Earth Day and Spring perfectly overlap, and students greatly enjoy science resource texts. Stories are the best possible way to teach science to students of all ages. Despite the assumptions, a huge amount of science learning is integrated with language arts, at least by the great ones. Earth Day offers an ideal opportunity to teach and discuss how human actions effect the environment. Even though all the present hype with STEM tagets hands-on, there is no learning without actual reading for both background knowledge and additional research. Here are some awesome Earth Day books and lesson plans to go along:
1. “The Lorax“ by Dr. Suess is a must read for primary grades. Kids love Dr. Suess books, activities, movies, anything. Perfect Earth Day read and lesson.
2. The Giving Tree – Grades K-2
“The Giving Tree” is a well loved book, for reasons that escape those with reason. It is not a story of giving and how wonderful it is to give. It’s a story about a boy who takes everything until there is nothing left. The message of non-renewable resources and importance of sustainability doesn’t escape. Super read on how not to be.
3. Heroes of the Environment – Upper Grades – Free Lesson Plan on TpT (Earth Day Lesson Plan Giveaway) This is a great guided reading non-fiction common core text for students in older grades – upper elementary and middle school.
4. World Without Fish – lesson plan – Earth Day Non-Fiction Text
5. Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam and Science of Ocean Motion– Non-Fiction Science Resource Text Lesson Plan
This year, I finally feel content with the amount of books that I have in my classroom. It took many years and working at Title 1 school to receive a sufficient amount of books for my classroom library. I encourage reading. I allow my students to take books home. I hope that not only they enjoy their books, but that they also serve as a role model to their siblings and friends.
As I was unpacking numerous boxes of books this year, I realized that while the variety and quality of books I have in my classroom is amazing, for most of my students these books have simply arrived too late. By the time students enter 5th grade, they have set attitudes toward reading, and while these outlooks aren’t impossible to change, they aren’t easy to change.
In these first few days, I noticed that the bookcases are visited only when students are directed. Only a couple of students asked to take a book home. The enthusiasm just isn’t there as I was hoping. Now, the task of “selling” classroom books to my students is all on me.
Title I schools receive free books at every turn. We have the poorest students who need the most academic assistance. Still I can’t help but think how would have things been different if the same companies who send fee books to our Title I schools, have also sent books to my students at birth and consistently through pre-school age. The habits of reading and the “bank of knowledge” starts from birth, not in kindergarten or 5th grade.
I can’t help but thinking that these book donations, while great, have arrived too late to springboard children toward developing lifelong learning habits. Do you agree?
Mrs. Lena, M.Ed.
In any given classroom, there is as many learning styles as there is students. There is really no silver bullet when it comes to instruction. Some teachers believe in their one method that “pushes” children and gets them to get their work done. They talk about effort and really put all the responsibility of results back on the students. So, if you put in effort and show grit, you will get As. If only that was so easy. If only students can be robots who effort every task and grit through it. We expect more of children than adults. Uh, so frustrating.
I teach smart students who have their areas of struggle (which really defines most students). A large number of my students have special needs. Most students with special needs are not labeled since they show sufficient progress (note that sufficient progress can be ridiculously minuscule). One common thread among all students who struggle in school is the short term memory weakness. I encourage students to take notes of procedures, which later serves as reference point. Often they forget to take notes, which is why they are given printed visual notes to keep in their binders.
To support student procedural memory, providing step-by- step visual models that students can use as a tool until they can complete the procedure on their own has been the most effective learning method across board. Procedural method, visually presented, can be used any time students need to complete more than 4 steps in sequence (long division, long multiplication, fractions, essay writing/editing, etc.)
I also teach a set of procedural questions that students should ask themselves when stuck. By internalizing critical thinking about problem solving, they eventually self-correct and persevere through algorithms and/or writing process.
Still one major element of their confusion is often stress of possible failure. Teaching students to relax, step back, think positive about tackling any problem, does wonders. In class we read “Frog’s Breathtaking Speech How Children (and Frogs) Can Use the Breath to Deal with Anxiety, Anger and Tension”.
Even though, the “Frog’s Breathtaking Speech” is a picture book, students recognized a little bit of themselves in Frog. At the end of the reading, we all picked the breathing technique. Stress alters memories and impedes learning/problem solving.
Teaching students to lessen their anxiety and fear of failure increases focus and content retention.
