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Building a circuit tester
poses no threat to Room 404!
Students tested a variety of materials
to determine whether they were conductors or insulators
The list of nominees for the 2015/6 Mark Twain Award may be seen at right. I have read one of the books already, thanks to the recommendation of a former Cecil Floyd teacher. I will likely begin reading the rest sometime after our annual Book Fair, which usually coincides with our third quarter parent conferences. As these are the recommendations of Missouri librarians, they may be some of the better books that are offered for fourth through sixth grade readers.
Last week's Poetry Cafe gave these two students the opportunity to take the mic and read a humorous poem to the small crowd attending. Many Cecil Floydians were in attendance and took their turns performing - even a couple of teachers and their own children.
"Your shadow is a confirmation
that light has traveled nearly 93 million miles
only to be deprived of reaching the ground
in the final few feet
"When in the presence of a wiser person,
one should listen more and talk less."
(D. Ed. Hoggatt)
OK, so we weren't really speed dating, but the rotation patterns used in speed dating could be applied to reading: one student remained at each station, while other students rotated to each station. At each area the students were provided with scripts written for two readers. The two read through the short script, traded roles, and read through a second time before rotation.
The students remaining at their stations repeated their reading each time a new partner arrived at their station. This student became an expert at the reading, and was even able to assist his/her partner with difficult words or phrases. The other students were exposed to several performance pieces. Next week, we will reverse those roles. This was a nice way to get through several short readings in a short amount of time.
For teachers interested in these short, two-performer scripts,
head over to PoetryTeachers.com.
We've come to the end of our Motion & Design unit. Students had a challenge to build this new, advanced vehicle, powered by a propellor. Most were successful, but following the technical drawing of the car was more difficult this time, with a much more complicated car.
Up Next: Electric Circuits
Today is Monday, January 19, 2015. Today is a day that has been set aside as a national celebration of the contributions of people like Martin Luther King Jr. This man was instrumental in bringing forward the issue of discrimination in our all-men-are created-equal nation. In our class, I have attempted to raise the issue of treating people equally, and not discriminating based on skin color. We have done so when discussing President Thomas Jefferson and his struggle to define equality when writing the Declaration of Independence. We have also talked about the way he wanted the native peoples in the West to be treated when he sent his representatives, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, to explore unknown territories. All the while expressing the desire to get along and maintain positive relations, Jefferson struggled with the fact that his own family owned slaves and depended upon them to live.
Besides the big idea of unfairly treating our fellow man, two concepts have been brought to the forefront in our class. First, the United States history is often ugly, and second, themes in history are definitely more complicated than they appear. Whether talking about the Civil Rights Movement, the removal of Native Americans from their ancestral lands, or the Japanese Internment Camps during World War 2, we must understand that we will not pay justice to the topics with fourth graders. Sometimes things are just too ugly or too complicated for young minds to understand, but that doesn't stop us from beginning the conversation.
As long as you're looking for something to do on the internet, why not check out the Class Divided website? Click on the "Watch the Full Program Online" button, and think about how lessons, classrooms, and attitudes have changed - or not changed - since 1970. In the video, a teacher in an all-white school in Iowa conducts a lesson with a class of third graders. She purposely injects discrimination into her classroom, not to be cruel, but to simulate the consequences of prejudice for her students. Within 15 minutes, she says, her class became a microcosm of society, demonstrating the plasticity of our children's beliefs and attitudes. Once you get to the classroom part of the video, it will be hard for you to stop watching.
Look at how frankly those students speak about the issues and the connections they make. Wonder how their belief systems were developed. Who influenced them to believe such things? Notice the forlorn faces of the students who are assigned minority status. I'll warn you upfront, though, you may get angry at the teacher, and you may be upset with the choices some of the kids make. You may also be unhappy with the inappropriate names that are expressed when dealing with the topic of black people. I am in no means endorsing the use of such derogatory language today, but the brief inclusion of those words in the video wholly demonstrates a culture shift from 1970 to the present.
