Sunday, August 21, 2011

New Notes and Powerpoints

I've been so busy with the new year it's been crazy!

Students start Monday and I've already switched my lesson plans around 3 different times.  I'm never happy with what I have planned!

That being said I rewrote some of our notes and made a quick powerpoint to go through it.

I'm mostly reformatting and reorganizing information this year.  It shouldn't be too much extra work - I hope!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Start of the Year

Our first day back tomorrow is mostly classroom time.  I have a few meetings throughout the day and then I get time to work on whatever I need before kids get here next week.

It's important to have a solid back to school routine to start the year off successfully.  This goes for both students and teachers.

Having a well thought out classroom is essential.  I have a few tips. Label everything.  Imagine every kid asking you "Where does this go?" ...especially in my science classroom.  I make sure to have all my new supplies properly stowed and labeled so the class remains orderly for the school year.

Have some clearly established systems in your classroom that detail how things work.  Know what your tests, quizzes and assignments are all worth and be up front about it.  Have a routine for things like absent work, grading, classroom management and stick to it.  Don't pick a system that is too complex - you'll just end up hating it.  The key is always to be as consistent as possible, so get some systems you can work with for those common classroom occurrences.

Once you get past the first day "getting to know you" routine it's important to have good content.  That's what I'm working on right now - I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Random Tuesdays

Two projects I want to work on:

Making a Hero for Heroes of Newerth based on belegarth.  Stance switch weapon combos or something.

Make an elliptical powered streetcar.

Go go Google Sketchup!

Day Five

Lab Day!

Who wants to do something standard on a Friday?

My goals:
1. Give them the materials and the directions and get out of the way.
2. Teach them scientific method and review metrics and observations at the same time.

Inquiry Lab!  Let the kids make the lab up as they go.  I think I have some resources on this downstairs.  I'll edit this later and post some of those ideas.

The Fourth Day of School

Ah, welcome to Thursday.  I kinda like Thursdays.
Ok, class begins with the daily journal on the board.  Five minutes of attendance, answering frantic freshman questions and making sure my seating chart is still holding up.  Probably the most stressful part of any day is the first five minutes of every class period.
The daily journal was something along the lines of “Which metric unit would measure …distance?  …mass?  …volume?”
Ya know what?  These kids are getting too comfortable.  Let’s hit them with a quiz.
“Hey Guys!  Quiz in 5 minutes!....wait for outburst.  On what?  Oh?  You want a wordlist?  Ok, here you go.  Quiz in 5 minutes.  Go through what their vocab card system is.
[Vocab System]
Missed words on pre-quiz = flashcard
Vocab section on the test is post-test
[/Vocab System]
Hand out quiz.  Take, trade&grade.  Go through flash cards. 
Give kids 5 minutes of transition time to start on 1-2 flash cards and get my approval “Yes, yes you are doing that right Johnny” “No, you forgot to add the sentence.  Yes you HAVE TO.”  Etc.

Notes 2 – Observations
Go through powerpoint detailing the vocab for this lesson:
Quantitative – hey remember those measurements we took yesterday?  What type of data were they?  Qual or quant?

In Class Practice:  I have a powerpoint I found onlike a few years ago with some visual tricks, mind trick, etc and we practice making observations based on the pictures. I want to add some pictures to it and take about 3 out this year…so I’ll have to do that in the future.
Ok, summary page time.  Write down your best example or memory of each bubble.  Feel free to also add anything else you’d like to remember from today’s lesson. 
                                                                [Side Note]         (1 in 15  add something extra.  The rest try to find the minimum amount of work they can get points for)

HW/Extension Activities:
Throw the kids in back in groups of 3-4 with a globe and have them make the most qualitative and quantitative observations.
I need a good observation/inference game I think.
Worksheet: 20 different statements that need to be classified as one of the vocab we went through (example:  John has 5 apples = quantitative observation.  It is going to storm = inference)

Ok, wrap up day four with whatever I feel like from the HW/Extension activity list…if I have time.  If not, no biggie.  Their homework will be their flash cards. 
Friday is next…Friday should be a lab day.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Third Day of School

On the third day...there was curriculum!

