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Protected: I Am Ashamed

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What Skills Do I Need?

I know my science pretty well.  Besides the chances to improve my content knowledge through any class or training are few and far apart.  I have learned so many strategies for teaching that often some never get off the bench.  You know what I need?  A design class, maybe art or photography.

When I was training to be a teacher, I would have never thought that this would be the case.   I did not have time for the humanities, or I did not think they were as important.  Although I had and class called teaching as performing that really did me a lot of good.

Know as I prepare video tutorials or design wikis that are attractive and informative I am thinking I need to round out my skill set, to sharpen my shovel.  So i am plunging in by teaching a Movie Making class.  I know the technical skill, I want to learn the techniques of story telling.

I am going to learn so much.

I gotta say I am a little frightened.


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How to Teach Inquiry?

I don’t mean teach using inquiry, that I get.  I think.  I mean how do I teach young prospective science teacher to use inquiry as a tool?  Common sense, my favorite oxymoron, says you use inquiry.  What does that look like?  How important is the philosophical grounding?  Do I lead a debate about the differences between constructivism and inquiry?  How about the new draft standards and their stance? Researching I found this.

Minner, Abigail Levy, and Jeanne Century of EDC’s Center for Science Education (CSE) are completing a synthesis of nearly 20 years of research into inquiry science. Their study, “Has Inquiry Made a Difference?” reveals that there is no systematic definition of “inquiry science” even among researchers or curriculum developers. And without a common definition, there is, of course, no way to assess the effectiveness of the method.


Nice to know I am not the only who is struggling to understand inquiry.

Anyway here is what I know about teaching using inquiry.  In no particular order.

  1. Teaching using inquiry was the most rewarding shift I have made in my career.
  2. I have only the vaguest idea of what is meant by inquiry.
  3. Hands-on is not interchangeable with inquiry.
  4. Every year I think I am teaching using inquiry.
  5. Every year I look back and realize I was wrong.
  6. Inquiry teaches science concepts well, so it improves test performance, if the test is valid.
  7. Inquiry is messy.
  8. Kids have to be taught how to act in an inquiry based classroom.
  9. Teachers have to be taught how to act in an inquiry based classroom.
  10. Inquiry means having the students do the work.
  11. It takes a deeper understanding of the subject to design successful inquiry activities.
  12. Inquiry is not the only tool in the kit, but your kit is incomplete with-out it.


Here is the form I am using to put together my presentation.



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One of the big things standing in my kids way of understanding science is the vocabulary.  The words are big and funny sounding. (mitochondrion and pliestocene)  When they hear a word they recognize, it is often is such a different context that it might as well be a new word. (fault and theory)

One thing I do is use Freyer Square vocabulary sheets.  I pick out the very most important words and the students give a definition, a picture that represents the concept, 3 examples and 3 non-examples.

This year I am teaching how to do the assignment and giving a lot of feedback.  I will also try to do a lot of root word analysis .  I am working with another teacher and will share our work soon.

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My Make Up Post

I did not post yesterday, so to keep up with my pledge to post everyday for 30 days I have to do two today.  I was saving the topic of interactive notebooks for a day when I had nothing to talk about.

Interactive notebooks.

I love them.  Using notebooks changed my classroom.  In one tool you have an organizational tool, a way to have on going differentiation, evidence that you are integrating other subjects and a formative assessment.  What a deal!

Here are the nuts and bolts as I see them.  Get every student a 100 page comp book.  Other people use spirals or 3 ring binders, I like the comp books because they hold up to the abuse, kids are less likely to tear out pages and there are not wires to snag my clothes.

I spend a day early in the year having the kids build their notebook.  They write their name on the front cover in big letter with permanent marker, I have mailing labels available if cover is heavily patterned.  The students make a pouch on the inside front cover out of a sheet of paper with reflection prompts (more on reflections in the next post) and a pouch on the inside back cover.  They set aside an authors page, a table of contents and they number the pages like it was a book.

