Favorites from The Schools Our Children Deserve” Alfie Kohn

  • A classroom is a place where a community of learners — as opposed to a collection of individuals — engages in discovery and invention, reflection and problem solving.
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Books in 2010

I was reading a blog the other day and the author said she read 37 books in 2009.  Then I started wondering how many I read, and realized I couldnt even remember a lot that I read the first half of the year!  This year, I will try to keep a record of the books that I read, and probably books that I want to read.

1.  Belly Laughs by Jenny McCarthy on January 3rd

  • I read this in one night — it was hilarious! I am five and a half months pregnant as of today (Jan.5), and could completely relate to Jenny’s experience in pregnancy.  There are so many things that you don’t feel comfortable talking with others about and wonder “Am I the only person this is happening to…..”  This book is an extremely quick read; it’s short with short chapters and keeps you wanting to turn pages as you go — I couldn’t (and didn’t) put it down!

2. I am currently reading Desperation by Stephen King.

So far: This has the scariest first chapter of any book I’ve ever read!

3.13

4. Alex Cross’s Trial

Good book: This book was different from what I’m used to. It’s about racial prejudice and discrimination in the south in the early 1900s.  The main character, a white lawyer trying to help the blacks,  gets hung during the book but survives.  Progress is made in the Mississippi town where the book is set, and it has a happy ending.

5. Darkly Dreaming Dexter

I LOVE the Showtime series Dexter.  This is the book the series was based off of.

6. Kiss Guide to Baby and Child Care (Keep It Simple Series)

7. The Naturalist – E.O. Wilson.   I am reading this for a grad class and it is really surprisingly good.  Ed Wilson is a self-proclaimed life-long naturalist.  The books discusses how he came to study ants and work as a professor and researcher at Harvard.

8. Microbe Hunters – Paul De Krief.  Also a book for a grad class and also surprisingly good to read! I recommend reading this if you are interested in science at all.  I plan to try to incorporate into class somehow..even if just for extra credit opportunities.

9. The Double Helix – James Watson.  Book for a grad class, however I am finding it very boring and am having a hard time paying attention while reading it.  If you are interested in DNA at all, you may enjoy it though.

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Another Brainstorming Post

Technology I would like to have in my classroom:

  • Flip Video Camera
  • Webcam to Skype and stream with
  • mini laptops

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Brainstorm for Next Year

Principal said I will probably be using Angel with all of the Juniors:

  • practice tests
  • discussion board
  • paperless classroom or limited paper in classroom
  • links
  • wiki

Things that worked well this year:

Things that did not work:

  • Chemistry jumped around some
  • physics also jumped around
  • forensics: soil unit
  • standing at whiteboard giving lecture — definitely does not fit my style
  • cleaning system – not often enough, not organized enough

Things I did well this year:

  • relationships
  • showing my personal side (i.e. favorite music, hobbies, family, pets)
  • getting to know individual’s “things”
  • trust– this went a long way with most students
  • had fun — students knew I was having a great time, commented on this fact often
  • Continued to learn — went to lots of professional development days at ESU6, NETA, used Twitter for other teacher resources
  • Reflected on my teaching — right here, talked to other teachers, talked to students about what worked and did not

Things I need to fix before next year:

  • Freshman — too little structure at beginning of year?
  • Too lenient with some students –got taken advantage of towards end of year.
  • Less guidance of labs (inquiry model) led to more choas — need to find a balance
  • Sometimes held a grudge for a little too long.

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Student Wiki page

I am so proud of my freshman today! Tuesday I assigned them to create a wiki page about any constellation. I gave a few guidelines about what I wanted them to include (names of stars, & distances of stars) and then I told them to include any other information that they find interesting. After having a discussion about plagiarism — what it is and is not, and what the consequences are — they were set loose.

The wikis turned out awesome! Each page is different from the next. The students really seem to enjoy the wiki site. They were on task the majority of the time (when they weren’t choosing what song to listen to next) and they were digging deep in the internet to find some good pictures and information. And, from what I can tell thus far, they are not copying and pasting (a problem I’ve had with all 9-12 students this year)!!!

So many things do not appeal to this group of 9th graders, I am trying to figure out why the wiki works for them…
*freedom?
*get to be creative?
*get to listen to music?
*find info that THEY find interesting?
*get to use computers?

My question is: why do my junior and senior students in forensics find the wiki to be such a chore? Maybe I gave them too much guidance when we began using the wiki page…

In Forensics we took an entire week to look at different free web tools to use in the forensic wiki. A few of the tools we used include vocaroo, xtranormal, and poll everywhere.  At the end of each unit in forensics students are to take 1-2 class periods to create a new wiki page about the things we learned, and any other info they can find on the unit topic.  When I tell them it is wiki time, most of the students moan and groan about it — Why the difference?!

I think that I probably made the wiki too much of a required staple to the class in forensics, whereas in earth science the wiki is there as an optional (usually)  way to show knowledge the students are gaining.

