Wednesday 14 December 2011

Assessment with Manipulatives (Math 9)

Recently I gave my Math 9 students an option to use linking cubes to help them write a surface area quiz.  Immediately some students knew they would want to use the manipulatives and collected the cubes prior to the start of the test while others waited to preview the quiz first. In the end, all of the students used the cubes to help them complete the quiz. Interesting that when given the choice, the students utilized the manipulatives! 

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Socials 11: Spy vs. Spy

This post is courtesy of Russ Reid.

During our August Pro-D I worked with Dave S. and Lesley L. brainstorming ways to improve understanding of the cold war for our grade 11 students. We all felt this was a challenging era to explain and understand. It was thought through competition (which in a nut shell was the cold war) a better understanding could occur.

This was my first time running the competition and I was nervous wondering if the kids would buy into it. Well I failed to remember how competitive teenagers are. I first divided the students into two groups - Soviets and Americans. Next time I would like to create a few sattelite states. We have had a few competitions along the way. The one they bought into hook line and sinker was the Spy vs Spy.

I asked two adults on staff to act as double agents. Each of them came up with a password. This password would then be used by the students to discover who their agent was. Once they found their agent, the agent would give them a document (a blueprint of a secret tank being built by the other nation). The students went around the school (on their own time) saying their password to adults (the two passwords were "The earth is blue" and "I love cuddling with Nellie"). One of my agents decided to bake a cake and hide the blueprints between the two layers. The video is of them discovering the document.

We also had a space race (building paper airplanes), trivia competition about the cold war, rock/paper/scissors competition. Next week they are going to watch a clip of a Russian Ballet troupe. They will be given time to practice and will have to perform in front of judges - Three Americans and Three Soviets. All the judges will be corrupt and will give Zeros or Tens depending on which nation is performing. I will also have a group boycott the event.

The hope is to give them a fun, practical way to understand the war. The students are also receiving notes, video and textbook questions to reaffirm their understanding.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Show What You Know-Test (Science 8)

This post is courtesy of Middle School Teacher Lindsay Guza: Today I decided to give my class a very non-traditional test. I gave the student the hand-out below and a large piece of blank, white paper.

Energy Flows and matter cycles in ecosystems
Chapter 2- QUEST


On blank paper, please show me that you understand the concepts and ideas covered in this Chapter. You may write notes, a paragraph, drawings and/or diagrams.

BE sure to include labels and vocabulary from Chapter 2.
1. How energy gets into the living parts of an ecosystem.
a. Photosynthesis
2. How Energy gets transferred in an ecosystem.
a. Food Chains
b. Food Webs
c. Ecological Pyramids
3. How Water cycles through the non-living parts of an ecosystem.
a. The water cycle


I was not in the class, as I was doing my planning, but it worked out even better than I had imagined. Here are some examples.

Student #1 often gets assistance from an adult to write tests and do work.  Today he did this test independently! 
Food Chain:

Water Cycle with ALL of the vocabulary:

Photosynthesis with ALL of the vocabulary:

Student #2:  During the last Science test, this student did not answer half the questions even though she knew many of the answers.  Today, she completed this test with no extra help or encouragement. 

Food Chain:

Student #3 always excels at tests and written work. She was able to demonstrate her learning in a new way. She was also given the opportunity to show more than she would have been able to on a traditional test.

Monday 5 December 2011

Choice Power: Grade 4

This post is courtesy of Kent Percevault.

Our class is currently doing a read aloud novel together. After hearing the chapter(s) each day we do a reading response. I have taught several different methods for the response. The main responding method practiced is to first retell what we heard to a partner, then after practicing verbally, write about it using the "first, then, finally" frame. The frame is basically three sentences where students attempt to pick out the most important parts of the story in the order of what they heard and then write about it in their own words. Additions to this have been a 3 panel comic with captions, again using the "first, then finally" frame concept and things like diary writing as a character in the story. Even though the kids are really enjoying the story the reading response is not all that well liked for several and can be difficult for some to complete. Now that they all know how to do the different kinds of responding I let them choose in what way they'd like to complete their response and suddenly engagement went up, complaining went down and their work improved. Me thinks there is something to this choice stuff!