Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Geographer Skype

The class gathers on the carpet to Skype with Ms. Raimann
Yesterday and today, we had our geographer Skype!  We Skyped with Margaret Raimann, a geographer and cartographer from XNR Productions.   To prep for the Skype, students looked through Margaret's personal website as well as the XNR website.  Then, each class brainstormed a list of questions, and students volunteered to ask the questions.  Click here to see our question sheet.

Here's some of the highlights of what the students wrote they learned:

"You can make a map of anything, not just locations." 
"Most maps she makes are made with software on the computer!"
"You don't have to know all the countries and capitals to be a map maker"
"You can use photoshop on maps!"
"Editors have to look over every map to see if there is a mistake."
"People actually order different types of maps"
"There are many steps to making a map"
"Blueprints are maps"

Some other interesting topics Margaret highlighted is that most maps are made on computers now, so computer programming is a valuable skill in cartography.  She also said that if she could meet any cartographer, she would want to meet Arthur H. Robinson, the man who created the Robinson Projection.  He was a cartographer and he worked for the CIA.  We studied the Robinson Projection in class, so it was cool to make that real-life connection to that!

Take a look at our experience below:

10th Hour Skype
Tuesday, 2:25-2:45

The class engaged in the Skype.
Students go up one by one to the laptop to ask Ms. Raimann questions.
Here we see Chris asking a question.
View of the class. You can see students sitting on the carpet listening.
In the back, we see Riley asking a question and Leah "on deck."

9th Hour Skype
Wednesday, 1:35-2:05

Class gathers on the carpet for the Geographer Skype.

Class engaged in the Skype.

View of the Skype.  In the background we can see Gavin asking the question and Wren "on deck."

Wren asks Ms. Raimann a question.

Mackenzie asks Ms. Raimann a question.

Ms. Raimann let us know that we can create our own maps using Google Maps Engine.  Most of us thought that was pretty cool!  She'll be sending us some more resources in the next couple of days, so I will be sure to share! 

Thanks Ms. Raimann!  We really appreciate the time you took to talk with us! :)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Rett Syndrome Awareness Day

The class gathers around Mackenzie.  We are dressed in purple to support Rett Syndrome Awareness Day!
The month of October is Rett Syndrome Awareness Month.  Here at IMMS, we celebreated Rett Syndrome Awareness Day.  In ARRE time, every class across the school watched a video made by Kelly Schoeller about Rett Syndrome.  Take a look:

Then, in our ELA class, Mrs. Hickey came in and talked with us about how to use the Tobii.  The Tobii is eye gaze technology that Mackenzie uses to communicate with us.  Today, Mrs. Hickey invited us to try out Mackenzie's means of communication.

The Tobii has different tabs with pages behind it that Mackenzie can use to communicate with us.  Just like we are learning how to use our iPads efficiently, Mackenzie is learning to use her Tobii.  When we talk to her, we are invited to ask questions by touching and interacting with the Tobii, just like we do on our iPad.  When we uses the Tobii, it helps Mackenzie see the different pages, and it also helps the students understand how she can communicate.

Thank you Kelly, Mrs. Hickey, and Mackenzie for teaching us so much!  Mackenzie, we are so lucky to have you in our class! 

Global Read Aloud and Writer's Workshop

We've been working on kicking-off our writer's workshop.  Our normal class period goes something like this:

0-15 minutes: Silent Reading & Reading Conferences
15-25 minutes: Read Aloud
25-30 minutes: Agenda, Announcements, Fill out Assignment Notebook
30-45 minutes: Mini-Lesson
45-77 minutes: Workshop Time

We are getting in a schedule so on Mondays and Wednesdays, we do a reading mini-lesson and then reader's workshop, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we do a writing mini-lesson and then writer's workshop.

Here's some pictures from our classroom:

Students gather in our classroom library for read aloud time.

Students gather on the carpet and sit by their writing partner during writer's workshop

Students talk with their writing partners during active engagement. 

Students work individually at their desks during writer's workshop.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Central and South America Project

This week, students began their Central/South America Project.  The Project goals include:
  • Students will select one country and research the connections to the five themes of geography, internal and external forces, landforms and the weather and climate of the country they've selected.  
  • Students will create a Slideshow Presentation to organize and share their information.
  • Students will understand how to use citations tools to give credit to the places they found their information.
This week, students were assigned their partners and received the rubric to guide the project.  For specific information about the project requirements, please see the rubric.   I've included a sample slide show, created by Alan Northouse, that can serve as a mentor presentation to the students:

To Strike or Not to Strike Debate

As we are wrapping up our unit on Esperanza Rising, we are delving into some of the themes of the novel.  Over the past week, we've been studying about workers rights by reading Harvesting Hope and watching a documentary called Viva La Causa, both of which discuss the life and work of Cesar Chavez, and also by reading narratives written by children who are migrant workers.  We've been connecting all of these texts with the events in Esperanza Rising.

