Thursday, March 17, 2011

Finally Fourth Quarter

Fourth quarter is finally upon us. As usual, the year has been filled with many ups and downs so far, with more to come, I'm sure. As we came up to spring break, I did everything I could to make sure I was ready to return to school so I wouldn't have to work over break. Much of my brainstorming was characterized by frustration due to the 400 kids per grade of level whom I teach each week. 
Photo Credit

The issue with teaching computers the way I do is that I have so many kids that anything that involves creating individual accounts for students online would just take way too much time. Unfortunately, this eliminates many of the most interesting Web 2.0 things to do. Alternatively, I've had them all using either my account for something or a class account, if that's an option, but not all websites allow that. I would just have the students create their own accounts, but many things require email addresses, which many of my students don't have (they think it's too slow, when they have cell phones). In addition to that, everyone creating email addresses is out because most free email sites won't allow multiple accounts to be made from the same IP address. Anyway, all this to say, my options are limited by the sheer scale I operate on. If anyone has any good solutions to this sort of problem, let me know! 

These are the ideas I eventually landed on. My 7th graders have been working on their iMovies for literally a semester (much to my dismay), and they are finally finishing up. So, after basically a quarter of not having to plan for them, (they just came in and kept working), it's time for something new. As boring as spreadsheets can be, I feel like it is something that is important for the students to know. Some creative googling brought me to this lesson about the amount of fat in fast food.  The focusing question I'll use for students is "Can fast food be healthy?" It has the students create a spreadsheet documenting the amount of fat in an entree, side, dessert, and drink of their choice from a fast food restaurant (also their choice). Using a website extensively documenting nutrition in various foods (including fast food restaurants), they'll determine calories, fat calories, non-fat calories, and the percentage of fat in each item and meal. From there, they'll use formulas to figure out percentage fat, enter it into a class chart, and create their own charts. This will all be posted in a blog post. From there, they'll be making a movie using flip cams to document what they learned and convincing others that it is or is not possible for their meal to be healthy to eat.

My 8th graders have 2 different assignments to keep me from getting bored. Half of them will be doing a photo contest at the beginning of the quarter. They'll take photos that represent the best thing about their school and write an accompanying piece explaining why it is the best thing in their opinion. These will then be displayed in the school library for others students to vote on. Next, (when it's too hot to got outside and take pictures), we'll use Google Earth to take a virtual tour of a place that has been in the news. They'll use screen shots and online research to create a video on iMovie explaining the situation in this location. 

The other half of the 8th grade will be creating Glogs (interactive, online "posters") about the Vietnam War, with the focusing question being "Why was the Vietnam War such a big deal?" On their glog, they'll each have 3 sections, including facts, links, and images. (Here's an example I found online.) Examples of the types of things they'll be looking for include a quote from a soldier's diary, info on the draft and the controversy, links to a timeline and casualty statistics, and pro and anti-war images. 
Hopefully, these assignments will keep them (and me!) engaged, even when their brains are in high school already!

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