Science in the City

Jul 6, 2013

Giveaway - Everybody Wins!

I am proud to be taking part in a Summer Planning Giveaway.  Help yourself get a head start on the school year.  Here is the prize back that my product is part of (there are other packs as well.  All the details below).

This giveaway is being run in a really unique format.  Everyone wins!  You need to find the secret words, and follow my blog/ like facebook page.  You can follow on either Bloglovin or Feedly (on the right hand side) and like my facebook page

Everyone will start at where Erin has done TONS of work to organize this very well-planned givcaway.  Follow the directions there to collect the secret words and get the prizes!

Here is my secret word!

The product that I donated is station signs, in 3 sizes/styles.  These are great for many subjects and classrooms.

Station Signs - 3 VersionsStation Signs - 3 Versions
These station signs come in full page, half-page, and table tent sizes.  They go from numbers 1-12 and are great to laminate, or just print and re-use to really make your station numbers stand out.

Hope you enjoy!

Jul 5, 2013

TESOL Class Week 1

I am starting a new adventure this week.  I have a high population of ELL students at my school (about 30%).  I happened to mention to someone at my church that I love working with them. They are often the high point of my day. She quickly said that a local university was just starting a grant funded program for current teachers, especially urban teachers to add TESOL certification. She suggested that I apply. I did. To make a long story short, I started my first class yesterday.

I will take one class a semester, observation next summer, and student teach (and complete the program) the following summer. 

My first class is Second Language Acquisition and Bilingualism.  It is a very intense 5 week class. It
meets twice a week for 3 hours and 20 minutes. 

So far, in the first week, we are learning about our own language backgrounds and those of our classmates, some of the terms in the field of second language acquisition, and some of the cultural and environmental factors that go into learning a second language. 

I was struck by the following:
- I am out of practice reading dense journal articles and writing reflections
- technology has changed since I was in school (blackboard, not printing articles but reading and highlighting them on the iPad) 

In terms of content, the common thread this week was the varied factors that play into people learning and using multiple languages. In many cases these made sense, in a common sense way, but were laid out in much more detail. For example, people are successful at learning languages because of factors in their environment, such as their intrinsic motivation and analysis/attention to detail, the level and types of language that they are exposed to, the interactions that they have with other speakers, the amount of language that they are producing, and the amount and type of explicit and implicit correction that happen as they are learning the language.

The other readings discussed social factors that play into language learning and language use, such as gender, social power structures and expectations, etc. By putting these together, it becomes clear that each individual student, and each cultural group, may have different abilities and affinities for learning a language, and different cultural backgrounds that play into their motivation to learn a language, even when placed in the same setting. 

As I read this, I thought of a few connections to my students. First of all, I think that code switching (or switching between languages, and dialects, based on situation)  happens often, even with our native English speakers. For many African American students, the language that they speak at home, with parents, and with friends, is very different than the academic language that we ask of them in the classroom. I have been part of situations where I hear native English speakers speaking in one way to peers or parents before class, and very quickly changing their "code" for class. Additionally, this is also true of many of the parents of students. Those that cannot switch codes to a more appropriate code for school and business places often find themselves at a disadvantage, or not to be taken as seriously. They do not represent themselves the way that they want. On the other hand, people can be accused to "acting white." Teachers also practice code switching when developing a "teacher voice." Finally, I think electronics have led to a new type of code switching between texting and other written communication. I am curious if these fall under the same umbrella.

As I read, I was also struck (again) by how multilingual most other countries and cultures are compared to the U.S. most of the dilemmas being discussed are foreign to us, where so many people only speak one language. I found some of the article on code switching, particularly the discussion of studies of type a of code switching confusing.

The most interesting reading was about these people who marry people of different tribes who speak different languages.  The children learn to speak the mother's language first, but are corrected and re-directed to speak the father's language.  The official language is the father's language, and it is shameful to speak the mother's language.  However, most people speak several languages.  The language they use depends upon the circumstances.  There are some great pictures of these people on this blog

Jul 3, 2013

5 Ways to Make Science Class More "Fun"

My boys are interested in science, but my older one (who is in school), seems to do a very limited amount of science. I am biased, being a science teacher, but now that summer is here, I signed them both up for a half day, one week, camp at our local science museum. I am so impressed at the amount of content that they can get across to a very young audience (ages 4-6), in a short amount of time (2 hours).

Both of these classes have a very high student-teacher ratio, seem to have a good supply budget, and have students and parents who are invested in being there, etc, but still, I wonder what lessons we can take away from their classes to our classrooms. 

My little guy is doing "Exploring Science". It is a 4 day camp. So far they did one day of living things and one day of chemistry. They saw pictures of X-rays, saw skeletons of some animals, and colored pictures of plants, as well as started a seed. That was all in the first 2 hours. On the second day they made oobleck, tried different things to melt ice, and made a volcano model and read a story about bubbles. 

My older one is doing "The Great Ice Age."  They have already tried different ways to melt ice too, went  into the museum to see the glacier and wooly mammoth, read a story about the first mammoth discovered, and how mammoths used to be hunted, and played with "fossils" in the sand table.  On the second day they made an elk mask, made a diorama of a saber toothed tiger habitat, and he came home with lots of other tidbits -- did you know some plants survived the ice age?!  Did you know there used to be a glacier here?!

A diorama of a sabre toothed tiger.  Under the moss is a volcano! 
A Woolly Mammoth
They were both so excited. My little guy had trouble verbalizing some of what they did and trouble connecting it to what he learned, but I have no doubt that the experiences are good. My older one was so excited to share all of his new knowledge. 

Lessons I think we can take away from this, into our own classrooms: 

- show examples, even if its not an activity, but just show
- read stories and kids books, even to older kids
- make it relevant to where they live
- make it creative, and allow them a chance to express themselves

What I also noticed, because its younger kids and because its not school, they aren't writing anything about what they did.  That is good and bad. They aren't doing any worksheets. But are they learning?  Absolutely!  How do we practice writing and connect to common core?  Maybe do few higher quality writing pieces?  How do we assess their work without writing and worksheets?  Maybe with a rubric and conferences?  Maybe verbal explanations of a project?  This is harder, to me. I'd love to hear your thoughts on how to do this, in a regular classroom setting. 

Maybe it's just foreign to me because I'm used to older kids?  

What thoughts do you have?

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