I’m obsessed with keeping notebooks. I have drawers full of them for collecting thoughts and ideas generated during faculty meetings, conferences, and workshops. So many treasures: lists of things to do, illustrations to remind me how to replicate, questions, unfamiliar terms, and examples of strategies I want to remember.
So it’s hardly a surprise that notebooking is a key practice in my elementary science instruction! I’ve tried fancy hardcover notebooks with lines, formatted templates with space for drawing, and lined paper. But do you know what works best? The simplest option: blank papers stapled inside of a file folder. Why? Blank pages allow for flexibility and freedom.
Science notebooks evolve throughout the year along with students, becoming more complex as students gain a better understanding of how data is collected and recorded. For example, a kindergarten class starts off with a general notebook for gathering and recording information, then gradually to specific-topic notebooks. A second grade class starts with general observations, then moves towards formal data recording.
Here are four ways to use science notebooks:
1. Help students create their own reference sheets.
I use a direct approach sometimes, asking students to write down definitions or copy a specific diagram. These entries serve as references for students.
September 24th is National Punctuation Day. Here are six ways for you and your students to celebrate and learn.
1. Flip a lesson with TedEd’s Lesson Worth Sharing about the Clever Comma.
2. Join a twitter chat (#PuncDay) on September 24th at 2pm EDT with @Copyediting and @MadamGrammar to celebrate #PunctuationDay.
3. Chalkdust has some clever ideas to celebrate National Punctuation Day: have teachers wear T-shirts with different punctuation marks or students can invent a new punctuation mark.
4. Head to Imagine Learning for even more ways to celebrate with your students, like creating a punctuation rap or bringing in food shaped as punctuation marks.
When I was teaching in the classroom I always told my students, “Mistakes are awesome! They’re how we learn!” But when it came to embracing my own mistakes as a teacher, those felt like a whole different beast. Those didn’t feel awesome. But they were how I learned.
If we truly hope to help our students succeed, making mistakes and persevering in front of them may be one of the most important skills we model and pass along. According to Angela Lee Duckworth, a University of Pennsylvania professor of psychology who has done fascinating and extensive research on success, the most successful people have “grit.” Duckworth defines grit as “passion and perseverance for very long term goals.” This could easily be a definition of a successful teacher: When faced with challenges, effective teachers let their passion guide them as they persevere to find the right solutions.
My Personal Lesson on Perseverance
When I think about my first year of teaching, I always think about Kara*. Kara was an avid reader, a critical thinker, a brilliant problem solver, and a little girl with severe behavior challenges. On a near-daily basis, Kara threw tables and chairs. She hit kids sitting next to her without warning. Kara was the most challenging student I’ve ever had, but she was also the student I learned the most from.
Sometimes I think we get so busy trying to unpack and implement Common Core that we forget one of our important roles in making this implementation stick: helping our larger communities, especially parents, to understand it, too. With back-to-school nights on the horizon and parent communications getting underway, we wanted to fill your backpocket with some resources you can turn to when parents start to ask questions. I’m sure that not only will parents find these helpful, but these succinct and friendly resources will continue to bolster your confidence as well.
Five Resources to Help Parents Understand the Common Core
1. Learning to Read the Core with Sarah Brown Wessling: Even though this webinar is for teachers, many parents have found it straightforward and accessible.
2. PTA: Parent’s Guide to Student Success (available in Spanish too): These concise documents will give an overview of Common Core throughout the grades in parent-friendly terms.
3. Parent Road Maps to the Common Core from Council of the Great City Schools: With more detail than the PTA guides, these maps — ELA and Math — hone in on some standards and offer ways to connect with them at home too.
Whether you’re recording your own practice for self-reflection, or putting together a student lesson to “flip” your class, here are tips for making sure you capture and produce great material:
Keep the camera still. The action in your shot should be what the camera films. With the exception of a little panning and tilting to keep the subject in frame, let the camera be a quiet observer. A shaky or constantly zooming camera is a huge distraction from the teaching message.
Capture multiple views. If you can, try using two cameras with different viewpoints. It makes a world of difference later when you can cut back and forth between them depending on the context of the video. One camera could be focused wide on you and your whiteboard, while the other is zoomed in to only see you, as a simple example.
Get the specific shot. If your video is covering something small, get up close so we can see it. You’ll lose the viewer with a shot that is too far or wide to see what you’re talking about, or if you zoom in and the result is a shaky shot. Look into a lens adapter kit if you are using a smartphone. That, in turn, may require that you mount the device. I like the magnetic Gorillapod as a catch-all mount for a small camera or smartphone.
Teaching has always been visual, but what was once communicated on fusty overhead slide projectors or whiteboards that get erased, is now distributed to students in full HD video that they can review whenever and wherever they need. And whether you’re using video in the classroom for personal reflection, or to create new content for your students, it has never been easier to give video a go.
What Equipment Do You Need to Get Started?
Of course, you know about digital camcorders, but if you’d like to get classroom technology that has multiple uses in a classroom, here are some of the tools that will make the task of creating great visual lessons easy and impactful (check out part 2 of this blog and get tips on filming and editing):
On the verge of outselling all forms of personal computers combined, no device has ushered in the era of the visual classroom more than the tablet. Tablets are screen-centric and intuitively touch-driven. They are great capture and playback devices, and do a pretty good job of media editing and graphics composition.
If you’re like me, one of the biggest challenges you face in the classroom is careful differentiation. As soon as school starts, I’m already trying to discover how each of my students processes information in their own unique way — and I try to investigate all the ways I can make learning work for them.
Carol Ann Tomlinson, a well-known differentiation guru, has given us three ways to differentiate that I like to keep in mind whenever planning: content, process, and product. Here are five Tch videos to help you think about differentiating instruction this year:
1) Differentiating Using Computer Games
See how Mr. Pronovost uses technology to differentiate for content. In this case, the computer games automatically meet students where they are with content knowledge, freeing Mr. Provonost up to work with other students in one-on-one ways.