This summer I had a chance to teach a STEAM class to K-5th graders for a week. For those that may not know, STEAM stands for Science, Technology. Engineering, Art, and Math. I love STEAM. I most cases, children are asked to solve a problem, given some rules, and then set free. How they choose to solve the problem is completely up to them. For example, in the picture above the children were asked to build a bridge between tables that supported a bucket full of rocks. They could only use popsicle sticks, clothes pins, and binder clips. the kids LOVED this project. In fact I even had several adults that wanted to try. Throughout the course of the kids' building we talked about non-standard measurement, observation, and weight distribution. The kids were learning and they didn't even know it! It was awesome!
The other thing that I love to teach children when I teach STEAM is the computer programmer's model for solving problems. First we talk about breaking a big problem into smaller parts. For example, with the exercise from above we began simply building a bridge that would go between the two tables. Once they had the bridge we made worked on slowly adding weight until their bridge could hold the entire bucket of rocks. We had a lot of failures, but we talked about how we don't give up when a problem gets hard. We persevere. When the kids did finally create a bridge that worked, they were so happy! There was a lot of cheering. Several kids said at the end of the week how STEAM was their favorite class! Learning and loving it!
I am doing a training this week on classroom management. The school I am working with really wanted me to help the teachers understand they "why" behind classroom management. Why we give children a moment to cool off after they get upset. Why we don't ask kids to write their names on the board when they've done something wrong. Why we don't make kids sit in time out.
As I have worked on this training, I have really had to look at what goes into creating a classroom management system that works because there are so many "why's". Classroom management can be affected by physical reactions, personal relationships, and past experiences. This is why no one system will ever be completely effective for every teacher. And yet, I still see clip charts when I go into classrooms. So many teachers still use clip charts even when we know that they are harmful to children. In this 2018 article from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the authors give us three very important reasons to lose clip charts. I would like to add to those reasons that clip charts do nothing to examine the "why" behind the behavior.
A good classroom management system changes and evolves with the teacher and the students. It focuses on finding ways to help children become better humans and less on shaming them for their mistakes. To create a really good classroom management system, you need to start with the first "why". Why did you become a teacher?
Want to learn more about ditching the clips? You can follow #ditchtheclips on Twitter or find out more about the amazing educator Elizabeth Merce.
I recently started working for a company doing some closed captioning on the side. I have really just started and only captioned a few short videos so far, but this job gave me a brilliant idea! When I was teaching fourth grade, I found it incredibly hard to teach children writing. I loved working with the children and helping them find their voice as a writer, but I had a hard time balancing that with teaching them the mechanics and the grammar.
If I was teaching writing in the classroom today, I would have one class work on finding their voice. (We switched classes in fourth grade when I taught.) They would work on writing and then presenting their writing. We would record the presentations. The other class would then watch the presentation videos and work on transcribing their presentations. With the class that was transcribing, I would work on the mechanics and the grammar. Then you switch and the class that was writing becomes the class that is transcribing!
Why does all of this work as a lesson plan idea? For starters, every state's ELA standards include teaching speaking and listening skills. (Common Core Standards can be found here. Virginia Standards of Learning can be found here. Florida State Standards can be found here.) Being able to clearly articulate your ideas is an important skill that every child will use at some point in their life. One thing I have learned after captioning only a few videos is the importance of speaking clearly and loud enough to be heard.
Want something for the children to practice transcribing before they listen to the work of their peers? Ask the children to transcribe educational YouTube videos. By listening to something over and over again so that you can write down every word, you really learn about it! (I could tell you everything that you need to know about shuttle flow because one video I captioned was for NASA.)
The final benefit to asking students to transcribe videos is that students would then have the option of sharing their work with peers who might be hearing impaired. Adding a transcription of a student's presentation for students who are hearing impaired is a simple way of including students who might otherwise not get to participate or get overlooked.
If you try out transcribing in the classroom, let me know in the comments! I would love to know how it works out!
Using primary sources in the classroom means using objects and artifacts from the time in history that you are studying. It means moving away from the text book and into journal entries and letters. In the past, children might see a picture of a tool in a history book with a caption underneath that told them how the tool was used. That tool would have been completely forgotten mere minutes after the child turned the page. By using primary sources, children are asked to look at a picture of a tool and guess how it was used. To do this they have to make observations and activate their prior knowledge of the time period. All of these leave a longer lasting memory than just looking at a picture in a history book.
Did you know that every single state includes the use of primary sources in their standards? Even states like Virginia and Florida that don't use the common core, included the use of primary sources in their standards. In Virginia, using primary sources is the very first standard under history and social sciences in kindergarten.
In the month of May, my online class is all about using primary sources. We are going to learn about ways of finding primary sources and the copyright rules that govern using those resources in class. I have some very interesting activities planned, and I think that everyone will find that using primary sources in the classroom can really engage students. I look forward to learning with all of you!
Kathryn Harrison has worked in several different educational settings, so she has a unique perspective on education.