Fun with Science Journals

Over Christmas break I asked my son what he wanted to do for fun. We usually visit his favorite museums or take walks through our favorite city. He said he wanted to visit a scientist, better yet a physicist, his favorite science. I emailed all the local university professors and asked if they would be willing to meet with my son, who was 12 at the time and answer any questions. We were so gracious to hear back from the Dean of Physics of Columbia University. When the professor met with Adam, my son, he sat with him for an hour and the best part was he gave us a tour of the lab and a peek at the scientist’s lab journals, which brings me to the pictures below of my kids science journals. I immediately pointed out how similar they looked to his own science journals. I always had them discover and learn as scientists learn: through observations, setting clear objectives and noticing patterns. Below are some great examples of their journals from the age of 5:

science jnl 1

For the above journal entry they observed an apple with the “naked” eye, than with a microscope and then with a magnifying glass. I also I asked them to draw what they saw. Each time I pushed them to describe in detail their observations.

sce jnl 2

The above was an example of journaling changes to fruit over a period of time. It was interesting to notice and the changes of the fruit as it dried and molded.

science jnl 4

We observed weather over a period of time and recorded the temperature and other pertinent information.

science jnl 5

science jnl 6

science jnl 8

science jnl 9

The children recreated a fuse and explored how a fuse protects a circuit. The children took notes in their science journal and realized the purposes of fuses in a home and they also recorded how to make it be a better experiment next try.

science jnl 7

They explored using a solar oven to make a raisin.

Some common factors in the journals were objectives, observations, lots of spelling and grammar mistakes, creativity and fun.

If you’re using journals or will be using journals I would love to see them. Upload pictures and share.

 

Book Groups: Putting the Social in Reading

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When students are asked why they don’t read more, they usually say they rather “hang out with their friends”.  Well, book groups is a perfect opportunity to merge the need for kids to be social and reading.  While I facilitate book groups in New Jersey (check out http://www.meetup.com/NJ-Homeschooled-Readers-and-Writing-Groups/ for registration) anyone can start one and facilitate for an enriching discussion. 

After introductions, I always let the participants choose a novel.  While I provide suggestions for books ultimately I always give the members final choice on their reading, hence the name of my blog Student Led Learning.    While the participants choose the book they may regret their choice.  Encourage honesty, when discussing the book.  The readers may not like the book and that opinion would also be okay and would provide for a valuable discussion.

Once book is chosen readers can start the fun.  If they need discussion ideas you can introduce different roles students can do during each group.  Below are examples of possible jobs:

  1.  Discussion Director:  The Discussion Director comes with discussion questions they will be asking group during meeting.  The questions should be discussion questions, not questions that would warrant a short response.  Look at previous post, Questions Leading to Creative Discussions, for further explanation of a good discussion question.  A quick example would be, “What is the main character’s name?” is NOT a good discussion question.  A better example might be, “Who is your favorite character and why?”
  2. Illustrator:  As illustrator the reader would be drawing their favorite scene and sharing it with the group.  During Book Group, illustrations are shared and participants will guess which scene it is and this will also lead to funny discussions.
  3. Vocabulary Enricher:  As the vocabulary expert the reader would come to group with 5 words they thought were funny, confusing or interesting.  Bring them to the group with the page number of where they found it and be prepared to discuss word and why they chose it.
  4. Literary Luminary:  Having this job gives the reader an opportunity to choose 5 specific parts of the book to bring to group.  They will choose sections they thought were interesting, confusing or funny.  The reader should be prepared to discuss section and why it was chosen.
  5. Actor:  Act out your favorite scene and have other readers guess scene.
  6. Connector:  The reader chooses sections of the book that they connect with and will discuss with group.

 

Any or NONE of the above jobs can be used for book groups.  Ultimately, the goal is to have an enriching, honest discussion about the novel.  Would love to hear if you or your child have participated in Book Groups.

