Showing posts from May, 2013

End of the School Year Has Us Climbing the Walls!

About 100 of the 8th graders from Parker Middle School went on a climbing field trip today.  I know it was a good day for them because...
They pushed themselves harder than they'd planned to. They cheered for each other unconditionally. They were exhausted, hungry, and proud at the end of the day. Couldn't have picked a better way to spend a hot Friday just before the end of the school year.
Tech Check: I used some copyrighted music in the video so the restrictions require that it must be viewed on a PC and that it can't be viewed on smartphones or mobile devices.

Click here if you're interested and check out metro ROCK.  They did a fantastic job motivating the kids, keeping them moving, and teaching them about balancing safety and risk-taking.

Galapagos: A History Teacher's Adventure in Science

For a couple days only half of the 8th grade (about 100 students) were here at Parker Middle School while the rest traveled on a school trip.  Four subject area teachers had to come up with a way to keep them busy, happy, and learning.

Challenge accepted.

First we looked into the educational movies that are playing at the nearby IMAX at Jordan's.  We found Galapagos.  It is only 40 minutes and can be watched in glorious 3D!  Here's the trailer.

Then we discovered the Teacher Resource Packet also available online.

Before we knew it, we were English, Spanish, and History teachers guiding 8th graders through concepts like tides, currents, geology, and natural selection.

Day 1:
In preparation for the film our students learned about natural selection, island formation through volcanic eruptions, and scientific poetry.  In my class they were tracking the survival of animals with various adaptations (paper dots of different colors) based on the success of predators (students picking…

"Like a Chimpanzee in Captivity"

Making medieval life relatable to adolescents in 21st century is a challenge.  But in imperial China people studied long and hard for civil service exams and then waited anxiously for the results hoping they would earn a high enough score to enable them to work in a coveted career.  Similarly many jobs in law enforcement, medicine, law, and education depend on scoring well on licensure and civil service examinations today, I am quite familiar with spending hours and hours studying for my MTEL and for my Massachusetts Bar Exam and waiting on pins and needles praying that my time and effort had paid off.  I was one of the lucky ones in both instances.

So a great response to students who ask why they have to learn about medieval world history is that it tells us the roots of our modern system.  Indeed, the modern examination system will likely be a part of many of my students' lives as they journey toward their own career choices.  In fact, as I type this, they are taking a well-dese…

Act Now! China is On the Move!

Common Core has re-calibrated many teachers to consider their content alongside important reading, writing, and communication skills.  One of the standards for 8th graders covers persuasive writing.  I could ask the students to write persuasive essays, but a real world application of those persuasive communication skills would be more useful and more exciting for them.  Advertising is the best example of persuasive communication in action.  Students are exposed to it every day and are unconsciously familiar with advertisers' techniques.

My social studies classes were in the midst of a unit on technological and scientific advances in imperial China.  They were studying the impact of inventions like steel, the compass, movable type, and mechanical clocks.  When asked to imagine how life might be different without these inventions they realized their importance.  A great way to assess their understanding of the historical and social curriculum while working on the persuasive communi…

Breaking News! Earthquakes & Time Travel!

Problem: Slightly less than half of our 8th grade middle school team students are out of the country on a French trip to Quebec.  What do 3 teachers and 2 paraeducators do for two WHOLE school days with 66 adolescents who resent being in school while their friends are on an adventure in another country?

Solution: Time Travel... Yup.

One of my missions as I spend one year teaching 8th grade, with the opportunity to work with a team of teachers who specialize in different subject areas, is creating as much interdisciplinary work as possible.  So, since the two subject area teachers remaining at school during the 2 day experiment were the science teacher and me, I saw an opening.

I teach medieval world history, including imperial China.

She teaches earth science, including the movement of tectonic plates and earthquakes.

Hold on to your hats, people, I have an idea!

You see, in imperial China people believed the the emperor had the right to rule because of the Mandate of Heaven.  The bles…

Paris and Seville - By Way of Parker Middle School

I have had the opportunity this year to work on a team of teachers of different expertise.  Half of the students on our team take French and the other half take Spanish.  I was looking for a way for our students to do an interdisciplinary project between their world language class and my social studies class, but I needed to coordinate it with several other teachers (French, Spanish, Special Education, Language Learning Disabled, and 2 paraeducators) and almost 120 students. 

We decided on ARCHITECTURE.

Some of the most important landmarks in France and Spain are incredible works of architecture from the medieval era, which is the time period I teach in social studies.

For the French students we decided on Notre Dame Cathedral

For the Spanish students we decided on the Real Alcazar.

We started by asking students to research the history of the structure itself.  Why was it built?  Who built it?  When and why were changes made the the architecture?  What does it mean to the people of t…

Role Play: Convincing Middle Schoolers to Research

One of the challenges of being a middle school history teacher is that adolescents are a little too old for the simple story-telling and artsy projects of elementary school, and they're too young for real in-depth research on complex topics like in high school.  Where is the middle ground for middle schoolers?

Role Play!

A colleague and I recently put our heads together and created a unit that required students to take on a role from feudal Europe.  They had to learn about the privileges and responsibilities that went with that role,  They had to fulfill those responsibilities and then as the simulation continued we threw some curve balls at them.  They found that the socio-economic system of feudalism developed in medieval Europe because it was the most realistic way for people at the time to solve problems and survive under the harsh circumstances.

Recently, we presented about our successful experiment at the Blue Ribbon Blueprint for Excellence Conference. Click the screenshot …