WELCOME to Lab In Every Lesson!
I'm Lisa, creator of the student centered Lab In Every Lesson approach to teaching chemistry (or any secondary science). I'm so glad you've found me here or in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!
The lessons and learning resources I've prepared and posted in my store represent a labor of love, tons of trial and error as well as relentless research. I want you to understand how each of them was conceived, how it fits into the larger curriculum and why each component included is critical to continuous student success. Look to my blog for those in-depth descriptions and self-reflections.
While I strongly encourage you to leave comments and ideas on each blog article, I've setup a closely monitored community of professionals where I'll also be posting my blog articles. There, I'll be better able to answer any questions you have about my work, you can share with me and others about your work and we all can support one another as the time passes. So, whenever you're stuck, want to vent about an impossible lesson or just taught the best lesson ever (!) visit us to share it! There are no membership fees for this service, just camaraderie.
Read on to learn more about me and the student centered instructional strategies for science I promote, use and teach.
My Professional Journey
In this information age, I consider resumes to be such a formality! They are almost standardized and undoubtedly boring to read. But, we need some way to assess credibility. I get it.
For those of you who love the bullet points that summarize all the time and angst invested in establishing a career, you can find a web version of my resume here.
If you find value in the lesser-known facts about people, like their childhood ambitions, their re-routed plans, their successes and failures, their passions and pitfalls, then this video may be time better spent.
Pain That Came Before Gain
Being a chemistry teacher has undoubtedly been my favorite job, and it is the one to which I remain fully committed. However, it's ridiculously more difficult that I had ever imagined it would be!
When I embarked upon this second career, I admittedly expected to endure a challenging first year delivering lessons each day and preparing chemistry lessons each night. After that, I assumed I'd work on autopilot, delivering chemistry lessons each day and grading a few nights a week. Since the content would never change, though, I assumed my lesson plans could be used over and over and over again.
Then, I signed on to teach for a virtual, cyber charter school where both the staff and students work from home. Some might assume that the most challenging aspect of this position would be the obvious limitations: I needed to convey complex concepts without the benefit of tangible manipulatives while managing a classroom without the benefit of observing body language or establishing eye contact. Sure, omitting the wet lab portion of a chemistry course is unsettling. But, the task most difficult for me was definitely competing for the attention and interest of an at-risk population of teenagers wrought with often complex distractions in their home and personal lives.
Suddenly, it wasn't content but "engagement" that became the obstacle d'jour! Each day, upon reflection, my lessons never felt sufficient to truly support student success. Each year, I'd reinvent the wheel with the hope of realizing greater gains the next time around. Instructional coaching helped me a bit. Being required to structure lessons in a specific way to satisfy the requirements of various annual evaluation criteria also improved my strategies. [Remember -- I was just starting out! Any suggestion was a good suggestion!]
The 2018-2019 academic year was the only year since I started teaching in 2010 that I've ever reused my lesson plans, and it was maddening! I struggled more than ever to experience lively class periods where students showed interest and participated in some capacity. Last year, my students would rarely do me the courtesy of saying the most simple, "Hello". I didn't feel frustrated about this. I felt failure.
Visible Learning Changed Everything
During the summer that followed, I read the book, Visible Learning for Science: What Works Best to Optimize Student Learning by John Almarode, Nancy Frey, Douglas B. Fisher and John Hattie. To say I was inspired by the taxonomies, pedagogies and teaching strategies presented throughout the work is an understatement! They exemplified the idea that science transcends academics, noting that "having some understanding of science is part of being an informed citizen" and so students must "think critically about claims that are made in the media and popular culture" long after they have left the schoolyard. This philosophy is one which I had intended to realize long ago when I made the decision to embark upon a career in teaching. It felt like I was holding the standard operating procedure for becoming the teacher I had always thought I would be!
As I reviewed my own live session recordings (remember, I teach for a cyber school and we record every class period) concurrent to studying this text, the areas in which I could improve seemed very apparent to me. Specifically, I thought I had been teaching with inquiry strategies, but I became aware that my classroom was very teacher-centered. I provided information and visual resources; student engagement was limited to formative assessment through scaffolded questioning and it was always directed at the whole group. Also,
I sometimes wish I could have a more accepting spirit. I'm learning to embrace and celebrate the fact that I don't.
though I believed my planning and preparation to have always been thorough, I realized that my objectives should have been more clear and relatable. Finally, aside from polling results I'd publish on the whiteboard, I rarely collected meaningful artifacts that demonstrated true student learning. These three areas span every main aspect of teaching: lesson planning, direct instruction and assessment.
So, for the 2019-2020 academic year, I set out to do the following:
prepare clear learning intentions and success criteria for each lesson
incorporate discovery activities into each lesson to ensure students are aware and active during class time
employ a variety of strategies beyond scaffolded questioning to ensure each student was able to achieve mastery
Paying It Forward
I am relentless in my quest to be the best chemistry teacher I can be.
I am so appreciative of the savvy creative groups who work tirelessly to develop their own libraries of FREE, accessible, accurate, dynamic simulations of microscopic phenomena from which students can more easily understand complex scientific content.
The lessons and resources in my store, this blog, the forum and, eventually, professional development short-courses, have been designed to nurture the growth of a larger community of aspiring and established science teachers as they seek to serve with excellence in their respective programs. Additionally, it's my intent to enthusiastically support gracious donations to the amazing technology groups who have prepared and continue to improve upon amazing technology applications which allows us to provide a Lab In Every Lesson to our students.