Much effort was put into establishing a curriculum for General Chemistry. Various instructional materials, methods, and techniques were implemented to determine best practice for the level of student.
Content and curriculum was established prior to beginning the school year. Materials were gathered as well. Students followed a chemistry curriculum beginning with the basis of matter and the atom and ending with a unit on hazardous waste. We then switched to studying forensic science.
This was my first year teaching a regular high school class. Though I tried to be as prepared as possible I did not anticipate many of the problems I encountered including (but not limited too) poor student attendance, lack of motivation, and low level of competency. For much of the school year it was common for my class of 12 to be missing 3 to 6 students on any given day, and not always the same students. This made a traditional classroom environment difficult and left me in a paradox because the students thrived best under a controlled "traditional" setting, but this was nearly impossible due to attendance issues. Notes given one day would need to be given again the next due to absenses. Having students work at a more self-directed pace was attempted and failed because of lack of intrinsic motivation of the student.
After the first quarter I moved the class to my classroom in the middle school wing and adopted a more traditional approach with a heavy emphasis on virtual labs and projects. Motivation was a factor in students completing several projects; specifically completing projects of quality. Internet projects and virtual labs were preferable since students who were absent could complete them outside of class. The majority of wet chemistry style labs were disasters.
I was surprised at the lack of progress students had made since 8th grade in reading, writing, and math. After a year with the class I understand better their level of skills. I intended to limit the amount and difficulty of math in the curriculum, but I should also have limited the reading level. I found 8th grade level materials to be appropriate.
Third quarter I tried to remotivate students by beginning a unit of forensic science. Most students were noticeably more motivated than before. I found numerous online resources to help flesh out the curriculum.
I was going to use the above text at the beginning of the year. I did use it for the first month. I found the reading level to be too high for the majority of students in class.
Instead of text based instruction I used notes and short readings from an intermediate level text.
After the third quarter I decided to begin a unit on Forensic Science to try and motivate students. I based my curriculum on materials from this site. Students examined several types of evidence during the unit. For the final exam students had to describe how they would collect, process, and use three different forms of evidence based on a real murder case.
Attendance was a factor in class success. Below are my 12 remaining students, their overall average, and total absences. The emphasis is not so much that poor attendance contributes to poor grades, but that consistent directed instruction is challenging when a quarter of the class is consistently absent.
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