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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Visiting West-Oak Middle and Westminster Elementary


I learn so much when I visit in classrooms.  Sure, I learn about pedagogy.  I also learn about our kids and how they learn.  But, I have to admit I learn lots of content, too.  That was so true when I visited West-Oak Middle and Westminster Elementary on Tuesday. 

West-Oak Middle School

My first classroom visit was in an 8th grade Gateway to Technology class.  This science and engineering elective for middle school had the students doing a little chemical engineering.  The students were learning about adhesion and cohesion, and the teacher reviewed the concepts.  The students explained to me how they created Casein glue with powdered milk, water, and a little vinegar.  Today’s task was to see how it worked.  The students predicted the amount of weight the two pieces of material would hold.  They used pennies to add weight as they checked out the success of the glue they had made. 

I moved to my next class.  These 7th grade resource students were just finishing up a few examples of adding and subtracting fractions with different denominators.  The students broke into three groups to practice the skill they had learned.  One group played Sorry!, but with math problems.  This group used a cool game setup on the floor in a back corner of the room:  a Mimio device, a projector mounted towards the floor, and white paper.  Two students worked independently on iPads with a program in which they had to practice the skill.  The iPad is a great instrument because the students used fingers as writing instruments, and each was provided instant feedback (or had to rework the problem).  The final group worked with the teacher and used small white boards with markers to get some extra attention.    

I moved down the hall to a 7th grade pre-algebra class.  The students were just completing a problem as a class on converting miles per hour to feet per second (i.e., a cheetah runs up to 75 miles per hour for short distances, and this had to be translated to the number of feet per second).  The students took this concept to go grocery shopping in the class.  The teacher had various products that would appeal to students, but in various sizes.  The students were to determine the better deal (price per ounce).  There was a little game of chance (some math probability), too:  Students could pick two items with a chance of winning it if they had the correct answer.  It was a cool activity and gave the students an important “real world” application of math principles.

I learned so much at WOMS!  I learned about glues (adhesion and cohesion), new and creative uses of technology to reinforce math skills, and some real world math applications. 


Westminster Elementary

I left WOMS for the short drive to Westminster Elementary.  I learned even more interesting things while visiting in classrooms of 1st, 3rd, and 4th graders.

My first stop was a 3rd grade classroom.  The students were just finishing up a “daily oral language” activity.  They quickly moved to a writing lesson.  I loved the strategy employed by the teacher to teach explanatory writing:  Hamburger/Four Square Technique.  The teacher modeled based on where they had last left off; the students had opening and closing sentences (the top and bottom of the bun), and now came the “meat” of the paragraph.  The teacher modeled based on her favorite vacation location, and it was time for the students to work on the details of his/her paragraph.  I wandered around, and I saw some great topics.  I was also impressed by wonderful handwriting skills.  Each student shared with me a little about the writing they were doing, and I soon had to move to another classroom. 

I visited 1st graders in the final stages of lessons on Japanese printmaking.  I joined a group, and these students shared with me about Suminagashi (pointing to the word on the chalkboard up front).  The kids were busy arranging and gluing the Gyotaku prints and seaweed.  It was great to hear the students describe the artwork and to see the creativity in placement on the paper.  Wow!  I learned quite a bit about printmaking from these first graders and their teacher. 

By visiting Jupiter, your hair
will have that "wind blown" effect
every day!
My final stop was in 4th grade.  The students were doing a great science lesson that integrated research and writing skills.  Groups of students were researching a planet in our solar system, but the goal was to encourage folks to visit.  It was great to hear the facts about the planet, and the “spin” to get others to want to visit.  With the help of books and internet resources these students were busy completing the project.

I learned so much at Westminster Elementary, too.  I was off with a new writing strategy, I understood more about printmaking, and I learned a few facts about planets.  The kids were excited, engaged, and enjoying the curriculum.  Kudos to our teachers for making learning so much fun!