Thursday, February 21, 2013

Go SPEED Racer: Exploring Speed

Last year I wrote a post called Go Speed Racer... it's all about engaging students when beginning a unit on graphing and calculating speed.   

Okay, so you have their attention, but how on earth can you really explore speed...from the fast to the slow or even better... stopped.  How is that graphed?  As I did the engage and watched my students hypothesize about the hare's graph (see link above if completely lost), hardly anyone drew a flat line for his time stopped under the tree.  This lesson hits completely what a stopped object looks like in a graph WITHOUT you telling them.  Isn't that the most fun part!??!  Watching all their little light bulbs go off as they begin to reason the answer to why  things are they way they are?!?!  It's my fave.  

First things first, make some of these...
Number cards counting by two... put on card stock and hot glue a metal washer on the back.  The added weight helps.  A student will drop these on the heel of the walker every 2 seconds. 
Timekeeper Card... he or she starts the timer and counts every 2 seconds.
4 different walker cards.  These kids need to walk a certain way for 20 seconds.
Up close and personal... this card is the one I made a video on.  Yeah... my video is totally NOT HD quality. 
 The last tool you need is a handy dandy trundle wheel.  So cool... the kids think you have new toys for them to play with... it clicks and everything.  And who has 30 meter sticks in their supply closet??? Lucky! Not me. 
so much easier than using 30 meter sticks or a 30m measuring tape
You need a BIG open space.  I would recommend a beautiful sunny day on the sidewalk or bus ramp... but I live in Texas where you just have to wait 10 minutes and the weather will change. NO. LIE.  Today it rained this morning and at lunch... by 1pm there was not a cloud in the crystal clear blue sky.  Ahhh Texas....I digress.  We used the auditorium which worked PERFECTLY. 

I always let each group do a little practice run just to know how to do the activity before doing it "for real".  I made a high quality video of the activity in action here:
Oscar worthy I know.  What you can do with an IPhone 3GS... and if my husband takes my upgrade again.... I will have to retaliate.  I'm thinking of throwing his PS3 Battlefield game out with the trash.  Hmmm...

Once the students have done part one... its obviously time for part two!  hahahaha I just literally LOLed.  Anyway.   Part 2 is all about measuring with the trundle wheel and recording the data on a chart labeled with time(seconds)- counting by 2, and distance(meters)- using decimals (1 meter 23 cm = 1.23m).  Sometimes my kids are so amazed when math or language arts ties in perfectly with science.  It makes me happy.

You can have all 4 walkers "walk this way" or however you want them to... you can even play Aerosmith while doing this activity.... maybe when they are trying to make their graphs... on second thought see if you can find just it in instrumental on Pandora... Aerosmith folk maybe?
  • One walker walked slowly at a constant pace.
  • Another student walked at a quick pace for the entire 20 seconds.
  • Next, a student went slow for 8 seconds, then sped up til 16 seconds and speed walked til 20 sec. 
  • The fourth walker is in the Academy Award video for Action Films above. :)
With a class of 20, every student was able to participate in someway. Love that.   Tomorrow... we GRAPH!!!

Happy Racing!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Homework.... a NECESSARY evil... and a PEP TALK

Homework is evil.  You have to assign something...make copies... only for students to lose it... or not do it... or only put 5 seconds worth of effort into the assignment... then you have to check... who did what... who did NOT do it... track who does and doesn't do it consistently (see homework binder post)... somehow give a consequence to those who did not do the homework... check it the next day.... did I already say check the homework??? Writing all this makes me want to run for the hills.  I'm sure you're thinking of leaving this post. Please don't.

But homework is beyond necessary.  Education is pushing "college readiness," into each and every classroom.  The best way for students to become ready for college is to become great at time management.  If we, as teachers, do not give homework (aka: opportunities to become time managers), how can we expect students to be ready for high school, much less college? 

I know the questions and concerns.  The reasons as to not give homework beyond the list written in the 1st paragraph
  • What about help at home?  Too much help?  Not enough?
  • What if the parents teach them a different way?  I'd rather the students not be confused.
  • I hate grading/ checking homework!
  • I don't have enough copies/textbooks to send home.
  • _____________________ insert reason here.
I know. I've been there too.  I have not given homework for many reasons.  However, I started questioning why do we give homework beyond the generic answer of  "practice".  Practice what?  Math problems? Reading strategies?  What are we really wanting students to practice in the long run? Then I asked myself a question:
 "How did homework help me?"

That question is what made me view homework in  a different light.  Yes.   I was that weird kid who forced her brothers to play school rather than house or dolls.  I had cut out hearts on my wall with "I love school."  Yeah.  I know. Being a teacher was a calling on my life from a young age.  I grew up in suburbia in a school district that I was blessed beyond belief to learn in.  Even so, I recall having homework EVERY night.  EVERY. NIGHT. For at least 1-2 hours. By the time I was in high school, I was making straight A's and traveling with the varsity basketball 2-3 times per week and still had to complete homework.  In college, I took 15-18 hours per semester and made great grades without feeling stressed and yes... I did have a nice social life.  In the summer, I took 18 hours and worked full time so I could move off campus.  I am not trying to boast, but I am saying this to support the fact that having a steady homework routine.... time management.... high school and college were a breeze.  A nice spring breeze, that I miss all the time.  Ahhhhhh....

However...the homework routine started in elementary school.

In today's society, in the 3 different school districts I have worked for, homework is nothing compared to "back in my day" (I don't think I am that old... and I never thought I would use the term "back in my day" at the age of 31....ugh).  My first year teaching,  a grade level teacher I worked with told me she never sent math homework home because there weren't enough consistent parents to help.  Kids would fall behind and be ashamed the next day for not doing their homework, so she didn't assign it.

I understand all that and I am sorry I am kinda venting.   I love my blog readers. 

However, when are we going to place the responsibility in the student's hands?  When does learning become their responsibility and not the parents?  It takes forever for habits to form, and it is much easier at a young age when routines can be put into place.  It's much harder to start a homework routine at the age of 12... now they are involved in a million other things.  But if we as teachers never send homework, or give time in class for them to do it instead of at home, how can we expect students to learn how to study at home on their own, or do their assignments?  How are we creating life-long learners if we cant teach them how to teach themselves at home?

I told my students this week that I was doing them a disservice.  I wasn't giving them the opportunities to become good time managers.  I wasn't giving them the opportunity to become responsible and learn how to balance their tasks.  I don't want them to think of me as being mean by assigning more homework, but I don't want them to ever think that they can do everything at school or at their job.  They have to spend time outside of their job in order to become really great at it. 

In the words of Kid President..."This is our time... We were made to be awesome... Let's get out there.... It's everybody's duty to give the world a reason to dance."

Teachers help make the students become awesome.... we just have to give them the opportunity.