Friday, February 5, 2016

Quick Way to Use Sketches in Class

My co-teachers and I all pretended we were unable to talk today, as our crew came pouring in giddily after lunch. We waved at them, and they looked at us with questioning glances, then unbelieving stares. What was going on? What was this?
We pointed to our throats.
Then pointed to the board.
And the whimsy was in full motion.


Students began talking to each other, navigating the process verbs underlined, interpreting for each other, clarifying understanding, and helping each other with the tasks. What one student didn't understand, someone else did, and several got up to point to the visuals on the board. It's the small things that can make a big difference in learning!

It was such a joy to watch our classroom community build, and we had quite a bit of fun with charades to help when needed. Students navigated our warm-up question (and all the new vocab above and in the prompt) using Padlet for the first time ever, and we didn't have to say a word.

How did we manage to continue with the rest of the class?
Well, all I can say is that my ESL partner in crime worked her mysterious Costa Rican ways with some very well-time "Magic Tea".

One sip, and all was well again. ;-)

Here is our Padlet. Follow us as we journey into the world of the UN's Global Goals and all about Human Rights in the weeks to come.





Saturday, January 2, 2016

STEAM, Sketches...and sighs...

18 pages. That's all it took for me to geek out today.
Well, 18 pages, double-sided and folded in half for a grand total of 72 pages, to be precise.

Each of them covered in sketches and Italian script, written backwards from right to left, so they can be read most easily only when reflected in a mirror. If you haven't guessed by now, these documents were penned by none other than left-handed Leonardo Da Vinci.

This Codex Leicester is a set of documents purchased for just over $30 million dollars, and is considered one of the most valuable in the world. Full of Da Vinci's thinking, pondering, and scientific theorizing, they are a wonder to behold and apparently the only one of his manuscripts in North America. I was fortunate enough to see them today at the North Carolina Museum of Art.

Written between 1506 and 1513, Da Vinci's writings in this folio are predominantly about water, but he pontificates on astronomy, geology, engineering, why the sky is blue, why shells can be found on mountaintops, and the art of diverting and channeling water pressure. He even compares the earth to the human body: soil = flesh; rock stratifications = bones; tufa stone = cartilage; water = blood; ocean = heart (explains a lot, that one); and volcanoes?...none other than the heat of its soul.  Passion, intellect, and sketches. It's like a Leonardo lottery.

Take a look.

Proof positive that art helps solve problems! These images (L)
(I know they're small--sorry!) show pile drivers and pulleys
that use a human counterweight. The right side ranges from his
thoughts on why shells can be found on mountaintops to sketches
for bridge-building ideas at the bottom.

On the left are Da Vinci's musings and theories on the force of water--weakened by air, strengthened when channeled
through pipes. There is a lovely little bubble at the bottom of the page--yes, I'm enthralled. On the right are all
kinds of sketches of flowing water around various obstacles. Again, a delicious interplay of art and science. 

Ok, so I can't get over how prolific his writing is, and can't begin to imagine just how much fun he must have
had while drawing and writing. Here he shows the earth and moon in similar orbits, and in the sketch in the bottom
right corner he perceives that the darker area of a crescent moon is actually illuminated. It just looks darker
because the crescent sliver is so bright.

Did I mention that he wrote all of this between 1506 and 1513??
Sigh...
An Italian linguist I am not, so can I just quote from the translation? Thanks.

Here goes:
"I say that the blue which is seen in the atmosphere is not its own color but is caused
by the heated moisture having evaporated into the most minute, imperceptible particles, which the
beams of the solar rays attract and cause to seem luminous against the deep, intense 
darkness" of the heavens. 
And according to science, he nearly nailed this, although it's now known that air is what
scatters the light, rather than water. But still, can you imagine his mental faculty to figure
out these things?

"I find it breathtaking", she said, geeking out. (while on vacation, no less) (AND on a Saturday)
This was a fascinating little piece of technology. By scrolling
over the document with a built-in lens, this Codescope
translated, transliterated and paraphrased Da Vinci's writing.
With the transliteration tool, readers could see his backward
writing, in English and Italian!

Da Vinci certainly has a lot to teach us about persistence and that buzzword "mindset". Heck, he probably created that idea, too. Observations and testing hypotheses were his game, and he loved
the challenges, as evidenced by his quote: "My concern now is to find cases and inventions, gathering them as they occur to me." The epitome of "Renaissance Man", there are so many things to say about him, but I'm limiting my #DaVinciFanClub notes to this Codex alone today. Perhaps, like me, it will ignite some Leonardo-like curiosity and send you on your way to do some of your own research on not only the Master of Sketches and Science, but also inquiries to help understand and improve the world!

And hey, be thoughtful about which direction you write your notes!

How about you? Any other fellow admirers of Da Vinci and his work in my blogging audience? What are some fun facts you know about Da Vinci? Please share!

