teachhub-blogs

Don't Kill My Back-to-School BuzzI don’t know about you but I’m buzzing with back-to-school excitement.

 

Last night, I attended a faculty meeting for adjuncts at the community college where I teach. There were 10 new adjuncts in our department (apparently the media isn’t lying about community colleges booming during the recession). 

During the meeting, we had some free time to talk about syllabus ideas and I was just JAZZED by how creative, intense and student-centered the department and everyone in it are.

 

The department in major experimentation mode – replacing exit exams with portfolios and faculty consultation cohorts, bringing in an ed tech coordinator to prepare teachers to use blackboard and the new SMART boards, and (simple but effective) color-coding handouts for courses students often take at the same time.

 

On top of that, everyone was brimming with ideas and education philosophies. It was great to see the different approaches we all take and what new things everyone is putting to the test this term.

 

I’ve been working on integrating video instruction to my online course, focusing on fewer texts and putting some pop culture in the curriculum to make it less stuffy. Another teacher told me about 55-word short stories that get across all the major literary techniques. Simple though it seems, another teacher uses cute pictures to make her syllabus more accessible.

 

Not only was it great to compare notes and get some new ideas, but the night made me realize why summer break is SOOO important for educators. You need time to reflect and re-realize the excitement you have for what you do and how you do it. My burnt-out self from May wouldn’t even recognize me today!

 

My goal for this semester is to keep this outlook alive (at least in the back of my head) when I’m bogged down with grading and complaining and the “working two jobs” blues.

 

How’s your outlook for the new year? Have you got a new lease or are you already counting down to summer 2011 (180, 179…)?

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I don’t know about you but I’m buzzing with back-to-school excitement.

 

Last night, I attended faculty meeting for adjuncts at the community college where I teach. There were 10 new adjuncts in our department (apparently the media isn’t lying about community colleges booming during the recession).

 

During the meeting, we had some free time to talk about syllabus ideas and I was just JAZZED by how creative, intense and student-centered the department and everyone in it are.

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An Assignment By Any Other Name…Welcome, scavenger hunters, to the ultimate in online education exploration! That sounds way more fun than “please complete this quiz familiarizing you with the blackboard site,” right?

 

I’m really working on getting my students’ attention and bringing a new energy to my class this year.

 

Step one: win them over at orientation!

 

Like any good English teacher, I believe wholeheartedly in the power of words to transform. That can be on the high-concept “literature changed my outlook on life” perspective BUT for today’s purposes, I just want to make my class orientation seem fun and engaging (esp. since it’s on a Friday night – eek!).

 

To accomplish this goal, I’m using the most powerful weapon in my arsenal: words! I’m brandishing adjectives, nouns, verbs and general vocab to add some pizzazz to reviewing the syllabus and introducing them to an online format.

 

I’ve used this technique at the amateur level to jazz up less-than-exciting activities to great success.

 

For instance, Fun Lunch Thursday is the highlight of the work week. In college, I used to host Homework Parties that were little more than studying in the same room. I also like to make everything into some kind of race or contest – The Spring Cleaning 500 or The Super Bowl of Baking (My cookies will be the best at the bake sale). Emily, another TeachHUB teammate, has weekly Husband/Wife Adventures and celebrates Smile Friday.

 

These little bits of rhetoric bring a jolt of joy to ordinary days.

 

In my attempt to go pro, instead of calling my orientation assignment a quiz or tutorial, it’s a scavenger hunt. Instead of having weekly assignments, we have a “Writer’s Workshop.” (Admittedly, not the most creative name, but sometimes clarity trumps style).

 

I am also banking on few words to pack a punch.

 

That’s why we’re diving into literature with the 55-word short story. It’s easy to be intimidated by a novel, a poem or a Shakespearean play, but I’m hoping these super-short stories will spark a literary interest that they can develop throughout the course.

 

Hopefully, my faith in words isn’t misplaced. Cross your fingers for me!

