Monday, February 22, 2010

Keeping the Momentum

In my 8th grade algebra class today, the students worked in small groups on an EtherPad. An EtherPad is a real-time, collaborative, online editor. Students worked in their small groups to create an outline of a lesson about scientific notation. They began with a very simple outline/template on the EtherPad and the instructions were to give as much information as possible under each category given to them. The lesson was relevant as they had to research real-life examples of scientific notation. The lesson was integrative, as they had to explore the uses of scientific notation in mathematics, science, and technology. The lesson was exploratory, as they had to collaborate to complete an outline with explanations and examples. Was this lesson a developmentally responsive lesson for middle school students? I believe the lesson was because I observed the students collaborating, encouraging, questioning, and assisting their peers. “The middle school curriculum must reflect a genuine concern for young adolescents by addressing self-esteem, self-identity, peers, and friendships” (Manning & Bucher, 2008, p. 90). In addition this activity was exploratory with some independent aspects of writing and researching included. Manning & Bucher explain, “the psychosocial needs of 10-to-15-year-olds address their search for independence” (2008, p. 90).

It is great to start a week with a lesson that I feel good about. My challenge now is to carry that momentum into tomorrow's lesson. As much as I saw my students grow, collaborate, and own today's lesson, I feel that their success helped me to grow as an educator. I want to continue improving my instruction.

How have you kept the momentum going after a lesson that you felt was successful?

Manning, M. Lee, & Bucher, Katherine T. (2008). Teaching in the middle school. Allyn & Bacon.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Since the 1960's?

Does the concept of a middle school parallel what advocates of student-centered learning are promoting? Manning, & Bucher explain "In developing the middle school, educators wanted to avoid the mistakes of the junior high school. They wanted the middle school to be a learner-centered school that would meet young adolescents' developmental needs" (2008, p. 6). This is an example of student centered-learning that has been staring us in the face since the 1960s when the middle school concept was developed (Manning, & Bucher, 2008).

Here are some characteristics of the middle school concept:
-Teachers organized as interdisciplinary teams
-Students grouped within heterogeneous learning communities
-Cooperative instructional planning
-Team-based learning
-Nurturing and caring environment
-One adult advisor/mentor for every 25 or fewer students

Maybe we can look to the middle school concept that began in the 1960s as one tool to help us improve our schools and our instruction.

Manning, M. Lee, & Bucher, Katherine T. (2008). Teaching in the middle school. Allyn & Bacon.

Interdisciplinary Units

Interdisciplinary units can serve the needs of middle school students by giving them independence and choice, meeting the needs of all learners, and creating a classroom setting that is engaging and informative. A reading and language arts unit was created and integrated across several disciplines including social science and fine arts. Lessons were designed to be multimodal presentations that understand the middle school student’s shorter attention span and heightened social needs. “We recognized various developmental, cultural, and linguistic differences among students in these classrooms; therefore we chose a variety of curriculum materials” (Zwart, & Falk-Ross, 2008, p. 4). The unit’s objective was to learn the history and significance of the Underground Railroad (Zwart, & Falk-Ross, 2008).

An interdisciplinary unit allows students to make connections across many curricular areas while using a variety of activities that meet all learners’ needs. Viewing maps and creating graphic organizers met visual learners needs. The needs of kinesthetic learners were met through creating quilts and painting rag-doll portraits. Watching videos, giving oral presentations, and listening to songs to discuss the lyrics met audio learners needs. In addition, the process of collaborating on interdisciplinary units benefits teachers just as it benefits the students. Zwart, & Falk-Ross, 2008 explain, “Creating new units, sharing planning time, and coordinating a unit to help meet the academic social and personal needs of their shared students and will ensure their success” and “the collaborative work that is necessary to create and implement the unit is a powerful process” (2008, p. 5).

Zwart, M., & Falk-Ross, F. (2008). Creating interdisciplinary units for middle schoolers. Illinois Reading Council Journal, 36(3), 3-7.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

10 Ways to Engage Digital Learners