Teaching Chemistry with More Voice and Choice

Differentiating Instruction with Menus: Chemistry (Grades 6-12)
By Laurie E Westphal, Ed.D. 
(Prufrock Press, 2019 – Learn more)

Reviewed by Emily Lane

I love this book! Anything that allows me to have “student voice and choice” present in my classroom can be considered a win.

The scary part of student voice and choice is that the teacher can feel a loss of control. In the chemistry classroom, for example, students love the idea of “blowing things up.” Before we get too deep into voice and choice, they have to realize the need to understand how things actually do blow up and they won’t be allowed to just run around with a flame to see what happens.

This book brings that important work on background knowledge into a more exciting atmosphere than just taking notes or reading a text that doesn’t seem to make sense.

Laurie E Westphal offers creative ways for students to take control of their own learning in a controlled environment. Her book has grading rubrics, examples and even ideas of what to look for as an exemplary model if that’s what you would prefer.

There are flexible menu options that can be changed for various topics and levels of students. I recommend that if you are writing your own activities or adapting options from the book you have a copy of the Depth of Knowledge indicators as well as Bloom’s handy to beef things up.

I recommend this book for anyone who teaches grades 6-10. This is great resource for pushing middle level students and allows teachers who may not have a strong science background to feel more comfortable with science (especially chemistry).

I know the title says for grades 6-12, but unless you use this as a review for some content in a chemistry class, it may be less beneficial than having students do a lab. If, however, you are working with a tight budget in a high school chemistry class, this would do the trick of having students think about content in a different and more accessible way if they can’t always do a hands-on lab.

Emily Lane is a teacher (9th-grade earth science) in Iowa. She also has the roles of science instructional coach (middle school and high school), MTSS strategist, mom, wife, and aspiring administration student. She is always on the lookout for new things that will help students to think outside the box and be creative with their learning in ways that allow them to see the world in a new light.


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