Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Unique Resources for Grade 8 on Global Warming

Podcasts from Scientific American Magazine
Listen and subscribe to daily podcasts on recent developments in Science and Technology.

Facebook Group: Join The Fight To Stop Global Warming!

CNN news videos (email me to get the username/password)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Home Learning: An Experiment in Chaos

Whether you talk to ISU parents, teachers, or students, most will agree that the school's closing due to "swine flu" (H1N1) was an unfortunate event and that keeping up with lessons from home has been near impossible! We teachers actually thought we'd have some free time to catch up on work we've been unable to devote time to, yet we've found ourselves without a free minute.

In between preparing lessons for home that were originally designed for the classroom, grading work coming in via email and hand delivery all on different days and at different times, and answering a flood of communications (email, phone, text, chat, message board posts, Facebook messages, and occasional face-to-face meetings), we had Parent-Teacher Conference day yesterday! (I talked to 23 parents about 25 students with hardly a moment to spare.)

A common sentiment among parents, too, was that they are overwhelmed with or simply bored by having to school their children at home. As busy as we are, there are students we still haven't heard from yet. To say that we've all gained a new respect for distance teachers is an understatement! In the words of one 7th grader, "Everything is so confusing!"

The official word is that schools are supposed to reopen on November 17th, assuming that there are no more deaths or sudden upswings in the cases of H1N1 in Ulaanbaatar before then. In the meantime, we will slog away at our desks, wishing for classrooms full of noisy kids (never thought I would say that!).

Thursday, November 5, 2009

infomercials for the planet

Hello grade 8,

Here is the list of websites that will help you to complete your homework for this project:

The Heat Over Global Warming
Interview with the producer of “An Inconvenient Truth” along with related links

God and Global Warming
Explores the effects of global warming on the Alaska and our moral responsibility to the planet

Robert Redford: Business Warming Up to Environment
Robert Redford interview discussing the advantages of businesses going “green”

Senator Jeff Bingaman on America’s Energy Policy
Discussion of America’s energy policy related to global warming

Emission Impossible?
Looks at how California is legislating auto emissions and taking steps to save the environment on the state level

Stepping Up on Climate Control
Profiles “Step it Up” and the national campaign to combat global warming

Interview with Bill McKibben: National Day of Climate Action
Interview with Bill McKibben discussing the National Day of Climate Action and what he believes we must do to combat global warming

Climate Change and the Media Senate Hearings
Examines the role of the media and expert claims that the dangers of global warming are exaggerated by the media

Home Grown
Profiles the use of biodiesel and Willie Nelson’s role in its development

Five Questions with Environmental Writer Tom Philpott
Philpott answers five questions about alternative energy sources

Oil, Politics & Bribes
Examines the role of oil lobbyists and their influence on energy policy

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Gr. 10 Portraiture Technology

The ISU Visual Arts and Technology classes just completed a fantastic interdisciplinary unit with grade 10 called "Portraiture Technology." This is truly one of my favorite units of all the grades I teach. I love it! Take a look at the amazing portraits the students created, and if you get a chance, ask them what the materials and colors represent. Since self-expression was central to this unit, symbolism plays a large part in the mixed media art presentation.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

English only in an English language school?

OK, I need to write, to vent a little, to discuss this issue and get your opinions. You all know I was very upset this morning. I know many of you don't understand why, so let me go deeper into it...

Recently I was in the staff room and a large group was chattering away in another language. I've tried sitting with this lunchtime group before, hoping that when they laughed someone would translate the joke for me, or at the very least, someone would say, "Hi Melanie. Glad to have you here!" or "What's going on in your classroom/life?" That never happened no matter how often I tried, so I gave up. I told myself, oh well, they have to speak English all day; they don't mean to be hurtful or rude. They just need a break. The message I receive: We don't care about you.

Then I had to have a showdown with some of my grade 12 students who simply refused to speak English in my class, loudly telling jokes, laughing, even talking about me in another language. Even after I became angry and insistent, they required numerous reminders of their bad manners and never fully gave up speaking their language, occasionally over my teaching in English. I asked them how they would feel if I just taught in French and only Joe* and Bob* could understand. They just laugh at me some more and continue talking among themselves. The message they are giving me: We don't respect you.

Then this morning, I walk into homeroom where several groups are loudly engaged in conversation in various languages. I say loudly, "Good morning, everyone!" Only one student even makes eye contact, and though I can't hear her for the volume in the room, I can read her lips say, "Good morning, Mrs. Wilson!" Another student gives me a sideways glance and goes back to whatever it is she's doing.

I'm a little miffed, so I think to myself, OK, I'm going to try this again. I go to the bathroom and come back a minute later. More loudly this time, "Good morning, everyone!" I'm shocked. Absolutely no response. "I've said good morning twice now, and everyone completely ignored me," I say. One girl apologetically looks up and acknowledges me with a response. Another looks sideways at me again, this time as if I'm annoying her. Not one single other person deigns to take a second to reply to me. The message they are giving me: You don't matter.

In complaint to Mr. Hawkeswood, I realize that it's because almost everyone was engaged in conversation in their native languages, so deeply that they have no room for anyone else. I wonder if they know how blatantly disrespectful they have been...or do they even care. I think to myself, if I were to consistently ignore them when they asked me a question or said hello in the hallway, I might even lose my job - it's that important that I show people I'm available and that I care.

Is my responsibility in this school simply one-way? Am I supposed to give and give and give and expect nothing in return? Or is education a two-way proposition where both sides give and take equally? I would like to think so, yes, but I cannot help today feeling as if my worth as a teacher is only valid when a student needs or wants something from me. At other times I can be ignored, pushed aside or disregarded.

Now, I have thought a LOT about the issue of bi-lingual eduction, and I believe that we should not only encourage the retention of students' native languages and culture, but also actively help them to maintain it. Does this include allowing them to speak their languages in the classroom if necessary. I always thought it did. Now I'm not so sure. I would never dream of banning native languages in our school, but perhaps the lunchroom and the playground are the correct places for these expressions and it should be English-only in the classroom (unless, of course, you happen to be in a 2nd language classroom).

What do you think?

Criterion A

Criterion A is due today, Monday, May 4th. Criterion B is due Wednesday, May 6th, and criterion C is due Friday, May 8th. No extensions, no exceptions.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Wikiality Group Project

OK, we have a new project! What do you think about it? Comment below.

Over the weekend I'll be checking your blogs for information about the project.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Homework for Friday, April 24th

  1. Make sure you are following everyone's blog in the class! You can link to them from my blog.
  2. From your dashboard, look at the "Blogs of Note" and when you find one, post it to your blog with a link.

That's it! mw

Monday, April 20, 2009

Reading Blogs Can Become Habitual, Like Smoking (but Safer)

I subscribe to the Wired Campus e-newsletter, and I'm always reading these great mini-articles with topics that would interest (I think!) my students. Here's one. Read it and tell me what you

Warning: This blog could become habit-forming.

A study of blog readers’ behavior found that for many people, checking favorite blogs is part of a routine that they feel compelled to repeat each day.