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Landform Detectives

What it is: Today I was searching for websites and games that would enhance and enrich the Treasures curriculum.  MacMillan Mcgraw Hill’s reading curriculum is lacking (in my opinion) in the activities that it uses to help students learn grammar, vocabulary, spelling, etc.  Most of the suggested activities are not those that require any deep thinking (or in some cases any thinking at all) and usually involve some sort of copying out of the dictionary or filling out a worksheet type undertaking.  These don’t impress me at all.  So, last year I went through all of the Treasures curriculum, pulled out all of the essential learning and skills that needed to be gained.  I have since been on the hunt for engaging activities and games that will help students learn, practice, and create with the essential learning at the core.  Therein lies the rub.  As I scour the Internet for games and activities what I usually come up with is more worksheets.  The problem is, they aren’t labeled worksheet.  They are labeled “game” or “interactive”.  They aren’t really games or interactive (any child would tell you that!), they are multiple choice online worksheets.  I refuse to subject students to them.  Today I made the following comment on Twitter: “Dear educational game makers, an online multiple choice quiz is not a game, it is a worksheet. Please stop pretending it’s a game. Thank you.” I was delighted to get the following message back from Filament Games: “Dear @ktenkely. We know, and in fact couldn’t agree more. And thank YOU.” I had to explore just who this Filament Games was.  From their Twitter bio: “Filament Games is a game production studio dedicated to creating next generation learning games that combine best practices in commercial game development.”  I am delighted to say, they make incredible educational games that in no way resemble a worksheet!  Bravo! Landform Detectives is just one of the offerings from Filament Games (I’ll explore the others in separate posts).  In Landform Detectives, “a violent volcanic explosion immediately and forever alters the landscape.  Elsewhere, raindrops gradually pick patterns out of the rock over the course of thousands of years.  Can you recreate some of Earth’s most amazing geological features by uncovering the natural processes that shaped them?”  Now that is what I am talking about!  An engaging game that asks students to use what they know about natural disasters, weather, and the creation of landforms to discover and recreate how they were formed. How to integrate Landform Detectives into the classroom: Your students will travel the world to unlock the secrets of the Earth’s strangest and most awe-inspiring landforms as they play Landform Detectives.  Students will gain a new appreciation for mountains, valleys, and rivers as they solve the mystery of how they got to be that way and think about how long it takes for those processes to happen.  Your students will transform into geologists as they discover the suspects like ice, water, wind, and sand in the story of our Earth.  As your students travel the globe, they will encounter animated simulations, virtual scientist (Dr. Bob) who can give them more information, and an opportunity to recreate the formation of the landform.  This is an incredible way for students to “see” first hand just how landforms are created.  The site would be best in a computer lab 1 to 1 setting where each student can explore and discover at their own pace.  If you don’t have access to a computer lab, you could also use a projector connected computer or interactive whiteboard to travel the globe together.  If this is the case, allow students to take turns leading and guiding the exploration.  Hypothesize together about how the landforms came to be and how you might recreate them.  Then put those hypotheses to the test and try them out.  Discuss the outcome, did it look like the students expected? Why or why not? This really is an incredible way to learn about the Earth sciences.  There is just no way that a static text-book can compare to the rich game and media experience that Landform Detectives offers. Tips: Students can watch a briefing from scientists who share their understanding of weathering and erosion to monitor changes in soils that are used to grow plants for food and fuel. Please leave a comment and share how you are using Landform Detectives in your classroom.

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Math Class Needs a Makeover: videos, inquiry, math stories and more

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Blogs, Create, Download, Evaluate, inspiration, Knowledge (remember), Math, professional development, Teacher Resources, TED Talk Tuesdays, Understand (describe, explain), video, Websites | Posted on 18-06-2013

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What it is:  I’ve had the great fortune of time to go through my Google Reader favorites this week as I prepare for the shutdown (still bitter about that!).  The unexpected benefit I’ve had from Google Reader’s demise? The forced opportunity to go back through and be reminded of some of the truly amazing people and resources in education.  Dan Meyer is one of my all time favorite math geniuses.  He reminds us that math is more than computation, it is a frame of mind and an outlook on the world.  If your math program isn’t that…it is time to change!  As I went back through the resources of Dan’s that I had tagged, I re-watched his TEDx Talk: Math Class Needs a Makeover.  If you haven’t seen this TED Talk, or haven’t watched it in a while…now is the time.  I’ve embedded the talk above for your viewing pleasure…you don’t even have to go anywhere!  If you have watched it recently, be a friend and share it with someone else.

Dan also has some other really useful mathspiration.  His blog, dy/dan, is a source of math prompts and discussions that will have you thinking beyond computation. 101Questions is a project that encourages students to think about math through photo prompts and inquiry.  Graphing Stories is STINKING fantastic, Dan offers a printout for your students, they can then watch any video and graph the story.  AWESOME describes this resource. Three Act Math is a curricula that Dan developed, click on the links within the doc to get to the resources.  Again…AWESOME. Geometry curricula offers you Dan’s handouts, pdfs, powerpoint and keynote presentations.  Algebra curricula offers the same.

THANK YOU Dan for sharing your passion for mathematics, your inspiration for those of us who aren’t as naturally inclined to geek out about math, and for your openness of resources.

How to integrate Dan Meyer’s awesomeness into the classroom:  Dan makes it really easy for you to integrate his methods into your classroom.  Everything you need from inspiration, to mathematical story sets, to curricula materials is available.  If you teach math, the obvious place to start is with the type of math that you teach.  Dan’s resources are mostly intended for high school students use.  However, as I looked through his resources again, I think they could be appropriate for students in elementary school as well.

101Questions is a great way to have your kids enter an inquiry mindset as they approach math.  These are photos that ask your students what the first thing that comes to mind is.  Students can type in their answer and get a new prompt.  These would be a great way to start your class using a projector or interactive whiteboard.  Have your class inquire and come up with questions together.  Students can also do this as an independent activity and then share their questions with other students.

Graphing Stories speaks for itself.  Again, it is geared toward secondary students, but I think that given enough support, primary students would really enjoy engaging math this way too.  (Sometimes we don’t give students enough credit for where an interest can take their thinking.  Case in point: Anastasis 2nd and 3rd graders who know Fibonacci inside and out. Normally you wouldn’t see the concept until high school or later.)

The Three Act Math is also a favorite of mine.  Use Dan’s three acts, or use his as inspiration for creating your own!

Dan’s resources hit on every level of Bloom’s Taxonomy…that alone is good reason to stop reading this and go on your own exploration!

Tips: Dan is great to follow on Twitter...a constant stream of 140 character mathspiration!

How are you using Dan Meyer’s Awesome in your classroom?  Leave a comment below!

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