On the third day the first thing I plan to do is to fill out my "Class Deck".  I have every student make me an index card into a sports card.  They put their stats on it - what type of learner, how good at directions they were, and the number of labels on their map.  I don't torture them and make them draw themselves though, lol.   Facts about themselves, goals for the future, etc will go on the cards.  This usually takes about 10-15 minutes to get underway - but I want to add one more thing to their cards: height in cm and to do that...

*drumroll please*

Unit One: The Tools of the Earth Scientist! (catchy, I know)
First real lesson of the year.

Hopefully everyone has suppplies by now - especially the notebook.

I get to walk students through the daily game - come in, get out notebook, write down daily journal question, wait for lesson...I always feel like a prick doing these kinds of speeches.

First set of FITB (fill in the blank) notes of the year go out along with the unit organizer.  Kid'll groan.  Whatever.

My first real lesson is on the metric system and why it's baller.

  • A brief history of ancient measurements and how they'd be confusing.
  • How the metric and english systems came about
  • why we use metrics
  • Length, volume, mass
  • Types of equipment we use to measure these 3
  • How to measure in metric - volume and mass (skip for today)
  • How to measure in metric - distance
  • How to read the METER stick.  39ish" != 36"  
    • Most of my students are 14-16.  Over half cannot do this skill the first day.
  • Take some measurements of each other's ancient units "span, hand, etc"
    • I got a little worksheet where they can record this if they want to keep it.
    • Usually by now the first meter stick lightsaber fights have started and I have to sit the whole class down and re-discuss lab safety and how much of a d*** I plan on being about it.
  • [edit] To conclude and "exit slip" out of the lesson I have students fill out a one page 8x11 summary page for their note&journal checks.  I'll have to explain that they must somehow address every Bubble on the page.  For example, in the first unit I'm going over the 3 topics in the picture below.  
    • The Summary Page will look the same except each will have it's own page with more detail bubbles for each.

End of the period should be rolling around.  One last thing:  fill out height on the class deck cards and turn them in!  

With any leftover time in the period I have a bucket full of wood blocks of various sizes that I let the kids practice taking measurements on.  Which is a good idea.  Because the test has a hands on portion.  And some kids always bomb it.  Hope you have a good third day in EARTH SCIENCE.

Sidebar: Assessing Class Participation (aka - DO I GET POINTS FOR FILLING IN THESE NOTES!?!?)
I used to collect packets, grade practice worksheets,give points for notes and reviews completed, ugg.  too much time.  Kids cared about their points on the worksheet more than listening and learning the skill I wanted them to.  MY CLASS IS NOT A VIDEO GAME YOU NEED POINTS IN.  LEARN SOMETHING. (That's a rant for midterms)

I think this year I'm going to have my kids hand 2 things for class points - the daily journals we do, and note summary pages.
Daily Journals:  Every day I have a "question of the day", "warmup", "Class starter", "Bell ringer" etc...they told me I should do this in college.  My school likes the idea of the 2 minute "do it as everyone is getting settled" activity.  I expand on mine and make it a bit longer.  Every day the kids have some type of journal to do.  It's usually a "what do you know, before I tell you what you'll need to know" type of question, or something that makes them access prior knowledge.  Sometimes it's a football question.  Who cares?  I'll throw an arbitrary 5pts/journal entry and 10 points for summary pages.

Summary Pages:  I'm trying something new with note taking this year.  In the past I've had my powerpoints and my fill in the blank notes as ...well basically mandated now a days.  Kids need fill in the blank notes to understand a powerpoint I guess.  I'm going to keep the fill in the blank notes but at the end of every lecture the students will be assigned to write a summary page for that day's topic.  I want them to fill a page with notes, pictures, diagrams - whatever they thought was important and how they can relate to it.  I expect most kids to just ask me what they should be writing and whine for me to tell them what to put so they can go another 10 minutes without having to think in the morning.

