Polski3's View from Here

Quote of some personal revelence: "Is a dream a lie, that don't come true, or is it something worse?"

Monday, December 31, 2007

An "New Year" starts....Bulletin Board stuff

Well, there are only hours left in this calendar year known as "2007". "2007" is soon to be replaced by the new version, "2008". Does it matter, to a teacher? We are on a different calendar.....one that usually begins in August, and ends in May or June.

However, for "2008", when I get back to my classroom I need to do a few things. Like change my "current unit bulletin boards". Up on my "CUBB" is stuff about Africa. The week prior to the start of Christmas break, we ended Africa and began on China. Part of the reason I have not changed out the "CUBB" is in doing the introduction to Geography of China "mind map of China" with my students, I did not want to have a map of China on display up on the "CUBB" where they could sneak a peak at it. And, over the next couple of days, I was rather busy. I don't seem to have much "down time" in my classroom. Things like teaching lessons, grading papers, dealing with administrative crap, lesson planning, lesson tweaking, taking students to school assemblies, etc., I just didn't get around to it.

Chanman posted an interesting blog post about what is on his bulletin boards (he is on my blogroll....and very worthy of your visits to his blog). His post included lots of pictures of stuff on display in his classroom. This got me to wondering. At the beginning of the school year, some teachers put up stuff on their bulletin boards for all the units they teach that school year, and there it stays until the end of the school year. Some have changing displays and static displays ( changes for the unit they are on, some things remain up year-round). And a few have very little up on bulletin boards and I have seen classrooms that were like museums with display cabinets full of scientific thingies or cultural/historical artifacts, model airplanes hanging from the ceilings and about every available wall space taken up by something.

What does your principal expect ? As a failing school, we were told that we must have several things up on display someplace in our classrooms; examples of student work, the current state standards for our current unit and the official notice about the William's thing ( California public school district, I think in San Francisco, was sued for failure to provide adequate textbooks, clean, stocked restrooms, etc., for their "mostly minority" students. The William's Notice tells what things are mandated for public schools regarding textbooks and restrooms as per the results of the lawsuit.) I have had principals who don't seem to care what is posted in classrooms at their school and a few who wander into classrooms and usually comment formally on evaluations or informally in a classroom visit note, about the bulletin boards. Most of those whom were principal at my schools believed nice, up-to-date bulletin boards were part of the evaluation under "learning environment." I have plenty of stuff for my bulletin boards, some of it commercially produced, some of it "homemade". We are lucky, very lucky at my school, that our library tech. lets us use her laminator for bulletin board stuff and other random stuff that we teachers like laminated.

I have a bunch of un-used US History bulletin board stuff that is taking up storage space in my garage. I am debating on just giving it away or trying to sell it. Anyone interested in it ? Ask if you want more details.

On my usual "CUBB", you will find at least one poster size map of the region we are studying. There will be other visual things also, that if students take the time to look at them, they can learn something about the region we are studying. My other bulletin board spaces are taken up with a few examples of student work, school/class rules and procedures, standards, a US flag, a calendar, school calendar, lunch menu, a listing of possible extra credit projects, posters about the Reciprocal Teaching process, and at times, pictures of famous personalities ( currently on display is T.R., Sweetness and Greg Maddox. Oh, and I think I have a picture of "the wave" by a Japanese artist whose name I can never remember. I try to post random works of art. ( some stuff by MC Esher was a big hit with several students )
So, take a look at Chanman's bulletin board blog post. What do you have up on your bulletin boards ?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Ideas for Me to add to my "teacher toolbox" from NCSS Convention

Hello. Hope you all had a good Christmas, are getting the rest you all so richly deserve and that the upcoming New Year will be one of peace, happiness, prosperity and fine health for you and your loved ones !

Here are some of the new ideas I got at the recently attended National Council for the Social Studies National Convention in San Diego ( in no particular order ):

(A). Map Labs. This idea is from a TCI (Teacher's Curriculum Institute) presentation advertising their Geography program. Yes, I said there were too many presentations put on by publishers and their minions, but my school has had the TCI stuff for many years now, as supplemental stuff for our regular textbook. I really don't care for much of the older TCI ideas; IMO they relied too much on students preparing themselves by doing the readings outside of class. But, I liked several of the Geography activities found in their older programs ( TCI has since made some changes their program, several of which I really like ( such as tiered textbooks ), but that is not what this post is supposed to be about.) Anyhow, the Map Lab involved students using a variety of maps to answer specific questions and make conclusions about places using geographic data from the maps. For example, students who read the question, determine which map ( Economic, Physical, Cultural, Climates, etc.) the data could be found at, find the data and note their finding(s). I liked that students had to make use of multiple thematic maps and were having to use a variety of maps to successfully complete the questions. Each lab also started off with students spending five to ten minutes creating a "Mind Map" of the region to be studied. To do this mind map portion, simply give students a blank sheet of paper and ask them to draw a map of ( x ) using only what they know ( have in their mind ). I did this with my students to begin our China Unit; many were very frustrated with this task because most of them could not even find China on a World Map, much less accurately note the location of major mountains, rivers, cities, deserts, etc. It will be fun to repeat this activity after they have had a chance to learn some about the geography of China and will be able to see how much they have learned by seeing how much more data (hopefully accurate) is on their map.

(B). Expanded K-W-L. Take your standard K-W-L (Know-Want to Know/Learn-Learned) chart and add, "How can I Learn More" or "Where can I learn about this?". This makes it a K-W-L-L or K-W-W-L. For my seventh graders, I believe making them think about "How can I learn" data or "Where to find the data" will be a valuable thing.

