Sunday, December 21, 2008
Upon my first read I found many interesting ideas, but what resonated with me was how she tracked the changes in education through the years. I found many of the trends that she mentioned were changes that were part of my education. From the experimental 60's, when I was part of a school system that liked to try "new" ideas in education, to attending a College Prep boarding school that had just started admitting girls as students. Even in my teaching career when it was drilled into us to teach to the girls the changes continued. Peg Tyre now maintains that we have to do the same for boys!
I agree with Peg. I have always been an advocate for finding ways to teach all students and that when we teach boys we need do it in boy-friendly terms. Many boys, and some girls, do not learn best in an classroom environment where they are made to sit still, be quiet, and to complete worksheets, and to keep all their work looking "pretty". As an elementary male teacher, I sometimes find that this is a hard concept to get across to some teachers. One comment that I liked in this book, and that I didn't expect, is that while Peg Tyre agrees that we need more male teachers in the elementary schools, she does say that "good teaching is good teaching" and that female teachers can do all the things necessary to help her male students achieve.
It certainly is a topic that I don't find addressed in the schools as much as I would like to see it being talked about (which should be as often as possible!). I wonder what would happen if on the state testing one of the subgroups that the test looks at would be the boy students.
I will have to reread the book again to collect my thoughts as I read it in the dark under some blankets and with gloves on my cold fingers. I was not interested in taking notes or marking up the book. I certainly feel it is a book that teachers and parents should definitely read.
Here is an excellent "authors/google" lecture given by Peg Tyre about the boy problem and her book. You can get a good feel for the book by listening to her speech.
Here is an appearance by Peg Tyre on the Today show.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Saturday, December 6, 2008
I have always enjoyed bringing technology into my classroom. Unfortunately schools find it hard to enable teachers to use the newest and most interesting technology because of the expense. That has left me trying to figure out how I can get a projector into my classroom and I really couldn't find an inexpensive way to do so. This week, I finally did find something extremely cool and useful that I think teachers could put to good use in their class and it does more than just a standard projector.
Th 3M Micro Professional Projector is a wallet sized projector that can be connected to computers, iPods, digital cameras, and other pieces of technology to project images on a wall or screen. It uses LED lights so it doesn't get hot and you can carry it around and project wherever you are because it can be powered by its own battery. It projects an image large and clear enough to fill up the screen in my classroom (although it looks better with the lights out). I took photos and movies on my digital camera and was able to show them immediately to my class. I see it as being very useful to show all the short movie clips I use in my classroom. Of course now I will have to get a video iPod to store all those movies! I think it would be very easy to keep my videos (such as the animoto videos of my student's poetry)on an iPod and project them on a wall or board when I am meeting with a small group or if I am teaching a whole class lesson. I see so many practical uses for the projector that I think it is a great use and addition of technology to my class.
I was worried that it would be hard to focus or the images would not be clear. I was surprised when I tried it that the focus remained true even if I was holding the projector in my hand. The images and movies were clear and focused and certainly grabbed my student's attention.
Here are some newer low-cost more advanced alternatives:
AAXA LED Pico Projector with 80 Minute Battery Life, Pocket Size, Mini-HDMI, 15,000 hour LED Life, and Media Player
Taotaole Multi-media 150 Lumens Portable LED Projection Micro Projector
AAXA P2 Jr Pico Projector, 55 Lumens, Pocket Size
3M Mobile Projector MP220
Monoprice 109990 Mobile Media Display Pico Projector and Battery Backup
My class has been learning about rocks and minerals. I made "mock" rocks so that each student could break a rock down into smaller "minerals". First they broke apart the mock rocks into red gravel, blue gravel, oyster shells, and a powdery "other stuff".
It was easy to see the "minerals" that made up the rock, but they weren't sure what the other stuff was. So we put it in water and overnight some sediment has settled on the bottom.
However the water was cloudy so the water was placed into cups and evaporated. When the water was gone some cystals had grown on the bottom of the cup. We had sheets that showed different types of crystals and the students were able to identify the crystals as salt crystals. We looked at some of the salt crystals under my digital microscope and were able to see them more clearly. Here are a few of the photos we took.
After leaving the crystals out for a bit it seemed we had some "life" starting to grow under the microscope!
