Friday, March 29, 2013

Over the Moon -- Teaching Phases of the Moon

I just loved the idea that Science Teaching Junkie (link through my Blog List) shared on teaching the Moon Phases. I am off to Hobby Lobby and Dollar Tree to look for supplies. Yes, I am taking my HL coupon with me!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Celebrate Spring!

Spring memories...driving through the Hill Country to see the wildflowers.  Oh, those were good times.

This spring will give us chances to create new good memories...take time to make them! 

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

WBT Certification Program

What Are the Strengths and Weaknesses of the WBT Certification Program?

Per Aspera Ad Astera- Despite Hardships, to the Stars

The WBT Certification process is a well-rounded program that will lead me through WBT basic techniques, resources, and beyond. A strength of the program is its design. The point format allows me to customize my pathway. As an online program, I can work whenever I am able. As a virtually free program, I am not excluded due to cost. This flexibility allows me to work at my own pace and choose the topics I need most.

Even though the program is free and convenient to access, it is not easy. I am challenged to do a hard thing: Change. Instead of falling into my usual teaching patterns, I must change by learning and practicing new techniques. I have to leave my comfort zone and become better. Fortunately, there are thousands of pages of online resources available at the click of a mouse. In addition, there is a Forum through which questions can be asked and answered.

In spite of all the time and effort required, the program is achievable because of another of the program’s great strengths: the WBT leadership team. I will be supported all along the way by a leadership team that is passionate, visionary, and selfless. One of the most valuable and inspiring parts of WBT is watching videos of WBT Gurus teaching their classes. It transfers the vision of what outstanding teaching – and learning – looks like; however, the Gurus do more than just post videos. They are willing to invest their time in the development of other teachers whom they have never even met! The process is truly amazing.

The only drawback I encountered in this plan has subsequently been addressed. With so many options, it was difficult for me to decide on a certification plan. I just started watching past webcasts in the video library. A subsequent post in the Forum by Chris Biffle outlined a 7-week plan to obtain certification which gave me guidance through the plethora of choices. Later, mentors were offered to help certification seekers. I have not asked for a mentor as of yet because of a prior commitment, but as soon as I give a presentation at an educational conference at the end of the month, I will be free to pursue my goal of becoming a certified District Presenter. I now have the guidance I need to make it through the certification process.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Class-Yes? Uh, not exactly...

Program #514: Teaching Challenging Students 101, Class-Yes

The Class-Yes? Uh, not exactly.

You can’t teach until your students are listening.—C. Biffle

For 16 years, I was a home school teacher, and then the inevitable happened: I ran out of students. Now, I am in my third year of teaching 5th grade Science in a Title 1 school. When I transitioned to teaching in a public school, I knew I had to develop my classroom management skills. Nothing I have seen or tried worked as well as the Class-Yes for getting students’ attention.

I teach in a South Texas, rural school where most of the students are Hispanic. As you may know, respect is built into every Spanish verb ending, so within the our community, respect is not an option. Our students are expected to answer “Yes, ma’am” and “No, sir.” A “yes” or “no” is not acceptable. I could not use the Class-Yes in the WBT style. 

I first tried “Class-Yes, ma’am”, but variations were awkward for the students to follow. For example, “Classity-Class” was answered by “Yessity-Yes, ma’am”. The phrases did not have the same number of syllables, and the students struggled to compose the right response.  On the spot, I said, “Class Now” and they easily responded, “Yes, ma’am”. “Classity-Class Now” got the response “Yessity-Yes, Ma’am”. Once we had the same number of syllables, it clicked and we were on our way.

As other teachers saw the “Class Now” in action, they were impressed. I can walk into a crowded gym, say, “My triad, ‘Class Now’” and 60 students answer “Yes, ma’am” and pop to attention. A veteran teacher has begun using it. He is amazed at its simplicity and effectiveness. Actually, the “Class Now” is so effective, it drives me nuts that it is not used school-wide.

Of course, I use the “Class Now” to call the students back from “Teach-Okays”. They laugh and enjoy the variations. I learned new variations during this webcast. I look forward to trying them out when I return to class next week. The students need that Golden Thread of Fun because we are so close to our high-stakes testing season. That’s another great point about “Class Now”: It makes students smile.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Where in the World is Flat Ranger?

Here is my hallway bulletin board tracking our Flat Ranger travels. We have received so many information packets from so many parks that I can't put them all up at one time.  
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Saying Goodbye to Old Man Winter

Frosty was my snowman door decoration for January and February. He was made from about 150 styrofoam cups shaped into three snowballs.

My Christmas door decoration was an elaborate Gingerbread House. I basically took down the candy decorations from the door and side panels and added snow and a snowman to cover the glue marks. My kids loved it. It hasn't snowed here in about 8 years so having a 3D snowman was a big deal. do I turn my pink roof and side panels into a beach cabana???
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Monday, March 11, 2013

Flat Ranger Update

Our class Flat Rangers are continuing their journeys to 60 National Parks. My students were so excited to receive their mail from exotic destinations like Hawaii Volcanoes NP and Alaska's Denali NP.

The information on the adaptations of animals and plants in Death Valley NP is perfect for the life science unit we are studying. Great Smokey Mountains NP posters came in just as we studied transpiration and condensation. Hot Springs NP and Yellowstone NP have geothermal features we had studied. It is all so wonderful!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Super Speed 1000 - Part II

Super Speed 1000: Part II - Super Speed Science (S3)
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – C.C. Colton
Super Speed 1000 worked so well in my bilingual Science classroom that I realized the value of creating a list of Science vocabulary words to help my English Language Learners (ELLs). I named the list Super Speed Science (S3). While all of my students increased their Science vocabulary fluency levels, my ELLs showed a marked improvement in just a few weeks. I would like to share with you how I developed and used Super Speed Science to inspire you to personalize Super Speed 1000 to match your content area. 

My first listing of words was a simple compilation grouped by topic. There were 6-8 vocabulary words per line. Here is a line from my original S3:
Electrical, insulator, conductor, circuit, battery, switch
As you can see, it was simply a list of vocabulary words. S3 has the same rules as Super Speed 1000 and uses the same Star Reward sheet. Based on my experience with Super Speed 1000, I knew my students were going to enjoy playing S3 and they were going to improve their reading abilities. I thought I was good to go.

When I introduced S3 to my students, it was greeted with enthusiasm; however within a couple of days of observing S3 in use, I realized my students would benefit more if the word order was designed to reinforce Science concepts. So I redesigned the words. Now, instead of a being straight vocabulary compilation, Science facts are reviewed as the words are read.  Here is an example of the change:
Insulator, stops, energy: plastic, rubber, wood, cloth
Conductor, lets, energy, pass: metal, copper, iron, silver

My experience with S3 has been very positive. At first my ELLs read the words without confidence. Then, after two weeks of daily use, I heard them read the words with mastery. It was a marked improvement. In addition, I am able to add words and change the list as needed. For example, on a recent test, most of my students missed a question because they did not know the meaning of the word “brass”. Now, they have penciled-in “brass” to the list of metals on their “Conductor” row of S3.

I hope my experience with S3 has inspired you to take the materials we are given in Whole Brain Teaching and personalize them to fit your class.