University of Minnesota

Tips for Teachers

Posted on Friday, December 1, 2000 at 4:18 pm in Teacher Resources

At this year's MITC Reunion, teachers from all over MN gathered to share successes, frustrations, and new ideas for teaching with monarchs. Here are some of their tips.

1. Create-A-Cage: If your students take larvae home, have them "invent" an ideal cage as a way of increasing their personal investment in the project. Georgie Molitor's students had to design a quality cage, and her her seal of approval, before taking larvae home. 

2. Give a Gift: Many teachers develop students' public speaking skills by having them visit other classrooms to share fascinating monarch facts. As an added element of interest, Mardi Knudson and Laura Matthieson's students gave a pupa to the classrooms they visited so that those students could enjoy the excitement of emergence. 

3. Make a Field Guide (and really use it): Trina Wentzel's urban school is near a home for elderly citizens. The school has a beautiful peace garden that many of their neighbors enjoy. Her students created field guides of the plant and butterfly species found in the garden, and gave these guides to seniors to use on their visits. Don't have a school garden? Look for a community garden or prairie restoration near your school and "adopt" it.

4. Improve Journal Quality: We all imagine that our intermediate and middle school students will have plenty to write about once they meet a monarch. We are often aghast when some students have nothing to write. Barb Brown solved this problem by displaying a different prompt for each journal entry. For example: Comment on your larva's behavior and appearance. Make a prediction, describe a change, and ask a question. 

5. Create "Magic" Measurement Tools: De Cansler taught us to make measurement easier by copying a clear ruler several times onto transparency film. Cut the rulers out and place them in larval containers for measurement that reduces larval handling. 

6. Maximize "Monarch Mishaps": Mardi Knudson and Theresa Root had suggestions to improve "Monarch Mishaps" (3-6 and Middle School Curriculum Guides). Explain the game and assign roles one day, then review roles and rules and play the game the next day. the first time through, only play the game for 5 minutes. Discuss what’s happening, make necessary adjustments, then play at least two more short games, changing roles for the last game. Use parent volunteers or extra students to count eggs, larvae and adults at the end of the game. Debrief the game on the following day, when students are fresh.

7. Develop a Question Pool: Cindy Petersen reminds us of the value of recording students' questions. She wrote questions on a visible board, adding to the list often. This was great for noting questions that the class itself answered over time, as well as a source of research ideas. 

8. Change "Hypothesis" to "Possible Outcomes": When Students do research, they tend to see their research as "a failure" if their results don't reflect their chosen hypothesis. instead, get your student to think of all the possible outcomes of their experiment-- a list of the many hypotheticals that might ensue and why each might occur. This way, they won't be as tied to one result .

9. Make a Video or Slide Show: Several teachers documented the monarch rearing experience by making a video and slide show of their students' experiences and work. this is also a great tool to use when training other teachers or sharing with parents. Marcia Lunsford connected a Flexcam to her computer to record a larva transforming into a pupa, and a butterfly emerging. This is a great way to capture this event close up so that your students can see it (again and again!).

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