Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Mathematics: Math Drives Careers

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Learn how statistics is used to study diseases in Against All Odds.

Show how mathematical innovations influence career opportunities. The following resources illustrate the importance of math in fields related to music, health, and the environment.

There’s math in music? Show students who are interested in music that a mathematical understanding of how sound waves work and can be manipulated plays an important role in modern sound engineering and digital technology. See Mathematics Illuminated, unit 10, “Harmonious Math.”

Researchers trying to unravel the genome of the Ebola virus depend heavily on statistics. Learn how this area of math is used to explore humans’ possible genetic resistance to an Ebola-like strain that causes deadly Lassa Fever in Africa. Pardis Sabeti talks about her research in Against All Odds: Inside Statistics, unit 29, “Inference for Two-Way Tables.”

Math provides a key to understanding and developing new technologies to harness energy. Students interested in environmental science can learn about advances in engineering that influence the growth of old and new energy technologies, from fossil fuels, to wind, to water. Go to unit 10, “Energy Challenges,” in The Habitable Planet.

Eadweard Muybridge: Photography Pioneer

Eadweard Muybridge portrait, by photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston, LC-USZ62-33083 (b&w film copy neg.)

Eadweard Muybridge portrait, by photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston, LC-USZ62-33083 (b&w film copy neg.)

English expatriate Eadweard Muybridge, born on April 9, 1830, took daring steps, cutting down trees and venturing into dangerous places, to get landscape photographs that would distinguish him from his contemporaries. See the story of his shot, Falls of the Yosemite, taken in 1872 while on a six-month trip West in Art Through Time, program 10, “The Natural World.”

Read how Muybridge developed photography techniques that captured human and animal movements in new ways in American Passages, unit 8, “Regional Realism.” Muybridge also invented the zoopraxiscope (image #8245 in the archives), a device that projected a moving image from still sequences.

In the video for workshop 6, “Possibilities of Real Life Problems,” of Private Universe Project in Mathematics, ninth graders are asked to solve how fast a cat, captured in a series of photos by Muybridge more than 100 years ago, was moving in frames 10 and 20.

Find a slideshow of 17 of Muybridge’s images of Guatemala in Teaching Geography, workshop 2, “Latin America.” Below each slide is information about the content of each photo and questions to compare the past with the present.

Nancy Finkelstein, A Teacher Who Empowered Teachers

NancyFinkelsteinOne often hears about teachers who were an inspiration to their students, who were beloved for their kindness and understanding, or even their toughness. Those stories are touching and true. This story is about a person who was all of that and more to thousands of teachers who never even knew her.

Nancy Finkelstein, our friend and colleague, passed away on Leap Year Day 2016 after a short, intense bout with leukemia. Before retiring in 2009, she was project manager for the Science Media Group (SMG) at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA. Before that, she was the president of Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA). But at her core, Nancy was a teacher, having taught for Malden, MA public schools. And her mission was to empower teachers.

In its condolence message to its members, MTA leaders shared this memory of Nancy: “Nancy said to the 1988 Annual Meeting, ‘When people have asked me what I do, I never respond that I am a union president. I tell them that I am a teacher. I am proud to be a teacher. I am proud to be the president of teachers. And I am very proud of all of you.’”

Dr. Matt Schneps, Nancy’s colleague at the SMG and its founding director, remembered Nancy’s forthright attitude. “Nancy, always the pragmatist, was the person I relied on when I needed a reality check, to rein in my head-in-the-clouds ideas. She had a remarkable understanding of people. And she had a clear — and often colorful way of conveying her thoughts. ‘If you think that’s gonna work, I’ll eat this stapler,’ she’d say, holding the metal desktop gizmo up against her clenched teeth. She was right, of course. When Nancy spoke, people listened, and without her sage tell-it-like-is council, we would not have been able to accomplish even a small fraction of what we did.”

