I give out notes to my classes. Lots of notes. That is to say, I hand out notes rather than spend precious class time having my students copy them out. I think my system works pretty well. The notes contain some blank spaces that we fill in together, which I hope activates some cognition and gives students focus points. Research says that partial notes are a good compromise between activating cognition, using time wisely and ensuring that the notes get copied correctly (references upon request - I’d have to dig them up).
Last Friday our secondary school had a non-instructional day where the staff worked on some professional development. The afternoon was spent working on the School Goal Plan, as all schools are mandated to do by the Ministry of Education I believe. A couple of really interesting things came up. First, we were given some results from a student forum on what the students think helps their critical thinking. Secondly, we had about a dozen of students join us for a session where we broke into smaller groups and had a chance to talk with a student.
One thing that I’ve been thinking about lately is how peer instruction or other attempts to get away from pseudoteaching can be applied to junior science classes. For example, yesterday I started a Grade 8 science unit on Water. I really like this unit because it has a lot of relevance for the kids and a good number of opportunities for both lab inquiries and outdoor experiential trips. However, I can’t help think that the actual learning of the topics is firmly grounded in reading and scientific literacy.