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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Science Skills: Comparing and Contrasting




I am back on my "science skills" kick!!  

I spent most of my summer refining the ways that I teach the important skills in science:  critical thinking, problem solving, graphing, metric measurements, the scientific method, etc.  In this technological age, teaching science has become much less about the "facts" and much more about the "skills".  The facts are at our fingertips....we only have to push a few buttons on our computer and the facts coming flying out at us.  Don't misunderstand, though.  I still teach a fairly traditional biology class and I make sure I cover what needs to be covered.

So what has changed in my class?  I am making much more of an effort to included activities, worksheets, and labs that are not as much "content based" as they are "skills based".  The science portion of the ACT test is now called "Science Reasoning".  The AP Biology curriculum is being changed next year in favor of an inquiry approach to biology.  These changes are good.  The message to science teachers is "Teach your students how to THINK!"


Most science teachers would agree that students who have developed good "science skills" will be far more successful in a science class than those students who simply memorize a laundry list of science facts.   In my attempt to include more problem solving activities, I wrote this lesson (see link below) and just tried it out in my Biology I classes today.  It was a lesson (or a review) in "comparing and contrasting" for the science student.

I began the lesson with a short PowerPoint presentation.  I wanted my students to understand what it means to "compare and contrast".  During the Powerpoint presentation, students were asked to compare two living organisms.  The students made a list of the similarities and differences between these two organisms.  After comparing and contrasting the two organisms, I had the students determine why these similarities and differences are important to these organisms.

The PowerPoint presentation was followed up by 5 page student worksheet.  This worksheet made the students practice over and over the skills of comparing and contrasting.  The questions were thought provoking and required problem solving and critical thinking skills.


This lesson can be used at different times of the year.  Next year, I plan to use it at the beginning of the school year to get my students "thinking like a scientist".  Today, I used this Powerpoint and worksheet to introduce a unit on classification and taxonomy.  This lesson would also work extremely well when teaching a unit on Evolution.

I think this approach to teaching science will really pay off for my students as they take the ACT and AP exams.  As they were moaning and groaning over today's assignment, I reminded them, "No pain, no gain!!"

Here is a link to the product, if you are interested.

Science Skills Worksheet and PowerPoint:  Comparing and Contrasting

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