Nancy built a team that ran the Annenberg Channel, a 24/7 satellite-delivered source of professional development video programming for teachers. She also was the host/moderator of the very first workshop series “The Private Universe Project in Science.” The early workshops focused on math and science and later expanded into all discipline areas. Nancy shaped and whipped into shape many of the series that are hallmarks of teacher professional development: Looking at Learning…Again, Science in Focus workshops, and Essential Science for Teachers courses, among many other titles.

Under Nancy’s watch the Annenberg Channel went from a few hours after school to a few dozen sites delivered by the Massachusetts Corporation for Educational Technology (MCET), to a national range reaching more than 99,000 schools. As part of that effort, Nancy’s team oversaw the use of the workshops by teacher study groups and set up a system for teachers to earn graduate credit through Colorado State University or a certificate of participation. Nancy understood that teachers also needed to keep up with training and certification to move up the pay scale. And those teachers who wanted to improve their practice, were the ones who would be most effective in the classroom.

“What I remember about Nancy above all other things was her deep sense of compassion and resolute integrity. She was a person who strongly believed that all people (teachers, students, parents, workers,…) needed to be treated with respect,” said Dr. Schneps, “a philosophy we learned from and tried to emulate as best we could.”

Nancy Finkelstein imbued Annenberg programming with that respect. Generations of teachers and their students have felt it. Even if they didn’t know her.

We thank you, Nancy, for what you have done for all of us. We shall miss you dearly.

 

How to Incorporate Music in Your Subject

ArtsEveryClass_kidsviolins

March is Music in Our Schools Month and educators are urged to make a case for including music education in the K-12 curriculum. It would seem to be an easy argument. According to Christopher Viereck, Ph.d., Developmental Neurobiologist in Residence for The Music Empowers Foundation, ongoing music education creates “new connections (‘wiring’) between brain cells.” Music education “also benefits students in other academic domains,” writes Viereck in Music Education and Brain Development 101, the first of many articles in the Your Brain on Music Education series.

Still, despite the substantial amount of evidence that supports the claim that music enhances learning, music programs in budget-strapped schools are often considered niceties, not necessities. There are ways to incorporate music into lessons, should formal music programs face the axe, however.

Let’s take a look at some examples of resources and classroom activities:

Mathematics

High school and college students can study how the Greeks applied mathematical thought to the study of music in the video and online text for Mathematics Illuminated, unit 10, “Harmonious Math,” section 2, The Math of Time.

Learn how sound waves move through the air in section 3, Sound and Waves.

Section 6, Can You Hear the Shape of a Drum?, asks if it’s possible to deduce what object makes a sound based on the frequency content of the sound.

World Languages

The Teaching Foreign Languages K-12 video library provides two examples of how to incorporate music into language lessons. Watch “French: A Cajun Folktale and Zydeco.” At about 20 minutes into the video, students are introduced to Cajun music. See how the teacher builds excitement for what students will be learning and how music helps students better understand cultural traditions of the people who live in that particular region of Louisiana.

Music can take students from the Bayou to Ancient Rome. In this mixed-level Latin class at Westfield High School in Chantilly, Va., teacher Lauri Dabbieri uses music to help students understand the difference between translation and interpretation, as well as to make historical connections to Roman culture.

Social Studies and Language Arts

The Middle Ages: Early music provides an echo of the past, allowing students to connect to people, cultures, and arts from long ago. Using The Middle Ages interactive, students test their ears by determining which of the instruments used by medieval musicians match the sounds they hear.

The Renaissance: Elementary music specialist Sylvia Bookhardt teaches students about Renaissance society in The Arts in Every Classroom,Teaching Music.”

The Holocaust: The series TeachingThe Children of Willesden Lane’ offers resources to help middle and high school students better comprehend survivor Lisa Jura’s story of loss, resilience, and ultimate triumph. Mona Golabek, Jura’s daughter, wrote The Children of Willesden Lane to honor her mother, who was spared the cruelty of the death camps thanks to the Kindertransport (children’s transport). In all, the operation saved nearly 10,000 children. Music played a central role in Lisa Jura’s life and is integrated into this memoir. Find the music downloads here.

