The past summer provided me with a little time and space to read. I wasn’t working any Jumpstarts, maintaining a farm, attending professional development for new “initiatives” at my school, or, thank God, moving across the country. So what did I read? These books*.
I tweeted a few weeks ago, mentioning my frustration that a well known site on which you can save your favorite images had become nothing more than a re-direct to a site on which teachers sell their work. A number of other teachers jumped into the conversation, offering up the websites on which their own work could be downloaded for free. Many items are editable. All that is asked is that you follow their Creative Commons or other copyright requests.
On the sites below, you won’t find un-editable but cute worksheets that can be easily used as filler. You won’t find un-editable cut-and-paste scrapbooking-type activities that usually generate an attractive product with little likelihood of students engaging in any depth. You WILL find the best work of accomplished, practicing classroom teachers who continually update their lessons.
Yup. We are back in Ohio, after almost 13 years in Washington and then Oregon.
It all happened rather fast. Skyrocketing real estate prices made it a good time to sell the farm. Administrative changes in my district left me feeling stifled and restless. The Husband easily made a few business moves, made possible because he works from his phone. He bought us a new home in Ohio without my even visiting it. We packed more stuff than 2 people should own. The Husband supervised the movers as they toted it all across the country and he drove the dogs and cat. (Moral of that story: Never purchase something you can’t eat. Except dogs and cats.)
It’s only partly true that I’ve never been here before. We lived in the nearby town for 27 years. We raised our kids here, and they’ve stayed. I knew where the house was but had been inside only through photos and videos. A well-respected local builder built the home for his wife, so construction is topnotch.
I’m considering career options at this point. I’ve turned down 2 offers that were not me, and received one letter of rejection (with typos.) In the meantime, I have some updates to make here – so many posts in draft form – and on the website.
It was time to come home.
This is the third in a series of blog posts summarizing my reflections on what it means to provide learning opportunities for every student, every day. Find the series here, at #AllMeansAll
Disclaimer: I’ve read a good deal of literature and opinion around the validity of learning styles. Nonetheless, at the encouragement of a colleague (this colleague) during some collaborative course design work, I pulled out the learning styles inventory* again this year, in Physical Science classes. The intent was to use the data gathered to introduce graphing, and that was a win. The colleague suggested we share with students WHY we are interested in their learning styles. We are interested so that we can be sure to make learning available to all students in the modality each student best learns. We discussed this in both classes. The real win, though, was what I learned about my students, and what they learned about themselves.
This is the second in a series of blog posts summarizing my reflections on what it means to provide learning opportunities for every student, every day. Find the series here, at #AllMeansAll
On the first day in Physical Science, we got into teams and built paper towers as an engineering design challenge. Our process followed the outlined by a group of district STEM teachers working together last school year.
The challenge was simple: Build the tallest tower you can with 4 sheets of 8.5 x 11: paper.
First, a little history on this class:
Thirteen years ago, I was in Ohio, teaching a class of Chemistry students to set up their lab books for our first lab.
(Some of my current FB friends were in that class…) when our principal, Dan Griffin, announced that a plane had struck one of the World Trade Center towers. Then, in disbelief, we listened as he announced that the second tower had been hit. I had only one old, slow computer in my room, but all the news sites were too jammed for us to get any information. As I struggled to find words to calm my frightened, confused students, Mr. Griffin announced that a third plane had hit the Pentagon, and that all three flights had originated in DC. A student, all color drained from his face (you know who you are) stood up and said, “My mom was flying out of DC this morning. I need to go to the counselor’s office.”
Mike was having his hip joint scoped a few blocks away at the local hospital. When I went to see him during lunch/prep, I caught a bit more news. As he awoke and saw the TV in his room, he thought he was watching a horror movie. We kept hearing about terrorist involvement.
Our thoughts then turned to our younger son, Geoff, who was in basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood. Although we didn’t get to speak to him for the next few weeks, somehow, we knew there would be a consequence for him. We were right.
A hundred-plus lab books bear the start date of 9/11/01. Thousands of families, and our entire world, were never the same again.
*I stole this photo from a friend’s Facebook page. If it’s yours and I’m using it wrongly, please let me know and I’ll take it down.
We are asked to teach 21st Century Skills – Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication and Citizenship, to name a few. The last two schools in which I’ve worked have advisory classes. The point is career education and the relationship-building that increases chances for student success. We do prescribed career activities. We do grade checks and students reflect on their progress. I’ve been through many iterations of advisory during my tenure in 2 schools in 2 states over the past 10 years; and we are not yet sure what shape I’ll be getting a brand-new batch of grade 9 lambs this year, and I intend to help them become as successful as possible.
To support these skills, and state/district/building career-related activities and relationship-building activities, I’d like to suggest we consider the following possibilities for valuable use of advisory time:
Digital Literacy, Part 1
I see two components to Digital literacy.
The first is establishing some accounts and learning to use current tools. At our school and in my classroom, as a minimum, these would currently be
- Google apps including Blogger,
- Prezi, and
My building has dabbled in Project-Based Learning. A part of our work, an authentic audience is important. It’s amazing how the quality of students’ work becomes a big deal to them when they know it will be seen by others.