The digital microscope I use in my class is called the Intel Play QX3 and it easily hooks up to a computer through the usb port. The software is fun and allows you to see things at 10x, 60x, and 200x the normal size. You can take pictures, movies, or time lapse photography and then for fun play around with the pictures and add things like little salamanders or other creepy things that kids seem to like (see picture above). The class always enjoys seeing close up photos of their eyeballs, skin, or the fabric of their clothes. Anything tiny is fun to look at with this microscope. It is a wonderful and fun tool to have in the classroom. Here is the microscope that I use:
This looks like a lower cost way to do the same thing:
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
"The staff meets to tackle one in a rotating list of topics: math, reading,writing, and life-skills education. They use the time to assess data, develop curriculum, discuss the needs of individual students, and participate in professional-development workshops -- sessions often led by Faubion teachers who have completed outside training on particular skills."That sounds like a lot of meeting time, but note that it is the teachers who are considered the experts. They don't follow what they are told they must follow, but instead there is a choice involved. When given the choice, the teachers do what needs to be done and they seem to do it willingly, happily, and with great success.
"The key to this training is that teachers choose what they want to learn; each year, they agree on one weak area to give particular emphasis (this year, writing), and it's typically the area where test results show students need the most help. As Harbolt says, "We figure if they're weak on it, we must be weak on it.""When the teachers are considered the experts, they do the "expert" things. There are a lot of innovative and interesting techniques going on throughout the video.
If you want to create a successful school, it takes hard work.
It's not about the "program"! It is about the best experts in the business: the classroom teacher. Treat the teachers like the experts they are. Give them the power and the support they need to do what they know needs to be done. Then, and only then, will wonderful things happen! Bravo! to the Faubian Elementary School!
Today's Washington Post reports on a Reading Program in Need of Improvement. The article "Study of Reading Program Finds a Lack of Progress" by Maria Glod takes to task the $6 billion Reading First program after a congressionally mandated study determined that students have made no greater improvements or scored no better than students in similar schools who did not use the Reading First program. Of course Reading First is a program funded by the No Child Left Behind law. Here is a sad comment from the article:
"It is a program that needs to be improved," said Grover J. "Russ" Whitehurst,director of the Institute of Education Sciences, the department's research arm."I don't think anyone should be celebrating that the federal government has spent $6 billion on a reading program that has had no impact on reading comprehension."
Of course the article also mentions that not so new allegations that some of the people who had oversight over the Reading First program also had financial ties to the publishers of Reading First materials. Did I mention that this is a $6 billion program? I think I smell a program in need of some corrective action.
There are some really useful things in the Reading First program and there are some dreadful things. However when will the politicians learn that it is not a program that works with students, it is the teachers. Hire good teachers and support them as much as possible so that they can do their job, but don't expect a $6 billion program to be the answer. It sounds like a lot of wasted money.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Today I just finished reading the wonderful book "The Tale of Despereaux" by Kate DiCamillo to my class. Like every class the past few years who have heard me read this book, they absolutely love this story about a brave little mouse. Today I ran across a trailer for an animated version of this story coming out this Christmas.
Oh no! This is not the book! Everything is different: the vocabulary, the scenes, and in particular, this is not how I visualized the book. Hopefully the movie will be great in its own way, but before you go see this movie, read the Newbery Medal winning book.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Here is a Library of Congress recordings of William Carlos William reciting the poem in 1945.
|William Carlos Williams - The Red Wheelbarrow|
|Found at bee mp3 search engine|
Here William Carlos Williams talks a bit about the poem (from 1952).
|William Carlos Williams - The Red Wheelbarrow|
|Found at bee mp3 search engine|
Next I reminded the class about the story I have been reading to them: "The Tale of Despereaux". We then wrote about something from the story that wouldn't seem that important at all to someone who may have not have read the book but carries loads of tragic meaning to a person who does know the book. The poem we wrote together is called "The Red Tablecloth".
In the story a rat steals a red tablecloth from a man sent to a dungeon and in doing so takes away his only comfort. We later learn that the man had earlier traded his daughter for that same tablecloth. It ends up being an object in the story that "so much depends on".
I then gave each student a photograph that I had cut our from old "National Geographic" magazines. I had them look for an object to write about and to write a creative poem of their own inspired by William Carlos Williams. Then I used my digital camera to get close up images of the photograph as well as lines from the poem that had been printed out by each student poet. What do you think of these "poetic" videos? Please note that I am using the music on the Animoto website. I try to match tunes to poems, but there is only a limited number of songs and it is hard to find songs without words. However in most cases the songs match up wonderfully to the poem.
In a couple of weeks I will be reading the class one of my favorite children's books, "Love That Dog", by Sharon Creech. In this excellent book a boy learns to enjoy and write poetry with the help of his teacher. The teacher uses famous poems to model poetry writing to her class. William Carlos Williams' poem "The Red Wheelbarrow" plays an important role in this book. The class will be thrilled when this connection is made!
