Friday, March 23, 2012

Festival of Learning: Student Research Projects


The grade levels working together (K & 1 with 8th, 7th & 4th, 6th & 3rd, 5th & 2nd) published books to share their learning about the specific endangered species. Here are a few pages from some of the books. And don't forget to go to the school Facebook page for many more photos from the Festival of Learning as well as the latest news on other events at Alexandria Country Day School. 




Festival of Learning: Endangered Species Art


The Seventh and Eighth Graders spent the past several weeks in art class painting animals from all over the world in preparation for the Festival of Learning. Here are photos of their work displayed for the community. 





Festival of Learning: Art of Ecuadorian Species


One of the Eight Grade teams used their creativity during the Festival of Learning to produce artwork of plants and animals of Ecuador. Here are just a few examples of their work. 











Festival of Learning: Bobcat Globe Newspaper


Each year the ACDS community comes together for a week long festival of learning focused on a specific topic. This year's topic is endangered species. The students and teachers spend the week researching and attending presentations by guest speakers. The festival of learning culminates with a community dinner and the sharing of learning projects.    

The grade levels team up to do their research. This year the teams chose a specific endangered animal to learn more about. The Eighth Graders teamed with the Kindergarten and First Graders. The Seventh Graders worked with the Fourth Graders. And the Fifth Graders connected with the Second Grade students. 

The Eighth Grade students also worked on additional learning tasks making for even more project-based learning opportunities. One team video recorded the events of the week to be shared today in an all school assembly. Another team created artwork of plants and animals of Central America as that was a sub-theme of the week. A third team grabbed their notepads, pens and cameras to do interviews and report the events of the week through an online newspaper. 

The Bobcat Globe newspaper has gone to the digital presses and is now published for the ACDS community to learn more about the Festival of Learning. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Teaching First Graders Cause and Effect

Mrs. Sally Laha as part of our Festival of Learning on endangered species worked with the First Grade students to research and learn about polar bears. Instead of just looking for knowledge level learning, Sally challenged her students to make connections in their learning to see how certain actions are leading to very negative effects in the lives of polar bears. To communicate their learning the students drew pictures depicting several of the effects which were then organized into a flow chart displayed in the hallway.

Here are photographs of the display. The students did an outstanding job in making their thinking and learning visible.


Our hunting results in fewer polar bears > Fossil fuel pollution causes trapped greenhouse gases > Trapped greenhouse gases speed up global warming



Global warming causes the ice to melt > Less time for hunting seals means lower weight of bears > Lower weight of female bears means smaller and fewer cubs



Smaller cubs have a hard time surviving the Arctic cold > Fewer surviving cubs means less adult bears > Less adult bears means fewer baby bears > Fewer baby bears means less adult bears > Eventually no more polar bears in the wild



Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Blended Learning and What Do You Know About the Han Dynasty?


We shared in a previous post how teachers at ACDS continue to expand their use of blended learning to help our students be resourceful and collaborative learners beyond their classroom experience. Working to help students be self-directed with the knowledge and skills of knowing where to get information is a major tenet of our Information and Communications Literacies (ICL) curriculum. Using our Web Resources and library database sites offer our students easy access to information resources in and out of school as part of our inquiry approach to learning. 

Another aspect of blended learning is to have students connect to online tutorials and each other to support their learning. As mentioned in the previous post on blended learning, students can connect to a growing number of online services to help them reinforce their math, reading and other skills. An additional tool that has been in the news is the Khan Academy which has branched out beyond math. As part of our iPad Pilot Program, Ms. Margi Weaver has her 5th graders using the Khan Academy tutorials to support their understanding of skills and concepts in the math curriculum. Ms. Weaver is the "coach" for her students thus giving her access to data on how each student is progressing in the Khan lessons. 

