Science in the City

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 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?
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? 

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