Saturday, November 28, 2009
I'm very aware that the year is drawing to an end, and am trying to make the most of all the last moments.
Fun This Week
Through all the assessment and report writing, I discovered that some of my students have 'forgotten' some of the spelling patterns they 'knew' earlier in the year. I started to think more about this, and wondered whether it might be that they have just been guessing the correct spelling patterns each time, coming up with the right one sometimes, but not other times. I felt the need for more explicit instruction about base words, and how to correctly add prefixes and suffixes.
As a result, this week I provided a base word and together we made adaptations using a range of prefixes and suffixes. We considered how the base word changed as these additions were made. I'm going to continue this for the rest of the term in an attempt to help students make these connections in their spelling. I am hoping that students will begin to think more about the base words as they write, using this information to assist with spelling rather than relying on 'sounding out' alone.
On Thursday we had a Cricket Clinic at the school. Students participated in some games and drills to practise cricket skills such as striking a ball, throwing and catching. They had a lot of fun and enjoyed the 'prizes' we were given to share out.
On Friday I invited students from Kindergarten to come and join my class as their teacher was providing orientation to Preschoolers who will be Kindergarten students next year.
I set up a range of activities and put students in buddy groups. They rotated through the activities, spending about 10 minutes at each. The Year 4 students did a marvelous job of being caring tutors and the Kindies had a ball meeting one of the big kids and trying out some new activities with support.
Writing in Microsoft Word and adding Clipart
Adding to a theme poster - jungle, theme park or underwater world
Looking at fibres through a microscope
This week we made star advent calendars to count down the days until Christmas. The star was a geometrical pattern and we made colourful links - one for each of the days until Christmas. Children take off one link each day as they count down to Christmas.
For more fun from the past two weeks, remember to check out Space Spectacular #4.
The activities in these weeks were designed to provide opportunities for students to find out about space and sort their ideas in a range of forms. Students took a test to demonstrate the conclusions they had made from their learning. We then had an excursion to Questacon for students to take their learning further and explore other scientific concepts through hands on exhibits and shows.
One of the focus questions for our unit this term is: What is gravity and how does the force of it pull things on or above the Earth's surface towards it?In preparation, I took the text from Ask an Astronomer for KIDS! and spread out the key ideas on a worksheet:
American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
We also read and discussed this simple explanation.
We then made artificial satellites as explained in this NASA activity. The gravity of the larger clump of plasticine balances out with the centrifugal force of the smaller clump of plasticine, keeping it 'orbiting'. I'm not sure that this is the best way to describe how orbits work, but it was fun to do anyway! You can see a video of the result below:
Jonathan, my teaching partner, crafted the following lesson using this lesson plan found online. In teams of four, students drew the Earth and then added the atmospheric layers using a scale of 1mm=2km. We used this website for further information and also watched this animation to see it all in motion. The only change I would make is that I would make sure the Earth is to scale next time as well, by checking out the diameter of the earth and using a compass to draw it. (I just found this animation that would be helpful as well - too late for us this time, but may help others).
"Commander Cooper" (AKA Captain Lister) came to talk to us about his experiences with Space travel. We actually combined two grades - the Year 1s who are learning about transport and the Year 4s who are learning about Space. Yet again, Commander Cooper did an awesome job of engaging students with costumes, photos, videos, student participation and valuable, kid-friendly information about Space travel. Thank you Commander Cooper!
Making Conclusions - Taking the Test
I created this test to determine whether students had achieved the key learning outcomes for the unit of work. I asked them to give as much detail as possible and not just take short-cuts with their answers. I was impressed by how much students demonstrated in their responses and was also surprised when some students asked for a spare copy so they could do it again at lunch, just for fun! As you can see, the test ties very closely to the activities we did throughout the unit.
Going Further - Excursion to Questacon
I've found no better place to take students to experience science on a large scale, than Questacon. It is fun, kid-friendly and brings science to life. Rather than post all the photos separately, I've added a slide show here for you to see.
