Monday, March 16, 2009

Editing essays

I'm really excited to work with students on editing and revision of their written work. I wish I knew more about this so if any of you bloggers know of a good resource for non-English teachers I would appreciate it. I learned (the hard way) when teaching 9th graders to make sure they write out a non-plagiarized rough draft. Now I have had a chance to respond to rough drafts from 7th graders and I like the process of helping them to improve their writing for both content and clarity. I'm looking forward to seeing the finished product to find out if the editing was helpful. Stay tuned!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Fun opener strategy

I learned about a versatile new strategy today at a workshop. The example given was about life cycles of aquatic organisms but I think this could be adapted for almost any topic. It goes like this: students are given a card with a picture (or text) on it as they enter the room. The cards have pictures of an organism at different phases in its life cycle (i.e. a dragonfly egg, nymph, and adult). Students are asked to find other students whose pictures go with theirs. This may be done as an introduction to a new topic (students would not be able to match some organisms) and repeated throughout the unit. By the end of the unit, students would easily group the pictures appropriately. I like this because I can imagine using it for almost any unit and any grade level. Students could pair chemical reactants and products, cell organelles and functions, etc.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Great interactive website

We used this website in a 6th grade physical science lesson about kinetic and potential energy. The activity allowed students to design a roller coaster and see if it passed both safety and fun inspections. It was really fun and complemented the lesson well. I have not checked out the other activities but there are links for all content areas so it might be worth looking at.

The show must go on

We had a power outage today for about 2 hours. Initially, it was a little exciting since students were using the computer and had not saved their documents but then we all settled in to life without electric lights. The students learned that their text books do not require electricity. One student asked "What did scientists do before there was electricity?" Well...they invented electricity.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


6th graders are new to the idea of note-taking and even having them fold a paper so that the left side is one-third of the paper and the right side is two-thirds can seem complicated! But once we made it through that explanation they were great. They are eager to follow directions and interested in almost anything. I am even impressed at their attention span during the last class of the day.

The learning process

One of the lessons I taught last week involved classifying imaginary organisms and creating a dichotomous key. I gave the students some freedom to choose how they would classify their organisms. I explained the first step and allowed them to continue on their own. In the middle of the lesson, I noticed that many of the students were doing it incorrectly in a variety of ways. I was able to work with each pair of students to see what was going wrong. By the end of class, they had all succeeded in creating a working key. When I first noticed the errors, I wondered if I had failed to communicate clearly but later I thought that maybe their errors were a necessary part of their learning process. I'm glad they were engaged enough to stick with it through the lesson. This experience has helped me see that its ok for students to not understand something complicated the first time through and maybe it even supports their learning in the long run - assuming they are able to get it right eventually.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Middle school motivation

One thing I love about middle school students is they are still excited to learn new things. The first week I was here, they responded to a query about how much they had learned with an enthusiastic "I learned A LOT!" and went on to describe several topics that interested them about frog adaptations. Last week we had a section of material that was covered by a blend of lecture and reading from the text. The students started to look a little glazed but came right back with minimal intervention when they were asked to pair up and find some information to share with the class. This motivation to learn makes teaching fun.