Engage Students With Online Classroom Discussion Platform

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Collaborize Classroom. All opinions are 100% mine.

Collaborize Classroom: How would you like a free online learning platform for your students that is secure and safe?  Collaborize Classroom offers just that!  Teachers can extend classroom discussions in a private online community of students.  The online platform is safely structured to continue discussions, facilitate online learning groups, and allow students to share resources and engage in collaborative learning.

Watch a Collaborize Classroom Video to see how this happens:

This online collaborative learning provides deeper participation inside and outside the classroom as students are engaged in online discussions, activities, and assignments.  Students can share resources and engage in discussions that will result in a richer educational experience.

What’s great is that teachers can set up their Collaborize Classroom site in just minutes.  They just need an email address to utilize this free online learning platform that complements classroom discussions and encourages discussion, participation, and engagement.  Teachers can also create online lesson plans using free resources.  Here are some of the free resources available:

  • Do’s and Don’ts for Student Forums
  • Rethinking Your Role
  • Art of Asking Questions
  • 5 Activities with Collaborize Classroom

The platform is not meant to replace traditional instruction but helps to facilitate learning groups in a safe environment.  All of the sites are secure and have a password protected process.  The password is known only by teachers, students, and those who are invited to join the site.  All information and data is protected and safe!

Collaborize Classroom is free, allowing teachers to accomplish more than they could otherwise, and the free resources are a valuable addition to using this online learning tool.  The web-based technology provides endless possibilities for student learning.  In my opinion, this is a great way to encourage student engagement, especially those who are shy and don’t talk in class.  Most students are online at home anyway using social networking.  This platform fits right in with the way they communicate online socially.  And with the current economic crisis, the fact that this is free enables any teacher to use this platform.

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Dig the Dinosaurs

Many children and adults as well are fascinated with dinosaurs.  This is an exciting way for students to learn about them in a fun way!  Set up an interest center with dinosaur books and dinosaur figures.  Choose two or three dinosaur books to read before doing the “dig.”

DINOSAUR DIG ACTIVITY:

  • Materials needed:
  1. Cheap, tiny little dinosaurs from a dollar store, enough for each child to have three or four dinosaurs
  2. Plastic containers such as Cool Whip containers, one container per child
  3. Plaster of Paris mix to be used by an adult
  4. Tools such as small screwdrivers, small hammers, etc., for each child
  5. Optional:  Buy safari hats at a party supply store, one per child  (we can get them for 89 cents each)  Let each “paleontologist” wear a hat while excavating their “dinosaur dig.”
  6. One online site has safari hats for $9.99/dozen.

  • Make one “dinosaur dig” for each child beforehand:   Cut each dinosaur apart into several pieces, keeping the pieces for each dinosaur together.  Place three or four cut-apart dinosaurs in each plastic container and mix up the pieces, one container per child. Have an adult carefully mix up some Plaster of Paris according to directions and pour about an inch onto the dinosaur pieces in the plastic containers. After it hardens, take out of the container.  These “paleontological sites” are now ready for the student “paleontologists.”  While wearing their hats, let the students use their tools to chip away at the Plastic of Paris, slowly discovering pieces of their dinosaur.  As they discover the pieces, they can put them together like a puzzle until they have all the missing pieces.

DINOSAUR EXHIBIT  (Dallas Museum of Nature and Science)

CHILDREN’S BOOKS:

  • Danny and the Dinosaur (I Can Read Book Series: Level 1) by Syd Hoff.  Cute story about the friendship between a dinosaur and a boy.
  • Dinosaur Hunters by Kate McMullan.  (Scholastic Step Into Reading, Step 4)  Good for ages 7-10.
  • Dinosaurs by Roger Priddy.  Activity book with 50 stickers.
  • Dinosaurs by Tracy Christopher (Scholastic – A Smart Start Reader)  Good for ages 6-8.
  • Dinosaurs Before Dark (Majestic Tree House Series #1) by Mary Pope Osborne.  Kids find a magic tree that takes them back to an ancient time zone where they see live dinosaurs.  Good for ages 5-9.
  • Dinosaurs (DK Pockets Series) by DK Publishing & William Lindsay.  Highly comprehensive visual guide for ages 8+.
  • Dinosaurs (Encyclopedia Prehistorica Series) by Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart.  Great pop-up book.
  • Dinosaurs: Sticker Encyclopedia by DK Publishing.  Good for ages 5+.
  • Dinosaurs:  The Most Complete, Up-to-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages by Luis V. Rey.  Written by a paleontologist.  Covers 800+ species of Mesozoic dinosaurs.  Good for ages 12+.
  • How Do Dinosaurs Count to Ten by Jane Yolen & Mark Teague.   Great for ages 2-5.
  • How Do Dinosaurs Learn Their Colors by Jane Yolen & Mark Teague.  Great for ages 2-5.
  • The Very Dizzy Dinosaur by Jack Tickle.  A pop-up book good for teaching names of dinosaurs.

Science Project: Recycled Paper

“WHICH TYPE OF PAPER IS BEST FOR MAKING RECYCLED PAPER?”

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On the left side of the project board is the “Procedure” with drawings underneath illustrating the experiment. (Photos could have been used here.)  In the middle of the board is the title, “Purpose,” and “Hypothesis.” On the left side are the “Results” and “Conclusion.”

