February 10th, 2006 by k966Xd


									Journal Entries                                                           Winter/Spring 2006

February 10th, 2006

We had to pay attention to our questioning techniques today for Liz and Pat’s assignment, and I
found it to be a very valuable assignment. There is so much to learn from this activity, especially
when you have to analyze each question that is asked and place it in the appropriate box in the
Andersen-Krathwohl taxonomy table. I realized that most of the questioning in our class is
factual-based, with only a few conceptual questions. The students will often come up with their
own questions that demonstrate higher-order thinking, but this is dependent on the individual
students. It is really important that there are at least 1-2 challenging questions on the tests and
during assignments that make the students apply the factual and conceptual knowledge they have
learned. I’m going to make that one of my foci during my unit.

March 20th, 2006

First day! It went pretty well, though there were so many little things that I forgot to do…I can’t
believe how different the classes are- one class will spend 45 minutes asking relevant/good
questions and generating great discussions on the topics, and the next class will ask next to
nothing, and we’ll be done in a snap.

I spoke to a few students who had circled the “so-so” or “unhappy” face on the survey questions
about how they feel about me OR how they think I feel about them. I was quite surprised by
some of them, because I do like these students. I’m not sure how they got the idea that I don’t.
So I mentioned it in a very casual way to a couple, and re-iterated the fact that I like them a lot,
and appreciate having them in class. I made a point to ask if they felt like I picked on them or
otherwise singled them out too much. A few said that they did feel that way, but most (boys) did
not respond too much. I didn’t push them, but decided I would have to work harder to gain their
trust before we could fully resolve the situation.

March 21st, 2006

My lesson plan totally went out the window today. I didn’t get to half of the activities I wanted
to, I forgot to pass back papers, and yet, I couldn’t cut off the students’ great questions just to get
to things I wanted to do. The tough part however, is navigating when to ask the students to save
their questions and when to table them. I like to address them when they happen, and seize those
teaching opportunities, but half of the students are bored out of their minds, and it’s important to
take their emotions into consideration too. I think I will use the journals for their questions: any
time they have a question that we don’t have time for in class, I will ask them to write it in their
journals, and that might be a good basis for extra credit or an independent project.

March 28th, 2006

The computer simulation was a bit of a failure this morning, and I attribute it to the fact that I
forgot to go through it on the big screen with them once before sending them into the computer
lab where they are distracted and unable to concentrate on my directions. I had to go around to
every individual student and give them personal assistance when they faltered, which was often.
Journal Entries                                                          Winter/Spring 2006

The afternoon class went extremely well- every single student was focused and attentive to the
assignment. It helped immensely that I went through the simulation on the big screen with them
once before assigning them individual laptops.Everyone knew where they were supposed to go
and what they were supposed to do. Magic.

The simulation is a fantastic tool for kinetic and visual learners- they control what happens, just
like a video game, and then watch the result on the graph and tables. It engages them on a level
that isn’t possible through lectures or reading. Plus there is so much good math and science
foundations built into it that they are actually learning. I am thoroughly impressed.

March 29, 2006

Landscaping was completely disorganized today, mainly because no one knew what they were
supposed to be doing. It took most of the hour to get everyone a job. The rest of the time they
were just milling about, doing nothing. It was a good reminder of how important it is to explain
things clearly and give the students direction before beginning an outdoors activity. There is so
much distraction out there, and so many other things to keep an eye on, that it can be really
difficult. The class would function quite smoothly if each person were given a job for every
week, and they performed that same job every day of that week. We, as teachers, would need to
be more organized to make that happen, but the class would run much more smoothly.

March 29, 2006

Dick and I decided that I was rushing it to have the chapter test on M/T. I’m going to reschedule
it for W/Th. That was a hard decision because I feel that we’re running out of time for the plant
unit, but Dick told me not to worry about it, and so I won’t. The most important thing is that the
students learn the material, and if reviewing for an extra day is what needs to happen, then that’s
what we’ll do. We can make up the time later.

April 10, 2006

There were a lot of smiles in class today as I was passing back the tests. What a nice thing to
see. I was really pleased with how well they did as a group. I might give them parts of this test
throughout the next few weeks or a month from now to see what they have retained on a long-
term basis. I may give them a more detailed pre-test also, for the next unit on cycles and
(N,C,O) and photosynthesis, etc.

