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Book Study: Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites: Chapter 7

Nothing is better than a good book, especially one that gives you great ideas for instruction. That's why I'm sharing the wisdom gleaned from the book study of Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites by Dr. Marcia Tate, hosted this week by Teacher Extraordinaire Deanna Jump.

This week I'm writing about Chapter 7: The Use of Manipulatives, Experiments. Labs, and Models.

I really enjoyed reading her opening story of her daughter's classroom experience in chemistry and the lack of alignment between the work she was doing and what real chemist would do. A lot of what we ask students to do is just memorize the information and be able to repeat/write it back. I started to think about ways to empower students to do the teaching and learning.

How often do we just give students paper and pencil to demonstrate their learning? I certainly know I'm guilty. This chapter took me back to a science lesson in my first year of teaching, where my students had to draw a model of an animal cell. When it came to draw pictures of the cells, students simply copied the cell from the book. I actually cringe internally when I think of my first year teaching in a self contained classroom. I always felt so overwhelmed and always in scramble mode to come up with lessons, so that many times I didn't think about the bigger picture when teaching.

By year three, in my math and science departmentalized classroom, we were building camera obscuras, growing pumpkins for Halloween, and conducting weekly science experiments. Much better!

Recording our observations

How can you make a sunset

Add milk to water to simulate the dusk and dirt in the air and the n shine a light through it. It created pink light :)

Growing Pumpkins for Halloween

The kids really enjoyed growing the pumpkins. They made the containers out of their milk cartons. We cut out a section and taped plastic over the hole so they could see the root systems growing.

Creating camera obscuras from shoe boxes and wax paper

They studied light by making camera obscuras using wax paper and shoe boxes. It was a really interesting lesson. They kept running around to see the images in their boxes. :)

Overall, I enjoyed this section because it helped me to reflect on my growth so far as a teacher and provided new ideas to push my instruction and materials further, Many of the students in my program would benefit from more hands on opportunities to learn. We already have manipulatives for them to use during homework help, so I am interested in how to help them incorporate them in new learning activities.

I certainly use these tips with the first year teachers I work with now, especially the non-verbal assessments for student knowledge. I had them develop more signals for I have something to add, I agree, and I disagree.

Below are my take aways and my plans to implement them in the future.

What were your take aways?


  1. I'm right there with you - the story she shared at the beginning of this chapter really struck a chord in our household...we are so bound by these academic structures....aren't we? I would love to grade more based on their every day work than assessments....if only....

    Crisscross Applesauce in First Grade

  2. All of your experiments looks so cool! I bet that your kids LOVE coming to school doing fun things like that! You can't judge yourself from your first year teaching...we are all lucky to have come out the other side alive! :-p
    Have a great week!
    Kickin' it in Kindergarten

    1. Thanks for the compliment! Everything after the first year is definitely easier! Have a great week too!


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