PS--a wee bit more #SketchCandy for your pleasure....sigh...





Saturday, December 26, 2015

Using Visual Notes in the Secondary Classroom

Those of you who know me, know I love to use visuals in my classes. I am first and foremost, a teacher of English Language Learners, and my next hat is a social studies/ history teacher.
One strategy I use increasingly more -- both for and with my students -- is that of visual notetaking. I call it "edusketching", and it's simply the use of visuals and words while taking notes and demonstrating comprehension.

Let me show you how it can work in a secondary history classroom, which, as many of you know, can be full of facts, timelines, sequences, numbers, people, dates, legislation, and so on.
In short, A LOT.

Now, I know a few folks rely heavily on Document Based Questioning in their classrooms, with much success. (See how Dave Orphal uses it in his class here.) Edusketching works equally well in different types of learning scenarios for students to take their notes while reading, researching, and synthesizing, as well as while listening to others weave their stories.

Recently, students were studying the events of the 1960's in American History II, and, much like the 1920's, there are many delicious areas of interest to delve into. Alas, time keeps on ticking, though, and so my co-teacher (who is amazing and oh-so-rich in her historical knowledge) and I decided to have the students work on a modified jigsaw activity.

Over the weekend, students delved into the topic of the turbulent 60's using a webquest which briefly introduced several topics, in preparation for discussion that next Monday. During the discussion in class, admittedly teacher-led, they could elaborate more on the information they had found.

I mentioned a modified jigsaw, and here's what happened next. Students chose a topic from the webquest to research more deeply with a partner. Their task was to teach the rest of the class about that topic through an oral presentation, and to do so, they would edusketch a visual on large chart paper. This visual would then serve as an anchor to their presentation.


Researching together.
Researching and edusketching.
Discussing what to write and draw.
Even "simple" embellishments to words demonstrate
understanding, as seen with the word Vietnam. Viewers
get a sense of the geography and the red depicts
encroaching communism. The entire chart is shown below.
Prior to the presentations, we conducted a concept attainment activity to remind them of different types of questions. (attached at the bottom) Concept attainment is one of my favorite strategies in which information is provided to students in the form of examples. Rather than give students the information carte blanche, they get to be detectives and determine common characteristics or attributes about each object they are shown. It definitely takes a couple of examples for them to "get it", but oh how it sticks when they do.

They were given a guide with question starters for Bloom's different levels of thinking, and each partnered group came up with at least 4 questions, from level 2 and up. (Costa's levels of questioning, Bloom's taxonomy, and/or Depth of Knowledge question starters all work equally well--choose your poison.) :)

While listening, students added notes -- in whatever way they preferred --to their pre-discussion webquest introductions. Following each presentation, they wrote questions to demonstrate their understanding, as another way to assess their understanding. We randomly chose students' questions to answer as a whole class, although you could certainly add a competitive touch and form teams to draw questions and answer them!

Their assessment was multi-faceted and ongoing, chock full of opportunities for us to watch their learning deepen and content-driven language use become more confident.  Discussions during their creation of visual notes were increasingly detailed and focused. With two co-teachers on hand to enhance discussion, poke with questioning, and discuss their blossoming visuals, there was pure joy in the room. Their summative included short responses based on the presentations, but was derived primarily from the student-generated questions. And since the questions had been discussed orally in class, our language learners were prepared to access and respond with confidence.

In spite of tech-driven pushes in academia, there is room (and a need)
 for the low-tech approaches to learning, including visual notes. 

There are many ways to use visual notes in the classroom, and this was just one. The point is, as you can see from these strategies and activities, edusketching in the classroom is far from just "drawing pictures". A lot of thought goes into the sketches, especially knowing they will anchor oral presentations. Obviously not "all" information is included on a single piece of chart paper. The goal was for students to synthesize and teach others the information they learned, which included prioritizing the most critical pieces, in the most succinct way.

Energy in the room was palpable, and of course, visible reminders were available for all to see, to trigger remembering, and to use as a shared reference by all. If you haven't tried it, give it a go. I'd love to hear about your experiences and ideas to make this work even better!
Yep, it's quite alright for highschool students to be
up and out of their seats! 



60's Music



As you can see from these two posters alone, it's fascinating to see what resonates with students and which details they consider the most important to represent visually.
Another for 60's Counter Culture
60's Counter Culture


Anti-War Movement





So tell me they didn't have a little fun with
the Legacy of the 60's.

The British Invasion

Some groups dove right in and wanted to
do more than one visual. 

Using the visual as an anchor.

Interesting how many more questions students
ask of their peers when there are visuals at hand.
Thanks for stopping by. There are so many tweaks we could make to this lesson--what kind of ideas do you have? Again, I'd love to hear about your experiences and ideas to make this work even better, so please comment below! 

