Monday, August 30, 2010

And the Thunder Rolls

I am beginning to hear the first rumblings of dissidence in my classroom. The kids are starting to realize that I am really, truly, not going to stand up in front of the room and lecture to them. This is making quite a few of them nervous.

Some of them are having full blown panic attacks.

Some are beginning to realize that the whiteboard discussions are their opportunities to ask questions and clarify what they know. Some are still too busy texting to even know what class they are in*. A few are cursing under their breath.

I'm having trouble with my 5th hour. There are a few kids in there that simply cannot stop talking. It makes no difference who they are sitting next to, that person is wonderful to talk to. It's also early in the year yet and we really haven't decided who the alpha male is going to be. There is a lot of big talk and strange teenage animal noises still being made and I am hoping this gets resolved in the next few days so we can all get down to work.

My classroom climate with this group is no where near where I want it to be, and I don't really know what to do about it, so the frustration is setting in.

We also just took our first real quiz. Some of my kids are having a hard time transitioning to the SBG.

Kid: "So what did I get on my quiz?"
Me: "Well, let's see, you got 3 out of 4 on Lab Skills target #8 and 2.5 out of 4 on Lab Skills target #3.
Kid: "Sooooo, what did I get on my quiz?"
Kid #2: "Can I do extra credit?"

They'll get there.

And so will I.

*People who decided cell signal blockers are illegal have never had a room full of teenagers to teach.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

They Might Believe Me Now

School started. Kind of without me. I never did get my classroom put together how I wanted it and I am really frustrated with the condition in which the previous teacher left so many things.*

But the modeling part is awesome.

The chemistry curriculum starts out with a six part lab that measures the change in mass under several different conditions. One of the key ideas that kids need to buy into here is that their data actually mean something. For so long, they have hurried through and ended up with numbers that don't tell them anything. It didn't matter because they never needed to use those numbers in any meaningful way.** They were TOLD what they should have gotten and that was good enough.

Not any more. During my workshop, we were advised to do the first part of this lab and then bring the kids together to discuss the data. It's pretty simple lab where the kids find the mass of a piece of steel wool, change it's shape and mass it again. Of course, the mass shouldn't change, and, of course, most kids don't notice all the little pieces that fall to the floor as they scrunch it up. Each group did the lab once and we compiled all those trials. Our data gave us absolutely no indication as to whether or not the mass stayed the same. This leads us into a discussion of being careful in the lab and paying attention to what they are doing.

So back to the lab we went. I wish I had a picture of the pure disbelief on some of these kids faces.

Kid: "You mean we are going to do it again???"
Me: "Well, were you able to draw a reasonable conclusion based on our data?"
Kid: "No, but couldn't you just tell us?"
Me: Evil laugh

We repeated the lab and compiled results. Guess what? Still no trend in the data.

So back to the lab we went.

By now they are kind of figuring out they need to pay attention. Third times a charm and we were able to show that we really didn't lose any mass.

But then, we had the next five parts to do. It took a day. We compiled the results. They did pretty good until Part Four. Our data was scattered everywhere.

So back to the lab we went.

Better. Getting there. Then we looked at Part Five.

So back to the lab we went.

By this time, kids are really getting after their partners for spilling a drop of water, and kids are checking and double checking their measurements. Then we started to graph Part Six. I got two bars into the histogram when it became apparent that they were going to have to redo that one too.

So tomorrow, it's back to the lab we go.

I just keep thinking about how if I had done this lab last year, I wouldn't have even given a second thought to how poor the data really was. Oh, I knew they weren't being as careful as they should and I would have to tell them that their data "should look like this," but I never could justify the time it would take to redo the lab.

This is different. Their data is going to shape what they know instead of the other way around. We have spent four days on this lab and I feel like we are accomplishing something.

And I am loving it.

*Although maybe not as much as my student aide, bless her, who has been busy attempting to clean glassware and cabinets for me.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

What a Nerd

I'm a terrible housekeeper. I hate to sweep and mop and dust and pretty much everything that goes along with cleaning.