Integrating with Literacy
Journey to the Moon
Jonathan crafted and taught this lesson. He began with astronaut training, briefing students on some key information about the Moon. They then buckled in as Jonathan used Celestia to take them to the Moon. As they got close, their lunar module experienced difficulty and crash-landed on the surface of the moon. Students worked in small groups, to prioritise a list of items they would need as they travelled toward a space station for support. I found a similar lesson plan here. Students then reported back to the group giving justifications for their choices. This was a very engaging activity and provided students with opportunities to use language to discuss the problem in small groups and also to share their ideas with the whole class.
This activity is similar to one we did about spiders earlier in the year. We looked at some photos of nebulae and created a list of words that could be used to describe them. Students then played with the words (and their own adjectives) to create descriptive pieces of writing. Some had a poetic structure and others were descriptive paragraphs. My plan is for students to type these up and display them with their Nebula Watercolour Paintings from Week 4.
Earlier in the term students wrote explanations of the life cycle of a star. This week I displayed their posters around the room and gave students mini post-it notes on which to write constructive feedback (one + and one - ) for each other and attach to the posters. I asked that they ensure every poster had some feedback. They continued with this process of reading and providing feedback for about 10 minutes, collecting additional post-it notes as necessary. At the end of the 10 minutes, students collected their own poster and made a circle sitting on the floor. We went around the circle with each student sharing the feedback they received and what they had learnt about themselves as a writer and the process of writing an explanation. It was a great way for students to reflect on their work and learning and to consider areas for improvement in the future.
Reading with Expression and Comprehension
We have had a strong focus on writing during Literacy this term, so I wanted students to have an opportunity to practise some reading as well. Some of the students in my group have become a little lazy with their reading: not self-correcting when reading aloud, and not focusing on what they are comprehending. I decided to address that with some reading aloud about space.
We only had 7 copies of a book called "Life in Space" which provides explanations about elements of space travel, so I grouped students to read together.
Each person was given a topic to master. They needed to be able to read it fluently with expression and to have full comprehension of what it is explaining. Students took turns to read aloud to their group, who then provided feedback on their expression/volume etc.
Next week students will 'perform' their reading to a larger group and explain their topic and/or any diagrams on the page.
If you enjoyed this post, why not check out previous posts in the Space Spectacular Series.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Today I would like to share with you another great resource for educational videos and photographs. Explore has three main goals:
- to champion the selfless acts of others
- to create a portal into the soul of humanity, and
- to inspire lifelong learning
The resources on this site are categorised both by topic and by country, making it easy to filter for the materials you need. As long as they're not blocked at my school, I can see myself using these with students during those transition periods while I wait for students to pack up and come to the floor for the next activity.
They would also fit nicely into units of work on culture, animals, the environment, and music.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Today I share with you a guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the About.com Guide to Business School. She also writes about online classes for OnlineClasses.org. You may have also enjoyed Karen's previous guest post: 20 Free Learning Technology Resources.
15 Free Tech Tools for the Classroom
Tech tools don't have to put a strain on your district's budgets. There are plenty of free tech tools that can be found online. Many of these tools were designed specifically for the classroom or for educators who want to enhance their lessons. Here are 15 free tech tools to try throughout the school year.
Edmodo - Designed specifically for the classroom, Edmodo provides a private platform for students and teachers to communicate online. Some of the things that can be shared through Edmodo include grades, assignments, polls, files, links, and class calendars.
Engrade - Engrade is a free classroom community for teachers who want to communicate privately and safely with students and parents online. Teachers can post assignments, grades, event reminders, progress reports, and more.
Empressr - Empressr is a web-based rich media presentation tool that can be used in the classroom to present lesson plans. The tool is easy to work with and allows everything from text and images to audio and video.
Eduslide - Eduslide makes it easy to create and deliver your own lessons, tutorials, and elearning modules online. You can also use this site to create your own websites for the classroom.
