March 11

Ideas Beget More Ideas…

I know that I have posted about this concept before, but sometimes it just seems that this happens to remind me that the more we surround ourselves with creativity and excellence, the more that seems to come our way.

I recently worked with a teacher writing a lesson plan where she had created scenarios and provided students graph paper and asked them to graph the simple scenario.  These were nothing difficult and nothing earth shattering but were entertaining and helped students see real-life application of skills they were learning.  One scenario might have gone like this:

Saturday was errand day for me.  When I woke up, I walked fifty feet west out to the barn and soon returned to the house.  Then, I got in my truck and drove five miles north to the bank.  From the bank, I drove a half mile east to the post office.  After mailing my letter, I drove west for a half mile to the library to return the books I had read.  Then, I drove a half-mile west to the highway and turned north, driving three miles to the grocery store.  From the grocery store, I drove south eight miles to get home.  I unloaded and put away the groceries before leaving to go south four-and-a-half miles and then east a half-mile to the hardware store.  I picked up a couple of things and drove back home.  Please graph my afternoon.

For a math problem like this there was thought involved.  Students had to determine if they should graph distance, direction, or number of stops.  Students had to decide what type of graph would best illustrate the scenario – a bar graph, a pie graph, a line graph, etc.  There could have been a question added to the problem to ask students to show the route or determine a more time or cost-efficient method and that might have required a map.  My zip code or street address could have been provided and students could have used Google Earth to map my route and pinpoint the particular businesses I frequented.  There are loads of ways to implement, adapt, and stretch such an assignment.

My teacher friend next provided her students with a line graph and asked students to write a scenario which the graph illustrated.  Backward thinking.  These stories could be given to another student with expectations that the second student would re-create the original graph and check it for accuracy.  Then, the two students could consult to revise and discuss their problem.

An extension to this lesson might ask students to use Google Earth to find a locale and design a small community which incorporated the same businesses I patronized and project other businesses that might be necessary.  Forward thinking.

Interestingly, today I stumbled across a resource which implements a similar assignment.  Graphing Stories 15 seconds at a time is a simple lesson which offers students the opportunity to graph a story and uses videos to illustrate what students are graphing.  One video simply shows a fellow climbing the steps of a slide on a playground, sitting at the top of the slide, and sliding down the slide.  Students could pause the video and take a screen shot.  Then, graph the fellow’s route using a drawing tool such as Educreations or Google Drawing.  Next, they could research to find out what is the optimal distance for steps on a ladder or a children’s slide, count the steps, and determine how high the slide reaches.  The slope of the ladder and the slide could be determined using geometric principles.

An extension assignment might ask students to create their own video and their own math problem using this one as a model.  Another extension assignment might require students use their findings to design their own playground slide.

Why couldn’t the math, language arts, and social studies teacher work collaboratively to graph historical events, discoveries, or even just the height of Presidents?  Why couldn’t economics, math, and language arts classes work collaboratively to write explanations of supply and demand or fair trade and create illustrative videos and graphs?  Why couldn’t world language and math classes collaborate to use such a concept to demonstrate new vocabulary learned in the language?  Need I even think of all the ways math, language arts, and science teachers could collaborate to create such descriptions, explanations, videos, and graphs?

I might never have paused when seeing the website mentioned if Tabitha, my teacher friend, had not implemented her scenario-graphing exercise.  Yet, her idea made me notice this site and made me pause and think of more ways to incorporate such an idea into a classroom.

Ideas…more ideas flow just by pausing to think about a simple idea.

March 4

It’s All In The Details…

Do you want your students to take notice of the details?

Do you want them to pay closer attention?

Do you want them to perform close reading on high stakes tests?

One way to encourage this is to use a strategy promoted by The New York Times on The Learning Network Teaching and Learning with The New York Times.  The site itself offers a plethora of resources for classroom use.  There is a Word of the Day post, a Weekly News Quiz, 6 Q’s About the News, and loads more!

One of my favorites is What’s Going On In This Picture?  There are many ways to use this feature but I think one of the most effective for classroom use is to utilize it just as the NYT suggests.  Show the photograph and ask three simple questions as outlined in the article 10 Intriguing Photographs to Teach Close Reading and Visual Thinking Skills.

When I was a classroom teacher, I used similar opportunities to encourage students to notice details.  I might post an image that was a close-up or only a portion of the main focus.

IMG_1186 Questions I might ask would be:

  1. What do you notice about this image?
  2. Of what do you think this is a part?
  3. Why do you believe it is a part of that?
  4. Explain the use of this.

Then, I would show the full picture:


I might add some questions after showing this image:

  1. What would have made your previous assertion more accurate?
  2. What is the importance of this image to today’s expectation?
  3. What makes you say that?
  4. What more can you find that is pertinent in this photo?

I snapped the photos used in this post but you don’t have to have the expert photographic talents that I do!  You might use images from The New York Times’ Lens Blog or Boston Globe’s Big Picture or some other photographic blog.

Why couldn’t you do the same thing with a brief excerpt – just a word or a phrase or a sentence from a print text?

Why couldn’t you do the same thing with a video clip?

Why couldn’t you do the same thing with a political cartoon?

In my opinion, the key is to ask open-ended questions and provoke thought.  Then, be sure to have students take a moment to reflect – thinking about their learning and their noticing.

It really is all in the details!


March 3

Google Earth Maps – more than just directions!


Google Earth Blog posted information about a list of some new maps.  Some which stood out to me are:

A map of Farms by Type

A map of Freshwater Biomes

A map of U.S. Industrialization (1640-1880)

Top Ten Longest Suspension Bridges (and lots of other architecture ones)

There are different categories such as Climate Maps, Crime Maps, Disease Outbreak Maps, Environmental Maps, Migration and Trade Route Maps and so much more!  There is even a list of map-making articles.

The site which houses all these lists is called My Reading Mapped.  There are placemarks on the maps to indicate the focus of the map.  The information is brief but that just gives your students an opportunity to do more research and add information.  Students might add videos they find which relate to the placemark, or current event articles, or relevant facts and figures which add more information.

An extension of this idea would be to encourage students to utilize Google Maps to create their own Mapped Reading collection complete with information about each placemark.

Google Earth Maps – You could also use it to get directions from one place to the next!