Jun 27, 2013

4 Ways to Make Something Abstract Kid-Friendly

During this last week, I went to a museum with my kids and saw this solar clubhouse.


This is clearly a clubhouse made for younger kids, but it is focused on solar energy. I think the size and look of it is immediately inviting to kids, and then when they walk in, the parts are labelled, and explained in fairly simple language. My 6 year old didn't understand all of it but was very interested to read and try to understand. How can we bring this experience to the classroom?

I think we need to keep a few lessons in mind:
1) Size. The size of examples and demonstrations, etc., can really change how it is perceived. 
2) Accessibility, and initial appearance. This is small, at eye level, brightly colored, etc
3) Relevance. Because its a clubhouse, and the examples are plugging in a light or tv, it is more understandable. 
4). This is all done without lowering the level of content. The concepts being explained are still complex and not oversimplified. 

What else do you see that you can take away from that example?  How can we bring this into our classrooms?  I think these are principles that we know, but often lose track of while teaching "curriculum"

Anything you have done that is a good example of this kind of teaching?  Or anything you've seen? 

Thanks! 


Jun 23, 2013

Can I Use a Pass? Printable Freebie For You


In my classroom, students always ask for passes, often when you are in the middle of
teaching, or at a time that they should not be able to go.

To try to help alleviate this, I have made this “Can I Use a Pass?” sign. It can be posted in a few places in the classroom, and can answer many of those questions simply by pointing to it, and training students to check there before asking for a pass.

It is very simple, and could easily be modified to fit your needs, but the concept might help your classroom.  A good thing to keep in mind as you think about procedures and organization over the summer.

Hope it helps you!
Classroom freebies

Jun 20, 2013

Two Great Resources for Freebies and Science Info

I am part of two events that I wanted to share with you.  Both are great timing as school is wrapping up for the summer, and we will likely spend at least a little bit of time this summer just browsing and reading up on related articles.

First of all, I am participating in a Facebook Frenzy Freebie Event. In this event, as you go to different Facebook pages, you get a variety of freebies.  It starts tomorrow, and goes through Monday.  Thanks to Creation Castle for hosting.  You can click on the image to go directly to it!


Secondly, I am participating in a blog hop of science blogs.  I have already found some great new science related blogs.  


One of my goals is to host a monthly linky on different topics.  Mrsharristeachs is hosting this, but wants to share the linky so that it can display on other blogs as well.  I am going to count this as my first one!


Jun 16, 2013

Non-Teaching Related Freebie - Celebrate The End of the School Year!

This is not a traditional freebie, because it is not directly classroom related, however, as the school year is coming to an end (for some of you it has already ended), many of us are focused on goals for the summer, or plans that may or may not involve our classrooms.  One of my goals is to focus more on physical fitness and stress relief.  For me, that means that I want to do more yoga.

I found an amazing site, called doyogawithme.com that has MANY yoga videos at many levels, focusing on different body areas, for free.

I made myself a calendar (a 30 day plan), that I would like to share with you, in case any of your summer goals are the same.  There are two versions in the file, a calendar (July) and a plan that just covers 30 days. Each week it includes 2 rest days, a 40-60 minute routine, two 20-30 minute routines, and 2 shorter routines.  There is a mixture of stretching and strength.

Anyone want to join me and see if we can stick with it?

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B9KhhEA266jneWVaUWpzTFJndFk/edit?usp=sharing
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Jun 14, 2013

How to Reconcile Standards with Students Below Grade Level?

As many of you know, I teach in a district, and a school, where most of my students are below grade level (Title I, Focus School, etc). How do you take your kids from where they are, to where they need to be, when that is as far away (and foreign) as the stars for some of them?



I was in an interesting conversation today about how to address that, and meet the standards/curriculum/state tests.  I see two things mostly happening, and I'd love to hear which side you fall on and why, or if you think there is another position.

Here are the two sides that I see:

1)  Teach the curriculum, at the level that it is supposed to be taught.  This allows those few students who are higher/above grade level to get the opportunity that they should.  Try to provide scaffolding to help students be more successful.  This might come in the form of before/after school tutoring, additional homework, starting out easy and quickly ramping up, or other scaffolding strategies to help students reach that level.

2) Recognize that the course is way over students heads in many ways, and that most of our students don't do homework, so focus on keeping them engaged in class, and feeling successful.  Keep the lessons more at a basic level, and offer some 'challenge questions" for the higher students.  Then put in some test prep strategies, and focus on major concepts to see if you can get test scores up.