What are you experiences like this?

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4 weeks, 1 day

Four weeks until school is out of session.  My first year of teaching is winding down — I am ready!  Yes I love teaching, but I am really needing this summer break right now.  Maybe I am too  used to being done the first week of May during college?  I have been counting down the weeks for 2 weeks now, unsure of how I am going to get through this last month!

A handful of the students that I encounter during the day are really wearing me down lately.  I don’t know for sure where I went wrong with them this year.  The respect is not there.  They don’t care about school.  They try to get me to blow up (or something).  It is like I am in their way, ruining their day, wasting their time.  If I try to talk to them or get them to be on task, they blatantly ignore me.

I have not lost my cool with these students yet this year — maybe this was my mistake?  I have worked hard to bite my tongue and prove to them that I will not belittle them the way other teachers have;  I will not blow up and have an episode worthy of youtube.  What I have tried is the silent wait method, talking with them outside of the room, and having them come in after school.  I have tried to work with them to come up with a plan that works for  both of us.  They have spots to sit in, they can get up and move if they need to as long as it is not distracting to others.  They have have choices in assignments to complete.  They have extended deadlines.

My questions: Have I been too nice?  Did they need to be “blown up” at?  Did my kindness and respect towards them lose their respect towards me?  Is it too late to fix the problem? If not, HOW do I fix this?

These students seem to have the idea that it is cool or fun to upset teachers.  All year long they have bragged that they are “the worst class in the school”, that “all the teachers hate us”.  The biggest prize (it seems) is that they have had three different science teachers in three years.  Each one has left after one year of teaching here.  The students are proud of the fact that they believe they caused these teachers to leave; that the teachers can’t handle them.

I will be teaching science at this school for another year; they did not run me out! I hope that next year this proves that I believe in these students, that I don’t think they are bad kids, and that I want them to succeed.  If they believe this, maybe they will be slightly more motivated in science class….

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Some Reflection

Thinking about freshman: They (90% anyway) do really well when I don’t give them much direction.  When they are choosing activities to do in order to learn material, and they have a little time flexibility, great things seem to happen!

For the last two weeks we have been learning about the solar system.  I planned this unit to be in my modified form of Kathie Nunley’s Layered Curriculum.  Last week the students were to complete the “C-Layer” portion of the unit.  They had to complete a certain amount of activities in order to receive points and prove that they had learned the basics about the topic.  They could choose from a variety things:

  • take Mrs. Fries’s notes
  • read a chapter and create your own notes
  • make lotus notes
  • complete a worksheet
  • create a crossword puzzle
  • complete someone else’s crossword puzzle
  • write a one page paper about one of the planets or dwarf planets
  • write a page about why pluto is no longer a planet, from pluto’s view point.
  • Watch the video about the solar system
  • create a Venn diagram for the inner and outer planets
  • create a Venn diagram for comets, meteors, and asteroids
  • create solar system trading cards
  • add to the earth science wiki page
  • write a children’s story to teach about the solar system.

Some students added their own ideas, as long as I Okay’d them, based on if I thought they would learn some basic knowledge.

This week we have been focusing on the size of the solar system and the comparative sizes of the objects in the solar system.  Tuesday and Wednesday were spent doing the CPO Science investigation: How big is the solar system?  They were given information on how to use proportions to find the distances the planets would be from the sun on a 100m scale.  They then had to calculate the distance of each planet from the base that pluto is 100m away from the sun.

The students also had to use a proportion to calculate the sizes of the planets and sun given that the earth would be the size of a 30cm globe.  They and I then came up with various objects to represent the sun and each planet.  We went outside and modeled this scaled model of the solar system.

After class on Wednesday, I didnt feel that they had a great grasp of the activity.  I was pretty sure that most of them didnt know why they were punching so many numbers into the calculator.  They were not connecting that we were finding the proportionate sizes and distances of objects in the solar system.  Most of the students were complaining about using math in science class!!

Thursday I gave the students their B-layer choices to complete.  One of the choices was for them to come up with their own scale of the solar system and figure out how to calculate each proportion: distance and size of objects.  Another choice was to create a new game that would teach the solar system.  The third choice was to write about a trip through the solar system.  This was to be very accurate of the objects and problems they would encounter.

I was happy to find that a lot of students made their own scaled models of the solar system.  When they didnt have much guidance on how to do this (unlike with the CPO investigation) they started to realize what each calculation they were making meant.  They then understood how big the sun really is, how small each planet really is, and how far away the outer planets are compared to Earth.

Some groups made their model out of clay or styrofoam balls set on the table at specific distances.  One group found larger objects to take outside to represent the model.  All groups were saying “wow, i never realized how big the sun was!” or “pluto is so small; it’s just a speck!”

It was really fun for me to listen to their conversations about the numbers they were calculating and how they were going to represent these objects.  I saw some real learning happening, and some motivated students.   I am feeling refreshed!

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