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Hotchalk Global

news & tips

A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching

Micro Motivational Moments

In my online chemistry class there is a student who has fallen behind.  She is bright, capable and tied to a host of medical problems. School and learning is her way out but helping her take advantage of the micro motivational opportunities is becoming critical to her success. This post is all about how I am working my way through helping this amazing young student.

This student has a parent who is a teacher who could help her. She, like many teachers’ kids, is not happy with Mom or Dad as teacher. So, she becomes stubborn and moves through the online curriculum with some difficulty. She is now about a unit behind (2 weeks). She is working steadily but not with anything approaching full involvement. I am afraid that in her haste to catch up the content will be learned then forgotten as soon as the course is finished. This is much like the old days where we had kids memorize facts and then they could not connect them to any important applications and quickly forgot them after the test.
So, her e-mails ask for a little help. One e-mail gave me hope. She suggested some extra credit work researching the nuclear crisis in Japan. I thought about her request a while and then it hit me. This is one of those micro motivational opportunities.  I looked at what she had to make up and found it was mostly on chemical compounds, empirical formula and percent composition. I decided to pull out the concepts that would be addressed some way in the nuclear research and teach her the others with the help of her Mom. It seems like a win-win.

So, the first step in individualizing a project for a student is to do a bit of research myself and find out what chemical concepts fit with the idea of nuclear disasters. Certainly there is a lot of atomic structure in that. There is not a tight fit with chemical compounds but the use of water to cool the nuclear reactor is all based on the structure of water (especially thermal properties). I decided that the critical part for this student would be to compare the differences and similarities between chemical reactions and nuclear. This is explained well in this Vision Learning web site.

The simple explanation of fission at the “dummies” site is clear and has good visuals. It is a good basic start.

By asking her to compare and contrast she will have to dig into compounds a bit and learn some of the missing material. For that earning I will use a mix of mini lectures (podcasts) a bit of help from her Mom and the regular course web sites on compounds.
The national Student Research Center has a variety of resources to help students doing research projects.  They have some student projects in the student journal at this same site.

There are hundreds of current articles detailing the efforts and challenges facing those trying to prevent a nuclear disaster in Japan. Those articles will be the meat and potatoes of this student’s work. The key is to construct a work sequence for her that will have her almost guide herself through some rich chemistry content. Kids like this one make exceptional scientists. They are curious and follow the evidence. Having them follow their interest and finding a way to make that interest lead them through some core content is my job. I am glad she reminded me of that.

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