Sticky Teaching

We all want our teaching to stick, and of course one of the best ways to achieve this is to carefully plan the learning that will take place in our lessons.  Inspired by the work of Chip and Dan Heath, various teachers have recently been sharing some great ideas on how to do this.

When planning your lessons, try to work in the six “sticking traits” nicely summarised by Shaun Allison as follows [click on image to enlarge]:

sticky teaching 1

If you’d like to understand this more fully, take a look at our page on Academia, which outlines the work of Chip and Dan Heath.

Another blogger, @MrOCallaghan_Edu, has created the following lesson planning template to support this approach [again, click on image to enlarge]:

sticky teaching 2

Back to Shaun Allison for an example of sticky lesson planning in action – his objective was to introduce a Year 11 Science class to the idea of nuclear radiation:

Simple – I anchored my lesson on to their existing knowledge of the atom by getting them to draw and explain the structure of the atom, which we then shared and discussed.  This would then lead on to two key concepts for the lesson – to describe and explain Rutherford’s scattering experiment, and then to describe and explain an isotope.  This is definitely not about dumbing down or lowering expectations.  It’s about distilling complex ideas into the key ideas and then using what they already know to build up to these complex ideas. In his article on explanation (see below) David makes the point of how important it is to use specialist academic language here – and insist that students do too.

Unexpected – In order to get them curious, we looked at photos of Chernobyl and posed the question, how could these tiny atoms cause such devastation? This is the gap in their knowledge that we were going to fill, having opened it.  They were curious!

Concrete – Rutherford’s scattering experiment is very conceptual, so I demonstrated it by throwing squash balls at footballs.  They bounced off, in the same way that early scientists expected the alpha particles to do when they hit the ‘plum pudding’ atoms. This led on to a discussion about what it meant when the alpha particles went straight through?

Credible – The photos of Chernobyl helped with this, as it made the issue very real. This can also be backed up by statistics e.g. claims that Chernobyl won’t be fit for human habitation for 20 000 years.   However, this will be returned to next lesson, when we get out the radioactive sources and the Geiger counter. Students will see that objects emit radiation.

Emotional – The photos of people who had been affected by Chernobyl (mutations) certainly made them feel for the people.  The ‘emotional’ trait can also be developed by making students feel aspirational.

Story – Science provides loads of opportunities to tell stories – and the story of Rutherford’s scattering experiment was no exception.  It also resulted in some great questions from the students about ‘How science works’ e.g. Why didn’t he just believe the plum pudding idea? What made him think of this experiment? Did he do any other experiments? Did people believe him? How do we know he’s right? Brilliant fodder for the science teacher!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s