Science newsletter – November ’17

First quarter and parent-teacher conferences have come and gone. It’s always good to meet the parents and share how their child is doing in science. One of the most common questions during conferences is about homework and that their child rarely seems to have science homework.

As a result of conversations about homework and how parents can help their child in science, I’ve changed how I will announce homework in science. Each homework assignment will be an assignment on Google Classroom and it will be visible in the calendar of Google Classroom. In fact, all of your student’s homework assignments will appear in the Google Classroom calendar.

I will continue my practice of checking homework for completion. It’s a five-point grade and half credit if it is not completed in time for class. I will also continue to provide five to ten minutes of class to begin the assignment. Most of the homework I assign should take no more than 15 to 20 minutes and the purpose is to prepare for the next day’s class when we will review and correct the assignment. Students are encouraged, and expected, to correct their original work in the science workbooks using a different colored pen or pencil – mark their misconceptions and write the correct answer.

Lately, I’ve been helping students overcome a couple of misconceptions. The first is the difference between mass and weight. Continue reading “Science newsletter – November ’17”

History Newsletter – October ’17

What is inquiry?

You’ve probably heard that word in the past couple of weeks in relation to this year’s social studies class.

Inquiry in the social studies classroom begins with a compelling question – a question that doesn’t have a simple yes or no answer nor is the answer easily searchable with Google.

In our case the compelling question for our first inquiry of the year is:

Was the American Revolution avoidable?

Most 8th graders, and Americans, know the story of the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, the Declaration of Independence, and the American Revolution. The reason for war of ‘No taxation without representation.’ It’s what they’ve been taught since they’ve been in school. But the story behind the American Revolution is much more complex than a simple chronology of events.

Inquiry, is a shift in instruction – which means some of the responsibility for learning shifts from the teacher to the student encouraging students to be engaged and curious and wonder about they ‘why and how’ of social studies.

The question we want our students to grapple with was, was the conflict avoidable or not?

Most adults remember history class as having to remember dates, people, places, battles, and other events. Knowing this information is important, but it’s not about what teaching and learning history should be. In fact, in my years of teaching, I’ve learned it’s what turns most 13-14 years olds off in social studies. Some middle school students love history, but for many students, it’s a drudge.

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress. The Bloody Massacre Perpetrated in King Street Boston on March 5th 1770 by a Party of the 29th Regt. Boston: Engrav’d Printed & Sold by Paul Revere, 1770. Fine Prints. Prints & Photographs Division.

Continue reading “History Newsletter – October ’17”

Science Newsletter – September ’17

Happy Science Friday!

We’ve been busy in science this year. Science is a hands-on experience and this past week we began exploring the pendulum.

To begin the school year, I introduced the ISN – the Interactive Science Notebook – the notebook we’ll be using this year in science. The ISN has writing space for class notes and information provided in class, as well as writing space for their observations, lab notes, and content the students discuss in their table groups. The left-hand pages ar for their notes, reflections, and for the students to write responses to prompts in science – it can be for their ideas, drawings, and lab notes. The right-hand pages are for content I provide in class via lecture notes and science content I need them to have to provide a base for their understanding of science concepts.

During the first week, I asked students to copy a quote from Rachel Carson, the noted American marine biologist and conservationist whose book Silent Spring and other writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement. If you were at curriculum night, Rachel Carson’s photo was over one of the tables in the back of the classroom.

“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later years…the alienation from the sources of our strength.”         Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

I plan to foster a sense of collaborative learning in science class where students develop the skills and confidence to ask questions and be curious and wonder. It’s a BIG WORLD out there with many unknowns. It is going to take a great deal of curiosity, grit, and persistence to be successful in the 21st century.

We’ll finish the exploring the pendulum next week and then we’ll begin Unit 1 – How will it move? The unit explores forces and motion and each student will receive a workbook which includes readings, drawings, diagrams with space for students to respond to questions and record their observations. We will continue to use the ISN for extended responses. Continue reading “Science Newsletter – September ’17”

History Newsletter – September ’17

Happy Friday,

It was ‘hat day’ at Scullen today. Actually, it was hat day at Scullen if you made a dollar (or more) donation to help assist victims of Hurricane Harvey. It was a lot of fun.

In addition to teaching science, I teach social studies and though the four of us have different social studies classes we are all working to develop our students to be #FutureReady204 and prepared for life in the 21st Century.

The social studies curriculum in 8th grade is U. S. History from the early colonies to present. It’s a lot of information to cover in a year, but many nations have histories much longer than the United States. Regardless, we are a product of our past. Abraham Lincoln wrote,

“The past is the cause of the present, and the present will be the cause of the future.”

Currently, we covering the learning about the formation of the colonies along the Atlantic coast in the early seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Continue reading “History Newsletter – September ’17”

The Great War

Tuesday after school I was talking with a colleague, we were discussing what we were doing in our classes. He teaches music and is our band leader. I mentioned that I loved seeing his “I am marching for…” photos and explanations on the walls of my school before AND after Memorial Day in a blog post in 2014 and I asked if he planned to assign the project again this year. He replied,

“Absolutely.”

I mentioned to him that I was the person who did the “Today in History” slides for our school’s morning announcements. He told me he enjoyed them and always shared them with his first period class, but noted that the “Today in History” slide for the day, Tuesday April 4 was rather somber. I agreed – Dr. King is assassinated. I mentioned that Tuesday was the 49th anniversary of the shooting and that I had planned out several memorable ‘Today in History’ slides, for the remainder of the school year – namely today’s slide – U.S. Enters World War 1.

“What a dumb war,” he said immediately.

Yes, what a dumb war, indeed. I agreed. I couldn’t agree with him more. It was a dumb war, most wars are.

Today is the 100-year anniversary of the United States Congress’s Declaration of War on Germany. Only Congress can declare war, but the president must request the Congress to declare war before a joint session of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. President Wilson had come before Congress only days before and asked Congress to declare war on April 2 and four days later the United States House of Representatives voted 373-50 in favor and the United States Senate followed with a vote of 82-6. And, then the United States joined the Allies against Germany. Continue reading “The Great War”