor Bucks!
What are McGregor Bucks and how do they work?

We have a school-wide behavior program already in place.  In that plan, student get guiding reminders (4 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon) to help them monitor and regulate their behavior.  When a student receives her 4th reminder (for blurting, not following directions, disrespectful behavior, unsafe activity, etc.) they receive a Student Learning Form that is sent home and explains their reminders.  Our "McGregor Bucks" are meant to work within our behavior program.  For our Science rotations, I copied a strip of four, one dollar bills on green paper with our school name (McGregor) written on the front of each one.  We stapled the strip in the back of each students' Science Notebook.  Each time a child was given a reminder, the teacher crossed out one of the bucks.  When the students returned to their homerooms, they were given a treat or reward if they had at least 1 or 2 bucks that were not crossed off.  Treats/rewards included stickers, candy, a classroom celebration to occur on another day, etc.  I'm somewhat old school.  I gave my students a piece of candy for each McGregor Buck that was not crossed off.  All of my students got 4 pieces of candy and one of my students got 3 pieces.  My most difficult to manage student was able to redeem all 4 of his McGregor Bucks and was hooked on the Bucks from the start.  The McGregor Bucks became a visible tool to help them regulate their own behavior.

I have to say that our second Science Rotation Day was a huge success.  The students were exposed to 4 different teachers with different teaching styles, my colleagues and I have new relationships with the other first graders in our building, the students learned a lot of content and had fun in the process.  Our science rotations not only demonstrate best practices in teaching, they are also great examples of collaboration, teamwork and school community.  It's also a reminder of how important it is for educators to work smarter and not harder.  We're already working so very hard these days.  Aren't we?

How are you teaching science in your classroom, grade level, or building?  Do you have an unique way of teaching science?  Leave a comment below.  I would love your input.

1 comment:

  1. I just love your ideas and all that you share. I have nominated you for a Liebster Award. Check it out: Teaching is Elementary