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Pi Day: An Example of an Interdisciplinary, Engaging Lesson

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I have the privilege of teaching my gifted elementary students for multiple years. At my one school, I have them in class for a full day each week, and each year I have special thematic days for which the students get very excited, e.g., Halloween and Day of the Dead “Wars,” Valentines Day, Book Celebrations, and Pi Day. I love planning a variety of interdisciplinary activities for these days and I love watching how 100% are fully engaged for the entire time.

I’ve blogged about the value of interdisciplinary units before – All Lessons Should Be Interdisciplinary https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2019/01/13/all-lessons-should-be-interdisciplinary/

benefits-of-interdisciplinary-learning

Pi Day Activities

The day consisted of the following activities:

  • Digital Breakout
  • Making and Decorating Pies
  • Book: Sir Cumference
  • Measuring for Pi
  • Kahoot Pi Games

Standards Addressed

Common Core Math Standards:

  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.7.G.B.4
    Know the formulas for the area and circumference of a circle and use them to solve problems; give an informal derivation of the relationship between the circumference and area of a circle.
  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.MD.A.1
    Convert among different-sized standard measurement units within a given measurement system, and use these conversions in solving multi-step, real world problems.

Common Core English Language Arts Standards:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.7
    Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.5.10
    By the end of the year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grades 4-5 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

ISTE Standards for Students:

  • Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.
  • Students collect data or identify relevant data sets, use digital tools to analyze them, and represent data in various ways to facilitate problem-solving and decision-making.

21st Partnership for 21st Century Skills:

  • Collaborate with others
  • Demonstrate ability to work effectively and respectfully with diverse teams
  • Exercise flexibility and willingness to be helpful in making necessary compromises to accomplish a common goal
  • Assume shared responsibility for collaborative work, and value the individual contributions made by each team member

Digital Breakout EDU – Pi Day

So what is this about Digital Breakout EDU games?  Simply put, it’s taking the same concept, but turning it all digital.  Participants are given a one-page site that includes text, images and links to clues, some of which may be misleading.  There is a Google Form embedded on the page where you submit your answers to a series of “lock” questions and each lock will immediately tell you if you’re successful (http://wordpress.barrow.k12.ga.us/21stcenturytips/?p=6989).

To start off our Pi day activities, students did a Pi Day Digital Breakout EDU game.

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Can be accessed at https://platform.breakoutedu.com/game/play/pi-day-digital-breakout-4th-6th-grades-90608 .

Making and Decorating Pies

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One of the activities students enjoy the most during Pi day is making pies. They were given ingredients and recipes for:

They needed to follow the recipe which included figuring out the directions and using measurements. After the pies were made, they decorated them with Pi symbols.

Sir Cumference

The students then were shown a reading of Sir Cumference and the First Round Table (A Math Adventure) by Cindy Neuschwander:

Join Sir Cumference, Lady Di of Ameter, and their son Radius for wordplay, puns, and problem solving in this geometry-packed math adventure. King Arthur was a good ruler, but now he needs a good ruler. What would you do if the neighboring kingdom were threatening war? Naturally, you’d call your strongest and bravest knights together to come up with a solution. But when your conference table causes more problems than the threat of your enemy, you need expert help. Enter Sir Cumference, his wife Lady Di of Ameter, and their son Radius. With the help of the carpenter, Geo of Metry, this sharp-minded team designs the perfect table conducive to discussing the perfect plan for peace (https://www.amazon.com/Cumference-First-Round-Table-Adventure/dp/1570911525).

Measuring for Pi

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With tape measures in hand, groups of students carefully measure the circumferences and diameters of various round objects.  The class makes a table of measured values and calculates the quotients.  When they see time and time again the same answer result from division, whether it be from big circular objects or small ones—eureka!—they will have unwittingly discovered π for themselves (http://ccssimath.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-life-of-pi.html).

