Sunday, November 27, 2005

I am going to start working by 3 pm, really I am...

It is so hard getting back into the swing of things after a long weekend, and this is the merest taste of what it's like after a full week off at Christmas-time or in the spring.

I don't have much to do, which may be part of the problem. I'm waiting for time-pressure to kick in, and it hasn't yet, and probably won't for another hour or two. Er, I mean half an hour. I am going to start working in 30 minutes. I am.

Aside from editing the seventh grade projects - described below - I'm in pretty good shape for the week.

The sixth graders are going to spend a few days typing up their collisions labs in PowerPoint. I've decided to have them do this in partners on our school computers for a couple of reasons:
1. I am really fatigued with grading lab reports, having just done two sets in close succession. Having them work in pairs and edit during class will reduce the amount of editing and grading I have to do at home.
2. They are also fatigued with lab reports... this time I will trick them into enjoying the work by letting them play a bit in PowerPoint. Computers make everything more fun.
3. I'm asking them to explain why in their conclusions for the first time. They rolled marbles and gumballs at each other, observed the collisions, and now have to explain what happened in terms of the transfer of momentum. A lot of adults would have a really hard time with this, so I think it's only fair to allow the 10 and 11-year-olds to work in pairs and with teacher support.
4. Working on this in class will give me a chance to present some basic conventions of typing in my mini-lessons. It's time the babies learned how to center things, rather than just space-space-space-space-space-etc. as so many are doing now. Same thing with tabs and one space following a comma, two spaces after a period.
5. Most of them are getting the idea of how to write a lab report, but working on this in class with a partner should provide scaffolding for the five or six who are really clueless.

The seventh graders will be working on revising their stories at home, but in class, we are switching gears to do a unit on density. They really should have done this last year in Physical Science, but, well, they didn't. We have discovered that they really can't measure length, use a triple beam balance, measure volume in ml, calculate density, or explain the concept. This makes it really hard to talk about why the Earth's core is iron and nickel, how it formed, and how convection in the asthenosphere drives plate tectonics. So, we're putting the brakes on and teaching all these skills, which are in the end more important than any particular fact about erosion or earthquakes, and hoping to lay some groundwork for the rest of the year. Plus, the density unit will allow us to include more hands-on stuff and assign at least one full lab report. If we don't get them writing up experiments soon, the Science Expo is going to be a real nightmare in a couple of months.

It is so frustrating that this group is so far behind! I feel like they weren't even at our school last year, I want to go back and do sixth grade over with them.


On a related note, I found a link to 826NYC at The Mystery Behind Mr. E. This is an organization originally started by Dave Eggers in San Francisco (826Valencia) that provides writing and research tutoring and workshops for kids. I am in the process of setting up some classroom visits during the weeks leading up to the Science Expo so that I can have help as the kids research their chosen topics and write their background information reports. If it works out, this could really make my life easier during that time. (I will confess a cynical anxiety that it won't work out because no one ever wants to come all the way to the Bronx when there are perfectly needy NYC schools right in one's own hip neighborhood in Brooklyn/Manhattan). Just another example of how blogging - and reading other teachers' blogs - has connected me with resources I otherwise would not have known about.


Blogger Mrs. English said...

I'm also procrastinating on planning for the next few weeks. It all feels a little overwhelming after a wonderful break in which I did not think about school at all.

3:11 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

826 is a great place! i haven't had a chance to go down there yet but i'd like to volunteer there. i also have the same qualms about whether they'd schlep up to the Bronx.

4:31 PM  
Anonymous Chaz said...

Good idea about density

Most of my students think density is weight. I have them weight two papers and then crumple one up and reweight them. Next I drop both the crumpled and uncrumpled paper at the same time to show the difference and what density is, the crumpled paper occupies less space (volume).

Density = Mass/Volume

5:56 PM  
Blogger posthipchick said...

It's 5 p.m. and I REALLY need to get going on planning. Especially because I'm being observed on Tuesday by my principal AND have a semester-long project due Wednesday that I haven't started.

Can you imagine a job where you just show up at work on Mondays?

7:59 PM  
Blogger GuusjeM said...

I brought home some teacher idea books and never opened one of them. My brain was anywhere but at school for this week.
Oh, it's going to be hard to get up in the morning.

8:00 PM  
Blogger Amerloc said...

"one space following a comma, two spaces after a period."

Ouch. I can't even read the rest of the post until I get over this (trust me - I will).

The one-space, two-space rules were a result of the fact that all letters on a typewriter took up exactly the same amount of space. One needed to indicate visually the difference between a pause (one-space) and a stop (two-space). With proportional type, that's no longer necessary or encouraged - the word-processor takes care of it.

At least that's the story that the keyboarding instructor next door gave me, and until I hear differently, I've no reason to do other than let mindless, picayune rants disrupt what was otherwise a delightful read.

Now back to reading the post...

8:43 PM  

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