“Deep practice is built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways- operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes- makes you smarter. Or put it a slightly different way, experiences where, you’re forced to slow down, make errors and correct them – as you would if you were walking up an ice-covered hill, slipping and stumbling as you go, end up making you swift and graceful without you realizing it.” (Coyle, Daniel, 2009) Talent Code
U.S. News & World Report published an article on Florida Charter Schools, claiming that “Florida Charter School Graduates Earn More”. Every educator and parent in Florida can tell you that simple common sense cannot hold such claim. First, most charters in Florida are K-8. Charter students who brave to return to traditional public school often fair poorly. The fact is, Florida Charter schools are deeply underfunded. Funding priority is given to school facility and corporate salaries, which leaves the actual school funding minimal.
The lack of funding affects all areas of Florida Charter life, from out-of- date textbooks, lack of technology in the classroom, limited electives, lack of special education staff, and the list goes on.
All things aside, even if parents don’t mind enrolling their children in an average Florida Charter school that has limited electives and resources, parents need to be aware of problematic disciplinary policies of Florida Charters. Florida Charter schools actually have more behavioral problems than traditional public schools, especially when it comes to middle school. The problem is the school’s conflict of interest between growing enrollment and potentially loosing students if proper disciplinary policies are carried out. As a result, Florida Charters are more likely to allow disciplinary issues to perpetuate in fear of losing student enrollment.
Finally, this unsubstantiated study, published by the U.S. News & World Report, is mere promotional material for Florida Charter, full of false claims and invalid research.While each charter school in the country is different, Florida Charter schools have a running theme of low funding and performance. Stanford study found that despite their growing popularity, though, Florida charter schools don’t perform as well as charters in other states, and as a result, Florida charter students are worse off than their traditional public school peers.
“Florida Charter Schools Lagging, Study Says” Retrieved from: http://www.tbo.com/pinellas-county/florida-charter-schools-lagging-study-says-20130630/
“Florida gave about $70 million to Charter Schools that Later Closed: State Recouped Little”. Retrived from: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article49565370.html
What is the point of assessment? Why do our assessment methods make no sense? Why did we make such a mess of education? Why do we allow politicians and corporations to make educational policy and create our assessment? Unfortunately, the answer to all these questions is money (at least in the state of Florida).
In Florida, we have good teachers who work hard all year long for very small pay considering their education and effort. We follow the standards of Common Core, which in itself are benchmarks, standards that serve as a guide what students should learn in each grade. Not a big problem. In most normal countries, this is where control of the state, federal government, and foreign education book publishers, like Pearson, ends.
This year especially, Pearson created assessment, which is computer based exam, comes with a special agenda. This test is unlike anyone has ever seen anywhere in North America or Europe in 5th grade.
Here is an example of a math question for 5th grader.
One question essentially asks students to make 5 correct answers in effort to get a point on the FSA (Florida State Assessment). As parents and teachers, we are only allowed to see what is given as a (15 question) practice test online. None of us are allowed to see the actual test. This is also unusual practice of secrecy that is new and uncommon.
Essentially, the FSA isn’t only going to be hard for my students who are not used to working on computers. Some students came to 5th grade not knowing how to use a keyboard. The the design of the Florida State Assessment by Pearson claims to require more comprehensive response, but what it really does is sets up children to fail and therefore “prove” that our schools aren’t good, which in turn fuels charter, as well as, funding for Pearson controlled textbooks and testing.
When I went to graduate school, we were told that assessment has to be tied to instruction, otherwise it is invalid. How can we assign instruction to one group and assessment to the other, and never allow either side to communicate? This simply cannot be in the best interest of the children or education.
Finally, the stretch of lost instructional time that is dedicated to pointless FSA prep is time that we never get back to learn something interesting and engaging.
Mrs. Lena, M.Ed – Curriculum & Instruction
Reading Comprehension Prep – by Peekaboo Studios
Being that this year my students are taking the computer based reading comprehension state examination, and we only have daily access to iPads in our classroom, having access to the Reading Comprehension app by Peekaboo was super useful.
It’s not only that the app has a number of fiction and non-fiction articles for students that I found grade appropriate, the way that the app is set up mirrors exactly the format of the FSA (Florida State Assessment) portal.
The post reading comprehension questions got the students into the habit of going back to the text and look for text based evidence. This sounds simple, but in practice, it took many tries for this practice to become a habit. Going back to the text to find the answer and to double check accuracy of our answers has increased not only our test scores but our reading comprehension skills, which will benefit students for years to come.
The practice and readings in this app provided text based information practice, supported our work on reading comprehension skills and provided needed computer based practice for the FSA.
Will use this app again next year.
Mrs. Lena, M.Ed.