Ashley McCarl Palmer, Physics Teacher, Waterloo Region District School Board.
Shifting to VNPS
A few years ago I began to shift my practice towards a more collaborative learning environment. Through this process I have made many changes but one of the most significant was a move towards non-permanent surfaces such as whiteboards. There is tonnes of research in this area and for some reason students (even with a pencil) feel that working on paper has a finite or non editable quality to it which means they don’t want to put it to paper unless they know it's right.
A whiteboard on the other hand gives off a “try it” or mistake friendly vibe which allows students to take more risks in the classroom. In physics (which I teach) this is extremely important because students carry misconceptions they derived to explain how the world works around them. For example, students assume that mass will impact how long it takes something to fall to the ground (bigger object falls faster) when in reality everything falls at the same rate! You have to see it to believe it...and having a space to draw out these ideas and theories, and then revise them after testing is what effective teaching in physics is all about.
Wipebook Flipchart- The GAME CHANGER
I had small whiteboards piled in the center of my desk groupings but to be honest students needed more space to doodle, sketch, and get ideas down. I needed something that could give me space to write and be flexible in location (vertical, on tables, the floor, in the hall during experiments) and a friend suggested I try a pack of Wipebook’s flipcharts. I’m going to be completely honest… these are a GAME CHANGER! I had students grab them purposefully the first few times we did group work during the first week of school and they naturally gravitated to them since. I leave them in a pile at the back of our room and students grab them during labs, when they just need to get ideas down on their own or when they are trying to explain something to a friend. I’ll even grab them myself. For example the grids allow me to tape them up on a blackboard and do accurate graphing by hand samples with the class.
From Classroom to Distance Learning
I think their chameleon nature was most evident during the pandemic. After being home for a month we were allowed to grab materials from school during a 15 minute window to help support moving forward in distance learning. I made sure to grab a few flipchart pages thinking they would be fun for my own kids to play with while we were home. Next thing I knew I had them taped up to my hallway to create a “blackboard” in my home to work through examples with my AP Physics students as they got ready for their exam.
As I said before Flipcharts are a GAME CHANGER and probably one of the easiest and economical investments I’ve made in my classroom over the past years.
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