 

What are your best student attention-grabbers OR other ploys to “camouflage” work for your students?

Welcome, scavenger hunters, to the ultimate in online education exploration! That sounds way more fun than “please complete this quiz familiarizing you with the blackboard site,” right?

 

I’m really working on getting my students’ attention and bringing a new energy to my class this year.

 

Step one: win them over at orientation!

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Load Your Own Literary Canon

Language Arts - all Twilight all the time?

 

More often, kids are being able to choose their own in-class reading material, according to this week’s New York Times Education article:

 

“The approach Ms. McNeill uses, in which students choose their own books, discuss them individually with their teacher and one another, and keep detailed journals about their reading, is part of a movement to revolutionize the way literature is taught in America’s schools. While there is no clear consensus among English teachers, variations on the approach, known as reading workshop, are catching on.”

 

As someone who has read Beowulf in four separate classes, I think it will be a really exciting change in education if its done well.

 

What Students Choosing Their Own Books Gains

 

As a teacher, I like to integrate pop culture and some less traditional texts to spice up the curriculum and motivate my students to read. Everyone favorite week of the semester is the “Reading for Fun” week when students share their favorite poems. We all get to learn more about each other and discover new texts.

 

Ideally, this will get students motivated to read and enjoy the experience of reading more, leading them to challenge themselves more with future reading

 

I also like that this movement is getting away from stiff classics and the lit of “dead white guys” because there is a lot out there being ignored to honor the classics. Honestly, I’d love to teach a class entirely on one or all of the Harry Potter books, but that’s a story for another day.

 

What Students Choosing Their Own Books Risks

 

As much as I’m excited by this notion, I’m also wary that it will lower the standard of children’s reading material.

 

If children are reading different books, it’ll curb classroom discussion and your involvement in guiding their reading. Your time, as a teacher, may also be taxed by expanding your texts 20 or 30 fold. (Perhaps using a classroom library, giving choice within those options would help).

 

Also, where do you draw the line of students’ choice in books? As I’ve come to learn with chick lit and other beach books, there’s a lot of fluff out there that’s fun to read but rarely expands my horizons or challenge me.

 

Some of my favorite books are ones I never would have read without a teacher’s prompting and never would have understood without a classroom discussion led by the teacher.

 

Peer Pressure & Student-Chosen Books

 

Another questions raised: Will peer pressure work for or against you?

 

  • If all the cool kids are reading trashy novels, will those on the periphery want to go against the grain and read something challenging? Will this set kids apart even further?
  • Or will students be more open to books because they’ve been recommended by their friends or peers?

 

There are certainly some pitfalls to consider, but I think teachers should be given the freedom to explore student-chosen reading programs and see the change it makes in readers!

 

Are you on board with student choice in books? Share your take in the comments section!

Language Arts - all Twilight all the time?

 

More often, kids are being able to choose their own in-class reading material, according to this week’s New York Times Education article:

 

“The approach Ms. McNeill uses, in which students choose their own books, discuss them individually with their teacher and one another, and keep detailed journals about their reading, is part of a movement to revolutionize the way literature is taught in America’s schools. While there is no clear consensus among English teachers, variations on the approach, known as reading workshop, are catching on.”

 

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Paying Students for Grades:  Are we cheapening education?Is merit pay for students common sense or a disaster waiting to happen? 

Teachers have always sought out new and effective ways to motivate students, but now business leaders are getting involved. With private funding, schools across the country are testing a new strategy: paying students for good grades and higher test scores.

According to an Ed Week blog, a new study done in connection with Boston College and the Educational Testing Service shows that NAEP scores went up when students were either paid to take the test or paid to do well.