The Fifties: Explore an emerging American teenage culture, including the influence of the transistor radio and a young man named Elvis Presley, in A Biography of America, unit 23, “The Fifties.”

Read “A Jazz Festival in Your Classroom” to find resources for incorporating music into social studies and language arts classes. Teach your students about the Jazz age as historical context for reading works by Langston Hughes, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and more.

The Arts

And if you do have room in your elementary school’s schedule and budget for incorporating a music program of any scale, explore The Power of Music: P-5 Teaching Inspired by El Sistema to see how educators use music programs to build students’ confidence and sense of community.

Share ways you are incorporating music into your classrooms in March or any time below the post.

Teaching Collaboration: Deeper learning and interpersonal skills

StackofHands123rfIn a recent TED Talk, computational geneticist Pardis Sabeti told of a tidal wave of Ebola cases coming from Guinea to a clinic in Sierra Leone. The medical team there collected samples of the virus and shipped the deactivated samples back to Sabeti’s lab in Cambridge, MA. The team worked round the clock to decode the genome of the virus from the samples in order to help health officials devise large scale treatment plans. Almost immediately, the amount of data they produced outpaced their ability to analyze it. Sabeti asked for help from the larger scientific community via the internet.

In similar fashion, physicists studying high-energy proton collisions from the Large Hadron Collider at CERN sifted through astronomical amounts of data to find the unique pattern of the then-theorized Higgs Boson. More than 2,800 collaborators from 35 countries analyzed different segments of the data and identified the markers of a significant interaction. Watch Physics for the 21st Century, “The Fundamental Interactions,” from 5:39 to 7:42.

Collaboration on the job

These are just two instances of the high-stakes international collaboration needed to battle epidemics and solve complex puzzles. But the daily business of science also requires individuals who can work in teams to question and support their colleagues. Workers at a bio-tech startup must understand technical terminology, explain their conclusions and roadblocks with colleagues, and function effectively as a unit. “It’s important that everybody sees the data, understands why you’re concluding what you’re concluding, and at least agrees that the next steps are probably the right next steps,” explains Aaron Oppenheimer, head of the team.

Working together to solidify learning

Teachers at the middle and high school levels can help students to develop the skills of collaboration: listening, presenting ideas, and questioning to work through more difficult material and find answers that they could not find working on their own. Each classroom lesson in Reading & Writing in the Disciplines includes learning objectives in three areas: content, literacy/language, and engagement/interaction. In this blog we share examples from science classrooms, but collaboration is a key skill in all disciplines and is supported by the Common Core Anchor Standards in College and Career Readiness.

Chemistry teacher Martin Berryman bonds his classroom management practices to student engagement and interaction as his class of 32 individual thinkers learn to work collaboratively. He assesses their group work as well as their group interaction.

Biology teacher Mary Murphy forms study inquiry teams so they can apply new knowledge to an unfamiliar problem. See how her students support and challenge each other in tackling a problem, using scientific discourse, and applying their understanding of transcription and translations processes.

Getting started on collaboration

Students practice the foundational skills of collaboration and scientific discourse in earlier grades, learning to listen to peers, asking about their reasoning, and sharing the result of a new idea. Amy Miles points out opportunities for her students to engage in conversation while reading a complex text on rock types.

Building a collaborative classroom requires a shift in practice and expectations. Taking it a step at a time and comparing notes with your colleagues in your school or here on Learner Log will get you started in the right direction. Visit “How to Build Effective Collaborative Groups” to find more suggestions for supporting student collaboration in the classroom.

Image Copyright: ammentorp / 123RF Stock Photo

How to Build Motivation in Your Classroom

Ican'tSometimes, as teachers, we have a tendency to blame the student for a lack of motivation. Have you ever checked off “lacks motivation” or “lacks effort” on a progress report? Yet we all experience times when we just are not willing to do what is being asked of us. The following resources will help you understand what enhances and hinders motivation to learn.

Failure and fear of it saps motivation. Nobody likes to fail, but an optimistic attitude helps us learn from a poor performance. In Discovering Psychology, program 12, “Motivation and Emotion,” discover how optimists are more likely than pessimists to succeed in challenging situations because they tend to reflect and try again. Teach students to understand that sometimes disappointment and failure are part of the learning process.

