I have always found teaching the separations topic in year 7 science difficult. This is the topic where students learn a range of separation techniques like sieving, filtering, evaporation and distillation. Students have to be able to explain how this separation techniques work based on the physical and chemical properties of substances, which at times involve them having a good understanding of particle and atomic theory. One barrier to this topic is the large amounts of scientific technical language. Students have to know the definitions of these words and know how to use them in their scientific explanations – solution, suspension, solute, solvent, dissolve, soluble, insoluble. These words are just a small proportion of the entire list of terms students are expected to learn.
So with my Year 7s this year I decided to test out how online tools can help make the learning of these words easier and more effective for students. Previously I’ll use a lot of literacy strategies like barrier games, spelling games and concentration games to give students lots of practice at using the words. This year I decided to do it a little bit different. Here’s what I did.
1) Introduce the need to separate mixtures in the context of obtaining clean, drinking water by using an adaptation of the river story.
2) Students played a game to learn the definitions of solution, suspension, solute and solvent using Student Response Network. These PowerPoint slides were used to play the game:
3) Students then performed an experiment to have hands on experience on solutes, solvents, suspensions and solutions.
4) Students then used a science dictionary to construct a table of terms and definitions.
4) Students worked in groups using the table of terms and definitions to create multiple choice questions for each term via testmoz.com. Each group uploaded their quiz for the rest of the class to complete. I chose testmoz.com because it is easy to use for Year 7s, doesn’t require registration of any sign up and it gives students a URL to share their quiz with others.
I found that this sequence of activities exposed students to these terms multiple times without being too repetitive. In their weekly tests, this group of year 7s have grasped the definitions of these terms and are able to use them in a scientific context more readily than other groups of year 7 classes I have taught previously.