Skyping to Learn
It wasn’t long ago that high-speed Internet access became reliable in classrooms—or even available. Many schools had computer labs that were the sole point of access for students to get online. Of course, limited access came with limited opportunities to use the Internet for learning.
Today, Internet access in schools is virtually ubiquitous. Many classrooms have their own fleets of laptops, tablets, and other devices, all connected to the Internet through WiFi. This has allowed teachers to fully use the Internet as a resource in the classroom. And it’s been extremely beneficial in helping teachers reach “digital native” students who have never known life without connectivity.
One particularly useful technology available in classrooms is Skype, a videoconferencing program that can connect individuals—and entire classrooms—in different locations throughout the country and around the world. This allows classes to collaborate and learn from each other, helping them to broaden their perspectives and communicate to achieve commonly held goals.
Teaching in Action: Learning Geography Through “Mystery Skype”
A new video on Edivate demonstrates how STEM education provides students with the opportunity to connect with local and global communities using technology. Watch as actual students in Ms. Robin Farnsworth’s 3rd grade class at Neil Armstrong Academy in West Valley City, Utah, videoconference with students in a classroom from another state and work collaboratively to determine in which state the other school is located.
The segment also comes with a downloadable lesson plan to help you conduct a Mystery Skype lesson in your own classroom. It also includes a study guide that outlines the implementation of effective STEM instruction in your own classroom, as well as general links to additional STEM-related resources.
This standards-based lesson addresses two state standards:
- Use technology in collaborative writing activities for audiences outside of the classroom
- Use online resources in problem-solving activities
Powering Futures with the Engineering Design Process
Whether students graduating from high school attend college or embark on a career, their problem-solving skills will be invaluable to their future. STEM education teaches students to navigate these challenges, particularly through the engineering design process: a series of steps that guide individuals and teams in solving problems.
A typical engineering design process includes the following stages:
- Define the problem
- Research prior solutions
- Brainstorm designs and solutions
- Select a design
- Build a prototype
- Analyze the prototype
- Communicate your solutions
During any given project, stages in the process can be revisited as many times as needed, resulting in a continuous cycle of improvement. While the process is typically associated with activities in science, engineering, and technology, it can also be applied to a wide variety of challenges found outside STEM-related fields—everything from communication to literary theory to business. In PreK-12 classrooms, the process helps students to understand open-ended design as well as the value of both creativity and practicality.
Teaching in Action: The Prosthetic Arm Design Challenge
In this new video on Edivate, see actual 12th grade students in Ms. Kate Youman’s engineering design class pair up to build models of a working mechanical prosthetic arm. Watch how Ms. Youman guides them through the eight-step engineering design process as they research, design, build, and test their models.
The segment also comes with a downloadable lesson plan that details everything you need to replicate the Prosthetic Arm Design Challenge in your own classroom. Also included is a study guide that offers greater insight into teaching STEM concepts as well as links to additional resources.
1st Grade STEM and Literacy: How Chickens Can Help
The most effective lessons are those that build on skills within different standard sets. For instance, a STEM lesson can very easily incorporate literacy skills in reading, comprehension, and written communication, while reading or spelling lessons can include scientific concepts to complement other learning
So where do chickens come in? They’re the subject of a lesson for first graders that teaches to standards in both STEM and literacy.
5 Standards Addressed by the Chicken Lesson:
- Describe and model life cycles of living things.
- Understand that adult plants and animals can have young.
- Read texts and use media to determine patterns in behavior of parents and offspring that help offspring survive.
- Know final -e and common vowel team conventions for representing long vowel sounds.
- Recognize the distinguishing features of a sentence (e.g., first word, capitalization, ending punctuation).
Teaching in Action: The Chicken Lesson
This segment features Ms. Melissa Carter, a 1st grade teacher at North Elementary in Cedar City, Utah. In this video, you’ll see how Ms. Carter integrates literacy-based activities with science content to engage her students in a lesson about the life cycle of chickens. The lesson culminates with students creating posters of a chicken’s life cycle and getting to hold live chicks.
The segment also comes with a downloadable study guide that offers greater insight into teaching STEM concepts, as well as a thoughtful discussion about how to best replicate the chicken lesson in your own classroom. Finally, the study guide provides a comprehensive lesson plan and links to additional resources supporting the information presented in the lesson.
Using Text Features to Build Literacy
Text features provide students important clues and cues for comprehending text. Some common text features are:
- Table of Contents
- Bold Words
- Headings and Titles
Teaching students how to identify and use text features is an important step in building student literacy. One effective way to teach this is by using text feature walks.