Pi Kahoots

Using Kahoot wasn’t planned for the day but the students asked for it. I love that they ask for learning tasks. The Kahoot quizzes made and submitted by other teachers make it so easy to use them spontaneously. Here are the two Pi Kahoots I did with the students:

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Accessed at: https://create.kahoot.it/details/pi-day/877d64ee-3003-4a30-9d82-f1cd81721749

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Accessed at: https://create.kahoot.it/details/pi-day-trivia/a7605cd3-4c93-4c13-bc23-eec96da2a627

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 31, 2019 at 4:39 pm

Sustainable Development Goals: Writing Journals

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The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests (Division for Sustainable Development Goals, n.d.).

Assignment Goal:

In order to develop a solid background about the definitions and intent related to the Sustainable Development Goals, you will do research using the resources below and/or from your own research.

State and National Content Area and Literacy Standards Addressed:

Common Core State Standards – ELA

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.1
    Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.2
    Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.2
    Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.1
    Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

Common Core State Standards – Math

  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.HSS.ID.A.3
    Interpret differences in shape, center, and spread in the context of the data sets, accounting for possible effects of extreme data points (outliers).

21st Century Goals

  • Use 21st century skills to understand and address global issues
  • Learn from and working collaboratively with individuals representing diverse cultures, religions, and lifestyles in a spirit of mutual respect and open dialogue in personal, work, and community contexts
  • Understand other nations and cultures, including the use of non-English languages (Battelle for Kids, n.d.).

Suggested Readings and Resources:

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Source – http://blogs.worldbank.org/opendata/2018-atlas-sustainable-development-goals-all-new-visual-guide-data-and-development

Tradebook – 

World Bank Group. (2018). Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals 2018: From World Development Indicators (World Bank Atlas). World Bank Publications. (Available at https://optefau.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/9781464812507.pdf.)

The Atlas draws on the World Bank Group’s World Development Indicators, a database of more than 1,400 indicators for more than 220 economies, many going back over 50 years. It also explores new data from scientists and researchers where standards for measuring SDG targets are still being developed. Data are critical for decision making and accountability.  Ultimately, the purpose of managing data in this way is to produce measurable results— improved resilience to economic, environmental, and humanitarian shocks; more jobs and opportunities; and improved education, health, nutrition, and gender equality—while leaving no one behind (World Bank Group. 2018, p. 9).

Websites – 

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests (https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs)

The webpage from the World’s Largest Lesson contains downloadable comics, graphic novels, and picture books.

iOS App –

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Learn about the 17 SDGs, get news on your favorite goals, find out what you can do how you can take action to help achieve them, create your own events actions and invite others to join you in sustainable actions and events (GSMA LTD, n.d.).

Types of Journaling:

Response journals create permanent records of what readers are feeling and thinking as they interact with texts. A response journal allows students to record their thoughts about texts and emotional reactions to them. Teachers may use prompts to trigger students’ feelings and thoughts about a subject or may invite students to respond freely to what they are reading and doing in class. Prompts include questions, visual stimuli, read-alouds, or situations created to stimulate thinking (Vacca, Vacca, & Mraz, 2017).

You will have a choice of two types of journals and/or a combination of both:

  • A Double Journal Entry
  • A Sketchbook

double-entry journal (DEJ) is a versatile adaptation of the response journal. As the name implies, DEJs allow students to record dual entries that are conceptually related. In ­doing so, students juxtapose their thoughts and feelings according to the prompts they are given for making the entries. To create a two-column format for a DEJ, have students divide sheets of notebook paper in half lengthwise (Vacca, Vacca, & Mraz, 2017).

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Another option for journaling is through sketchnoting and the use of a sketchbook:

As an introduction to the sketchbook, the class discusses reasons for keeping a sketchbook, which the teacher adapted from a model used by McIntosh (1991):

  • What should you include in your sketchbook? New ideas, sketches, concepts, designs, redesigns, words, notes from class, drawings to show understanding, reflections on the class, questions that you have, and new things you’ve learned.

  • When should you include entries in your sketchbook? (1) After each class; (2) anytime an insight or a design idea or question hits you; (3) anytime, so keep the sketchbook handy and visible in your work area.

  • Why should you draw and write in your sketchbook? (1) It will record your ideas you might otherwise forget; (2) it will record and note your growth; (3) it will facilitate your learning, problem solving, idea forming, research, reading, and discussion in class.

