Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Have You Flipped Your Classroom Yet?

Rear view of class raising handsIn January, CBS News produced a feature story on the flipped classroom, thrusting the model even further into mainstream discussions of education. Accompanied by glowing reviews from a high school physical science teacher and his students, the three-minute segment referred to flipped classrooms as “a ray of hope” for students and parents struggling with applying concepts learned in class to their homework.

In simplest terms, the flipped classroom inverts the traditional teaching paradigm, introducing new concepts, typically via video lectures, that students can watch outside of the classroom at their own pace. Applying the information learned during lectures – what used to be considered homework – then takes place in the classroom under the supervision of the teacher.

As the students from Warren Township High School in Gurnee, Illinois noted in the CBS feature, benefits of the flipped classroom model include being able to pause and rewind lectures, focusing on segments or concepts they struggle to grasp. Teachers are then free to set aside time for collaborative work and address the needs of individual students, challenging those who excel and zeroing in on the struggles of those who lag behind. Ideally, a flipped classroom changes the teacher’s role from “Sage on the Stage” to a more effective “Guide on the Side.”

The cons of the flipped classroom, however, were not properly addressed in the news segment. Tech inequity is the most glaring obstacle to achieving an effective flipped classroom, although some educators are finding ways to address that issue.

In addition, passive lecturing, whether delivered via online video or in the classroom, is not the most effective teaching method.

The presentation of the flipped classroom model as a miraculous solution to a myriad of educational problems is also misguided, especially since it may not fit with every teacher’s instructional style or curriculum. Rather than a solution, the flipped classroom should be viewed as a potential tool that could help educators create a more collaborative, engaged classroom.

Annenberg Learner offers many resources for teachers interested in implementing a flipped classroom. Since a flipped classroom does not necessarily introduce all core concepts via video lectures, Annenberg’s online interactives can serve a similar purpose and be completed by students as ‘homework.’

For example, the Democracy in America series, program 11, “Public Opinion: Voice of the People” interactive prompts students to create an effective poll that will accurately gauge public support for a specific policy, in this case waste incineration. After watching the unit’s accompanying video, students can complete the interactive, which could then be used as a starting point for a collaborative or group polling project in the classroom.

Similarly, the Rediscovering Biology series program on Applied Genetic Modification allows students to engage in an interactive, animated case study to explore the practical details of genetic engineering. After watching and completing the case study at home, students will have a practical example of how genetic modification applies to their lives, making in-class projects and discussions feel more relevant.

Considering the recent water crisis in the American Southwest, teachers may also find the online text and video from The Habitable Planet, unit 8, “Water Resources,” helpful tools to connect real world issues to their classroom. After reading all or parts of the online text, students can then complete teacher-made activities that address water supply issues.

These are just a few examples of how Learner.org resources can help you flip your classroom. Search the site for more content in all subject areas to find videos, and online texts and interactives that your students can work through at their own pace at home, freeing up your instruction time for engaging activities.

Sharehow you might be using Learner.org to flip your classroom in the comments below.

New (Online) Literacies for Your Elementary Researchers

TeachRead_5Are your 3rd-5th grade students learning the skills they need to conduct online research? Last year the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project conducted a survey of over 2,000 advanced placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) teachers to determine their perspectives on students’ research habits and the impact of technology on their studies.

The survey report How Teens Do Research in the Digital World concludes that virtually all (99%) survey participants agree “the internet enables students to access a wider range of resources than would otherwise be available.” At the same time, a significant majority of these teachers strongly agreed that students expect to be able to find information quickly and easily using the internet. 83% felt that the amount of information available online is overwhelming to most students. 71% agreed that today’s technologies discourage students from using a wide range of resources for their research. 60% agreed that these technologies make it harder for students to find credible sources of information.