But it's starting to get to me. And apparently my mother as well. She sent me an email with a link to the FlyLady. I sighed and admitted defeat and made a (short) list of household chores that I want to do every day.

So I do them every day. And then I put a star on the calendar. If I fill up my calendar, I get a reward. I know, I know, but it seems to be working for me.

The big problem is that I don't ever know what to reward myself with. Know what I picked this time? Two of Marzano's books.

What a nerd.

And I can't wait to read them.

Our district allows us to team up and do a book study for PDC points, so I am going to send an invitation out to our staff to see if anyone is interested.

I would like to extend the same invitation to you. Anyone interested in working through this with me?

Full disclosure: I have never been a part of, much less led a book study group, so I would be learning along those lines as well.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Things That Make You Go Hmmmm...

So, we're back.

There are so many exciting things going on this year that I really can't wait to get started.

We have a new superintendent. He is incredible. Not only did he feed us steak on Monday, he led us in an afternoon of (extremely competitive) team-building that afternoon. His attitude is one of trust (we are NOT used to this) and he just exudes positive waves.

Yesterday was your typical mind-numbing professional development. Seven hours on K-12 literacy which I think was only understood by those who already have the training. If they were awake for it.

Here is an interesting set of facts about my district:
1. Every building in our district achieved Standard of Excellence in Reading.
2. Our district is on improvement for reading.

Apparently, our special education subgroup did not make enough progress for us to meet AYP. Actually, they improved quite a bit, but fell short by 2 points.

How messed up is that?

I get kids tomorrow! Two sections of chemistry and one of geology, as well as a reading intervention class.

We are going to start off by blowing up a coffee can :)

Here's to the new year!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Geology Targets

Well, it took me awhile, but I finally got everything moved upstairs. I still have two lab stations that are buried underneath homeless STUFF, but I am feeling much better about this.

I actually have to go back to school tomorrow. Thank goodness it is a workday and I can get settled in. During the summer, I didn't really feel like time was going fast, but now suddenly it's time to go back and I don't know where my vacation went.

Oh wait, I took a class and moved my STUFF.

I have focused mostly on chemistry this summer and almost forgot that I was going to teach a section of Geology this fall. I had written out a draft of targets for that class earlier in the summer that mostly consisted of chapter objectives in three different textbooks. It was a starting place, but I set about coming up with my critical targets.

I ended up with 67 standards.

This was so unmanageable that it was almost funny. Teaching a geology class can take kids in many different directions. Do you want to focus on historical? What about river systems? Glaciers? Deserts? Volcanoes? To be honest, I am not sure which direction I want to go. This will be (and has been) a big challenge for me when writing the class.

So I have narrowed it down. I am not sure I am happy with this list, but I will focus on these targets this year and edit as necessary.

1. Interpret elevation and topography of an area using topographic maps.
2. Interpret information shown in a geologic map.
3. Use seven main physical properties to identify pure minerals and minerals within a rock.
4. Summarize the rock cycle.
5. Describe the formation of the various textures of igneous rocks.
6. Identify and describe the formation of various types of igneous extrusions.
7. Classify igneous rocks.
8. Classify sedimentary rocks.
9. Describe the depositional environment based on the characteristics of a sedimentary rock.
10. Classify metamorphic rocks.
11. Identify the three agents of metamorphism and the changes they cause.
12. Compare and contrast contact and regional metamorphism.
13. Describe the process and limitations of radiometric dating.
14. Determine the relative ages of rock formations.
15. Compare the three types of unconformities.
16. Identify the major geologic and biologic characteristics of the Precambrian, Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras.
17. Identify and describe the three types of plate boundaries.
18. Describe the causes of plate movement.
19. Describe the three main types of folds.
20. Compare the structures formed at the three types of plate boundaries.
21. Use earthquake data to construct an Earth cross-section.
22. Relate earthquakes, volcanoes and plate boundaries.
23. Describe the three types of volcanic cones.
24. Explain how rock composition, surface area, climate and topography affect the rate of weathering.

Did I miss anything critical?

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