  • How should you write and draw entries in your sketchbook? You can express yourself in sketches and drawings; in single words, questions, or short phrases; in long, flowing sentences; in designs and redesigns; in diagrams, graphs, and overlays; or in colors.

  • Remember, the sketchbook is yours, and it reflects how perceptive you are with your ideas and how creative you are in your thought processes (Vacca, Vacca, & Mraz, 2017).

Sketchnoting is gaining more popularity and builds off of the sketchbook method of journaling.

Integration of information and Communication Technologies (ICT):

You will create journal entries using either a blog platform or a Google Site. If you decide to make handwritten notes or sketch, you can take pictures and upload those onto your site.

Social Media Alternative

You can also choose to take photos of your notes and post them on Twitter or Instagram.  using the #SDG hashtag https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/sdg/?hl=en.

Twitter Example:

Instagram Example:

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Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/BvVvhxegDWD/

References:

Battelle for Kids, (n.d.). Frame for 21st Century Learning Definitions. Retrieved from http://www.battelleforkids.org/networks/p21/frameworks-resources.

Common Core State Standards Initiative. (n.d.). English Language Arts Standards » Reading: Informational Text » Grade 9-10. Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/RI/9-10/

Common Core State Standards Initiative. (n.d.). High School: Statistics & Probability » Interpreting Categorical & Quantitative Data. Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/RI/9-10/.

Division for Sustainable Development Goals. (n.d.). Sustainable Development Goals. Retrieved from https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs.

GSMA LTD (2018). SDGs in Action [Mobile application software]. Retrieved from https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/sdgs-in-action/id1152939433.

Vacca, R. T., Vacca, J.L., & Mraz, M. (2017). Content area reading:Literacy and learning across the curriculum. (12th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education

World Bank Group. (2018). Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals 2018: From World Development Indicators (World Bank Atlas). World Bank Publications.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 24, 2019 at 8:51 pm

Making a Pitch for Social Entrepreneurship

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I have done a social entrepreneurship unit with two groups of gifted students, grades 3rd through 6th. It was one of my favorite units . . . ever, and from their reactions, I believe it was one of theirs, too. I call it a perfect STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) unit – see https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2018/05/13/elementary-social-entrepreneurship-a-perfect-steam-lesson/ for more information about this unit.

The purpose of this post is to expand on this notion of social entrepreneurship to assist learners in developing a pitch as if they were promoting their product or service to potential funders on a show like Shark Tank for kids.

Standards Addressed

Framework for 21st Century Learning

Financial, Economic, Business, and Entrepreneurial Literacy

  • Know how to make appropriate personal economic choices
  • Understand the role of the economy in society
  • Use entrepreneurial skills to enhance workplace productivity and career options

(http://www.battelleforkids.org/networks/p21/frameworks-resources)

Common Core State Standards – English Language Arts

Students employ technology thoughtfully to enhance their reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language use. They tailor their searches online to acquire useful information efficiently, and they integrate what they learn using technology with what they learn offline. They are familiar with the strengths and limitations of various technological tools and mediums and can select and use those best suited to their communication goals.

(http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/introduction/students-who-are-college-and-career-ready-in-reading-writing-speaking-listening-language/)

ISTE Standards for Students

Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.  Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.

(https://www.iste.org/standards/for-students)

Why Social Entrepreneurship

First, even though the “why” may not be part of their pitches, I want learners to know the whys and whats of social entrepreneurship. The first step of this lesson will be to have them review articles and videos on this topic, and compose a short summary in their own words that defines social entrepreneurship. For example, it can include:

A definition of social entrepreneurship is the act of creating a venture or business that can help solve social problems or benefit society. For children, this can mean creating things to sell, providing a special service, or organizing an event to earn money for a cause, resulting in what many experts call “social value” (Young Kids Need to Learn About Social Entrepreneurship).