It was an interesting time. As I reflect on my own childhood (I was only three or four years, and a couple of states, away from being in the Class Divided.), I realize I never was in a class with an African American until college. I realize there were only a couple of black students in my elementary school and none in my middle of high schools. When my mom spoke with other moms about their feelings about busing, I didn't know what they were talking about. Not long before, Rosa Parks had inadvertently begun the Montgomery bus boycotts, the Freedom Riders had been viciously beaten in Mississippi, and nine black high school students were escorted by the military to attend a previously all-white school in Little Rock, Arkansas. King was killed when I was three, long before I became interested in American history or politics. It was a long time before I knew anything about discrimination or racism - though I never liked being called four-eyes.
Since then, I have given a lot of thought to the Civil Rights era. I have seen documentaries and fictionalized movies and TV shows. I have read books and magazine articles outlining many of the issues.
I have made connections throughout history, from the Gullah Islands, Uncle Remus stories, slavery in the American colonies, and the treatment of slaves in the Deep South. I have stood in the courtroom of the infamous Dred Scott Decision right here in Missouri. I have walked in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln, at his house in Springfield, Illinois. I have touched cannon and bayonet used during the Civil War. I have been in President Grant's house, have ridden on Huckleberry Finn's river, and have seen Martin Luther King's Ebenezer Baptist Church.
When I had the fortune to visit the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia, I took a few hours to drive to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. While there, I fixated on one object for several minutes - an old, weathered wagon. I learned from the room that surrounded me that this was the wagon that carried King's body to the cemetery. King wanted his funeral to be yet another opportunity to preach about inequality and humility. Drawn by mules, the wagon transported his body through crowds of mourners. All the other items in the museum - the video screens, oversized photos, and the statuary - paled in comparison with this single, real icon.
A while ago, I also traveled to Memphis, Tennessee. While there, I also visited the location of King's assassination. It's always interesting to me to stand in the actual location of just about any historic event, to touch items of historic significance, and the internalize the significance of those events. Making those events come alive in the classroom takes some creativity and some serious conversation in order to pique the interest of fourth graders, but it is a possibility.
Our history is still in the process of being written. When I consider the ongoing current world issues involving discrimination - religion, gender, orientation, and politics being among the most obvious - I realize the past, present, and future have been delicately intertwined and can not be simplistically isolated. Our history is ugly, and without a doubt, it is complicated. As we move forward, may our children make righteous and informed decisions.
Students are often called upon to read "chorally".
That is, they read together simultaneously as a group.
Repeating this practice assists young readers with reading fluency -
the speed, accuracy, and inflection of oral reading.
Why not, since it's called "choral" reading anyway, actually read the chorus of a song?
Students are working hard to understand long division. We have been over the process many, many times, and some are still struggling to get this multi-step process. I finally resorted to Khan Academy for some help (Sometimes it just takes a different voice to get the point across.). It seemed to help in the short term, and after some more peer tutoring (pictured above), some Hoggatteers appears to make progress.
Long division is a difficult process, but usually fourth graders can pick it up with a little instruction. I think I am having to work more at it, this year, because we still have so many who have not mastered their multiplication facts.
Is it possible students did not believe me when I told them that
all of the math would hinge on multiplication skills?
Below is the first Khan Academy video we watched. Some students wanted to do more on this amazing website, where they can earn "badges" and "power points" by working through videos and quizzes. I do not currently enroll individual students because of the Khan Academy's age rules, but parents can enroll their own children. Just go to the website, and follow the instructions for enrolling. Click on the box that says, "Parents, start here." This is a website that can support your child through high school and college.
Congratulations to BREYDON and BRODIE! These two boys will be our representatives in the Cecil Floyd Spelling Bee on Thursday, January 29 (with MICHAEL and MAYCEE serving as our alternates). We really have some impressive spellers in Room 404, this year, and they all seemed to enjoy our qualifying rounds.
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