Sunday, February 28, 2010

A geography challenge

You may be familiar with the TV show Amazing Race which is airing on CBS right now (season 16). Basically, the teams (there are 12 of them) race all over the world having to compete against themselves in different contests. It is different from the other reality TV shows in that they are literally in a race which moves from place to place. Well, in the opening sequence they show a number (25 or more) of landmarks which are found all over the world. As a beginning of a geography/computer maps lesson, we showed the opening sequence to the 5th grade class and let them see how many they could find. The winning team did great (better than Chris and I did the first time we watched it!), naming 13 different landmarks. The opening sequence is only 45 seconds and towards the end they just fly by the screen. If you want to compete against the class, see how many you can name!

After you have your list, you can see the Google map that I made. I have put a marker for each of the places that Chris and I found. Using the check boxes in the program (in the top right of the map), you can add layers to the map including pictures and videos (of course they can be added by anybody so I would check it out before showing them in class) of the landmarks and surrounding areas.

From here we are going to use this map to show the distance around the world from the places as well as to hopefully give the students a little more appreciation for cultures and places throughout the world!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wii - Day 3

So yesterday (Friday) Chris and I did another round of Wii in the classroom. This time we used the baseball game (in Wii Sports) to review averaging. It is actually the training portion of Wii Sports, not the game itself. The pitcher throws 10 pitches and the computer will add up the total of all the home runs hit at the conclusion. If you don't hit a home run then you don't get any distance added in. But, it is always 10 pitches.
First Chris did a quick review of what averaging was and how to get an average (did this orally). Once she had the concept reviewed we brought each student up to get a swing. If they hit a home run then she marked down the distance on the board and the students each did it on their papers. If they didn't get a home run then we marked nothing. After each hit the student would pause the game so the next student could come on and take a swing. At the end of 10 swings we have a total (the game gives it to you so the students could check their addition on their papers) distance hit and we averaged that by the number of home run hits to get an average. Then the teacher did the math on the board to have students check their average work. We played 4 rounds which was enough to let each student get to bat twice. As before they were interested and excited about getting to play.

Some Notes:
1. The students really like the music. When we put the overhead speakers on you should see them all start bobbing their heads up and down. They can keep the beat and some of them even hum/sing along with the tune (just a music beat).
2. The hardest part for the students was remembering to hit the pause button after each swing! Especially if they hit a home run, they were too busy jumping up and down or giving their neighbor a high-five to remember! :-)
3. We were able to reinforce the idea of a repeating decimal (instead of a remainder) when the average didn't come to a whole number.
4. One student realized that he was able to do the math quickly in his head just by moving the decimal place over 1 spot since we were always dividing by 10.
5. Interesting to see some of the students timing when the ball is pitched. Some are right on, but some have very poor hand-eye coordination. Of course, this would probably improve with more practice with the console.
6. We are still using guest Mii's to play. That means none of the scores or information gets saved. We will have to begin to have the students make their own Mii's to play some of the other games. We are also going to need to make a Class Mii for when we are playing these whole class events (that way 1 student's Mii doesn't get an unfair advantage -either positive or negative -from all the others)!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Nintendo Wii - Day 2

Well, the 5th grade teacher (her name is Chris) pulled out the Wii today for the first time. We just did a little practice with the students so they could see it in the room and in action. One of the games that was purchased was "Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader?" (based on the TV show showing on Fox). One of the options is called Flashcards where the players (we used 4 different students) have a question and then get 4 choices. Each of the questions is worth a different amount of money depending on the grade level. If the student gets the question wrong they lose half of that amount. If they get it correct they get the full amount and if they are the first one to answer the question correctly, they get bonus money (which appears to be an extra 20% - although I am not certain about the exact amount). We had all of the students who did not have a controller writing down their answers on paper at their desks. So, it should have been a review for all students and we had several do well. We only had time enough to play two rounds (involve 8 students) but all in all I think the first installment of the console went well.
We have decided to create a full lesson plan on using the Wii Golf game (in the including Sports disk) focusing on averaging scores. The students will have the distance to the hole divided by the number of strokes to get the ball in the hole to figure out their average distance. We will use all four controllers and rotate the students around for each hit until they put it in the hole. The math problems should be different since, while the hole distance won't change for any of the four players, how many strokes it takes to put it in will (or at least has the opportunity to change). We are planning a pre-test and post test to see what kind of results we can record. Leave a comment and wish us luck!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Using the Wii in education Day 1

I am working with the 5th grade teacher in my school to begin a new project. We are going to begin using the Nintendo Wii as a way to help with our test scores. While there are lots of learning potentials, and we will use the console with different games and for different purposes, our first focus is on Math. We have been following a teacher named Tom Barrett who has been using the Wii in his classroom for a while now with success. So, we brought in a console from home and followed Tom's lead using Wii Golf for subtraction practice. We were met with interested students and engaged learners who practiced their three digit subtraction for 45 minutes! We have decided to try and build on this interest and begin some kind of research study using the Wii.

The program has officially begun today in that we purchased equipment. More specifically, the 5th grade teacher had a birthday and she got the Wii along with controllers, wheels, batteries, games, and necessary equipment to use the console in the classroom. I have already hooked up the machine in the classroom and we are going to begin the background research necessary and keep a running journal of what we do and when we do it. So, hence our title - Day 1 with the Wii.

Picture link

As promised, Chapter 1

OK, I don't know how exciting these posts may be, but I wanted to give some info for each chapter as I made it through. Chapter 1 was all about the students needing to be comfortable in a classroom. We as teachers have to create an environment that facilitates learning (which is the title of the chapter). That doesn't mean that you dumb down the material. "We must provide a quality environment for them each day. We do this be ensuring that the environment within our classrooms is enriched and supportive." Before the student will do anything, the brain has to decide whether the student will pay attention and begin a task. Once that decision has been made, the other systems of the brain take over and begin to make a plan to get the work done. If the brain doesn't make the first decision, the student is going to learn anything.
Next chapter is about using teaching strategies to address different learning styles - all the buzzwords in education right now! Check back as I continue to update.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

new book

I have just begun reading a new book - 10 Best Teaching Practices-How Brain Research, Learning Styles, and Standards Define Teaching Competencies written by Donna Walker Tileston. I found a reference to this book while reading the Jan 2010 issue of EdTech magazine. The EdTech article was just a one page article, but with a title like Technology Makes Learning Fun, it caught my attention.
Along with that I have to say that brain research in education has (somewhat) suddenly become an interest of mine. After coming from the FETC, where I saw a presentation on a new program from Tom Snyder Productions called Fastt Math; and the underlining research behind it, my interest has been piqued. The book (considered a textbook) is relatively short (102 pages) and has a particular point behind each chapter. As I read through them I will be making posts of anything that catches my attention.