Today is the Friday of Homecoming week, and you can feel the energy pulsing through the students and staff in the building. During the week we have plenty of spirit building activities, such as dress-up days, music in the halls, voting for homecoming court, penny wars between the student classes, and a float-building party with bonfire and games on Thursday night.
As we get closer to the pep assembly and game on Friday, the students’ minds drift farther away from the classroom. This can be an obvious frustration for any educator who doesn’t want to waste class time. I see many teachers showing movies for entertainment, giving large tests, or simply shutting down and letting their classes talk the entire hour about their weekend plans.
One way that I engage my chemistry students right up until the pep assembly is with a margarine lab. Essentially, the students select a margarine sample, heat it up until is separates into oil and water, freeze the oil, and extract the water. By getting the mass at each step, they are able to easily calculate the percent of water in margarine.
I am watching my students do the lab right now. They are active, engaged, enjoying the oh-so-buttery-good smell in the lab, and even doing a little math. In fact, it’s the same math that we will see in the future when calculating % composition. It’s perfect activity to keep my students active and even trick them into learning.
On a day like this, what are your tricks to keep students motivated to learn?