"The Big Mustache" by JB
"The Black Dog" by AA
"A Girl Catching Fish"
"A Sweaty Working Man" by WP
"An Old Cow" by IM
"The Brown Gourd" by TE
"The Brown Wooden Swing" by LE
"The Head Band" by JP
"The Big Paper Umbrella" by EV
"The Red Flowery Dress" by SV
"The Walking Stick"
"A Sitting Down Dog" by CA
"A Hole in a Wall" by JR
"A White Furry Goat" by JS
Thursday, October 16, 2008
William Wissemann is an 18 year old college freshman who used a Rubik's Cube to teach himself some valuable life lessons. You can listen to or read his "This I Believe" speech called "Accomplishing Big Things In Small Pieces" here. It originally aired as a NPR segment.
William had to leave his public school after fourth grade because of a language-processing disorder. Solving a Rubik's Cube helped William understand that he had to first break problems down before he could solve them. It mirrored his own progress in breaking down language in order to use it effectively. A simple Rubik's Cube taught William many other important lessons about dealing with frustrations and reaching goals. It is a wonderful essay.
"This I Believe" is an international project engaging people in writing, sharing, and discussing the core values that guide their daily lives. These short statements of belief, written by people from all walks of life, are archived here and featured on public radio in the United States and Canada, as well as in regular broadcasts on NPR. The project is based on the popular 1950s radio series of the same name hosted by Edward R. Murrow.
Here a school administrator starts his own "This I Believe" list. What an interesting way to reflect about what is important to you as an educator or person.
I have never been able to solve the Rubik's Cube on my own, unless you count the time I took the stickers off and just rearranged them by color! After I graduated from College I worked for a summer at a day camp run by The Stony Brook School, the college prep boarding school I had attended for three years. There was one fourth grade boy attending the camp who could consistently solve the Rubik's Cube (it was new then) in a very short amount of time. I even watched him solve it in under a minute a few times.
Friday, October 10, 2008
On the first day of school this year I introduced my class to William Carlos Williams' poem "A Locust Tree in Flower". I found the poem a few years ago while using some other of his poems in my class. I found it to be an unusual and simple poem, but there was something about it that begged me to ask, "What is this?"
I decided to use it in my class as a lesson on words and how we use them, as well as a clever introduction to poetry. In subsequent lessons I use "This is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams to teach poetry form versus paragraph form and "The Red Wheelbarrow" for creating meaning from insignificant details.
This year I handed out a sheet to every student with each word from the poem printed in random order on small squares that they could cut out. I asked them to try to put these words into some kind of written form and make sense out of them. I told them they could even add words if they needed to in order to give the words some meaning. The class played around with the words for a bit and discovered what they could or couldn't do with the words.
Later I showed them the poem, "A Locust Tree in Flower.
The class now saw the words expressed in a poem, but they still had a hard time making sense out of it. I have never studied this poem or read about how William Carlos Williams created it. Maybe there is a story behind it but I just tell the class that this poem reminds me of a puzzle. Each word is like a puzzle piece and some pieces are missing and the pieces may even be out of order, but they are jumbled up together to make this poem. We try imagining which words go together and what words could be missing to help create sensible phrases. By playing around with the words the students start making some meaning as well as have a fun time with words and language.
We talk about how poets can make their own rules and come up with rules for "The Locust Tree in Flower". We decided that William Carlos Williams only put one word on every line. He had four stanzas of three words each and one last word at the end. He gave it a title and placed his words randomly so that they didn't make sense when first reading it, although we can assume that he put great thought into the choice and placement of his words
Then we went outside to observe a Maple Tree on our playground that the kids are all familiar with because it stands right next to the school's playground equipment. We went outside with clipboards and observed the tree and they wrote words and phrases about what they observed
When we came inside we wrote out own "Maple Tree" poems following Williams Carlos Williams rules for writing his poem. A simple poem may take only minutes to write
I took digital pictures while we were outside and when the students later typed the poems into a computer (for their first simple typing exercise in the computer lab) I inserted a picture of the tree on their poem so that they could print it out and show off their first writing assignment of the year
I left the project behind and moved on as the year progressed until a found the Animoto video slideshow program. Within a few minutes of seeing how this program worked I thought to myself that this poem would lend itself wonderfully to being presented with Animoto. After playing with the program a bit and seeing how it worked I tried describing to the class my vision of what we could do with their poems. We didn't have much time so I had them write out the words to their poem on paper and use "tree" colors to color them in. Rather than cut them out I had them rip out the words. Then we went outside with those who completed the task quickly enough and took photos of each word on the wood chips underneath the maple tree. I wish I had more photos of the tree without the students in the photo from the first day, but I didn't know back then that I would be doing this project. I took the photos and uploaded them to the Animoto site and arranged them very quickly into some kind of order, chose a piece of music off the Animoto site, and then let the program perfrom its magic of arranging the poems into a digital-musical slideshow.
