Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Station Rotation with Loads of Potential

A station rotation in my classroom usually means students are moving through a series of experiments in the lab in order to experience different aspects of a chemistry concept.  Every student completes the same stations, everyone has the same experience.  During my unit on chemical kinetics, I used a stations experience to deliver content in a slightly different way.

Students were assigned a reading assignment about potential energy diagrams, activation energy, and heat of reaction through Actively Learn.  As part of the reading, they also watched this short video about the concept.  The next day in class they logged into their Schoology accounts to take a brief, 5-question assessment.  Based on their performance on the assessment, they were assigned a menu of 4 different stations.  

Here's what was on the menu:
  • Direct instruction with me about what potential energy diagrams show us
  • A tutorial from the Wake Forest University Chemistry Department
  • A great self-check practice exercise from ScienceGeek
  • A model I made from pipe insulation and a cardboard box
  • A marble run challenge (build an endothermic model with the marble run)
  • A SMART notebook activity builder that compared potential energy diagrams of endothermic and exothermic reactions
  • An analogy exercise - write an analogy for the potential energy diagram.  Here is one of my favorite analogies written by a student:
    Potential energy is similar to purchasing a lottery ticket. One must use money to buy a lottery ticket. The cost of the lottery ticket is like the activation energy of a reaction. One must use a certain amout of money to be able to buy a ticket, just as a certain amount of energy is required to initiate a reaction. Then, one may win the lottery and gain more money than he/she spent on a ticket, just like how endothermic reactions gain energy (have more energy at the end than at the beginning). Or one does not win and loses money, like how exothermic reactions lose energy (have less at the end then at the beginning). The heat of reaction is the difference between the amount of money one has before and after buying the lottery ticket.
Students were able to complete the quick assessment and their 4 stations in one class period.  Technology was a key component because several websites were able to provide tutorials or instant feedback so students would know if they were on the right track.  I used QR codes with iPads for one station and links shortened by for another station.  Homework that night was to label two potential energy diagrams and calculate heat of reaction and activation energy.

The process was labor-intensive; set-up took quite a bit of time.  Still, now that I have done it once and the materials are curated, it would be easier to do a second time.  It was a good change of pace and many students enjoyed it.  The topic was a safe one to try with this rotation model because it is not too challenging to understand the concepts, but also allows for some extensions or enrichment.  With so many good resources available and many ways to present the information, it was easy to build the stations.  Almost all students showed growth on the concept from the assessment on the day of the lesson to similar questions on test day.  All in all, this model showed a lot of potential (heh heh) and I will definitely try it again.

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