Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Measurement Tug of War

I have always found the 'Tug of War' thinking routine intriguing, but I didn't want to force it's use as I felt like it wouldn't be meaningful if I just plugged it in anywhere.  I tried it earlier this year, but it flopped... big time!  I put the idea of using it on the back burner and figured that one day I'd discover a good use for it.  Last month during our measurement unit, I had this idea that using it to assess their understanding of the Metric System and the U.S. Customary Systems of measurement would be really fun and it might actually work.  I posed the question "Which system of measurement do you find easier to use?"  On one side I had the metric system, and the other the U.S. Customary.  (I then used a broken tape measure to make it look cute!).  This time, to my surprise, it went much better than the first attempt.  The kids were really thinking about which they preferred, and it was very close as to which was preferred.
The majority of the students that chose the metric side commented on the conversions and how it was easier to add or subtract zeros to find other measurements within the system.
The students that chose the U.S. Customary system made connections between how often they have practiced or used the system and that 'practicing it more makes it easier'.
I found it amazing that they were able to self reflect and think about the two sides and really make evaluative decisions about their learning and capabilities and mathematicians. 

Simple Machines UbD Unit

Last year Maggie and I really started looking closely at the Colorado Academic Standards for Science.  We realized that the science kits the district sends us do not correlate to what we are supposed to be teaching.  For example, one of our physical science standards is all about force and motion, and we are sent a sound system unit that only addresses vibration and sound starters.  When we found out that this year we were going to be learning about backwards design, we decided that this was the unit we would create with support from our PLCs. 
We had no resources (that we knew of) so we began the process of gathering and combining what we found applicable and over the past few months -yes it took that long!- BUT we finally completed it last week!  I found this great template online and put in the information we put together during the PLCs.  We included assessments, resources, lessons, inquiry questions...basically everything we could think of that we might need!  I am super excited to teach this unit, and after our pre-test discovered that this is the first unit that my second graders truly have very little schema about.  This made me very excited because many of the topics we teach in second grade our students have a lot of schema about, and I after this week they are super engaged and excited! 
This is only the first week and I am already finding that I am tweaking things and adjusting, but we expected this as it was the first time we've taught this unit.  Our biggest goals are that our students understand the six different types of simple machines and their uses as well as Newton's three laws of motion and their application.  Here is a copy of our UbD Unit overview!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Regions - Peeling the Fruit

Our regions unit has been challenging in getting kids to choose a good, researchable question.  Students either pick a very simple, thin question, or they pick one so complex that it can't possibly be answered.  I liked the new routine that we were introduced to, "Peeling the Fruit" as a way for students to have a visual to assess the appropriateness of their questions.  The outside (skin) of the circle was labeled, "What are we interested in?" The next layer, just under the skin, is labeled, "What questions do we have?"  The next layer is, "Making Connections: What connections can we make?"  The center is labeled, "What is at the core or center?"  Students took their initial and placed them on the poster.  We were able to look at it together and evaluate if questions were placed correctly on the poster and have a discussion about the similarities of those questions that were in the same part of the fruit.

This was a good routine for determining importance but also an exercise in synthesizing.  My issue with this unit in the past is that students in third and fourth have such a difficult time doing the research adequately.  I really think that the real issue is that they don't have the skills to ask the right question in the first place. Bill Roberts is a school that has inquiry -based learning as one of its core practices.   If I am going to help kids direct their own learning through inquiry based practices, then I need to do a better job of helping them to ask questions that interest them.  I think that the use of this routine brought up the right kinds of conversations that allowed us to come closer to ask those really good questions.

Nutrition in Middle School part 2

What I appreciate, in UbD, is the essential question so that we are not just "covering" material but really facilitating the students ability to think deeply and develop enduring understandings about life/the world.
In my program, I am charged with teaching the students to acquire proficiency in the English language in Speaking, Listening, Reading, and Writing.  I am fortunate to have the (WIDA) standards for grades K; 1-2; 3-5 ; 6-8 in each of those domains with 5 proficiency levels (entering, beginning, developing, expanding, and bridging) for each.

Like many of you, initially I felt that UbD was daunting!   My first thought was that I would need to develop essential questions for everything that I did with each of my groups.  Then, I realized that I can jump in and start with a unit of study for one or two groups (not all of my seven grade levels at once).  Whew!  That enabled me to take the initial steps.

