"Student Teaching" in the Eighth-Grade Science Classroom

By Bruck, Laura | Science Scope, January 2013 | Go to article overview

"Student Teaching" in the Eighth-Grade Science Classroom


Bruck, Laura, Science Scope


Our school regularly hosts student teachers and, as a result, our student population is accustomed to seeing them in classrooms. One Monday, I announced to my class that they would soon be meeting my new student teachers. "Who is the student teacher?" a student inquired. "I'm glad you asked," I replied. "You are!" Immediately, the classroom began to buzz. Had I lost my mind? Was I kidding? It was 30 seconds into the project, and students were already excited.

Most students have no way of understanding what the process of teaching is like. In particular, they don't realize that teaching provides us with an opportunity to deepen our understanding of what is being taught This was my inspiration for devising this assignment: If students could effectively teach the material, then it would be an indication that they had truly mastered the content The following is a project that I used in my eighth-grade classroom to engage students in a unit on surface water and water quality. It was followed by laboratory investigations to further reinforce the concepts.

This project used higher-level thinking skills, as it required students to extract key ideas from sources, summarize them, elaborate on them, and present them in a meaningful way (Bloom 1956). A current initiative for reading literacy is to integrate reading comprehension into all courses (CCSSO and NGA 2010). In addition, new national science standards call for critical thinking and analysis processes such as this to be more prevalent in science education (NRC 2012).

Project design

I feared having them teach individually might intimidate students, so I divided my classes into four "student-teaching" groups of four to five students in smaller classes and five to six students in larger classes. I strategically assigned students into groups by their personality type (introverted versus extroverted), overall performance in the class, and reading ability. Groups were designed to contain a mixture of ability levels and personalities to provide balance to the teams. On the first day of the project, each team was given an assignment page, on which students in the group were required to divide the labor of the group among the members, and state the team member(s) responsible for each task. Students turned in a copy to me and kept one for the group. This ensured that if a member of the group began to fail to contribute, students knew I had a sheet of paper outlining who would be doing what.

Each group of student teachers was responsible for understanding and teaching one of the following topics: surface water, lakes and rivers, wetland environments, or water underground, and each group was assigned a different topic so that no two groups would teach the same material to avoid repetitive lessons. Information on this material was available in our textbook, but groups were encouraged to use outside references, as well. I advised students that effective teachers understand the content they will be teaching, and I used myself as an example of the level of preparation expected of them: "When I teach, am I able to answer your questions? Am I organized? Do I have everything ready when you come to class?" This brief discussion ensured students understood that I expected them to master the material, including any difficult vocabulary words and new ideas. I told students I would be available as a resource, but I would not tell them how to structure their lesson. In addition, students were given a handout that outlined the project and expectations (Figure 1).

FIGURE 1 Introductory handout
Guidelines for your lesson
* Your lesson must teach the main points.
* Your lesson can be any format you want (lecture, hands-on activity,
  role play), however, it must include some sort of visual aid
  (pictures, video clips, etc.).
* Your lesson has to be easy to follow and clear so that other
  students can take notes. Try not to talk too fast.
* You can assign homework if you want, but your team has to grade it. … 

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