Independence a True Gift

Independence a True Gift
July is just beginning and it is my favorite month of the summer. It is the only true month of independence that most teachers have. As teachers, many of us have a good part of June off, but we are unwinding from the stress of the end of the year and cleaning all the areas of our house that we neglected during the school year and in August we are deluged with planning meetings and last minute

July is all about celebrating the independence of our country, but if you think about it, July is also a month of independence for most teachers. Why? July is the only month in the summer that teachers are free from the stress of the end of the year, and the stress of the new school year. Making July the perfect time to exercise your freedom to learn, read, connect in anyway that will help you evolve as a teacher and improve your ability to reach more students in the upcoming school year.

Need some surefire ways to use your time independence to recharge and refresh your self and your teaching toolbox, so that in the fall you can reveal a sparkling approach to your curriculum? Begin by allowing yourself the freedom to reflect on your teaching. Pick one thing about your teaching that you would like to improve, or a new approach that you want to try next year. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the time during the school year to reflect or problem solve how to set up my classroom or curriculum so that learning is optimized and all students are engaged. It is with that in mind that I use the freedom of summer to exercise my independence to connect, engage and interact to improve my teaching.

If you are interested in using this month of learning independence to improve your teaching here are some ideas to get you started.

1.Use this time to become connected to other great educators. In my opinion the teachers that are connected will end up in front of those who are not connected. I personally take this time to find educators in the DEN, on or through social media to share great ideas with or to ask for help with an idea. I love to share ideas and collaborate on projects and love connecting with new people. If you want to add a new teacher connection then email or send a tweet to me or any of the other wonderful Discovery Star Educators and see how easy it is to connect through the DEN. Don’t know anyone you want to connect with? I will be happy to give you a few names of educators worth following if you tweet me @ tracieb on Twitter. I have lots of ideas to share on iPads in the classroom, study skills and many other ideas. Write me and let’s collaborate on a new idea.

2.Another great idea for the month of July is to read one book about teaching that can help you become a better teacher. I am reading Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov and Norman Atkins. Another great book I am trying to make time for is Teach Like a PIRATE: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Education by Dave Burgess.

3.Choosing one new idea to implement in your classroom is also an option. Are you ready to try flipping your classroom or do you want to learn more about implementing project-based learning in your class. Then use this gift of time you have to watch a tutorial or read some great articles to get new fresh ideas from. Trying to learn something new while you have leisure time is crucial for creativity and innovation. This July I am going to learn how to use Discovery Education’s Board Builder. My goal is to make a board for each subject I teach and use them inside assignment builder to help build engagement with long-term assignments.

Hopefully, some of these ideas will spark some great connections or learning. Trust me, using your independence in July to improve your teaching style, connect with teachers, or plan new curriculum, makes for a great August. When August arrives you can enjoy the last few days of summer knowing that you are ready to reveal exciting and promising new ideas once the school year starts.

Virtual Labs to the Rescue

EExperimental design is something that many middle school students  have trouble doing independently.  For years I have done the same lab to teach this concept to my students. The students love the lab, but I don’t love the results.  This year I decided to try teaching experimental design  with a virtual lab. My students chose to do the sound advice lab from Discovery science.  Their mission was to find out if listening to rock music on an MP3 player  causes  hearing damage. My students used the explore section to research sounds and  to learn what decibel levels are. They learned how to read and graphs that demonstrated what level of sound decibels can damage hearing.. Then the students set out to design an experiment to test their hypothesis about the damage that MP3 players can cause if played at a loud volume.

The lab was relevant to their world. The virtual lab made it easy for me to have 80 students researching, testing and writing at the same time.  When the students finished writing up their experimental design plan they turned it for me to critique. In the past I wrot notes to my students about what they did right or wrong on their experimental design plan.  This year I used my Ipod touch to give each student an individual critique. Using garage band I made a simple podcast file of what the student did right and wrong on the design write up.  I emailed the podcast file to my students.  They listened to their crtique in class and then fixed any parts of the design that was incorrect.The students did the best job they have ever done on designing an experiment. Many of them told me that this method of conferencing helped them know how to fix their writing mistakes or design flaws.  I haven’t felt this good about teaching scientific writing in a long time.  Try a virtual lab this year and you’ll say why I say: “Virtual lab to to the rescue.

