Communication is the Key

Year after year, teachers face the same frustration…students who appear to have forgotten everything they learned the confusedprevious year! It’s as if June, July, and August have some magical mind erasing power. I have certainly experienced this phenomenon more times than I would like to recount.

Finding ways to counteract this tragic loss has been a focus of the Science Department at my school and it seems as if we are starting to reap the benefits of our combined focus. The key to designing scaffolding that can survive crossing the scholastic desert of summer is communication!

We began with designing a Department Lab Format handout that would be given to every class each year. This worksheet provides students with the basics of a lab. Not only does this serve as a great resource for them, but as a duplicate each following year, it is a visual reminder of what has been learned. In addition, we are constantly checking in with one another about the activities and projects the students are completing in our classes.

c stepsFor instance, I know that in our first year course, Conceptual Physics, students take part in an egg drop and in Biology I can refer them back to the structure and function of the eggshell when we study evolution, classification and reproduction. When the Chemistry students are assigned a lab through Google Docs, the teachers simply say “Go” and they are off since they learn all about GDocs, sharing, and commenting the previous year in Biology. Designing a successful, rigorous, in-depth course like an AP relies on clearly understanding the curriculum the students have already met in the first year course of that subject area.

If there is one factor that has led to a greater retention of skills and content for our students from year to year, it has been communication. My colleagues and I frequently touch base whether it is during a department meeting, as we come and go in the office, or as we pass by in the halls or classrooms. Developing a culture of sharing and communicating is vital so that everyone knows what the students are experiencing each year in each course. This understanding must then be communicated to the students. Referring back to what the students learned the year before or highlighting what will happen the following year needs to be a frequent occurrence.

One goal for this blog is for it to be an archive of our collective experiences, ideas, accomplishments, questions, musings and more. We are starting to incorporate blogs/websites/digital portfolios in our classes as well which will enhance deeper connections for our students as they reflect on their academic journey.

What do you think? What are other important factors that may enhance our students’ ability to make connections between content not only from year to year, but across the curriculum?

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