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BBC Build a Catapult: the science and math behind the catapult

What it is: Any time students can dig in and discover learning for themselves, I consider it a success.  Recently I ran across the BBC’s DIY build a catapult.  The site lets students explore the history behind the catapult, learn how to build one step by step and then discover principles of velocity, acceleration, force, distance and math.  With the popularity of games like Angry Birds, I think a lesson in the science and math behind the catapult is in order.  I like the step-by-step nature of this site and the way that kids are guided through a series of directions. How to integrate BBC Build a Catapult into the classroom: Begin with a time of inquiry where students can inquire into how catapults work, what they can launch, what they have been used for in the past and the science and math behind the catapult.  This site will help answer a lot of their questions and even prompt some additional questions.  Students can follow the step-by-step directions for constructing their own catapult.  Give students the opportunity to test their catapults, using the science and math concepts behind the catapult to predict where object will land based on angles and mass.  The science section of the site does a fantastic job of illustrating vertical velocity, horizontal velocity, the circumference of a circle, acceleration, force and mass.  These can be hard to understand concepts on paper (or in textbooks) but when students can see the concept illustrated and apply it, they will begin to build a framework of understanding. After students understand the concepts of building a catapult, ask them to try building a catapult out of different types of supplies, do some energy sources work better than others?  Ask students to think about objects in our modern-day lives that use the principles or science used in a catapult. Students can access this site from classroom computers as a learning/building center or go through the steps as a class using a projector-connected computer or interactive whiteboard. I really appreciated the step-by-step directions for students to follow.  This is such a necessary life skill, and one that I don’t see practiced enough.  If students know how to read, understand and follow directions, the whole world opens for them and Google becomes useful! Tips: At the bottom of the site are printable versions of the directions for building a catapult. Please leave a comment and share how you are using  BBC DIY Catapult in your classroom!

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Trapped! Punctuation: Punctuation Practice for October

Posted by admin | Posted in Apply, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 15-10-2012

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What it is:  I’ve long been a fan of the BBC’s Bitesize games and activities.  They continue to grow and continue to impress me.  I recently ran across the BBC Bitesize Trapped! Punctuation game.  It couldn’t be a more perfect way to practice punctuation in October.  It has all the elements that students will enjoy: a challenge in the form of a story, spooky characters and setting (but not too spooky), a built in extra game challenge to get from one level to the next.  The game begins with a short animation explaining how students got trapped in a tower and how they will solve punctuation puzzles to get free.  Students have to choose the correct punctuation to complete each puzzle.  After they have chosen the punctuation, they have to use some physics/experimentation to get an apple into a hole to move on to the next level.  This is FUN punctuation practice!

How to integrate Trapped! Punctuation into the classroom: Trapped! Punctuation is a fun way for students to practice placement of punctuation in writing. This beats worksheet practice hands down.  I like that the site puts students in the middle of a story and challenge.  Students will have to consider why a punctuation mark is appropriate in each place.  After students choose the punctuation to complete the puzzle, students have an additional challenge of getting an apple into a hole.  There are some very basic physic principles introduced here.  Students have to use the mouse to choose the angle and speed to shoot the apple to get to their goal.  The puzzles get increasingly difficult and add the additional challenge of extra twists and turns to get the apple through.  The second challenge asks students to choose the correct form of punctuation by “herding” crates with the mouse.

I like that these games are not your typical drill and kill.  They aren’t simply choose the right answer and move on.  There is an additional problem solving component built into each game.  Can’t beat that!

Trapped Punctuation would be a great challenge for kids in a one to one computer setting.  Don’t have that luxury? The games are quick enough to be used as a center activity in the one or two computer classroom.  Set up Trapped! Punctuation as one of the centers in the classroom for students to visit as part of their rotation.

Tips: This practice is fun and challenging enough that students may want to continue practice at home.  Be sure to share this link with parents, they are always looking for good uses of home computer time!

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Trapped! Punctuation in your classroom.

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Comments (3)

Game sounds perfect for my students!

What is the site address?

Hi Jackie, in all of my posts all you need to do is click on the name of the site (it is a live link) and it will take you to the correct url :)

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