Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Science Circus!

I designed and taught a science circus on Ants with two other people for Ms. Melzer’s second grade class on April 23rd. We planned a total of 6 stations for the class. I wrote and was in charge of activities 1 and 2. The activities were called “Different Parts of an Ant” and “Ant Farm!” For activity 1, it fulfilled the Virginia SOL 2.1h. The students were given a diagram of an ant and cutouts of separate ant body parts (head, thorax, and abdomen) made from construction paper. They were to construct the ant and label the parts of the body with their pencil. I asked the students questions such as, “What are the different functions for each body part?” “What part of the ant do you feel is the most important?” and “Compare your body to the ant’s body.” The purposes of the questions were to get them to talk about new concepts, get them to make connections to their existing knowledge, as well as to use the new vocabulary. The students all did a great job with this activity. They were enthusiastic and eager to learn. They were very willing to listen and answer my questions. Each student approached the project different. Some took it upon themselves to label everything on the diagram and make it very scientific and precise, others turned it into an art project. In the end, I assessed them by having them place labels I had that had the different body part’s names on it and they had to correctly identify them from memory. Almost all of the students were able to do so without a problem. When a student had difficulty, I would review with another set of flashcards I had that tested the students the on different parts.

In the second activity, Ant Farm! Which fulfilled Virginia SOL 2.1a, I allowed the students to observe a live ant farm as well as observe an ant webcam on Steve's Ant Farm. That was really cool and the students noted the differences between the live ant farm and the ant farm they observed through the webcam. The students also got to explore a site about ant habitats on Wikipedia Commons and on Wikipedia. They also explored a website about different type of ants on Wikipedia. Out of the 5 laptops we brought into the classroom, only 1 was able to work after repeated attempts to get them set up. But I allowed each student to get a chance to explore the websites. I gave the students instructions before they began their ant adventure, however, some students did not seem to be familiar with the internet because they would not know what to click, click the wrong thing, and then become confused. It went smoothly most of the time and the students got to see some really cool images that they were really interested in. It also started some cool conversations while they were doing their discovery activity that led to a curiosity that extended beyond the lesson. Their enthusiasm was contagious!

The science circus got off to a rushed start because one of our group members, Charlotte (whose cooperating teacher we were doing the circus with) came down with a fever that day and we were only notified 2 hours before the circus started that she would not be there. It was tricky conducting the circus by ourselves. Luckily we were able to get Chris (thanks Chris!) to volunteer for us and manage two of the stations. The organization of the circus could have been better. I believe that we did not manage our time as well as we could have because we did not do one full rotation. Each group only completed 5 activities before Ms. Melzer stopped us. I learned that no matter what, you have to be prepared to make modifications to your lesson. Your approach needs to be flexible and student-specific. Students do not learn the same way and they do not react to your activity/ teaching style the same way. So, be prepared! Overall, I was pleased with the students use of technology because they were 100% engaged the entire time, really wanted to talk about it, and share what they had discovered. There was an enthusiasm over the material that I have not seen. I attribute it to the fashion in which the information is presented. it was interactive and the students could enlarge images to observe more closely or click links to explore other areas of interest (for example: ant colony).

Andrew's "How do ants see?" station

Life cycle of ants

An ant diagram Devin made!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Wikis and Webquests

I always wondered why W&M was pushing for us to create an online portfolio. It is so inconvenient to make and it's almost like learning another language. However, today it hit me when i was talking to my CT. I was planning the math lesson for next week and she asked me if she could look at my lesson plan to review it and make sure it fit into her curriculum. I told her that the lesson plan is saved on my computer and that I didn't have access to it now. I was in the process of making another appointment with her when it hit me that I had uploaded it onto my wiki. I pulled up the wiki and my lesson was there! We were able to look at it right then and there. It felt really cool to have my stuff on the web and I didn't even have to e-mail it to myself or print it out. Now I understand a little better how an online portfolio could come in great handy!
After yesterday's tech class, I really want to create a webquest for my tech project (I had no idea I could do this). She introduced a website called QuestGarden where I could make my own webquest. I'm going to look over it and hopefully, it won't be too hard for me to do. I really am fascinated with webquests for some reason so I hope i can be creative and think of something for this project!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Powerpoint, Modules, and VirginiaTech

