Posts Tagged ‘government’

Quick Teaching Tip: History Hunt

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010
Cropped version of Thomas Jefferson, painted b...
Image via Wikipedia

Today’s quick tip is in honor of the social studies and history teachers out there.  While I have only blogged a bit about this area of education, it is actually my favorite to teach.  I loved using this technique in my classroom when looking at a historical figure or event in more detail.  This is a fabulous activity for any grade K-8 classroom with a tad bit of adjustment based on the age.

Did you know that April 13 is Thomas Jefferson’s birthday?  In honor of the third president of the United States, we will be shaping our activity around his life. Here is what you do:

1. Start by researching a historical figure/event.  For Thomas Jefferson, I went to the White House home page.  Choose five significant details that you want students to know about the figure or event.

2. Create a worksheet like the one you find here.  I am giving you my freebie on Thomas Jefferson for you to try!

3. Have students work either alone or in pairs.  Have students read each detail and search the classroom/school/playground (depending on how you can best supervise) for items that will represent that detail.  Have students explain in writing why that object represents that detail.  For example, for the detail about drafting the Declaration of Independence, a student might choose a pencil.  He/she should explain why the pencil represents drafting the Declaration of Independence to them.

4. Reconvene the class after everyone has completed the activity.  Have students place all of the objects for each detail in groups in the classroom.  There are some wonderful creative display opportunities for these items.  Have the items spark classroom discussion about why objects were selected.

5. You may follow up by having students do their own research outside of the classroom and have them think of objects to represent the details they learn!

So now that you have read about it, why do this activity?  Most children will forget the facts that we teach them about history, unless we can build a context aroundthem.  Meaningful context is built by making connections to students’ lives.  By choosing familiar items and connecting them to history, they are building a 1:1 correspondence between something they know and something you want them to know.

So there you have it…simple, no supplies outside of paper, pencil and your classroom needed and students will love it!  I would love to hear which historical figures/events you try this with!  How did it work for you?

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Ready to Read III: So if not an iPad…

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010
A small pad of Post-It notes.
Image via Wikipedia

After the launch of the infamous and much heralded iPad last week, I set to my humble blog in order to comment on some reasons I felt that the current functionality of the iPad was not compelling enough for widespread educational use at this moment.   I discovered quickly that there are two highly outspoken groups…those that firmly believe that the iPad is a waste of time and those that believe that it is the answer to a lone educator’s prayers (if only it could do parent-teacher conferences).  Thank you to all that chose to enter the discussion and weigh in on this exciting topic.  I was delighted to find such passionate educators on both sides of the iPad divide…if only we could get this excited about differentiated instruction and communicating with parents, perhaps we wouldn’t need large, unwieldy government standardized testing programs (you know who you are, Nickleby!)

This week we are back to our discussion of reading.  In my efforts to give you tips that you can use in your classroom tomorrow and for those of you that are not able to participate in one of our instructional seminars, I am going to discuss a low-tech, high-functioning type of pad that can be used very effectively in your classroom.

(Drumroll please)

The Post-It Pad

Yes, the Post-It Pad or sticky note pad (since we are not a sponsored site, I will not recommend that you go the name brand route–3M, CALL ME!)  is something that I DO encourage you to invest in for every single one of your students.  And unlike a classroom set of iPads, it will not break your classroom budget.

I can see you rubbing your heads asking, why on earth should something as prosaic and frankly, boring, as a sticky-note pad be worth purchasing for your students (or blogging about for that matter)?   After all, there are environmental issues, both globally and also with the potential littering of a classroom floor.  Not to mention the embarrassing possibility of notes being stuck to a teacher’s back unexpectedly.    These pressing concerns aside, sticky-notes are great ways for students to flexibly call out things that, well, need to be called out.

Imagine, if you will, a fourth grader who is reading “Stone Fox” by John Reynolds Gardiner.  You as an instructor are hoping to develop a student’s ability to analyze character traits, both because your district/state implores you to do so, but also because it is an important thing to do as a reading instructor.   Try this way of practicing this skill:

Hand out to each student a word that describes the main character, Little Willy.  Some examples might be “determined” or “naive”  You will probably need to make sure that all of your students actually know what these words mean, but this is a wonderful opportunity for vocabulary expansion.  Once you have collectively defined the vocabulary, tell students that they will need to find 3 textual examples or clues that prove that Little Willy has this characteristic.  In my experience, any time that students get to prove ANYTHING gets them excited.  Fourth graders really, really like to be right.   Here is where the ubiquitous sticky-note comes in.  Students use the sticky note to mark the text that proves their point. On the note they write down why it proves their point.

It seems simple and it is simple.  Here is why it works.  It sends students  into the texts looking for proof.  It allows them to find their proof, mark it, and write an explanation all in one place.  Believe it or not, but the act of simply transferring that information from the novel to a worksheet can be a true obstacle for some students.  I have found that as students become more and more techno-savvy, the act of handwriting and transferring information seems more laborious to students.   The sticky-note allows them to easily collect and defend their thoughts.  After a few times with this exercise, have them record it in a journal or on a worksheet.  You will find that their written explanations are a lot more thorough and well-organized, because the sticky-notes have acted as a mobile, flexible graphic-organizer.

This is but one application of the nifty little sticky-pad.  I have used them to help students make timelines, graphs, and create outlines for essays.  There are a million ways students can use them effectively, and I haven’t thought of them all.  If you are not ready to invest the $499 in a iPad, I do suggest you try the $.50 to $1.99 sticky-note pad in the meantime.

How are you using the sticky-note in your classroom?

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On the President’s Message

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Yesterday, President Obama addressed our nation’s students.  Regardless of  personal political beliefs and controversy aside,  the address had many essential messages that I felt were timely and important for students.    Many educators were clearly thinking about what this address meant for students.  As an educator, I have spent countless hours evaluating my methods of teaching, considering pedagogical theories, assessing student’s learning modalities and inventory of knowledge and skills.  As a parent,  I have acted as an advocate for my children and made certain that our home fosters the support, nutrition, rest and stimulation needed to attend to learning.    While educators and parents talk about building accountability in students, how often are students implored to be accountable?  I was pleased to hear President Obama do just this in his address.  Learning is a partnership between teachers, parents and students.  If students are not acting responsibly and with accountability, how can learning take place?

President Obama’s address reminded me that educators and parents can foster this sense of responsibility in their students.   There are many activities that teachers can do in their classroom that foster a sense of ownership over learning.   In Edstrom Educational Consulting instructional seminars, we often talk about helping students be active learners.  After defining what active learning looks like, we encourage teachers to use a rubric that outlines these ideals of active learning and help students evaluate their success as learners.

Parents can also build a climate that teaches self-motivation and responsibility to their children at home.  There are many parenting models, such as the one outlined in Redirecting Children’s Behavior by Kathryn Kvols, that teach children responsibility and self-motivation.    We, as parents, want to encourage students to self-monitor their learning, to challenge themselves, and to find pleasure in the discovery and new ideas.

As you head to your classrooms or homes, think about what you can do today to encourage responsibility in our nation’s students.    Let’s give students the toolbox to be active and responsible learners and then see what they can build with those tools.

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