A text feature walk helps students read text features in order to help them make connections and prepare to read associated text. Studies show that using this strategy improves student understanding of text features and overall comprehension.
5 Steps for an Effective Text Feature Walk
- Organize students into small groups and have each of them choose one person to start..
- That person names the first text feature (Is it a heading? Picture and caption? Map?).
- That same person reads the text feature.
- As a group, the students discuss any predictions, questions, and connections they have based on the text feature. They also discuss how they think it will relate to the main idea. Everyone should contribute.
- Another student shares the next text feature and repeats steps 2–4. Repeat until all of the text features have been discussed or you call time.
Teaching in Action:
This video segment above showcases several different teachers using text features to guide student comprehension and help students build a mental framework for identifying and remembering the main ideas and key details of a text. This segment also comes with a downloadable study guide that offers pre- and post-viewing discussion prompts as well as links to additional resources for teaching reading comprehension.
These materials are part of a comprehensive series of videos and downloadable resources on teaching literacy, available only on Edivate [http://edivate.com].
7 Qualities of a Good Reader
Great reading is more than just sounding out letters and words. It involves thinking on many levels. When teachers use modeling, coached practice, and reflection, they can help their students to think while they read and build their comprehension.
- Draw on background knowledge as they read
- Make predictions as they read
- Visualize the events of a text as they read
- Recognize confusion as they read
- Recognize a text’s structure as they read
- Identify a purpose for reading
- Monitor their purpose for reading the text
Using Think-Alouds to Model Thinking and Reading
Teachers use think-alouds to model the relationship between thinking and reading. They verbalize their thought processes and demonstrate connections that good readers make between background knowledge and information in a text.
This video segment above features a variety of classroom examples showing teachers implementing think-alouds with their students. The segment also comes with a downloadable study guide that offers pre- and post-viewing discussion prompts as well as links to additional resources for teaching reading comprehension.
These materials are part of a comprehensive series of videos and downloadable resources on teaching literacy, available only on Edivate.
Reading Comprehension Strategies
Teaching reading comprehension to your students is not a one-size-fits-all prospect. In fact, teaching your students a variety of strategies for improving their understanding of text is most effective. Here are three strategies you can walk through with your students and use to accelerate their comprehension.
- Monitoring comprehension
Students can learn to know when they understand what they read and when they do not. They can have strategies to improve their understanding. Instruction, even in the early grades, can help students become better at monitoring their comprehension.Comprehension monitoring strategies include:
- Identify where the difficulty occurs
- Identify what the difficulty is
- Restate the difficult sentence or passage in their own words
- Look back through the text
- Look forward in the text for information that might help them to resolve the difficulty
- Graphic organizers
Graphic organizers can help students focus on text structure (such as differences between fiction and nonfiction) as they read. They provide tools to help examine and show relationships. They can also help with writing well-organized summaries.
You can get more information on these strategies and others at readingrockets.org, a national literacy initiative for helping young kids learn to read.
Strategies for Before, During, and After Reading PreK–3rd Grade
Students can increase their reading comprehension through a variety of activities. This video segment above showcases classrooms in which real teachers implement various comprehension strategies (such as KWL charts, structured notes, graphic organizers, T-charts, and evidence-based summaries) before, during, and after reading.
This video segment also comes with a downloadable study guide that summarizes the concepts presented and offers reflection questions as well as links to additional resources for teaching reading comprehension.
These materials are part of a comprehensive series of videos and downloadable resources on teaching literacy, available only on Edivate.
Reading Instruction: 6 Critical Techniques
Reading has always been the linchpin in a child’s educational growth, opening doors in all other areas of learning. Nobody is more aware of this than educators.
In 1997 the National Institute of Child Health and Development joined with the Department of Education to establish a National Reading Panel—a 14-member group consisting of people of various backgrounds, including school administrators, working teachers, and scientists involved in reading research. Their purpose was to evaluate existing research and determine how to best teach children how to read.
In 2000, after reviewing more than 100,000 reading studies, the panel released its report. One of their key findings was that the best approach to reading instruction incorporates a combination six critical techniques that build upon and complement each other.
- Phonemic awareness—the knowledge that spoken words can be broken apart into smaller segments of sound known as phonemes. Children who are read to at home—especially material that rhymes—often develop the basis of phonemic awareness. Children who are not read to will probably need to be taught that words can be broken apart into smaller sounds.
- Phonics—the knowledge that letters of the alphabet represent phonemes and that these sounds are blended together to form written words. Readers who are skilled in phonics can sound out words they haven’t seen before without first having to memorize them.
