ABC and 123: March 2012

Friday, March 30, 2012

Viewpoint: Students Deserve an Educational Bill of Rights


Today we welcome Mark Pullen, a classroom teacher with a unique viewpoint on No Child Left Behind, as our guest blogger.

All students – no matter their race, gender, academic ability, or financial well-being – deserve a free, quality education as a basic human right.  In the United States, federal legislation packages like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, however flawed, have sought to ensure that students are in fact receiving an education by requiring that all students be tested annually in the areas of reading and math.  Schools that repeatedly fail to educate a high enough percentage of their students (or subgroups of students) past certain thresholds in those subjects typically face punitive measures.  This legislation was well-intended but has, in some school districts, led to horrific unintended consequences, most commonly a dramatic narrowing of the curriculum to exclude all but what is tested as schools teach solely to the test.

Primarily as a result of these unintended consequences, many educators believe that No Child Left Behind should be eliminated.  Without mandated annual high-stakes reading and math testing, they argue, schools would be able to be more child-centered and to expand the curriculum to once again focus more heavily on things like science, social studies, and the arts.  This fails to address the initial concern of No Child Left Behind, however – that many students are not currently receiving a quality education in their public school.

I propose an alternative to eliminating No Child Left Behind: adding to it a clearer definition of exactly what it means to be “left behind.”  No longer should multiple-choice tests be the sole determining factor for whether or not a student (or school) has made “adequate yearly progress.”  Instead, we need to devise a Student Bill of Rights, clearly laying out the minimum standards of what we believe all students deserve from the schools they attend.  This Bill of Rights would have the power of law and would operate alongside the current No Child Left Behind legislation.  While No Child Left Behind focuses on assessing student learning, the Bill of Rights that I am proposing would focus on assessing student learning conditions.  It would also serve as a form of checks and balances by denying schools the opportunity to narrow their curriculum and teach to a standardized test.

Let’s imagine how this could look in practice.  Imagine a Bill of Rights with requirements such as these:

1.  All students have the right to attend school in a clean, safe environment.

This may seem like a simple, obvious requirement, but in one sentence it demands that schools take care of everything from leaky ceilings to ongoing bullying issues.

2.  All students have the right to attend schools with significant technology integration in all core subject areas.

Students who are not taught to be digitally literate will be at a huge disadvantage in their future college and career journeys.  Technology integration can no longer be an option for schools.  I personally believe that beginning in third grade (if not sooner), every student deserves to be in a 1:1 environment, where each child has his/her own tech device to be used whenever needed.  My proposed Student Bill of Rights would allow for other forms of tech integration as well, however, such as small groups of students sharing one device.  As with the first statement, however, the inclusion of this in a Student Bill of Rights would immediately shift a school’s focus away from how well kids can fill in bubbles on a test to ensuring that the student learning environment in a school was as conducive to learning as possible.

3.  Elementary students have the right to physical education, art, and music classes at least once per week.  Secondary students have the right to choose at least one elective per year in the area of physical education, art, music, or world languages.

Again, this simple mandate would force schools not to teach solely to the test, and it would renew art, music, and physical education instruction in districts that have eliminated it. 

It’s easy to envision other possible rights which students arguably deserve, such as class size limits, the right for a student to be appropriately challenged in all subjects, the right to daily recess for elementary students, the right for secondary students to be taught by teachers who at least minored in college in the subject they are teaching, and so on.  All of these could be vigorously debated, and many more could be devised as well.  Whatever the outcome, I am convinced that even a very conservatively-written Student Bill of Rights could be effective in turning the public’s attention and dialogue away from our collective obsession with test scores and toward the conditions under which we require students to learn.  Schools should not be penalized for having low test scores when those scores can be a function of poverty, large numbers of ELL students, or high rates of transiency.  Instead, schools should be judged based on the learning environment they offer to the students they serve.  Schools with crumbling walls, few functional computers, and no classes in the arts are the ones who should be penalized.

In the comment section, leave a response to this question: What statements would you include in a Student Bill of Rights? 

