Teaching is not telling,” is a phrase I come back to when students provide me with feedback such as

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Students sometimes wish teachers would talk more because sit-and-get is so much easier than active thinking, communicating, and learning, especially if we are used to it. How many of us groan audibly when in-house professional development requires us to get up, move around, and talk to each other after we’ve firmly established our table and chair for the day?

In any case, we’ve started discussing the process of biological evolution in Pre-AP Biology 10-11 and we watched a really great video on the evidence for evolution. During this video a student asked how it was possible that whales could share a common ancestor with a land-based organism and how that reality would occur over time. This is a great question and I knew the video wouldn’t address it.

I stopped the video, announced, “And now, I teach!” and up to the whiteboard I went. I drew a flow chart, complete with processes, products, and vocabulary terms, showing the prerequisites for speciation while all the students nodded eagerly, contributed their ideas, and jotted notes. This is a graphic organizer I have used to teach the process of speciation many times before and have generally been very proud of; words, pictures, active “teaching,” how could it be anything but effective?

Fast forward to today, the very next class, and a Kahoot on the basics from the previous day’s lesson; a little review and formative assessment on a Friday morning. The question and the students’ answers:

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Before moving on to the next Kahoot question we stopped for a moment to discuss the fact that 1/7 students answered this question correctly, and that 6/7 students were instantly kicking themselves that they didn’t.

Blame question wording (though it is an accepted definition of the term), blame Friday morning (true story), or perhaps consider that my having talked them through it made it less meaningful (read:memorable) than something more student-centered might have done. My evidence in support of “teaching is not telling” continues to mount. Though, thanks to Kahoot and the formative nature of this activity, everyone had a great time anyway. Thanks, Kahoot!

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