Another obstacle to motivation is perceived irrelevance of the topic. Neuroscience research tells us that we learn best when we are interested in what we are learning and see a connection between our studies and our lives. Find out why in unit 2, “The Unity of Emotion, Thinking, and Learning,” of Neuroscience & the Classroom.

Our environment also plays a role in how we feel and act. Create classroom environments that engage students using tips from The Learning Classroom: Theory Into Practice, program 12, “Expectations for Success: Motivation and Learning.” Watch how teachers ask questions instead of dispensing information, invite students to investigate and arrive at their own conclusions, provide opportunities to work on real-world problems, and involve students in helpful competition using cooperative grouping.

What does motivation look like in your classroom? Share in the comments.

Image Copyright: misstuni / 123RF Stock Photo

Valentine’s Day in Language Arts and Math Classes

ValentinesDayelementaryTurn the excitement of Valentine’s Day into learning opportunities.

Language Arts/Literature

Develop reading-related activities around Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year. Kindergarten teacher Cindy Wilson features the holidays to build students’ oral language, especially useful for second language learners. See “Building Oral Language” in Teaching Reading K-2 Library.

Examine the question “How does love overcome hatred and fear?” as you read Arundhati Roy’s novel, The God of Small Things, about twin children growing up in a small town in India. Watch the Invitation to World Literature program about the title to hear from readers who are passionate about the story and from Roy herself.

Revisit the love story between Pip and Estella in Charles Dickens’ novel Great Expectations with your students. Find a lesson plan for teaching this work in the series In Search of the Novel.

Mathematics

Our Teachers’ Lab activity, How Many Valentines? offers a fun way to connect the Valentine’s Day holiday with elementary mathematics.

Teaching Math, Grades 3-5 also presents an interactive version of the How Many Valentines? activity, which illustrates principles of reasoning and proof.

Watch a lesson in which young students in a bilingual 4th-grade class work on patterns and reasoning in program 42, “Valentine Exchange,” in Teaching Math: A Video Library, K-4. Note how the teacher guides the students in their mathematical thinking, letting them explore and arrive at their own conclusions.

 

Let Us Help You With Your Resolutions!

NewYearsResolutionsYou’re quickly approaching the 100th day of the school year, and you’ve decided to refine and refresh your teaching methods as you enter the long stretch from January through June. So far, many of your students are coming along nicely, but others are struggling. So you resolve to make a few changes to get all of your students excited and invested in learning. What resolutions will you make?

 

Can’t think of any? Using our resources, here are a few ideas you can try in your classroom:

Grade writing papers more efficiently.

Grading is often a tedious task. Resolve to make it a faster and more useful exercise. In Developing Writers: A Workshop for High School Teachers, Dr. Robyn Jackson outlines how to use color-coded rubrics. This format is faster for teachers because they spend less time writing the same comments and grading becomes more objective. Students can also immediately see which components of their writing need improvement.  Shuttle into 15:16 of the video program to watch this rubric in action.

Differentiate instruction.

How do you meet the needs of diverse students in your class? Literacy expert Dorothy Strickland discusses key elements of effective instruction that build on student diversity in session 7 of Teaching Reading 3-5. In session 6, “Differentiating Instruction,” of Teaching Reading K-2 Workshop, you will learn how to apply research-based principles in early literacy.  Studying multiple writing genres? In workshop 5 of Write in the Middle, Mary Cathryn Ricker explains her philosophy on teaching multigenre writing so that it engages students: “I know that there are some students at the middle level who are very nervous about poetry, downright scared of poetry, and I want to make sure that they have a style of writing or a form of writing they’re going to be comfortable with.”  Also, watch as Jane Shuffelton customizes a lesson for different levels of learners in her high school Russian class.

Incorporate standardized test questions into routine assignments.

