Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Other Ways to Work with Biographies

By Nina Kendall

            In the post assessment period of my year, I decided to try a new plan to engage my students. In the past, I have done scrapbook projects based on decades, create your own songs, themed PowerPoint activities, and children's books.  This year I decided to work with biographies. Students would read and interact with the different books. The primary question was what did I want students to do. This year I tried several new activities. Here are some of the choices offered to students:

 Resumes: This is a format many will have to work with in the future. I gave them a resume worksheet to take notes on as they read. There are a variety of resume worksheets available. This activity lead students to ask a huge number of questions about resumes and people. It was interesting to hear them discover new things about people they thought they knew.

Facebook Profiles: This activity has become a more standard fare in classrooms today, but it was new for my students.  Many of them do not use Facebook. I gave them a page that combined biographical data and the opportunity for post.

Pinterest Page: This was a format unfamiliar to many students as well. Further, it challenged them to think about what the subject of the biography would have valued instead of what we value about the subject.

Text Message Conversation: They were to have the subject of their work text a historical peer. These conversations can be generated online. It was interesting to see them seek out and identify the social relationships related to the subject of their work.

 Tombstones: Students could also write and design tombstones for their historical figure. They were to look at how the life and accomplishment of one person could be expressed in a short verse. I was particularly fond of the Oregon Trail Tombstone generator.

Word Clouds: This was an option for students to consider the key words in an individual life.  I used Wordle to create an example but there are many options. What words dominated their life? What words were less important?

Students turned in their work in as booklets after an allotted period of time. There work varied in quality but I was pleased by the conversations they had as they worked through the activities. Most of the work was done on paper as access to technology was limited. My students were just as comfortable with generating work with technology as coloring. ReadWriteThink has as number of student interactives that could be used to create products. In the end, we all knew a little more.


Friday, May 9, 2014

Taking History into the Science Classroom

By: Nina Kendall
Traditional history struggles to maintain its position in modern curriculum. Efforts like STEM and
STEAM push it aside in the same manner that the Space Race did in the 1950's.  Yet, I would argue that the Social Science disciplinary content and skills help to improve teaching about the nature and impact of scientific and technical development.
Historians study change over time in the most basic sense. This is a key skill in understanding scientific development.  Students and teachers want students to understand how the world, and the field of study was changed by a development. This is what historians do.
Historians and Social Scientists organize knowledge and give it context.  Historians and Social Scientists take science out of the lab and place it in the world. Economists determine whether it has profitable commercial applications. Voters and Legislators determine if the opportunity costs of science and technology is acceptable. Geographers measure how the natural and cultural landscape are impacted by science and technology.
Here are a few suggestions on how to use history to improve understanding of science in the world.
*Use timelines to track changes over time. Provided students with the parameters to better follow impact of science.
*Teach history of knowledge concepts. Don't just show that we understand a new piece of science. Show how that new piece of knowledge changes what can be done or considered as possible.
*Ask about science and technology applications and cost. Show how voters and consumers can and do influence what can be done and how it is done.
*Use social sciences skills like charting and graphing to measure changes in the world. Teach students the value of data and what it says beyond scientific and technological development.