Monday, March 22, 2010

Science ... Having Fun & Learning a Bit!

Many science activities to choose from ... Use your Smart Board to make it interactive! Simple Machines, Compound Machines, Design a cell phone ... and a few virtual simulations (like doing brain surgery). Enjoy this site ... very cool!

Podcast ... Oh, The Places You'll Go (2009 Replay)

This is a group effort to wish a beloved teacher a fond farewell as she marries and moves off to Colorado ... Wonderfully read and nicely done!

Podcast ...A Story Read by Shamary

Listen to Shamary read a story called "Spiders" ... click on the title or the picture to get to the podomatic site. Enjoy!

Podcast ... A Story Read by Christopher

Hi everyone, here's a new podcast entry ... check it out! Click on the title or the picture of the book and hear Christopher read the story to you.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Using Games to Enhance Student Achievement

Robert Marzano's article "Using Games to Enhance Student Achievement" presents a number of valid points in favor of using games to enhance student interest and achievement. In my own experience I know that I always learned more in classes where teachers made learning fun and got students involved. Incorporating educational games into classroom teaching not only allows students to learn necessary content, it allows teachers to engage their students while providing an opportunity to gage student understanding. In his article, Marzano points out that one of the few places students regularly don't play games is in the classroom. To some this might seem natural, but in today's technologically advanced world I feel that we are really doing a disservice to our students if we refrain from using technology to enrich the learning opportunities of our students. That being said, I know that with increasing budget cuts and lack of funding schools often find it difficult to keep up with the latest technological advances. Many teachers have games pre-loaded educational games on classroom computers, yet due to the many curriculum demands would prefer students to learn the required content through the completion of paper and pencil tasks. Also, many teachers are uncomfortable with the technology themselves and thus refrain from using it in the classroom. This is understandable, but I feel that more has to be done in this area in order to encourage teachers to use more games (and technology in general) in their classrooms.

Marzano points out that students thrive in classrooms that use games that include: stakes that are not too high, target important academic content, and allow for student/teacher discussion of more difficult questions. I agree 100% with Marzano's closing comments where he points out that games are a useful tool in addressing even the most difficult content in a lighthearted and engaging way. An example of this in my own teaching involves a game that I developed to assist my students in preparing for their most recent Social Studies test on Canada's Pioneers. I devised a Jeopardy style game board (on my blackboard) that included titles such as Family Responsibilities, Aboriginal Peoples and Clearing the Land. Under each category I wrote a number of questions that dealt with each topic and assigned a point value to each correct answer given. When we actually played the game I divided the class into two teams and had students work as a team to answer the game questions. Both teams had a lot of fun and I could easily see what topics they had mastered and what areas I needed to review prior to actual test. What I would like to do in the future with the help of technology (i.e. a Smart board) is have the game transferred onto the computer and allow my students to play the game using that format.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Windows MovieMaker

The last class on Windows Movie Maker Live was enjoyable, fascinating and informative. The version with Windows 7 seemed very easy to work with and manipulate. In fact, I was so inspired I convinced myself that I could make a fabulous movie with material I currently have on my computer.

I have since sat down twice to work with the XP version, and even though the format is different the idea is the same. I have to admit that it is more difficult and frustrating to use once you actually sit down. Patience is actually required for those of us with no experience and a lot of dreams of becoming an "overnight" award winning movie producer!

Overall, with some time, this will be a fun tool to work with!


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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Professional Website Review

After exploring the suggested websites a few issues came to my mind in terms of children's literacy practices out-of-school, and the implications of these practices for teachers. The first is that the majority of these sites offer students and parents a safe environment to focus on building literacy skills at home. As the years go by, students are becoming computer savvy earlier and earlier. Many of these sites will not only allow students to use the computer independently, they will also build upon the skills taught in school by teachers ultimately helping students become better readers and writers.

As a teacher, I especially enjoyed the Toronto Public Library link. In my teaching experiences thus far many parents simply do not or are unable to devote enough time to read with their children. Many of my students past and present hardly see their parents during the week due to employment demands and family commitments. This can definitely have a detrimental impact on the academic standing of a child, especially in terms of literacy skills. Kid-friendly websites such as that of the Toronto Public Library allow students to build their skills, by hearing, reading and writing stories. This type of extracurricular activity can only benefit a child, especially one that is struggling to learn the basics of reading and writing. The extra practice at home will not only build skills, it will work to increase a child's confidence and abilities, therefore making him/her more likely to respond favorably to his/her teacher's efforts in school.

Although using tools such as the suggested websites offer a number of positive advantages, I myself would definitely be wary of letting my students use websites that have the potential for online chatting. Depending on the age of the child I would definitely encourage all of my parents to supervise their child's time on the computer, and monitor who they may be chatting with. On the whole I do see a lot of value in using this type of technology to promote literacy skills and plan to bookmark a number of the suggested websites for future reference and use.