OK, I was going to write a series on excellent Christmas gifts but hey, everyone will have a birthday this year, right? If you are looking for a terrific science-themed gift, an Earthbox Junior is THE perfect tool for indoor/classroom gardening and plant study. Earthbox does come in larger sizes, but the Junior fits nicely on a window ledge and for a class, offers a perfect small group container. It is featured below at Rosa Parks Elementary school in San Francisco.
With Earthbox Junior, you can grow herbs and other plants year-round. Watering is simple and the planter is easily lifted for more careful investigation. Given my poor track record with plants, I’d say this is a winner!
I used this one to experiment with plant reproduction. In the photo above, a student is exploring moss with a digital microscope. More on the dangers of reproduction in the next post!
Scholastic’s ScienceWorld is a terrific, teacher-friendly resource for hands-on and digital resources. Sure, there’s a paper magazine version with your subscription, but the online goodies make the magazine even better! And ScienceWorld is already amazing. The magazine covers a wide range of middle school science topics from around the world, saving teachers much-needed time for collecting lesson plans, materials, and inspiration.
Scholastic makes a strong appeal to kids who are traditionally low in STEM careers: blacks and girls. For instance, this month’s edition for middle schoolers features D-J Comeaux and his Black Panther app called AfroBot Boyz. The main article in the magazine focuses on a student who participated in the Hidden Genius Project in Oakland, California, which supports black high school dropouts.
I also love this magazine because it keeps on giving, especially to special needs kiddos. The online teacher resources provide multiple cool projects and experiments, available by intelligent searches, including archived versions of the past three years of your subscription. A subscription to ScienceWorld supports struggling students by linking some of them to their narrow range of interests, providing multiple means of access, supporting hands-on activities, and opportunities for partner or small group learning.
Here’s a photo of extracted strands of strawberry DNA from a recent experiment in ScienceWorld. Very cool! Couldn’t do it without you, Scholastic!
If you are looking for a perfect summary of how to teach all year, but also want to fire up your jets for the start of things, TeacherVision’s Ultimate Back-to-School Guide is for you. It lists nine areas to consider, including self-awareness, persistence, and real world effectiveness. But this guide is much more than a list. It’s inspirational and has multiple links to apps, books, and online resources for each area that will support your teaching experience- and make you more effective.
The first area reviewed is one of the most important to me: self-awareness. Did you know there’s an app for that? Well, actually, much more than that. One inspirational quote in this section comes from Daniel Goleman, who has been at the center of the emotional intelligence field for years. “If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”
As a teacher, our job is to not only improve our self-awareness but also that of our students. As I noted in an earlier blog, Marianne Hardiman says that “setting the emotional climate for learning may be the most important task a teacher embarks on each day.”
It’s no surprise that Drs. Sally and Bennett Shaywitz have founded one of the best sites around for info on dyslexia. The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity (YCDC) provides terrific resources for educators, families, and kids. As the author of “Overcoming Dyslexia” and a leading figure in ongoing research on dyslexia, Sally Shaywitz focuses on both the strengths and challenges experienced by folks with dyslexia.
This wonderful site features:
- Research on dyslexia, including the rationale for calling dyslexia an “unexpected difficulty” in reading by individuals who have the intelligence and motivation to read.
- A powerful section of resources for kids, parents, educators, and policy makers. You’ll find terrific student tips and poignant stories featuring young people from a wide range of backgrounds- and all of it is printable!
- Success stories of folks who have used used their unique learning style for good (and no, they are not all actors!).
- Advocacy tools for parents and educators, including helpful strategies for raising awareness of dyslexia, social media suggestions, and more.
- A news and press section with summaries of current news articles on dyslexia and newsletters from YDCD.
I highly recommend this site as a starting point for learning more about dyslexia. YDCD is also a place where educators and families can find support in their dyslexia journey, which can be tough but oh, so rewarding!
Siri and I have a complicated relationship. Sometimes she helps me call my dearest teaching widower and other times she has no idea who that is. It drives me nuts when she calmly tells me, “You’ll need to unlock your iPhone first.” What?? My dearest widower has not changed his name or number!
Recently I was stuck in a snarled traffic mess for what seemed like forever, so I forgave her (that’s good) and chatted with her (that’s bad in a car, I know). But I was not moving! Not an inch! For a long time! OK, I was impatient (also bad).
I started with some important questions but the conversation went downhill from there.
Reid Wilson’s approach to cognitive behavior therapy changed my life. No longer trapped by a driving phobia, I drive anywhere and everywhere, sometimes still telling my amygdala to give it a rest. Reid now has a new online course which I can guarantee will change your thinking about anxiety! The course is called “Stop Worrying: Powerful New Tools for Anxiety Relief.”
Why am I so convinced that this course will be life changing? Two reasons: Because it is founded on the latest brain research and Reid Wilson is an expert in this field. The video below explains what happens in your brain when you come across something scary, like a snake. Watch it and be amazed at how fabulous your brain is- and how that amazing brain can make a mess of fear.
More info on this course to follow!
Long distance learning just got a lot easier with Google Duo. It’s been around for a couple of years, but my student with an Android phone can now chat and work face-to-face with my iPhone or iPad. Google Duo, an app similar to Facetime, connects seamlessly between our devices.