Questions Leading to Creative Discussions

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I was once teaching about the different emperors of China throughout several lessons on the history of Ancient China.  By the end of the lesson, once they became familiar with all the different emperors, I posed the question:  Which emperor do you feel was the most successful and why?  I followed up with “Which was your favorite emperor and why?”  Some students found this question exciting.  It was an opportunity for expression, exploration and research.  Unfortunately, some of my students found this question too big of a challenge.  Their first question was, “On what page in the book would I find this answer?”  I answered they would not find this answer in this book.  I was looking for their opinion.  They would have to synthesize, meaning gather information and find their own conclusion.  For many of my high achieving students this was frustrating.  They were very good at finding answers in the book.  Unfortunately, our schools are not asking enough questions that lead to independent thought.  Let’s think about what makes a question lead to creative thinking and problem solving.

This is what I call higher order thinking questions.  This goes back to the previous post about Bloom’s Taxonomy.  When we ask questions we should be focusing on those Bloom’s Taxonomy skills:  synthesis, evaluate and create.

Examples of common reading questions we ask out children to see if they are understanding what they are reading:

What is the character’s name?  Who is the main character?  Where is the story taking place?

Higher Order Thinking Questions:  Who is your favorite character and why?  Here you are asking your learner to evaluate.

If you could write the next chapter what would you have happen?  Here you are asking your child to create something new.

Today we took a family trip to a Submarine museum.  Some great discussions were, What was your favorite part and why?  How could you make the museum more interesting?

These types of questions not only encourage creativity but also are a window into your child’s soul.  To validate their opinions makes them feel heard and valued.  These types of questions can be developed and used anytime; during family dinners as well as at the supermarket choosing cereal.  Which cereal do you prefer versus which is the healthiest?  A great question might be, Why do you think children like that cereal more than this one?  You always seem to choose that cereal.  How can this company encourage you to buy this cereal instead of that one? 

These forms of questions are critical for Book Groups/Discussions.  During book groups I ask all participants to bring 3-5 discussion questions with them and I teach them what makes a good discussion question using this method.  To have them develop their own questions for book groups and other assignments is another form of creating and letting them lead their learning.

I would love to know if you are as aware of your questions as I am and if so how do you formulate your questions?  Look forward to hearing from everyone.

Create vs. Recreating

Encourage creating something new versus recreating what's been thought of

Encourage creating something new versus recreating what’s been thought of

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a way of thinking and teaching that makes a lot of sense to me.  It’s based on a pyramid with levels that start with easy tasks that do not encourage thinking, to questions that encourage creativity, creating, and again thinking outside the box.  This method makes a lot of sense to me.  Not because some guy named Bloom invented it; it makes sense to have kids create versus repeating and remembering facts, which is what Bloom’s Taxonomy tries to stay away from.

The most encouraged part of the pyramid is creating.  For example if a learner is interested in learning about animal kingdoms, one option is to print out a worksheet from an educational website in which the child will color in the different animal kingdoms and they can label the animals and fill in the blank for some sentences or identify parts of that kingdom.  That would be an example of an assignment that would be very low in the Bloom’s Taxonomy pyramid and therefore discouraged.  An alternative to tracing animal kingdoms would be for the child to research, with or without adult’s help, figure out what are parts of an animal kingdom and create their own imaginary world.  They create it based on existing animals, made up creatures and real or made up environments.  This would demonstrate a deeper understanding of animal kingdoms, the natural evolution of how they are formed and how they may evolve in the future.

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a way of thinking and teaching that makes a lot of sense to me.  It’s based on a pyramid with levels that start with easy tasks that do not encourage thinking, to questions that encourage creativity, creating, and again thinking outside the box.  This method makes a lot of sense to me.  Not because some guy named Bloom invented it; it makes sense to have kids create versus repeating and remembering facts, which is what Bloom’s Taxonomy tries to stay away from.

The most encouraged part of the pyramid is creating.  For example if a learner is interested in learning about animal kingdoms, one option is to print out a worksheet from an educational website in which the child will color in the different animal kingdoms and they can label the animals and fill in the blank for some sentences or identify parts of that kingdom.  That would be an example of an assignment that would be very low in the Bloom’s Taxonomy pyramid and therefore discouraged.  An alternative to tracing animal kingdoms would be for the child to research, with or without adult’s help, figure out what are parts of an animal kingdom and create their own imaginary world.  They create it based on existing animals, made up creatures and real or made up environments.  This would demonstrate a deeper understanding of animal kingdoms, the natural evolution of how they are formed and how they may evolve in the future.

