Category Archives: Common Core

Curating Sources on Controversial Topics [ACTIVITY]

Over the past few years, I’ve been using Scoop.it to give students the opportunity to practice curating collections of web-based sources on controversial topics.

I figure that curation is an essential skill in and of itself, given the sea of information that we swim in on a daily basis.  Pairing an opportunity to learn about curation with constant chances to evaluate the quality of web-based resources AND to do a bit of critical thinking about knotty issues seems like the perfect activity, right?

You may remember that I had students use Scoop.it last year to curate this collection of resources on the New York City soda ban.  The experience was amazing for both me and my students.  Not only did my kids figure out Scoop.it with almost no support from me, a TON of readers stopped by and gave them feedback, proving once again that publishing for broader audiences can create opportunities for students to have their thinking — both about concepts and the content that they create — challenged in a productive way.

This year, my students are wrestling with whether or not space exploration is a worthwhile investment for a nation that is flat broke. I’ve had a group of boys who needed a bit of intellectual challenge working with Scoop.it again to create a page of resources that introduce readers to both sides of the issue.

Here’s what they’ve come up with:

http://bit.ly/SpaceScoop

And here’s the direction sheet and scoring rubric that is guiding their work:

http://bit.ly/TRContentCuration

I’d love to hear what all y’all think of this activity.  Is it something that you’d consider using in your own classroom?  How would you change it to make it more appropriate for students?  What do you think of the final product that my kids are creating?  Does the product that you see show evidence that my students are mastering essential skills?

And if you have a second to leave any feedback for my kids directly on their Scoop.it page, I’d dig that too!  Do you see any sites that are from unreliable sources?  Is there anything about the organization of their content collection that could be changed?  How could they make their page more engaging to readers?

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Related Radical Reads:

Teaching Kids to Curate Content Collections

Managing Information in the 21st Century [SLIDE]

Teaching Students about Digital Conversations

More Common Core Lessons for Science Teachers [ACTIVITIES]

One of my professional goals for the year has been to find ways to incorporate more Common Core thinking skills into my sixth grade science classroom.  As a result, I picked up How To Teach Thinking Skills in the Common Core — a Solution Tree title written by James Bellanca, Robin Fogarty and Brian Pete.  Since then, I’ve been whipping up lessons that are designed to systematically introduce students to the kinds of steps that thinkers take when they are doing things like determining, analyzing and comparing similarities and differences.

This week, we are discussing whether or not space exploration is worth the money that we spend on it as a nation.

Our conversation is a follow-up from a field trip to see the Hubble Telescope IMAX movie at a local theater.  I figured a debatable topic would be a great way to get my kids to practice the kind of careful and systematic thinking that Bellanca, Fogarty and Pete are advocating for.

Here are the lessons that I’m working my students through:

Activity 1: Comparing Different Points of View on Space Exploration

One of the skills that students are expected to master in the Common Core is the ability to compare the similarities and differences in different points of view about the same topic.  In this lesson, students are exposed to four different articles about the value of space exploration and then asked to work through a step-by-step handout detailing the perspectives of each individual author.

It’s the first lesson that I used in my sequence on the value of space exploration because it simultaneously teaches students a process for examining different points of view and introduces students to a range of perspectives on space exploration.  Notice the space in the margin next to each article?  That’s where I’m asking students to make active reading comments detailing their thinking while reading.  Here’s the handout that I use to teach students about the kinds of things that good readers do while reading.

Activity 2: Analyzing How America Spends its Tax Dollars

Before students can make a reasoned judgment about whether or not spending on space exploration is worthwhile, they need to have a better sense for the ways that America currently spends its tax dollars.  This activity — which is designed to introduce students to a structured process for analyzing a situation by looking at concrete evidence — asks kids to take a closer look at the role that NASA spending plays in the US budget by examining this New York Times Interactive Grapic.

Activity 3: The Spinoff Benefits of Space Exploration

It is also important for students to understand that space exploration provides us with spinoff benefits – technologies that were originally developed for use in space but that are now improving our lives here on earth.  While this handout doesn’t ask students to practice any new thinking skills, it DOES introduce them to NASA’s Spinoff Benefit website — which shares the different ways that space exploration is improving our lives both at home and at work.

Activity 4Take a Stand – IS Space Exploration Worth It?

Once my students have worked through the lessons above, I’m going to ask them to (1). engage in a structured discussion with a partner about the evidence that we have explored and (2). craft a short position statement that details their personal perspectives on the value of space exploration.

This handout includes the discussion protocol that my students will follow and the graphic organizer that they will complete before writing their final papers.  Both ideas were drawn from Teaching Students to Think Like Scientists — another Solution Tree title by Douglas Fisher, Maria Grant and Diane Lapp.

Looking forward to hearing what you think of these lessons!  I believe in them — but I also believe that a thousand minds can improve anything that I create.  Drop suggestions for changing this work in the comment section, would ya?

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Semi-snarky Author’s Note: In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that How To Teach Thinking Skills in the Common Core  and Teaching Students to Think Like Scientists are BOTH Solution Tree titles and I am a Solution Tree author.  Could be a conflict of interest, right?  Maybe I’m just recommending the books because I want to push profits into the gaping maw of my benevolent corporate master?

They didn’t make me write this post, though.   Nobody makes me do anything — except for my 4 year old daughter and sometimes my wife.  Heck: They didn’t even give me a free copy of EITHER book!  I bought ’em at full price with my own durn money. 

If you STILL reckon that I’m biased even after all of that, then don’t use the free lessons I’ve just given you!