I have had people ask about what happens when they lose the notebook, but this does not happen all that often.  I have a trick that really seems to help.  First, I have space in my room for them to keep the notebook, second I take pictures of everyone and have them put the picture on the inside front cover on the authors page.  They also put down personal, (not too personal) information like what they are good at of their favorite kind of dessert. Something about them making this page seems to reduce the loss.  I have of evidence of this, the year I started having authors pages, the loss rate went from one or two a week to one a month.

After that every thing goes into the notebook.  I use the interactive model, where the left side of the notebook is reserved for reflections and everything else goes on the right.  I have them tape or glue in handout quizzes and other loose papers neatly.  They are given time every week to update their notebook and every day we have time for writing reflections.


Even if you did not what to use the interactive model, many teacher I know do not.  The organizational and instructional value remains. I am posting this as text and hope to add pictures at a later time.

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Blogging on the Go!

Well, I could give this post a title from my Droid, but not give any content.  Is there a word press app for the Droid?

Update! Yes there is and I am using it. Granted I am posting from my couch, but it could be anywhere.

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What Have I Done?

I felt bad this afternoon that I had not put any grades into the gradebook so I sat down to get caught up.  I got a vocabulary Homework assignment back from challenge so I started there.  Since it is homework it falls under the academic behavior category that doesn’t count toward there grade, but I put it in.  I also collected safety contracts, so that went in, again as an academic behavior score.

Next I gathered up my 1A block interactive notebooks, putting together a notebook does not fall under and science standard so it is, you guessed it, academic behavior.  I could go on, but I think you get the point.  It is the third week of school and I don’t have a grade that I feel can fall under the categories the district have given me, other than academic behavior which we put in but does not count.  Has everything I’ve done not count?  But I really feel like I have been teaching my heart out.  Am I wrong?  Is it the system.  Maybe I am making to big a deal out of it.

I am curious to find out who notices.  And who does not.

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Draft Science Standards framework

Hey! Did you know that the National Academies Press has put out the draft for the The Framework for k-12 Science Education?    Yes they have, you can preview it below.


new science standards framework draft


These are not new standards, but a framework for developing new standards they hope the states will use.  These were developed by Achieve the people who did the Common Core Standards and funded by Carnegie. The National Research Council has a press release with the particulars.

I was a little alarmed when I saw that Engineering was added as a core area with Life, Earth and Physical science.  But as I read the document it seems to me they authors meant the term engineering to mean applying science to life more than the actual career.  There are some principals I would love to add into my curriculum.

I don’t know what effect this will have on the Colorado State science standards, but I think it is important to keep up with the developments.

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Trial and Error in the Classroom

First, please watch this video.  I think he has some great things to say.

Now, here is my question. Which way are we going in education, allowing teachers to try new ways and see if they work or looking to a one person for all the answers, (God Complex).

I know what I am seeing, how about you?

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Google Apps and Taking Risks

Google Apps and Risks

My school is piloting Google Apps for Education, due mostly to our librarian, Mrs. Johnson.  The eighth grade will be the first class to use it, in large part due to me.  Mrs. Johnson and I are willing to take some risks and try new things involving technology.  Last year we signed up all our eighth graders for Google accounts, which meant going to every WiFi hotspot in town to register five to ten accounts before we triggered Google’s anti-spam filter.  The students used the account for many classes and I started sharing docs with students and collaborating with my students.

This week we will be teaching the kids to sign in and how to create and share docs.  Maybe having them build Igoogle pages.

I am really looking forward to seeing what will go wrong.

So far we have found that none of our e-mails work, the school’s cyber-nanny blocks chat and kids can build blogs, but not view them.  I am sure we will work through this, the tech people in my district have been great at working with us and Becky is not called the Ninja Librarian for nothing.

But here is the deal, if I didn’t really want to make this work, I would have given up a long time ago.  Integrating technology is hard, and if you listen to the tech evangelists it is really just a matter of will.  But it is very frustrating and a lot of things go wrong.  I can really sympathize with the teacher who tries to use tech instead of a tried and true lesson only to have it crash burn and die do to a glitch.  How many times does it take before that teacher avoids technology?  It is getting better, but glitches still occur, and glitches are not comfortable in front of 27 eighth graders.  So I hope for the best, have a plan B and take the risk.

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