"In the end, the study found, both of the monetary incentives spurred students to do better than they might have otherwise, although the second condition, in which part of the payout hinged on the students getting answers correct, proved to be the stronger incentive. Under both conditions, though, scores for both male and female students were, on average, at least 5 points higher than the scores for the no-incentive group." Read full article

 

The business community also supports this foray into incentivising student achievement. USA Today got the lowdown from CEO’s on the subject:

"Incentives are the tools we use to generate self-motivation," says Graham Barnes, CEO of Concerro, a San Diego company that helps manage shift work for nurses. He pays his children, ages 15, 11 and 8, to complete homework and rewards them with trips and computers for report cards with straight A's.
….
More than half of the 74 CEOs, chairmen and presidents surveyed last month by USA TODAY said they think paying for grades is a good idea. When asked if they pay, or have paid, their own kids for grades, 33 of 66 said yes.

http://www.usatoday.com/money/companies/management/2008-09-10-pay-for-grades_N.htm 

As an initial reaction, I want to shoot this idea down as a cheapening of education and devaluing the value of learning in itself. But if I was still in school, I’d want the money… (though I was a nerd who couldn’t stand to get a B). A poll taken in January showed that only 37% of people support the movement, according to CBS News. There have also been studies that show merit pay for students to be unsuccessful.

On the other hand, I can see the possibility of this “incentive-pay” helping students who have to work after school. They could have more time to study if they could count on that money. 

There are just sooo many questions this raises:

  • Will cheating upgrade from being a problem to being an epidemic?
  • Will education become even more about tests and testing?
  • What schools should run these programs?
  • Where will the money go? Will it be given directly to students or to parents?
  • Will it even work?
  • With such tight budgets, is there even funding for such programs?

What’s your take? Share your opinion in the comments section!

Is merit pay for students common sense or a disaster waiting to happen?  Teachers have always sought out new and effective ways to motivate students, but now business leaders are getting involved. With private funding, schools across the country are testing a new strategy: paying students for good grades and higher test scores.

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I heart Chicago!! In honor of Shakespeare's 445th birthday, Mayor Daley declared this Thursday, April 23 National Talk Like Shakespeare Day. Here are ten tips for getting this going at home and school (provided by http://talklikeshakespeare.org/)Preparing for Talk Like Shakespeare Thursday

  1. Instead of you, say thou. Instead of y’all, say thee.
  2. Rhymed couplets are all the rage.
  3. Men are Sirrah, ladies are Mistress, and your friends are all called Cousin. [nerd note: sirrah is actually a form of address for a servant or underling]
  4. Instead of cursing, try calling your tormenters jackanapes or canker-blossoms or poisonous bunch-back’d toads.
  5. Don’t waste time saying "it," just use the letter "t" (’tis, t’will, I’ll do’t).
  6. Verse for lovers, prose for ruffians, songs for clowns.
  7. When in doubt, add the letters "eth" to the end of verbs (he runneth, he trippeth, he falleth).
  8. To add weight to your opinions, try starting them with methinks, mayhaps, in sooth or wherefore.
  9. When wooing ladies: try comparing her to a summer’s day. If that fails, say "Get thee to a nunnery!"
  10. When wooing lads: try dressing up like a man. If that fails, throw him in the Tower, banish his friends and claim the throne.

I have a few additions to add to the official list:

  • If someone is rude to you, throw down a glove (or gauntlet) as an invitation to duel.
  • Say "anon" instead of soon.
  • Feel free to go off on an extended soliloque about Queen Mab, the fates or other mystical forces if the mood strikes.
  • Know a slob, refer to him/her as "Falstaff" for the day
  • If you take a wrong turn, get stuck in traffic or any other minor annoyance comes up, declare "I am fortune's fool!" It's oddly cathartic.
  • Use "art" instead of are.
  • Refrain from taking any boat trips. You may very well end up on washing ashore on an unknown land.
  • Refer to friends as "good cousin"
  • Use "morrow" instead of tomorrow
  • Not that you would ever flick someone off, but just in case, "bite your thumb" instead.

(Excuse the fact that most of my suggestions are from the "not-so-kind" Shakespeare catalog.)

