Archive for February, 2010

Earthquakes and Tsunamis

Coincidental to the earthquake in Chile and tsunami in Hawaii, my class is studying waves. On Wednesday we even studied the refraction of water waves and discussed tidal waves. I am glad we discussed the formation of tidal waves before this occurred so my students have a scientifically literate knowledge of what is happening.

We watched this video of an annual tidal wave and discussed that large waves are created when a large amount of energy in the deep-sea is forced into a more shallow area, causing a higher amplitude and faster wave velocity.

The important difference between a tidal wave and a tsunami is the initiation of the energy of the wave. Tidal waves are generated the same way as tides – by the changing distance between the earth and the moon. Tsunamis are caused mainly by earthquakes.

Most people think of a tsunami as a The Day After Tomorrow-sized wave that will take out all of lower Manhattan.

I guess the possibility of that happening one day is not out of the question, but tsunamis are not classified by being at least 30 meters tall. In the case of this tsunami, the amplitude of the waves have not increased more than 1 meter every 20 minutes. This might be the greatest change in amplitude that is observed.

The biggest concern with this storm is that the major changes in tides could cause an extremely caustic environment for the flora and fauna within the ocean.

The reason I’m writing tonight is not to teach you about tsunamis, but to stress the importance of using every opportunity to provide our students with an education rich in scientifically literate experiences. Watching the news today, I have heard too many people panic that a tsunami means ginormous wave that will inevitably destroy everything. I shutter at the idea that these people went to school for at least twelve years and never had a science lesson that corrected the “2012” inspired misconceptions about tsunamis.

This is why I teach science – to give students an opportunity to learn about the world around them.

NOTE: It may seem that your content area is not suitable for teaching about tsunamis (especially if you’re not a geology or earth science teacher!), but if I could work it into a physics lesson, you can work it into any science course! A biology class could discuss  the effect of the tsunami on the ecosystem of the Hawaiian Pacific Ocean, as could an environmental course.  A chemistry class could discuss how the changing chemical composition of the ocean will affect the organisms. Any way you do it, you’re giving your students a priceless exposure to scientific current events!

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Shout Out: Classroom Chuckles

Just bumped into this fantastic site! Basically Classroom Chuckles is a place to read, post, and rate all the funny moments in your and others’ classrooms.

Some of my favorites:

Yesterday we were learning about our country. At the start of the lesson I showed the class a picture of the American Flag and asked, “What flag is this?” One of my students said “That’s our country’s flag.” Then I said, “And what is the name of our country?” The student replied, “Tis of thee!”

Word got around that one of my students would be out because he had the chicken pox. One student raised his hand and said he had to go to the nurse. When I asked why he said “Because I have goose bumps!”

Today I asked my class what they expected from life. One student said, “You color for a while, then you die.”

Loving that there’s a place for teachers and other school-based faculty to go and “chuckle” together!

Teaching Portfolio

Along with the teaching philosophy, the teaching portfolio is an essential part of a teachers’ professional life.

Seeing as I’ve got a big interview coming up in two weeks, this portfolio is heavy on my mind. Since I have decided to put “freelance blogger” as a related experience on my resume, I feel it is important to add a few posts that display the essence of Just Call Me Ms Frizzle.

What are your favorite posts and which would you recommend I include? What has been most useful for you?

The bigger question, however, is what to include in the portfolio. I had that conversation with my adviser this afternoon. As a part of my graduate program, we are required to compile a portfolio instead of a thesis, but it is to remain at Teachers College for several years after graduation.

This leaves me with no choice but to create another portfolio three months before I have had the opportunity to collect and create the materials necessary for the more comprehensive version.

I’ve decided to include the following – please suggest any other additions or suggestions if you have any!

Things to include in my portfolio:

  • Resume
  • Teaching Philosophy
  • Student Teaching Observations and Evaluations
  • Cooperating Teacher Recommendations
  • Sample Lesson Plans
  • Sample Student Work – at least one sample including the rubric used to assess the assignment
  • Sample Blog Entries
  • Other ideas…???