Virtual Labs to the Rescue

Experimental design is something that many middle school students  have trouble doing independently.  For years I have done the same lab to teach this concept to my students. The students love the lab, but I don’t love the results.  This year I decided to try teaching experimental design  with a virtual lab. My students chose to do the sound advice lab from Discovery science.  Their mission was to find out if listening to rock music on an MP3 player  causes  hearing damage. My students used the explore section to research sounds and  to learn what decibel levels are. They learned how to read and graphs that demonstrated what level of sound decibels can damage hearing.. Then the students set out to design an experiment to test their hypothesis about the damage that MP3 players can cause if played at a loud volume.The lab was relevant to their world. The virtual lab made it easy for me to have 80 students researching, testing and writing at the same time.  When the students finished writing up their experimental design plan they turned it for me to critique. In the past I wrot notes to my students about what they did right or wrong on their experimental design plan.  This year I used my Ipod touch to give each student an individual critique. Using garage band I made a simple podcast file of what the student did right and wrong on the design write up.  I emailed the podcast file to my students.  They listened to their crtique in class and then fixed any parts of the design that was incorrect.The students did the best job they have ever done on designing an experiment. Many of them told me that this method of conferencing helped them know how to fix their writing mistakes or design flaws.  I haven’t felt this good about teaching scientific writing in a long time.  Try a virtual lab this year and you’ll say why I say: “Virtual lab to to the rescue.

Earth Day Cometh

Earth Day is here again and we all need ideas that are quick but relevant.  Here are a few to share with teachers in your school.

The grocery bag project:
This project is a simple one, but will help students raise awareness about protecting the Earth’s environment and animals. Have students draw, write Earth Day poems, etc on grocery bags and then deliver them to your local grocery store to be used on Earth Day.
The directions are listed on the following website: http://www.earthdaybags.org/GSfoursteps.htm

Earth Field Trip
Go on a field trip to the Disney movie Earth.  Disney will plant a tree for every ticket bought  during its opening week.  It opens on Earth Day.

Instead of an Earth Day celebration why not have Earth Day be a community service day. Our school has each grade do a community service project like beach clean up, volunteer at a local nature center to weed gardens, etc.

Kick off a great technology based science project using Discovery Streaming Planet Earth series. The Planet Earth series as several episodes that could help your students learn about the disappearing wilderness, animal species and rain forests. Next, you could have your students make magazines that they actually publish on the web.  Our technology teacher is having our students make their own magazine using MagCloud: http://magcloud.com/. It is free to publish the magazine, all you have to do is make an account and upload a PDF file.

Need a quick and simple idea?  Read Dr. Seuss’s book: The Lorax and then have students blog or make a voice thread about ways to help protect and preserve nature for future generations. Here is a website with even more good ideas: http://www.seussville.com/lorax/classroom_plan.php

Earth Day Cometh

Earth Day Cometh
Earth Day is here again and we all need ideas that are quick but relevant. Here are a few to share with teachers in your school.

The grocery bag project:
This project is a simple one, but will help students raise awareness about protecting the Earth’s environment and animals. Have students draw, write Earth Day poems, etc on grocery bags and then deliver them to your local grocery store to be used on Earth Day.
The directions are listed on the following website: http://www.earthdaybags.org/GSfoursteps.htm

Earth Field Trip
Go on a field trip to the Disney movie Earth. Disney will plant a tree for every ticket bought during its opening week. It opens on Earth Day.

Instead of an Earth Day celebration why not have Earth Day be a community service day. Our school has each grade do a community service project like beach clean up, volunteer at a local nature center to weed gardens, etc.

Kick off a great technology based science project using Discovery Streaming Planet Earth series. The Planet Earth series as several episodes that could help your students learn about the disappearing wilderness, animal species and rain forests. Next, you could have your students make magazines that they actually publish on the web. Our technology teacher is having our students make their own magazine using MagCloud: http://magcloud.com/. It is free to publish the magazine, all you have to do is make an account and upload a PDF file.

Need a quick and simple idea? Read Dr. Seuss’s book: The Lorax and then have students blog or make a voice thread about ways to help protect and preserve nature for future generations. Here is a website with even more good ideas: http://www.seussville.com/lorax/classroom_plan.php

A New Year Resolution: Share More Science Technology Ideas

This new year, show your DEN spirit and lets help each other with new and innovative ways to use technology in the science classroom. You know as well as I do that DEN members always are on the cutting edge, so let’s help each other make this the year of science tech. Write a quick comment to the Science in Action Blog about a new idea you would like to know more about, or a new idea you have tried. Discovery Science is a great asset to all of us, but it would be great to discuss some ways that teachers or students are using the virtual labs, Mythbuster series, Science Sleuth to enhance your science program.

