Drug Scene Investigators, an online science/heath game for grades 7-10, engages students in solving mysteries "caused by unknown illegal drugs as they search the library, take notes, link discovered information with facts, and reason from the evidence to form conclusions." The game, developed with a grant from the National Institutes of Heath, not only educates students about drugs but promotes critical thinking and inquiry skills, the authors say. DSI is currently undergoing a national evaluation and the designers are looking for teachers to take part. Eligible teachers receive $50 for their first participating class and $25 for each additional class. Visit the link above to find out more and try out a demo of the game.
Nancie Atwell's powerful statement on the contribution book reading makes to student achievement is a must-read not only for teachers of English but for all educators who know from experience that sustained independent reading builds "fluency, stamina, vocabulary, confidence, critical abilities, habits, tastes and comprehension." Atwell worries that the Common Core State Standards Initiative, "dominated by test-makers and politicians," will devalue the young adult literature that helps teens understand more about themselves and young people "unlike themselves" — literature that often serves as a bridge to the best adult fiction. (Education Week)
Here's an excellent general teacher resource from the MiddleWeb archives that deserves repeat attention from time to time. The Federal Resources for Educational Excellence (FREE) website is a terrific repository of teacher resources and tools, and since we last highlighted it, they've added a Twitter feed to highlight some of their best content in categories like Arts & Music, Health & Physical Education, History & Social Studies, Language Arts, Math and Science. FREE draws on materials developed by federal museums and archive collections, educational materials developed via federal agencies and programs like the National Science Foundation, as well as selected resources from sites like Scholastic Inc., the Alliance for Climate Education and other non-profits.
Getting students to exercise more might not just address obesity issues but also improve their grades, reports the Reuters News Service. A U.S. research study found that physically fit students tend to score higher in tests than their less fit peers. For optimal brain function "it's good to be both aerobically fit and to have a healthy body shape," researcher William J. McCarthery of UCLA told Reuters. If other research confirms their findings, "schools will have to reverse their recent disinvestment in physical education ostensibly for the purposes of boosting student achievement," the researchers concluded. (Study abstract at Journal of Pediatrics)
Quoting CDC statistics, teacher and newspaper columnist Tammy Sjoberg reports that only 3.8 percent of elementary schools, 7.9 percent of middle schools and 2.1 percent of high schools offer daily physical education. Sjoberg, who teaches health and P.E. at St Joseph Middle School in Appleton WI, notes that while phys ed is mandated in most states, there are no repercussions for schools that don't comply. “One of the main reasons why physical education has been left to die is due to the No Child Left Behind Act,” Sjoberg contends. “Because this law focused on core subjects such as reading and math and threw dollars that way based on standardized test results, it left physical education (as well as classes that focus on the arts) vulnerable.” But we wonder – are there schools that refuse to let go of PE? Comment! (image info)
Any time in the testing schedule to engage students around the Winter Olympics? Seems like a good year for it, with snow on the ground in many parts of the nation. It's been awhile since we shared a resource collection from Surfing the Net with Kids, one of our favorite long-running services. At this page, editor Barbara J. Feldman offers five excellent sites related to the global athletic event, including one developed by fourth graders in Sleepy Hollow, NY.
Design Squad is the PBS "reality" show that asks students to complete engineering challenges "that task their creative reserves." Now there's a teacher's guide prepared specifically for middle grades science and technology teachers that "blends hands-on engineering challenges with 3 core science topics -- force, electricity, and sound. The challenges use low cost, readily available materials and are linked to national science and technology standards." The challenges look like great fun (if that's OK in your school), and you don't need to watch the show to take advantage of this quality mini-curriculum.
In this story on the What Kids Can Do website, seventh grader Yamile points out that "Knowing the food pyramid is just the beginning." Middle-schoolers at Lighthouse Community Charter have set out to make teen nutrition a real cause. The subject of healthy eating is actually part of the curriculum at this Oakland CA public school, where many students and their families come from neighborhoods where it can be difficult to find affordable and nutritious food. This tale of the connections between a healthy body and an active mind is one in a series from WKCD, an organization dedicated to increasing student ownership of learning and decision-making.
The positive benefits of integrated curricula and interdisciplinary units are well documented -- but students' access to these powerful learning opportunities ultimately depends upon principals, who must "provide the critical support and make the critical decisions” necessary to overcome cross-curricular inertia. So says Mark Springer, a veteran eighth grade teacher, in a recent article published in NASSP's Middle Level Leader newsletter. Springer, who served on the writing team for NMSA's new edition of “This We Believe,” calls on principals to have the courage “to initiate, encourage, and support curricular innovation in spite of the many difficulties they know they will encounter."