I can’t help but feel this isn’t enough. I’ll probably think differently once I compile it all.

Teaching Philosophy

Ah…the teaching philosophy. One of those hoops all teachers have to jump through. And I’m not sure anyone really enjoys writing it.

At the end, though, we’re all thankful for the pedagogical exercise that forces us to look at ourselves as a person and as a pedagogue and describe how the two intertwine and determine our goals and expectations for our classroom. Ultimately, we draw conclusions as to how we aim to effect our students.

Even though every teacher’s teaching philosophy is different, I always enjoy reading my colleagues’ intimate thoughts about the roles and responsibilities of teachers.

In that spirit, I’m sharing mine with you.

“My teachers treated me as a diamond in the rough, someone who needed smoothing.”

– Mother Jones, early 20th Century coal mining union supporter

More than anything, I believe my role as a teacher is to give students infinite opportunities to discover what they love to do, which ways they are gifted, and where they dream their life is heading. Every student has the potential to develop the skills to achieve their desires. It is important to provide students with a safe and structured community for learning; I want to create a classroom environment that is conducive to community. My classroom should be a place where students who are struggling to understand whether or not they belong within the science community have the confidence to desire to learn science regardless of the cultural groups they belong to outside of school. Students who enter the community of my classroom will never feel the pressure to perform in science in order to belong.

As a teacher, I believe it is my duty to guide students towards an understanding of the content. I do not want my classroom to be a place where students expect me simply to dispense knowledge, but instead, a place where they come to explore the world and develop their abilities to think critically and communicate clearly. In this way, I will assume the role of student advocate. My responsibilities include helping students to develop a deeper understanding of science, encouraging students to form opinions and play an active role in their community, providing students with opportunities to be excited about science, and protecting the classroom from ideas and misconceptions that might prohibit participation in science. I believe the result of these actions will be an increased student interest in the scientific world. These goals are realistic, but will be challenging within the context of Physics, which has traditionally been an exclusive community. Physics should be the most approachable science for students since it is the most applicable to their everyday lives.

Creativity will be the theme that flows through each unit and discussion. I want to take advantage of every aspect of science that overlaps with other disciplines. For example, I would love to teach a Physics course focused specifically on the Physics of the Arts: kinematics and mechanics for actors and dancers, electricity and magnetism for technical theater aficionados, color and optics for visual artists, and sound for musicians. I dream of a classroom where science is merely the lens through which my class and I explore our surroundings.

I have a vision for a classroom where students are constantly exploring new ways of thinking and communicating. Tools I plan to use to accomplish this include: a class blogging project, a wall of pictures of science in our daily lives and around the world, regular science journaling, leading community-wide science fairs, and reading and discussing science fiction novels. Giving students the opportunity to learn through inquiry is essential in training them to be lifelong learners in the classroom and beyond. It is a teacher’s prerogative to encourage students to be aware and involved in a larger community. Whether globally or locally, students should take responsibility for affecting change. I want to teach my students to be aware of what is occurring in the world and how they can make a difference.

I would not be so proud as to say education is the most important institution of civilization, just one of the most important tools; a person can have decades of education, but it is not until he or she decides to implement what she has learned that she can be truly effective. As penned by Elbert Hubbard, “The object of teaching a child is to enable them to get along without their teacher.” I want to equip my students to pursue the world with confidence.

– Becky McCoy

Student Teaching Week 5 [2/22 – 2/25]

It’s a short week for me since I’ve got to take tomorrow off (it might be a snow day in NYC anyways!); it’s been a week full of wonderful experiences!

MONDAY: Did the first explicit lesson on waves, their anatomy, and the wave velocity equation. Kids were a bit confused in the first period, so I tried to be more explicit in explanations and transitions and the second go-around went much better. I’m still frustrated with how quiet that second period is.

I collected the Pendulum Unit Projects and started looking through them. These kids are so bright and their projects are so entertaining!!