There’s a lot that 3rd to 5th grade teachers can do give students the foundational skills they need to tackle rigorous research projects throughout their academic careers AND address the Common Core State Standards that concern informational text:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.7 Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.8 Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text, identifying which reasons and evidence support which point(s).
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.9 Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

Check out session 5, “New Literacies of the Internet,” in the video workshop Teaching Reading 3-5. In the video, Donald Leu of the University of Connecticut clarifies some of the differences between reading narrative text and reading informational text, and then defines five skill areas that students need to draw on to learn from online information.

  1. Identifying important questions: In the video you’ll see educators helping students generate questions on topics such as global warming and colonial American history. Good questions lead to good searches.
  2. Searching for information: Young researchers can too easily get in the habit of clicking on anything that turns up on a search results page. The teachers in the session 5 video walk students through taking a close look at search result summaries to make inferences about which sites will be the most useful.
  3. Analyzing and evaluating information: You can learn a lot from an “About Us” page. When was the information created? Who created it and why?
  4. Synthesizing information: Dr. Leu points out that synthesis is different on the internet. In print, the text is contained. Online, the text is constructed as students navigate from link to link. Skimming and scanning with purpose are important here. Students need to practice monitoring themselves to keep from getting distracted from their purpose for reading. Graphic organizers to the rescue!
  5. Communicating information: Students can practice safe and authentic online communications by sharing their research efforts with other students. How about 3rd graders creating a shared list of the “best” sites for learning about Egyptian civilization?

You can use the session’s Literacy Practice Portfolio to reflect on your current practice and to plan for implementing new techniques. And when today’s third grader astonishes his future AP teacher with his online research acumen, you will hear distant applause.

 

Effective Teachers (post by Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory)

CfA effective teachers blog post

A new study shows that teachers who are familiar with misconceptions about science as well as the science itself have students who are much more successful in learning.
Credit: SAO SED

Originally posted Friday, May 03, 2013 by Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory*

Everybody wants teachers to be knowledgeable, but there is little agreement on what kinds of knowledge are the most important. Should a teacher have a deep knowledge of the subject matter, or is it better if the teacher has an understanding of what students think? Is there some optimal combination of different types of knowledge? Discussions of such issues rarely make use of data but instead are based on indirect methods of gauging teacher knowledge. The answer is important: Beliefs about teacher knowledge shape both the policies regulating how teachers are prepared, certified, hired, and evaluated as well as programs that provide ongoing professional development for practicing teachers.

CfA scientists and science educators Phil Sadler, Gerhard Sonnert, Harold Coyle, Nancy Cook-Smith, and Jaime Miller have published a study that quantifies several aspects of teacher knowledge and their relevance to teacher effectiveness. The team finds that one key factor in improving student performance in science understanding is teacher familiarity with the popular science misconceptions. The students of those teachers who both knew the material and understood the reasons for misconceptions improved in their test scores significantly, more than twice as much as students of teachers who only knew the material. The study, which included a sample of 9556 students and 181 teachers, is an important step in evaluating how to train better teachers.

For additional information on this topic, check out the following links:

Science Daily, “Understanding Student Weaknesses”

Education Week, “Knowing Student Misconceptions Key to Science Teaching, Study Finds”

American Education Research Journal, “The Influence of Teachers’ Knowledge on Student Learning in Middle School Physical Science Classrooms”

Learner Express, “A Student Tries to Explain Why There Are Seashells on Top of Mount Everest and the Formation of the Himalayan Mountains”

A Private Universe

Learner Log, “Are you smarter than a Harvard graduate?”

 

*reposted with permission from Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory site with additional links added

7 Ways to Celebrate National Family Month

FAMILYblocksNational Family Month runs from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day, May 12 to June 16 this year. Here are some fun and educational activities from Learner.org that you can do together to build those family bonds:

1. For middle and high school children, choose any of the content courses with Web sites and create a scavenger hunt.  Write questions and have the family search for the answers. Time each person and reward the first person to finish with all the correct answers. Good resources for this activity include:

American Passages: A Literary Survey

Mathematics Illuminated

Earth Revealed

Physics for the 21st Century

America’s History in the Making

The Power of Place: Geography for the 21st Century

Voices and Visions

2. Gaze at the Moon and keep a journal. Use the Moon Journal activity from Looking at Learning… Again to track changes in the moon’s appearance. The pages include questions, materials, and instructions for the activities.