Check back to www.teachhub.com for other Shakespeare-themed teacher goodness Thursday!!! Also, sign up for FREE and be my TeachHUB friend in the community :)

Thou shalt cherish it anon, good cousin.

I heart Chicago!! In honor of Shakespeare's 445th birthday, Mayor Daley declared this Thursday, April 23 National Talk Like Shakespeare Day. Here are ten tips for getting this going at home and school.

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What is the real danger of swine flu?Oink-choo: The Swine Flu and You… for Teachers

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but EVERYONE is freaking out about the swine flu. It seems like a good time to share some basics about the illness and some ways you can deal with the swine flu (and the resulting panic) in your classroom.

 

The swine flu is a strain of influenza that has adapted from an illness that typically only affects pigs. A strand affecting humans started spreading in Mexico, where the swine flu has been most severe. A weaker strand is believed to be spreading through the US and internationally.

The disease spreads between people like your typical flu. Swine flu is not spread by any food products, including pork or other pig byproducts.

According to the World Health Organization, most of those infected with the swine flu virus have fully recovered without need of medical attention or antiviral drugs.

U.S. Human Cases of H1N1 Flu Infection
Source: CDC (As of May 3, 2009 11:00 AM ET)

States

# of lab confirmed
cases

Deaths

Alabama

1

 

Arizona

18

 

California

26

 

Colorado

4

 

Connecticut

2

 

Delaware

10

 

Florida

3

 

Illinois

3

 

Indiana

3

 

Iowa

1

 

Kansas

2

 

Kentucky*

1

 

Massachusetts

7

 

Michigan

2

 

Minnesota

1

 

Missouri

1

 

Nebraska

1

 

Nevada

1

 

New Hampshire

1

 

New Jersey

7

 

New Mexico

1

 

New York

63

 

Ohio

3

 

Rhode Island

1

 

South Carolina

15

 

Tennessee

1

 

Texas

40

1

Utah

1

 

Virginia

3

 

Wisconsin

3

 

TOTAL (30)

226 cases

1 death

International Human Cases of Swine Flu Infection
See:
World Health Organization

Symptoms

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), the symptoms are similar to that of your average flu.

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle pain
  • Severe headache
  • Coughing
  • Weakness
  • General discomfort

 

In children emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

·         Fast breathing or trouble breathing

·         Bluish skin color

·         Not drinking enough fluids

·         Not waking up or not interacting

·         Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held

·         Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

·         Fever with a rash

 

In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

·         Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

·         Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen

·         Sudden dizziness

·         Confusion

·         Severe or persistent vomiting  

Prevention & Treatment: oseltamivir or zanamivir or other antiviral prescription drugs. See the CDC guide for full rundown

 

While it is important not to panic or let the swine flu scare disrupt your life, you should be informed and try to avoid getting the flu – swine or otherwise. 

Classroom Tips

-         Since swine flu spreads like any other strain of the flu, a good immune system could stop it before it starts. I’m a firm believer in vitamin C prevention – I’ve kicked four colds to the curb in the last year – and lots of sleep to ward off illness. Practice it yourself AND tell your students

-         Stock up on standard germ prevention products

o       Antibacterial hand sanitizer

o       Lysol/Clorox wipes to kill germs

o       Kleenex

o       Soap for when constant hand-washing

-         Germ Hot Spots

o       Door knobs

o       Anything for communal use

§         Computers

§         Hall passes

§         Shared desks

§         Calculators or any other shared learning aids

§         Listen to NPR’s “Where Germs Lurk in Grade School” report for more

-         A lot of “end of the year” activities, games and general excitement are on the agenda. You may want to postpone any that involve hand-holding or other physical contact, including

o       Red rover

o       Heads up, 7 up

o       High fiving

o       Accepting homework from students (Maybe I’m just allergic to grading…)

 

Dealing with Parents

-         Information is the key to preventing parental panic before it starts.

