Here is the Path to Learning In Mr. Cable's Class...
Should you look at a grade on an assessment (quiz or test) or your overall class grade, or heck, even your overall GPA, and don't like what you see, take a moment to reflect on how you go about the task of learning, identify your weaknesses, and work to make them strengths. Here is how Mr. Cable goes about presenting the buffet of knowledge and skills that is science (using an unfortunate amount of sports and food analogies):
Step 1: Attend Class
A great amount of effort goes into utilizing every minute of the class period. If you miss a day, that represents at least 90 minutes of effort you will need to put in later to fill the hole in learning created by your absence. And, if you don't fill in the hole, well, you can imagine the next class you attend won't make a lot of sense and then the whole thing comes tumbling down as you can't build any worthwhile structure without a firm foundation. So, step 1 is come to dinner.
Step 2: Come Hungry
Some believe that learning is a passive process (like watching TV) and that it is the teacher's responsibility to teach that results in knowledge gain. Though it is correct that an effective educator is an important part of the equation, you will be more successful in school if you instead see it as the learner's responsibility to learn. Think of it this way, the teacher is the cook, responsible for creating the menu and preparing a wide assortment of tantalizing treats that can be more easily digested than the raw ingredients. That being said, you will go home hungry if you don't eat.
Step 3: Engage in Instruction
Skills will be presented in the following matter: Explore, I do, we do, you do. Explore is when I give you the opportunity to figure out the skill on your own. I do is when I model the skill done correctly. We do is when you give it a shot, but I'm standing right by your side should you stumble. You do is when you try the skill on your own a bunch more times to get better and faster at it. Three out of these four steps involve active engagement on your part. Should you not actively explore and do, you will not get better at the skill. Did anyone make it to the NBA by watching basketball on TV? Did you ever get stronger by watching your friends lift weights? In other words, once sitting in front of the buffet, you must eat.
Step 4: Use Class Time
When you are given "free" time to work on mastering the new skills you were just introduced to, be it through getting a head start on your homework, or perhaps an activity or lab that reinforces the skill, though many see this as a time to relax, this is actually the most important time of all to work hard. Think of it this way, why would your coach make you come to practice if you had a basketball hoop at home? Probably because at practice you have a coach standing there you can ask questions of if a play confuses you, or your coach can step in and correct a big misunderstanding you may not have even noticed, or you have teammates there who can model the correct way to do things, or offer their help to correct your mistakes. Wouldn't it be unfortunate if you just went home, relying fully on your ability to practice independently, only to pick up the ball and find that you don't remember the plays, or how to shoot, or how to dribble correctly, such that even if you did still spend time practicing, you'd probably end up practicing the wrong thing which is worse than not practicing at all. In the same sense, see class time as your chance to make sure you know how to do the skill before you are left to practice it on your own.
Step 5: Practice
Doing homework is no different than shooting a hundred free throws in your driveway. Both are practice. And just as you would diligently shoot a hundred baskets, self correcting your form each time, even if no one is looking, even if the number you make won't be recorded on your stat sheet and announced at the next game, so should you diligently do your homework, trying your best on each problem, only stopping when you know you have mastered the skill. Homework and sports practice are the exact same idea. And if you skip practice (homework), you won't do well at the game (quizzes/tests), and these stats are recorded (grade) and announced (report card).
Step 6: Self Assess
Never miss an opportunity to self assess. In basketball this is easy. After practice, walk over and shoot 10 shots. If you make 10, you have mastered the skill. If you make 8, you are about 80% good at it, and if you make 2, well, best shoot some more or ask coach for some advice. And coach won't hold it against you for missing shots at practice, it's practice after all, not the big game. In fact, it's a good thing to make mistakes at practice so that you can catch them and correct them before your performance really counts. So, what coach is really concerned about is effort. This is precisely how homework is treated. You will not be graded down for missing questions on homework, all your teacher is looking for is effort (attempt every problem) and that you take the opportunity to self asses (compare your answers to the key and circle the ones you get wrong), ask for help if needed, and move to correct any misunderstandings before the next class and definitely before the next major assessment (quiz/test).
Step 7: Repeat Steps 5 & 6 As Needed
The whole point of the preceding process is to master a set of skills. Eventually you will have to perform these skills, call it the big game if you'd like (quiz/test/final). Some people need more practice than others. Some people overestimate their skills. So, your instructor has built in many, many more opportunities for practice and self assessment. But remember, these aren't passive opportunities, where you just look things over and say learning magically happened. No, they are meant to be active, requiring effort. Just like you forced yourself in the driveway that winter evening to shoot free throws again and again, even after the sun went down, even when you started shivering, even when your fingers started to chap, even after your heart sunk when you missed five in a row, you practiced and assessed practiced and assessed until you felt confident you could make them when called on at the game. It will take time management (making time to practice), organization (remembering you need to practice), work ethic (putting in the effort), and resilience (not giving up when you fail), but if you need to get better at the skill, you must take advantage of as many of the following opportunities as it takes:
- Website Resources
Cablesscience.weebly.com was created to offer remediation (extra instruction/practice) for those who fall behind, information (class calendar and all worksheets/labs/activities available for download) for those who miss a class, and enrichment (opportunities to take things further) for those who want to get ahead. Contained in the website are tutorials, games, video, simulations, etc… that can help you work towards skills mastery.
Remember, your teacher writes out 90% of your notes for you and all you have to do is fill in the important words. These notes are a great resource to review what was discussed in class. If you didn't get them down for some reason, remember I have the keys online here.
You can always go back and try the problems in your homework again.
If you didn't understand the material the way your teacher presented it, the textbook will present it another way that you may find more digestible.
- Practice Quizzes with Key
There will be two quizzes per unit to assess your mastery of skills. As often as I can, I will post practice quizzes that look identical in format to the real quiz. These are best used just like a real quiz. Practice the skill until you feel you have achieved mastery, then put away all your notes, worksheets, and text and take the practice quiz. Then grade the quiz with the posted key. If you do great, then you know you are prepared for the real quiz. If you do not, you know you need to go back to the drawing board. If you don't do them at all, you'll never know where you stand.
- Quiz Feedback
Each quiz you take will represent 1/2 of the information found on the test you will take for that unit. When your quiz is done, written explanations will appear on the screen for every missed item. Read these.
- Study Guide
Every test you take comes with a study guide you are free to download. The first part of the study guide directs you to the pages in the text where you can find the material. The second part, called "concepts" should be used to take an accounting of where you need to spend time studying, so don't just set forth answering every questions, instead circle the ones you know you don't feel confident with and just study those. The third part, called "problems" are examples of questions you will find on the test. Always do all of these as people many times overestimate their ability to apply skills.
- Note Card
On every test you take, with rare exception, you are allowed to bring 1/2 a normal sheet of paper with whatever you want written/typed on front and back (provided it is you own work).
If there is an academic tutor in your class, you may pull them aside anytime and ask for tutoring. If not, the school has a tutoring club. Or, if you have the resources, the counselors can help you find a paid tutor. If none of these are available, I know a free tutor, he is your...
I will be available before school, at lunch, and after school most days to offer whatever help I can. If you need a lot of time, it works best if you see me before the intended session to make an appointment.
- Study Group
If you are doing poorly but you know that guy over there is nailing every quiz, go ask him if you can study with him. Watch what he does. Two minds are better than one. What you don't know, he can try to explain (and learn it better in the process). What he doesn't know, you can explain (and learn it better in the process).