3. Follow the migration of monarch butterflies and report your local sightings on the Journey North site.  Kids have their own page where they can watch videos of monarchs hatching and other natural phenomena.

4. Learn and practice French or Spanish with the family by watching French in Action or Destinos.

5. Document your family’s history and then create a family history quilt as an art project.  The library Arts in Every Classroom, program 12, “Borrowing from the Arts to Enhance Learning,” shows a classroom where students create these quilts. Go to about 22 minutes into the video.

6. Play a board game to help kids learn fractions. You can recreate the Fraction Tracks game shown in program 5 of Teaching Math: A Video Library 5-8.

7. Solve the Eric the Sheep puzzle in this interactive from Learning Math: Patterns, Functions, and Algebra.

 

Share your own inspired ideas by posting them in the comments below.

Are you smarter than a Harvard graduate?

privateuniverseHarvardgrad

What causes seasons? Do you think you know? A common answer among school children and college graduates is that seasons are caused by how close the Earth is to the sun, but this answer is not correct. The tilt of the Earth’s axis causes the cycle of the seasons. See an explanation in Science in Focus: Shedding Light, workshop 7.

A Private Universe

More than 23 years ago, video producers asked new Harvard graduates and 9th grade students at a nearby high school some basic science questions, including “What causes seasons?”, and got surprising answers. That footage became A Private Universe, a documentary that looks at how students’ misconceptions block learning. The program looks at celestial movements, the seasons, and how these are taught in school.

In the program, a bright 9th grader named Heather is asked to describe the orbit of the Earth and explain what causes the phases of the moon. Her strange drawing of the orbit leaves her teacher perplexed. Also, Heather is only able to correctly explain the phases of the moon by picking up physical objects and using them to show her thinking. (You can see what became of Heather in the film A Private Universe, 20 Years Later.) Heather’s teacher learned two lessons by observing her explanations: 1. She can’t make assumptions about what students know already. 2. Using manipulatives (like balls to show orbiting planets) is important for understanding scientific concepts.

Where do students’ private theories come from?

Sometimes misconceptions are caused by misleading diagrams and drawings in textbooks that are interpreted or remembered incorrectly. Sometimes the concepts were taught incorrectly. Sometimes students hear words used in one context and apply their understanding to other contexts. Many times, children rely on their experiences, which can limit understanding. Even the brightest students can have trouble with basic concepts, because new ideas are competing with previous knowledge. In addition, teachers are required to cover a lot of material quickly and often don’t have time to tease out these misconceptions.

How can teachers help students?

First figure out what students know about a topic. Anticipate and address any misconceptions that might hinder learning new and related concepts. The three Essential Science for Teachers series include a section called “Children’s Ideas.” Using research on what children believe about basic science concepts, teachers are asked to consider what misconceptions children might have about these concepts and where these ideas might have come from. For example, Earth and Space Science, session 1, considers children’s ideas about soil.

Here is a list of resources from the Essential Science for Teachers series to help you examine children’s ideas in science:

Earth and Space Science

Life Science

Physical Science

Addressing misconceptions is important in all subject areas, not just science. While teaching Spanish at the high school level, I first took for granted that my students understood the parts of speech and learned that many did not. I often hear Africa referred to as a country and that Spanish is the official language of Brazil. Even as adults, we can hold misconceptions somehow learned along the way.

Before you start your next lesson or unit, try to anticipate and address any misconceptions and access prior knowledge. Then build from those ideas while giving students many hands-on opportunities (especially in science and math) to explain their ideas.

What surprising misconceptions have you witnessed in your classes?

