Equal Learning for All….or not.

General Education No Comments »

I had an interesting conversation with a friend a few days ago. She is a teacher,as well, but at a different school. We were talking about our workloads, and I was saying that there never seems to be a break. I mark for hours upon hours at home, and my prep time is always filled at school. I marvel at those who blog and tweet so often, and I wonder where they find the time.

She said it seems that when teachers prove themselves worthy, they seem to get more work put upon them, simply because it is known that they are capable. When administrators need something done or taken care of, they are more likely to head to the stronger teachers, as they are trusted to complete the task well. Yet isn’t it those same teachers who are already working beyond the limits, striving to create the best possible learning environment each and every day? Isn’t it those teachers who need a break?

I began thinking about this, and wondering if we do that to our students, as well. I teach to a high level. I feel that all students are capable, and that they should all be encouraged to reach their maximum potential. Some students may not end up with the same level of absorption as others, but they are all able to enter the process and take out what works for them. I expect all of my students to challenge themselves in some way, but that way does not need to be the same for all students. I do not think that I give extra tasks to particular students, or that I demand less from others. As I write this, though, I can’t help but wonder if my students would feel the same.

Do all students need to be treated equally? No, not in my opinion. But all students need to be treated fairly, and in a way that best supports their individual learning (differentiated instruction, at its best). Equal cannot exist in a world where some can learn math content in 10 minutes and others are still working it through a week later. Equal cannot exist when some can express their thoughts clearly and coherently in written form, while others best share their learning through conversation.  And equal cannot exist when the subject some students excel in is different from that which I teach them.   

Equal does not exist in the classroom, but fairness does. And I tell them that fairness is not necessarily what they think. It is not that each person gets and does the exact same thing as the other. Fairness is about giving each student exactly what they need in order to learn and thrive– no more and no less. And fairness also means that students give back exactly what they are capable of – no more and certainly no less.

Have a wonderful week.

Getting warmer….

General Science, Grade 7 Science No Comments »

In my grade 7 science class, we are currently working on a unit on heat. The students have just finished learning about thermal expansion, and tomorrow they will be handing in an assignment that considers the role of thermal expansion with rising sea levels. I look forward to reading about the various efforts that are undertaken to protect coastlines and river edges from the dangers of the rising waters.

This week’s task will be for the students to assess how to make a home or building more energy efficient. They will explore the various ways that homes and other buildings are designed to maintain comfortable temperatures in various weather conditions. They will consider both the materials used for construction, as well as what goes on within the building. They will be encouraged to investigate the advantages and disadvantages of airtight buildings and how green roofs can be used to help with energy efficiency.

The following is the assignment they will be receiving tomorrow, and the links which will help them to begin their research:

Energy Conservation Inc Word Docx

Energy Conservation Inc PDF

Energy Efficient Homes  from Natural Resources Canada – A good resource – this website discusses energy efficiency in all parts of the house.

US Department of Energy – A similar website as the one mentioned above, this time from the US government.

Energy Star – From the US Environmental Protection Agency, the website behind the Energy Star ratings for your home.

Green 3D Home – Look at the resources under “Go Green” and “Your House”.

Green-Energy-Efficient –Homes – Another website that provides ideas for making your home more energy efficient.

Green Building – This website goes through some of the science behind building green homes.

 City of Toronto Green Roofs – Learn about green roofs and how they are being used in the city of Toronto

HGTV Goes Green – Home and Gardens Television tips and tricks for energy efficient and sustainable homes , and check out their page on green roofs.

Fun with Applets

Math No Comments »

This week I am beginning Pythagorean Theorem with my students.  They will have the chance to explore some applets. Here are the ones that I will be using:

 IES Applet  This is one of a series of applets on Pythagorean Theorem on this website, but it is my favourite of the group. In this applet squares a and b get broken into pieces, and then all of the pieces from both squares must be rearranged to fit into square c.

National Library of Virtual Manipulatives  There are two different puzzles to solve in this applet. In the first puzzle, there is a shape that has an area of c2 and another shape that has an area of a2 + b2. The same pieces are used to fill each of the two shapes, thus showing that the shapes have the same area.  The second puzzle is similar in nature to the first, but the pieces are different and the two shapes are the same.

Nova Applet  This applet allows the user to drag all of square a into square c, and then break apart square b so that the smaller squares fill the empty space in square c.

Davis Associates  This demonstration moves pieces around to show that the area of square c is equal to the area of squares a + b.

After they explore some applets, they will choose their favourite one and attempt to use the concepts to create a hands-on interactive activity. Please feel free to use and modify the following assignment sheet:

Pondering Pythagoras

If you have other Pythagorean Theorem ideas that I could incorporate into my lesson, I would love to hear from you.

Have a  great week.

Cells Galore

General Science, Grade 8 Science No Comments »

I am just beginning my cells unit with my grade 8 students. This year, I want to cover a little of the basics, but then I want to dive into the hearty issues that will require my students to really think and to make judgments about where they stand on some controversial issues.

As my school is an IB world school, we will be exploring this unit with the following question in mind: How do we use biotechnology to meet our needs?

We well begin by covering some of the basics, such as:

  • Cell Theory
  • Plant and Animal Cells (for this I am planning on having the students do an analogy assignment where they compare the parts of the cell to parts of cities, factories, houses, schools, airports…you get the idea)
  • Use and Care of the Microscope
  • Osmosis and Diffusion

The following sites support learning in the topics listed above:

Camilla Senior Cells Page

Science Spot Microscope Links

Teachnology Cells Page

Intel Cell-to-Cell Page

CREATE for Mississippi Microscopes and Cells

Internet4Classrooms Cell Structure and Function

Lesson Corner’s Diffusion Page

Lesson Corner’s Osmosis Page

Lesson Corner’s Cell Biology Page

The following are some assignments that I have used in my unit which support the topics above:

Use and Care of the Microscope

Cells Lab

Plant and Animal Cell Scavenger Hunt

Cell Superheroes Assignment

Modelling and Observing Diffusion

Modelling and Observing Osmosis

And then we will move into an exploration of critical thinking issues, such as:

  • Cloning

Learn.Genetics Cloning Page

International Debate Education Association

How Stuff Works:  Cloning

  • Genetically Modified Food

Health Canada

Center for Food Safety

International Debate Education Association

CBC Digital Archives

World Health Organization

  • Stem Cells

Learn.Genetics Stem Cells Page

National Institutes of Health

Science Daily

How Stuff Works

  • The Donation, Selling and Harvesting of Human Organs

International Debate Education Association Page 1

International Debate Education Association Page 2

Santa Clara University:  Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

  • Prenatal Selection of Gender and Genetic Traits

Washington Post

New York Times

Legal Affairs

International Debate Education Association

I have developed a Cell Debate which incorporates the above critical thinking topics.

And finally, for some additional websites to support the study of cells, please check out my cells page.

I am always looking for new ideas to incorporate into my cells unit….would love to hear from you.

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