Web-Chops - Web-Chops is a great way to share specific parts of the web with your students. The site allows you to clip parts of the web--text, images, videos, etc.--and place them on one easy-to-navigate page.
Mikogo - Mikogo is an amazing tech tool for the classroom. It works across multiple platforms and can be used for multiple purposes. Mikogo is ideal for desktop sharing, web conferencing, online meetings, and remote support.
Anki - Anki is an intelligent flashcard program that works on a spaced repetition system. You can use it to create and share decks of flashcards with your students in the classroom. Flashcards can contain text, images, and audio.
Popling - This desktop application also works well for creating flashcards that can be displayed on a computer at scheduled intervals. Popling is most often used by language learners, but works just as well for students of other subjects.
Class Marker - ClassMarker is a testing website that allows users to create free quizzes and tests that can be taken online. The site creates professional-looking quizzes and tests and marks them when students are finished so that you don't have to.
FreeRice - FreeRice is a unique web program that allows older students to practice their vocabulary and participate in a charitable cause at the same time. For every answer students get correct, 10 grains of rice are donated to the UN World Food Program.
The Stacks - This scholastic site is a fun place for young readers to connect with each other and explore books and authors. The Stacks also offers games, videos, daily polls, and other interactive materials to engage students in literature.
International Children's Digital Library - This multicultural digital library provides award-winning books in multiple languages. After reading a book, students can expand upon the stories, create games, participate in scavenger hunts, and much more.
Shmoop - Shmoop offers study guides and unique web-based teacher resources that are perfect for the classroom. Covered topics include literature, poetry, U.S. history, and civics.
Topmarks - This UK site provides a wide range of interactive whiteboard resources on nearly every K-12 topic imaginable.
Metropolitan Museum of Art - The Metropolitan Museum of Art provides interactive virtual tours that give students an inside look at the museums permanent exhibits. Other site features include a timeline of art history and a collections database.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
For those of you who don't know my background with New York, I'll give it to you quickly here. In 2005 my husband and I did a whirlwind 17 day tour of the US including LA, Vegas, Grand Canyon, Orlando (Kennedy Space Center and Disney), and New York City. During our four days in New York City, my husband said "We should come and live here for a year!" I agreed, thinking he would probably forget about it when we got home. No such luck! In fact, his interest only grew stronger.
So, I looked into it and finally managed to get a job etc lined up. We packed up everything, sold our house and moved to New York City with the thought that we might end up making it permanent. We did, however, have a safety net - we both took a year's leave from our jobs so that we could return if things didn't work out. (You can read more about our experience at my New York blog.)
It wasn't so much that things didn't work out. In fact, we were loving our lives in New York. But when we weighed up all the elements, we felt that we had greater security in the long term back in Australia - superannuation, secure jobs, health care, etc. So we did the 'sensible thing' - we came back, bought a new home, returned to our jobs and...missed New York! In 2008 we returned for a month holiday during the summer, and then this year we went for another 17 days in late September/early October. This time my husband's mum, sister and her partner came along.
We just can't stay away!
Highlights from this trip:
As I was very busy in the lead-up to the trip, my wonderful husband took responsibility for most (all) of the planning. He managed to line up a number of tickets to sporting events. This was a real highlight for me because spectator sport is so exciting in the US. There's always such a great atmosphere with lots of tradition. I also like to do the whole food thing while watching the sport!
We went to the new Yankee Stadium for a Yankees vs Red Sox game. It got rained out and was postponed for an hour or so, but was a great game and well worth the wait.
We went to Michie Stadium to watch Army play Tulane in College Football. (Again a little rain, but not game-stopping)
Also on the same day as the football, we raced back to NYC for the first ice-hockey game of the season for the Rangers.
Another highlight was the Statue of Liberty. The crown has been closed to the public every time I'd visited, up until this time. We booked crown tickets well in advance and I enjoyed exploring this extra aspect. I'm always captivated by the beauty of Lady Liberty.
