Science in the City

Apr 7, 2013

Free For You: Fun Science Poster or Facebook Project Guidelines

Are you looking for a project that your students can do that is cross-disciplinary? Maybe a way to get them reading and writing and using science that is different than state tests, or after state tests?

Here is a project that I used last year, along with some great photos of student work. The English teacher and I did this as a joint project later in the year. We let the kids choose a biography book of a scientist or a book about an animal and create a Facebook page for that scientist or animal. You could also just have them research the scientist or animal. I also had one person comment that they did this project after going on an aquarium field trip. The kids researched one of the animals they saw on the field trip and created the Facebook page.

Facebook Scientist or Animal ProjectFacebook Scientist or Animal ProjectFacebook Scientist or Animal Project

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
Freebie Fridays

Apr 5, 2013

How Can I Engage and Differentiate with Online Videos?

Here is a teaching strategy that you may already be using, but if not, I highly suggest it.  Use online teaching videos (not brainpop or something as catchy, but simple content-based videos) in class as a means to differentiate.  A great site for Earth Science is  (see videos below) Or you could try Khan Academy, or many others.   
  • Find the video(s) you want to use the teach the content you are trying to teach
  • Make a guided note sheet (similar to what you would put in a powerpoint or what you want kids to take notes on
  • Include some higher level thinking questions as they go through.
  • Then make an application section, or some other activity using the information they they just watched.
My kids used the netbooks, put on headphones, and were totally engaged.  They could stop and re-start the video as many times as they wanted, ask questions where they were specifically stuck, and gauge their understanding better. I had kids comment that they really liked that they could go at their own pace.

Depending upon how you want to run the lesson, you could make the application task homework if they don't finish, make different levels of application questions etc.  People will finish at vastly different times, but hopefully they all finish and grasp the main points of the content.  That's why we are here, right?! 

Have you ever used a similar strategy in your classroom?  If so, how did you do it?  I also found this to work well for review when the topic was familiar, but some needed instruction again and some just needed reinforcement.

Apr 2, 2013

What Do You Think About Controversial Report Card Policies?

I don't know how your school does report cards.  My school district has 6 marking periods for report cards.  Each is approximately 6 weeks long. Most districts have 4 approximately 9-10 week marking periods.  This change was done before I started working there, for a number of reasons that I'm aware of:

  • With six marking periods, the need for interim (5 week) reports is gone.  We are suggested to send progress reports home, but its not required.
  • With six marking periods, kids will have a better chance of being successful (each marking period counts less).
We also have the restriction that no report card grades lower than a 50% can be given.  Even if a student has hardly shown up to class and has an average in the single digits earns a report card grade of 50%.  This is also to increase incentive for later in the year.  If a student has a 50% for a marking period or two, its not that difficult for them to still pass.  

Many people are frustrated with this policy.  I get it.  Some students honestly work and earn a 55%, or even a 50%.  What do our grades mean?  And what are we grading?  

This has given me a lot of room for thought on what we are grading.  I think there is a place, in a way, for this.  Students do still need room to be successful.  They can't go back and redo the earlier work, really, but if they are to pass a final exam they will still need to learn a lot of the content.   The final exam counts 25% of their grade for the course.  Many times, if they just squeak by, they don't pass the final.  But this policy gives them incentive to keep working for the rest of the year.  They don't give up, because they feel they can still pass.   It doesn't seem quite fair, but what is the alternative. 

Does your school have a similar policy?  What do you think about a minimum grade?  Do you agree or disagree. 

Many of the students in the district where I teach have a very difficult marking period because they have family members in jail, or they have to move because they have gotten evicted, etc.  How can they maintain the expectations of a "student" all the time? Is that a reasonable expectation on our part? 

When I was a first year teacher, and very frustrated over state test scores, another teacher who had been in the district a long time talked to me about how "they may just need to take the class twice to pass, they are learning a lot, but maybe need to see it again."   That has echoed in my head many times.  As frustrating as it is, we (and our students) sometimes need to take a longer range/bigger picture view, particularly in the face of adversity, and keep plugging away towards a goal, realizing that we have a long way to go and a lot setting us back. 

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