One new idea that I am going to try this new year is an idea I saw in December’s issue of Technology and Leadership. Two high school science teachers have decided to stop lecturing and begin using vodcasts to deliver their science content. According to the article, students could download the vodcasts and listen to them at home. The teachers are then freed up to use more of their classroom time on hands on labs, helping small groups, and more application activities. Students can enhance their understanding of concepts by replaying sections they don’t understand the first time. Use the vodcast for review, not miss lectures when they are ill, and of course there would be many other benefits. This idea sounds great to me. I can’t wait to try it.

This idea could also be used with assignment builder and you could almost design your class to run like an online class. It also would be a great thing to leave with a sub if you were going to be out several days. Wouldn’t it be nice to come back to a class where the content was taught the way you wanted it to be taught.

Now it is your turn. What great ideas do you have? Leave a comment, share an idea, and lets all resolve to try one new technology idea this year.

A Teacher Experiment

The scientific method is a topic that many science teachers review at the beginning of the year. However, it can be hard to find new and exciting ways to teach it to students year after year. Personally, I find that students come to me still unsure of many steps even though they have conducted experiments using the scientific method for at least two years by the time I get them in seventh grade.This year, my plan of attack is going to be different. I am going to try a new approach. I am going to begin the year by having my students design their own experiment before I review the steps of the scientific method. Doing the experiment first gives me real life examples to pull from. When I try to get students to understand what a variable is or what a control is in an experiment I will be able to use examples from their own experiments.While they are doing the experiment, the students will use flip cameras to film themselves ,or use their cell phones to take pictures of their team designing and executing their experiments. When they finish the experiment, they will have to write a caption for each scene they filmed or photographed. The movie will show and tell where they struggled with the design or data analysis. This should make the ultimate teaching tools. The students will have lived the method first and then be asked to identify which step is which from watching the videos they produced.Consequently, when I ask questions about controlling variables, or is the experiment a fair test, it should make the concepts real and easier to understand. The film and the discussion should make the students see the connection between the scientific method and themselves. It should act as a guided practice for how they will independently design an experiment for the science fair.My test this year on scientific method will also have a twist. Instead of the normal, name the steps of the scientific method ,and identify the variables in the experiment typed on the paper, I am going to use an alternative assessment. My plan is to use assignment builder and assign my students to watch MythBusters and while they watch the video have them record which part of the show is the experimental design. Ask them to explain what happens when the guys on MythBusters have problems with their design. What did the MythBusters team do to prove they had busted or proven the myth.My goal is that my teacher experiment of teaching the scientific method with a slight twist will result in my students having a stronger sense of why we use the scientific method and that this method will help them independently know how design better experiments . I will let you know how it goes. Keep your fingers crossed.

 

Let the Students teach


Do you or your students have a case of the winter blahs?If so, try spicing up your approach to the science curriculum, by having your students teach the chapter instead of you. One of the cardinal rules of teaching is: “He or she who does the work learns the most.” Take advantage of this old adage and turn the classroom blahs into a classroom that is exciting and engaging.

First, pick a section of a chapter you have introduced to the students. Then entice them by saying that they will not have to read the whole next section. They will have to only read one part. The catch is that after they are done reading their part they will have to find a creative way to teach that part to the class.

The students love to perform and I have found that they pay better attention to the chapter if they have to present it. At the same time they are learning important concepts such as: research skills, public speaking skills, and learning how to organize a long term project.

Here are the steps to try this with your class:

First, choose one section of a chapter for students to teach. Preferably a middle section of a chapter you have already introduced. Example: Clues to Evolution which is the second section of a chapter on how organisms change over time.

Divide students into groups of four and assign each group one part of the chapter to read, research and teach to the class.

Ensure individual accountability by having each student responsible for one part of the teaching. When I did this with my class the rules were as follows:

1. Everyone in the group must read the section they are assigned for homework and be prepared to discuss it the next day in class with their group.

2. Everyone must participate in planning the group’s presentation. Assign each group member a number. That number tells them what individual contribution they must make. Assign a facilitator for each group whose job it is to make sure each group member is participating and contributing.

