Thursday, December 1, 2016

Science: Genetic Material, Mutations, and DNA (Day 67)

Yesterday was our weekly Wednesday scheduling adventure. This time, I had the sixth graders for two hours, followed by eighth grade for one hour. After nutrition there was a short assembly and then the seventh graders came in, but mainly for music. (They are preparing for a Christmas concert -- they'll be singing Feliz Navidad and O Christmas Tree.) Finally, I kept the seventh graders in for a short Advisory period, when I gave them only a Warm-Up and an Exit Pass.

After school there was a Common Planning meeting. One of the topics was a follow-up to the Responsive Classroom training from two weeks ago (see the November 18th post). We were to write a document about how we'll implement the Responsive Classroom. The title of this document is:

A Day in the Life

Gee, don't those words sound familiar? So this should have been a cinch for me, since I already have so many "Day in the Life" posts on the blog for Tina Cardone's project. I didn't want to submit my most recent "Day in the Life" post (November 17th, Parent Conferences) since it was about a shortened day, and I wanted to include a day with a music break (or "Brain Break," which is one of the Responsive Classroom Teaching Practice). So I submitted my October 18th post.

It was rejected. The problem was that we were supposed to write about a "Day in the Life" of one of my students, not the teacher. So I'll have to resubmit it tonight (after writing this blog post). Most likely, I'll just take the October 18th post and edit it so that the first person pronouns "I" and "me" refer to one of the students, likely an eighth grader (as it's already written to emphasize eighth grade).

Besides the "Brain Break," some of the teaching practices I used that day include:

Morning Meeting. I report to the playground, where many students are beginning to arrive. The students are told to gather in a circle for the flag salute.

Interactive Learning Structures. That day was the second day of the project we've been working on. It is called "Learning to Communicate," and it is the fourth project of the TPS text.

But there are some teaching practices that I failed to implement:

Interactive Modeling. I could have used Interactive Modeling when trying to get the students to draw the cubes correctly.

Redirecting Language. Also, I could have said some of the Teacher Language when the students were passing notes, specifically Redirecting Language.

Responsive Advisory Meeting. The last practice, Responsive Advisory Meeting, is recommended as a "daily routine," but this may be awkward in middle school. Nonetheless, we have a weekly Advisory period on Wednesdays, and thus might have been a good time to address the issue with passing notes.

Meanwhile, today my Bruin Corps member is present. This means that I'm having him assist me with a special science lesson. As I mentioned in my last post, we continue the lesson on genetic material, mutations, and DNA, and I have my students answer questions about it on the computer.

As it turns out, today is the last day my Bruin Corps will be present for now. UCLA is on the quarter system, and today is the tenth week of the quarter. That makes next week finals week, and so he will be too busy taking tests to come. Then comes UCLA's winter break. Ordinarily winter break is three weeks long, but once in a while it's four weeks, including this year. (The reason for this extra week is that it's basically a "Leap Week" -- see my February 29th post for more information.)

My song for today comes from the former math teacher of a sixth grader who transferred in to class over a month ago. The teacher taught her this song to remember some key stats terms:

(to the tune of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat")

Mode, mode, mode, the most!
Average is the mean!
Median, median, median, median,
Numbers in between.

It's too bad that my seventh graders aren't learning about integers now. This is because there's another version of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" out there on adding and subtracting integers.

In fact, for seventh grade I could have given a Square One TV song, "Draw a Map," since the students are learning about map scales. But I'd already posted the song for my new sixth grader on the wall.

Meanwhile, speaking of new students, I learn a little more about my new eighth grader today. As it turns out, she was enrolled in Algebra I at her old school, but of course here we teach only the Common Core 8 class. Back in September, I wrote about the top student in my class, a girl to whom I wanted to teach some Algebra I on the side and then give her a recommendation letter at the end of the year so that she can take Geometry as a freshman. That girl moved away, but now I have another student for whom I can do the same. After all, she was in Algebra I and seems to know her stuff, so I don't want to force her to take Algebra I again next year.

She also tells me that at her old school, she was learning about physical science -- which matches the old pre-NGSS California Science Standards. She mentions a project similar to one I find on the Sarah Carter website:

except that these molecule models weren't made of pipe cleaners, but something edible. My student made hers out of cake!

Speaking of links, let's look at the "Day in the Life" poster whose monthly date is the first. This is Elizabeth Statmore:

My fellow California teacher does have a post dated December 1st, but this post doesn't seem to follow the "Day in the Life" format. (Indeed, I'm wondering whether she's still a participant.)

Statmore writes:

December is when I am truly grateful for strong routines. They mean I can split the class up and still count on everything moving forward. I am running behind in my pacing, so I needed to set up a mass SBG reassessment opportunity for slope skills yesterday. I set up all the reassessors along the window side of the classroom and all of the non-reassessors on the hallway side of the room. The non-reassessors worked on linear systems skills and problem-based learning while the reassessors worked on demonstrating mastery of slope skills.

In theory, my own routines ought to be strong enough to pull something off in my class -- I even have extra help, such as my Bruin Corps and support staff members, who can take certain groups of students and work with them.

I once tried to divide my sixth grade class during the long division unit. But unfortunately, it didn't turn out well at all. First I tried to use a Warm-Up for the reassessment, but then a few students chose not to do the Warm-Up, even though they already knew how to divide (and so they ended up with the reassessors for no reason). Then I tried to work with the reassessors, but these students were so turned off by division that they found all sorts of excuses not to work. Meanwhile, my Bruin Corps member worked with the non-reassessors, who breezed by the work quickly and went off-task.

If I had done it right, this would have been a perfect example of Interactive Modeling. In other words. Statmore has this Responsive Learning down cold -- even though she's probably never heard of it, she's much better than I am!

Someday I probably will try this reassessment thing again, but implemented much better.

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