As their teacher for several years, I can scaffold topics and extend deeper understandings over the course of more than one year.
I perused  my standards for 6-8.  These are the only grade levels that I teach that have standards for S, L, R, and W in five academic areas (the language of: Social Studies, Science, Math, Language Arts, and Social and Instructional).  Examples from Math are: data interpretation, estimation.  An example from Science is: body systems and organs.  I wanted to have the students develop a deep understanding of the importance of a healthy diet, incorporating math and science.

Part 2
The students will understand essential concepts about nutrition and diet.  The question remains: "what is healthful eating?"
The students then were assigned texts from the library to become experts in each of the four food groups. They brought back their notes from their reading and the others took notes on their reports.(They had to determine importance, take notes, present to their peers.)

After reading and discussing, they were ready to write a non fiction book for Kindergarten.  They synthesized their learning, created all the parts of a non-fiction book (title, sections, tables of contents, content, and an index).  They gathered pictures of food to illustrate their concepts. They made a mock-up of their future book. Edits and revisions were made by their classmates, with some input from me. 

(I soon realized that one of my students lacked keyboarding skills, so instead of laboring over the typing, he put his together without typing it.)

I found out at PDU that anyone can see our posts and repost on Pinterest.  I have removed the pictures of my 6th/7th graders reading to Kindergartners




They created an extensive rubric and then assessed each other's final work.  They were able to identify their strengths and areas of growth as writers as well as this content.
They were able to identify the attributes of healthy eating, walk the talk via the graphs, write about them, and present that information to younger students.

Think Puzzle Explore Dental health in primary

In my determination to meld good health practices, science, math, and the acquisition of English (specifically, writing), I conducted a Dental Health unit for my primary students.   I have been concerned about it on many levels, most glaring were the shiny caps that I see daily as I work with them. Using UbD, the essential questions were: are teeth important? why? do you need to take care of baby teeth? why? what should a person do to take care of their teeth? are some foods/drinks/substances better for teeth than others? why?

K and 1st each offered their thoughts on what they thought (Think) they knew, what Puzzled them, and what they wanted to explore about teeth. (I find many answers to guide me in guiding them as I use this routine, they often surprise me with their schema or the lack thereof.)

I read/they read with me many books that I checked out from DPL.  They learned many new vocabulary words and the accompanying concepts (incisors, molars, enamel, plaque, flossing, brushing, floss, gums, roots, decay, cavity, invisible, teeth, dentist, permanent).

3 major things happened to facilitate their learning:
1.  As scientists they rinsed their mouths with colored water and looked in the mirror to find that the plaque in their mouths kept the color!  I had purchased toothbrushes and toothpaste, so they then brushed their teeth and voila! the color was gone.  They continued to brush daily at school for over a week. I sent the new toothbrushes home with them.
2.  Brenna offered me the name of her dentist, explaining that she would come and instruct the students in good oral health.  In fact, Dr. Preet Clair was very willing to accommodate our schedule and was so comfortable talking with the children. They were very engaged in listening and asking higher level questions.  Dr. Clair was impressed with the depth of questions asked. For example, "How do they put in the metal/fake teeth so they stay in?" "What happens to the crown/metal tooth when the permanent tooth starts to grow in?"  "When a crown/metal tooth is put in, is the glue hot?"

3.  We conducted an experiment using shells (enamel) substituting for teeth and four liquids: water, milk, orange juice, and pop (Dr. Pepper).  They inspected them visually (with magnifying glasses) and tactilely before we placed them in the solutions.  I sealed each jar and kept all in the refrigerator for the duration of the experiment. 

We checked them weekly, comparing our notes and photos of the enamel. Predictions were made.

We also investigated the sugar content of all of the liquids (0 in water, 12 in milk, 22g in orange juice, and  40g in Dr. Pepper.)  We asked, can sugar be good for teeth?

Comic strips were drawn and illustrated from the viewpoint of the tooth by First graders.

We had an additional experiment to demonstrate decay. I took a fresh apple and they poked a nail into it.  Over the course of weeks, we observed the changes to the initial hole.  They were able to imagine what happens when plaque breaks through the enamel to cause a cavity.

through their experiences and experiments, they were able to answer our questions (are teeth important? Yes. Why? Because we need them to chew and talk all of our lives.  Do you need to take care of baby teeth? Yes.  Why? Because you want to have healthy teeth and a healthy mouth.  What should a person do to take care of their teeth? Brush and floss, and be careful of sugar because plaque is our enemy!  Are some foods/drinks/substances better for teeth than others? Pop is bad!! Why? Because we saw what it did to the enamel!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Landfill Explanation Game

At the beginning of our Reduce, Reuse, Recycle study, the ECE students did "The Explanation Game" with the above photo of a landfill.  I wanted to determine the students background knowledge about garbage.  This was the first activity of our RRR study and I found that the students had only very basic familiarity with the garbage, where it comes from and what happens to it.  The children recognized that this was garbage and a garbage truck.  They notices some elements of the trash; "I see trash," "I see clothes," "I see bags," "I see a table."  When trying to explain what they saw, I asked many questions to prompt their thinking.  The children explained that the trash came from garbage cans.  There was some vague knowledge of the trash getting "burnted" or going to a "shredder."  My hope was that the children would come up with theories or guesses about how the garbage got to the landfill, and/or what would happen to it next. 

