Math


I’ve tried to present blogging as that teacher’s tool for getting the kids writing or discussing meaningful events. So, I’d better throw in more of the tools that enhance the blogging experience if I’m to keep this blog meaningful as well.

One of the tools that I’ve introduced to my teachers is Voicethread. This mostly-free resource is an excellent way to get students connecting visual learning to written or spoken feedback. Voicethreads are picture sets to which users can add their voice/text to, creating a community dialog. Take for instance the following Voicethread made by a Kindergarten class. This is VT that has young students creating a script for an ABC book and recording it. What a nice product to follow-up the usual ABC book created in early childhood classes

I really like this Fourth Grade VT that has students giving book study reports. Notice that there are different opinions being expressed about the same book sometimes.

One great thing about Voicethreads is that other people can leave comments. I’ve seen students posting short reports as a Voicethread with other students asking questions or elaborating on the topic. With the visual nature of these media shows, students often generate lots of ideas through their sharing. Reluctant writers can then take the collection of ideas and more easily create a written response.

One of my favorite collections of Voicethreads comes from the Mathcasts 500 Project. The site is a collection of math concepts being explained by students K-7 organized by math skill. Another math VT is one of my favorites, not just because the teacher is an acclaimed Discovery Education Network member, or because they used my math problem, but because they did a great job of using Voicethread to capture their problem-solving skills. Check out Martha Thornburg’s Mathlincs.

Again, your blog may just be the place where you embed your Voicethread, but what a great audio/visual writing prompting tool! I’m really not one who likes recreating the wheel so, visit Mr. Jarrett’s Voicethread training wiki. It will get your account setup and you off and running. Thanks Mr. Jarrett!

Now, wouldn’t this post have been just super cool if it embedded the Voicethreads?  Well, yeah!  Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t allow it. Edublogs.org is now allowing Flash code within the post, which means Edublogs allows Voicethreads.

I’ll leave you with an enormous collection of Voicethreads. This wiki is even bigger than what appears on the page. Everything from Flat Stanley to Fifth Grade Number Sense is collected here. Browse through and find your own inspiration.

Previous posts have discussed the different natures of blogs in the classroom. There are blogs that are updated once a month or once a week for just parent communication. Other classroom blogs are for student use and may see active posting for a week during one project and then take two weeks off until the next project.  Other blogs maybe an every Wednesday routine. Timing your blog to fit your classroom needs is critical.

But what are you going to have your students blog about? Meeting with a  group of teachers this week,  several  ideas were thrown around.

Language Arts

  • Using your blog to continue classroom discussion is fantastic. When studying character development in writing, could you ask the class to discuss what they are doing to develop  the character they create for their story? Students could ask for feedback or suggest ideas that may help improve their writing.
  • In some elementary grades, blogging can be cumbersome because students are focused on writing mechanics.  A teacher could remove some roadblocks by changing the blog environment for the week.  “This week, don’t worry about spelling” may be used to just get student ideas down without fear of reprimand. The teacher could get more writing from the student and gets a more honest assessment of spelling at the same time. Pick some of the frequently misspelled words for the next week’s spelling list.
  • Instead of a paper assignment for collecting sentences using the grammar skill taught that day, have the students write their sentences in their blog comment.  See if they can migrate from random grammar practice sets to meaningful statements which they own that also show the grammar lesson for the week.

Science

  • Used as a pre-assessment, the blog comments can gather prior knowledge data before you undertake a new unit. Gather student predictions about a lab you will do the next week. Students can predict and revise predictions before the lab ever becomes an assignment.
  • Data collection is easy to teach with fictional data. Increase student ownership and have the students comment about a topic that will include data. “How many of you watched a ‘reality TV’ show last week? Who would watch a reality show take from inside our classroom? How many weeks would you follow the class and why?” There could be significant number generation from their data and you would have real data collection from a source that your students own and value.
  • Find classes in other parts of the country. Convince them to comment about their weather every Thursday.  All of the classes involved would not only have a record of their own weather, but would be able to compare weather histories across the country.

Math

  • Math is often seen as a ‘one right answer’ class. But we know that there is usually more than one way to answer most problem situations. Pose the weekly math problem and have students or small groups create their solutions in their comment.  Students will have a record of the possible answers that they can retrieve from home or elsewhere in school. Additional comments can discuss why the other groups’ answers were or were not correct.  The teacher can give a historical perspective of how groups have been using a particular method of the past so many weeks.
  • There are many online videos that demonstrate a mathematical  method. Include a video in your post. Have the students comment on how they used that method in their solutions that week.
  • A weekly challenge problem can be designed to have many answers.  Students can post their solutions and get points for correct answers. Other students can respectfully discuss errors in other students’ solutions or confirm a solution and get points that way.  Using descriptive words without the ability to add graphics to ‘show’ an answer helps build written language skills and reinforces the use of math vocabulary.

Social Studies

  • What text book doesn’t have open-ended questions at the end of the chapter? These questions can be great discussion starters.
  • What if questions were never my favorites as a teacher, but students sometimes feed off of them like candy. “What if Abraham Lincoln didn’t get elected?”  “What if Thomas Jefferson were president today?” Students can bring in primary sources or reinforcing websites as links in their comment  to show that they are really thinking their answers through.
  • Biography studies can show commonalities between historically important people from across the time line. “Name a person in history who was a failure during his lifetime, but who later became ‘successful’ due to his previous achievements.”

Looking at topics such as these, it is important to keep in mind that some student comments can be impromptu thoughts and others may require problem-solving or research before leaving the comment. Your blog is what you want to make of it.

What are some other general or specific topics you have used or have seen used with students?