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Showing posts from February, 2011

Then and Now; Drama to Assess Learning

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We continued our mind-mapping activity from yesterday with a little drama piece as a form of assessment.  Drama is one of my favorite tools to use for assessment.  Kids love it, it makes them excited, and you can really see who knows the content and who doesn't.

The central question that we have been looking at this week was Why did the population of the Earth explode in the last 200 years?  Our mind-maps from yesterday helped us sort out a variety of reasons.  Today, we focused on three; Advances in Medicine, Advances in Farming Technique, and Advances in Transportation.  We made a large class mind map and made connections between the three reasons.  Our discussion was lively and in-depth.



After that, they broke off into groups, one of each topic.  They had to write a short skit from two perspectives; from 400 years ago, and from now.  These two skits would compare a common problem that people might have had.  For example, the medicine team chose to talk about someone who was in an…

MindNode for Mac and Diagnostic Assessments

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This is the start of our new unit on Over-Population and the World we live in.  Over the course of three periods of study, we started this unit by Tuning In to what the students already know.  This unit will have a strong tech and critical thinking focus; and I used the following tools over the course of today's lesson:

MindNode for Mac

SmartBoard Notebook Software

Internet Browsing for Videos and Visual Graphics

Class Wiki for On-Line Reflection Journal

This unit was kicked off with a little critical thinking and visualization.  I presented an image to the class; a hand dropping fish food into a bowl with a couple of fish in it.  The food was more than enough to sustain the fish for three days, and after three days, the hand would reappear and drop more food into the bowl.  I asked the students to imagine they were fish.  What would life be like?  How would they survive?

After a couple of minutes discussion, I added ten more fish to the bowl (on the Smartboard, use the infinite c…

Desktop Organizer

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I have been fiddling around with desktop background for some years now.  For a while it was a picture of Buckminster Fuller:



Then I got tired of looking at him and I suspected he was sick of looking at me too.  I found myself moving folders around so I wouldn't cover up his face (because that's just rude) and so I switched to a nice backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.



Alas, that made me want to head off to Whistler for a weekend of snowboarding, so I had to switch again.  Also, my blue folders kept getting lost in the icy waters of Lake Louise.  I flip-flopped back and forth between various pictures of nature, my son, stock MacBook photos and cars (I have no idea why, I hate cars).  Eventually, I got sick of changing and rethought the whole purpose of a desktop photo.  Why can't it work with me instead of against me?

Here is what I came up with last night at about 11:30pm (yes, this is what I do in my spare time).  I went into PowerPoint and made some nice neat boxes, gave them …

Box-Ball; Child Created Games

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We started our unit on Games today in our PE class.  It was good fun and I highly recommend it.

To kick it off we brainstormed the Elements of a Game with the simple question, what makes a good game?  Once we had some ideas, we used MindNode, which is some freeware software for a Mac that creates graphic mind-maps.  We got out our MacBooks and plugged in our information:



Once we had this set, we came up with a list of games that fit this criteria and scattered them down on a piece of paper.  After we had a satisfactory number, we made connections by drawing a circle around two games and linking them with a line based on some kind of similiarity.  Next, we did a Think/Pair/Share and explained our reasoning for linking two games (for example, Golf and Running are similiar because it is an individual game where you compete against many people).

For the next portion of the lesson, I put out several random items from the supply closet; a box, a ball, and some ping pong paddles.  I then asked …

Tech Badges

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I have been tracking our use of technology this year by making a poster to show all the technology integration we have used.  So far, a little more than halfway through the year, here is what we have so far.  I plan to print this out and give it to each student at the end of the year, as a way for them to remember what projects and programs we have been using.  In the future, I hope to do this in an interactive way, so that when you click on each badge, a description of how we used it appears.  In our classroom we have a large poster set up next to the SmartBoard, and we continually update it when we try something new.

Ski Day!

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Teaching Strategies

Here is a graphic organizer I made to try and sort out all the teaching strategies I have complied over the year.  I keep this on my desk, and it is quite useful.  Feel free to download the PDF here: Teaching Strategies Desk Guide

Feel free to share any more that you know of.

Bob's Bird-seed

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Here is a great problem adapted from Contexts for Learning Mathematics by Cathy Fosnot



The key to this problem is using the landmark fraction of 5/8 to find the rest of them.  Thinking about the numbers in terms of money is very helpful, as it contextualizes the problem into something that is more easily understood.  The next great aspect of it is that it forces the children into making a table, or a ratio comparison chart.

Where to start?  Some students will look right away at 5/8 and see that we can easily find the 90kg bag by just making an equivalent fraction (5 x 18 =90 and 8 x 18=144, therefore the 90kg bag costs $144.

The easiest way to do this problem is to find the landmark fraction for 10kg a bag.  Though 10kg is not on the list, the fact that customers scoop their own bags leads you to believe that 10kg would be possible.  So, if we take our initial 5/8, and make an equivalent fraction (5x2=10 and 8x2=16, therefore a 10kg bag costs $16).  With this information we can solve for…

Read Aloud with Audio Books

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I read to my class everyday.  My message is clear; no matter how busy you are in life, there is also an extra 20 minutes to spare to just sit and read a good book.  We read novels.  Sometimes they are quick, something they take a bit longer.  At the moment, we are working on The Hunger Games, which is fantastic!  They are really into it, and making some great connections to our world and other books we have read.



Today, my voice was feeling a bit hoarse today and my throat hurt.  I took a moment at lunch and found my copy of the audio book of the Hunger Games.  I spend a couple more minutes and found the point we were at.  When the kids came back I hit play and we all listened to Suzanne Collins read us the book.  It started off wonderfully.  They thought it was quite cool that the author of a book they love was reading it to them!

However, it was not the same.  I noticed the interest fade away and some of the eyes start to wander around the class, staring at the walls, the posters; but…

Wordle and the Theme

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I have never been a big fan of Wordle.  It looks pretty, and it lets us see the big picture, but I never saw it as more than just an 'oh wow, that looks cool' type of thing.  Until today.



I found this Wordle is a Google search.  I put it up on the board as a title page for our lesson on determining the theme.  It was just up there to look pretty, I had no intention of using it for anything other than a title page for my SmartBoard slideshow.  Then, a student was staring at it and started to make up the story. "I think it is about a war, a bunch of soldiers are stuck near a bridge and want to go home, but they can't".  Another student jumped in and put some more information in, and then another and another.  Before you know it, we had an outline of a great short story.  We used this to talk about what the theme of such a short story would be, what is a theme, how the theme will never show up on something like Wordle (and why), and what are the elements of writing a…

February 2 - Finding the Connections

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Here is a great activity for making connections in literature and determining the theme.

We watched the movie The Red Balloon (you can use anything).  While the students are watching the movie, each child has a piece of paper in front of them.  On the piece of paper they write down feelings, observations, ideas, or just words that they think are related to the story.  For example, during The Red Balloon, we had words like, fun, peaceful, children, free, curious, amazing, etc.

Once the film is finished ask them (in pairs or individually), to draw a line between words that they think are connected.  They can make it look pretty with colors if they wish!  On the line, write why you think these two words are connected.  Give a decent amount of time to work with this, and they will come up with some great ideas.  Once finished, they can switch partners or get into different groups and do a sharing jigsaw, where they explain their thinking to someone else.

We took it a step further and I asked…