This may be a challenge for some young learners, but always remember try to get learners to create new concepts, versus repeating what’s already been thought of or discovered.

When evaluating your child’s teachers or tutors evaluate the assignments they are given according to whether they are creating, synthesizing, evaluating or simply repeating facts.  If your  child is doing a poster project, are they asked to research the three stages of precipitation and draw it on a poster?  If they are I would encourage them to take it a step further and think about where the same pattern is recreated in their world.  How can they recreate it?  If they are older, middle school learners a good question might be, how would they feel about our weather being manipulated?  How do you feel about climate change?  What is the evidence for or against it?  Can that be reversed?  Again, the focus should be on three key skills:  evaluating, synthesizing and creating.  These skills will lead to your child being able to think independently, creatively and out of the box.

Unfortunately, this is being discouraged in the classrooms, and as parents we need to make up for the missing link.  How do you ensure your child is creating and thinking outside the box?

Looking for a Tutor?

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As an educator for 14 years,  I not only have an extensive background in helping children succeed in reading and writing I also have a passion for working with children and driving their passions.  Under my care I have seen children who have given up on their learning, reignite their passion with some of my strategies.  I have also seen gifted students be challenged like they have never been challenged before.

If you are looking for help in supporting your child on their educational journey you might find some of the below options a viable choice.

Upon reviewing the menu of options below, you will see an array of options ranging from group sessions for $10.00 an hour or monthly packages of $150 per child.  If you have any questions please email me at mdesousacmts2000@yahoo.com, use comments or contact form to sign up and I will email you a paypal order form for payment.

Monthly Tutoring Subscription Packages

 All Inclusive Tutor

  • I will provide feedback for up to 10 2-page papers or 20 pages total a month, virtually or during private tutoring
  • Provide strengths and weaknesses for each paper and suggestions for improvement, virtually or during private tutoring
  • Weekly consultations on writing and reading progress and review of all writing and reading
  • Participation in virtual or in person weekly Book Groups
  • Participation in virtual or in person weekly Writing Circles

All Inclusive Tutor Package:  First Month $50.00, $150.00 each additional month

Supportive Monthly Tutoring

  • Provide Feedback for up to 5 2 page papers or 10 pages total a month, virtually or during private tutoring
  • Provide strengths and weakness for each paper and suggestions for improvement, virtually or during private tutoring
  • Bi-Weekly consultations on writing and reading progress and review of all writing and reading
  • Credit of $20.00 to virtual or in person weekly Book Groups
  • Credit of $20.00 to virtual or in person weekly Writing Circles

Supportive Subscription Package:  First Month $35.00, Each Additional Month  $75.00

Book Groups

Readers as young as 6 years old and up to 18 years old can attend book groups organized by age.  Books will be selected by the members of the group.  New Jersey Residents can meet at their local library, and international students can meet virtually through Skype, upon registration.  Participants can join the group weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.  I will be facilitating all book groups, and will be in attendance for all New Jersey Book Groups.  While students will take the lead, I will keep the discussion flowing by encouraging questions that are stimulating, keeping discussions exciting and inclusive of all participants.  Each session will last 45 minutes and all students will be given a small weekly task in addition to having their weekly assigned reading will be expected to be completed.  If you are interested email me for details at mdesousacmts2000@yahoo.com or click on link:  http://www.meetup.com/NJ-Homeschooled-Readers-and-Writing-Groups/, click on schedule a meetup, add a suggested age group, town or specify virtual and time and date.

Cost per Book Group (virtual or New Jersey Residents):  $10.00

 Writing Circles

Writers as young as 6 years old, can share their writing with a small group of participants their own age.  Upon sharing their work, their peers will validate their writing, and provide feedback on the writing.  I, as the facilitator, will ensure all participants stay on track and keep their comments respectful and helpful.  Students will then decide what feedback they will use and write a second draft of their paper and share second draft with group.

Cost per Writing Circle (virtual or New Jersey Residents):  $10.00

Private Reading, Writing and Social Studies Tutoring:

For New Jersey Residents I can meet with you or your child personally and for those outside of New Jersey we can meet virtually.  My first goal will be to instill a love for learning, reading and writing.  My secondary purpose will be to improve and challenge your child on their skills.  I will also maintain dialogue with parents on learning and progress of their child’s growth.

