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Adora Svitak Video: What adults can learn from kids

posted May 10, 2012, 8:51 PM by Shannon Morris

I was able to hear Adora speak at ASCD and she was inspiring then and continues to inspire me, even at such a young age. This video was about how children can inspire and teach adults just as easily as adults should inspire and teach children. Children have lots to share. In today's education the learning between students and teachers should be reciprocal, but Adora states that is not reality now. I love to learn from my students; however, I always question if the information they are providing me is from a reliable resource. I think it is my job to teach students about reliable resources, so they can share their abundance of information without me questioning it.


posted May 3, 2012, 8:08 PM by Shannon Morris

Tonight I watched videos and read articles about the topic of inquiry. I loved many of the videos and were inspired by them to change some teaching methods when I return to work in August.

The first video I watched was by Angela Maiers. The main message I pulled away from the video was about passion. If students have a passion about something we need to let them explore it and help them along the way. I think what I struggle with is I'm not sure what a lot of my students' passions are. The first step I need to take next school year is to ask them and help them learn more about their topic and see if it can't be tied into school in some way. I can already hear a lot of them say video games. If the answer is video games then I need to do more gaming in school, which is a blast anyways.

I thought it was interesting listening to Howard Gardner talk about assessments and relating them to extracurricular activities. He said that children always know what they will be drilled on during a sport's practice or a music practice but then in school the tests are a surprise. What would happen if students knew what to expect and teachers knew what to do with the data? Interesting.....

Project-based learning seemed to be a big concept when reading and listening about inquiry. I would love to have more project-based learning. My concern is how to teach the curriculum that is put in front of us along with the standards we are required to teach and assess on. Seymour Papert in one of the videos said, "We need to give up curriculum and teach what students need as it comes up in projects." That would be fabulous. I can't see us ever moving in that direction because of state assessments. This year we have done a little bit more of project-based learning because I have been trying to find projects that incorporate several indicators, so I kill many birds with one stone. Plus, the students LOVE them!! One of our big projects for the year was our science fair projects. It was amazing how many students were passionate about their topic and did most of it on their own. I was fortunate enough to be able to work with 2 students to complete their projects. One of them just did the project for a grade and didn't care much. The other one kept asking questions and wanting to try different ways to complete it. He even gave up his own lunch time because he thought the project was "cool". I loved it!!

Young Americans

posted Apr 30, 2012, 8:36 PM by Shannon Morris

I have been searching for a game to help cover the following standard: Analyzes the relationship between choice & opportunity cost. My team was looking for a game that would help students understand this concept. So, we found a lemonade stand game that was free; however, after the district blocked the advertisements, it was unusable. We had to switch to a different one and it was a lot more complex for 4th graders. I'm not sure if they were able to play it or not. (I'm on maternity leave.)

Karen Combs recommended I check out Ameritowne. It is an economics program mainly for 5th and 6th graders, but is culminates at a site in Denver where kids are able to play different roles. They have debit cards, play money, and they are able to shop and run a town. It looks like a blast! For my level (I think) I found a game called MoneyIsland. The link is attached to the Young American's site. I was not able to check it out too much yet because you need a password, but there are a lot of downloads with suggestions about games and activities to do in the classroom. They cover a wide variety of topics and are linked to the game. I can't wait to test it out!


posted Apr 22, 2012, 7:46 PM by Shannon Morris   [ updated Apr 30, 2012, 9:23 PM ]

http://www.abcya.com/ - This website has a variety of review games in different subjects.

http://www.newton.k12.ks.us/tech/fourth_grade_internet_activities1.htm - This website has a ton of links for games and activities. I haven't explored all of them yet.

http://www.learninggamesforkids.com/ - This one has a wide variety of games for all elementary ages. I found an addicting game that made me make pairs of 10's while the balls rolled by. I was able to level up.

Game Based Learning

posted Apr 21, 2012, 9:32 PM by Shannon Morris

After reading articles and watching videos, I have no doubt that gaming is a “fun” way to teach skills and engage students. I remember playing games as a child and looking forward to when we would head to the computer lab for game time. Some educational games I remember are Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? and Oregon Trail. I liked when Jane McGonigal said, “Games give students the ability to chat, share strategies, and not feel defeated.” I think students take more risks in a gaming format compared to in-class discussions.