I really enjoyed catching up with friends and just generally hanging out with them. It was great to see our friends' kid who was a teeny-tiny baby on our last visit. So...it's not impossible to do babies in NYC...hmmm!
Another of my favourites was the view from our apartment - again, thanks to my husband. We were on the 31st floor in a mid-town apartment. Throughout the night I would stir and look out the window at 'my city'. As you can see, it was truly beautiful.
I also had the privilege of doing a school tour of Collegiate College. This counted as a highlight for me because it reminded me of the things I love about teaching in New York. I taught the boys a song "Waddly Archer" and met teachers and IT specialists.
We went to Sofia's to watch Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks play their 1920's style music. They were great as always and there were plenty of dancers to watch as well.
And, of course, I loved just being back - the smells, the air, the sights, the sounds, the tastes, the people.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Fun this Week
I realised that students were making many mistakes with homophones in their writing, so last week our Spelling lists focused on homophones. We discussed some homophones together and then used the BBC Homophones quiz to practise some examples. Students voted for their answer using a show of 1, 2 or 3 fingers. This allowed me to see the students who needed extra support. I introduced students to the Confusing Words website which can be used when students are uncertain which word to use. Students then brainstormed all the homophones they could think of and circled the ones they find most difficult to remember. I used the circled words to create Spelling lists for the students for the week.
We have been learning about 3D shapes as well as reviewing previously taught concepts. I found some really useful resources through both Mathletics (subscription based program) and Smart Kiddies (free but need to register) to support students with developing these concepts. Smart Kiddies had some great worksheets that I could print out, while the new concept search in Mathletics offered step-by-step instructions for how to draw cubes, cones and cylinders. I also used one of the interactive games from Smart Kiddies for students to sort 3D shapes as prisms, pyramids or neither.
We have had students out of class over the past two weeks playing cricket for school teams. They had a lot of fun doing so and came back to school hot and exhausted at the end of the day!
Students have been learning a new song to perform for our next assembly and have been experimenting with pairing their voices and instruments to get the right rhythm. They are becoming very skilled at this and the song sounds amazing when they put it all together.
We are also preparing for our "Best Of 2009" concert where we will be performing "Rak Niwili" and "The Australian Twelve Days of Christmas".
The activities in these weeks were designed to provide opportunities for students to find out about space and sort their ideas in a range of forms. Students typically "found out" through books, videos, websites, songs and experiments. They "sorted out" using writing, diagrams, reports and art.
One of the focus questions for this unit is: "What are the relationships between distance and apparent size of objects to an observer?" My first thought was, "Huh?" closely followed by "Hmmmm." The models we made in weeks 2 and 3 touched on this but didn't really EXPLAIN anything or help students to make these deductions. I found an explanation of Emmert's Law on Wikipedia, but it was still too confusing for Year 4 students to really grasp. Somewhere along the way I thought about the funny photos you can take that play with this concept. Like this one by Andy Hay:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/andyhay/ / CC BY 2.0
I found a bunch of these at 100+ Funny Photos Taken At Unusual Angles and pulled out some appropriate ones to use with my class. (WARNING: Some are inappropriate, so do not use this site uncensored with your students.)
We looked at these at the start of the lesson and discussed the concept about apparent size and distance. I compared this to the apparent sizes of the sun and moon from Earth. I then gave students two different sized balls which they took outside and had to space apart in such a way that they looked the same size when viewed through the camera. Students then glued these pictures into their books and wrote an explanation of what they did and what they learnt. Those who finished early had time to create their own funny photos using their creativity.
Integrating with Literacy
Writing an Information Report
We needed to assess students' writing in preparation for end of year progress reports, so we decided to have students research and write about the sun. Information was provided through:
- a double-page spread from a book about space (including a diagram)
- this NASA diagram of the sun
- this Space School video on the sun
- and the following 'music video'
Students took notes while we explored these together. We watched the videos twice each and I demonstrated how I would take notes and add to them during the second viewing. Students then had the rest of the session to begin sorting through their notes to determine which ideas could be grouped together and to consider paragraph headings.