Directions Given to Students

  • As part of your social entrepreneurship challenge, the pitch you are developing for your social entrepreneurship business, you will need to demonstrate evidence of researching:
    • The meaning and intent of social entrepreneurship, in general.  
    • Successful social entrepreneurship ventures of young people (under the age of 18 and at least one from a culture other than a white, United States citizen),
    • Viable goods or services which your company plans to sell,
    • How to create a budget,
    • Possible nonprofit organizations or causes to whom you would donate the profits.

People pitch a business because they need resources. If the goal is to raise startup cash, the target of the pitch is an investor. Other businesses pitch to potential customers to sell their product. Finally, some organizations pitch because they need a partner or resource to help them accomplish their mission” (Business Pitch: Definition, Types & Importance).

  • Your team’s presentation should be a 5 to 8 minute pitch for your social entrepreneurship startup which includes information about the product to be sold, the social cause that will be addressed, marketing plan as well as clearly explains what your company does, why it’s unique, and how it serves your customers.
  • Your presentation should include a visual component in the form of a slide deck that showcases at least two of the following:
    • A company logo,
    • Sketch of the product(s) that will be sold,
    • Marketing flyer

Potential Resources for Students

Readings

Videos

Developing Your Pitch

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 18, 2019 at 8:50 pm

Scratch and Makey Makey Across the Curriculum

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I love bringing physical computing into my classrooms:

Physical computing means building interactive physical systems by the use of software and hardware that can sense and respond to the analog world. Physical computing is a creative framework for understanding human beings’ relationship to the digital world. In practical use, the term most often describes handmade art, design or DIY hobby projects that use sensors and microcontrollers to translate analog input to a software system, and/or control electro-mechanical devices such as motors, servos, lighting or other hardware (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_computing).

. . . but as with all use of educational technologies, I believe that it should be used intentionally to assist learners in developing and expanding their content knowledge and life skills.

Best Practices for Physical Computing

benefits of physical computing

  • Hands-on/Minds-On: “When students are fully engaged in a task, they are actively doing and actively thinking. While hands are engaged, minds should be questioning, sorting through sensory input, and making connections” (Actively Engage Students Using Hands-on & Minds-on Instruction).
  • Development of Learning and Innovation as Well as Career and Life Skills: Physical computing activities should be designed to help learners develop skills as identified as by the Partnership for 21st Century Learning.

Learning and innovation skills are what separate students who are prepared for increasingly complex life and work environments in today’s world and those who are not. These skills include: Creativity and Innovation; and Critical Thinking and Problem Solving.

Today’s students need to develop thinking skills, content knowledge, and social and emotional competencies to navigate complex life and work environments. P21’s essential Life and Career Skills include: Flexibility and Adaptability; and Initiative and Self-Direction (Partnership for 21st Century Learning Framework and Resources).

  • Cross Curricular Connections: Physical computing, at its best, enbraces content standards across the curriculum.

Multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary learning is a “whole” or “comprehensive” method that covers an idea, topic, or text by integrating multiple knowledge domains. It is a very powerful method of teaching that crosses the boundaries of a discipline or curriculum in order to enhance the scope and depth of learning. Each discipline sheds light on the topic like the facets of a gem.  (A Cornucopia of Multidisciplinary Teaching).

  • Relevant and Authentic Learning: Physical computing is often perceived by learners of all ages are relevant to their lives especially with the current push towards learning STEM and coding.

Authentic learning is learning designed to connect what students are taught in school to real-world issues, problems, and applications; learning experiences should mirror the complexities and ambiguities of real life. Students work towards production of discourse, products, and performances that have value or meaning beyond success in school; this is learning by doing approach (Authentic learning: what, why and how?)

  • Learner-Centric – More of Them; Less of Us:At its heart, maker education and physical computing is about centering around the learner. Children and youth are natural learners—imaginative, curious, exploratory testers of theories and creators of solutions. When children and youth have educational experiences that allow them to fully occupy the educational space and are supported by adults who trust their innate abilities and contributions  and are given the guidance, they grow confident in their abilities (At its heart, maker education is always about centering the learner).

