A Little Bit of Coding Can Go a Long Way!

At one of my IT Club meetings, I let the club members get a feel for coding by playing a card board game. I chose Robot Wars Coding Strategy Game because I found it relatively simple to play. Some of the student members found it challenging and fun at the same time! I discovered that the game made them think critically before making a move. And, as in any computer program, there were bugs! The members were so enthralled with the game that the meeting concluded way past the scheduled time. Hats off to the creators!

Any game that can make a student analyze how and when to move is a game that should be brought into the classroom. Those are the elements of programming which don’t always have to be for the geeky soul. Students can create their own board games based on what they’ve acquired in class. Creating and playing these games is conducive to higher learning. So why not give it a try? ~~LMMolina

Cyberix Club

 

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A comical numbers game: “7 into 28”

Working with numbers should be fun. Right? Unfortunately, not everyone agrees. But if we don’t make it fun or interesting at least, we’ll zone out the students. How can we get students to get some humor out of something as serious as math?  I came across this comedy sketch featuring a lovable actor from way back. I decided to show it to my tech students and see their reaction. I didn’t think they would get it but surprisingly they did and now want to try it out on their math teacher! I wonder how she’ll react. (By the way, the students requested to see the video twice!)

The scene: Bud Abbott doles out $28 to pay his room rent even though he owes his landlord way more than that. How much is 13 times 7? Ninety one? Are you sure? With Abbott it comes out a bit differently! His reasoning? Check out the video! ~~LMMolina

 

Poetry Prompts

Thinking about ways to get my students to write poetry or just simply write, I got inspired by a photo I took of my plants for Instagram. I thought of the well-known nursery rhyme “How does your garden grow?” It’s simple and at the same time thought-provoking.

A few questions immediately came to mind: How does your garden grow? Can a garden be compared to life in general? Do you let your garden be overrun with weeds? Who are the weeds in your life? Do they serve a purpose?

This would be either an excellent poetry exercise in which the students might find words to rhyme with weed, flowers, thorns, green, insects and so on, or a writing prompt to get them to reflect on people or situations in life.

It might be a good way to assess what my students are capable of writing. I could use it as a diagnostic exercise to introduce a poetry unit. The possibilities are endless. ~~~LMM

Humor in the classroom:

It’s summer so it’s time to reflect on some of our teaching practices and what we can do to improve them. It’s a healthy activity and one that should be taken seriously but not so seriously that we berate ourselves for making some mistakes. After all, we’re only human.

One thing that any wise teacher should “seriously” consider is having fun in the classroom. Why not take advantage of humor to get your ideas across? I’ve listened to some comedy routines that could be used as grammar exercises.  Jerry Seinfeld has a skit dealing with the words “down” and “up”.  He says that as children we were always told to “sit down,” “settle down,” “quiet down” and “stay down” or  they were told to “sit up” straight, not to “stay up” late, and that they should “get up” early.

Comedy can also be used with debatable topics. What do most comedians usually do anyway?  They make fun of ordinary events. Things as simple as going to the grocery store or visiting the family doctor can turn into a hilarious situation. One popular topic that frequently pops up is that of food consumption.  Whether it be eating an ice cream cone on a hot summer day or baking cupcakes for the first time, there’s bound to be something laughable to discuss with a classmate or post on a blog.

When you have your students discuss daily activities that involve humor, the class seems to be more enjoyable.  Students will come away with a bit more knowledge and a healthy attitude towards life in general. So let’s “lighten up” a bit!~~LMMolina

Apps for the classroom

 

Interesting how the “big picture” changes in the classroom when it comes to Web 2.0. So many apps are available to an educator to make a class more engaging! This morning our staff participated in a workshop in which each teacher experimented with an app to use later in the classroom. The staff created Memes, Avatars and Vokis. They also used Kahoot and powerpoint templates to get ideas for preparing their own activities.  I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with on their own! It should be fun! ~~LMMolina

Google Forms: Effective Research Tool

As a requirement for their Spanish course, the 12th graders at our school present a research paper towards the end of the school year.  They must use a questionnaire to gather some of the information for their paper and present the results when they defend their conclusions. What better way to do this than through the use of a Google Form? It’s less time-consuming and the results may be displayed graphically. The students can either embed the form on their blogs or send them via e-mail. Either way works well and students should get responses quickly. Since everything is done electronically, trees are saved in the process! That’s a plus!

Their teacher is promoting this method since she herself has used it in the past. I will provide one of my technology students to present this Google application to her groups. Hopefully, the students will benefit from the experience and use it to present the results of their research. I hope they can use it again later as they go through classes at the university level and then as professionals in their chosen career.

For further details on this and other related apps,  check my post on forms-and-surveys-on-blogs-or-webpages/~~LMM

questionnaire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Programming and Rubrics: One and the same?

An interesting thing about programming: it gets your brain to think differently. I’ve learned that programming is a bit mind-boggling! Every action has to be thought out thoroughly or the end result may be a disaster.

At one of the meetings with my Cyberix Club members I decided to try a bit of programming or coding. A few of the members had a vague idea of what was involved but when I exposed them to an activity in which one of them ‘became a robot’ and another had to ‘program’ him to follow a set of instructions, it was an eye-opener! They soon came to realize that the directions had to be very specific in order to achieve a satisfactory outcome.

As a teacher, I’m aware that when giving students instructions I must be very clear and precise. It’s that or I can expect a variety of results that I’ll have to accept. I can transfer the idea of programming to the classroom by making sure my set of instructions are specific enough and thus allow each student to produce what I had in mind.  Rubrics come to mind and are used for this purpose. By thinking like a programmer, I just might be able to come up with a rubric that will be so precise in the directions a student must follow that I, as the teacher, should be able to accurately evaluate the student’s performance. Sounds simple, right?