After doing the explanation game, I was able to go back to my UbD essential questions and plan experiences and investigations that would build the students background knowledge.  The themes (essential questions) we would explore during the course of the study include:

  • ·         What do people throw away?
  • ·         Where does trash go?
  • ·         How do trash and garbage affect our community
  • ·         How can we reuse junk?
  • ·         How can we create less trash?
During the course of the study, the students had opportunities, to investigate the garbage in our school and in their homes.  We had an expert talk to the class about the school trash.  We had an expert talk about recycling and composting.  We also read books and watched videos about the life cycle of garbage. 

At the end of our Reduce, Reuse, Recycle study, I brought out the picture that we used at beginning of the study.   My intent was to do the Explanation Game a second time to assess the growth of students' understanding of reducing, reusing, and recycling.   I had left our initial explanation hanging on the board and we referred to the picture often throughout the study so the children were familiar with it.  My intent through the study was to help my students see connections and let them take the reins of their learning.

The second visit to the explanation game started out in a similar way as the first time.  However, I was pleased so see that the students began noticing details in the picture that they hadn't picked up the first time they looked at the picture.  Below is the transcript of the children's responses to the picture.  The text in red is my 3 year-old class and the blue is my 4 year-old class.  In italics are my prompts.

What we see/notice
A landfillEllie
A garbage truckMiranda, Xzayvior
The oceanEllie
I see the garbage truckJoe
I see a broken chairMiranda
Garbage and a garbage truckTrinity
A box of garbageSunshine
Garbage truck, a beach, birds, and trashLiam
Trash truck--Ford
What we think
The garbage is stinkyEllie
It smells stinky because it’s garbage, but paper doesn’t stinkWill
It is at the land fillWill
All of it’s no trash, some is food Will
Recycle some stuffNhandi
Reuse some stuff, there might be toys we can play withSutton
You can make a robot out of that big boxFord
The trash is going to blow away because the garbage truck is leavingJoe
The trash gets picked up and floats away in the oceanNhandi
They dump it on a boatKamilah
The recycle stuff gets pushed inside and goes to a cube and then turns into new stuffKamilah
The hopper squeezes the trash out--Joe
--What do you think about the chair?
          They should fix the chairSunshine
          They should paint the chairEllie
--What do you think about the garbage truck?
The garbage in the truck goes really tiny and it goes on an elevatorMiranda
It goes crushedLiam
It goes on a beltEllie
          The big wheelsXzayvior
          The back of the truck closesMiranda
          He is dumping trashNhandi
--Other things
          If I was trash, I’d want to go on the stairs [the belt]Sunshine
          I’d want to go on the beltMiranda

What we see/notice
I see chairs in thereBrenyn
Paper, I notice that paper is in the pictureAaliyah
I see a boatLucy
I see a bagLucas
I think it’s a kiteGabi
I wonder what that sign isLucy
A lot of plastic bagsLucy
I see a chairAnthony
I see a banana peelAnthony
I’m thinking wormsBrenyn
What We Think
The compost is good food for your plantsWyatt
It’s a landfill where a lot of trash goes and they cover it up with dirt and it becomes a playgroundLili
Some of this stuff can be recycledTaylor
That food can go into the compost and turn into dirtAlex
Not so fast.  It takes timeLili
You can teracycleAlex
It’s like reusingTaylor
They can turn those clothes into capes and play super heroWyatt
They could give that table to someoneLili
--What do you think about the chair?
I think it brokeAnthony
I think it got there in a garbage truckAnthony
I think ‘em said “our chair broke, we want to throw it away”Anthony
They should have given the chair awayGabi       
Maybe they didn’t have any people in their neighborhoodLucy (Lucy had told us earlier about her family putting a table in the alley so someone else could take it)
Maybe they have no friends and are shy of talking to people and maybe they don’t know how to fix itBrenyn
--What about the paper you see?
I don’t think they should throw it away they should put it in the recycle binGabi
Or turn it over and use the other sideLucy
--What about the plastic?
          They didn’t know plastic bags go in the recycling binAnthony
--What about the banana peel?
Put it in a bucket and make it mushy and then put it in another bucket and put worms in it, but not earthworms, another kind of worms, and they eat and poop and make it into dirtGabi
--What about the garbage truck?
I see this [the hydraulic pump on the door], I think it’s a trigger that makes it openAnthony
When it closes, it crushes the trashLucy
The back thing helps the trash get compactedRory
The students were able to make connections to our leaning, by explaining that various items in the landfill could have been recycled or reused or composted.  The students were also able to talk about the "life cycle of trash."

