Saturday, October 29, 2011

October 24-28

This week has been a good one. The students started building their roller coasters on top of or inside of their shoe boxes. As I walked around the room, I could hear them using some physics terms such as friction, kinetic energy, and potential energy. This makes me SO happy! We have briefly discussed some of these terms in class, but they are actually using these concepts to build and adjust their roller coasters. The goal is to build a roller coaster that can roll a marble from one end of the track to the other. Some of my students are being so creative with their roller coaster designs by including jumps and loops that actually work. Some of my least motivated students are staying on task and working as team players within their groups. I am still struggling to keep my lower level students involved with the physics. One of these students keeps falling asleep and the other is refusing to work in his group. To solve both of these problems I have given these students more independent work to keep them on task. Now both of these students are building Lego roller coasters that model the one that their group is making. As we finish these roller coasters next week, I hope to see an improvement in their behavior and willingness to work on this assignment.

October 17-21

This week, we got through the rest of the notes. Hooray! I gave out a lot of homework this week, so my students weren't too happy about this. At least they had the opportunity to practice their equations for physics. (If only they could see it this way.) At the end of the week, the students took a quiz on the physics they learned and finally got to insert the rest of their Prezi pictures from the Buckwheat festival. I utilized my student "experts" by having them help students who were struggling with inserting the pictures.

As this week progressed, I found that it was becoming increasingly more difficult to differentiate the math portion of physics for my very low level students (those students who are on 2nd-4th grade levels). I began searching for material that I could use for them for physics, but physics is not a covered in grades 2-4. I have been seeking the advice of my mentor teacher and the 7th grade science teacher who have both told me that this is something that comes with practice. I did purchase a few science workbooks that are geared towards the elementary grades so I can see what type of activities are appropriate and see how to "word" the physics worksheets in a way that can be more easily understood by my lower level students. I am hoping next week's project (building shoebox roller coasters) will make all of the physics from this week make more sense.

October 10-14

This week, we began with a lab activity in which my students rolled a tennis ball down a ramp (the ramp was a book that was held at various angles). The goal for the students was to see the connection between a steeper ramp and a faster rolling tennis ball. We also did my least favorite thing...Notes. We began notes on various equations in physics. This included Force, Work, Power, etc. I tried to spice up my notes by including example problems involving my dog Carol and my cat Indy. I also included an example problem with my mentor teacher drag racing out of the school parking lot. My students really loved that example problem. I am finding it difficult to teach the "math part" of physics with some of my students because some of them are in lower level math classes and have a very difficult time doing very basic math. For these students, I gave them an equation sheet ahead of time and gave them guided notes so they could spend more time doing the word problems and less time writing down everything on the slides. Overall, the week went by fairly smoothly. Next week we will finish the notes and take a quiz on the math portion of physics.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

October 3-7

This was a very short week for students. There was an ISE day on Monday and Tuesday was election day, so I only saw students for three days this week. Students put their finishing touches on their Prezi presentations and some of them even became "Experts". By this, I mean that those students who had finished earlier than others became "experts" and went around the room to help other students with their Prezis. It was amazing to see how motivated other students became once they knew they would be deemed "experts" if they finished their Prezis early. Students were more than willing to help as "experts" and became vital to the success of their peers in completing the Prezis on time (by the end of class Friday). At this point, students have been unable to include their Buckwheat pictures into their Prezis, but this is due to technical problems and not lack of student effort. As we continue on with Physics, my students will soon be assigned the task of building a roller coaster to show their conceptual understanding of Newton's laws of motion, the conservation of energy, and etc.

September 26-30: Buckwheat Festival!

This past week, my students have been working with Prezi to create a presentation all about simple machines and their real life applications. This project was developed in anticipation of a field trip to the Buckwheat festival!

This past Friday I accompanied my students to the Buckwheat Festival in Kingwood, WV. What an experience that was! I had never been to this festival so I was really excited to be able to attend this year and finally get to try Buckwheat Cakes!

For this trip to be considered educational, each teacher had to create an assignment that involved students taking pictures while at Buckwheat. The 8th grade team planned an all-day picture scavenger hunt and put together a Buckwheat Packet that explained what the students needed to look for. For science, my mentor teacher and I came up with the idea to have students take pictures of the simple machines found in the carnival rides at the festival.

While at the Buckwheat festival, it was interesting to see the reaction of the students to various sites that would seem "normal" to me, but very foreign to my students. Some students had never seen a cow in "real life". Some had never seen cow poop in real life. Some had never even been to a festival of any kind in their lives. It was amazing to watch them have those "firsts" as we walked around to different exhibits and vendors.