I think the results are wonderful and each video has its own flavor and design. At some points in the videos the photos, music, and transitions are just perfect for the poem the student wrote
Take a look at the results. Don't you think these are great.
While I was looking up information on the poem online, I found another interesting video presentation of "The Locust Tree in Flower". This is from a museum installation by Jason Freeman of the Georgia Insitute of Technology. At his installation people can read the poem. He writes, "The installation invites a single person at a time to create and perform a musical setting of the poem by simply reading it. A short piece of music is generated in real time by applying digital processing, mixing, and looping to the user's voice.". The results are very unusual! You can view a sample recording here. It is very interesting to see the different ways a simple poem can inspire others.
This blog post has now been included in the Carnival of Education's "The Debate Issue" hosted by Eduwonkette. You can read all sorts of educational blogger's posts that have been formatted by Eduwonkette into an entry that at first looks like the presidential candidates debating policy. What a fun and creative way to present all these diverse blog entries. You can find a reference and link to this post by reading what "Sarah Palin" adds to the debate!
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
The other day I took my class on a stroll around Mount Pleasant School. I explained the photos I was taking as I walked around the school. I told my class what I wanted to do with the photos. I was suprised when one boy said, "So you are basically making a collage!"
I said, "Yes that is right, but it will be a photo-video collage on the computer." I realised after awhile that I was taking photos of round things, signs, numbers, and different views of the school. Here is one of the videos Animoto put together for me. What do you think?
Hopefully this program will work on the district's computers. I have some ideas for my class that would be very fun to work on together.
Sorry for the music. I have to find some appropriate tunes.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
This is a wonderful piece of visual journalism as a 100+ acre cattle farm in Illinois is torn down to make space for a new housing development.
Why might you show this to Elementary school students? I think students can understand the highly visual juxtaposition of images, video clips, and sound bytes to get the "big picture" that is created in this piece. It shows the changing of land use from rural to suburban, it tells about the loss of family farms (with a non judgmental tone), it displays human emotions brought on by change in the world, and it does so with a simple creativity. It also show how many things we hold in common. Check out how the pictures of the farm family and the new residents are compared and contrasted by similarity of images. My favorite is the photo of the cattle with their heads in the feeding pail next to the photo of a girl riding her toy bike on the driveway with a plastic bucket on her head. I think children would thrill to see how a creative person put these together with purpose. Some of the images on the screen are worth stopping this presentation for so as to discuss with a class. I like the quote at the end of the piece, "Farmland changes. You still see the same qualities of life even though it is no longer a farmland."
I can see how a short piece like this could fit in a Social Studies unit on regions of the US or on rural areas becoming suburban areas. It could also fit in a literary unit such as stories on the prairie like my class is reading now. It might also be used after reading a book like "What You Knew First" by Patricia MacClachlan about a family leaving a farm on the prairie behind. It is almost like a modern sequel to the simple children's book.
Monday, September 29, 2008
A new study suggests that children under 12 years of age have a difficult time processing negative feedback and hence the ability to learn from their mistakes. According to an article in Science Daily...
"Eight-year-old children have a radically different learning strategy from twelve-year-olds and adults. Eight-year-olds learn primarily from positive feedback ('Well done!'), whereas negative feedback ('Got it wrong this time') scarcely causes any alarm bells to ring."
This pattern has been seen in behavioral research as well as when scientists look inside the brain.
"In children of eight and nine, these areas of the brain react strongly to positive feedback and scarcely respond at all to negative feedback. But in children of 12 and 13, and also in adults, the opposite is the case. Their control centers' in the brain are more strongly activated by negative feedback and much less by positive feedback."
According to the researchers this may be because...
"From the literature, it appears that young children respond better to reward than to punishment...The information that you have not done something well is more complicated than the information that you have done something well. Learning from mistakes is more complex than carrying on in the same way as before. You have to ask yourself what precisely went wrong and how it was possible."
This is all very interesting and makes me think of many implications within the classroom.