Today, we brought these themes together in a class debate:  Should the workers in Esperanza Rising strike or continue working?

Students chose a side, and then individually brainstormed benefits and drawbacks for their choice.  Then, students gathered as a group to prepare for the debate.  Each group selected four members to represent their point of view in front of the class.  The debate went in the following format:

Opening Statement- 1minute
Present Argument- 2 minutes
Cross Examination- 3 minutes
Closing Statement- 1 minute

Students were quite passionate about their points of view!  A large topic of discussion was the balance of working for a social cause while also working to support and take care of one's family.

Here's some of the students speaking to the class:

The Groups Brainstorm their points of view

Mackenzie makes and opening statement.

Emma makes and opening statement.

Rache, expressing the team's main argument.

Evan and Caleb ask and answer questions.

The group prepares their argument.
The group prepares their argument.

Aliana gives her teams opening statement.

Callie gives her team's opening statement.

Morgan explains her groups main argument.

Morgan and Anya face-off in the cross-examination.

Ruby and Richard give their closing statements.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Introducing Student Blogging

On Thursday, I introduced student blogging.  To begin, students perused several different professional blogging sites (such as cooking blogs, sports blogs, book blogs, etc.).  Then we talked about what a blog is and what we noticed about blogs.

After that, students were presented with their very first blogging challenge: to introduce themselves!  Students were challenged to think about their blogging audience and what they would want to say to their readers.

To begin, students started out by writing paper blogs.  After they drafted for a little bit, we paused to have a conversation about Internet safety.  While Kidblog, the site we use, is for teachers and educators and is secure, we still thought it was important to discuss the types of information students should include on their blogs.  Building off an idea by Pernille Ripp, to discuss Internet Safety, the students I talked about how the Internet is like the Mall:

After students finished writing their blogs, we next discussed commenting.  Again, based on an idea by Mrs. Ripp, the students and I discussed the difference between "Highway" comments and "Dead-End" comments.

Then, students used sticky notes to read and comment on their peers blogs.  

On Monday, students will work on transferring their introductory posts online.  All posts will need to be approved by me before they are published, but posts should be up soon!  The KidBlog sites are now listed under the "Helpful Links" section on the top left of this blog.  You can also access the blogs by clicking on the links below:

Standards-Based Grading for Daily Work

This weekend, I updated the grade book.  One of the biggest updates was the change in how I graded student daily work and assignments.  This year, student assignments will be graded using the standards-based grading rubric above.  Each assignment will be worth five points, and students will be graded upon how they demonstrate their knowledge on a scale from one to five.   As I use the students' daily work to inform my instruction, standards-based grading will help me assess how students are meeting learning objectives.  The scores will give me and the students important information on areas in which students are excelling and areas in which they need more support.

Ultimately, the standards-based grade will translate to a percent and letter grade, per the sixth-grade grading scale.  These letter-grades and percentages are listed in the last column.  Each daily work score is averaged in Infinite Campus to contribute to the students' overall daily work grade.  In English Language Arts, daily work accounts for 20% of students' final grades and in social studies, daily work accounts for 30% of students' final grades. 

NOTE: In accordance with the sixth-grade late-work policy, if students turn in assignments past the due date, the highest score they will be able to earn on a daily work assignment is a 3.5.

For all summative assessments (projects, tests, and quizzes) I will be using the traditional grading method.  For example, if a quiz is out of 12 points, the students' grade it will be entered in the grade book to be the number they got correct out of 12 points.

This week, we set up infinite campus on students' iPads, so they now have immediate access to their grades.  We activated grade book notifications, so students should receive an alert from Infinite Campus on their iPads anytime they are missing work.

Mystery Skype 5/6- As Told In Pictures

Here's Mrs.Pinnigar, a teacher from the other class, introduces herself and the students.
Alyssa, one of the note-takers, writes down clues from the other class.

Callie and Anya, the inquirers, stand in front of the computer to ask the other class questions.  Christian, the answerer, stands by the side of the computer ready to answer their questions.  Ruby stands by the computer ready to blog.
The Think tank researches the other class's location.

Blake, one of the note-takers, writes down clues the other class tells us.

Blythe narrows down where the other class could be on our classroom map.

Richard, the supervisor, looks over the classroom making sure everyone is on task.
Alyssa recorded the questions we asked the other class.

One of the students from the other class speaks to us.

Callie asks the other class a question.
More research happening in the think tank.