Friday, October 14, 2016

Learning to Communicate (Days 40-41)

You may notice that today is labeled as a two-day post, even though neither 40 nor 41 happens to be a multiple of three. The problem is that Day 42, the next multiple of three, is October 18th -- and the 18th is my monthly posting day for the "Day in the Life" project.

I had a choice -- I could post as originally scheduled on Day 41, a Monday (so all I'd write about is how the eighth graders are continuing to make a video with the coding teacher) and skip Tuesday, or I could write on the correct day for "Day in the Life" and skip Monday. So now that I put it this way, it's a no-brainer.

Looking ahead to the rest of the year, none of the 18th days of the any month from now until summer is a multiple of three, so this problem won't happen again. But for this month, I will skip Monday and post thrice in a row, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, to accommodate "Day in the Life."

There are several things I want to discuss in this post. First, yesterday marked the arrival of Bruin Corps to my classroom. The name "Bruin Corps" refers to UCLA -- the program consists of students who are paid to work at our school and tutor students who are failing.

My Bruin Corps tutor is a junior biology major who'll be in my room on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I assigned him a group of three students in each grade who are struggling in the class. Notice that this was yesterday, right before the test. As it turned out, his extra help produced mixed results -- some of the sixth and seventh graders he tutored ended up passing the test, but not the eighth graders. Then again, the laws of exponents are sometimes difficult for students seeing them for the first time.

Since my eighth graders had just finished a math test, I decided to use the extra intervention time on Thursday when they'd normally use the computers for science instead, especially now that I no longer have that extra hour with them on Wednesdays. And as their last science lesson was on earth, moon, and sun, I decided to give them another lesson on "Earth's Place in the Universe." Students learned about the solar system and the force which holds it together -- gravity.

But recall that my Bruin Corps tutor is a bio major. I feel that I should find a way to take advantage of his expertise, especially since I'm weaker in life science than in physical science. Even though the eighth grade NGSS test ought to be mostly physical science, our online curriculum shows that there could be some life science topics on the test. including the Growth, Development, and Reproduction of Organisms. The Bruin Corps schedules haven't stabilized yet, but if my tutor is present on a Thursday during computer time, I will definitely use that time for a life science lesson.

By the way, I find it exciting to have Bruin Corps in the classroom because I myself am an alumnus of UCLA -- I earned by bachelors degree in math in 2002 and my masters degree in 2003. In honor of Bruin Corps, my song for today can be sung to the tune of the UCLA fight song:


To find the mighty unit rate,
All you do is divide.
The answer, two dots, and then a one,
Right on the other side.
And if you have a fraction,
There's no need to hate.
Flip the second and then you'll find,
The mighty unit rate!
U! N! I! T!
U-N-I-T! Rate! Rate! Rate!

Please don't be sad,
To multiply powers, just add.
And it is a fact,
To divide powers, just subtract.
Zero powers are fun,
'Cause the answer's always one.
Don't be negative, don't frown,
To get rid of them, move down.
U! N! I! T!
U-N-I-T! Rate! Rate! Rate!

Notice that this song fits the Grades 6-7 lesson much better than eighth grade -- the lyrics to the song which inspired this is "U-C-L-A! Fight! Fight Fight!" I shoehorned the words from the previous song just so that the eighth graders won't feel left out -- unfortunately nothing from the exponent lesson seems to fit as well as "unit rate" does.

Now let's get to today's main lesson. Learning Module 4 of the Illinois State text is called "Learning to Communicate." It is the last module of Unit 0, "Tools for Learning" -- the unit that is common to all three grade-level STEM texts. In this activity, students are to draw various three-dimensional figures -- a cube, pyramid, cylinder, and cone -- using both "oblique" and "isometric" graph paper.

In many ways, this is a continuation of the lesson I gave back on the third day of school. Recall that this lesson, though influenced by MTBoS blogger Fawn Nguyen, was originally inspired by Lesson 1-5 of the U of Chicago Geometry text, "Drawing in Perspective." As the U of Chicago points out, the oblique view of a cube isn't actually in perspective. True perspective (that is, with a vanishing point) is awkward with any sort of graph paper and indeed doesn't appear in this module.

I found the oblique graph paper easily -- I just Googled "oblique graph paper" and the following link was the first result:

Even with the graph paper, some of the students have trouble drawing a cube. But I'll give the details in my next post, as I want to save something for "Day in the Life" (especially since the activity is not yet complete, and the students will continue this on Tuesday after their day of coding).

Speaking of "Day in the Life," the blogger with a monthly posting date of the 14th is Tina Cardone -- the leader of the project herself. But Cardone hasn't made her October 14th post yet -- and she's fallen behind in posting links to the blog posts submitted by the other participants. (Of course, we all know how busy we teachers can be!)

My next post will be on Tuesday, and that will be my official monthly post for "Day in the Life."

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