Posts Tagged ‘online teaching’
“The mathematical sciences particularly exhibit order, symmetry, and limitation; and these are the greatest forms of the beautiful.” – Aristotle
Aristotle appreciated math. So do my husband, father-in-law and sister-in-law. They made it their livelihoods. As for me…well, if push came to shove, I’d plead The Fifth.
However, I did read a well-written essay by Benedict Carey, titled “Studying Young Minds, and How to Teach Them.” It appeared as part of a series in The New York Times last month. Unfortunately it was published on Dec. 20 – just a few days before Christmas. I doubt it got the notice it deserved, but I found it fascinating and think teachers and parents will find it and the rest of the series interesting too.
Carey talks about how cognitive neuroscience research is challenging the way educators have traditionally taught math and other concepts to young children. While some of these findings may have trickled their way into the classroom, I think the information bears repeating. Numerous brain science studies and researchers are cited, as well as a few teachers who have incorporated these new ideas into their classrooms through fun math games, activities and reading.
“Teaching is an ancient craft, and yet we really have had no idea how it affected the developing brain,” said Kurt Fischer, in The New York Times article. Fischer is the director of the Mind, Brain and Education program at Harvard. “Well, that is beginning to change, and for the first time we are seeing the fields of brain science and education work together.”
For those of you on the front lines in the classroom, please weigh in! Give the article and its readers’ comments a look and then offer your feedback here. Does this article resonate with you? Are you applying any of these principles in your math curriculum? Or are your hackles up? I’d like to hear what you have to say.
If you are looking for some basic math concept picture books, Big Universe offers about two dozen online options from its publishing partners. Members also have created many volumes about math and counting, and you and your students can do the same.
One of the outcomes of standardized testing in our schools is the way we handle the assessment of our special education population. Because No Child is to be Left Behind, our children with special needs are held to the same standards as all students. All children should have the same educational opportunities and should not never be looked upon as limited simply because of a disability. However, testing some of these children annually just to say that they have been tested is ludicrous.
States have been given the opportunity to create alternative assessments so a special education student does not have to take the one day question and answer test, but I have to question whether anyone creating these assessments have ever worked with these children or ever come into the classroom and asked teachers if these assessments are working. The answer is NO.
In Virginia there are two alternative assessments for the special education student in elementary school. They are both based on the premise that a student can’t take a multiple choice test (read my last blog). The first assessment is the VAAP, the Virginia Alternative Assessment Program. The student being considered for this must have a significant cognitive disability, which requires that he have individualized instruction most of the day among other criteria.
The second alternative assessment in Virginia is the VGLA or Virginia Grade Level Alternative assessment. The VGLA allows the student (in reality the teacher) to collect a portfolio of his/her work in place of the standards exam at the end of the year. The teacher actually collects an extensive portfolio of material that shows the student has met a wide range of criteria for all of the standards for their grade level in reading math and sometimes other academic areas.
The grading of the portfolios is very open-ended though there are guidelines but since no child’s binder is exactly the same a lot is left up to the discretion of the graders. Often it is how well the teacher has put together and collected the material. Did the teacher grade each document? If the answer is no then it isn’t supposed to be counted. If the evidence shows 3 correct answers and 3 wrong answers on a worksheet with 6 questions then the average scorer won’t take the piece of evidence as adequate but, the teacher can turn in a work sample showing just the 3 correct problems that meet the criteria and get a good score. As a teacher I’m better off cutting and pasting the correct answers and submitting just those, but is this teaching?
A teacher could teach and assess a student over and over again on the same information until they get good evidence. For many of these kids there are memory issues so the only way to get an assessment of their knowledge is to teach a topic and assess their knowledge shortly after the teaching. They won’t remember what you taught tomorrow. Is this learning?
The average math portfolio for a fourth grade student requires approximately 100 pieces of evidence to demonstrate standards have been met. For example just one strand of one standard in math is the student must “solve problems involving 1.) addition and 2.) subtraction with 3.) fractions having 4.) like and 5.) unlike denominators of 12 or less and with 6.) decimals expressed through thousandths using various computational methods, including 7.) calculators, 8.) 9.) paper and pencil, 10.) 11.) mental computation, 12.) 13.) estimation.” I probably lost track but there are at least 13 items that need evidence in this one strand. There will probably be at least 3 or 4 pieces of paper.
As a teacher, the process is exhausting and as a student I’m sure it’s not much better. The VGLA is no guarantee of a pass but it does show what a student can do. In the end the teacher and school never get the graded binder back so we can’t truly see how our student did, we only get numbers.
I definitely believe that all students need to be given the opportunity to learn and achieve to their maximum potential. As a teacher, that’s my goal for every student. The state and federal government have stepped in and said that they now need proof that shows I’m teaching these children to the highest standards possible. Why would I want to be a special education teacher, which pays no more money than a general education teacher, which pays very little, if I didn’t want to help these children reach their highest potential?