 

Because I Had to Teach It…

handraisediconMovies and books are full of heroic teachers who face up to institutionalized rules, rigor, and rote learning that steamroll students’ thinking and their own inventive instructional methods (Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society). The counter stereotype is the teacher who has been beaten down by “the system,” sticks to the same syllabus year in and out, and basically puts the students to sleep (Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Professor Binns, the ghost who teaches the History of Magic at Hogwarts).

The teachers you don’t hear much about are the ones who are spurred to research a topic because a student asks a question they don’t know the answer to. These teachers are honest enough to look at what they don’t actually know and then go learn about it.

Kerry Emanuel, professor of atmospheric science at MIT, was driven to look into the energy systems that feed hurricanes as a result of having to teach a course in tropical meteorology.  “… one of the reasons that teaching and research go together so well is that, often, you think you understand something. And it’s not until you have to teach it that you understand that you don’t understand it..,” Emanuel explains in the program “Atmosphere” from The Habitable Planet.

Many teachers find themselves in the same position in K-12 classrooms. Whether you’re a teacher who has had an economics course dropped into your lap by your department chair – “Here are the tests and worksheets from the last guy who taught it.” —  or you have to answer a particularly probing question from a student, the feeling is mighty uncomfortable.  Do you stay up late reading the textbook, go to YouTube, or what?

Heather's classroom

Heather’s classroom

Economics teacher, Heather Anderson, took a practical view of taking on a course in a new area. “The only way I could move [to her current school] was to teach world history and economics. And I thought, ‘I can do it. I’ll get through a couple of years and then I’ll get rid of the economics and I’ll be left with the world history.”  Heather shifted the effort to the students and brought into her classroom simulations on market forces and supply and demand, rather than lecturing. By holding buying and selling markets in her class, her students could experience how these concepts worked in a restricted situation, like conducting research. Start at 28:30 of the video for The Economics Classroom, workshop 3, “The Government’s Hand.”

Another challenge for teachers is generating student ideas and making use of ideas that may be wildly off course, but are based on rational thinking. Audrey, a seventh grade social studies teacher, was assigned a science class with little formal science background. She focused on developing her students’ critical thinking skills so she could explore the science concepts along with them. Audrey started her research by conferring with a science education professor who helped her shape lessons around her teaching goal. See Case Studies in Science Education, program 25, for the full video.

Audrey's classroom

Audrey’s classroom

As these teachers (and many others) can attest, it takes a lot of effort to get the students to do their own thinking and to stay with them (or just slightly ahead of them) as they work through their ideas.  Throughout learner.org, teachers discuss how they have learned more effective ways of teaching from listening closely to student questions, observing their thinking, and getting input from the whole class. You can also use the search function on learner.org to do research on new topics in the subject area you are teaching or will be teaching.

Do you have a story about a question from a student that sent you off to learn more about your subject?  Or do you do research on your own?  Share it with us and your fellow LearnerLog readers.

Monday Motivation: Tune up your lessons with music activities.

learningclassroom_4Happy Music in Our Schools month! Many of your students probably love music as much as you do. Have you thought about how music could be used to increase student motivation and interest in your content area? You don’t have to be a musician to bring music into the classroom.

Stay tuned during this month of Mondays for ways to inspire and engage your students by adding music to lessons in your own subject areas. Start by watching The Learning Classroom: Theory Into Practice, session 4, “Different Kinds of Smart – Multiple Intelligences,” for information on Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, which includes musical intelligence.  See real applications of this theory in classrooms with mainstreamed special needs students.

Do you already use music to teach lessons in your non-arts subject area? If so, how?

 

Invite Your Students to the Garden

Students Gardening (St. Mary's Hall, San Antonio, TX), image by Phyllis Swinney

Students Gardening (St. Mary’s Hall, San Antonio, TX), image by Phyllis Swinney

It’s February, it’s cold in many parts of the U.S., and it’s time to talk about gardening.

