Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Play Ball!

Welcome to baseball season! In honor of my favorite time of year, let's talk baseball lessons!
Do you know what historic baseball event happened on April 4, 1974? Please add a comment with your guess.

Baseball is a great resource for making connections with students. Even if your students aren't fans of baseball, the concepts behind the game can make learning fun.

  • Try a good old-fashioned game of classroom baseball when reviewing. (walking the bases when correctly answering questions provides a nice kinesthetic break to a long afternoon)
  • Have students use the many statistics in baseball to practice math skills. (Why is a .300 batting average so great? It doesn't seem like a big number.)
  • Brainstorm common expressions and additions to our American culture that are connected to baseball. (Stepping up to the plate)
  • Practice geography by matching teams with cities and locating them on a map. Make predictions and research the origins of baseball team names. 
  • Learn about the many different players in the world of baseball: Negro Leagues, integration in the major leagues, women in baseball during WWII, the impact of baseball in Latin America, Japanese baseball leagues in WWII internment camps, etc. 
The following link provides some great ideas from PBS. If you have never seen the Ken Burns documentary on baseball, the sheer history of the beginnings of baseball with the exclusive men's social clubs and elaborate rules in the mid to late 1800s, will be enough to fascinate any history student.

From PBS:
Some resources that connect to the newest addition to the Ken Burns documentary on baseball titled "The Tenth Inning".  Lesson plans include longer activities or some quick ideas called "Seventh Inning Stretch" activities.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms

I've always loved the visual aspect of RSA Animate to help me retain complicated concepts. This takes a speech by Ken Robinson on the current state and trends and discussions on education. It is very fascinating to watch if not only to spark your own internal dialogue.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Amazing Field Museum

A great friend of mine invited me to an event at the Field Museum this week, and although the event was a party for Drupal web developers, I wore my teacher hat and I will share with you some great facts I learned while at the museum:

Did you know that the Field Museum has about 26 million items? The researchers joked that the collection is so vast, the museum actually lost an entire whale skeleton for a few years!
Only a fraction of the items that the museum owns are on display for the public. The remainder are housed and catalogued underneath the museum and ground between the museum and Lake Michigan. The Field Museum began after the 1893 Worlds Columbian Exhibition. Items on display from around the globe started the collection. The museum continues to collect thousands of items each day. What makes the collection so unique is that many of the items that the museum has are no longer able to be collected in our modern world. Many artifacts are from rare or endangered species or from environments and habitats that are too fragile to collect scientific specimens.

During our visit, we were given a very rare behind the scenes tour. We viewed the area were bird specimens are collected, catalogued, and 'cleaned' using a rare beetle. The flesh-eating beetles from the most arid part of Africa strip the specimen to the bone. The beetles have been a part of the museum for over 80 years. They cannot survive out of their controlled environment so there is a great symbiotic relationship. They thrive in the controlled environment. They constantly get fed. They will not destroy any part of the collection because they cannot survive in the other parts of the museum.

I was also lucky enough to meet some of the great people who worked in the education department at the museum. They shared with me a great program they have for Professional Development. The "Field Ambassadors" are a learning community that make a commitment to attend a handful of workshops at the museum throughout the year. They are asked to bring knowledge back to their schools and create a project with students to connect to the museum. This program is free and a great opportunity for any science teacher!

Adding visual supports to lessons? Check out the photograph archives of the museum!

Virtual field trips. Who needs to schedule a bus and collect permission slips when many online exhibits are available from the museum. Check out the online exhibits that highlight many of the current exhibits at the museum.

Happy "Field" tripping!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

School House Rock - Sufferin' Till Suffrage

School House Rock! Students of every generation can appreciate how awesome School House Rock is. The difference is, learners today don't need to wait for Saturday morning cartoons, the videos are on demand via YouTube and other places on the internet.

Teaching Ideas and Resources for Women's History Month

Motivate student learning this month by celebrating the accomplishments of women and amazing events in history.  There are some ideas for history and non-history teachers alike. 


Here are some places to start your planning:

Exhibits on influential women of the last 100 years, women's influence in aviation, suffragettes, inventors, and great portraits of women artists. Exhibits include suggestions on how to integrate into your lessons.

The theme for the Woman's History Project for 2011 is"Our history is our strength". The women's history project combines resources from the Library of Congress, Smithsonian Institute, National Gallery of Art and others to help teach about the amazing contributions of women in our nation.

An interesting article about women overlooked during the civil rights movement. 

For lower school students check out, Woman Who Changed History from Scholastic. Some great ideas to introduce younger students to the important accomplishments of women in history.

Math connections (The image below shows a woman teaching geometry)
Ten women to know more about in the world of math. 
More from the National Women's History project with an emphasis on math.

Some additional links to Art and Music can be found at the NWHP site.