The power of Khan Academy and other tutorial sites is that they provide resources beyond the textbook and in school learning activities so that our independent learners can continue the learning outside of the regular school day. These resources also can open doors to curious students who want to gain knowledge, skills and concepts on topics that our outside the classroom curriculum. Students can seek each other out for support in school and outside the school day via Haiku (our online learning management system) or other communication methods (e.g., phone, text message, e-mail, etc.). This process of knowing which tools (i.e., apps, Web 2.0, software, devices, etc.) and information resources to access for learning leads students to develop their Personal Learning Systems (PLS). The next step is helping our students know who to connect to for learning via blogs, Twitter and other connection systems as they build out their Personal Learning Networks (PLN). 

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So do you know as much as a 5th grader? How about the Han Dynasty? Take a look at the Voicethread project by Naomi, Harper and Michael. 

Image Sources: Khan and Han Dynasty

Friday, March 16, 2012

Full Body Alphabet Learning!

  
The Kindergarten students used their art and spatial awareness skills to create a delightful VoiceThread slideshow on their ABCs. Take a look at their work.



First Graders and Big Concepts


Our First Graders completed work on their dental hygiene unit of study. They used analysis and synthesis as well as art and speaking skills to create healthy habit lessons that are shared in a VoiceThread slideshow. One of the concepts covered in the unit is the importance of prevention and building in healthy habits to one's life.

Take a look at the VoiceThread slideshow to see what you can learn from our First Grade student teachers.

Image Source: Mrs. Laha

Monday, March 12, 2012

Using Spanish to Tell A Story




Students in 8th grade Spanish spent two weeks researching a site in the Mayan kingdom, putting their research into Spanish, and then making an iMovie out of it. They chose from sites such as Copán in Honduras, Tikal in Guatemala, and Cobá and Chichén Itzá in Mexico. The students researched aspects of Mayan culture and how Mayan ideas are used today, the meaning of each site name in Mayan, English, and Spanish, information about the power of the site itself, as well as other things. They placed pictures and music together to capture the attention of viewers and to teach us a little bit more about each archeological site.


Students in 7th grade spent a day in class writing scripts to describe and act out their daily schedule. They took them home and over the weekend memorized their lines and prepared their props. The next day in class, each group acted out their skits and made a short iMovie to show the rest of the class. This particular group whose video is listed below decided not just to act out their own daily schedule, but to pretend to be a family going through their daily routine.

Here are some examples of the student work.
 

Tikal Historic Site by Miguel, Seeley and Justin
Copan Historic Site by Chabelli, Kelly, Katherine and Robert
Spanish Skit by Maddie, Sarah and Lauren


-post by Jessica Basta

Friday, March 9, 2012

To Kill A Mockingbird: Communicating One's Understanding


Mr. Gilbert's language arts class just completed their reading of To Kill A Mockingbird. The students were challenged to express their understanding of the book through various formats. See below for a Mr. Gilbert's write up of the unit assessment options with images from some of the student projects. 

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Congratulations! You’ve read, discussed, and analyzed various components of To Kill a Mockingbird (one of my personal favorites and according to thegreatestnovels.com, the #9 ranked).  For your final project of the winter term, choose one of the options below.  AS with any project, I want you to be excited and enthusiastic about it; however, you must truly understand the scope of the project before you begin to tackle it.  While each project will have very specific requirements, you must understand that it’s about YOU and what YOU want to do – not what you think I want you to do.  Let’s take a look…


1.  Book Cover – It is said that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but let’s be honest, we all do.  For this project, you are to create a new book cover for To Kill a Mockingbird.  Understand that a book’s cover is also an advertisement for the book.  Thus, you must really consider what you think is “the essence” of the book.  Is it a concept?  Is it a moment?  Is it a blend of moments?  What colors are displayed?  How does it work together to create one piece of “art.”  While you must consider what picture/images you’ll put on your cover, you must also remember that all book covers have a title and an author.  As a result, you must consider how you place those words (and any other words or phrases you may want to include) on the cover. 


