Monday, September 26, 2011

September 19-23

This past week, my students researched Rube Goldberg and then designed and drew their own Rube Goldberg machines in the form of a blueprint. The creativity that went into these blueprints seemed to be only at one extreme or the other - some were the most creative ideas I've ever seen from 8th graders while others were as bland as low sodium Ritz crackers. I thought this assignment would be fun and boost students' desire to be creative in science class, but for many this was not the case. I wonder if this assignment was less effective because it was NOT a group project. When the students worked in groups on their bridges and made their news report videos they all were so creative. This time around many students could not even begin their Rube Goldberg machine because they said they didn't know where to start. Maybe this mini project was too open ended, but I did provide a series of guidelines and criteria that they had to meet. So, I'm stumped as to why there was such a gap in creativity. Perhaps the Prezi's they will be working on next week will show less of a gap.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

September 12-16

This week was full of technological crises. The students were wrapping up their videos and putting the finishing touches on them. We had issues with editing due to file type compatibility with MovieMaker. Some videos would only play sideways on the computer screen. Then the videos would not play at all, because they were saved in a file on the server which made them VERY slow and glitchy. The students thought they'd never get to see each others' videos. It was just a mess. But luckily, my mentor teacher is a tech savvy genius.

Note to self: When using any technology, make sure software and file type are compatible, make sure you have a safe place to store files, and make sure you can open and effectively use those files. Ugh!

The videos, for the most part, were very creative and thorough. The students loved watching each others videos, but when it was one of their own turns to show their video they did not want to be in the room while they were on the big screen. It was interesting to see their reactions to their own videos. Embarrassment was probably the most obvious reaction, but that is middle schoolers for you. Secretly, they were proud of themselves and their videos.

I also gave a quiz on the material covered in the bridge project (Scientific method steps, variables, etc.). The Bridge Project is OVER! Here we come, simple machines.

I have changed my bulletin board. Previously, I had a contest with scientific method graphic organizers and had posted these on the bulletin board. Now that the Bridge Project and the scientific method unit is over, I have decided to put up student drawings, newspaper clippings of students, and other random student work that they are proud of enough to want posted on the bulletin board. The students seem excited about this, so, we shall see how this goes. I hope this shows them how invested I am in them and that I appreciate their doodles! :)

Highlights of this week include:
- SMS dance on Friday - These kids can Dougie!
- Watching one of my special needs students grin the entire time his video was being played on the whiteboard.
- Watching a student-made video with a student rapping about "Earthquake Dowling".

Thing I should work on:
- Backup plans when technology fails.
- More concise directions for students when using technology or doing a BIG project
- Patience with technology.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 6-9

This was a short week, thanks to Labor Day weekend...but, it was a difficult one. At the beginning of this week, I think the students had simply gone on too long with unstructured group work that they believe they could get away with misbehaving. I had to give out an ABC to a student who would not stay quiet while I was giving directions. I was not happy about this and neither was the student. But, things improved as the week went on.

Students tested their bridges before and after "Earthquake DOWLING". This "natural" disaster was hilarious. The students would add weight to their bridge until they thought it was close to it's breaking point and then the bridge would have to submit to this terrible experience that was "Earthquake DOWLING". My mentor teacher, Mrs. Dowling, would bend and twist the cardboard land that the bridges were built on to cause damage to the bridges and then the students would test their bridges again to see if it held the same amount of weight. The students loved and hated "Earthquake DOWLING", so classes were definitely interesting.

One of my students with special needs made an incredibly strong and durable bridge. The other students were so impressed with his bridge that they cheered him on throughout the bridge weighing/testing process. His bridge held the most weight out of his class period and the students clapped for him when he was finished testing his bridge. It was a really amazing moment.

Another student with special needs made a not-so-strong bridge, but it didn't matter to him, myself, or the other students. In fact, I am so glad that his bridge wasn't sturdy. You know why? Because as this child was adding more and more weight to his bridge, it caved in so far that students began reaching out to hold the cardboard against the table-top just to keep it from completely falling to the ground. I have never seen students so supportive of one of their peers. They cheered him on and made sure he got to add every single weight to the bucket. What a strong bridge they formed that day! So amazing!

On Friday, the students began working on their conclusion videos. They are going to make a "News Report" in which they will be reporting on the devastating earthquake and the bridges that were affected by it (of course, this means the bridge they constructed last week). The students began writing their scripts and figuring out how they wanted to film the news report. Some students wanted to make a movie trailer instead, which sounds really interesting and creative. I can't wait to see how they turn out. They begin the actual filming on Monday.

August 29-September 2

This has been a very busy and exciting week. The students have been working on their bridge projects in order to learn about the scientific method. They are spending a lot of their time in groups building the "best earthquake bridge" using glue, toothpicks, straws, and cardboard. This is the "designing/testing the experiment" phase of the scientific method. They have been very enthusiastic, but there are a few groups who are really struggling to believe in themselves and realize that they can indeed build a bridge out of these materials.

It has been interesting to see how my two non-English speaking students have been interacting with their group members. At first, they seemed segregated from their group, but eventually became more involved and even gave them the idea that really got their bridge blueprint going. Also, I have students with autism that are building their own bridges while working with a group. These students seem to be interested in making a bridge out of toothpicks, but seem a little out of touch with the goal of the project. I am hoping that when they finally get to test their bridges they will understand why we worked on this project for so long.

Open House was this past Tuesday. It was definitely a memorable experience. I ran into one of my students with autism. He is high functioning and very social. He ran up to me with his mother and introduced me to her. He also told me something I will never forget. He said, "Miss Hatcher, you know, out of all of the interns here you are the one who has shown the MOST IMPROVEMENT!". Man, do I love this child. What a statement! I couldn't stop grinning the rest of the evening.

Next week, the students will get to test their bridges and begin working on their video conclusions! I can't wait for this part of the project!