After running a training session for Cumbria SLS I was approached by Nicola to ask if I could help her plan a lesson using FOSIL. She has known about FOSIL for a while and some of the teachers are interested which is great.
The science teacher had asked her to run a FOSIL lesson on a topic looking at the Rutherford Model. Quite rightly she was delighted that the teacher was interested, however as this was her first FOSIL lesson she didn’t really know where to start. She shared with me that she had an hour, it was year 9 and the teacher had shared with her a document that wasn’t very helpful that said that these were the learning objectives:
Identify the Rutherford (nuclear) model of an atom
Identify the location of protons, neutrons and electrons in the nuclear model
State that electrons can move between fixed energy levels within an atom
She had started to search for the Rutherford model and was thinking like most of us how she was going to teach searching for this type of information.
At this point, I decided to chat to Darryl about it because like Nicola I didn’t have a clear idea how to help.
What transpired was a real learning conversation for me. I often tell school librarians that they do not have to use the whole FOSIL cycle every time. Meaning that they should choose which part of the cycle they are going to teach. In this instance, like Nicola I would be saying that we are in the investigation stage and using our information literacy skills we would be helping students find information.
What Darryl said is that we need to think even smaller and look at the skillsets. Which skillset would we be focusing on and then he posed me several questions.
What do the students need to emerge with by the end of the lesson?
What does the Science teacher want their students to learn?
Which skillset are we going to teach?
Then he asked me if I knew what the Rutherford theory was… I laughed and said no… but if we don’t know and understand the Rutherford theory then how can we expect our students to, he said. Our role is to ensure that the students have a better understanding of the information we give them so they can make sense of it. This is our aim of this lesson.
After hearing this it made real sense to me that the skillset that would be taught in this lesson is within Investigate, but specifically looking at Strategies to make sense of information.
The final piece of the picture was about the question that the students were going to be asked during this lesson. We came up with a couple:
What is it in Science that the Rutherford model made possible?
What does the new model make possible that the old one didn’t?
I left with several things to talk to Nicola about
What was the teacher’s aim for the lesson?
What keywords would the teacher like the students to know?
If we helped the students learn what the Rutherford model was would that be a useful lesson?
Which skillset would she be teaching?
You can’t teach something unless you have an understanding of it yourself. Can you find something within your own library? Britannica, Dorling Kindersly… etc.
We need to adapt or create a graphic organiser to support the process and check for learning and understanding.
I then had a meeting with Nicola. We will continue sharing our story in the following posts.
I don’t know if it is of any help, Elizabeth, but I worked with one of our Chemistry teachers at school last September when her Year 9 classes were looking at the development of the structure of the atom. It is not quite the same, as she had different pupils investigating different scientists and their models of atomic structure, but the way she had planned her inquiry was really unusual – for science anyway – and was partly an experiment for adapting our Year 9 teaching to meet MYP requirements. The central question to be addressed in this inquiry involved the nature of matter: Is there an underlying structure that connects all matter? and the pupils were to play the part of the different scientists/their assistants in presenting their contributions to the understanding of matter and atomic structure at a historical gathering organised by the Greek philosopher and scientist Thales.
This, obviously, was planned for more than one lesson of an hour, but the progression throughout the inquiry and the way in which the pupils were given the responsibility of providing their classmates with the material for building their own knowledge of the whole topic (through a written abstract and their presentation at the gathering) in order to assess the contribution of the different scientists to our understanding of atomic structure was a great way for them to develop many skills with real purpose – few self-respecting thirteen year olds are happy to be outdone by their peers.
From a personal perspective, my involvement was predominantly with the Investigate and Construct stages – encouraging reflective note-taking from pre-selected resources using an Investigative Journal, and bringing together the information gained using a ‘Main points from my research’ type graphic organiser to decide what needed to be included in the presentation. Unfortunately, I was unable to witness the gathering, but I was told that Thales was very impressed with the learning experience for the higher-ability class, while the lower-ability students had struggled more in the presentation of their findings so had needed more assistance with constructing their overall understanding.
It is so rewarding to have the opportunity to work with teachers like this (see also references to the Year 8 Energy Resources topic/debate in the forum) and to see that there is a real desire for inquiry-based teaching and learning in school – just not everywhere!
Thanks for your ideas, Lucy! It sounds like your science project went down really well with your students. I love the idea of giving your students a character within the learning. I’m wondering if we can create something similar within our lesson. If they are looking for understanding from the scientist point of view it might just make this lesson more engaging…. I will talk to Nicola about it and will feedback on what we come up with.
Thanks both and also to Nicola for starting this off. I am also at the very early stages of understanding how to FOSILise and this is extremely helpful. It shows that the real power of this is in collaboration with teachers. I am trying to get from being inspired by, and in awe of, the work of others to actually being able to apply it in my school and these kinds of posts are extremely helpful. I need to keep in mind that I do not have to immediately produce students who have a complete FOSIL education under their belt – if I can drop skills into their curriculum at any point that is giving them an advantage that they wouldn’t otherwise have.