An example of our concept attainment strategy to remind students of
different types of questions. Students were shown one line at a time, with
one Yes question/ one No question, and they had to determine which
characteristics defined those in the yes column. Makes for a lot more
critical thinking a la detective style for the students, but they do rise
to the challenge.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Why students took pictures of this review

A deceptively simple outcome. 
American History II, like most history classes in my experience, is chock full of facts, events, legislation, key figures, and cause, cause, cause, effect, effect, effect. But a mere 90 classes (optimum, no interruptions scenario!) in a semester makes the task seem monumental. Depth can be a definite challenge when faced with the breadth of information--so what's a student to do?

Today we tried a new low-tech--but high engagement!--approach to reviewing, as a jumpstart.
President's names were printed on one set of large index cards, and passed out randomly to students as they entered the room. They were then tasked with sequencing them from the Era of Reconstruction to 2015.  Without notes or computers. 
A definite challenge, we soon found out. 
                                               
                                            And we let them struggle. 

Rather than correct their presidential order, we then handed out key events for students to match with the presidents. It soon became evident their order was...well, out of order. 
More discussion. 
More thinking. 
More questioning. 
More debating. 
Thinking...
Questioning...
More thinking...
Discussing...

Getting closer?...
My co-teacher is amazing at weaving all of these time periods together, and as she guided the class through discussion of causes and effects, students took notes, were engaged, and began to re-piece the events and presidents together. This was the first time they had really considered all of the events at once, and soon there were even murmured "oh!"s of understanding. That bigger picture eased itself out of it's hiding place, and loomed large, students could self-assess without pressure, and teachers could conduct an overall formative assessment in a snap. (Did I mention we had fun?) 

Not too shabby, plus it gave us the idea to use a similar activity as a pre-assessment for next semester. Hmmm....

Of course, not all events were covered, but this turned out to be a heck of a jumpstart to all that has been addressed this semester. Amazing how much they had learned--and how much they'd forgotten. Students found it very useful, and even wanted to take pictures of it. The next step starts tomorrow, the last day before Christmas break, then finishes in January. Stay tuned. With cameras ready. 
Gotta love when students take pictures of a review activity!
Say wha...?
What are some ways that you review with your highschool history classes? Please share in the comments below!


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Visiting the United Nations before lunch (Part One: Photo Essay)

We recently connected with the United Nations for a skype session in our classroom, and although our virtual field trip lasted only an hour, what we saw and learned will stay with us much longer. We'd like to share a snippet of our morning with you through photos. More information on globalizing your classroom can be found here. 

A view of the flags from each country, outside the UN building. Yes, they are arranged
alphabetically! And did you know that the building is on INTERNATIONAL TERRITORY? 
It even has its own post office, fire dept, and security. 
Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, in action. 
The walls of the UN are adorned with photos of UN Peacekeepers
(blue helmets!) doing their work worldwide. 
One of the 30 articles of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. 
It is the MOST TRANSLATED DOCUMENTin the world, in over 
300 languages! (The bible is the most translated BOOK.)
A view of the General Assembly hall; those windows on the side
are rooms where the interpreters sit as they work. 
The UN building is like a museum with artifacts from around the
world like these landmines, photos, and gifts from other countries.   
The Golden Rule mosaic by Norman Rockwell,
created from 20,000 pieces of tile. 
A statue from Nagasaki--hard to see in this photo, but
it had fallen during the atomic bombing. The back of it
is blackened and disfigured beyond recognition, while the front
bears scars from objects hitting it and the aftermath.  
The front of the Nagasaki statue, found lying face down after
the atomic bombing. 
General Assembly room where they discuss global issues, terrorism,
atomic weapons, etc. Solutions are not legally binding, and are
considered recommendations. Each member is allotted 6 chairs.
During our virtual tour, they had just voted 191-2-0 to lift the embargo
on Cuba--we knew before the news media did!
One of our guides. This is Jackie, from Malaysia. Totally missed his
calling as a comedian--he definitely loves his job!
The School in a Box! Supplies, foodstuffs, a radio, and basic necessities
for up to 80 students. It also includes chalk board paint to
make any wall a chalkboard. 
So much thought goes into these--Jackie is holding up paper
without margins. This honors different styles of writing; those
who start from the right side of the paper or the left will find
it equally useful. 
Although the role of the United Nations can be controversial, students today learned that the primary mission is to achieve peace. Students today witnessed glimpses of the UN discussing Cuba and Syria, learned about the peacekeepers, negotiation, sanctions, and military actions. They learned about the permanent members and the EcoSoc which develops ideas to address poverty within its 8 Millennium Development Goals. They came to realize that poverty is a HUGE reason why we still have so much conflict, and that disarmament is one of the largest problems we face. 

As for the UN mission, Dag Hammerskjold said it best:
"The United Nations was not created to take us to heaven, but to keep us from hell.

For part two of this post, please click here. 
What are some successes with virtual tours that you have had? Please share in the comments below!