-         Has your principal sent out a call/email or other form of memo to parents reassuring them that there no students are currently diagnosed? If not, you may want to do so yourself.

-         What should you tell them?

o       Some basic information on swine flu to combat unnecessary alarm.

o       If any students have been diagnosed OR if NONE have.

o       Strategies you’re taking in the classroom to prevent germs spreading (whether it’s effective or not, it should be reassuring).

o       A notice for the less vigilant parents reminding them to keep students home if they’re exhibiting any symptoms.

School Closing Info

-      Decisions to close schools are generally made on the district or state level.

-      The CDC urges schools who have a suspected OR confirmed case of swine flu to close until

-      Ask administrators for specific information on how teachers and students will be notified of school closure.

-      You may also want to ask if athletics be suspended for the duration of school closings.  The CDC encourages any local education agency that closes due to pandemic illness to discontinue all related activities as well.

-      Some teachers have raised questions about re-entering school to retrieve class pets or other things that can't wait until you return to school. Unless a quarantine is in place (which is unlikely at this point), someone should be able to get into the school and take care of those concerns.

-      See the CDC guidelines for school closure for more information

 

Share your tips to stay swine flue free in the comments section!

Everyone here at TeachHUB hopes you stay healthy and (cross your fingers) get a day or two off for purely "preventative" measures!

What is the real danger of swine flu?

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but EVERYONE is freaking out about the swine flu. It seems like a good time to share some basics about the illness and some ways you can deal with the swine flu (and the resulting panic) in your classroom.

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Sequel Lit LessonA gravedigger is bringing Holden Caufield back from the dead.

 

Former gravedigger John David California, 60, is making his literary debut picking up 60 years after J.D. Salinger left off. Bookseller.com describes 60 Years Later Coming Through the Rye as:

 

"As the title suggests, the book tells the story of Caulfield 60 years later when he is 76-year-old resident of a nursing home…Caulfield comes to his senses and has an overwhelming compulsion to flee. He boards a bus and embarks on a curious journey through the streets of New York and 'many poignant memories of his adulthood'." Full recap

 

Odds are (judging by the title), the book is a bit of a mess. I guess readers will find out in June when the book is released. For now though, John has inspired me add some creativity to learning about literature.

 

To write a new story, you need to be familiar with the elements of literature, but that can often be a daunting task. If we can give students a head start, we can let them build off existing class readings or at-home favorite. 

Let’s Create a Sequel

(For younger students, you can take it one element at a time or work on this as a classroom activity)

 

Learning goals: 

  • Reinforce understanding of literary elements
  • Enhance students’ insight into the original literary work
  • Foster creative writing interest and abilities

Prep Questions

Original work: 

 

Will you keep the same setting (this includes place AND time)?

            If so, why?

 

             If not, what is the new time and place?

  

What old characters will be involved? 

  

Name three new characters?

 

Whose point-of-view will the story be told from? Is this the same as the original work?

 

What will the plot of the sequel be?

 

How will you make it different from the original?

What themes will you keep from the original?

(For example, all the Harry Potter books are about Harry and his fight against Dark Magic/Voldemort, but each book had a new villain).

Creative Writing Project – Now it’s time to write your sequel.

1.  Plan Your Plot

Sequel Lit Lesson

2. Outline All Major Action in More Detail

If the climax is a car chase, who is in the car chase?  Where is it taking place? Who is driving?  Who wins?  How do they start the race? Are a lot of people watching?

You can write these out on note cards to help organize your thoughts. 

 

3.  Write Your First Draft!

If you have trouble getting started, reread the opening of the original work. You can start by mirroring the author’s style until you works flow freely.

4. Read and Revise

Now that you have have a draft, does the story make sense?  What do you like about it?  What don't you like about it?

5. Polish Your Final Draft

Now that the plot is perfect, you can polish.  Check for grammar, spelling and other mistakes.  Try reading it aloud to make sure it flows smoothly.

