Friday, December 21, 2012

Hands On Learning in the 7th Grade

One unit in the 7th grade’s study of the Middle Ages is the development of mounted horsemen, knights, as the defenders of the Holy Roman Empire and the manorial system. Topics included in the study of chivalry, the code of conduct, and heraldry, the identifying of the coats-of-arms of a knight’s family. An important mid-year assignment is the designing and making of a shield that bears a coat-of-arms. Students create their own coat-of-arms, using proper heraldic divisions, charges (symbols),and tinctures (colors). Shields are displayed in the library and at graduation each year, and often linger in a student’s bedroom for many years.

-Mrs. Herre  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Interview Practice in Spanish

The 8th graders recently gained some real world experience using their Spanish skills in mock job interviews. They audio recorded for their interview so that their Spanish teacher could give them feedback. Ms. Basta describes the assignment below. 

In 8th grade Spanish, we’ve been working on the names of different professions. First, we learned the vocabulary words in relation to the places around town, or the places where each profession would work. For example, when learning médico, we did not say “it means doctor.” Instead, we said “Un médico trabaja en un hospital.” This helped students maintain their thoughts in Spanish instead of always switching into English. After mastering the vocabulary itself, students selected a profession for which they would formally apply. 

In groups they wrote simple cover letters telling potential employers where they saw the job announcement, why they were good for the open position, and how they could be contacted. As a final step, students were “called back” for an interview with a teacher who speaks Spanish (but is not their Spanish teacher). The questions for the interview range from “Why would you be good for this job?” to “What experience do you have?” This series of assignments helps students use the language in a real life setting. It also allows them to work on a number of skills in the target language, including writing, speaking, and listening.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hands On Learning in the Middle School

Student Created Terrarium 

Our Middle School scientists have their hands and minds engaged in several projects. The 7th Graders are learning about biomes and ecosystems both in and out of class. Ms. Stein organized a field trip this week to the National Botanical Gardens where the students were immersed in information provided by the museum staff. Getting into the holiday spirit, the students also created mini terrariums inside bulbs (see below). It turns out that our 7th Graders are already experienced in this skill as Ms. Stein had them build their own terrariums which they are using to record data as their plants grow. 

The students on the field trip used their iPads as recording devices to document their learning about plants and biomes. They took photos and recorded video of their learning that they then edited and presented in class. 

The 8th Graders under Mr. Ros' guidance learned about how we use maps and symbols to communicate important information about the world around us. The students created three dimensional maps with land features, topographical lines and symbols. Here are couple examples. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Avenues for Creativity

ACDS students have many pathways to be creative. Just walk into the building and the first thing that strikes you is all of the incredible art being displayed. Head down to the first floor to listen to music flowing out of the music classroom. Look at student generated projects for English, Science, Spanish, etc. and one sees how ACDS students not only use their analysis and synthesis skills but also work to be creative in communicating their own ideas.

Technology supports student learning in several ways including in their creative endeavors. The Sixth Graders recently worked individually and in teams to produce videos for their technology exploratory class. Take a look at JJ's stopmotion video below. A great deal of storyboarding and painstaking picture taking went into her work.

Mrs. Tacktill is continuing the series of field trips to museums in the city. The Sixth and Third Graders recently toured the National Gallery to view landscape paintings. They took videos of one another analyzing the use of perspective, horizon lines, paint texture, balance, etc. The tours ended with students digitally painting on iPads in the courtyard. Here are a few examples of the Third Graders and their creativity in changing the landscape of our ACDS building and grounds. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Media in Social Studies

One of the goals of our Information and Communication Literacies (ICL) and Social Studies curricula is to present many forms of text and media resources to our students. Students learn the ICL curriculum in their library and technology classes to then apply the skills in their other classes. They use their ICL skills as well as historical analysis skills in Social Studies to evaluate, curate and then create their own information. 

Mr. Girard, in his social studies classes, provides digital versions of primary sources, audio recordings (podcasts), video and now eBooks in the form of Apple iBooks. The students are currently reading iBooks on the Middle Ages that Mr. Girard found through the iTunes University app. The students access iTunes U to download the iBooks to their iPads. They also are listening to podcasts and audio recordings of books. One audio book is The Story of the Middle Ages which can be found in the LibriVox website which provides free audio books from the public domain. 

Image Source

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fourth Graders and the Scientific Method

Do video games increase your tolerance to unpleasant cold water? Do dogs have a paw preference? These are just a few of the questions that our Fourth Graders came up with to then use the scientific method to answer their questions. Each student developed a hypothesis to pursue, created an experiment to gather data, analyzed the data, reached a conclusion and then communicated the results to the school. Do stop by the Fourth Grade classrooms to find the poster boards displaying each student's experiment and results.  

A few other questions were:
  • How many pennies will it take to keep the hovercraft from floating?
  • What is the best temperature for growing crystals?
  • Which M and M candy will be eaten the least and therefore be camouflaged the best? 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Telling Time, Coins and Making Thinking Visible

What does a student's understanding look and sound like? We can ask students to explain an idea, a concept to us. We can ask them to draw a picture or diagram which helps to demonstrate their thinking. How about combining the audio and visuals to empower students to create videos to demonstrate their understanding? 

Our First Graders are doing just this on the iPads using the ScreenChomp screencasting app. The topics for their videos are how we use combinations of coins to pay for things and how we use movement in the hands of clocks to tell time.  

The screencast videos provide teachers very detailed assessments of student understanding. They can be used to pre-assess before teaching a lesson and to check for learning once the concept is taught.