2.  Literary Magazine Cover – Everette E. Dennis, leading scholar on media studies (he now teaches at Fordham University), has been quoted as saying, “Broadcasters are storytellers, newspapers are fact-gatherers and organizers of information and news magazines are kind of a hybrid of both.”  For this assignment, you are to create a literary magazine and have To Kill a Mockingbird as the cover story.  What is the name of your literary magazine?  Why is it called that?  Will the name be easy for your readers to “get” (i.e. understand)?  What other topics are you going to cover in this issue?  Understand that magazine covers are also advertisements – they’re trying to sell the entire issue to passersby in a store.  Keep in mind, that every magazine is different (and so you have a lot of creative freedom) but all magazines have dates, issues, and other essential things.  Just like the Book Cover assignment, you need to know every reason for your choices.


3.  Movie Trailer – No question, movie trailers are an important part of the movie-going experience.  In fact, some people actually enjoy seeing a movie trailer more than the movie they are planning to see.  Just like book covers and magazine covers, movie trailers are advertisements for the movie.  The big difference, of course, is that movie trailers use the medium of film to capture the attention of their targeted audience.  With quick cuts, slick editing, interesting narration, music, etc., a movie trailer gives a glimpse of the 120 minute-long movie in just two minutes.  Here, you must create a two minute movie trailer that highlights/promotes a movie version of To Kill a MockingbirdBE WARNED:  There is a whole lot that goes into making a movie trailer.  And, if you don’t use the Gregory Peck version of the movie, then what movie do you use?  If you use your “own” then you have to create new scenes and then film them.  One must make a lot of decisions to create an impactful movie trailer, but if you do it well, the pay off is awesome.   


4.  Soundtrack – In the early years of film and Broadway, music was very much instrumental to the success of a production.  People could relive their favorite moments and scenes through music without going back to the theater or sitting down and watching a two-three hour movie version.  As music became more important to s, some directors even contacted musicians and other artists to create music specifically for the movie they were making.  Thus, soundtracks were often noted as being “music inspired by the motion picture” and some will forever be linked to the movie (ex:  “My Heart Will Go On” – Titanic and “Eye of the Tiger” – Rocky III).  Nowadays, people in Hollywood do a little of both.  They may ask musicians to create music, or they may simply say, “That song is perfect for my movie.”  In any event, your task is to create an 8 song (minimum) soundtrack for To Kill a Mockingbird.  In choosing your songs, you must understand where in the movie they would work and why.  Thus, you must provide a typed-up list that explains why this song works for the movie and if appropriate, what scene it would accompany.  For your soundtrack, you must also create a cover for your CD, provide a “jacket” for the soundtrack – where you write your explanations on the inside, and burn (i.e. copy) the CD onto a disc.  In the end, you are creating a soundtrack, thus you need to provide all of the essentials.   
     

5.  Advice to Live By Tablet – To put it simply, advice is an opinion or recommendation offered as a guide to action, conduct, etc.  Generally, advice is a good thing – a way for people to share things they’ve learned in the world.  For instance, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” and “Today is the best day of your life,” are a few variations on commonly repeated themes.  Of course, advice (no matter what the topic) is debatable, and not everyone will agree.  I believe that To Kill a Mockingbird is full of great advice and for this task you are to create a Tablet that “highlights” the 10 most important pieces of advice given in To Kill a Mockingbird.  Consider these tablets to be 10 Commandment like; however, there should be absolutely no religious component to your tablet.  While the pieces of advice you include are taken into consideration for your overall grade, the presentation of your tablet, the way in which the words are written, structure, etc. is of higher value. 


*6.  Board Game – Create a board game that chronicles the adventures that exist in To Kill a Mockingbird.  When thinking of your game, you have to consider all of the events that happen in the novel and how they could be “good” or “bad” moments in a board game.  What is the overall goal of the game?  What happens if you don’t succeed?  How does someone win?  What types of things doe s a person “collect” or do they simply have to get from one point to another.  In addition to creating the concept of the game, you must create the actual board for the game and the pieces that one would need in order to play the game.  In the end, one should be able to play the game.  *This is the only project where one can work with a partner.



Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ms. Parker's Students on a WebQuest


Ms. Parker's Researchers and Museum Exhibit Designers

Museum exhibit designers? Yes, the second graders recently embarked upon a WebQuest specifically constructed for them. WebQuests have the students playing roles such as historian, anthropologist and economist. Within these roles the students gather information applicable to their discipline of study. This helps students learn about categorizing information as well as learning how to look for specific types of information while filtering out the rest. This is an important skill in our ACDS Information and Communication Literacies (ICL) curriculum. 

You can view the ColonialQuest WebQuest to learn more about the steps the students followed to produce their final project. The project is an online slideshow in which the students were presented with the fictional task of designing new exhibits for the National Museum of American History. A powerful aspect of the learning was taking the students from the concrete understanding of their research to being able to visualize what a museum exhibit might look that would depict their research. This process of making their thinking visible while transferring their understanding to a new situation is the type of learning our ICL curriculum supports. 

Take a look and listen to the final project that the students created where they explained to the director of the National Museum of American History what exhibits he should build to tell the story of children, food and clothing during colonial times. Note that Mrs. Sutton's class project is highlighted in an earlier blog post

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New Name... Same Goal


We are changing the name of this blog because from the start it has covered much more than just the iPad pilot program. The iPads are opening doors to the use of apps, access to the Internet and creative project building using multimedia. But in the end, it is the adaptive and innovative instructional and assessment practices of our teachers that really drives the learning at ACDS.

The computing devices (computers, iPads, laptops & tablets) help our teachers to differentiate and adapt the learning activities to support the reinforcement of skills (e.g., math and reading software/websites) and knowledge acquisition (e.g., online research, WebQuests). The use of various literacies (e.g., information, visual, media, design, technology) supported by the hardware helps our students to think in divergent and expansive ways working to making connections in their learning as they work to grasp the enduring understandings of our curriculum.

In other words, it isn't about the technology, it is about the learning.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mr. Mehta Interviewed


Nishant Mehta, our assistant head of school, was recently interviewed by the Powerful Learning Practice professional development organization. Here is the interview.

Image Source

Festival of Learning: Endangered Species


Our students enjoyed and learned from a very special kickoff event on Friday for the Festival of Learning. The science teachers each came dressed as an endangered species. Taking turns, the science teachers shared background information on their species thus providing a storytelling opportunity that really engaged our learners.

The students also enjoyed a video with students voicing their knowledge of endangered species. Take a look at the video to see and hear what our students have to say about endangered species.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Second Graders on a WebQuest


Mrs. Sutton's Colonial Times Researchers

Mrs. Sutton and Ms. Parker's classes spent the past several weeks learning about colonial times focusing on the lives of children, food and clothing.

They used a WebQuest specifically constructed for them to guide the learning process. WebQuests have the students playing roles such as historian, anthropologist and economist. Within these roles the students gather information applicable to their discipline of study. This helps students learn about categorizing information as well as learning how to look for specific types of information while filtering out the rest. This is an important skill in our ACDS Information and Communication Literacies (ICL) curriculum. 

You can view the ColonialQuest WebQuest to learn more about the steps the students followed to produce their final project. The project is an online slideshow in which the students were presented with the fictional task of designing new exhibits for the National Museum of American History. A powerful aspect of the learning was taking the students from the concrete understanding of their research to being able to visualize what a museum exhibit might look that would depict their research. This process of making their thinking visible while transferring their understanding to a new situation is the type of learning our ICL curriculum supports. 

Here is Mrs. Suttons's class video explaining the design of the exhibits to the director of the National Museum of American History so that he can have them built and presented for visitors to his museum. Ms. Parker's class video will be posted next week.