Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Quacking Dogs and Third Graders

Today I did a read-aloud of Mr. Putney's Quacking Dog with a third grade class. It was a blast! I paused after the setup of each joke. The kids looked at the picture of the animal and tried to figure out what the punchline would be. I had a lot of fun hearing the animal names they came up with. They really enjoyed the goofy wordplay. In each class I visited, we spent over twenty fun filled minutes on the read-aloud, then went on to an activity during which students brainstormed funny animal names, drew pictures of them, and thought of sounds or phrases the their imaginary animal would say. (They drew the sound or phrase in a speech bubble.) Hoping to post some photos of their work here soon!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Bonding Over Video Games Brings a Breakthrough With a Difficult Student!

This week I had the opportunity to teach a sixth grade math class at a middle school in San Francisco. I enjoyed it! We were working on ratios and proportions and geometry (finding the area of shapes). The students were lively and loud, but they took the work seriously - except for one - who challenged me from the moment he walked in. I'll say his name was Sam.

Sam made it clear to me right away that he wasn't going to do the work. In the first fifteen minutes of class, I tried various strategies to get him to focus. Nothing worked. He wasn't overtly rude or disruptive, but he was willfully resistant to doing anything academic. Some of the other students even confided in me that "Sam doesn't do the work."

That first day, Sam was a little disruptive, but nothing serious. The second day, things got a little worse. He threw a pencil eraser which hit me. I am tolerant, but I have limits, and so I called the office and Sam spent the rest of the period in the dean's office.

On the third day, as we were working with rates and unit rates, I used an example from the popular strategy game Clash of Clans. "It takes 30 minutes to train a level 2 dragon. How many dragons can be trained in one hour. Write it as a unit rate" Easy, but it got the kids attention. Turns out that many of them, including Sam, were Clash of Clans players.

A little while later, when students were working independently, Sam approached me at the front of the class. He took an iPad out of his backpack and started showing me some of the games he played. Boom Beach, Clash of Clans, and something called PixelGun. I asked him about his grades. He said, somewhat sheepishly, that he had straight D's. I told him, "If you were my kid, with grades like that, there's NO WAY you would have an iPad." He smiled at this comment. He KNEW he was getting away with bad behavior, and he KNEW he shouldn't be. We talked some more about grades and games until the bell rang. As he was packing up, he said to me, "Sorry for the way I behaved yesterday, Mr. G."

I found this refreshing of course and interesting because, on the surface he seemed like an "unreachable" kid with a massive chip on his shoulder, but in reality he was just a pain in the rear because he knew he could get away with it and not face any real consequences at home. The common ground of video games helped to open things up and help Sam and I get to know each other.

P.S. teaching 6th grade math gave me an opportunity to us my 6th Grade math essential question posters for ratios and proportions and finding area.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My Twelve Classroom Essentials

  1. Sketchbooks or Notebooks
  2. Whiteboard
  3. Blue Tape
  4. Printer
  5. Projector
  6. Screen
  7. Internet 
  8. Teacher Workstation
  9. Booming Audio
  10. Paper
  11. Pencils and erasers.
  12. Freedom to innovate!
I'm starting a new teaching job in January. This list might come in handy for getting a new classroom up and running.

Monday, January 12, 2015

January 2015 $25 TeachersPayTeachers Gift Certificate Giveaway!

Fill out my online form.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

My Big Classroom

Go Bears!
For the past seven years, I've been fortunate to teach in a BIG classroom on the third floor of beautiful Mission High School in San Francisco. Designing classrooms is one of my favorite aspects of teaching. I made a lot of changes to this one over the years. In the beginning, it was student computer workstations throughout, all the way from the front of the room to the back. The seats were spread out and there was a lot of wasted space. The first change I made was to concentrate all the workstations in the back of the room and turn the front of the room into a more traditional layout with tables and chairs for direct instruction, writing and drawing. I placed the teacher workstation in the middle of the two sections.

The view from the back-right side of the room.

The view from the back-left side of the room.

The view from the front of the room.

The printers and scanning workstation.

The view from the teacher workstation. Water and coffee at the ready. (Snacks not pictured)
More to come...

Monday, November 24, 2014

You rock, Fred.

Fred is the "science fanatic" character from Big Hero 6. He loves science. I mean seriously, massively, exuberatingly loves science. If science were a sport, he would be a season-ticket holder. If science were a hard-rock concert, he would be in the mosh pit.
I kept thinking of the character Fred from Big Hero 6 these past couple weeks as I was making posters for the middle school Next Generation Science Standards. Like him, I'm not a scientist, but I love science, and I had a lot of fun making the posters. The fifty-nine posters cover grades 6 - 8 in topics ranging from engineering to forces and interactions. 

Anybody who knows me knows I'm a bit of a weather fanatic. I love the forecast maps on websites like TwisterDataThe National Weather Service, or WeatherWest. (In fact, for an in-depth analysis of the California drought, I go to Weather West and read the comments on the latest blog post there.) So naturally,  I was totally stoked when The Earth's Systems section of the Next Generation Science Standards gave me an opportunity to use some of the public domain scientific images found on those websites to illustrate Earth science topics.
This one seemed like it should get a full-page poster of its own. It's a map of Earth's atmosphere. It doesn't depict a hole in the ozone layer, but it's just as spooky: it shows shows how much current atmospheric pressures deviate from the historical mean. I'm no scientist, but from the looks of it, the high pressure areas are higher than in the past, and the lows are lower than ever, too. The overall range of pressures form high to low is greater than in the past. 

Thanks to NCEP/ESRL and WeatherWest for help with making this image.

Images like that one gave me an opportunity to make posters that hopefully will intrigue and challenge middle school students. Some of the Earth and Human Activity NGSS standards deal with the topic of the human impact on the climate.
Most of the NGSS standards for middle school don't touch on anything nearly as controversial as climate change. I'm guessing Fred's, favorite topics in the NGSS might be engineering, energy, and biology, seeing how his super-suit is a fire-breathing reptile.

Again, I had a lot of fun making these posters. They're available in my store on TeachersPayTeachers, Teachers Notebook, and TeachWise. Thanks again to the scientists at NASA, the National Climatic Data Center, and the U.S. Geological Survey who contributed to the creation of some of the images I used on the posters. And an especially big thanks to you, Fred, for being a regular dude who's crazy about science.