Clickers & Jell-O

Thursday, I gave my personal response lesson to my wonderful students. They loved it! It took an enormous amount of preparation time to pull together. I have up to 37 students in each of my five classes, so I had to combine two sets of clickers and replace about half of the batteries in them. I was also afraid that the system wouldn’t work in my school, so I spent an extra couple hours testing both the software on my Mac and the individual clicker units in the classroom to make sure we could get full signal coverage.
Overall, the students were quite engaged. They gravitated towards the clickers and as Emily noted earlier, initially thought they were game controllers, which added an element of fun to the exercise that I didn’t anticipate.
The lesson focused on light. Specifically, I wanted to know how much the students knew about properties of visible light, interactions with lenses and mirrors, and how human vision used light. I used simple multiple choice questions to test their knowledge, but was careful to not make it seem like a test or a quiz. The questions were designed around their personal experiences, so there could be more than one correct answer, but I wanted to know what answer they resonated most with. For example, one of the questions was “Where does light come from?”. Responses were 1) from the sun and stars, 2) from our eyes, 3) from the moon, 4) from flashlights. After viewing the histogram of individual responses, I brought them back to the original question and we discussed each possible response. For this particular question, we had a great discussion of reflection (when considering the moon), and what actually created light (thinking about why light coming from stars and from a flashlight is produced in similar ways.)
I was concerned about the students being burned out by too many questions, so I slipped in a hands-on inquiry activity in the middle of the lesson. We investigated how light can be made to refract through Jell-O! I brought in hockey-puck shaped finger Jell-O for each table of students and we cut out concave and convex lenses to play with. We covered the heads of flashlights with tape, leaving only two parallel strips open for light to pass through. Then the students could use the flashlights to pass parallel beams of light through their Jell-O shapes and draw how the path of light was changed depending on the shape it was passed through.
We finished up the lesson with a few optical illusions, and discussed why they are so interesting, and how our brains ‘make up images’ that we expect to see with experience.
Overall, I was very pleased with the outcome of this lesson. The students were engaged and enjoyed stitching together concepts that they thought they knew from previous lessons. Using the clickers in class can be technically challenging, but I think the novelty and and the ability to respond anonymously to difficult questions makes them a good tool to use.


About Sarah Roels

I'm a former Ph.D. student at the University of Kansas in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department. I study mating system evolution in plants, using the model system Mimulus. I now work at Michigan State University as their GK-12 project manager.
This entry was posted in 2011-2012 GK12, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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