Private Tutoring (virtual or New Jersey Residents):  $50.00 an hour

Parent Teacher Consultations

Need support in helping your child succeed?  In 45 minutes we can discuss you and your child’s goals, challenges and I will provide tips and suggestions in helping him or her succeed.  Any questions about your child’s educational experience can be discussed.

Parent Teacher Consultations:  $40.00 for 45 minutes

One Paper Consultation:

I can review, consult, and provide feedback for one writing paper.  My feedback will provide strengths and weaknesses and suggestions for improvement.

Consultation Fee:  $10.00 for every 2 pages or 1,000 words

Student Lead Tutoring
All Inclusive Tutoring $150.00 USD
Supportive Tutoring $75.00 USD
Book Group, Writing Circle, One Paper Cons $10.00 USD
Parent Teaching Cons. $40.00 USD
All Inc. Tutor. Trail $50.00 USD
Support. Tut. Trial $35.00 USD

Reinventing History

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Most of our schools are using one textbook, with one perspective of history, when we have seen there are multiple views that change over time.

According to the National Social Science Association, “teachers rarely recognize that the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions depends on examining multiple perspectives of historical events.”  Unfortunately, “however, the teachers’ ethnocentric viewpoint can cause them to unconsciously teach from the perspective: “My own group is superior.”(www.nssa.us)

Enough from the experts; we know from personal experience, history has changed or the interpretation of history has changed. Wasn’t Christopher Columbus once seen as a hero? Most current textbooks clearly portray him as more of a villain, but we continue to celebrate Columbus Day. Separate but equal laws seemed fair, to some, at one time, and now are seen as universally ignorant.
For my children, and students, it’s been interesting to show them a variety of versions of the same historical event, interpreted and reinterpreted over the years.

For the 6-10 year old reader they can check out, Pink and Say, by Patricia Polacco.

This book follows two characters during the Civil War, one black and one white, and it’s great at showing the life of two boys during that time period, while breaking stereotypes.
Appropriate for the 10-14 crowds are the “split books”, by Michael Burgan.

The Split History of the American Revolution shows both sides of the war in the same book. The reader actually has to flip the book to read the opposite perspective.

I would look at specific words used in these texts.  How is using a different word change how you feel about it? For example, was the Boston Tea Party a protest or a riot? Depending on the word that’s used, the reader might feel differently about what happened.
Below are text excerpts for the advanced, gifted or high school reader to examine. I chose from three different sources, with subtle distinctions on viewpoint, on the American Revolution and the causes of it.
By Howard Zinn, A Young People’s History of the United States
http://www.historyisaweapon.com/zinnapeopleshistory.html
Around 1776, certain important people in the English colonies made a discovery that would prove enormously useful for the next two hundred years. They found that by creating a nation, a symbol, a legal unity called the United States; they could take over land, profits, and political power from favorites of the British Empire. In the process, they could hold back a number of potential rebellions and create a consensus of popular support for the rule of a new, privileged leadership.
By Social Studies for Kids website
http://www.socialstudiesforkids.com/wwww/us/americanrevolutiondef.htm
The securing of independence from Great Britain by the people of the 13 Colonies. Calling themselves the United States of America, these people wrote a Declaration of Independence, defied the authority of their mother country, and ended up winning a war to protect that independence. The Revolution certainly ended with the victory in the Revolutionary War; however, the Revolution began long before that, maybe even with the settlement in America (far away from England) of people who wanted to govern themselves and who wanted to have a direct say in the way they were governed.
by Conservapedia
http://www.conservapedia.com/American_Revolution
Republicanism as the cause of the Revolution
In a larger sense the tax issue was part of the representation question, which was increasingly defined by Americans as an issue of republicanism. The commitment of most Americans to republican values caused the Revolution, for Britain was increasingly seen as corrupt and hostile to republicanism, and a threat to the established liberties that Americans enjoyed.[3] The greatest threat to liberty was increasingly seen as “corruption”–not just in London but at home as well. The colonists associated it with luxury, Royal appointees not answerable to the people, a standing army, unnecessary taxes, and, ultimately, an system of rule by an inherited aristocracy.
The revolution occurred in the hearts and minds of Americans in 1774-1776 as they realized that continued subservience to the British Empire was incompatible with republicanism. The Loyalists were willing to be ruled by a distant aristocracy, the patriots were not.
The Seven Years War ended in British victory in 1763, and there were no foreign threats to the American colonies, nor any serious Indian threats. London wanted stifling controls on the colonial economy and on westward expansion. They insisted that the colonists new taxes, but refused to allow representation in Parliament. Britain was not asking the Americans to share the burden of warfare–they never asked the colonial legislatures for that. Instead they insisted that Parliament had every right to tax the colonists whether they liked it or not. Power was the issue. Ominously London sent thousands of regular army troops–was this to protect the colonists from nonexistent threats, or to protect the Royal officials from the anger of the people?[4]
Nothing seemed more dangerous to the precious political liberties of the Americans than the sort of standing army Britain was forcing upon them. The colonists responded by setting up their own shadow government, including local committees and (beginning in 1774) a Continental Congress.
http://www.conservapedia.com/American_Revolution