TUESDAY: We split the class up and my cooperating teacher took half the class out into the hallway for 20 minutes while I kept the others inside. He spent time discussing wave speed, reflection, and refraction using a slinky and snakey (tightly wound, long spring). I used the ripple tank and discussed reflection, refraction, and diffraction. The lessons went fine, but the kids were so quiet it was like pulling teeth.

I spoke with my supervisor (who had observed me on Monday) and he thought I was doing very well. I need to have more time for summary at the end of the lesson and stop saying “Okay.” all the time. I realized this today on my own, so had to laugh when he brought it up:

“Okay, Suzie why don’t you answer the question.”

“Sam, you think the answer is this, okay…”

“Okay, what do we think about this?”

“Okay, so here’s the equation we derived.”

I’m getting sick of hearing myself! In 2nd place is, “Go ahead…” – I NEED A NEW VOCABULARY!

WEDNESDAY: We split the class again and Mike introduced superposition and interference as well as the anatomy and concept of standing waves. I reviewed refraction and diffraction with videos and computer-based simulations. I really enjoyed working with smaller groups of kids at a time – the quiet class was much more lively and interactive in smaller groups.

I realized today that my interview for jobs with the Clark County (Las Vegas) DOE is in 2 weeks! Ah! I’ve got to get cracking on that teaching portfolio!!

THURSDAY: Wow, so it’s really difficult to teach a 60 minute class about Standing Waves and the Doppler Effect when you’re using mostly YouTube videos. I felt really overwhelmed. Luckily, my cooperating teacher stepped in a certain points during the lesson and we co-taught a bit. I really enjoyed that and he had some really valuable demonstrations to add to what I had started!

I’ve been trying hard to revise each of my lessons at the end of the day and update them on Scribd, so feel free to snag what you want. Looks like you can even subscribe to my documents via a reader!

Engineering Design: Kosciuszko Bridge

There was an article in one of the New York Times’ blogs recently on the plans to rebuild the Kosciuszko Bridge on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in New York City. There’s also a video that shows a virtual tour and test drive of the bridge and an opportunity to vote and comment on the final bridge design to be started in 2014.

What a great opportunity for an engineering design project. You could analyze the different design proposals and discuss the benefits of each. It’s also a great chance to talk about the aesthetics involved in design and debate their importance. Finally, kids could team up to build scale models of their favorite proposed design!

The Importance of Projects

Last night we had a lecture on the importance of assigning projects as an assessment tool in a high school class. The following is part of our discussion:

  • Projects give kids opportunities to perform other than tests which can be especially important for kids in demanding courses (such as Physics) since they may not perform well on their tests.
  • Projects provided students a chance to learn at home or at school and in a different format than the normal lectures/activities/homework assignments.
  • Projects are an easy way to incorporate literacy and creativity into learning and assessment.
  • Projects can be flexible in nature, including individual or group work.
  • Projects can be an optional assignment to help boost the test average of a student’s grade.
  • Regularly assigning projects give kids a chance to do projects even if it’s not a project-based curriculum.

Then we talked about how plagiarism plays a role in projects and presentations:

  • Having students present their projects makes it more difficult to plagiarize because they are forced to speak about what they’ve learned and not just copy and paste.
  • Be clear and upfront about what plagiarism is and what it is not. Most high school students (especially 9th and 10th graders) are confused as to what it is and why it is important.
  • My professor’s definition of plagiarism: “More than three words in a row that are not your own. Plagiarism is not acceptable.”
  • My cooperating teacher’s schpeel to students writing research papers in science: “You can’t write a research paper without quoting other scientists. There’s no way you have the research experience to be an expert in the field you’re reporting on. You have to quote other people in your resources; just be sure to give them credit.”

Last thoughts on assigning projects:

  • Rubrics!! It’s important to create a clear, usable rubric and teach kids how to read it. If applicable, add group work section to rubric.
  • What is the end result? Do you want students to hand in an artifact or a presentation?
  • When students have to present their work, students tend to take more pride in developing a better artifact.
  • Always good to give kids tons of assessment opportunities.