About the Author:
Mark Pullen, 1:1 classroom teacher, on behalf of Worth Ave Group. Worth Ave Group provides laptop, tablet computer, and iPad insurance to schools and universities. They have been insuring schools since 1971: http://www.worthavegroup.com/education

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Online Interactive Manipulatives


Perhaps this is a site that is familiar to many of you, but after I discovered it during my grad class this week I was anxious to share it here.
The site, National Library of Online Manipulatives, has been compiled by Utah State University.
There are options to chose from a variety of math topics including: Numbers & Operations, Algebra, Geometry, Measurement, Data Analysis, and Probability.  After identifying your topic of interest the options are available to choose the grade level you will be working on the subject with.
Once your preferences are made, the site directs you to a library of online manipulatives.
The screenshot below  gives you a very limited glance at the type of tools available, but you are really going to want to check it out for yourself!
I am anxious to experiment with several of the interactives and to increase my planning productivity with this one stop online library. 

We would all enjoy hearing about any lessons you plan using this resource.  Tell us how your students liked it!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bilingual Wednesdays - Cognates part III


Flashcards are a useful tool to use with children. You can either make them or buy them.
I love making some scrappy flashcards with different papers, textures and art supplies.
Print the cards and laminate for durability. ( It maybe seem expensive but when you use a flashcard for 4 or 5 years you find the advantage of laminating them.)

In this case, I fold the upper part ( with the word) and ask children to identify and name the pic. Then I unfold and we check the word.
Using the flashcards, can you find a cognate for each letter of the alphabet? Really? Show me please!


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Show and Tell #94

Love and Lollipops put play dough to good use with these darling sweets.


Interactive Homeschool used foam craft store squares to create pentominoes.

We Can Do All Things shared some Spring themed toddler activities.

It's your turn!


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If you are new to Show & Tell or need a quick recap, here are the rules:


~Post your favorite lessons, crafts, traditions, kid friendly recipes, field trip recap, learning games, experiments, DIY organizational projects, holiday related activities, or Ah-Ha moments.


~Direct link to your post, not your home page.


~Include a link back to us or include our link button in your post or sidebar.


~Please try to visit and comment on at least three links. This adds to the positive collaboration that makes our learning cooperative a success!


~Each week we will feature three links from the previous week's party.  Some weeks these are chosen at random, sometimes by theme, and other times according to linky tools stats. >

Monday, March 26, 2012

Movement and Music: Learning to Follow Directions

Hi, I'm Jedda from This Little Project. Learning to follow directions is
an important {little project} that we've been working on recently.

Today my focus is on "moving in the right direction." Learning to follow directions 
is more fun with music, so I've included some fun songs below too!

With Easter coming up, there are plastic eggs everywhere and I made 2 egg hunts for my kids:  
One for learning right/left and counting.  
And the other one is for learning north/south/east/west directions.



I also made a printable for you to use in your eggs to write your directions.



Before you do your egg hunt, sing these songs so you'll have your directions figured out.

One of my favorite ways to practice following directions and right/left is the hokey pokey!



 This is a fun song to sing and watch to practice right/left, forward/backwards.  These are directions you will need for one of the egg hunts.


This is the only song I could find with north/south/east/west direction words.  These are the directions you need to do the second egg hunt.  If you know of other songs to share, please leave a comment below.

Another fun way to practice right/left is to make a maraca out of a plastic egg and then call out right/left and shake it in the correct hand.
You can have lots of movement and music fun with a maraca!


For more ideas check out all my music and movement here!





Wednesday, March 21, 2012



Here is an activity I do to reinforce skip counting {but you can really use it with anything!}.  I got this inspiration for this activity from Mr. Smith over at Teacher Tipster and it's called Power Towers. You've got to check him out!
Have you ever played stacking cups?  The students stack the cups in a tower and see how fast they can put it up and take it down.  I have made a stacking cups activity that practices skip counting by 10's. 
Supplies:
*Plastic mini cups
*Sharpie
Write the numbers 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100 on plastic mini cups {each cup only has one number on it}. I made 24 sets of these, stacked them together and put a rubber band around them to keep them in a stack together. The students put the cups in a row in order:
The rule is that anytime they touch a cup, they HAVE to say the number on it.  You show them how to stack the cups {10, 20, 30, 40 on the bottom} {50, 60, 70 on top of those} {80 and 90 on top of those} {100 at the top}
Then, they take them down by stacking them one inside of the other and they say the numbers backwards now starting with 100.

