• Inquiry Learning

    Posted by Rachel Y Sanchez on 3/16/2016 10:00:00 AM

    Mr. Boyer's sixth grade scientists attempted to build a bridge that would withstand the stress of a powerful earthquake.  During this lab, students maniupulated bridge structure and safety features, collaborated with classmates, and tested their structures with a virtual simulation.  

    This "5 E" concept (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate) of learning works in other content areas as well.

    Virtual Lab

    Example of using the 5 E model in math: http://www.hmhco.com/country/us/california/math/california-go-math/grades-k-6/the-5-es

    The WS/FCS SS Department has started an Inquiry-based learning collection (which follows the 5Es): http://wsfcs.k12.nc.us/Page/97714

    In ELA, the 5E concept is often part of "Inquiry Circles".  Harvey and Daniels have several excellent resources on this: http://www.heinemann.com/comprehensionandcollaboration/

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  • Making the most of student presentations

    Posted by Rachel Y Sanchez on 11/12/2015

    Not many things can eat up as much instructional time as each student presenting a project in front of the class.  Since "publishing" is important for student ownership, Mr. Shu and Ms. Griffith designed a gallery walk to allow students to share a point of view projects.  Groups of students rotated around the room and analyzed classmates' prerecorded scenes for point of view, perspective, and dramatic irony. 

     Gallery Walk

    The Maker Space resources allowed each group to prerecord the narratives.  As each group moved to a new station, they activated the play-dough speakers to start the action.  

    Maker Space

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  • Don't waste a minute!

    Posted by Rachel Y Sanchez on 10/8/2015

    What do you do when your students always want to leave the classroom to get water?  Make the water fountain a place to learn, of course.  Have you seen what Mr. Green did to the 6th grade water fountains?


    On the way back to class, students can review the light spectrum courtesy of Mr. Boyer and Ms. Hendrix.


    If you are an 8th grade student, you can review Math 1 concepts while waiting to enter the classroom thanks to Ms. Guy and Ms. Mudgett.


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  • Anchor Charts

    Posted by Rachel Y Sanchez on 10/7/2015


    "Simply put, an anchor chart is a tool used largely to support instruction and to move the student towards achieving success with lessons taught in class. They are also used as a classroom management tool for students to self-monitor their behavior by gently reminding them of expectations and routines.

    Anchor charts are created during the instruction of the lesson. As the teacher models the lesson or strategy, the lesson reinforcement or strategy tool is written on chart paper. Once the lesson is complete, the chart is placed in a convenient student-friendly location that the students can access it independently. This is another vehicle for academic support, especially for the visual learner. The beauty of an anchor chart is that it can be displayed as needed or determined by the student work. Some anchor charts live all year long in the classroom, while others are only displayed during the current unit of study." (Stewart, 2014)

    Here's how Ms. Bunch uses anchor charts in her 6th grade math class:


    Line 'em up

    Here are other examples from Cyberspace:

    Anchor charts may also be collected and kept in a binder. Carol Tomlinson refers to these as a type of differentation that can help students continue to work independently while a teacher works with small groups.  

    For more information on creating anchor charts, check here.

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  • Paint Chip Graphic Organizers

    Posted by Rachel Y Sanchez on 10/6/2015

    Research shows that organizing information graphically increases student retention.  Here's how Mr. Shu used paint chips as a graphic organizer for textual evidence supporting a claim (RL8.1).  While 6th grade students identify textual evidence and 7th grade students indentify several pieces of textual evidence, 8th grade is charged with the task of identifying the strongest piece of textual evidence.  The color gradient of the chips helps students see the strength of each piece of evidence.

    Paint Chips

    Here are a few more ideas floating around cyberspace about using paint chips as graphic organizers:

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  • Clear Learning Targets

    Posted by Rachel Y Sanchez on 10/2/2015

    Research shows students are more successful when the learning target is clearly established and understood.  Writing standards-based essential questions in student-friendly language is one way to do this.  

    According to ASCD, here's what makes a good essential question:

    1. Is open-ended; that is, it typically will not have a single, final, and correct answer.
    2. Is thought-provoking and intellectually engaging, often sparking discussion and debate.
    3. Calls for higher-order thinking, such as analysis, inference, evaluation, prediction. It cannot be effectively answered by recall alone.
    4. Points toward important, transferable ideas within (and sometimes across) disciplines.
    5. Raises additional questions and sparks further inquiry.
    6. Requires support and justification, not just an answer.
    7. Recurs over time; that is, the question can and should be revisited again and again.

    Here's how Ms. Simmons uses EQs in her 6th grade ELA classroom:


    *Bonus points - They are aligned to the 6th grade Common Core Standards!

    RL6.3  Describe how a particular story's or drama's plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.

    RL6.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone

    RL6.5 Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.

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  • Active Learning

    Posted by Rachel Y Sanchez on 10/1/2015

    Yes, students learn by doing.  Is there anything else to say?

    Mr. Bechtel and Ms. Corbett's students rotated through a series of labs investigating matter and properties of change.



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  • Promoting a Growth Mindset

    Posted by Rachel Y Sanchez on 9/25/2015

    In her book Mindset, Dweck promotes the creation of a "growth mindset", instead of a "fixed mindset", in students.   Johnston encourages educators to use language to create positive outcomes in students (Choice Words).  Ms. Wood has combined the idea of these two authors in her "Change Your Words!" bulletin board.  


     Change Your Words


    Here's how Ms. Bunch uses language to empower the mathematicians in her classroom:


    You are Mathematicians

    Here's another idea floating around cyberspace:


    Language is a powerful tool.  Use it!

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  • Building Precise Vocabulary

    Posted by Rachel Y Sanchez on 2/18/2015 1:00:00 PM
    "Research reveals that vocabulary knowledge is the single best indicator of students' reading ability, comprehension, and familiarity with academic discourse"  (3).
    -Vocabulary Their Way 
    In all content areas, students and teachers need a shared language.  Using Word Walls is a way to encourage precise, content-specific vocabulary. 
     Word Wall
    Mr. Bechtel - 8th Grade Science
    Word Wall
    Ms. Simmons - 6th Grade English Language Arts
    Here's another example from Cyberspace.  Studies show that alphabetizing your word wall helps students quickly locate the terms.
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  • Reading in the Content Area

    Posted by Rachel Y Sanchez on 1/20/2014
    Reading should never be something else you or your students have to do.  Instead, middle school students move from "learning to read" to "reading to learn."  By displaying nonfiction books relating to your current unit of study, self-selected reading time deepens students' understanding of the content.  Here is how Ms. Gobble integrates nonfiction texts into her science classroom.
    Nonfiction Texts
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