Direct instruction is provided through structured and prescribed activities with the goal of learners then being able to eventually go into self-determined directions.  My contention is that learners often don’t know what they don’t know; and that giving them the basic skills frees them to then use their creativity and innovation to take these tools into self-determined directions

  • Open-Ended Challenge: As stated above, learning is scaffolded but even with more structure projects as described in this post, they are still open-ended enough for learners to integrate their own talents, interests, and skills into the projects.

Note about using Makey Makey and Scratch 3.0

All of the following projects utilized new Scratch 3.0 along with their new extensions: Makey Makey and Text to Speech.

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Language Arts: Character Development

Standards Addressed:

Common Core State Standards – ELA

  • Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

Next Generation Science Standards

  • Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
  • Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

National Core Arts Standards

  • Students will generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.

ISTE Standards for Students

  • Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.
  • Students develop, test and refine prototype  as part of a cyclical design process.
  • Students exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance, and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.
  • Students understand how automation works and use algorithmic thinking to develop a sequence of steps to create and test automated solutions.

Directions:

Learners engaged in a maker-enhanced writers’ workshop. I like having my learners begin by developing their characters. They did so by:


Science: Brain Science

Standards Addressed:

Next Generation Science Standards

  • Develop a model to describe phenomena.
  • Use a model to test interactions concerning the functioning of a natural system.
  • Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
  • Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

ISTE Standards for Students

  • Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.
  • Students develop, test and refine prototype  as part of a cyclical design process.
  • Students exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance, and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.
  • Students understand how automation works and use algorithmic thinking to develop a sequence of steps to create and test automated solutions.

Directions:


Music: Piano

Standards Addressed:

Music Education

  • The creative ideas, concepts, and feelings that influence musicians’ work emerge from a variety of sources.
  • Musicians connect their personal interests, experiences, ideas, and knowledge to creating, performing, and responding.

ISTE Standards for Students

  • Students exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance, and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.
  • Students understand how automation works and use algorithmic thinking to develop a sequence of steps to create and test automated solutions.

Directions:

These project used the directions from Scratch Cards, Music Cards, for the Microbit found at https://microbit.org/scratch/.  Instead of a microbit, a Makey Makey was used. See the video below.


Engineering: Marble Mazes

Standards Addressed:

Next Generation Science Standards

  • Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
  • Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.

ISTE Standards for Students

  • Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.
  • Students develop, test and refine prototype  as part of a cyclical design process.
  • Students exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance, and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.
  • Students understand how automation works and use algorithmic thinking to develop a sequence of steps to create and test automated solutions.

Directions:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 11, 2019 at 9:45 pm

Maker-Enhanced Writing Workshop: Character Development

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benefits-of-interdisciplinary-learning

Readers of my blog know my thoughts and feelings about effective student learning. I have written blogs on:

This month I started a maker-enhanced writing workshop with a group of gifted 3rd through 6th grade students. As with all of my lessons, I strive to practice what I preach in my blog posts – being interdisciplinary; using technology to enhance their work; and making, creating, innovating, and inventing.

Standards Addressed

21st Century Skills

  • Elaborate, refine, analyze and evaluate their own ideas in order to improve and maximize creative efforts.
  • Create new and worthwhile ideas (both incremental and radical concepts).
  • Elaborate, refine, analyze and evaluate their own ideas in order to improve and maximize creative efforts.
  • Develop, implement and communicate new ideas to others effectively.
  • Articulate thoughts and ideas effectively using oral, written and nonverbal communication skills in a variety of forms and contexts.

Next Generation Science Standards

  • Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
  • Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

Common Core State Standards – ELA

  • Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

National Core Arts Standards

  • Students will generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.

ISTE Standards for Students

  • Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.

National Novel Writer’s Month Young Novelist’s Workbook

For this project, I use parts of the National Novel Writer’s Month Young Novelist’s Workbook found at https://ywp.nanowrimo.org/pages/educator-resources.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, empowering approach to creative writing. The Young Writers Program (YWP) allows 17-and-under participants to set reasonable-but-challenging individual word-count goals.

The YWP also helps K–12 educators facilitate NaNoWriMo in schools, libraries, and community centers around the world. We provide virtual classroom spaces on our site, as well as student workbooks, Common Core-aligned curricula, and free motivational materials (https://ywp.nanowrimo.org/).

