Classroom Reflections on Week 4


My classroom is still a work in work in progress, but many of my practices have started to “gel” and routines are taking shape. I also have some tech stuff to share, but much of the progress will not be visible as it happened offline. This week saw the addition of a lab to science, art in social science, and more structured writing.

Social Science is a trying subject, and the one most students list as their least favorite. First, I went old school and opted to read the lesson aloud myself. This had the advantage because I could convey my interest in the subject through tone and inflection, and I could add interesting tidbits and examples. The students were more engaged. I also had them do an art project, creating a buffalo hide painting (that I got at a Thinkfinity training with Gail Delser), which was a way Native Americans of the Plains kept their history and stories. As a result, their writing on the subject was better in terms of content, and quality.

Language Arts involved doing more explicit writing instruction, and having students write paragraphs with topic and concluding sentences. We’re using WriteTools which is influenced by Douglas Reeves work. The plus is that it provides explicit ways to teach students writing mechanics. The downside is that it can result in formulaic writing. I was fortunate that the story, a selection called “The Marble Champ” from Gary Soto’s Baseball in April, really connected with the kids. In addition, the writing topic was about family support which students enjoyed.

The science text seems to know that it is, desperately, competing for time in the curriculum. This means that it is much thinner than the other textbooks, and has lots of the lessons chunked into bite-sized pieces. They even have the text and workbook compressed together in what they call an interactive textbook. It’s a shorter version of the text, with lots of visuals. Also, they are providing a couple potential lab activities for each lesson. We were studying air currents/wind, and did a lab using lamps. I had a bunch of clamp lamps I bought for video lighting at one point. They were supposed to hold a paper spiral over the lamp, and see what happens. It is supposed to create an upward movement of air causing the spirals to spin but it didn’t. That was fine because it shows that just because it didn’t turn out doesn’t disprove, we just haven’t proved it. Many noted the effect of air conditioning coming on during the process.

On the technology front, I’m adding more content to the class blog, I’m putting up homework forms at the top right, and I let parents know about this. I’ve also added the digital content we are creating a little farther down. I’ve put the video on YouTube, and did get our class channel unblocked by the district, but kids were still have trouble accessing it all at once when we had the mobile Mac lab, so I’ve loaded the MP4 on the blog as well. We did our first class report about what we’re doing. It’s rough, and I edited it together, but I’ll have the kids take over, and we’ll have a more polished product with intro music, etc.
Photo Credit: Number 4 by Francesco ML, on Flickr

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