Ask an avid gardener like me about my devotion to the hobby and you’ll get an enthusiastic variety of responses likely along these lines:

  • Finding solutions to garden problems is challenging and satisfying.
  • There is joy in nurturing living things.
  • It’s great exercise.
  • Being a productive contributor to the health of the environment benefits everyone.

Many schools are acknowledging that these outcomes are as valid in the schoolyard as they are in the backyard. In fact, a study conducted by the Royal Horticultural Society on the benefits of its Campaign for School Gardening found that school gardening “boosts child development, teaches life skills and makes kids healthier and happier.” Here are some specific findings from the report:

 

  • Gardening helped use up surplus energy in active kids.
  • The process of growing something from seed to fruit helps teach children responsibility and managing a living organism. Some students learned valuable math skills as they sold their produce to the town for a profit.
  • Getting in touch with the dirt and bugs helped some young students overcome their fears.
  • An English teacher found her students’ creativity in poetry expanded after working in the garden.

In addition, gardening and environmental studies authentically connect to subjects across the curriculum. Science students can conduct soil tests and use monarch migration data collected by observing butterfly activity in gardens to look at climate change patterns. Language Arts students can write poetry about the butterflies and their long journey or exchange gardening logs with students in other parts of the country. Spanish students can write to penpals in Mexico about the migration. School gardening fosters collaboration, encourages problem-solving, and produces successes that all students share. And, even though it’s February, you and your students may start right now.

Monarchs Wintering in Mexico, image by Elizabeth Howard

Monarchs Wintering in Mexico, image by Elizabeth Howard

In February, your students can join students and scientists across North America in learning about the monarch butterflies that are currently living deep in central Mexico. Stunning images of the monarchs in this habitat divert cabin fever and inspire creativity. See the Journey North Web site for additional photos, lesson plans, and monarch migration tracking resources. Students can go outside to monitor the schoolyard for an existing monarch-friendly habitat and make predictions about what butterfly activity they are likely to observe when the migration reaches your region. If there currently is no garden in your schoolyard, start planning spring activities with your students to create a welcoming habitat for the butterflies that will begin making their journey north in March. MonarchWatch.org also provides helpful tips for planting and growing the milkweed that is so vital to the monarchs’ reproductive cycle.

While planning your garden now, save space for the tulip bulbs in the fall. In this Journey North international science experiment, track the greening of spring in the Northern Hemisphere through ‘Red Emperor’ tulip test gardens. Students plant tulip bulbs in the fall. When the plants emerge and bloom, children announce that spring has arrived in their part of the world. The relationship between geography and climate, and the greening of spring is revealed, one garden at a time. Students making observations in their own schoolyards, and tracking the greening of spring across the Northern Hemisphere begin to see how season-driven weather and climatic factors influence plant growth.

Encourage your students to join us gardeners across the country as we grow in our knowledge of the environment and make contributions to the health of the planet.

 

Learner Summer Camp

Welcome to our adult version of summer camp. We asked friends to tell us what types of information have eluded them over the years, and we point them to the resources below. Learn something new from this sampling of their inquiries and continue this conversation by posting more questions.

Phyllis: In composition class, I could never find anything to write about.

Author Katherine Paterson

In Developing Writers: A Workshop for High School Teachers, workshop 7, “Learning From Professional Writers,” teachers and professional writers give strategies for finding your writer’s voice. Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones are recommended to help you observe the world with a writer’s eye and get that pen moving on the paper.

Science fiction writer, Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game series) and Katherine Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia) share insights on using plot, character development, and cultural references in good storytelling in In Search of the Novel, workshop 2, “What’s the Story?“.

Laurie: How does the Electoral College work?

In The Constitution: That Delicate Balance, program 3, “Nomination, Election, and Succession of the President,” Edmund Muskie, Secretary of State under Jimmy Carter, and various party officials discuss the role of the Electoral College in presidential elections.

Stephanie: I want to know basic astronomy.

In Planet Earth, program 4, “Tales From Other Worlds,” scientists analyze meteorites in Antarctica to piece together how our solar system formed. See footage of Mars, Venus, and Jupiter and hear what scientists have learned from observing these planets.