Above are some examples of how history can be reinterpreted, with very slight differences and implications. Howard Zinn, author of A Young People’s History of the United States, has been known has having a liberal and very different point of view of history. You may want to purchase the books, or use the link above for information and compare his interpretation of history to others.

Conservapedia is conservative version of Wikipedia, which also has his own interpretation of history. I don’t tell my kids which interpretation resonates with me; I just present the different versions and see what they think. They may be confused and feel they need more research. It’s okay to not have an opinion at times. To simply present different interpretations of the same event and present the idea that 2 people can look at the same thing and have different conclusions, I always thought was important. I always reiterated their opinions were important and valid whether I agreed with them or not. Your child may ask what you think. I try to withhold my opinion, because it is important they form their own opinion and thoughts.

Another alternative history book, for the high school reader is:

Let me know if you have tried to teach your children about bias and perceptions in media or history. I would love to hear if you have tackled this subject in any way.

Who Are Our Enemies?

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As I promised this is the second post to “Identifying Bas: An Example of Teaching How to Think, Not What to Think”. Let’s start with some visuals:

boy scout looking 1

buy vic bonds

comic war scene

prop comic final

boy scout looking 2
Above are pictures that might be worth analyzing and discussing. Discuss the pictures and messages with your child, as they are observed.

1. Who are the good guys?
2. What color are they wearing?
3. What are their symbols and who do they represent?
4. How do they make you feel?

If they are a little older, writing age, ask them to complete a graphic organizer with two sides. One side for a description of the “good” guys and the other side describing the “bad” guys; ask your child to include colors and symbols. Who are you rooting for in this picture? Why do you feel that way? Apply the same discussion questions to all pictures.

This exercise can apply to children’s books, cartoons and movies.

  1. Who is portrayed as the bad guy?
  2. Do all evil witches have similar features?

To become aware of patterns, can be helpful in looking at things with a skeptical eye.

Side Note:  I’ve always wondered why Disney movies never have mothers who are alive or part of the princess’s life. I know a lot of you who are reading this blog, may not be fans of princess stories or Disney channel, but this is just showing a pattern that in some cases I cannot explain. If anyone out there can explain why Disney princesses never have mothers, but mostly evil stepmothers and men as saviors please explain. Feel free to prove me wrong. Any patterns, you see in children’s literature, or advertising would be something we should all be aware of. Again, I still love going to Disney and have watched a Disney movie here and there and read children’s literature; I just like to open discussions about patterns and how they may affect our thinking.

Next blog will be for the older age group on the topic of how history has been rewritten over the years, based on different perspectives.

Additional Activity:  As all of you are probably aware, to encourage deep thought in children, it’s  a great idea to have them create as much as possible.  A great follow up activity would be to have them create their own posters, from different points of view.  Choose a movie, book or short story with conflicting characters and ask your child to make two posters with each poster portraying a different character as the “bad” guy.  For example, one poster can have the three little pigs looking evil with the poor innocent wolf, and another poster with the little pigs as the ones we would sympathize with.  If you decide to do this I would love to see their art work;  send or post on your blog.

Either way, I would love to hear if these pictures are something you can use or what your child’s reaction to these pictures were.