Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mr. T's Last Lessson

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Social Studies CBA

Last week we began working on a classroom based assessment (CBA) that the state uses to assess students in areas like music, PE, art etc.  For social studies, it involves students choosing a topic around a general theme, completing some research and and writing a short essay in which they analyze the topic.  In SVSD, the 7th grade does the “Causes of Conflict” CBA.  For more information about this from the state department of education, click here.  I gave students a packet last week describing the assignment (see embedded documents below), and they have been diligently (well, most of them anyway) reading about their topic and taking notes.  Yesterday they began working on a graphic organizer to help them plan the essay and today they began writing a rough draft.  We have also looked at some sample essays to help understand good and bad traits.  If you’d like to see some examples of these essays, click here.  The students will receive a score out of 4.  Scores of 3 and 4 meet standard, while 2 and 1 are not meeting standard.  If you’d like to check out the scoring guide click here.   I  will then convert the score to a letter grade and include that in the “practice” category of my two category grading system where performance is 70% and practice is 30%.  If you have any questions or comments about the CBA,  feel free to use the comment feature at the end of this post or if you are reading it on your email click here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Discussions using Edmodo

Another way we've been using our class micro-blog  (http://www.edmodo.com/) is to have threaded discussions that involve giving the students a poll question that they respond to. This week and last we have been learning about Indian Removal during the mid 1800's and how the Native American way of life changed drastically in about a 20 year period. I posed a poll question and the students' discussion can be seen below.  I enjoyed reading their thoughts.

Washington State History Voicethread

One of the cool things we've been doing in class lately is using the microphone headsets that were generously provided by a PTSA grant to record our thoughts about some of the things we've been learing  this trimester.  You can listen to some of the comments your children have been making below:

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Excel Map Project

    This trimester students are working on a cumulative assignment that I call the “Excel Map”.  For this assignment students insert a background image of Washington State into an Excel spreadsheet and then insert comments that explain what they have learned in each chapter.  They must have 2 comments per chapter.  To organize the comments, I tell them that they must come up with items for each chapter that use all 26 letters of the alphabet.  A typical comment might look like this:
“A is for Apple.  Apples are grown mainly in Eastern Washington and the state produces 50% of all the apples sold in the United States.  Apples are an important part of the economy because they provide a livelihood for farm owners as well as workers.”
Notice that the first sentence simply states the item.  The second sentence provides a piece of data while the third sentence explains why the item is important to our state.  In addition, to the written portion of the comment, students must “bring it to life” by providing a picture or a link to a website (or both) that explains more about the item.  
    To help them succeed on this assignment, students have received a scoring guide, explaining how they will be graded as well as a planning sheet to help them think about what they will say on the map.  In addition, I have created some screencast tutorials that explain how to use the software.  If students do well on this assignment they are guaranteed to pass the class, and thus will not have to repeat it at the high school.  However, if they do not do well, then it could mean they won’t pass the class.
If you have any questions or comments about this assignment, click here.


Friday, April 2, 2010

COW's and Phones

     The last couple of weeks we have been using the Computers On Wheels (COW for short). SMS recently received 20 laptop computers on a cart. More precisely, they are "netbooks", small wifi enabled machines with no disc drives. The students have been loving the chance to have these at their deks. When they finish the day's assignment they get to use the laptops to work on their Excel Map poject. The tricky part is that I have some large classes of 35 students. Luckily, I also have 8 desktops so most of the time, everyone's needs are met.
     In addition, I just acquired 40 headsets with microphones that we will be using to listen to and record audio. Just today in the lab I had the students listen to a video that I had made explaining how to get their map into excel and make comments. With the headphones, students were able to control the volume and it didn't have to bother their neighbors. We also tried out the microphones by responding to a voicethread. This was a chance for students to experiment with recording their voice. You can check it out by clicking here.
     I would love to hear your thoughts. You can comment by clicking here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A New Trimester, Stock Market Winners...

As you may have noticed, I have redesigned my website to make better use of the "screen real estate".  Basically, I turned it into a three column layout as opposed to only two.  This way the calendar and announcements sections can be seen without having to scroll down.   If you have any ideas or comments please let me know as I am always looking for ways to improve it!
    We have started our third and final trimester of the year.  Can you believe it?  This means that we have finished our world history part of the class and have moved into Washington State History.  This is a favorite of mine to teach as I was born and raised here and think it is such an amazing place.  Please be aware that students who do not pass the class this trimester will have to repeat it again in high school as it is a graduation requirement.  As part of the class we will be embarking on a trimester long project that I call the "Excel Map".  Basically, students will be making a digital map of Washington using Microsoft Excel complete with pop-up comments and media that shows what they have learned in the 13 chapters of the text.  I'll be explaining more about this in class tomorrow, but if you'd like to see the scoring guide, click here.
    I am excited to report that we have received information about the woman survivor of war that the 7th grade students are sponsoring for the next year.  She is an Iraqi woman with two children.  I sent part of the money that the students raised to Women for Women International and they sent me back a packet of information just last week.  I'll be figuring out a way that we can correspond directly with this woman. More to come on that in the coming days/weeks.  In addition I sent the the remainder of the money that was raised in my Holiday Challenge to UNICEF to purchase a "school in a box kit" that can be used in emergency situations like the Haiti earthquake. 
    Finally, I am happy to announce that Gerritt Jones is our 2nd Trimester Stock Market Contest winner!  I am not sure what to do for a prize for him, so if anyone would like to provide a cool gift card (itunes?, best buy?, mix-it-up?) please let me know.  Coming in 2nd place was Jennifer Clark while Isaac Mullins came in 3rd.  Parents, if you'd like to participate in our 3rd trimester contest you can do so by clicking here (use this password: smseagles).