Just to clarify, “It’s a Zoo Out There,” was a presentation I saw at TCEA this year; I’m not making any kind of commentary on the people attending the conference 😉 In fact, I was so blown away by the incredible sessions I was able to see over the course of my three days in Austin that I tweeted something about how TCEA reaffirms my belief that there are so many unbelievably passionate, gifted teachers in our world working to improve education each and every day.
“It’s a Zoo Out There,” was a TCEA presentation by Dina Estes and Kerry Woods from Lewisville ISD in Texas. They teach a multiage K/1 class, and have done this particular project based learning unit for a few years. The students research animals, draw pictures, and use digital tools to record information to present. Then, they create a virtual zoo in the hallway to display what they have learned. Zoo visitors can scan QR codes to watch and listen to the students present. The zoo looks different each year because these awesome teachers allow the students to plan it. One group wanted to group the animals by habitats, and other groups had their own ideas. No matter what, the display is open to the rest of the school to visit – giving the students a genuine audience for their hard work.
Anyone who balks at having students this age do research, participate in project based learning, or make use of technology needs to look at this presentation. The teachers provided tools, including a timeline, that show how all of these things can be done successfully.
Thanks to teachers like these, hopefully even more educators will be inspired to try this project!
A couple of weeks ago I posted a link to the Virtual Valentines Project. Since my 1st graders are studying different continents and countries, I thought they would be the perfect group to match with a Virtual Valentine. We were matched with a class in Canada, and will be Skyping with them today.
I wanted the Valentines my students made to reflect a little of our San Antonio uniqueness, so I asked the students to brainstorm some special things about San Antonio that our Canadian friends might not have. This turned out to be harder than I expected.
“Games?” one student suggested.
“Toys?” another student ventured.
After I assured them that Canada is not an isolated planet in outer space without any stores or internet connections, we narrowed things down a bit.
We ended up with a fairly long list, and the students could choose one San Antonio feature to include in their Valentines. It wasn’t until yesterday, though, that I got a chance to look at them closely. I thought I’d share a few with you 🙂
Overall, I think their pictures definitely showcase some of our San Antonio flair. I hope this post makes you smile as much as I did writing it, and Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you!
Even though I’ve already mentioned Hexagonal Learning a couple of other times on this blog, it definitely bears repeating. If you want to listen to your students having rich conversations about a topic and to discover how well they understand something they have read or that you have taught, this activity will deliver. And, although I can’t make any guarantees, I have always seen complete engagement with Hexagonal Learning – even from introverts and students who have attention difficulties.
You can find details in last year’s post (linked above). I just completed another round of Hexagonal Learning for Tuck Everlasting with a new class, and was once again blown away by the intensity of the discussions and deliberate care that went into each group’s connections. My 5th graders, who were last year’s Tuck Everlasting class, also just completed the same assignment with hexagons from The Giver.
I truly believe that it is not my job as an educator to tell students what they should think or how they should feel. Much of my job is to teach them how to think: how to analyze, how to problem-solve, how to be self-aware so they can choose the type of thinking that would be useful for them in different situations. My job is also to teach my students how to listen to and to understand other points of view, that our own perspectives can change, and that it’s important to be mindful and respectful of those who don’t agree with us.
With these things in mind, I have been collecting a few resources over the last couple of days that may help teachers in the light of recent events. For the students who are concerned or fearful, for the ones who are angry or defensive, we as teachers can give two things: empathy and information. Here are some resources you may be able to use as arguments about the recent immigration ban and the border wall dominate the news (You will, of course, need to determine which resources are suitable for your students.):
I’ve been a huge fan of Russel Tarr’s ClassTools site for a long time. I particularly like to use the different graphic organizers he offers and the hexagon generator. (Click here to see how the latter can be used.) I also follow Russel on Twitter (@RusselTarr). This weekend, I noticed a neat activity he tweeted about called, “Wheel of Life,” which is an excellent way to analyze characters (both fiction and non-fiction). When I asked Russel where I could find details, he directed me to Tarr’s Toolbox, a treasure that I am embarrassed to say I hadn’t seen yet.
Tarr’s Toolbox is Russel’s blog, and gives wonderful ideas for how to engage students in history class – though you can certainly use most of them in other subject areas. At the top of the home page, there is this nice breakdown of different categories under which you can find key posts.
Reading the posts makes me want to be in Russel’s class (why didn’t I ever have a history teacher like him?). Failing that, I at least want to aspire to be as creative and engaging as he must be for his students.
I haven’t read it yet, but Russel just published a book called, A History Teaching Toolbox, which I imagine is probably another dynamic resource that teachers in any department would find useful.
As we watched the Presidential Debate the other night, I thought a lot about the art of disagreement. So many people allow emotions to control the argument when much more could be accomplished by having a civilized discussion about the facts. As I tweeted that night, even my dog was discouraged by the evening’s event.
(To be fair, he reacts that way whenever anyone dares to disturb his sleep with raised voices.)
Creator of ClassTools.net, @RusselTarr, tweeted this site the other day. My 1st graders have been studying countries around the world, and we have recently been discussing foods. They really enjoyed “Don’t Gross Out the World,” from FunBrain because they thought many of the cultural traditions were unbelievable. For example, how can it be true that some people think that it’s a compliment to burp loudly after a meal? Or, that asking for catsup could possibly be an insult in some countries? I learned a few new things myself by playing this game with the class 🙂