In the following session students began writing their report and drawing a diagram. In our next session students will review their work. You can see a copy of the Assessment Booklet below:
Integrating with Art
Nebula Watercolour Paintings
Having just explored the lifecycle of a star together, I showed students some photographic images of nebulas and super novas. We discussed the range of colours and the shapes and lines that were used. We then looked at these watercolour paintings by Ken Bandaruk. I gave students a large sheet of paper and some watercolours and left them to their own creativity to make nebula watercolours of their own. Once the painting was complete, students used a bamboo skewer and some white paint to add a layer of stars. Students who finished early went on to create super nova paintings using crayons and watercolours.
One Point Perspective
Building further on the concept from Emmert's Law, I taught students how to draw with one point perspective using these step-by-step instructions. Now that students have the basics, they are going to take it further, creating scenes of their own.
If you enjoyed this post, why not check out previous posts in the Space Spectacular Series.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Earlier this year I thought I might like to contribute to a magazine. Education Quarterly Australia was producing a magazine on the topic "It's a Digital World" so I decided to add my own thoughts. My article "An interactive whiteboard...What next?" appeared in the Spring edition of the magazine. Here I outline 10 tips for getting started and or going further with interactive whiteboards.
Rather than republish that article here, I encourage you to pop by EQA's website where you can also read the other featured article for this edition.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Melissa Hedding from Finds For Families shares some thoughts on the importance of teaching moral discipline early in life in her post The Moral Intellect. In her opinion, "Obedience and self-control are the first morals that a child learns".
Nightwalker shares his Tips To Improve Study Skills at My English Pages. These are a range of skills valuable to learn for students of all ages. This may be a useful list to send home with students early in the school year.
Gripes and Brags
As Erin explains, There ARE Some Students Who Struggle, But Do Not Qualify for Special Education. Her post provides information to parents in the US so that they may seek additional support for their child.
Rachel Lynette of Minds in Bloom encourages teachers to Get your Students to Tell their Parents What they Learned Today. This is a great post to use when reflecting with the class and to share with parents to improve the discussion about school and learning.
At Technology In Class TIC calls for student-centered teaching in The Failure of Teacher-Centered Teaching in A Serious Man. Here he shares some lessons that can be learnt from the movie "A Serious Man".
Andy Burtone from Andy and Ann reveals The Best Tricks to Make Your Middle School Students Happy. It's such a great read that I'm not going to give you any clues. GO READ IT!
In the News
The arrival of swine flu instigated a renewed vigor in teaching hygiene and disease prevention. Matthew Paulson wrote about Child Safety: Preparing for Flu Season at American Consumer News and Lorenzo Crocker shared 7 Facts and Myths about Washing Your Hands posted at online lpn to rn programs. In Addition Quirky Momma shares Glitter Germs: Preschooler Learning posted at quirkymomma.com.This is a great activity to help make invisible germs more concrete to your young learners.
Innovate - Beyond the Slate
This month Mathew Needleman from the Open Court Resources.com Blog shares Questions About Independent Work Time and Beginning of the Year Pre-Assessments. These resources are helpful for pre-assessing, planning and teaching in the literacy classroom.
Jim McGuire presents a convincing argument for student blogging with his post: Goals and Benefits of Student Blogging posted at The Reading Workshop. He describes just how engaging the blogging process can be.
Over at got audiobooks? John Mastro shares his experience of The Educational Benefits of Audiobooks and Children’s Learning. Whether at school, home or out an about, anyone can enjoy the luxury of being read to through an audiobook.
Though a little late now, Kakie presents literacy resources to send home for parents and kids in September is National Literacy Month - Free Resources! posted at Bur Bur & Friends: Community Park.
Tom DeRosa presents Ultimate Number Line Game: Number Sense on a Massive Scale posted at I Want to Teach Forever. This is a great resource for helping students to calculate mentally whilst learning kinaesthetically. It looks like a lot of fun too!
My contribution this month is Space Spectacular where you can read about the activities and resources we have used during our unit of work on Space.
Look No Further
100 Free Tools to Tutor Yourself in Anything
Why not submit your post for the next carnival?
The Teaching K-6 Carnival is posted monthly on the 7th. I will be collecting submissions throughout the next month, looking in particular for posts that discuss and exemplify innovative teaching and the integration of technology in the K-6 classroom. I also invite some discussion around education related news articles and a few "brain strains" to keep our minds alert and challenged. Please submit only articles of which you are the author and refrain from using this merely as a sales pitch. For full details, please read my call for submissions.
If you have a relevant post that you would like to submit to the next edition of teaching k-6 carnival use our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.
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Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Once again I am trying to catch up with all the items in my Google Reader Account. With 242 items waiting for me, I know it's going to take a while. How did I let it get this bad? A trip to New York and too much to catch up with on return. All my habits have fallen by the wayside. I am a very habitual person, so once the habit is established I am usually pretty good. But, throw a spanner in the works and the whole thing falls apart!
So, this week I read Wesley Fryer's notes on Milton Chen's presentation, “The Digital Generation: Up Close and Personal” from the 21st Century Learning @ the West Lake Expo held Oct 31 – Nov 3, 2009 at Xi Hu, China. I love that I can attend these conferences virtually through the notes recorded by people in my Personal Learning Network (PLN). The presentation was about the Digital Generation Project conducted by the George Lucas Educational Foundation. This is what the site says of the project:
Today's kids are born digital -- born into a media-rich, networked world of infinite possibilities. But their digital lifestyle is about more than just cool gadgets; it's about engagement, self-directed learning, creativity, and empowerment. The Digital Generation Project tells their stories so that educators and parents can understand how kids learn, communicate, and socialize in very different ways than any previous generation.While I recommend having a browse around all the materials here, some of the highlights for me are:
Check it out for yourself!
Sunday, November 1, 2009
At my school the flow from policy to practice is evident though at times a lengthy process. The School Improvement Cycle has an important role in this, providing the initial impetus for the development of a new school plan.
School Improvement Cycle
As part of the School Improvement Cycle, we reflect on our effectiveness in meeting our previous school goals. We then consider data from School Satisfaction Surveys, NAPLAN, PIPS and other school assessments and the goals outlined in national and state strategies. We use these to determine areas of need for the new cycle. This information is used to develop a school plan with identified goals in each of the domains.
Our school plan outlines our goals for the domains. The goals for Teaching and Learning are then taken and explored further to develop individual plans for Literacy and Numeracy.
Our Literacy Plan outlines our beliefs, goals, current practices, priorities and actions for the duration of the new school plan. If necessary, a Literacy Committee is established to support the implementation of the plan. Professional Development is selected to meet the identified needs and is listed in the action plan.
In our current literacy plan, some of our priorities related to the incorporation of First Steps Reading and Writing into our literacy programs. In 2008 Professional Development was provided with First Steps Reading and in 2009 Professional Development was provided with First Steps Writing. All teachers were supplied with a copy of these resources. To support the incorporation of these into literacy programs, we used some of the time in our Professional Learning Teams (PLTs).
Professional Learning Teams
In these teams we reflected on our current practice and considered how we could use First Steps to enhance our teaching. We shared suggestions and looked at samples of formats for programming. Teachers were encouraged to use these when programming for the new term.
Teaching teams were given a planning day to work together on their programs for the next term. They were encouraged to use First Steps at this time to ensure that they incorporated the new knowledge, skills and techniques in their lessons.
Teachers used their programs to teach students. They were asked to collect samples of work for presentation at a Professional Development session outside of the school.
In theory, the process works and policy flows to practice. In reality, it still requires shared vision and the commitment of teachers to bring the change to fruition. Enthusiasm, encouragement, follow-up and time are all essential ingredients in this process.