Here's an index to education blogs, categorized by subjects and disciplines, from ag education to world languages, with all the core and non-core subjects in between. This webpage created by Moving Forward (and spotlighted by ASCD recently) is a wiki, so you can add your own favorites. If you're looking for blogs in other categories (grade level, student/teacher, principal, school), check out Moving Forward's expanding general list at this wiki.
Time to Act, a new report from the Carnegie Corporation's Council on Advancing Adolescent Learning, recommends restructuring middle and high schools around literacy. Schools should hire teachers skilled in literacy instruction across content areas, the Council says, and literacy training should be fully integrated into preservice education and professional development for both teachers and principals. The report also calls for increased federal investments in middle level programs like Striving Readers, especially in high-needs schools, and for increasing emphasis on reading comprehension "within the nuanced context of each subject area." This download page includes both the main report and five key resource reports.
Ever played (or heard of) stickball, hopscotch, kick the can, boxball, ringoleavio, chinese handball, scully, or clap and rhyme? The Streetplay website is dedicated to documenting the games kids played on front lawns, sidewalks and streets in the days of yesteryear (before everyone went indoors and plugged in). In addition to descriptions and rules, you'll find some history, feature articles, even a cartoon strip. With new concerns about the need for more PE and exercise, maybe it's time to share these kid-invented games with a new generation.
Alice, a reading teacher, wrote recently looking for ideas about grading in a differentiated classroom. "I am finding little information on the Internet," she said. At the risk of touting a Stenhouse author (they sponsor this website), teachers in the online communities I frequent most often mention Rick Wormeli's book "Fair Is Not Always Equal." About half the book -- subtitled "Assessing and Grading in the Differentiated Classroom" -- is now available for public reading at Google Books. That should be enough to help Alice and others decide whether Wormeli has the answers they're looking for. Also see these articles by Rick.
We landed at this website after spotting a “tweet” from fellow resource-stalker Larry Ferlazzo. Developed by Philip E. Molebash of San Diego State University, Web Inquiry Projects (WIP) offers ideas for inquiry-based learning that reach “higher levels of inquiry” than typically achieved by the more familiar WebQuest model. You'll find a good selection of examples in history and the humanities (as well as math and science). Each example includes a detailed teacher version and a student version with just the project prompt. The goal is to provide teachers with everything they need to sharpen their inquiry-teaching skills.
“Contrary as it may seem,” says this guide to teaching numeracy in the middle grades, “taking more math or higher math courses does not necessarily improve a student's level of quantitative literacy. It is not a direct by-product of taking math courses; it must be facilitated, it must be taught, (and) not only by math teachers.” Written expressly to help middle schools increase student interest in applying quantitative information across the curriculum, this recent product from the Middle School Portal at Ohio State University offers a complete PD experience, with interdisciplinary lessons and activities.
If you've heard teacher-author Rick Wormeli speak, or perused one of his practice-oriented books, you'd certainly welcome a chance to thumb through his personal folder of sub-planning ideas. Here's your chance. Wormeli put this 45-page assortment together several years ago for some middle school colleagues in a virtual learning community. We have his permission to share freely. The collection is for "those looking for something to offer students in their absence that is substantive and results in learning, not just something that provides intellectual babysitting until your return." Poke around and see what might suit your needs. (MS Word doc)
EduHound's collection of links to the mountain range straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee will introduce students to America's most-visited national park and surrounding terrain. At the Park's own website, students can view webcam images and learn about the impact of air pollution on the views from the Park's knobs and scenic overlooks. Since the late 1940s, emissions from power plants and other sources have reduced average visibility by 80 percent in summer.
Smarthistory.org is built around a multi-media webbook designed as a dynamic enhancement (or even substitute) for the traditional art history textbook. It's a great resource for art teachers and others who pull art history into their lessons. At present, 220 representative artworks and 160 instructive videos are available for viewing. The resources are sorted by time, style, artist and themes. Sponsored by the Kress Foundation, the site is a finalist for the 2009 Webby Award in education.
Exploratory and electives teachers often express a concern that "core" teachers in the middle grades have a narrow view of these non-core subjects (art, music, physical education, etc.) and don't always see the opportunities to integrate them with other disciplines. In this refreshing article from the February 2009 issue of NMSA's Middle Ground, arts teacher (now college dean) Jacqueline McDowell describes a "curriculum brokering" process that eventually led McDowell to become an effective advocate of "art as authentic learning" -- a subject with real world application that promotes higher order thinking and other valued skills.