* Virtual field trips this Thanksgiving!

Virtual field trips are an excellent online resource for visiting sites that would otherwise be out of reach.  To celebrate Thanksgiving with your students or kiddos at home, take advantage of Scholastic’s terrific resources for Thanksgiving.  Here’s a snip of their virtual field trips, enhanced with reenactments.  I appreciate the relatively uncluttered look and ease of access.

Virtual field trip

And that’s not all!  To promote a better understanding of the lives of the native peoples and colonists, use Scholastic’s comparison pages.  Students can listen independently and research housing, clothes, chores, school. and games in order to compare and contrast theses two lifestyles.  For students with reading disabilities or those who learn best by seeing what they hear, these resources-and more- are an excellent tool for exploring our nation’s Thanksgiving holiday.

Virtual field trip 2

Check out Scholastic for more super resources!

* Econ, apps, and eye gaze

Mix Tobii Dynavox, Communicator 5, economics, and the Township app to get… a terrific way to learn while playing!  Playing is indeed one of the best ways for all of us to learn.  Let me explain how a special needs student applies theories of supply and demand, micro and macroeconomics, opportunity cost, and much more while using an eye gaze system and this fun app.

I’ve blogged before about Tobii Dynavox eye gaze technology and the Communicator 5 software that accompanies it.  I also described a cool book, “How to Build Your Own Country, that supports the creative development of nation states, government, and even national anthems.  My student is president, of course, and has named his township after his country.  He uses Communicator 5 to select what actions he wants to perform, from breeding animals to mining for ore.  The image below is the main topic page.  When he looks at each box, the button “reads” the text I’ve added and then takes him to additional pages, where he can make decisions about what crops to plant, which friends to help, and whether to ask the city market dealer for help.  The black box in the upper left links to a rest page for his eyes, while the blue arrows return him systematically to the main menu.

township C5

These images are from the Township Wiki.  

I’ve only encountered a couple of difficulties so far.  For one, my dearest teaching widower does get tired of hearing the Communicator 5 program repeated over and over, as I make sure all the links are correct.  Then there’s the issue of my own addiction to this game!  Finally, my student does love using Mrs. Everson’s bank, but he must first earn the bills and coins (he named them doodads and dubas in his country).  And who supplies Mrs. Everson’s bank?  Shh….  This will be a test of whether my widower still reads my posts!!

* Geometer’s SketchPad

The Geometer’s SketchPad is a cool, online tool for exploring math concepts with 3rd graders through high school students.  Published by Key Curriculum Press, SketchPad originally focused on geometry, but this clever program has morphed into a powerful tool for mathematical understanding from basic operations to calculus.

What makes SketchPad so powerful?  It provides a visual tool for instruction, student exploration, and problem solving.  This tool adds a unique opportunity for students to explore “What happens if I do this?” and provides a user-friendly platform for student interaction.  As we know from research, math instruction is much more effective when kids can talk, reason, and experiment.

For teachers, SketchPad supports a creative and relatively simple tool for guiding mathematical learning.  Teachers can join a free, online community of educators through Sketch Exchange, with opportunities to: (copied from info on Sketch Exchange)

  • upload sketches and activities
  • post links to your own website or videos
  • participate in a community forum
  • browse the content on the site by grade level, topic, or tags
  • download sketches and activities for use in your classroom

I use SketchPad with a special needs student who has a visual impairment.  SketchPad allows me to change text and object sizes and colors, background color, and increase units of measurement.  SketchPad is also available in multiple languages since it it used globally.  Give it a try!

 

 

 

 

* “The Naturalist”

What a terrific thriller!  Dr. Theo Cray is The Naturalist, a bioinformatics professor.  A computational biologist.  Huh?  Trust me, you’ll find out what that means.  The author, Andrew Mayne, lets Theo tell the story from his brilliant, socially awkward perspective.  The action begins with a flashback to a savage animal attack in Montana; in the next chapter, unsuspecting Theo sits with plastic bags on his hands at the police station.  And it goes downhill -and uphill -from there.

