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‘Boot camp’ theme keeps biology classes student-centered

2014 April 10
by HISD Communications
Kevin Li with fellow biology teacher, Erika Boyd

Kevin Li with fellow biology teacher, Erika Boyd

Most academic “boot camps” don’t involve drill sergeants, camouflage clothing, or anything else related to the military. But the same can’t be said for those run by Kevin Li, a first-year biology teacher at Sharpstown High School.

“Every Monday, our biology team dresses up in ‘camo’ clothing to play the part of boot camp instructors,” he explained. “We also have three ‘stations’: ‘lieutenant drills,’ at which students practice with me on whiteboards and review past concepts and vocabulary; ‘team bunkers,’ at which students work together in small groups; and ‘battle stations,’ at which students work independently on problems.”

Li says that the use of military symbolism and imagery has meant less talk, more action, and greater mastery of subject matter. “Since switching to this method, my student data has jumped significantly,” he said. “A greater percentage of my class scores are frequently above the 85 percent threshold of mastery on weekly quizzes and exams.”

To further build class cohesion, Li deputizes two of the highest performing students in each class to act as his assistants. They complete the following day’s class work as homework so that they can help other students during class the next day.

“We wanted the classroom to be much more student-centered, since it is a very effective way to enhance learning,” explained Li. “By using stations and rotations, as well as spicing up the notes and including guided practice and independent practice, it puts the emphasis on the individual student to promote his or her success. This way, I can focus more of my efforts on my lower-performing kids, whereas my medium- and higher-performing kids can get help from my teacher assistants.”

Had a breakthrough in your classroom? Tell us about it! Just send an email to info@houstonisd.org briefly describing your situation, and we could feature it here.
One Response leave one →
  1. Jessica permalink
    April 18, 2014

    This instructional strategy is awesome as someone who is a veteran I can appreciate the effectiveness of this kind of program. I was looking for a creative way to implement my Army training in class without scaring my children, so I think this way is awesome.

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