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Showing posts from February, 2009

Casting Complete

Auditions for the spring musical garnered thirteen students, each with various talents and abilities. Auditions included a choreographed routine that student learned on the spot and performed together. They also sang a "Hard Knock Life" from the musical Annie. Practices begin on Thursday, Feb 26th with performance dates set for April 24th and 25th.

"Oh No, Not Another Musical" is a musical revue, written by Ben Biddle with orchestration by Sarah King. Audiences will be treated to over a dozen songs from popular Broadway musicals such as Cats, Oklahoma, Show Boat, Singing In the Rain, and many more. As audiences follow the crazy love interests within a fledgling theater troupe, things get even more complicated after the owner sends his daughter to play the lead. Tempers flare, hearts are broken and new love discovered as the Bethesda students put on yet "Another Musical"!

What Makes A Good Website?

Assignment: Locate five websites related to the Iditarod and rate them.

That's the task given to the Web Design class. But how much of a site's usefulness depends on the end user's needs? None of the class was very excited about a dog sled race thousands of miles away in Alaska. In fact, none of them would every look for those sites unless I had assigned it. Is it more of the "build it and they will come" or build what people want? The latter may account for the plethora of fluffy, sugar coated (web) junk out there.

It seems that there is almost as much variation in methods for evaluating websites as there are ways to make them. I directed the kids to Five Criteria for Evaluating Web Pages as a guide in their own evaluations. Ultimately, the goal is to spark in them the desire to create new and innovative websites instead of simply finishing the task that has been given.

Being Animated

When the sixth graders came into computer lab today they all wanted to play "that math game site" but being the mean teacher that I am, I told them no. Instead, I directed them to open up PowerPoint. There was a collective, audible groan.
I don't get it. What's so bad about PowerPoint?

I then had everyone create a title slide with the phrase "What Circle Found" and their name in the subtitle. On the second slide, I drew a straight horizontal line and a filled circle sitting on the line. So far, no one was impressed - we had already covered inserting shapes.

But then I showed them custom animation but having the circle move across the line. "Whoa! That's cool! How'd you do that?" Now that I was on a roll (pun intended) I even went so far as to show them slide transitions. They continued to "play" with animations and transitions for the rest of the class, especially since the assignment was to animate the rest of the story and decid…

Starting from Scratch

Today we started a new segment on programming. Wow, you say. Can sixth graders really learn to program? They sure can, and already have to a small extent. 
A few weeks ago I stumbled across a suggestion by another computer teacher that a program from MIT was just the thing to teach kids the basics of programming: Scratch. You can download your own free copy at They also have the ability to create a free login id and post your creations on the web to share with the world. 
Of course I would caution that there are kids from all over the world posting things so some content may be a bit questionable (think YouTube). In class, we'll only be working with local versions and not posting to the web. But I encourage you to check it out online. And maybe you just might find a budding programmer in your house.

Why Can't We Just Google?

Today the kids did some online research for a project that Mrs. Titus has them doing. First we started at, a web search engine that is compiled by librarians for kids. After finding a few exciting sites (see the New York folder in the favorites list for some of them) Gabbi asked a very good question, "Why can't we just use Google?" That gave me the opportunity to talk about search engines and how they obtain their results. Nothing wrong with Google but it would generally return popular results. Since we were looking for interesting facts to use in a school project, kidsclick would be a better choice. We also looked at yahoo kids and encyclopedia type sites. So next time you go to search the web, think about who's providing the answers and maybe spice up your search by using a different search engine.