Since I work with 3rd through 6th graders, I use the one for elementary students. I also like the way it is formatted with lots of places to insert one’s own answers and ideas.  Here is the PDF – elementary_school_workbook_ed4_INTERIOR.

Character Development

After some introductory information, the workbook jumps into character develop. I like having my learners begin by developing their characters. They did so by:

  • Describing their character (pages 11 – 25 in the workbook).
  • Drawing a picture of their characters.
  • Creating a more artistic version of their character using additional art materials.
  • Posting a description and image of their character onto Kidblog.
  • Using Scratch and Makey Makey to describe the main characteristics of their characters.

Example Character Description and Artistic Creation

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Programming Character Details Using Scratch and Makey Makey

The idea for this part of the lesson came from the Makey Makey Biography Bottles https://labz.makeymakey.com/cwists/preview/1506-biography-bottlesx. In the case of their character development, students programmed Scratch to tell a fact about their character upon the touch of each button.

The first step is to create the physical element, the character is glued onto a piece of cardstock (file folders work well for this). Holes are punched along the bottom – five for five facts and one for the Makey Makey ground wire. Large brass fasteners are inserted so that one of the fastener legs is bent to hold it in place and the other hangs over the edge. This permits the connection between the object and the Makey Makey.

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Students then program Scratch so that when different fasteners are touched, a different fact about that character is verbalized. Scratch 3.0 now has extensions for Makey Makey and Text to Speech – both which are used for this project.

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They upload a picture of their character and choose five facts about their character – one fact for each of the Makey Makey keys – space, up arrow, down arrow, left arrow, and right arrow.  These facts are made via Text to Speech blocks. Students can even change accents and languages with these blocks.

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Now you are ready to connect the Makey Makey! Connect alligator clips to the legs of the brass fasteners that protrude from the conductive plate. It is a good idea to mark which button you want to trigger each key press. Connect the other end of each alligator clip to the matching input on the Makey Makey. Make sure you have a clip attached to the ground. Connect the Makey Makey to the computer. Run your Scratch program. Hold the ground clip (making sure you are touching the metal part) and lightly touch each button (https://labz.makeymakey.com/cwists/preview/1506-biography-bottlesx).

To see how it all works, watch the video below:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

February 17, 2019 at 2:40 pm

Authentic Learning Experiences

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Providing authentic learning experiences to all learners should be the highest prior for all administrators, curriculum developers, and teachers.

Authentic learning is learning designed to connect what students are taught in school to real-world issues, problems, and applications; learning experiences should mirror the complexities and ambiguities of real life. Students work towards production of discourse, products, and performances that have value or meaning beyond success in school; this is learning by doing approach (Authentic learning: what, why and how?).

In education, the term authentic learning refers to a wide variety of educational and instructional techniques focused on connecting what students are taught in school to real-world issues, problems, and applications. The basic idea is that students are more likely to be interested in what they are learning, more motivated to learn new concepts and skills, and better prepared to succeed in college, careers, and adulthood if what they are learning mirrors real-life contexts, equips them with practical and useful skills, and addresses topics that are relevant and applicable to their lives outside of school. For related discussions, see 21st century skills, relevance, and rigor (Authentic Learning).

The bottom line, in my perspective, is that learners view their experiences as having relevancy to their own lives, that they address their interests and needs.

Qualities of Authentic Learning

I believe authentic learning experiences have the following qualities (which, by the way, are way too, often are not the qualities of many classroom activities):

authentic learning

Some Recent Examples of Authentic Learning

Here are some recent examples I have done with my learners – one class did a social entrepreneurship unit while  another class made Makey Makey Marble Mazes. I posted videos so their engagement can be seen.

Social Entrepreneurship

My students are finishing a unit on social entrepreneurship where they started a business to raise monies for a local nonprofit. They created a market survey using a Google Form, which asked about products, price points, potential nonprofit organization recipients of the profits; analyzed survey results, decided on and tested products; developed an expense sheet, using Google Sheets, for expenses and income; created a business plan that included the name of company, cost analysis, promotional plan; made a promotional flyer; created a sales and record sheet; delivered products; and managed monies.