With more and more teacher performance ratings tied to standardized testing, it’s no wonder that many teachers resort to teaching to the test. But that needn’t be so. You can easily tie standard test questions into your regular class assignments. In workshop 4, “Research and Discovery,” of Teaching Multicultural Literature: A Workshop for the Middle Grades, Kathryn Mitchell Pierce explains that when students engage in critical reading beyond just literal recall of what happens in a book, they have skills which give them confidence to correctly complete a standardized test.

Communicate more often and effectively with parents.

You can do this by setting up a parent listserv for your class and by sending a weekly newsletter about what’s going on in your class, including specific projects, instructional practices, and materials that your students are engaged in throughout the year. There’s a good template for a parent newsletter in session 8 of Teaching Reading K-2 Workshop.  In Teaching Multicultural Literature: A Workshop for the Middle Grades, workshop 7, “Social Justice and Action,” Laura Alvarez talks about keeping parents informed by involving them in the actual lesson.

We’d love to hear about your resolutions for your classroom in the comments below.

Copyright: kenishirotie / 123RF Stock Photo

International Creativity Month: Invite Your Students to Play

artisticlightbulbThe beginning of the year is a time for resolutions and reflection. January is also International Creativity Month. Make a resolution to incorporate opportunities for students to flex their creative muscles into your lessons. Let them write, paint, dance, compose, brainstorm, and most of all, play!

Start from the beginning by learning why creative play is so important to a young child’s healthy development. Watch The Whole Child: A Caregiver’s Guide to the First Five Years, program 11, “Creativity and Play” to learn about the connection between creativity and self-worth and self-expression.

If you’re familiar with the link between music and mathematical ability in children, gain more insight with the documentary “Surprises in Mind,” which looks at children’s innate mathematical creativity and how a specially designed math program boosted students’ confidence in their mathematical ability and enjoyment mathematics.

Brain researchers have found a connection between creativity and dreaming, as explained in the brief clip “REM Sleep and Dreaming,” program 15 of The Brain: Teaching Modules.

Creativity is essential to teaching, just as it is an integral part of students’ learning in subjects across the curriculum. In Looking at Learning…Again, Part 2, workshop 5, “Infusing Critical and Creative Thinking,” Dr. Robert Swartz discusses the role of creative thinking in the learning process. Then see examples in the footage of Virginia Williams’s 4th-grade science class in Brookfield, Massachusetts.

Find ideas for creative learning experiences in the following resources:

Art Through Time explores creative expression through different cultures and historical eras. For example, program 7, looks at functional art used in domestic life around the world. Have students watch the video and then design and/or make their own useful art.

High school arts teachers will discover new ways to foster creativity with The Art of Teaching the Arts: A Workshop for High School Teachers. In workshop 5, watch how teachers foster respect and build confidence in students in a variety of arts lessons, including improv.

Draw ideas from Dr. Judith Ortiz Cofer’s interesting creative writing exercise based on truth and lies in Developing Writers.

The documentaries of American Cinema can serve as the basis for creative writing assignments. Students learn all about screenwriting in the related Cinema interactive.

See models of creative integrated arts units at the middle school level in Connecting with the Arts: A Teaching Practices Library, 6-8. In “Can frogs dance?“, a science teacher and a dance instructor ask students to compare human and frog anatomy.

How are you adding creativity to your lesson plans this year?

Image copyright: artqu / 123RF Stock Photo

Resources to Teach Financial Wellness

Economics_billionaireactivity

Students learn basic personal finance in The Economics Classroom, workshop 4.

Learning how to balance a budget and manage credit are both crucial life skills. Prepare your students to handle their finances with the following resources:

The Math in Daily Life interactive, “Savings and Credit,” explains how interest works and how to manage credit card use.

Connect students to meaningful economic experiences using the activities in The Economics Classroom, program 4, “Learning, Earning, and Saving.” Use “The Chessboard of Financial Life” activity to illustrate the power of compound interest. Start at 28:20 in the video and find lesson resources. This program also includes a stock market simulation activity.

Teach students factors that influence consumer behavior, and how consumer behavior affects supply and demand using unit 3 of Economics U$A: 21st Century Edition.