This experience has convince me that the explanation game is a great way to introduce a study and then assess the students' learning at the end of a study.  After completing our Reduce, Reuse, Recycle study, we embarked on our Building Study.  We started the study with the explanation game looking at a picture of the city of Shanghai.  I look forward to bringing out the picture again to see how the students' thinking has grown. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

CSI- minus the color and the image

I decided to start building the kids schema for the regions using videos from the district Safari Montage site.  The videos were life savers at the time, I didn't expect much to come from them.  But in the spirit of making the learning more meaningful, I used the Symbol part of the Color, Symbol, Image routine as a reflection and synthesis piece. Our enduring understanding: Every system is make up of interdependent elements that make unique contributions to the system as a whole. 

Students were given a map of each region which they glued into their social studies notebook. As they watched the video, they labeled the states, major bodies of water, land forms etc. and took notes.  After watching the video, they talked in small groups about what they noticed.  What did the states in the region have in common?  Did they have similar economic, cultural, geographic issues?  What might be a symbol that could represent the entire region as a whole?
They could come up with their own symbol, or one as a group, but each drew a sketch in their own social studies notebook.

Once we got through all five regions, they picked their best symbol and transferred it to a 2x2 square, making it as lovely and artistic as possible.  We placed each of these symbols on a large map of the US inside the region it was designed for.

With the symbols placed, the kids did a See, Think, Wonder and came up with some synthesizing thoughts.

"Maybe mexican food is a symbol of in the southwest because it is close to Mexico."

"The northeast must depend a lot on seafood."

"Farm symbols come in the midwest.  I think this is where we get a lot of our meat."

Trickster Tale from Clues to a Culture literacy unit

Another of the components in my Clues to a Culture unit was to learn how cultures use storytelling to provide insight into their culture.  The Native Americans wrote and told trickster tales to explain nature.  After reading aloud some trickster tales, students were asked to write their own tales.  They were asked to use literary devices that we had been exploring such as sensory imagery, personification, and similes and metaphors.

We began by reading aloud the following mentor texts.

Students then chose a topic in nature to explain through a trickster tale.  They wrote their tales then spaced them appropriately for a picture-book format before printing them.  Once printed, students illustrated their stories.  I scanned the pages, and students created a video of their story with voice-over of the student reading his or her story.  Here is one example.


Fact vs. Fiction in Clues to a Culture literacy unit

Continuing with our Clues to a Culture unit, we are now exploring the premise that fiction and nonfiction are NOT mutually exclusive and should be read together. Along with our overarching essential question, "How does literature provide insight into a culture," our new topical essential question is, "In what ways do readers learn about a culture from fiction and nonfiction?"

Once students finished reading their novels, they embarked upon a research task. They again used the four chalk talk questions:

1) How do different cultures use the Earth’s resources (plants, trees, water, oil, soil)?
2) How do different cultures view animals? (pets, food, work)?
3) In what ways does religion play a part in a culture’s beliefs and customs?
4) How are a culture’s customs and beliefs shown in their stories, art and music?

Students identified the main culture in their novels and research answers to the four chalk talk questions. They recorded their information in two-column notes.  The main cultures researched were the pioneers, the Inuit, the Penobscot, the Ojibwe, and the Nicoleno.

Once students recorded facts found in response to each of the four questions, they gathered with their novel groups to discuss what each had found. Groups then charted two-column notes, with the left column including the fact found during research, and the right column included quotes from the text providing evidence of the fact.





After students completed their book club discussions, finding examples from the novel that matched the facts about their culture, they used these notes to create a Google presentation slideshow explaining how insight to a culture can be gained through fiction AND nonfiction.  Students wrote a brief summary of their novel, displayed their fiction/nonfiction information in a table, and then wrote a response to the essential question, "How does literature provide insight into a culture?"

This is one student's slideshow with a book summary, fact vs. fiction synopsis, and response to the essential question, "How does literature provide insight to a culture?"