So at the end of every unit my students should have ~10 (2 weeks worth usually) journal entrys and 3-5 summary pages in their notebooks.  About 100 points of "pay attention, write this down" time per unit.  I collect notebooks before the test.  I think they'll hate it.  It's going to be awesome.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Second Day of School

In an earlier post  I talked about some activities I wanted to include as part of my getting to know you routine when the year starts.  In this post I'd like to get into the second day of school.

First to clarify:  Our first day of school is on the stupid activity schedule.  This means one of my classes is a full 50 minutes and the rest are 23 minutes.  AWESOME.  I get double awkward time with one group and have to over plan for that class.  Thankfully it's Biology and I have plenty to use do in there.

Earth Science is a different matter.  Here's a recap of what day one will really look like:

Class always starts the same the first day.  I assign seats, show the kids where they sit and hand out the first day of school pamphlets: Syllabus, Lab Safety, Expectations, etc.  This usually takes me about 20 minutes.  I to end class and for homework I'll have to assign a Learning Styles Survey.  Here's some examples:

I have one on paper that I like to use, but you get the idea.

Day 2:

When day 2 starts I want to stall out curriculum usually - kids are still transferring in and out.

To start out the day I'll go over their learning styles and what it means to be a different type of learner.  I'll have to throw together a powerpoint of these that correlates with their homework.  I want the kids to really focus on their strengths this year.

From here I'll transition into something fairly simple.   I'll hand out a blank 8"x11" sheet to each student and tell them to draw me the world and label as many things as they can.  I'm still debating what other rules to throw in there.  Here's what I've been brainstorming:

  • You must fit the entire globe on the sheet (as it if were a map)
  • Things to label:  Oceans, Seas, Rivers, Lakes, Continents, Countries, Cities, etc.
  • Time limit: 25 minutes.
I want to have the students save this as part of an ongoing portfolio.  My hope is they get a little better at drawing and understanding different parts of maps, geography and topography throughout my course.

I'll do a quick show and tell or make everyone hold up their maps to share really quick.  I'll explain what the maps are for and we'll move into...

Directions Quiz Time!

I think I'm going to take one of these  Origami Foldables and write out some instructions that go with the pictures and challenge my kids to follow the directions as best they can.  I'll turn it into a timed race and have 2 categories - best made and fastest made origami animals.  If any time is left over I'll let them work on additional origami.

That should wrap up my 2nd day of school.  That means day 3 planning is on the horizon!

Vacation Spots - Panoramics

I stumbled across and looked up one of my vacation locations @ Mount Baldy in the Indiana Dunes.

Check the site out - you may find something cool near you!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tools of Earth Science

My first unit this year is shaping up something like this:

1.  What is the Earth? - basic facts about the planet
2.  What tools do scientists use to study the earth?

To cover #1 it's usually a pretty cut and dry quiz with matching or short answers.
To cover #2 I break down what skills I need my kids to know:

  • Qualitative vs. Quantitative observations
  • Inference vs. Observations
  • The Metric System and Conversions
  • Measure mass, volume and distance in metrics
  • The process of the scientific method
The unit is broken down into short lectures with accompanying notes and then a practice sheet for homework.  After lecture days there is a lab or activity which incorporates 1 or more of the skills that were covered in lecture.  We'll see how much I change up this year once the school year gets underway.

Conflicting Advise on Lifehacker today

Should I be vague or should I sent my mind to have a purpose?

I was reading lifehacker this morning as part of my routine and my GF looked over my shoulder and said that these two posts by Adam  Dachis and Melanie Pinola were counter to one another.