Look for more connections and resources to come!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Motivating Students to Learn

What is the secret to motivating students? Do teachers need to be cheerleaders jumping up and down and chanting about the awesome life cycle of a plant or the fabulous parts of a sentence? Or is motivation something more than just creating excitement ? Here are what the experts and some experienced classroom teachers have to say about motivation. And, as always, I will throw in my ideas about what motivation looks like and how to master it in your classroom:

Motivation is about creating a climate where students understand the PURPOSE of learning and have OPPORTUNITIES FOR SUCCESS:

"Students are more likely to want to learn when they appreciate the value of classroom activities and when they believe they can succeed if they apply reasonable effort," Jere Brophy

The link below will take you to the rest of this groundbreaking article by Brophy:


Quick Tips:
  • Communicate "why" the objective is an important part of students' lives. What does it all mean?
  • Organize your lesson to include ways every student can be successful and gain confidence
  • Communicate what you expect, and communicate how students can succeed
  • Be positive. Remind yourself even on the worst days that learning should be fun. Engaged and happy students are usually pretty darn easy to manage. Bored and bummed students are not so easy to spend the day with.
  • Your goal is to develop lifelong learners. How can you design your lesson to increase student responsibility for their own learning and discoveries?
Motivation is about creating a learning climate where students make CONNECTIONS:

Quick Tips:
  • Why is this important? What does it have to do with my life? Create connections that motivate students to see the bigger picture
  • The brain learns by anchoring (making connections) new ideas to already established knowledge.
  •  My world is ________ so this new information has to be important in my world because ________
  • Model how to make connections, but don't make all those connections (your anecdotes*) about your experiences as an adult, teacher, child growing up with Nintendo, etc. Students need to understand the new material within the context of their own experiences and knowledge.
  • Connections are about bridging new ideas to old ones to increase understanding--- as opposed to *"finding things in common so your students think you are kind of cool (and not as old and lame as you feel sometimes). *that is called non-contingent attention-- see future posts about classroom management about that one...
  • Opportunities to make connections and prompt inquiry should be a planned part of any lesson.
    • "Take the new information (teacher-directed). List three ways it relates to what you already know. List two questions you still have that are necessary to fully understand what we are learning (student-directed)."
  • Have a balance between teacher-directed (all about you) and student-directed (all about the learner) ways of learning. You can't do the learning for your students, so you can't be the only one doing all the hard work in the classroom!
Motivation is the key to a successful classroom. What ways do you keep students motivated and engaged?

Monday, February 21, 2011

More PD Opportunities!

The list below are some additional opportunities for teachers to attend using rollover dollars. Contact Marci if interested:

Workshop Description
May 17
$ 199.00
May 23
Oak Lawn
$ 199.00
May 26
Elk Grove Village
$ 215.00
May 26
Elk Grove Village
$ 199.00

10 Sites for Free Teacher Resources

There are a lot of great sites out there with quality resources for teachers to use in the classroom. This list found at "E School News", offers ten great places to start finding interesting technology resources to enhance your instruction. Organizations like NASA, Library of Congress, PBS Teachers, and STEM are included. Enjoy!

Ten great sites with free teacher resources http://is.gd/50j5Zs

Quick tips for student centered learning activities

A veteran math teacher shares some ways to make secondary math more student centered. Some great ideas for all ages and content areas:

Do you have any strategies you use in your classroom to shift from teacher-centered (passive) to student-centered (active) learning?  Please share by posting a comment!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Webinar: Managing a Differentiated Classroom

Formative Assessment

Why Formative Assessments Matter! Some great suggestions on using assessments along the way to know what students are learning and inform your teaching. Don't wait until the "test" to know which students are struggling.


One middle school teacher's blog about formative assessment shares some great ideas and insights:


Summer Conferences

Summer conference season is upon us! A summer conference offers teachers a great opportunity to learn more to enhance and inspire his or her instruction in a relaxed summer setting. Many teachers find that summer learning allows more time for reflection and thought to apply new ideas to his or her practice while they are still planning for the new school year.

The following is a list and description of conferences available for teachers using rollover title funds. To qualify for conferences, teachers must express interest and be willing to commit to attend by March 1. For each conference, registration information and stipulations will be communicated after you discuss your interest with me.

For those opportunities that include travel, the flight and hotel costs may be covered. We will know that information in mid-March. Depending on the amount that is covered teachers may make the choice to attend or "back out" at that time.

Each title is linked to the information about the conference.

Workshop Description
Jun 15 - 16
Lake Forest
Jun 21 - 22
Evanston / Northwestern
Jul 11 - 14
Manchester, NH
Jul 11 -12
Jul 13
Elk Grove Village
July 13 -14

July (Date To Be Announced)

Jul 18 - 21                            (Full 4 Day Registrations Only)

Aug 1 - 5


Aug 9 - 11
Baltimore MD

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How would your students analzye this painting?

"The Problem We All Live With" by Norman Rockwell

Quick Ideas to Enhance your Instruction this Week

Over the last week, teachers have been talking test prep, Black History month, and SmartBoards.

Test Prep
My advice on test prep is that you incorporate chunks of time throughout the week into yoru curriculum. Create questions that look like Terra Nova questions on your classroom assessments and tests. Give multiple choice in your warm-up to provide some practice. Design questions using materials you already have in the classroom. For example, if you want the students to solve a set of math problems or analyze a map or graph in your starting activity, also provide a slip of paper that has mutliple choice answers and a time limit to make the problem solving at the start of the lesson model the testing experience.

The key to test prep isn't that students only practice solving problems, but that they know why their answers are correct or why they were not correct. Review the steps, thought process, and rationale students used while solving the problems or answering questions. Teach test taking skills, "inner dialogue", and self-assessment strategies that students can use when the big test comes along. Teach simple, but often overlooked skills, like shading in a bubble, reading directions carefully, and managing time.

Black History Month:
I love thematic units!  By bringing in new ideas and motivating topics into the curriculum, students become more excited about what they are learning. It also motivates me as a teacher to learn more about our nation's rich history. We all know, you don't have to be a history teacher to incorporate the contributions of African Americans into your curriculum. What ways are you bringing Black History month alive in your classroom?

Are you interested in learning more on these topics?

From Scholastic Instructor:

Test Prep Advice:

Ways to bring Black History Month into your middle school classroom:

Quick Tips for Using an Interactive White Board: