Thursday, April 2, 2015

How to not suck the life out of your lessons

The central dogma of biology.

Now that sounds exciting, doesn't it.


Sure, it's fascinating to me--the concept that the information stored in DNA is copied into RNA and read by ribosome "codereaders" to make proteins, which then make pretty much everything else we're made of.

But then, I've been doing "science" for 30 years. I have tons of schema in my head about these things and so I can "relate" to it. Weird, I know.

So why do I expect my students to respond like me?

They need something they can latch on to.

The latest section of Chip and Dan Heath's book, Made to Stick, is about using emotion to help draw people in.

Not a lot of emotion in that central dogma thing.

Had me wondering about our next unit on genetically modified organisms, and how I can tap this for their next assignment. Maybe a real story about GMOs--something close to home?

Then I was wondering how this fits with my mantra: autonomy, mastery, and purpose, and I figured it was about the purpose part.

It's about making it real, immediate, and relevant to them.

Interesting: The Heath brothers told the story of a study in which they told people all these horrible statistics about Africa and then asked them to donate money. then to the second group, they told the story of one impoverished African girl and that their donation would go to her. The group that heard the story of the girl gave twice as much, on average.

And here's the real kicker: They took a third group and told them the statistics and then the story of the girl. This third group gave half as much as the group that just heard the story of the girl.

Statistics--analytical details, kill emotion and motivation.

Well, maybe that wasn't exactly their message, but it's pretty much it. Get us in an analytical frame of mind and our emotions die.

I wonder if that happens in school? I wonder if we get kids in an analytical frame of mind that sucks the life right out of them.

No, I don't wonder. I know we do.

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