At the end of a brief discussion we had worked it out.  Our example was this: we are both working on training for an upcoming 5k.  We both have a purpose.  However, she is anal to the point of pre-weighing and timing out all of her meals and exercise routines.  I mostly wake up and go about my day eating what  I think should fit well into my day and working out when it works for me.  Statistically she may be staying on top of her plan much better than I...but I'm vague!  The human body wasn't meant to follow a schedule so perfectly.  We will get to compare % improvements at the end of the 6 weeks left before the race.  Who do you think will show the most improvement?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The First Day of School

What activity should I do for the first day of school? 

This year I want to do the first few days of school right.  Usually I just read the standard course documents, lab safety talk and dive right into my first unit.  This year I plan to shake that up by doing a few more getting-to-know-you style things with the kids.  I've narrowed my options down to:

1) Learning Styles Survey - an easy end of the class activity to toss at the kids.  They answer questions to a quick survey and plot out what type of "mind" they have.  There are several variations "out there" I'll have to find one and link to it.

2) A changing view of the world - In my 9th grade Earth Science, I give the kids a piece of blank paper and have them draw me the Earth.  I'll htell them to draw it as a map and to label as many different things on the map as they can (islands, rivers, mountainranged, countrys, cities, anything, etc)  I want to have them repeat and revise their maps 3 more times throughout the year.  At the end of the year they will have 4 maps (and each should be more detailed than the last).

3) Directions Quiz - Either one of those lists that is a reading challenge or something more hands on - like building origami from directions.

4) Goals cards - I have always had my kids make namecards on index cards so I can call on them throughout the year.  at the end of the year I give the kids back their cards and they like to see what kind of predictions they made from the first week.  I want to do the cards last because I want them to add their scores from the first 3 activities to the cards and see how they do at the end of the year.

So what do you guys think?  Sound like a good first few days of high school science?


Oceanography is the study of the Earth's oceans.  Toward the end of the 19th century the Challenger, a British ship, became the first research ship to use relatively sophisticated measuring devices to learn about the oceans.  The tools used by scientists have grown over the years to include sonar, floats, satellites, submarines, and computer technologies. 

Several clues point to oceans existing almost since the beginning of the planet.  Scientists date the earth at 4.56 billion years old from rocks in sediments nearly that old in water.  Ancient lava flows are another clue.  When lava flows have a distinct glassy crust this indicates the lava was cooled rapidly underwater.  Other studies of radioactive elements prove water to be abundant throughout Earth's history.

Oceans provide moisture and heat to the atmosphere and influence large-scale circulation patterns.  The ocean is also a vast reservoir for carbon dioxide - but this is best left for another blog update.

Monday, August 8, 2011

My challenge to the internet

I plan to do this debate in class one day in the future.

Climate Change?  What is it?  Did we do it?  You must draw upon data to correlate with your best theory.

Resources to start out with:

It is your job to locate a graph of some type of climate indicator and then a "story" to explain it in a way that best suites your point of view.  Go.

Add in some fun articles for everyone to think over:
Rain in the Desert
Reduce Emissions, Save the Atmosphere

A brief history

Between the late 1940s and 1970, many major pollution problems got the public's attention.  Extreme air pollution affected thousands in the United States and elsewhere.  In the late 1960s, many beaches closed due to contamination from pollutants. An early oil spill off the California coast killed wildlife.  Then in 1969, Americans watched news reports of Ohio's polluted Cuyahoga River catching fire and burning for days.
Both the public and government officials became more concerned about pollution.  In 1972 the CWA or Clean Water Act passes in the United States.  This act requires industries to reduce or eliminate point source pollution into surface waters.  Industry was now accountable for their waste and sewage treatment plants were utilized to help remove raw sewage from America's waterways.  Due in part to the CWA surface water pollution has dropped from the 1970s.  Check out your area's water quality.  The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 helped protect drinking resources.  It set maximum contaminant levels of pollutants in drinking water.

I was going through my old bookmarks today and I came across this Treehugger post about Mountain Top Removal Coal mining.  This process has to disrupt the layers of rock that filter the water.