As digital portfolios become important, students could maintain their portfolios easily in Google sites, and later transfer them to a personally owned account. The advantage to Evernote is its portability and flexibility with media. Evernote could be used for quickly storing info from recordings, links, photos and clipped images such as those students take of their lab work and whiteboarding adventures (see Plagiarism, below) and drafts of projects and work. Many teachers ask students to use Prezi, and class/project time is used just setting up an account and learning the app. Prezi could also be a platform for the digital portfolio. Many classes, particularly art, also use Blogger for photoblogs.
Digital Literacy, Part 2
Safety and etiquette. That is all. No student may publish anything in my class to a public account with his/her name on it without parent permission, signed, and in my file.
Plagiarism: It’s not just for English class anymore.
Students must learn to vet every source they use for licensing. Creative Commons wasn’t around when most of us were in college, so we first need to learn the ropes. Wikimedia Commons is a great starting place for images. Google Search now offers the capability to find usage rights (in search, select images > search tools > usage rights and then follow the rights granted for your intended use.)
As 9th graders, perhaps a look at the cost of a cell phone contract, fast food, and driving a car, including a look at the good driver discount they get on auto insurance for keeping a B average. By 10th grade, looking at how to budget money from a part-time job, including savings, and the cost of college, and in the adulthood by investing in different ways online, as marketing or doing bets online in a gold cup day at cheltenham festival where they will have better chances to win.
By 11th grade, a look at taxes and more college costs. As seniors, they need to be looking at their actual expenses vs income after graduation. And then, there’s my personal beef that we’re teaching kids there’s actually such a thing as “good debt.” Hello.
There are others, of course. What are yours?
For years, I struggled with organizing student lab cupboards. Way back when, we had enough basic lab equipment for each student pair to have their own stocked, locked drawer. At my most recent school, we do not. Two pairs of students are assigned to work at 1 table. Each pair has their own cupboard. Each cupboard is, however, shared with 5 other classes, both biology and AP Chemistry.
Putting things away is not my strength. It’s a challenge to get students to do so, particularly when they are not solely responsible for their equipment. I’m not particularly disturbed by clutter from student work. It is frustrating for students to have to search the lab to find a needed beaker that someone forgot to put away. The goal is for students to have what they need so their work goes smoothly.
I can’t choose just one favorite book. I decided to share 2 books, one for each major content area I currently teach. while I don’t have a unique way of using either book in class, I can say that these books are clear student favorites. Students tell me they’re interesting and informative and help with understanding of important topics. We use each book differently.
Chemistry students devour Sam Kean’s The Disappearing Spoon, and Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table. So often, we forget that the “old dead guys” had lives, loves, families. We forget the historical context of their work – the politics, social norms, It is assigned to incoming Advanced Placement Chemistry students as summer reading. Students report the book helps them make friends with elements; to use element names and properties in everyday thinking, and to build a framework for the descriptive chemistry we do throughout the course. There is great appeal for kids who think of themselves more as historians than scientists. There are several study guides available for use with the book.
Blueprints: Solving the Mystery of Evolution presents the history of our understanding of biological evolution; If you’re a biologist, you know Thomas Dobzhansky (“Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”) If you’re not a biologist and think you understand the modern synthesis of evolutionary theory, you owe it to yourself and your inner educator self’s commitment to lifelong learning to read this book. Helping students understand how natural selection drives biological evolution can be challenging. I choose to let Maitland Edey and Donald Johanson help. Donald Johanson was one of the paleoanthropologists who discovered Lucy. Maitland Edey is a journalist who brings together all the lines of evidence explained by biological evolution in a way that a non-scientist can enjoy and understand. This book unpeels the layers of understanding needed to employ scientific thinking in the understanding of the natural world. When working with students as young as 9th grade, the opening chapters that describe pre-Darwin thoughts on change and fixity in geology and in living things. help us We read later chapters together as we construct our model of the Modern Synthesis. Just read it.
What are your favorite books? Why are they your favorites? How do you use them with students?
For years, my chemistry classes have made candy right before winter break. In years past, we spent a day investigating solutions, then I handed out a recipe and we made the candy. This year, with the blessings of grant from NBPTS to investigate project based learning, I began to learn how to integrate content into a project. I’m working on using more true PBL instead of simply asking students to do projects. In addition to the integration of academic content into making candy, students blogged about their learning and their work. Some students worked in Evernote and when they finished, posted their work using postach.io. Postach.io is now a paid app, and the features available for free may change before we use it again. Commenting must be done through Disqus, yet another sign-up and sign-in, so most students opted not to use it. I’m not going to lie – getting kids set up on Blogger through their school Google apps accounts was a challenge, and I’m on the hunt for something better. Next year, I will consider WordPress unless I find something better in the meantime.
EDIT: I’d love to know that information posted on the Internet is eternal. All links to student blogs and pages have been removed as they expired when students graduated.