- Fluency—the ability to recognize words easily, read with greater speed, accuracy, and expression, and to better understand what is read. Children gain fluency by practicing reading until the process becomes automatic; guided oral repeated reading is one approach to helping children become fluent readers.
- Guided oral reading—reading out loud while getting guidance and feedback from skilled readers. The combination of practice and feedback promotes reading fluency.
- Teaching vocabulary words—teaching new words, either as they appear in text or by introducing new words separately. This type of instruction also aids reading ability.
- Reading comprehension strategies—techniques for helping individuals to understand what they’ve read. Such techniques involve having students summarize what they’ve read to gain a better understanding of the material.
Teaching Phonemic Awareness: A Fundamental First Step
Effective reading instruction begins with phonemic awareness. Phonemically aware students understand that the symbols or letters that represent sounds are not random or arbitrary.
Watch this video segment above to see classroom examples of teaching phonemic awareness.
You can also download the accompanying study guide that offers a summary, reflection questions, and links to additional resources for further study. These materials are part of a comprehensive series of videos and downloadable resources on reading, available only on Edivate.
Using real-world examples in math
The best teachers understand that the most effective lessons are those that are purposefully crafted to help the students understand the “why” as well as the “what” behind the concepts being taught. This is easily achieved by teaching through solving real-world problems. In this way, students are engaged in learning opportunities that allow them to use their inquiry skills, creativity, and critical thinking to solve problems.
Real-world examples lead to real learning
Dawn Barson, a math teacher at American Fork Junior High School in American Fork, Utah, helps her students use equations to solve a real-world story problem. Dawn’s students have been using equations to make tables and graphs, and she has them use these skills as they think about how to make a lawn-mowing business cost effective. Students tackle the problem of how to control expenses by deciding how to represent the data they have and then use it to make their decisions.
After watching this video of Dawn and her class, you’ll see how learning to solve real-world problems helps increase the educational rigor in the classroom.
This video comes with a downloadable guidebook.With these materials, you can alter the lesson to accommodate the specific needs of your own students.
Helping students with autism pair learning with positive reinforcement
It can be a source of seemingly endless frustration when a child with autism reacts negatively to their teachers and teaching environments. When a child associates learning with unenjoyable, tedious, or unpleasant activities, the simple presence of a teacher or learning materials can lead to difficult behavior. Conversely, children with autism who pair teaching and learning with fun, preferred activities come to understand that learning and being around others can be rewarding and valuable.
In this video, the first of a 3-part series, you will discover:
- Why many children with autism dislike teachers and teaching environments.
- Three benefits of pairing yourself with positive reinforcement.
- The steps involved in becoming a conditioned reinforcer.
See the lesson in action
Watch this video segment above and listen to Thomas M. Caffrey, M.Ed., BCBA, as he shares examples of children with autism—both those who react negatively to their teacher and environment, and those who enjoy the interaction and see value in the learning experience.
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STEM Lesson: Teaching Slope, Distance, and Midpoint
One of the most compelling ways to encourage math learning among students is to let them apply it to real-life situations. When it comes to calculating slope, distance, and midpoint, one such application involves something every student is familiar with: the school itself.
After this lesson, your students will be able to:
- Identify the slope, distance, and midpoint of a line segment on a coordinate grid.
- Successfully complete a graphic organizer.
This standards-based lesson teaches to the following standard:
- Use trigonometric ratios and the Pythagorean theorem to solve right triangles in applied problems.
Five steps for an effective lesson
This lesson can be completed over the course of a single classroom period. Right from the start, students are engaged and motivated to work together to solve problems and share their solutions. (Click here for a more comprehensive outline of this lesson.)
- Warm up. Students begin class with a colored slip of paper that contains a number between one and four, as well as a question.
- Organize groups. Students organize themselves into groups of four. Each group will consist of four different colors and four different numbers.
- Pass out graphic organizer. Each group is given a graphic organizer to help in identifying slope, distance, and midpoint.
- Solve example problem. Once the equations for slope, distance, and midpoint are identified, students will then apply those equations to an example.
- Apply equations to the real world. Students solve authentic problems using a map of the school.
See the lesson in action
Watch this video segment on Edivate and see an example of this lesson with Ms. Kathy August’s honors geometry class at South Salem High School in Salem, Oregon. See her students review how the Pythagorean Theorem applies to the slope, distance, and midpoint of two points on a coordinate plane.
Watch the video above to see the lesson in action. The video also comes with a downloadable study guide and lesson plan so you can recreate the learning experience in your own classroom.