Sunday, November 16, 2008

Projects (or I must be out of my mind...)

What a wild two weeks. Every class worked on projects (big projects!)

I have been evaluating work that my Science for Living has been doing. Let's face it, for the most part, these are the most unmotivated and challenging students in the school. Many have checked out years ago. How do I handle the class?
  • We go pretty slow.
  • I do not force them into groups. They choose who they work with. They do not get along with everyone. (I know they need to have this skill but it does not work with these students.)
  • We spend a few minutes every class just talking about "anything." I work on connecting to them, telling stories, and listening to theirs (hopefully without being too much of a teacher.
Still, products overall were good but some students have some serious problems working. Many students surprised me at their level of work and many others are coming around. Too many of the students have learning disabilities and up to this year, worked with team teachers. They should have it this year too.

Last week, we used a computer based model to investigate global warming. Students were to form questions and develop an experiment they can run through the model, collect and analyze data, and draw a conclusion. Many students do not know how to think let alone question. I need to get them to think. We will work on this. Instead of Inquiry, we are using guided inquiry (very guided inquiry.)

Biology is dissecting owl pellets as outlined here. We are using owl pellets from different regions of the US. Each group has ecosystem related information to find as well as justifying their findings to that of the region, analyzing the health of the ecosystem, etc. They will publish findings to a wiki page, add and compare their findings to that of an owl pellet database, and learn about differences of owls around the US. We will discuss classification of organisms as well as look at the similarities and differences among the predators and prey. We are eventually looking at classification, biodiversity, and issues in larger systems (biomes.)

Academic Biology is in the midst of animal classification research found on the Animal Planet wiki. They are finishing iMovies on their classification phyla or class. We discussed digital etiquette and designing for an audience. Tomorrow they will learn how to use google maps to placemark representative animals of their group with abstract and picture, share the map with members from another teachers class who will add theirs, and publish as a google earth layer. I think this will be a lot of fun. There are 6 classes working on this. The critters they will be creating using Scratch is something I am looking forward to as well!

Leaving for Google Teacher Academy tomorrow is exciting (been looking so forward to this) though it makes me anxious with classes in the thick of working on projects. I may have said I am out of my mind, but I really quite enjoy the challenge.

Have you had experience working with challenging students or getting students to think and work in different ways? I encourage you to share any thoughts or experiences.


  1. Each year I choose the bottom level freshmen as my first choice of classes, and each year I question my sanity in the fall.

    By spring, however,things are flowing better, the kids have an idea how to approach problems, and I start to feel competent again.

    And then I pick the same classes again.

    Enjoy the city!

    (I'll be tackling wiki for the first time in one of my classes. I'll be leaning heavily on your blog.)

  2. Doyle,

    I hope you can share your wiki in some way. Are you using wikispaces? If so, you can always add me so I can take a peek (it is mrsmaine) I can understand if you don't though. Let me know how it is going!

    There are weeks when it comes together and weeks when it doesn't. Many of those kids have other big things in their life that interfere so much with school. Treating them like a person first is what we need to do.