Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday's Teacher Feature: Liezel Pienaar

Hey everyone! I'm proud to announce the start of our Friday Teacher Feature! To start things off, I would like to welcome Liezel Pienaar from South Africa!

Grades Taught: Grade 8 - 12 Biology, Chemistry & Physics
Her TpT Store: The Lab
Her teaching style: Practical
Her most memorable teaching experience: When she got the chance to design her own lab!
The funniest thing her students have every said to her: They keep calling her Mom!

A little about Liezel: She's been teaching for 1 3 years, and has a degree in Biochemistry. She has taught in London as well as South Africa. At the moment she is teaching at a private school in South Africa that follows the Cambridge syllabus.

She is married and has a very busy 2 year old little girl and an equally busy Jack Russell (her dog). She loves reading, knitting, painting and watching TV. Her favorite author is Kathy Reichs. Music wise, she likes anything from Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen to Classical.

She's useless at any form of sport but she loves watching them! She especially loves swimming, rugby, cricket, tennis, etc.

So,  without further ado, here's Liezel!

Me, Myself & My Lab

      I always have a little giggle when the CEO of our school introduces me as “The Head of Science”. A very interesting “title” since I am the whole Science Department! I am teaching at a relatively small private school and I am the only permanent Science teacher in the Middle and High School. I have a colleague who has taken over the grade 7 class and a part time teacher who comes in for 6 grade 12 Chemistry and Physics lessons.

      Being by myself and without a lab assistant means that I need to be extremely organized. Luckily I have a very bad case of OCD when it comes to organizing my classroom. I love labels! My students joke that I should have been a kindergarten teacher. Everything is color coded and labeled. I have found that even High school students need order. They need to know where to find things like graph paper and laminated periodic tables in the classroom without having to ask me every time.
Our students have a few study lessons every day, so it is not uncommon for a Senior to sneak into my room for some graph paper or revision activities while I’m teaching another class. Since they know exactly where everything is, they do not disturb my lesson and they can get on with the work that they wanted to complete.

     At the start of the school year I am that teacher who collects empty boxes from everyone! I use them for everything – storing games, “ketchup” boxes for students who were absent, magazines, paper. The possibilities are endless!

      We are moving into “exam season” here in the southern hemisphere. This means that the main focus in lessons is on revision. I have decided to revise my revision lessons this year. Instead of me re-teaching certain topics, I have allowed students to work on problem areas that they have identified themselves. Every student is busy with a different topic and revising it in a different way.

      I have set up a revision center in my lab. I have folders for Biology, Chemistry and Physics. In these are different activities on a variety of topics. Students can choose which they want to use. It is not unusual in any lesson to have students working on task cards, crossword puzzles, card sorts or past exam papers. They are all learning at their own pace, focusing on what they need to work on. I can walk around and answer questions as needed. Every activity has a laminated answer key so that they are able to check their own work. Mark schemes for exam papers are kept in files and students work through these once I have marked their papers.

      This method of revision has proven to be a great success. The students are actively engaged in every lesson and they do not get bored. They also come and “check-out” activities during their study lessons. We have now reached a point where some students are even requesting task cards, etc. that I need to create! I have a “Physical Science Request Form" in the corridor outside my lab.

      Practical lab sessions form an integral part of my Science curriculum in all my classes. Sometimes I have up to three different labs in one day. Preparing for these can be quite a challenge. I use my Lab Prep Forms to organize my lists of equipment, etc. I found these awesome plastic trays to set up the equipment and chemicals for each group. Each group will come and get their tray at the start of a session and it is easy to clear away everything at the end, especially if I have back to back lab sessions.

      For me the critical part of running an effective Science department is to find a system that works for you and stick to it! It does take a lot of organizing initially but it is definitely worth it in the end.

Work smarter, not harder!

Be sure to check out Liezel's Teachers Pay Teachers Store by clicking on the image below.

Fill out my Google form if you would like to be the next teacher featured on my blog!
Happy Friday!

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