Monday, January 30, 2012

Einstein's Definition of Insanity

Einstein's definition of insanity is one of my all time favorite quotes.  He says simply: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

How many times, as teachers or parents, do we do the same thing we have always done and end up with the same conflict, problem or lack of learning on the child's part.  I agree with Einstein.  That's insane.

We are the adults who are in the lead role.  It's up to us to change something first.  If I continue doing everything exactly as I have done it before, shouldn't expect the same thing that happened before to happen again?  And yet, what happens?  The child typically gets blamed.  We say things like "You need to listen harder." (quote from Rick Lavoie and FAT City).  Seriously??  Listen harder?  How do you do that?  Or we say you're lazy or just not trying.  Or we say you need to apply yourself.

I think Einstein's quote on insanity speaks to one of my favorite aspects of teaching students with special needs.  The kids can, in fact, learn.  We have centuries of data to prove that going all the way back to Itard, Seguin and Montessori. 

It's up to me to figure out what to change.

Perhaps I change the way the material is presented.  Some children can learn complex concepts with the support of visual cues or kinesthetic modes of processing the information.  Perhaps I change how the student has to respond.  Perhaps instead of writing his/her response, I have them orally tell it.  Perhaps I change the way the student is engaged.

I find Einstein's quote to be a challenge for me to figure how to help the students in my class learn the skills and concepts they need to learn.

photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons; the Smithsonian Institution

States of Matter: Interactive Games and Videos

My class has started a science unit focuses on the states of matter and the physical properties of matter.  After searching online for some resources to support our classroom materials, I've found quite a bit.  Have fun exploring!

Interactive Sites for Students:

Solids Liquids and Gases

Changing States of Matter 

Material Properties 

Changes in Materials

The Mixtures Lab

Short Video Clips on States of Matter

States of Matter and Physical Properties

Resources for Teachers:

Standards by grade level with links to appropriate activities.

States of Matter Unit Packet

States of Matter Article and Questions

What's the Matter: Sorting into matter categories

States of Matter Worksheets

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Valentine's Activity: Hearts Everywhere

If you are in any way similar to me in how you plan lessons for activities you've seen online, you need some time to read about the idea, think about how you would use it with your group, prepare your materials and then implement it.  One of the teacher's on my team this year says he likes to let concepts have a chance to "marinate."  We've all adopted his lingo.  We like to let kids have the chance to have repeated exposure to concepts, but sometimes we also need some marinating time for ourselves. 

In an effort to give everyone some time to "marinate" the following ideas, I'm sending them out early (or really late considering I took the pictures last February!)

For my pre-schoolers that I've had in the past, this lesson focused on the positional concept "on" as well as identification of common objects.

I started with the interactive book, "Hearts Everywhere",  from the Jefferson Parish AAC link.  I would read the book to my class using the felt board and laminated hearts.  On each page, the students would take turns placing the heart "on" the object identified in the book.

After introducing the book and the vocabulary, the next day before the children came in the classroom, my assistant and I placed construction paper hearts all over the classroom.  During circle time, I would call a few students at a time to go "look for a red heart" and bring it back to the carpet.  When they brought their heart back, I would ask them where they found their heart.  Once they answered the question, we would place it on our chart and I would call the next group of children to go look. 

TIP:  If you are working with pre-school age children, be sure to write on the heart the location that you placed it.  For example, "on the fish tank."  When you have several children looking at the same time, it's easy to miss who picked one up from specific locations.  If you don't have several children looking at the same time, the waiting period gets to be too long for little ones.  And if you have students at levels similar to the students I have taught, when you ask the question, "Where was your heart?" you will inevitable get the answer "over there" a few times.  You want to be sure you can accurately prompt them to answer the question using the positional word "on" and the correct common object where it was.

I love activities that get students actively engaged.  These types of scavenger hunts always produce smiles, laughter and excitement.

Because of that I'm trying to think of a way I can adapt the activity to be appropriate for my current third graders.

I think I will connect it to our writer's workshop lessons.  We have been working on using more descriptive phrases in our paragraphs.  I am going to  place many hearts all over the room with their labels.  Have the students put their heads down with their eyes closed and give each student 10 or 15 seconds (one at a time) to go get a heart from somewhere in the room.  After they collect their hearts, they will describe where they found the heart, but they are not allowed to name the object.  Then they will read their paragraphs to their classmates who will need to guess where the heart was originally.

I'll have to let you know how it goes!  I'd love to see other ideas on how to use a scavenger hunt type activity to support academic goals for older students.  Please post your ideas in the comments section.