Then, we have a race:



For more math ideas, check out my "It All Adds Up" posts {here}.




How can you use Power Towers?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Show and Tell #93

Last week Love and Lollipops shared a great project for using parts from old and broken toys - Recycled Robots. A couple years ago we did a robot themed party for my son's birthday. This sure would have been a fun activity to have on the agenda!

 Small Good Hearth linked up with a timely post about lessons based on basketball, just in time for the NCAA Championship bracket madness.

Fun Frugal Mommy put together a word family activity using some bubbly sensory play to peak her daughter's interest. It's your turn!
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If you are new to Show & Tell or need a quick recap, here are the rules:


~Post your favorite lessons, crafts, traditions, kid friendly recipes, field trip recap, learning games, experiments, DIY organizational projects, holiday related activities, or Ah-Ha moments.


~Direct link to your post, not your home page.


~Include a link back to us or include our link button in your post or sidebar.


~Please try to visit and comment on at least three links. This adds to the positive collaboration that makes our learning cooperative a success!


~Each week we will feature three links from the previous week's party.  Some weeks these are chosen at random, sometimes by theme, and other times according to linky tools stats.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Teaching with Ticia: Using Legos in your school


Legos have many uses in classrooms.  Aside from just being fun to build with and great for spatial reasoning, there are also many ways you can use them in your classroom or home as a learning experience.

The most common way we use them in our school work is to reenact stories, history lessons, or Bible stories.
All you have to do is have a large collection of figures and various other Legos to be able to build the story and act it out.  Fun, simple, and a great way to get that story in your memory.

Another advantage of Legos is problem solving and figuring out how to "make it work."  Pose problems to solve using the Legos.  For example, Bob has a garden and wants to plant red, yellow, blue, and orange plants.  He can't put the red next to the orange plants, how can he plant them best?

Legos are also great for inventing things.  Can you make an air vehicle?  If you were to create a boat what would be on it?  What is the fastest race car you can make?
If you're just using them for a bit of "educational fun" just have at it.  To make it a bit more of a learning experience and to force them to slow down and think it through, have them draw out their steps or what is required of it.

This put a little more thinking in their processes, and also if you're trying to keep standards (in Texas they're called TEKS), adds in a writing component to you history, science, or logical thinking activity.

And finally, another great method: math.  You can use them as a fun manipulative for teaching different math problems.

Count the bumps on them, add the bumps on the pieces together, find the area, find the perimeter.  The ideas are endless.  This is one I'm thinking of using with my kids as we travel in a month or so.

Have you ever used Legos as a learning tool?  What are your favorite ideas?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Party at the End of the Rainbow


 In celebration of St. Patrick's Day we thought we would take you on a journey to that lucky place at the end of the rainbow!  Perhaps the colorful ideas will inspire a golden day for your children!

Chickabug has put together a great collection of rainbow party games, crafts, and activities for a celebration.
Play Create Explore  - Rainbow Sensory Bin/Sorting Activity
Rainbow of Ribbon Party Games from Giggleberry Creations
Rainbow Jello from Hoosier Homemade
The Decorated Cookie - Rainbow Kabobs
 
Rainbow Party from Homemade by Jill
How Does She? -  Rainbow Party
Birthday Party Ideas for Kids suggests several games such as: Rainbow Tag, Rainbow Color Scavenger Hunt, and Rainbow Rain Relay.
Musical Rainbow -Lay various colored circles in a line on the floor.  Have the children walk between them while the music plays.  When the music ends they must stand on a color.  Call out one color.  The child standing on that color wins a prize.  Play until all of the children have a chance to win!

