Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The planets need a job

So while my kids were toiling away with their state standardized tests the past 2 weeks, I was given the opportunity to work on some planning. I have to admit, I have been extremely busy with completing my National Board portfolio the past 2 weeks, so my month-ahead lesson planning had fallen closer to being only a week ahead of the kids. I know, bad teaching etiquette, right?

I don’t think so and the reason is this. As I have a unit plan in place, there will come times when I need to make adjustments, create time for deeper learning experiences or even make time for teachable moments. I like being prepared, don’t get me wrong, but I also have learned to become flexible and have evolved with my students.

So for my next unit, my students are going to create planetary resumes. You read it right, folks. Resumes of the planets. In Mr. Simoni’s social studies class, the students will be introduced to personal economics and will actually begin writing their own resumes. The boys who have already informed me that they plan on applying to Publix this summer are already ecstatic about writing their own resume to accompany their stellar job application.

What I noticed that while I was creating this mini-project is that I cannot possibly plan any other way than backwards. I have seen the promise land and will shout from the mountain tops on how beneficial and effective backwards planning can be. Ok, so I don’t have a mountain, but I do have a blogspot.

Anyways, I created a rubric, a sample planetary resume on Pluto (who knew Pluto could be so useful?!), a chart of Human Resume sections compared to Planetary Resume sections (e.g. work history vs. planetary history) and even a data table example of what students SHOULD copy down in their composition notebooks. For the last project, I provided students with some website examples but let them explore the web using numerous search engines. Well boys and girls, the scaffolding structure needs to be removed – my little munchkins are using Google, NetTrekker and any other search engine they can think of (and isn’t blocked on the network) to complete their quest to make a planet’s resume. After they research all 8 planets, they will be paired up with their new shoulder partners (thanks to Kagan) and will each complete 4 resumes, combining them to create a packet of the solar system.

Pretty nifty, eh?

I thought so, given I have never done this type of activity before. I have created a few sample templates using Microsoft Publisher for the students to choose from on my science website that they will download into their network folders. If students feel creative and adventurous enough, they can create their own.

We start tomorrow.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Verdict Is In

Ok, so Monday was the last student presentation on Work & Power. I have to admit, while my students were ready for me to return to my position of the whole "song-and-dance" gig in front of the classroom, I too was just as eagerly chomping on the bit. I missed being in front of the kids, helping them with their work and watching their a-ha moments. Honestly though, I think I missed feeling needed.

On Monday they also received a self and peer evaluation form. They were to first give themselves a grade for their work, effort and participation with the group project. They then needed to assign a grade to each of their group members. It was hilarious to see just how they viewed themselves and how they had some very high expectations of themselves and of their peers. Some kids willingly gave themselves a "C" while giving their group members "A's" and "B's". Some kids were brutally honest and were tough as nails when filling out the peer evaluation forms, while others would sacrifice their grade in order to keep their friends happy. It was entertaining to read their reasoning (for example, one student wrote: She was the best leader I have ever worked for in a group project!) in order to support their peer grades. I cracked up at how they commented on what they learned:

"I learned how to work with people I don't care for very much."
"I learned that teaching is a lot harder than it looks."

"I realized that Newton's laws really weren't that difficult to understand - you just had to have someone explain it to you in English."

Cute, right?

I am not sure if every student learned all that they could have about physics through this project but I do know they learned something. Whether that something will help them pass the FCAT, I'm not certain, but I am sure they learned that my job is not a cake-walk, physics is a rather difficult topic to teach and Sir Isaac Newton was definitely a weird dude (he invented calculus and then didn't tell anyone about it for 30 years).

I still can do some fine tweaking here and there with this activity, but overall, I would declare this project a success.