Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Augmented Reality

I love learning about new technology but I have to be able to implement it into my classroom with a purpose.  Who has time to implement things that are just for fun? When I first saw augmented reality through the Aurasma app, I thought it looked awesome. What student wouldn’t like to look at a 3D spaceship from a flat image, but what are they learning? How does this meet the standards?  I was hesitant as to where it would fit into my teaching style.  Well, I just wasn’t seeing the true potential and thinking about side the box!

Weeks later, with the help of an iCoach, I began to see the true potential. It can engage the students and truly bring their images to life! I used it in a way that only took two days and allowed the students to synthesize their knowledge of molecules. The students built molecules and used their model as the trigger.  This led to a video they created explaining their molecule.  Then the students completed a gallery walk to view their classmate’s auras. The students were highly engaged and I could asses their knowledge on standard MS-PS 1-1 (Develop models to describe the composition of simple molecules and extended structures). 

This is only the ground level of where you can take this.  I can see the endless possibilities of this type of application and I believe this technology will just get better and better.  This year alone, the number of apps for AR has exploded.  I’m excited to explore the possibilities! 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Video Journal and Reflection

The process of student learning is just as important as the outcome, but students are not always aware of their thinking throughout the process. Metacognition is a difficult concept for middle school students to grasp. In an effort to make my students more aware of their thinking, I had my students make a video journal to document their thought process and improve their metacognition in our recent project.

I was assessing the students on NGSS MS-PS2-2. The standard asks the students to “Plan an investigation to provide evidence that the change in an object’s motion depends on the sum of forces on the object and the mass of the object.” To meet this standard I asked the students to create a station activity for their classmates to complete that proves force and mass will effect an object’s motion. I wanted the students to realize how their ideas change to meet their goal as they try out their ideas, so I asked them each day to video their discussions. I used the guidelines below to help guide them with their video clips each day.  

I had to emphasize the fact that for these videos, I do not expect perfection.  I told them that I want to see things that don’t work and you don’t have to rerecord if you didn’t say or do something perfect.  I explained that I wanted them to see their trials and errors and how they fixed them and these video are only for you and me. At the end, I asked them to put the clips together and watch them. 

As I watch the clips, I could see the students realize when their ideas didn’t work and automatically think of a way to make it work. After watching their videos, they created thoughtful reflections on their process and what they could do differently. I am excited to continue having my students create these videos as they get more comfortable with the process of recording themselves and become more aware of their thinking.     


Monday, March 3, 2014

Differentiation: My Eye Opening Moment

Differentiation can be overwhelming.  As an educator, I’m constantly asking myself if I’m doing enough to meet my students’ needs and balance my time. Majority of the time, I worry about differentiating for my lowest students so they will understand the content.  Today, as I grade some projects, I saw my efforts pay off in an unexpected way.

My students are wrapping up the first part of our Earth unit.  Their project was to construct an explanation of the history of Earth based on evidence (NGSStandard MS-ESS1-4). I created a self paced unit allowing each student to work at their own pace to complete activities that helped them learn about the history of Earth and collect evidence. This allowed me to pull groups that needed individual help.  At this point in the year, I have a good understanding of what activities the students will be able to do on their own and which students I will need to assist. As I grade the final projects with the rubric below, it was very clear when students understood the topic.
History of Earth Rubric

In this first example, this group did well.  They followed the instructions and received an A on the project.

In this second example, this student was working on her own and was able to truly demonstrate her depth of knowledge and the research she had done for this project. 

After being blown away by this project, I started thinking about the need to differentiate for high students to get them to reach their full potential.  It was the motivation I needed to keep making activities for the students that give them freedom and choice to demonstrate the full scope of their knowledge.  

Here are some of the things I did to foster this creativity.
  • The students have the freedom to present their knowledge in any way they feel comfortable.  
  • A self paced unit of activities gave students a guide to pull  just the necessary information or gave them the resources to go deeper into the topic.
  • Each student was given the same opportunities and have the choice to take it to the necessary level. 

Here is what this student did to create such an amazing project.
  • She chose a mode of presenting in which she felt comfortable. It happened to be drawing pictures and arranging them in iMovie. Then she voiced over it.   
  • She dove deeper in the resources to obtain more than just the minimum information. 
  • She stayed focused and motivated and demonstrated a high level of effort. 

This is the first self paced unit I have done.  Although I need to reflect further and change some things, I was really pleased with the student outcomes. Even though not all the projects were great, they truly demonstrate each student’s learning.  As we head into the next portion of this unit, I am working to refine my self paced activities and structure. I will continue to give them choice in their final product, so nothing gets in the way of demonstrating their knowledge. I hope the outcome with surprise me once again! 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Strategies for Reading Informational Text

Since I have a background as a reading specialist, reading is incorporated throughout my science class.  Here are some of my favorite researched based strategies for informational text.

Reciprocal Teaching
I have tweaked this strategy to meet my students' needs and fit the text I often use.   The students split their paper into four sections before they read a section of the text. They title each box Questions, Evidence, Clarify, and Summary.  
Turn the section headings into questions. 

Answer each question as you read the section.
Clarify anything that is unclear. I often guide the students to put the vocabulary here or any points in bold. 
Read through the questions, evidence, and clarify boxes to construct a summary of the section. 

I scaffold this strategy when I first begin to teach it at the beginning of the year.  We do a few together in the first unit. Once they are a little more comfortable, I have them work cooperatively with their table. The students rotate the roles of Question, Evidence, and Clarify as they read out loud, then they each write their summary.  Eventually, they are able to do this on their own.

SQP2RS- Squeepers
This is a great strategy for reading the science content that was developed by Mary Ellen Vogt. Here is a link with great posters!

The students really get into this one! Everyone silently reads a section of the text. As they read, the students construct questions that the teacher will have to answer. As they ask me questions, I give Patriot Awards, our school tickets, for  the more thoughtful questions. I look for questions from all 4 QAR categories (Right-there questions, Think and Search, Author and You, and On My Own) and reward more Patriot Award for higher level questions. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

Purpose of This Blog

This summer, the new Next Generation Science Standards were released.  My district realigned our science curriculum to start implementing these standards right away. As the year has gone on, my colleagues and I have struggled finding resources to support the understanding and use of these new standards.  So, I wanted to start a blog to share my take on the standards and what my students are doing with them.  I'm sure there will be bumps along the way…and there already has…but please follow my blog to take the journey with me!