A gravedigger is bringing Holden Caufield back from the dead.

 

Former gravedigger John David California, 60, is making his literary debut picking up 60 years after J.D. Salinger left off....

 

Odds are (judging by the title), the book is a bit of a mess. I guess readers will find out in June when the book is released. For now though, John has inspired me add some creativity to learning about literature.

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I'll admit it - I judge books by their cover. 

Now, my book cover judging is kept to strictly in the literal sense. I have a much easier time of seeing people for who they are rather than what they look like or how they're dressed. But when it comes to book, I can't seem to crack the cover of an ugly-on-the-outside book.

I love nothing more than wandering through a bookstore and paging through the beautifully bound.

As I'm compiling the Teacher Book Picks to include on TeachHUB.com, it seems that you all are judging books by their covers too. I like to research the authors picked and see other books they've got out there. Hands down, the Teacher-chosen book has a much cuter cover than the others.

Let's compare the books of Scott Westerfeld.

Picked (Notice that even a book called Uglies has a pretty cover):                        Not picked: 
 

Judging a Book by Its Cover                                                                                                       Judging a Book by Its Cover

 
To be clear, I'm passing no judgment on the content of these books (having not read either). But by cover alone, I'm picking Uglies. I'm guessing that it'll be character driven, maybe raise interesting dialogue on outward appearance and it seems more my speed. The Killing of Worlds looks a little too confusing, intense and sci-fi for me.

So am I the only one? Do you judge books by their cover?

Judging by cover NOT content, what is your favorite book? Share in the comments section!

I'll admit it - I judge books by their cover. 

 

Now, my book cover judging is kept to strictly in the literal sense. I have a much easier time of seeing people for who they are rather than what they look like or how they're dressed. But when it comes to book, I can't seem to crack the cover of an ugly-on-the-outside book.

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Get Lost in Your Lesson Plans

Lost is back and ready to bring some island mystery to your classroom! 

In honor of the long-awaited last season of the hugely popular show, here are some Lost-inspired lesson ideas across grade levels and subjects. 

Since Lost watchers are so passionate about the show, it seems like a fun way to teach a lesson that includes watching an episode in class (yay!), offering some extra credit to older students, or just using the get some thinking-outside-the-box lessons.  

Lost-inspired lessons for younger students:


- Pretend you landed on a deserted island. Imagine all the places you find when you explore the island.

  • Are there caves, palm trees, rivers, or anything else on the island?
  • What animals and plants do you find as you explore?
  • Do they live in specific areas? (By water or food, maybe?)
  • Draw a map of the island so you remember where everything is.
  • Name your island and some of the different areas.

- If you were stranded on an island, what two people would you want to be with? Why?

- Lost numbers (4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42) in Math problems

- Past/Present/Future chart using verbs from the island (survive, run, hunt, fish, explore, crash, travel, fly, swim, etc).

- Transportation: People have gotten to the island by plane, boat, submarine, and helicopter. Draw and label each of these, along with any other form of transportation you can think of.

 

Lost-inspired Lessons for older students:

 

Language Arts/English


Understanding Setting and Time
Like any piece of fiction, Lost includes characters, plot, rising and falling action, etc, but the major literary devices that stand out in the show are SETTING and TIME.

The “island” truly merges the concept of setting and character. It is as close to a living, breathing character that you'll find in a place.

  • Where is the island?
  • Describe the island.
  • What characteristics make the island special?
  • How does the island affect the characters’ actions?

 

Past, present and future tense have never been so clear or so murky than in this fictional world. Watch an episode, and track what happens in the past, present and future on a chart.
~ Choosing one plotline that appears in more than one category, describe how the actions that take place during different times affect the characters’ present or future actions/behavior.

 

Social Studies/History
Mapping the island’s history

 

  • Who are the different groups and/or individuals who have inhabited the island?
  • When did each group/individual arrive on the island (compared to the other groups)?
  • Using that information, create a timeline the tracks the arrival and departure of the island dwellers?