I see pros and cons of both, and would be glad to elaborate, but I'd love to hear what you think?  Which camp do you fall in?  Or are you somewhere else? How do you get students to a level of rigor that they are not comfortable with, when the curriculum demands it?

What is meeting their needs appropriately? What is lowering expectations?

Jun 11, 2013

My Perspective: Why I Don't Use KWL Charts



My son recently did a unit on earthworms, in first grade. He learned a lot, and they had a vermicomposting bin, as well as reading and writing about earthworms.  It was a really cute unit, and he learned a lot.

However, they started off the unit with a KWL.  What he wanted to know is "How do worms communicate?"  A very interesting question, and one I didn't know the answer to (chances are his teacher didn't either).  Many times throughout the unit he came home saying "Guess what I learned....but I still didn't learn how worms communicate."

At the end of the unit, a sad boy came to me....we still never learned how worms communicate.

As a teacher, and a parent, I went online and looked it up and discussed with him.  However, how many parents don't have the knowledge or resources to do that? Or how many kids wouldn't ask, but on some level would know that their question hadn't been answered.

What does that teach kids about education and school?  If you do use KWL charts, how do you address the questions that kids come up with that are just not in your curriculum, you don't have time for, or you don't know the answers? 

In a perfect world, we could pursue their interests, but since we are all on such tight curriculum schedules and standards, I think this sets a bad precedent.  What do you think? 


Jun 9, 2013

GroupWork Freebie Checklist Proven to Increase Responsibility

Depending upon the culture at your school, and the prior experiences of your students, when you start doing group work and projects, they may need to some scaffolding to help that process go smoothly. They may have trouble working together, or staying on task. 
One tool to do that is this freebie. Is it a simple checklist of what everyone in the group should be doing.  Its very basic, but seems to make a big difference with kids helping to keep each other on task.  It shifts some of the responsibility to them.  There is a spot for a team leader.  Its your choice if you want to designate a consistent team leader, or have it rotate.  
You may be very surprised at who is a good leader (and who likes to be a leader).  It might not be who you think!  
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Jun 5, 2013

"Real" Work and Milk Carton Recycling

One of the activities that I have done with my class that I am the most proud of is a milk carton recycling program that I did with my AP Environmental Science class 3 years ago.  I had a great group of girls, and we decided to enter to Lexus Ecochallenge.  They outline the steps to be taken pretty clearly, including identifying a real problem in the school or community where they could make a difference, and then implementing a plan.

After much discussion, we planned, and successfully implemented a plan to recycle the milk cartons at lunch. We worked with the cafeteria staff, the custodians, garbage collection, and the group that does the recycling.  We got buckets to rinse the cartons, worked out a way to clean and store the buckets.  We got special bags to put the milk cartons into, and developed a process to collect, clean, and store them until they were recycled.  We worked out a schedule for who worked which lunch periods. They really did it!  They carried through until the end of the school year.  In the end approximately 10,000 milk cartons were recycled by our small group!


Two other very cool parts of this project, besides the learning experience for my class was (1) the involvement of the principal. He was really excited and would often help out at lunch time. (2) the learning experience for the other students in the school. Since we were visible in the lunch room, other kids would often ask why we were collecting them. This led to kids from other lunch periods, or from breakfast, bringing cartons to my classroom. I got a box and would collect them there, then at lunchtime we would bring them down and put them with the others. It spread! Such a small step can really make a difference. I think the class learned on so many different levels. That's the kind of 'real' learning that's energizing and exciting to teach!

Jun 2, 2013

Earth Science Review Strategy Freebie For You

Here is a way that I like to review.  Click on the link to access the freebie.

This link goes to a document that I have created that walks students through using several different websites to review Earth Science.


It is specifically geared towards reviewing in the computer lab for Regents Earth Science (New York State), but could definitely be used in other Earth Science classes.

I like to use this on a fairly early day in the 'review' section of the course. It then allows students a chance to get familiar with the websites in a guided setting, and then take the directions home to study on their own, or earn extra credit (obviously the teacher's choice).  Students seem to like it because it allows them some control, and they can work at their own pace.

This could also be a great option for kids to use when they have extra time in library, tech, or other classes where they have computer access.

Hope it is helpful!


Classroom Freebies Manic Monday


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