(C). Differentiated Reading Graphic Organizers. I have mixed classes; GATE, regular, ELL all in the same classroom. This was a neat idea for differentiating graphic organizers in that for your high level students, you have many places on the graphic organizer for them to find and fill in the data, for your mid-level students, you have fewer places on the graphic organizer and for the RSP or ELL students, very few spaces to fill in on their graphic organizer.

For example, using the Crusades as a topic and a graphic organizer with three
columns; Dates, People, Outcome. For your high level students, this might be totally blank with the expectation of them being able to read, discuss the data and fill in the chart. For the Mid-level students, several columns would have some data provided, such as one bit of data for each crusade. For the lower-ability students, most of the data would be there, with only a few spaces for them to complete. I hope you get the idea from this written description, I am not tech savvy enough to be able to put graphics on this blog.

(D). A Closure activity called P-M-I. Students create a three column chart with something they liked (Positive) from the lesson, something not so good ( Minus, Negative ) and something they found Interesting or very Important. This can be done quickly and used like a ticket-out-the-door type of things for the teacher to get a feel for student perceptions of what they should/did learn from a lesson.

(E). Ideas for Differentiating Primary Sources - There was a whole list of ideas for using Primary Sources; just a few include:

MAPS - Draw pictures of events that took place in the location on the map, comparing maps of years ago with modern maps.

LETTERS - have students use a historical letter to list evidence of what life was like during the time the letter was written, edit the letter using modern rules of proof reading, draw pictures of events told about in the letter, identify fact and opinion statements in the letter, create a map showing the location(s) noted in the letter.

PICTURES/PHOTOGRAPHS - pick one person in the picture/photo, and write about the event from that person's point of view, divide the picture/photo into sections (thirds or fourths) and assign different students a section to analyze and create lists of what they see in their section, then discuss what is in the whole picture/photo and the history, people, etc. Students can also write a story about what events led up to that picture or what happened after the event shown in the picture/photo. Create a Biography poem about a person in the picture/photo.

Anyhow, I hope you can find something worth in this blog post for using to help your students learn.

Thanks for reading my blog !

Sunday, December 02, 2007

NCSS Convention

I'm home tonight, after several days away. I was fortunate enough to attend the National Council for Social Studies annual national convention, which was conveniently held in nearby San Diego, California.

I won't go into much detail about the convention at this time, but I will be sharing some of the ideas and things I thought were neat, useful and I am looking forward to trying with my students.

I will say this however. IMO, anyone who is selected to present a workshop at a National convention should at least do two things; SHOW UP and have enough handouts for their workshop presentation. There were several workshops I wanted to attend, and after waiting a bit for the presenter to show up, joined the exodus of other disappointed teachers who had also made the decision to attend THAT workshop in lieu of a number of other workshops.....oh yes, we could hustle to a secondary choice workshop, but who likes to walk into a workshop 10-15 minutes late ?

And, hearing such "greetings" from presenters as, "WOW ! There are A LOT OF YOU ! I only brought 20 copies of my handout. Maybe you can share ?????? AAAACCCCKKKKK! These are supposed to be PROFESSIONALS ????? I personally would be embarassed asking attendees for their contact information so I could send them the materials THAT THEY SHOULD HAVE RECEIVED WHILE ATTENDING MY PRESENTATION. Is this just me being picky ? By the way, I have presented workshops at national and state coventions in both science and social studies. I made it a point to have what I really hoped would be too many handouts for those in attendance, because I wanted them, if they liked what they learned, to be able to take another handout back with them to share with their fellow teachers; saving them the hassle of making copies themselves. In my mind, THAT is the way it is supposed to be, the way it should be.

My last criticism of this event is the selection of the presenters. Way too many of them were NOT teaching students using the materials they were presenting. And why is this? Because they were college/university/publishers people. Browsing through the convention program, I'd guesstimate only about 1/4 of the workshops were actually presented by practicing classroom teachers. Personally, I prefer to hear about activities, ideas, etc. from someone who is doing these with real kids, not from some ivory tower of "research says", or they are presenting material from something they'd like to sell you. Am I being too harsh about the presenters?

Oh, there was good. LOTS of good stuff too. As I said earlier in this post, I will share some of it with you later. I did get to briefly say hi to a well known edublogger who presented about using wikis, I met lots of people from all over the place and got to hear a short talk by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner ( a native Zonie like me ! ). I also got lots of "loot" from the various educational publishers, groups and organizations that were in the exhibit hall. I got to suggest to the guys at the History Channel booth, that The State of California has NO educational standards related to UFO's and I wish they'd show more HISTORY stuff on the HISTORY CHANNEL. ( The guy smiled and said he'd been hearing that alot lately).

I don't really know what to think about something I overheard while wandering the exhibit hall; the folks from Colonial Williamsburg had a nice exhibit of what they offer students, etc., including a number of people dressed in Colonial attire. One of their people was a lady of African ancestry. As I passed a group of three young males (teachers?), I overheard one say to his fellow teachers/buddies, "Dude, you want Pancakes? Aunt Jemima's over there!" They all laughed. I was a bit stunned to hear something like that.....and I am glad it was not in hearing range of the woman at the Colonial Williamsburg exhibit. After thinking about it a bit, now wish I'd said something to them. I don't usually shock so easily.....and I hope these guys were not teachers.....

Enough for now. I need some sleep.

Thanks for reading my blog !