Geography – On an unlabeled map, locate all the places where Lost takes place.

 

  • LA – Plane destination
  • Sidney, Australia – Plane departure point
  • Korea – Jin and Sun’s home
  • Iraq – Sayid’s home
  • Oxford, England – Daniel Faraday’s home
  • Scotland – Desmond’s home
  • Mystery island?


Math and Science Lesson Starters

Honestly, math and science aren't my strongest subjets, so here are a few starter ideas for you to take all the way. OR please share your Lost-inspired lessons in the comments section.

 

Science
Physics of time and space?

 

Survival Skills
Supplies on hand: Rope, knife, wood, coconut trees, sand, rocks, a net, tarps, etc.
~How can you use these materials to survive a day on a deserted island? (Consider simple machines or tools that can help you get food and shelter).

 

Magnetism – Magnetic energy seems to be behind the “magic” of the island’s healing power and the island’s time/space strangeness. It even explains the numbers.
~ In the real world, what can magnets do?

 

Math
- Playing with patterns and mystery numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42
- Sequencing and meaning to numbers
- Word problems with flight times
- Trajectory of falling plane, slope and equations to track dissent

 

Do you use any TV or movie-themed lessons? Please share in the comments section!  

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Lost is back and ready to bring some island mystery to your classroom! 

 

In honor of the long-awaited last season of the hugely popular show, here are some Lost-inspired lesson ideas across grade levels and subjects. 

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Kansas City schools are taking differentiated instruction to a whole new level – little red school house style. 

Goodbye to Grade Levels?

KC schools will focus on more personalized and individual learning than classroom-style instruction. Students will be grouped by ability and move up once they've mastered the skill.

According to the US Today article, "For instance, in a classroom learning about currency, one group could draw pictures of pennies and nickels. A student who has mastered that skill might use pretend money to practice making change.

Students who progress quickly can finish high school material early and move forward with college coursework. Alternatively, in some districts, high-schoolers who need extra time can stick around for another year." full article

Theoretically, this could alleviate some of the pressure on teachers to service a room full of students with widely varying levels of ability. The biggest problem would likely be implementation.

Districts in Alaska, Maine and Colorado are also experimenting with skills-based grouping. 

Last year, Adams 50 in Denver shifted to this grade-free approach to learning. Children have more control over their lessons and do not move on until they've become proficient in the subject.

The change that's getting the most attention by far is the decision to do away with traditional grade levels. At first, the new approach will affect only kids traditionally in grades lower than eighth. The district plans to phase the reform in through high school, one year at a time. Ultimately, there will be 10 multi-age levels, rather than 12 grades, and students might be in different levels depending on the subject. They'll move up only as they demonstrate mastery of the material. 

Adams has instituted a pilot program of 300 hundred students to test the grade-free classroom. So far, teachers and students seem encouraged by the possibilities within this system and believe it gives students a greater sense of ownership over their education. 

Possible Complications

Scheduling is a big one. It's also unclear what will happen if large numbers of kids arrive in high school still unable to demonstrate proficiency in certain subjects, like math, and a bottleneck gets created. Because no student can move forward without a "B" equivalent, it's also essentially impossible for students to have lower than a 3.0 GPA, which could be a challenge to explain to colleges.

There is also a social concern for students struggling academically who fall behind or skyrocket ahead. How will students cope with having to work with so kids at different levels in their development and social lives? Or will this relieve pressure on students and create a solutions to students falling too far behind and slipping through the cracks?

Do you think grade-free schools are the future of education? Share your thoughts on this new teaching philosophy in the comments section!

Kansas City schools are taking differentiated instruction to a whole new level – little red school house style. 

KC schools will focus on more personalized and individual learning than classroom-style instruction. Students will be grouped by ability and move up once they've mastered the skill.

 

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