3. Person 1 must find or make a visual aid for the group’s presentation.Let t

4. Person 2 must find a magazine, web or newspaper article about one part of their section. This article must be used in the presentation. Hint: To save time and make sure the articles are grade level appropriate use the articles you can find in Discovery Science Connection. I chose the articles from the reading passages section of science connection, for example: When Whales walked and Growing up Mammal. By limiting the choices you direct the inquiry, which helps students not get off track and waste time searching the Internet.img_4102_2.JPGimg_4115.JPG

5. Person 3 must research 3 interesting facts about the topic that can not be found by reading your science text book

6. Person 4 must write a summary and three review questions to read and ask to the class at the end of the group presentation.

All presentations must have a skit, props, or something else creative to try to make their presentations memorable. Some of my students used a film clip on evolution they found in the science connection film clips.

All students know that this assignment is graded. They know they will receive a group grade and an individual grade on how well they did their assigned part. The time period for this assignment is brief, so they must go right to work.

I give them two days to prepare their presentations and then on the third day they each have seven minutes to present their section to the class. We call it our science symposium. The students dress up if they wish. Some choose to dress up as scientists and wear lab coats. At the end of each presentation. The group summarizes what the class should have learned and ask 3 review questions. I then have them copy in their notebooks what I deem to be the three essential points they should have learned from their student teachers. This way I ensure they have the notes they will need to study for a possible quiz or test on the unit.

Trust me this is a great way to beat the winter blahs in the classroom and ensure that your students will learn the concepts.img_4103.JPGimg_4103.JPG

Let the Students teach

Do you or your students have a case of the winter blahs? If so, try spicing up your approach to the science curriculum, by having your students teach the chapter instead of you. One of the cardinal rules of teaching is: “He or she who does the work learns the most.” Take advantage of this old adage and turn the classroom blahs into a classroom that is exciting and engaging.

First, pick a section of a chapter you have introduced to the students. Then entice them by saying that they will not have to read the whole next section. They will have to only read one part. The catch is that after they are done reading their part they will have to find a creative way to teach that part to the class.

The students love to perform and I have found that they pay better attention to the chapter if they have to present it. At the same time they are learning important concepts such as: research skills, public speaking skills, and learning how to organize a long term project.

Here are the steps to try this with your class:

First, choose one section of a chapter for students to teach. Preferably a middle section of a chapter you have already introduced. Example: Clues to Evolution which is the second section of a chapter on how organisms change over time.

Divide students into groups of four and assign each group one part of the chapter to read, research and teach to the class.

Ensure individual accountability by having each student responsible for one part of the teaching. When I did this with my class the rules were as follows:

1. Everyone in the group must read the section they are assigned for homework and be prepared to discuss it the next day in class with their group.

2. Everyone must participate in planning the group’s presentation. Assign each group member a number. That number tells them what individual contribution they must make. Assign a facilitator for each group whose job it is to make sure each group member is participating and contributing.

3. Person 1 must find or make a visual aid for the group’s presentation.Let t

4. Person 2 must find a magazine, web or newspaper article about one part of their section. This article must be used in the presentation. Hint: To save time and make sure the articles are grade level appropriate use the articles you can find in Discovery Science Connection.
I chose the articles from the reading passages section of science connection, for example: When Whales walked and Growing up Mammal. By limiting the choices you direct the inquiry, which helps students not get off track and waste time searching the Internet.img_4102_2.JPGimg_4115.JPG

5. Person 3 must research 3 interesting facts about the topic that can not be found by reading your science text book

6. Person 4 must write a summary and three review questions to read and ask to the class at the end of the group presentation.

All presentations must have a skit, props, or something else creative to try to make their presentations memorable. Some of my students used a film clip on evolution they found in the science connection film clips.

All students know that this assignment is graded. They know they will receive a group grade and an individual grade on how well they did their assigned part. The time period for this assignment is brief, so they must go right to work.

I give them two days to prepare their presentations and then on the third day they each have seven minutes to present their section to the class. We call it our science symposium. The students dress up if they wish. Some choose to dress up as scientists and wear lab coats. At the end of each presentation. The group summarizes what the class should have learned and ask 3 review questions. I then have them copy in their notebooks what I deem to be the three essential points they should have learned from their student teachers. This way I ensure they have the notes they will need to study for a possible quiz or test on the unit.

Trust me this is a great way to beat the winter blahs in the classroom and ensure that your students will learn the concepts.img_4103.JPGimg_4103.JPG

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