I had them write down their score in their journals, and also record a few reactions to their test- if
they did well, to what did they attribute that, and if they didn’t do well, what they could do
differently on the next test. Part of the whole responsibility-taking and metacognitive skill
building I like to add to class. Since this week is the last week of the marking period, it was a
great opportunity to have them set some goals for the last quarter. I used the notebooks again,
and asked them to write down the grade they would like to get for this quarter, and identify two
new or continued techniques that would help them achieve this grade. I also asked them to
submit anonymous ideas about rewards that would help motivate everyone to actually achieve
Journal Entries                                                          Winter/Spring 2006

that grade. So far I’ve only received one, but it was great- if everyone in the class gets the grade
they wrote down, Dick has to wear a dress to school. He is, of course, open to that, so we just
may use that as the carrot!

April 27th, 2006

I was very pleased with the outcome of the Persuasive Essay Assignment. Several students
chose to write on topics that were outside of the DDT/Malaria debate, and these I found to be
very well-written and informative. Grace chose hormone injection in cattle, Joella chose the
treatment of bears in China, and Greg chose the genetic modification of vegetables for human
consumption. I am constantly amazed by the depth and breadth of knowledge kids in Ann Arbor
have. Many of the things they want to discuss in class are ideas or concepts I wasn’t exposed to
until college! They are way ahead of the game. Which is another reason I love to give them a
choice in their experiments and other assignments- they have such a plethora of experiences on
which to draw that they almost always exceed my expectations.

April 29th, 2006

I have finally graded and returned most of the persuasive essays- what a chore! It took me so
much longer to grade them than I had imagined! Thank goodness for the rubric from Shirley! I
have since realized the importance of a good rubric, and the work that is required to make a good
one! Shirley said that she has modified that one several times, and is still not completely
satisfied with it. Several students- MH and AC, asked about having an in-class debate about the
DDT topic. How I wish that there were time for that! I had imagined doing something of the
sort after they finished the essays, but time is flying by, and we have no hours to spare for
something like that. I promised them that we would do it if we somehow found the time for it,
but I am not optimistic.

May 14th, 2006

What a mess. The PowerPoint presentations are supposed to be finished today, but most of the
students in all of the classes are not nearly ready to finish. Some of the ‘top’ kids are almost
done, of course, but there are so many students left who have over half of the assignment to
finish. Arrrghhh. I decided to modify the requirements, so that the students are only required to
have 8-10 slides. This will help I think, and I’m also giving them more time so that they can get
those 8-10 slides done. Many students spent much time with the fancy stuff, instead of focusing
on the content- presenting the information on their biomes well. I can’t blame them entirely, but
they do need to make better use of their time. I wish that we could reserve the laptop carts for
after school- that would help enormously! I would love to give them more time during class
because so many of them are working earnestly and honestly, but we are simply running out of
time for the plant unit. I know this unit will be emphasized on the MEAP and in other tests, so I
want to maximize their exposure to that stuff too. It’s so tricky, trying to juggle all the different
units, the extra-curricular calendar (field trips and stuff), and unexpected events….
Journal Entries                                                         Winter/Spring 2006

May 18th, 2006

Aaarrgghhh. What a frustrating day. Many of the students are nearly done, but we wasted vast
amounts of time trying to copy and paste their individual work to form a cohesive group
presentation. I need to find an easier way of managing this next time- maybe they only work in
pairs, or maybe I consult the technology specialists to find a better way of doing this- I don’t
know, but this is not how I want them spending their time!

May 20th, 2006

Well, the presentations are over. What a relief! It went better than I expected, though grading
these will be a little tricky since some groups were not finished for valid reasons, and some
groups were not finished because they did not budget their time well. It was really cool to watch
their presentations- you could really see how excited they were about certain aspects of the
presentation- AC’s presentation, for example, contained tons of photos of large cats. I know that
her science project involved cheetahs, so this is definitely something she is interested in. She did
a great job in the presentation also- you can tell that she put a lot of time and effort into this. I
know for a fact that she was working on it at home even! That’s a true sign of
engagement/involvement… I’m also very glad that I made them give their presentation orally
and remain in front of the class for some Q & A- that allowed me to see who really understood
what they researched, and who didn’t. Michael and Joey’s group, for instance, did a great job of
answering my questions- they definitely did the research and understood it too! It allowed for
some great discussion on global warming, climate change, and other current eco issues…and
Dick and I were both REALLY impressed with their existing understanding. (Unlike some other

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