Friday, January 13, 2017

Adventures in lesson design

A new year means time to try new things. One of the things I love about working in education is that we actually have two different "new years" to celebrate. We start with the newness of a new school year starting in August. We begin with new students and sometimes new classes to teach. Let the adventures begin! Then, we get the new calendar year starting in January. Returning to school following a break of two weeks or so, gives educators another chance at starting something new and trying new things. I enjoy using the breaks to find renewal and fresh inspiration.

A real world math lesson with "G Suite"
Returning to school following the two week break, I wanted to bring in something to really hook my math students in particular. It makes the students work and helps them learn, while easing them back into the routine and offering them some fun in their learning. I developed a project for the Pre-Algebra class to help them work on some real-life skills, develop some skills using Google Apps, and work on their math skills. I presented them with a task: "you are part of a team designing a marketing plan for a business."

The students got into groups of four and each group first had to come up with a business name and a product or service. They then had to develop a marketing plan with a budget of $25,000. The marketing plan needed to include one print advertisement which they would design in Google Drawings. The marketing budget was to be written and organized in Google Sheets. They will present their marketing plans in class next week showing their budgets, explaining how they reached the numbers they did, and justifying their marketing decisions. After each group presents, students will complete a Google Form and I will review the responses. Each student will independently complete a form, rank the marketing budget presentations, explain what they would do differently in their own plans, and share with me why they felt they had a solid marketing plan that would be successful within the $25,000 spending limit.

Cross-curricular lesson designing for "Hidden Figures"
As I started discussing "Hidden Figures" with other educators, I knew it was something that I wanted to see with my students and I knew there would be a great deal of educational value to it. I teach eighth grade history and language arts, as well as a pre-algebra to a group of primarily seventh graders. Obviously, we can't just go to a movie for the sake of going to a movie. It becomes a foundation for some lessons. The wonderful thing about this particular film is the ability to reach across curricula. Both seventh and eighth grade students will gain from seeing the movie, but it is how I use it as a "launching point" (pun intended) for learning that will make a significant difference.

A series of lessons will reach across Language Arts and History. Students will have the opportunity to read a biography on an influential person from the 1960s (of their choosing). They will also write an essay on how STEAM has changed the world over the course of the last 50 years and how they see STEAM changing the world over the course of the next 50 years. Before we see the film, we will do some reading of biographical literary criticism and will write a biographical narrative. The film will help tie our biographical lessons together.

In the meantime, math students will apply their math skills to rocket launching. First, I will model rocket launches with air and/or water rockets and students will make observations and analyze data. Then, they will work to design and create their own rockets. We will launch the rockets and collect data that they will then discuss and analyze. They will apply their math skills both in designing the rockets and in their data collection and analysis.

I sought out various resources particularly for the rocket lesson and project. What I found especially wonderful was the amount of resources NASA has available for educators and students. Additionally, there are fantastic biographical pieces on the people featured in "Hidden Figures," including John Glenn and Katherine Johnson.

The goal: students will have multiple educational experiences that will teach them language arts, history, and math. It will, of course, also incorporate science. Once upon a time, I taught eighth grade science. It provided such a rewarding experience for me and the students. Teaching middle school when students change classes makes things a little trickier when planning cross-curricula lessons, however, it can and should be done. Just as I incorporated ELA into my science lessons, I can incorporate science into my ELA and history lessons. Later this year, I will rework my science-based Sci-Fi unit into a language arts unit. One more reason to love STEAM! That "A" that transforms STEM to STEAM can make some serious magic happen.

I once had a student declare that "learning isn't supposed to be fun" and it baffled me. In fact, it admittedly saddened me to some degree. My experiences both as a student and as an educator tell a different story and I hope that lessons like these will show students that having EduAwesome Adventures help them learn more and differently.

How are you using "Hidden Figures" to support learning with your students?
What new lessons have you tried to start 2017?
Share your EduAwesome Adventures here or on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook with the hashtags #EduAwesome #Adventure

2017 is off to a great start for us and I hope it is for you too! This weekend includes snow plans and an MLK Day mini-hike. Stay tuned for more on those and for a report on the outcomes of the lessons highlighted here.

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