The Moon was Formed From a Collision

Learn about the Giant Impact Model, which proposes that a Mars-sized object once crashed into the Earth creating the Earth and the Moon, in the Learner Express Modules, “The Moon was Formed From a Collision.”

Stephanie: Teach me practical physics.

Essential Science for Teachers: Physical Science explores practical physics.   For example, in session 3, “Physical Changes and Conservation of Matter,” learn what happens to matter when it is dissolved or evaporated.  In session 7, “Heat and Temperature,” forecaster Bill Babcock answers “Why do we need heated towel racks?” as he explains how heat is transferred from your skin to water on your skin after a shower.

Pamela: I want to learn about bird and butterfly identification.

Monarch butterfly

Start with the birds and butterflies in your own back yard (and learn how to attract them) by tracking migrating species with Journey North, a global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change. Citizen scientists (like you!) track the coming of spring through animal migration patterns and seasonal changes like daily sunrise and sunset. Take the Creature Quiz and identify species of birds, insects, and mammals by sight and sound.  Follow Journey North news updates to locate hummingbirds, monarchs, and other species as they migrate.

 

Write to us (in the comments section below) with more inquiries like these and we will do our best to direct you to a relevant resource.

How to Incorporate the Arts in All Subjects

Art is a valuable tool for students to learn how to express themselves, work through a process, work cooperatively, and gain respect and understanding for others. How can we teach the arts in all subject areas so that students benefit from the learning opportunities that art affords them? For more ways art instruction benefits students, read “Ten reasons why teaching the arts is critical in a 21st century world” by Elliott Seif.

Below are examples of the arts blended with other curriculum areas, helping students to draw out a deeper understanding and appreciation for both familiar and unfamiliar concepts.

Science

See art as a tool to make meaning of our relationship with the natural world in Art Through Time, program 10, “The Natural World.”

Seventh graders combine science, dance, and language arts as they compare the anatomy of a frog and a human and then debate whether a frog can join a ballet company. Connecting With the Arts Library, program 11, “Can Frogs Dance?” has the video and student materials.

Mathematics

Mathematicians understand symmetry differently than the rest of us, as a fundamental aspect of group theory. Learn more in Mathematics Illuminated, unit 6, “The Beauty of Symmetry,” which includes a symmetry interactive. Students can manipulate a wallpaper design to practice common geometric motions such as rotation and reflection.

Language Arts

Students explore Greek myths using puppets in Connecting With the Arts Library, program 2, “Breathing Life into Myths.”

Artifacts & Fiction, session 1, “Visual Arts,” shows how visual art, paired with literature, can be used to enhance students’ understanding of the predominant culture and historical setting of a work of literature.

Foreign Languages

Latin students learn the difference between translating and interpreting the language using music and literary works of Mozart, Vergil, and Cicero. See Teaching Foreign Languages K-12, program 24, “Music and Manuscripts.”

In Teaching Foreign Languages, program 29, “Interpreting Literature,” students discuss “Dos caras” (Two faces) by New Mexico author Sabine Ulibarri. They act out scenes and make comparisons to a painting by a local artist.

In program 27, “Interpreting Picasso’s Guernica,” students write and deliver radio newscasts interpreting the scene in the famous painting.

Social Studies

Fifth graders in The Arts in Every Classroom, program 6, “Teaching Visual Art,” view portraits, looking beyond the face for historical cues. They continue the lesson by creating new portraits that reveal clues to the lives of their subjects through clothing, expressions, and background.

Additional Resources:

To learn more about why arts education is important and how to connect the arts with big ideas in other subject areas, view Connecting With the Arts, program 2, “Why Integrate the Arts?”  and program 5, “What Are Connecting Concepts?”

These ideas just scratch the surface of all they ways arts instruction can be incorporated in other curriculum areas. Please feel free to share more ideas in the comments.