Friday, March 16, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Exploration Centers and Toddler Trays


Are you looking for independent work stations for your child for their toddler time, exploration, learning centers, or quiet boxes?  Here are some St. Patrick's Day inspired ideas. Each link leads to a collection of ideas, we have only chosen one picture to highlight here.

 
Simply Centers - Bit o' Math Blarney

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Introduction to Urban, Suburban, and Rural Communities


One specific social studies objective for second grade students is to be able to identify urban, rural, and suburban communities.  To help introduce this concept I have created  an interactive discussion tool using Prezi.  It was my first time experimenting with the format and I recognize that I still have a lot to learn.  However, I can see that this might be an interesting tool for presenting lots of different themes, as well as for students to share their understanding of our topics of study.


St. Patrick's Day Reading and Writing Activities


Make, Take and Teach created a sight word BINGO freebie for you, just in time for some lucky reading fun.

Extra Special Teaching has a download for a St. Patrick's Day making words activity.
Ingles360 is sharing a St. Patty's Day packet for free that includes uppercase and lowercase letters.

Fabulous in First has shared some ideas for St. Patrick's Day writing paper with prompts such as Lucky to be Me and If I Caught a Leprechaun.


Mrs. Wills Kindergarten will be making words with this St. Patrick's Day printable (available for purchase from her TPT store).

Minds in Bloom has a list of writing prompt ideas for elementary age students.
 HoJo's Teaching Adventure has several writing prompts and lined paper options for you to choose from for an elementary writing activity.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bilingual Wednesdays - Cognates part II


Cognates are words in two languages that share a similar meaning, spelling and pronounciation.
30 -40% of English words have a related word in Spanish.
For learners of Spanish as a second or foreign language, cognates are a bridge to the new language.
Cognate awareness is the ability to use cognates as a tool for understanding a new language.
Children can be taught to use cognates as early as preschool. They feel confident when they can master cognates because they are very similar to their mother tongue.
There are many cognates, but I choose the most familiar for my kids such as chocolate, pizza, pasta, television, computer, sofa,etc


Are you ready for a word hunt?
Beforehand paste the labels in the classroom. Invite children to go on a wordhunt.

Ask them to write the words in the worksheet.


Teaching cognates help children to transfer knowledge from one language to the other and to build anchor charts.

Stay tuned! Be sure to register as a Follower.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Show and Tell #92


I must be hungry this afternoon because all of the yummy link ups on Show and Tell are popping out at me at the same time!  
Did you see these ideas in last week's Show and Tell?
This cookie dough suggestion from Highhill Homeschool is a motivating way to teach mapping!
Kitchen Fun with My Three Sons created colorful rainbow cupcakes.
Since it appears that we totally missed "Platypus Day" we thought we better make some mention of it by sharing Pam's Party and Practical Tips Platypus Pops.

It's your turn!
abc button




If you are new to Show & Tell or need a quick recap, here are the rules:


~Post your favorite lessons, crafts, traditions, kid friendly recipes, field trip recap, learning games, experiments, DIY organizational projects, holiday related activities, or Ah-Ha moments.


~Direct link to your post, not your home page.


~Include a link back to us or include our link button in your post or sidebar.


~Please try to visit and comment on at least three links. This adds to the positive collaboration that makes our learning cooperative a success!


~Each week we will feature three links from the previous week's party.  Some weeks these are chosen at random, sometimes by theme, and other times according to linky tools stats.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Printables



Amy from Teach Mama has a printable document with St. Patrick's Day jokes that you can share in your child's lunch box.

Criss Cross Applesauce created a Rainbow Game with M & Ms to practice sorting, counting, and taking turns with your preschooler.
This Lucky Dog game printable is also from Criss Cross Applesauce and practicing number identification for 1-20.
Enchanted Homeschooling Mom created shamrock themed printables for practicing fact families and skip counting.
Preschool Powol Packet has a free St. Patrick's Day unit of activities for you to check out.


Mrs Kilburn's Kiddos are going to have some fun practicing sight words and writing skills with these two free leprechaun printables.