gap activity

My relationship with the laminating machine: student engagement

I used to think the laminating machine was just for elementary teachers.  They have all those fun and colorful things for their cute and cuddly youngsters and we, in the secondary school just don’t.

Last year I participated, as part of Professional Development at our school, in an EAL certification program.  During the course we were presented with all sorts of creative ideas to help the language learners in our classes.  Furthermore we were expected to trial the ideas with our students and follow up with a reporting of the results.  I took the challenge seriously and quickly came to the understanding that these activities were truly “best practices” benefitting all learners in the class.  However, I wasn’t convinced that my IB students would “buy into” such activities, I mean, really, handling laminated cards and arranging the process of antibody production on the tabletops?  I was dead wrong.  Even my Year 2 IB students delighted in the exercises and claimed that such hands-on activities helped them learn.  Thus, I’ve incorporated these type of practices into all of my units.  Wanting to preserve the material for future use, I decided to laminate.  I experienced a feeling of “initiation” and empowerment as I joined my elementary colleagues at the laminating machine.  In the meantime I have collected several binders full of laminated activities. 

Today I used one of my laminated projects on my high school biology students.  In an effort to introduce them to the topic of the chemistry of life that has a load of vocabulary I pulled out the laminated vocabulary squares.   Each pair of students received a stack of cards, half containing bolded vocabulary words and the other half with the corresponding definition or match (i.e. the structure of glucose or a lipid or an amino acid).  The students immediately spread the cards out seeking words they could identify. Discussions of roots and possible meanings ensued.  Communications of reasoning and logic followed.  During this time, I easily assessed any prior knowledge the students had.

Once the students were stumped, I allowed them to consult their book.  Captivated and animated the students immersed themselves in the text reading paragraphs to each other, deciphering meaning and identifying further matches.  Once they “were done” they quizzed each other and additionally mixed up the cards to try again.  I was able to circulate and informally assess how each student's progress through questioning and low-pressure quizzing.  They smiled and laughed as they stretched their brains for understanding and committing content to memory.

With plenty of time left, the class was prepared to begin the lab on chemical testing of certain molecules found in foods.  Thanks to our introductory activity, they were already approaching this task with scientific language and a basic knowledge that will aid them in understanding the lab.

As the students donned their aprons and goggles, I happily placed my laminated treasures back in their designated pocket in the HS binder.  My association with the laminating machine has paid off once again.  Do you have any good ideas that have worked for you or heard your children describe or remember from your own schooling experience?  Please share below!