Monday, January 13, 2014

UbD Updates

Some time ago I mentioned that our school was undertaking an initiative to redo ALL of our curriculum following the Understanding by Design model. I have dragged myself through the required readings and discussion board posts - some of it has honestly been very interesting but by Thursday doing homework myself is usually the last thing on my mind. I am happy that I feel like we are finally moving into applying the skills that we are learning. Last week drafts of our Big Ideas were due to be shared with our colleagues. The Big Ideas are supposed to be overarching concepts that are necessary for students to develop transferable understanding.

I have decided that for my first unit I will focus on cellular energy (photosynthesis and cellular respiration). Cellular energy is something that I have struggled in teaching in the past. I have some great lab activities and inquiry projects but I always felt like there was a disconnect, like we were doing the lab work but the students were not really getting the big picture. I am hoping that looking at this unit under a microscope and reworking it following the UbD model will help me solve this issue once and for all.

Based on this topic I have reviewed the standards and settled upon the following Big Ideas for my unit. Warning! Much of the language here is not mine, it is pulled from the NGSS crosscutting concepts. We were told not to reinvent the wheel if we didn't have to, so I am taking the help where I can get it. The hardest part therefore wasn't writing the statements but figuring out which ones would apply to this particular unit for me.

1) Energy and Matter:
-All living things obtain and use energy.
- Energy cannot be created or destroyed.
- Energy drives the cycling of matter within and between systems.

2) Systems and Models
- Models can be used to simulate systems and interactions.

I believe that next up on our to-do list for this is writing essential questions and enduring understandings. Stay tuned for more progress.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Secondary Giveaway!

I am just so excited! I am participating in my first giveaway! I have offered up my product "If You Were The Ecologist" as part of a bundle of high school resources. There is also a giveaway specifically for middle school teachers going on at the same time!

Click on the picture above, it will take you over to the Teaching High School Math blog. From there you can decide to enter the high school, middle school, or both if that applies to you. There is a fantastic list of sellers who have donated to both giveaways! These are not math/science specific giveaways - there are resources for all different topics included in the bundles so there really is something that everyone would be interested it! Plus the middle school package includes a Starbucks gift card and the high school package includes a TpT gift card!

Good luck to all who enter. You have until Janary 17th to get your entries in!

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Classes Soon - Looking Forward and Reflecting

This week is my last full week with my first semester classes. Next week we have finals and then the following week semester two classes start up. With these new classes so close I have spent quite a bit of time the last week or so thinking about what is coming up - yet I am still feeling very unprepared at this point. I want to share what I have coming up, what some of my plans are, and what my concerns are. Please feel free to share ideas with me!

Students in Research: BRAND NEW CLASS for has been taught at my school in the past by other teachers but has not been taught in a number of years. I am still working on rewording the class description and syllabus for this one. Basically the plan is that during the first few weeks of the class I will lead the students through activities that will introduce them to basic experiment planning techniques. After my introductory activities students are going to be designing and carrying out their own individual or small group experiments - much like an independent study. Their midterm and final will each be formal lab reports. I am most nervous for this because it is brand new and I am not sure how motivated the group of students I have coming in are going to be.

Biology: This is my comfort zone! I taught two sections of biology this semester and will have one section of bio during the second semester. The group coming in is "College Prep" level and hopefully are ready for a challenge. While I will probably modify a few activities I did during this semester there wont be any major changes to the class.

Physics: I have a very small group of students coming into physics (which is normal). Past years I have had anywhere from 1-10 students in physics but the normal is 3 or 4....crazy right! The students coming in are all very bright and are concurrently taking a college level calculus class so I am confident in their math skills. The challenge for me is that I have yet to really have a curriculum for physics that I am happy with. Each year it ends up changing in some way. Last year ran much like an independent study with just two students in the class. This year I am anticipating a similar format but I want to make it more interactive and hold the students more accountable for the information. I need to add lab activities that are meaningful and more real life applications. I also want to use interactive science notebooks with the group which I have not done in physics in the past but after my modest success with this in biology and chemistry I want to continue and see how it goes with physics.

When I began teaching I honestly thought that by year 5 things would be SO much easier. In some way things are - I have a bag of tricks that I can reach into and grab a lesson out of if I need to change something on the fly. I know the students and am much more comfortable managing my classroom. Yet I am still constantly reworking and changing my classes - I am never quite satisfied. Sometimes this leads me to success (like with the ISN this year) and sometimes it leads me to failure (two chemistry labs this year did not work out at all the way I had hoped and I wont be doing them next year!) I also find that sometimes I take off more than I can chew and after a few weeks call off some new effort (my element of the week bulletin board - carbon has been the element of the week for about 2 months) when I realize that I don't have time to do everything that I would like to. Maybe by year 10 things will finally be SO much easier!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

January Currently

I  love the beginning of the month. I NEVER manage to complete the new Currently on the first of the month, but this month I am actually a bit ahead of my usual. So here it is...

Listening - You will notice a theme as I go through these. It has been very cold here in Northern New Hampshire so far this winter. We have already had a couple of nights that hit -20 F. This week we have been stuck in single digits or negative numbers. Paying for heating oil is so expensive when we have weeks like this so not only am I hearing the furnace kick on constantly but each time it does I also hear the sound of money leaving my bank account.

Loving - The new fleece I got for Christmas is getting well used already. With it so cold I wore it under my jacket today and have kept it on in the house. (Dressing in layers means I can keep the thermostat a bit lower and still be comfortable).

Thinking - I am all about organization right now! I am trying to figure out how to better keep track of stats for TpT, including how much I blog or Pin products. I am also trying to figure out a way to track monthly goals (I think I may have found a calendar to help me with that). Now to just get me next semester classes organized and I will be all set!

Wanting - Well between the time that I typed and saved the Currently picture and now I have fulfilled that one! Hubby got home a bit later because he had to make an extra stop on the way home and then had to wait for the person he needed to see. But it was worth the wait as he decided that we should just go order some food since I hadn't really started cooking yet.

Needing - Summer, see all the previous complaints about cold weather.

Memory/Tradition - Each year we do a Christmas stocking for our dog. She knew her stocking was hanging up, I think she could smell the treats. So when we got our stockings down she was very eager to try to help unpack them. It was very cute! Her stocking was last and she was not very patient. Now she is sitting on the couch just staring at one of her new toys that was in her stocking like she is waiting for someone to come pick it up and play with her.

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all have a warm and happy January!