Tuesday, April 17, 2012

4 Book Reviews - educational, dystopian, and horror

So, per usual, I didn't follow through with my hoped for later posting a few days ago. Goodness I have issues with staying on track!! Anyway, I wanted to go ahead and share 4 more book reviews: 2 education-related, 1 dystopian fiction, and 1 horror...ish...

Science Stories: Using Case Studies to Teach Critical Thinking edited by Clyde Freeman Herreid, Nancy A. Schiller, and Ky F. Herreid (Book #22 of 2012)
This is an amazing resource that has gotten me really excited about some innovative ways to approach a number of topics in my future biology classroom. Who woulda thunk that you could teach the scientific method through stories about real life issues rather than getting students to memorize each step of the process as if it was a rigid structure? While this is partially a statement of the obvious, it was also a wake up call for me. Each case study includes classroom management strategies, questions for students to think about and discuss, and sometimes additional useful resources for understanding the case. All of the included case studies can even be found in FREE pdf format @ The National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science website. So cool!! There are a variety of methods covered throughout the book on how to run case studies in the classroom from interrupted case to mostly at-home work to panel role-play. This allowed me to see that even within the case study method, a teacher can differentiate ways in which to approach this method! My favorite was "Love Potion #10" which covers the scientific method, advertising claims, and evidence based critical thinking - I think it would be really fun to open up a school year with this case :-)

Prison Nation by Jenni Merritt (Book #23 of 2012)
This piece of dystopian fiction was actually quite cute. I couldn't help but love the main character - Millie, a jail baby about to reach her 18th birthday and freedom. Basically, the United States has been turned into a nation of imprisonment where every small infraction is compounded and leads to years of incarceration. Four large cities at each corner of the country have been turned into massive prisons to hold the vast majority of the population. Secrets are slowly revealed as the book moves forward and poor Millie has to rethink the way she was brought up to understand the world. After she is freed from prison life she meets up with Eddie and Reed who both make her feel loved in a strange world. I have to admit though that the ending left me wanting more...*sigh*...why can't books ever solidly end anymore??

The Devils Harvest: The End of All Flesh by Glen Johnson (Book #24 of 2012)This book was grotesque and disturbing. The synopsis spoke of a disease that ravaged the world, but there was NO disease in the novel...needless to say, I remain quite frustrated. Towards the end of the book I started skimming because I just wanted to see what happened and was really getting sick of reading descriptions about dead bodies... Honestly this book made me feel dirty. The only other thing I have to say is that it went from speculative fiction to horror to another genre all together which just made for a REALLY confusing ride... Read it if you dare...I felt like I wasted my time :-(

A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas by Committee on Conceptual Framework for the New K-12 Science Education Standards (Book #25 of 2012)
So my professors tell me that nobody ever reads the framework... Well, I did. Maybe I just have too much time on my hands, but I found it incredibly interesting regardless, otherwise I would not have actually read all 400 pages!! Yes, 400 pages - no wonder so few teachers read through the whole thing! Anyway, this document was created to enhance science education in our school systems and I thought the way it pulled together all aspects of science was incredibly helpful. Even though I have an M.S. in Biology, the connections made between Chemistry and Biology really did hit me upside the head...duh! At least I now feel like I can enter the classroom with a more integrated view of the sciences. I only have a couple of issues with this document. First of all, what is the deal with not using the word Ecology to label what goes on in the natural environment?? I really don't get it, but I do have a B.S. in Ecology and Biodiversity so maybe I'm just biased... Also, I really wish more time had been spent on giving examples of how to incorporate crosscutting concepts/disciplinary core ideas/scientific practices. I feel as if this puts a lot of responsibility on the teacher and frankly scares me just a bit... Pre-service teacher education needs to be modified quite a bit before new teachers can be expected to enter the classroom, automatically knowing how to carry out the ideas in the Framework. If you're interested in checking out this document, click on the link above and you can download the pdf for FREE as soon as you register (for FREE) with the National Academies Press.

Goodness, we're just over halfway through April and I've already read 25 books...I might get to 100 this year!!! Craziness :-P [Sorry for the weird formatting - I really did try to fix it...]

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