I have a SMART board in my classroom and already use games on a daily basis. We try to play at least one game a day (about 5 – 10 minutes) that works on skills we have been studying in the classroom. We usually play our games in teams to make it a little more competitive. I also like to share the resources I find with my parents, so students can play them at home as well.

Some websites I already use are:

http://www.arcademicskillbuilders.com/ (Students can play each other with these games.)


Everyday Math Online – We like the bank of games, unfortunately, they have to be purchased.


New ones I found to use and implement:

http://www.jason.org/public/whatis/start.aspx (There are a lot of science games. You need to register, but everything I found is free.)

http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/onlinestuff/games/energy_flows.aspx (This is an energy game.)


Next steps:

I would like to find more interactive, engaging, free games for literacy and history.

Research-Based Practices??

posted Apr 18, 2012, 7:48 PM by Shannon Morris

I enjoyed reading the article, Why Schools Should Try Things Not "Research-Based". It was interesting to read that sometimes non-research based strategies work. I just wonder how easily we can move away from things that not research-based. So far I have taught for 10 years and it seems like we are not allowed to try anything or teach anything that is not backed by research. I have been on a handful of interviews and every interview has at least one question about research-based strategies. It is a buzz word that will not disappear anytime soon, especially if we are still driven by the No Child Left Behind Act or TCAP and scores. How can we try something not research-based when we are striving for high scores? Can we risk crossing our fingers and hoping that it works if there is not research to back the strategy?

Guiding Questions Update

posted Apr 18, 2012, 7:41 PM by Shannon Morris

I am currently on maternity leave and out for the rest of the school year, but am looking ahead at the new school year and thinking about changes that I can make. I wanted to reflect on my guiding questions that I wrote at the beginning of the school year.

1. How do I move students to start asking their own questions and wanting to investigate them on their own? How do I fit this into the curriculum that must be taught and mastered in a given time frame?

**I'm still struggling about how to have students start asking their own questions. I worked really hard this year to encourage students to ask any questions at all, especially clarifying ones about topics they were struggling to understand. I'm not quite sure how to move my students to the next level. Next school year I would like to spend a little more time about how to research questions. Students need to understand how to find credible resources and help them understand that everything they read on the internet may not be true. They need to understand that anyone can post something on the internet.
2. How do I integrate choice of assignments into every day learning?

**After attending the ASCD conference in Las Vegas and listening to a session about homework, I made some changes. Instead of giving nightly assignments, I now assign a math packet and a spelling packet on Monday. The assignments are due on Friday. If the students have a 5-day week the math packet has 3 assignments. The students have a choice about when to complete the assignments and how much they do every night. (I was hoping students would be able to manage their schedule and complete homework to fit their busy extracurricular schedule.) Then the students have a choice about how to study their spelling words for 3 nights. It is amazing the wide range of activities the students choose and I have seen an increase in spelling test scores. I like the change and I think the students do as well. It has definitely helped with management of papers as well.

**I'm still struggling to come up with a way to incorporate choice of assignments into the school day.The only time during the day the students have a lot of say is during Daily 5 reading time. The students are allowed to pick their center and how they complete their center.
3. How do I teach students to effectively evaluate each other's assignments without hurting feelings?

**I have started some of this during writing time. I paired the students up according to ability level and grouped my high students with middle students and my middle students with low students. It worked incredibly well and there was a lot of discussion happening. We talk a lot about how every student is different and how we all learn differently. Everyone is strong in an area in school and everyone has a subject area that they need to work more on. I think this helps students understand each other and respect each other a bit more. I think giving students the tools to help them give suggestions to peers helps as well. For example: You need to change this word because you need a little more first word variety.

Guiding Questions

posted Feb 27, 2012, 2:21 PM by Nancy White   [ updated Feb 27, 2012, 2:21 PM ]

Guiding questions for the new school year: 
1. How do I move students to start asking their own questions and wanting to investigate them on their own? How do I fit this into the curriculum that must be taught and mastered in a given time frame? 
2. How do I integrate choice of assignments into every day learning? 
3. How do I teach students to effectively evaluate each other's assignments without hurting feelings?

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