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Rocks Rock: Getting Students Excited about Geology

Rocks are inanimate objects.  They don’t move without a little help from external influences. Rocks can’t surf the Internet.  Rocks can’t talk.  So, then why are my students excited about them?

Attitude is everything.  If we, as teachers, are excited, our students will be excited.  If we are blah, our students will be blah.  Attitude is contagious like a cold. To be sure my students don’t catch the “I don’t care cold,” I’ve got to be fired up about what it is I need the students to learn about.  

Today in Science, we began a new unit on Rocks and Minerals.  The students were so excited.  I had prefaced the unit yesterday and had them preview it after they completed the Earth’s Layers Unit Test.  They were excited coming to class because they knew what was to come.  We began class with an interactive game called Rocks vs. Minerals.  I chose students at random to decide if a particular sample was a rock or a mineral.  They had five seconds to decide.  Then I asked them why they thought what they did.  It was so much fun.  They were cheering each other on.  We kept score based on how many rocks vs how many minerals the students identified correctly.  This helped the students flip the switch in their brains.  They needed to think, rocks and minerals.  We then reviewed the online unit.  I explained why the phases were titled the way they were: Bloom’s Taxonomy.  I explained all about Bloom’s levels of learning and the purpose of starting at knowledge and working to evaluation.  They seemed to understand this.  The students then started working on the Knowledge and Comprehension Phase of the unit as they read the online textbook I crafted and generated flashcards using the online program Quizlet.  They were focused on their individual work.  At the close of the class, I asked volunteers to share what they learned about minerals.  They discussed facts they had read about regarding mineral identification.  I asked some follow-up questions before previewing tomorrow’s agenda.  They left energized and ready for more.  They were rockin’ about rocks.  I couldn’t have been more proud or excited.

Sometimes, loving the content used to teach the bigger skills students need to be successful is crucial to building student engagement.  If we love it, we find ways to make others love it too.  While rocks and minerals look like blobs to some, to me, a rock is a piece of history.  A rock is a puzzle piece, revealing Earth’s magnificent history.  A rock tells a story.  A rock is a part of us.  A rock is more than just a rock.  If I can get my students to see that, then I’ve helped them to make connections and genuinely learn.  When I think of my curriculum as a rock, I have no trouble brainstorming ways to make it relevant and fun for my students.  Rocks rock because I make them rock, and you can too.

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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