Here are some sites where VGLA type materials are available. Unfortunately it isn’t going away.
Math worksheets at Eraser Dog, Good Example of VGLA type questions on a California standards outline, Practice Problems for California Math Standards, which can be used in all states. These are examples only and should be matched carefully to your state’s standards. Good Luck!
This week I’ve been sorting through pictures. I’ve got thousands – the old fashion kind – taken with a 35mm camera. It’s funny how quickly things change and become out dated. I bought a converter specifically designed scan photos directly into a computer.
The old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” has come to my mind many times this week. Each picture is a special time in place. A picture has the power to make us smile, laugh, or cry. A picture has the power to place us at the beach, in the mountains, in a cozy country kitchen in front of a warm, crackling fire, or in a contemporary living room, lounging on a white leather sofa looking out through a wall of glass windows at a yard of wildflowers. A picture can tell a whole story without one written word.
The magic of pictures combined with the written words holds immeasurable power in books! The right picture, with the right words can bring to life a whole world for a child and activate neurons in the brain that will enrich the learning process. Unknown vocabulary is easier for children to figure out with good picture reinforcement. Reading comprehension is deeper and more meaningful with the enhancement of quality illustrations.
There’s a series of things that need to take place in order for complete comprehension to take place. The best way to demonstrate this is through pictures:
8 Strategies for Reading Comprehension
Reading is Fundamental or RIF has a list of tips for using picture books successfully. Being able to interpret illustrations, use illustrations to decode unknown words, tell a story from an illustration, put a story to an illustration and even create stories using pictures are all things that RIF outlines in the attached literacy skills.
Tips for Using Picture Books in the Classroom
As a teacher my problem has always been finding classroom sets of picture books. Now, thanks to technology and Big Universe that’s not a problem any more. Big Universe has 1,000 quality publisher picture books online! These books can be projected to a SmartBoard or other interactive white board for teaching and they can be used on any computer system 24 hour a day. Plus, there is a very high tech, easy to use authoring tool that let’s members design their own picture books. Now everyone, children, teachers, parents, can be a published author. There are almost 7,000 clipart pictures online and a user can import their own pictures and art.
Picture books are a wonderful way to teach reading and writing. In fact, using picture books to teach any academic subject is the best way to engage both the left and right sides of the brain ensuring you reach all learners in the classroom.
Posted on May 1, 2009 by Big Universe in Uncategorized.
Tags: 4.5a, 4.5b, 5.6a, Education, learning disability, online learning, online teaching, Reading, reading online, SOL, Special Needs, VGLA, Virginia SOL
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Books that are readable and have a reason to be read are usually hard to find for special education students. I feel like I’ve found a gold mine at Big Universe. The book Our Earth by Kenneth Walsh is written at the reading level of 2.6 but looks and can be read by children in the 4th and 5th grade who have reading difficulties.
Our Earth is a chapter book, with an index and glossary. The topic meets the criteria in many science curriculums and can be used easily as it is interesting to many 9, 10 and 11 year olds! What more can you ask for in a book? The fact that it’s online only makes it more enticing.
As a special education teacher in Fairfax County Virginia my first thought is always whether I’ll be able to gather any VGLA (Virginia Grade Level Assessment) material by reading a particular text. The VGLA is a portfolio assessment designed to collect material that a student has produced to show that they are at grade level on each and every Standard of Learning (SOL) strand. The assessment is for those students who can’t take the multiple choice test, successfully, at the end of the year, but are able to produce grade level work. Let me tell you I’m starting to realize what an oxymoron that statement is!
With a book like Our Earth and a media like the computer and http://www.biguniverse.com the VGLA becomes more feasible. I read the book and designed a couple of activities that I could use right away for the VGLA for a non-fiction book. I’m going to add more to finish up the standard as I have time.
I think the big idea here is that with the right book, with the right website like Big Universe, teachers can find what we need more easily than we thought. Our job then becomes making the most of it and making it work with what we need.
The following link will take you to a couple of pages of worksheets to use with Our Earth as a VGLA assessment or just a general assessment of your student’s comprehension. 45a45b56a1 (worksheets click here)
It was a typical Friday morning and I had my typical classroom of 8 students. But, none of these children are typical. One is “labeled” as noncategorical, because he fits into so may special education categories, two are learning disabled, but I would call them learning disabled with gifted tendencies, one is learning disabled with tendencies in the complete opposite direction and 3 are typically learning disabled with a true discrepancy between their ability to learn and their actual learning. The saving grace as a teacher of children with such a wide range of differences, is the computer!
I consider the computer the great equalizer. I can always find a way to make a computer lesson that is successful for all of my students. The wonderful thing is no one ever says…”I hate the computer, can I write a paragraph instead?” Giving my students a book to read on the computer, an educational game to play online or an activity to complete on the computer definitely aces a teacher standing at the board! And, lets face it…on a Friday…as a teacher…the computer aces me standing at the board anytime if its going to help my students learn.