Of course, students are not robots. Each student perceives the world differently, but if I am able to direct his steps by programming each action in such a way as to get the student to create a worthwhile project, then I will have achieved my goal. Whether it be a poster to create awareness for the environment or a robot that can control it, I must be clear in what I want my students to achieve and how they will go about it.

So I will take into account the principles of programming when working out a rubric to evaluate my students.  I will also explore the possibility of getting my students and tech club members to delve into the world of coding. Even if it’s only for the purpose of having them think ‘outside the box.’ That’s all part of the learning process.~~LMM

Cyberix Club robotic exercise

Robotic exercise

Reflections on a Busy Semester: Movies and Technology

Movie promo posters under construction

Movie promo posters

I’m taking some time off for reflecting on a semester that’s almost over. Time goes by so fast you wonder where it went and if you accomplished anything with the students. This semester has been an interesting one to say the least. What’s new for me? The opportunity to offer an elective course on movies and combine it with a bit of technology. A very unique experience, I must say!  I once assisted a university professor in a similar course but I admit that teaching it to ninth graders is not the same. For one, their tastes are vastly different so I’ve had to make adjustments. While I can’t show Ms. Butterfly to this age group, I can show Hugo.  It’s just as entertaining and enlightening and gives these teens an idea about the beginnings of film-making. As always, I learn something new even if I’ve seen the films before I show them in class.

Through this course, I’ve had the students do a number of presentations using the Cloud, in their case Google Slides. They’ve presented information on their favorite movies, actors and film directors. It’s been a wonderful way of getting to know them through their interests in the kinds of movies they enjoy watching.  Some have surprised me with their choices. Pleasantly in some cases, in others, not so much. It’s a generation thing.

I’ve also had the students use the blogging platform to document their work. Each has created their own blog using either WordPress or Blogger.  I, of course, use my site to post assignments and guide them through theirs.  Posted material has included citing lines from films and the actors who said them, why they chose that particular line, director of film, release date, and so forth. Movie clips have also been included in the students’ blogs.  Some surprises here, too.

One particular project that I wanted the students to do was a movie promo poster. In this case, an imaginary movie. So far it’s been a unique experience. I provided the poster board to control proportions. Students had to bring in the materials (cut outs, glue, scissors and such) and limit construction to class time. Since I teach in the computer lab I did not allow glitter. Everything else was left to the imagination.

What’s ahead? Comparing teen books with the film version, movie critics and their singular views, maybe a short film production or the trailer of one. Who knows? All I know is that it’s going to be another busy semester!~~LMM

 

Move it! Move it!

Ever stop to think how a high school student might feel sitting at his desk for hours on end? Not to mention that it’s usually on a hard seat! The typical school day might last between 6 and 7 hours. Most students get breaks between class periods and these might only last about 3 to 5 minutes. Lunch period is a brief respite. If there’s a physical education course sometime during the week, that’s another one. There was a time when this course was offered on a daily basis. No more! For the most part, students will be sitting and listening to the mind-numbing drone of a few teachers! It’s no wonder most students become fidgety and continually ask to be excused to take a restroom break.

I’ve recently read some articles related to the topic and have come up with some thoughts on the subject. Why should students sit for long periods at a time? Why can’t they get up and stand for a bit?  If they so choose, they could take a class standing up most of the time.  What about using high table tops and stools instead of the standard student desks? Students could easily sit or stand at the table while they listen to the teacher or fellow classmates and take notes.

The teacher needs a break, too. If you’re like me, sitting at the desk is not an option. I stand most of the time and my feet usually feel the effects after a long day! With this new classroom arrangement I could sit on a stool and still be at eye level with my students. School administrators should be willing to give teachers new physical ways to impart instruction. The outdated classroom design should be updated in such a way that will permit the student to stretch his legs and have the freedom to move around. Most students need this flexibility and should have the option to do so! As teacher and principal, I’m willing to try out new ways to get students to stretch their imagination and acquire new knowledge. If getting up and about helps, well, let’s move it!

Today's lesson better classroom design

Field Trips: Integrating subjects

What better way to use a field trip experience to integrate almost every subject? Not too long ago our entire  school community went on a “pilgrimage” to one of the western towns of our tropical island. It was about a two-hour drive and took eight school buses to transport  about four hundred people (students and teaching staff).

How can each teacher use this experience in the classroom? A number of ways occurs to me:

1. Religious studies: Documenting the events centering on the spiritual aspect of the trip. This one is the main work to be submitted by the students because the religious studies department organized the trip.

2. Math: Calculating the  distance traveled and the ETA, taking into consideration the variables of traffic conditions, weather, rest stops and other.

3. English: Describing the scenery on the way to and from the destination.  The use of figurative language could be the main focus.

4. Science: Classifying the different types of vegetation or animals observed in the area. How do they differ from the area where most of the students reside?

5. Health: Reporting on the dietary needs of people with certain health conditions. Persons with erratic sugar levels come to mind when taking such a trip.

6. History and culture: Summarizing the architecture, people, and works of art found. The students visited a church built in 1606 which was later converted to a museum of religious artifacts. This would be an excellent topic for research!

The possibilities are endless when integrating disciplines.  I’ve just named a few.

I think my next assignment for my current English course will be a blog post comment related to the trip. The topic under discussion in class is on heroes and their responsibilities. My blog post would be: Who were the heroes of that period and how did they respond to the events of the times?

It’s interesting to note the variety of ways a field trip can enrich the learning experience for everyone! ~~~LMM

Historic Residence

Historic residence in San Germán, PR