For more information about this unit, see Elementary Social Entrepreneurship: A Perfect STEAM Lesson https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2018/05/13/elementary-social-entrepreneurship-a-perfect-steam-lesson/.

Makey-Makey Marble Mazes

Another group of earners made a Makey-Makey Marble Mazes as described by @Colleen Graves, see https://colleengraves.org/2018/05/04/makey-makey-marble-maze-and-5th-grade/

Reflection

I absolutely love planning authentic learning experiences. I get to use my creativity to plan and implement them. It does take lots of pre-planning – finding resources, usually videos, and purchasing, gathering, and organizing the resources used.

I also love watching how excited learners get doing them. There is 100% engagement. I’ve said before that being an experiential educator, there is lots of pre-planning but the learners work harder than me during class time – as it should be.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 20, 2019 at 9:31 pm

All Lessons Should Be Interdisciplinary

with 3 comments

I am not a fan of worksheets. In fact, I hate most of them. They don’t teach real world skills. How often does someone do worksheets outside of school? How often when they become adults? They also tend to focus on a single content area concept like specific math problems or questions about a particular text.

I used to teach face-to-face elementary education classes to pre-service teachers. There is evidence that teachers teach the way they were taught. I know that almost everyone has been subjected to worksheets as part of their K-12 (even college) education. It follows, then, that theses new teachers will use worksheets as part of their teaching strategies. I can’t blame them especially if they are not intentionally taught and do not practice other instructional strategies as part of their education.

My instruction with them included a focus on interdisciplinary/cross-curricular, thematic, experiential, and project-based learning. I did very little sage on the stage with them during our classes as I wanted them to directly experience these strategies. They did lots of group discussion, case study analysis, and hands-on activities. I often said to them, “You really don’t have enough time in a day to adequately address all of the individual content areas. It is in both your and your students interest to layer your curriculum with a variety of content area concepts, ideas, and skills that can only occur with more project-based and interdisciplinary lessons. Worksheets won’t do this.”

Multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary learning is a “whole” or “comprehensive” method that covers an idea, topic, or text by integrating multiple knowledge domains. It is a very powerful method of teaching that crosses the boundaries of a discipline or curriculum in order to enhance the scope and depth of learning. Each discipline sheds light on the topic like the facets of a gem.

Imagine being able to teach character development, basic math, and basic science concepts via a classic text. How about basic geography, writing skills, and point of view from that same text? Is it possible to also teach about comprehension, sequence, literal vs. non-literal, imagination, plot, theme, compare and contrast, opinion pieces, vocabulary, friendship, bullying, and critical thinking? The answer is yes, and the genre is legends, myths, and fables (https://www.edutopia.org/blog/a-cornucopia-of-multidisciplinary-teaching-vincent-mastro).

Benefits of Interdisciplinary Learning:

  • Obviously, it addresses multiple content areas resulting in increased cognitive development as deeper learning occurs.
  • It mimics real life learning rather than isolated educational experiences. It is authentic. When we learn something in the real world, it is interdisciplinary. For example, when learning how to bake or cook something new, one often does research for the best recipes and cooking strategies, reading of recipes and directions, and using math in the actual cooking or baking.
  • It helps students increase their critical thinking and problem solving skills. Due to the nature of interdisciplinary learning which often includes the characteristics of deep and project-based learning, students are asked to make their own connections and conclusions about their learning.
  • It is student-centric. The focus is on the student rather than on the teacher and on lower levels of Bloom’s taxonomy that often occurs when students are given drill and grill learning activities.
  • It tends to be highly engaging for students. They engage because interdisciplinary activities often have at least one content area that is of great interest to the student. It highlights their strengths.
  • It opens doors for students to develop interest in content areas in which they have not been typically interested as they see connections between their desirable content areas and other ones.

benefits of interdisciplinary learning

Some of my blog posts about my interdisciplinary lessons:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 13, 2019 at 12:43 am

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