Monday, September 29, 2014

Happy National Coffee Day!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Indiana Landmarks Travel by Trunk

Trouble setting up a field trip to Indiana Landmarks? Request a Traveling Trunk! There are two different trunks but each includes activities, resources, games and lessons.

Geared towards lower elementary, these would be ideal for fourth grade social studies or an architectural unit in art class. The trunks are free to borrow for one month, teachers simply pay return shipping.

Traveling trunks are provided by Indiana Landmarks. Their website also includes several free publications to download for the classroom.


Lincoln's Lebanon: Hypothetical History

What if Abraham Lincoln had more time when his train stopped in Lebanon? What if Morgan's raiders were able to venture north of the state capital? Perhaps Boone county would have seen a Civil War skirmish similar to that staged at Memorial Park this weekend.

For the past few years on the last weekend in September, Lebanon has hosted Lincoln's Lebanon. This Civil War reenactment features a Lincoln actor and includes speeches, singing and a skirmish complete with cannon fire. The encampment includes surgeons, weavers, tanners, blacksmiths and even a chaplain. Everyone is very friendly and willing to talk about the historical research they have done.

Link to more info: http://www.in.gov/visitindiana/tripplanner/EventDetails.aspx?id=13918

Friday, September 26, 2014

Book Review: Join Forces

Ever wish there was a book to help students learn how to work with a wiki? Now there is. Samantha Roslund has written Join Forces: Teaming Up Online, a book that explains the benefits and features of collaborative online work.

Written at lower elementary level, this book would probably work best with fourth grade. I suggest using it to introduce the digital concept right before starting a large collaborative project. If the teacher has already established a class Wikispaces with parameters, then the book becomes a helpful student resource.

For the more ambitious student, they could use the book as a guide to set up their own personal wiki. The book includes ample reminders to stay safe online and how to create quality content. Activities reinforce written content and the glossary/index keep everything organized. Schools might consider purchasing enough copies for an entire class so that multiple students have access to this resource.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book to review from our school librarian but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations.

Movie Review: Jerusalem IMAX

The Indiana State Museum is showing a new IMAX movie: JERUSALEM. My kids and I were able to go to a free preview showing for educators.

While it is difficult to compress 5,000 years of history into a 45 minute movie, JERUSALEM did a good job. They covered all three major religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) equally explaining their differences and similarities.

There was plenty of information without coming across as a dry, stuffy documentary. And the footage was amazing. Sweeping camera shots combined with digital overlays explained the changes in architecture over the centuries.

I only have two criticisms. Some traditional interpretations are presented as fact, especially Jebusite sun worship from the temple mount. This could become a starting point for students to research further.

My second objection is the final message. Each religion is explained by following a particular young woman from that culture. Through an emotional "what if" moment, the idea is expressed that if all three groups could just sit down and talk together, their conflicts could be solved. While hopeful, it's a rather naive interpretation of the deep conflicts within the Middle East and may give students a false understanding of the situation.

Overall it was a good introduction to Jerusalem's role through history. Public school students will find the movie helpful for social studies, while Christian school students will be able to use the movie as a starting point to deeper Biblical studies. Both of my kids enjoyed the movie and said they would love to take a field trip to watch it again.

Link to movie website

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Truth About Absolute Values

Just because a method works does not mean it is right. That's the lesson learned from our latest round of Algebra homework. Here's the offending problem:

2 | 4x - 1 | + 3 = 9

While working through the above absolute value formula, the positive side calculates correctly but the negative did not. Note that the blue ink in the photo is the original and notations, red ink is the failed attempt and green is the correct solution.

Besides memorizing the evaluation process, I've been trying to understand the theoretical concept that is taking place. What I concluded is

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Essential Question

While mapping curriculum for accreditation, I need to list the essential questions for each unit. Now it's not uncommon for students to ask me why they have to complete a particular task, especially if they do not see the relationship between the task and what they perceive they should be learning.

So that got me thinking, why not post the essential questions around the room? I use a word wall to keep key words visible as students learn them. Perhaps a collection of guiding questions would help too?

Of course this leads into even more work as I could change different bulletin board displays to reflect each unit. Initially I plan to start with a PowerPoint slide that opens each class period. The slide will include the class name, the essential question, and an ordered list of tasks to be accomplished for the day.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Introducing the Keyboard

In first grade today, students were introduced to the keyboard through the text tool in Paint. First we looked at various text modifiers (everyone wanted BIGGER letters). Then we had a speed typing competition to fill the screen with letters.

The final challenge was to draw a picture of someone or something such as a pet, then add letters to identify them. Most of the class is very excited to draw and fill their screen with lots of color and shapes. But one quiet student took her time and created this picture. She put so much attention into the picture that I couldn't just delete it with all the others.