Cassie O’Connor, TES Author Crocy88, reveals her five tips for creating resources and how she makes science engaging for students.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your teaching background.
Currently I’m a secondary science teacher at a school in NSW. I come from the western suburbs of Sydney and I have a hearing impairment. I’m passionate about earth and environmental science and have managed to attract enough interest to form a Year 11 class after five years of promoting the subject to the students I've taught!
I’m lucky enough to run the school solar car programme, which competes in events at UNSW each year, and in the past I've also set up an environment-focused student leadership group.
How do you make sure your resources are up-to-date and relevant for students?
You can’t walk in with the same lesson from 10 years ago and expect it to work. Contextualising your learning programmes with modern examples helps to hook students. They see and hear about these things in the media and want to know more.
I always tap into what is going on in the wider world. Hendra was my disease of choice in my first year of teaching. Then it became HPV. Last year? Ebola. The general activity stayed very much the same, but the selected videos and the actual disease changed according to what was in the news.
What are five tips would you give to teachers looking to create science resources?
- It’s about what students need, not what you want.
It doesn’t matter how amazing that video is, or how cool that activity looks, if it isn’t at their ability level or within their interest, it’s not going to work.
- If it takes longer to create than complete, you’re doing it wrong.
It took me far too long to realise this. I spent hours one year making space Monopoly boards for my class. It took me the good part of a day. They finished it in 25 minutes. The five hours it took to make seemed worth it as I thought I would use it forever. Then in came the Australian Curriculum, which meant a change in programme, and a set of very dusty boards.
- It’s about balance.
If you spend two hours creating an amazing lesson on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for one class, the other classes are going to get less that day. This is OK! There is nothing wrong with having an outstanding lesson for a class, and a run-of-the-mill lesson for the next one, as long as you share the good stuff across different classes. We’re human and there are only so many hours in a day.
- A piece of information is nothing without an activity.
So many resources are just an article, website or video with no description of what it looks like in action. I put a great video on the staff drive once on F=MA looking at male versus female MMA fighters. My class loved it, but none of the other teachers used it. Some time after, someone said they hadn’t used it because the science was wrong since the variables weren’t controlled. I explained that my class had analysed the video for the good and bad science and then had to design an experiment that was valid. That teacher then used the video in a lesson, as they understood how to deliver it as a teaching stimulus.
- Sharing is caring.
Form a team, pass things around and have a collective drive for resources. You can’t create everything. The modern teacher doesn’t have the time. But if you make something whizz-bang and someone else does the same for a different class, you’re one step ahead. It's far easier to modify a resource that already exists, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.
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