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Showing posts from 2014

Creating Authentic Thinkers

I read a tweet the other day by @realscientists that said, "We've raised a generation of people who can DO math, but most don't UNDERSTAND what they're doing..." and if I could have made a standing ovation tweet, I would have.  Perfectly said.

Maybe the tweet had such an impact on me because it is something I noticed this year in my classroom.    One example in particular is that my students do a pretty good job with the math but are struggling with the problems.  In other words, they can find a NUMBER but they struggle to find an ANSWER to a problem.

I have a few theories as to why this is happening and what we can do to fix it.

One, they are terrified of failing.  They've gone through hardcore testing for at least 3 years now and because of the stakes of those tests and their fear of failing them, they have allowed that to bleed into their every day academic lives and are now governed by it.

Two, they've never had to.  This isn't a dog on their p…

'Tis the Season...for testing...

Here we are, two weeks away from an extremely well deserved break, spending a great amount of time...testing.  Now is about the time that I start drawing out my plans of my latest, yet to be invented invention.  This invention is called- wait for it- iBrain.  No, that name isn't very creative.  Test Eliminator 2000.  Ehh, let's go with iBrain.  Anyways, iBrain looks like a USB cable that plugs into the ear of a student- any ear.  The other end plugs into a computer.  You wait 5 minutes while everything the student has learned up to THAT point is downloaded into a convenient little, easy to read, spreadsheet.  Bingo bango boom, you have what you need to plan the upcoming semester.  Oh yeah, and all the accountability stuff too.  5 minutes is all it took.

Of course I am being facetious and thinking rather wishfully.  I know.  I understand the need to assess our students for both planning purposes and accountability purposes.  I get it.  We (my students and I) get it.   I just r…

Professional Development

As you've probably noticed from my posts so far, I'm a big fan of providing authentic experiences to my students in the classroom.  But, as an aspiring administrator, I also understand the importance of providing authentic learning opportunities to the teachers and staff as well.  This past Friday, my principal did just that.

You see, we are having a much lower than expected turnout for kindergarten registration this year.  Furthermore, we have identified a pre-K program that would do wonders for our kids preparedness when they eventually come to us.  This pre-K program is also having lower than expected registrations.  My principal, understanding that our community has a lot on their plates in terms of...well...life...asked us teachers to head out to the various neighborhoods, go door to door, and hand out fliers Friday afternoon (it was a half-day for our students- the afternoon was set aside for PD).  Needless to say, some staff members were horrified by the idea, some a l…

Student News Daily

Here's an amazing resource I just discovered the other day.  It's one of those rare resources that come up that you know if you would have just stumbled upon it earlier, it could have had a massive positive effect on my students.

Anyways, check out Student News Daily.  This website provides a daily article that covers world news, comprehension questions for said article and a plethora of other resources you can use to provide authentic reading experiences for your students.

Word of caution:  The younger your students are, the more you are going to have to filter what articles they read.  Some of the content is meant for a more mature audience than the 5th graders that I serve.

How I do it:  If you are curious as to how to implement this in your classroom, this is how I do it.  In no way do I think this is the best way and I think how I implement it will evolve over the coming month and next school year.

My classroom is set up in a collaborative way.  In other words, my stud…

Silent Lunch

Now hang on, if you are thinking this is going to be a post to support the silencing of all students while eating lunch in the cafeteria, you are wrong.  Well, maybe.  In my 7 years as an educator, I've never been a proponent of taking away recess time and/or asking students to not talk during lunch.  I've always felt those times are their times.  Times during the day when they don't have to deal with us teachers.  When they can freely interact with their peers, build social relationships, chew the cud if you will.

I don't think we need to turn our cafeterias into this...


Perhaps I've had a slight change of heart the past few days.  You see, my fifth graders decided not to make the best choices in their short jaunt to the cafeteria.  They sounded like a high school marching band marching down the hallway.  I decided to bring down the hammer.  Silent lunch for the first 15 minutes. It was wonderful.  The students finished their lunches before the time was up.  My st…

Teaching Energy through Rube Goldberg Machines

Rube Goldberg- A Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, sculptor and author.  Perhaps most famous for his political cartoons but when it comes to my students, he is known for his extremely complex machines used to complete an extremely simple job or task.  What in the world does this have to do with my classroom?  Good question...

So, as a 5th grade teacher in the wonderful state of Texas, I am required to help my students discover some concepts of force, motion and energy.  More specifically, after my students have had ample time to discover, they should be able to explore the uses of energy, including mechanical, light, thermal, electrical, and sound energy.  What better way to do that than allow the students to learn about Rube Goldberg machines than make their own using the principles of the transfer of energy discussed and discovered in class?  Below you will see how I do that.

I usually start my students off with this video from CBS Sunday Morning.

I ask my students to watch the vid…