Today, I was working with my CT (cooperating teacher) after school at a math club with children who scored below passing on their benchmarks and SOLs. My teacher used a PowerPoint to show her math problems. She told me that PowerPoint is the only reason she gets things accomplished in that class full of rowdy kids because by using PowerPoint, it allows her to pull up problems using a remote, instead of writing it on the board. This way, she says, she can keep a strict eye on the students and they get a lot more done this way. Before using PowerPoint, she said every time she turned to put a problem on the board, they would get off-task.

I finished my science module and will be revising it a little to teach a lesson in my kindergarten science class. My group also finished setting up the science circus for Mrs. Melzer’s second grade class which we will be doing next Wednesday. This is the lesson I have decided to incorporate technology in by having the kids use laptops in the science circus, more on that later. I will post pictures of the science circus next week. I am anxious to see how it will go, teaching my first lesson with 22 second graders

On a personal note, my sister currently lives in West Ambler Johnston Hall at Virginia Tech where some of the shootings occurred. Her hallmate and friend were among those killed on Monday so I will be going home to be with her. God bless those families whose loved ones are no longer with them. I am so lucky to still have her with me.

I would really like to thank my awesome tech teacher Professor Nassbaum-Beach for bearing with me during a tough semester and being incredibly helpful, understanding, kind, and flexible.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Today during eliminate, we talked with Vinnie Vrotny and during his lecture Annie Gentithes typed that in her class her students " work in pairs, and we do our best to pair weaker students with strong ones, or visual with non-visual. " I thought that this is a cool and different concept to what I grew up with, blending the students and having the students work off of each other and learn from each other. When I was in school, children were separated by ability but now, in my practicum and discussion with other teachers, I find that there is now a more mixture of abilities and personalities in the class and Annie's comment emphasized this change of philosophy working in classrooms. I believe that when i teach, I will approach my students in this way as well. Instead of isolating them and having them achieve by their own ability, they can help and learn from each others similarities and differences.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I was so enlightened the other day! I was working with my CT in math and mentioned that while creating lesson plans, i found that there were virtual manipulatives to play with on the computer. She shocked me to say that her (kindergarten) class has already worked with them! I further asked about other technology-related activities she has done with her class and was really surprised to see that they have done a lot. This made me feel very old, especially after completing the tech inventory, because our generation did not work with as much technology as these kids are working with now. I just finished writing 2 math lesson plans and am currently planning a science circus with andrew and charlotte. We will see how this goes, and I'll be updating about it soon!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Bilingual Playground

I read Bilingual Playground by Ashley Surdin, an article addressing the growing immigrant population and bilingual students. Surdin uses Dora the Explorer as an example. Dora is a nickelodeon cartoon that is bilingual and sells toys and products that are both in English and Spanish. The Dora the Explorer Dollhouse sold more than any dollhouse on the market this year.

There is a huge demand for bilingual products right now and that means that many things need to change in the classroom. Technology is helping children learn languages to bridge the culture gap. I was surprised to read about this because I did not know these bilingual toys were so popular. I also had no idea that these toys were used as a learning tool. I believe that as our country becomes more globalized, the classroom dynamics start to change bit by bit and teachers are going to need to be prepared.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tech Autobiography

I hate technology. I have a laptop, an ipod , a digicam and a cell phone. That is about all the technology I am able to use (barely). On my laptop, I use internet explorer, word, and AIM. I had my friend set up my laptop for me because I had absolutely no idea how to transfer files from my old laptop. I barely know how to use my ipod. I expect the technology i do use to work without fail and when it doesn't, i go crazy because I have no idea how to fix it. The technology I do know, i learned mostly in class by my history teacher in high school who forced us to learn it. If it is not taught to me, i have a difficult time troubleshooting and figuring it out myself. I have never seen amazing technology used in classrooms (smartboards and such). I prefer the traditional way of teaching but I am excited to learn this new technology.