Science in the City

May 26, 2013

This is What Happens When You Make Student Progress Public

There has been a big push at our school, and at many places, to use data, and to share that data with students. The idea is that we are all "speaking a common language" of data. I understand the sentiment, but am not sure which data is meaningful to students, and how to present it in a way that is valuable, and confidential.

Personally, while I want them to know that they need to catch up, and develop some sense of urgency, I'm not sure Lexile levels and Aimsweb or NWEA scores will do that for them. Also, those scores don't tie directly to their grades, or anything else tangible and valuable to them.  In my classroom, I do two things to make some of their data visible to them.

1.  I post students current grade score sheets, by their ID number, every Monday. Kids get very quickly used to coming in on Monday morning, looking at their grade, and then trying to look across and see why their grade changed from last week (you know it's very mysterious!). 

That looks like this.

If they have been absent, they can match up the titles of the assignments to figure out what they are missing.  They can then go to a file crate with all the past work filed to find the assignments that they are missing.  I just keep the assignments in sequential order, and try to match up the titles.  I have seen another teacher who numbers them, which might be an idea to try for next year, particularly if you have a lot of attendance problems, and need students to be able to make up work easily.  

2. The second way, also updated weekly, is to post a graph in the hallway for a competition between classes. The two lines shown are class average and amount of homework turned in.  There is going to be a prize for the winning class. I also update this every week.  This allows them to see their part in the grades and progress of the whole class.

What do you do to share data with students?  Or do you?  How important do you think that is?  

Please share in the comments! 

May 11, 2013

How Do You Wrap Up Your School Year?

How do you wrap up the year? There are so many administrative things, and finals, paperwork, cleaning the classroom, but I think it is important to reflect, and to allow your students to reflect on the year and what they have learned as well. I did a project with my AP Environmental Science class a few years ago, and am going to try a variation of it this year with my 7th and 8th graders. Our calendar looks strange this year because we have so many end of the year events. Most of our teaching will be done, and then we have several school days after that. What to do with the students? One answer, of course, is to show movies and have the kids help pack up the classroom. That's fine. And there is some place for that, but I don't really think its the best answer, especially if they are doing that all day long. I think it gives students some good closure and reflection the year, and what they have learned as well. And gives me a new kind of insight into what they got out of the year.

Here is a link to the project, and a thumbnail image. I found it a very creative way to have students reflect, and show me, what they thought was important from this year. I hope it is useful and thought-provoking to you as well. In other end of the year news...I am giving a project based final and am thinking about making it like a science fair - design an experiment and write it up. Has anyone done this type of thing as a final project? What suggestions do you have? Am I crazy to even consider doing this at the end of the year?
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

May 8, 2013

Be Brave - Grant Writing is Not Off Limits

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to take my students in a field trip this past week. I teach in an urban, Title I school. I took my students to Cumming Nature Center, which is about a 45 minute bus ride. It was a great experience for me and them!!

Many of my foreign ELL students got off the bus and made comments like "welcome to Sudan"..."this looks like my country"…"I haven't seen anything like this since I left my country."

Many of my native, urban students had never been in the woods, never hiked, never touched much of the outdoors. They screamed when they were asked to look for worms, complained that the grass and trees were itchy, but in the end they liked it.

I had them fill out an evaluation/reflection and asked them if the would do it again (everyone said yes). Thumbs up or thumbs down (all thumbs up and a few drew in horizontal thumbs). What they learned:
- they learned things like -- woodpeckers live in trees
- worms eat dead things and leaves
- you can find worms and salamanders under logs. The salamander was cute. They didn't know that dropping it would hurt it, and apologized (genuinely) when one girl got scared and dropped it.
- they were impressed that the docent had dirt under her nails and was so excited
- they had fun picking up sticks and learning.
- they loved the beaver dam

At the end, the docent asked them to consider hugging a tree. Most of them did, and some said that was their favorite part!!

I think they will remember and understand a lot of ecology better, but I also think there is something so therapeutic and healthy about spending time outside. Many of my students don't get to do that. They live in areas where it's not safe to go outside and play.

I learn as much from seeing them in this setting and seeing what they learn and know and are interested in as they do. One student said he wants to live someplace like that when he grows up. He wouldn't be able to say that, if he had never been exposed!

This was made possible due to the Target field trip grant. If you are considering applying for a grant, do it! Figure out, really, why this will benefit your students, write it down, and apply. It's work to apply, and work to do the permission slips, lunches, bus, medical forms, etc but its worth it!!

If I can ever help you with a grant application or ideas for field trips, please let me know

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