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Related Radical Reads:

Teaching Nonfiction Reading Skills in the Science Classroom [ACTIVITY]

Introducing Common Core Reading Skills to Teachers [ACTIVITY]

Teaching Common Core Thinking Skills in Science Class [ACTIVITY]

 

Teaching Common Core Thinking Skills in Science Class [LESSON]

Over the past several months, I’ve been working to figure out how to best integrate the Common Core State Standards into my sixth grade science classroom.  Given the literacy-heavy nature of the Common Core, integrating the new standards into science classes can be pretty darn intimidating for most of us non-language-arts folks.

A book that I’ve embraced, though, has made the process easier and more approachable.

Titled How to Teach Thinking Skills Within the Common Core, it argues that all teachers can make contributions to student mastery of the Common Core by systematically introducing students to the kinds of thinking skills that are scattered throughout the new curriculum.  Look closely at any of the standards and you’ll see that students are asked to analyze, synthesize, compare and contrast, and evaluate time and again — and analyzing, synthesizing, comparing and contrasting and evaluating can happen in every single class, every single day.

So what I’ve started to do is develop lessons that give students to practice these skills on a regular basis in my science class. Here are two examples:

Determining the Best Way to Build a Pizza Box Oven

As a part of our required science curriculum, students have to learn about the Law of Conservation of Energy — or the notion that energy is never created or destroyed, it just changes forms.  To demonstrate this concept in action, we made pizza box ovens to cook S’mores right before Thanksgiving.  My primary goal was to help students recognize that light energy can be converted into heat energy.

To jack the Common Core value of this lesson, I borrowed a strategy from How to Teach Thinking Skills Within the Common Core and taught my students a systematic process for making a determination.  You can see the handout I used for the lesson here.  You can see student responses to the handout here and here.

Evaluating Pizza Box Ovens

When our pizza box ovens were complete, we took some time to evaluate the effectiveness of our design.  Not only is this a good practice that science teachers often use in their classrooms, it is a thinking skill that students are expected to master as a part of the Common Core — and it is a thinking skill outlined in How to Teach Thinking Skills Within the Common Core.

You can see the handout that I used to guide the students through a more formal set of steps for evaluating here.  You can see student responses to the handout here and here.

What I like the best about the strategies outlined in How to Teach Thinking Skills Within the Common Core is that I’m already teaching these kinds of skills in the science classroom.  Determining and evaluating have always played a role in the work that I do with kids.  If a first step towards integrating the Common Core into my science classroom is as easy as working to show my students a more formalized process to tackle these skills, then I’m in.

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Semi-snarky Author’s Note: In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that How To Teach Thinking Skills in the Common Core is a Solution Tree title and I am a Solution Tree author.  Could be a conflict of interest, right?  Maybe I’m just recommending the book because I want to push profits into the corporate maw?

They didn’t make me write this post, though.   Nobody makes me do anything — except for my 4 year old daughter and sometimes my wife.

If you reckon that I’m biased, then don’t use the free lessons I’ve just given you!

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Related Radical Reads:

What Role Should Standards Play in Your Teaching? [SLIDE]

Teaching Nonfiction Reading Skills in the Science Classroom [LESSON]

 

Introducing Common Core Reading Skills to Teachers [ACTIVITY]

In April, I’ll be delivering a two-day training session in California that is designed to introduce science and social studies teachers to the role that they can play in implementing the Common Core.

My goal is to help skeptical teachers better understand the kinds of literacy skills that the Common Core expects students to master and then to identify activities that can be easily integrated into the work that they are already doing in their classrooms.  Given my extensive background as a middle grades language arts teacher and my current position as a middle grades science teacher, I’m having a ton of fun pulling materials together for this workshop.

If you are working to help teachers better understand the Common Core, you might be interested in the activity that I plan to open my workshop with:

http://bit.ly/CCSSNationalStandardsActivity

In it, participants wrestle with whether or not national standards are a good idea for America by exploring a New York Times Room for Debate segment that spotlights several different perspectives on the issue.  While reading, participants are asked to complete four different tasks ranging from finding common arguments in the positions of different authors and identifying tangible evidence used to defend those arguments to spotting gaps in the logic of each author and summarizing what they’ve learned.

All of the tasks are tied directly to one of the Common Core Literacy in History/Social Studies standards, making them perfect for introducing teachers to the core behaviors that students should be mastering as readers of nonfiction content.  Better yet, all of the tasks are likely to be approachable to science and social studies teachers because this is the kind of work that we’ve done informally with our students for years.  My hope is that once participants see a tangible example of a Common Core lesson in action, they will be FAR less intimidated by the thought of incorporating more literacy work into their daily planning.

If you decide to use this with your teachers, I’d LOVE to hear how it works.  More importantly, I’d love to hear how you modify it to make it better.

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 Related Radical Reads:

Teaching Nonfiction Reading Skills in the Science Classroom

Teaching Innovation with the Curiosity Box

More on Teaching Innovation with the Curiosity Box

What Role SHOULD Standards Play in Your Teaching? [SLIDE]

In the process of preparing for a spring workshop on the role that the Common Core State Standards can play in social studies and science classrooms, I came across a great quote from Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins in a bit titled From Common Core Standards to Curriculum: Five Big Ideas.

Whipped it into a slide that I’ll use in my presentation.  Figured some of you might find it useful too:

(click to enlarge. download PPT here.  download PNG here)

Slide_CommonCoreBuildingCode

Hope you dig it.

Bill

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Related Radical Reads:

Two Great Free Standards Apps from Mastery Connect

Teaching Nonfiction Reading Skills in Science Classrooms