The Naturalist.jpg

Theo keeps telling himself to stay clear of the murderous tangle in a backwoods town, but he can’t help himself.  The police wish he would just clear out, but Theo keeps the body count rising.  He is willing to sacrifice everything to save others and bring an evil creature to justice.  Theo’s clever mind and computer analyses detect patterns which expose horrendous events and put him in grave danger.  Even so, I laughed out loud at his perspective, even in the most suspenseful scenes.  The Naturalist is so unusual, yet incredibly realistic, that I also found myself giggling with anxiety as Theo prepares for his own death.

It’s hard to describe The Naturalist without spoiling the wild plot.  If you enjoy science, thrillers, brilliant deductions, and things that go bump in the night, this book’s for you!

* Sharing my world, 1 bug at a time

Cee has terrific blogging challenges and one of my faves is her Share Your World challenge.  If you don’t follow her site, you’re missing out on amazing photography and lots of connections with other bloggers.

Here are this week’s questions:

Do you ever sit on a park bench for more than ten minutes?  I don’t sit still outside at all.  My body is bug fodder.  Mosquitoes find me instantly.  I was bitten a few weeks ago while walking into the house with one hand exposed!  And you would not believe the number of mosquitoes that attacked me in southern Florida while I glistened with repellent.  I’ve had Lyme disease from two tick bites when I fell (only briefly) into the junipers next to our driveway; I was on crutches but got no sympathy from those critters.  I have never picked blackberries without a multitude of chigger bites, even with bug spray soaking my waist.

mosquitoe-

When you lose electricity in a storm, do you light the candles, turn on the flashlight or use your cell phone for light?  We haven’t had a major power outage for a few years but I have stocked up on LED lanterns.  Candles are pretty but useless for finding matching clothes.  And our flashlights barely flicker, probably because the batteries and bulbs are 20 years old.  I would rather use my phone for games.

Would you rather be given $10,000 for your own use or $100,000 to give anonymously to strangers?  Hmm.  I’d like to get out of debt- and my dearest teaching widower and I do our best to be generous.  The question reminds me of past prayers to win the lottery, which wasn’t in God’s plans.  We have been blessed in MANY ways and I hope we would do His will in either scenario.  My widower says maybe I have too many toys.  Come on!!  Is that even possible?  In this era of digital goodies?

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination.  My dearest teaching widower, who works day and night on his training and research, is my inspiration.  I may be in here reading or playing and he’s in the sunroom, pacing, writing, and leaving piles of eraser shavings on the floor.  He’s an amazing guy, funny and faithful.  Always there for me, with his wise and gentle ways.  I adore him!

* Memory fun

From TED talks to neuroscience journals, the consensus on improving memory is clear: make information fun, meaningful, and visual-spatial, while training the brain to focus.  Most of the videos I’ve watched emphasize memory of facts, dates, spelling, and playing cards  (Not sure that minors need to memorize decks of cards in less than 5 minutes but it might help with Hearts or Spades.)  Did you know that there are memory athletes who compete in how quickly they can memorize hundreds of names?

While we are not only teaching facts to be memorized, these athletes do have some useful tips for the load of information required at each grade level.  Multiplication.com, for example, effectively uses a story-mode with unusual characters to support memorization of times tables.

An ancient Greek strategy uses places (“loci”) to help store information.  For example, you picture the words or concepts you want to recall in familiar places, attached to a vivid story.  To memorize the six syllable types, I could walk up my front steps to find the door has turned to glass.  It is CLOSED so I whack the glass to OPEN it.  As soon as I walk inside, I see an unfamiliar band playing in the hallway but can’t hear anything.  And how did they get in my house?  I step closer and notice they are all wearing band tee shirts saying SILENT E, which is weird, right?  I run to the kitchen and grab my phone to call the police, keying in my cLE password (c for consonant).  The police send a special V-TEAM to sort things out, but those guys end up in the hallway playing with the Silent Es!  I’m about to give up when some lady on a motorcycle revs out of the living room!  The loud RRRR sound scares everyone away!  motorcycle

Okay, that’s a bit lame, but I guarantee that if a student or class create a picture story using spaces in the school building, they will remember all of the syllable types.  And just imagine the fun they’ll have!  Where does the meaningful part come in?  Guiding students to understand the benefits of learning those syllable types or multiplication facts.  Learning about memory and how to improve it.  Helping them make connections with previously learned material.  Practical and social applications, like being a student memory jock.  And maybe some of your kiddos will end up in memory triathlons!