Why use Google Duo instead of Hangouts? In my sample of one, I’ve found that the Duo connection is clearer and not subject to the freezes and glitchiness of Hangouts when broadband width is sketchy. Google Hangouts allows for screen sharing, but my ingenious student can not only show me his work, but also reveal where I am “sitting.” Enjoying his first phone, this kiddo relishes every opportunity to show off its awesome features. I would rather have seen his Quizlet score, but hey, that came next.
You can see the definition is sharp, revealing my bedhead and makeup-less face. Oh well, we were having too much fun with gadgets to notice!
Wow! Ranger Rick has hit the web big time! I reviewed this kids’ National Wildlife Federation magazine a couple of years ago and can now share its online splash with my readers. Ranger Rick’s online presence adds a lot to what educators and their students can do with the magazine. Each month’s publication of Ranger Rick (ages 7-12), Ranger Rick Junior (4-7), and Ranger Rick Cub (0-4) is available online. Although I’m subscribed to Ranger Rick, I can also view the current issue of Junior and a sample of Cub. All three magazines are top quality, encouraging engagement with science concepts, divergent thinking, exposure and practice with science vocabulary, and fun activities.
For only $5 a year, you can access your Ranger Rick magazine subscription, play online games, engage in craft and suggested outdoor activities, enjoy almost 1500 jokes and riddles, watch videos, and enter the monthly photo contest. The volume (90+) and quality of animal videos is striking, as are the 300+ animal pages. The online games range from completing photo puzzles or trying to survive as a fish in the ocean, to getting a squirrel to the bird feeder and solving word searches. The shop is full of gift ideas, teaching materials, apparel, and apps. More on those later!
With that single membership, teachers can review detailed lesson guides for each issue, along with downloadable worksheets. Previous issues are archived for easy access. The worksheets I saw involved higher level thinking skills and continued use of science vocabulary, which is key to fluent reading in subject areas.
What is helpful to special needs students? A lot!
- The online access will be appealing to kiddos who love their tech gizmos. The games do not all have timed features and range widely in difficulty.
- The clear photos and videos will allow students to focus easily on the topic at hand. Like the paper version, online Ranger Rick minimizes visual clutter.
- A major advantage of the online version is the typed version of each article (in addition to snapshots of the pages). Students with reading challenges will appreciate this plain, well-spaced type on a white background. Some devices most likely read the type out loud, too.
- A simple click on the page snapshots opens to a fullscreen image of that page, which allows for clearer photos of the featured animals, along with the original text. This could be used to scaffold from plain type to the more colorful pages of the magazine.
- Links to interesting, related videos are also clear.
Online Ranger Rick gives you a lot of bang for your five bucks. Check it out!
What is Bansho?
a. A type of sushi
b. A form of martial arts
c. A math teaching strategy
It’s a clever math strategy! Bansho was recently featured in Teaching Children Mathematics, a NCTM publication. Originally developed in Japan, this powerful visual strategy has been used successfully in Thailand and for this article, in Texas. Daphyne Miller is the featured teacher.
How does it work? Bansho organizes the math learning process visually (such as across a board or wall), encouraging student-generated ideas and discussion. The board space is divided into sections that correspond to 3 phases in a lesson: activating prior knowledge, exploring a problem, and discussing/ extending the problem. Students connect their ideas to others’ work throughout the process. Teachers must anticipate student responses, provide hands on materials, and monitor student work and interactions.
What does it look like? Depending on the problem being solved, a pictorial representation of the problem is on the left side, along with keywords and related vocabulary. The center section features student work, organized in columns to show a progression from concrete to abstract reasoning. On the far right, student work and teacher input extend the learning. Check out Thinking of Teaching blog for cool images.
How could this be adapted to support special needs students?
- If you look at most Bansho illustrations, you’ll see lots of handwritten work. Using digital tools to capture student work would help those kids who struggle to spell or even draw. Smart boards could be an easy adaptation.
- Provide visual cues for students to communicate during all three phases of the lessons. These could be as basic as index cards printed with cues: “Look at your partner. Ask her to tell you her number sentence. Ask her to write that sentence for you.”
- Pair students carefully. Use a buddy system but don’t wear out the “helpers!”
- Encourage students to use their special interests when extending the math problem to varied topics. This will likely make it easier for them to share their ideas with the group. Allow video recordings for those kiddos who are reluctant to share in a large group.
- Be creative in reducing the visual clutter of a Bansho display. This could include digital instead of paper worksheets, using a smart board for the entire display, or placing the three sections or phases onto separate boards.
Storyblocks is an awesome site for downloading images, videos (including 360 and virtual reality) and audio files, all royalty free. I discovered Storybooks while browsing Pixabay, a site with over 1.3 million FREE images. Storyblocks is not free but for unlimited downloads of very high quality in numerous file formats, it’s a great deal.
I have an image license and can search Storyblocks by category or peruse their collections for vector art, illustrations, and photos. I appreciate their racial diversity and wide range of choices.
Yes, it would be cheating if I used Storyblocks photos for blog challenges.