Project: How Type of Light Affects Evaporation Rate

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PROBLEM:

How does the type of light affect water’s evaporation rate?

HYPOTHESIS:

I think that  (place your own hypothesis here).

MATERIALS USED:

(Your materials might be a little different.  Use what you have.)

  • Eleven 9 ounce Solo cups
  • Water
  • Weight Scale
  • One Sharpie marker

EXPERIMENT:

  1. Fill five cups with an equal amount of water, labeling the cups A-E.
  2. Place cups in different places around the house.
  3. Wait four days and then mark the water level.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 using five different cups labeled A2-E2.  Put cups in the exact same places as the first five cups.   Place A2 cup where A had been, etc.
  5. After four more days, weigh each of the ten cups with the water in them, including a control cup with the original amount of water.
  6. Average the two trials for each cup (A & A2, etc.) and calculate the percentages to see how much water evaporated.

RESULTS:

(Fill in the blanks with the percentages you got from your calculations.)

  1. Cup A:  ____% evaporated
  2. Cup B:  ____% evaporated
  3. Cup C:  ____% evaporated
  4. Cup D:  ____% evaporated
  5. Cup E:  ____% evaporated

CONCLUSION:

My hypothesis was supported by my experiment:  (Place your own conclusion here.)

PROJECT BOARD:

Type out the Problem, Hypothesis, and Experiment, etc., and display on left side of board.  In the middle section, have the title of the project and photos or sketches of the cups of water and where they were placed.  Also, graphs can be made on the computer displaying the results of the experiment.  On the right side of the board, display the Results and your Conclusion.

School Project or Interest Center: Pearl Harbor & World War II

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(THIS COULD ALSO BE USED AS AN INTEREST CENTER.)

This is a very interesting project!  I imagine most people know someone who lived through WWII and have heard stories of what life was like during that  period in history.   What made this particular project interesting was that the student (actually my son) interviewed several people who lived during this time period.  He received first hand information about what life was like and how so many people pulled together for the good of our country, even though they had to ration items and do without some items.  Interviewing these people helped make this project come alive for him.  We knew someone whose best friend was killed at Pearl Harbor on the USS Arizona.  It was such a sad time in history for all those involved!

Another interesting factor was that we had actually been to Pearl Harbor, saw the short movie (which made it seem like we were really there and brought tears to my eyes), went through the museum, and bought memorabilia such as a copy of the newspaper which showed the headline “WAR!”

TIPS FOR THIS PROJECT:

  • Interview people who lived through WWII and get a first hand account of what it was like.
  • Get copies of pictures of people who served in the war to add to the project.
  • Read children’s books about Pearl Harbor.  See list below.

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CHILDREN’S BOOKS ON PEARL HARBOR:

  • Pearl Harbor: A Primary Source History by Jacqueline Laks Gorman. Good for ages 8-12.
  • The Attack on Pearl Harbor (Cornerstones of Freedom Series) by Tom McGowen.  Good for ages 9-11.
  • Attack on Pearl Harbor by Shelley Tanaka.  Good for ages 10+.
  • Air Raid – Pearl Harbor!:  The Story of December 7, 1941 by Theodore Taylor.  Good for ages 12 and up.
  • Boy at War: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Harry Mazer & Triston Elwell.  Good for ages 12 and up.
  • Pearl Harbor: Day of Infamy by Stephanie Fitzgerald.  Good for ages 12 and up.

Teaching Kids About the Universe

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This is a great “big book” (or “board book” as some may call them) that is made by Funfax.  It’s great for teaching different levels:

  • Young children – just talk about the basics
  • ESL students – pictures and visuals are great for teaching them
  • Gifted students – deeper material in the book can be used with them and higher level questions can be presented
  • Science lesson – pick and choose the material in the book you need for your lesson

I’ve had my book for a while, but they are still available through Amazon.

Teaching About Volcanoes

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Most kids are fascinated with volcanoes.  When teaching about them, it is important to let kids make a volcano, have good pictures of real volcanoes, and if possible, a video, since most students are not able to take a field trip to actually see one.  If you are fortunate to be on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, then you can hike up to the top of Diamond Head, an extinct volcano.  We did this, and it was quite impressive.  Or you can visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii, which we also did, and you might get to see an actual lava flow.  We didn’t get close enough to see a lava flow, but we did walk through the Thurston Lava Tube which was very interesting.

Here is a book we own that has many great pictures of volcanoes:


MAKE YOUR OWN VOLCANO:

  1. Use a large pan,  9 x 13.   Place an empty 16 ounce bottle in the middle of it with the top off.
  2. Using either papier mache, modeling clay, or salt play dough, make a mountain with vertical ridges around the bottle.  Do not cover the top of the bottle.  Paint brown and let dry.
  3. Mix 1 tablespoon liquid dishwashing soap and 1 tablespoon baking soda in a cup and carefully pour into the bottle in the middle of the mountain.  (If you’re brave, you can add a few drops of red or orange food coloring in with the soap and baking soda.)
  4. Place the pan with the mountain outside.  Add 1/4 cup white vinegar to the bottle and stand back.  Your volcano will erupt!
  • For ESL students, be sure and label everything.
  • For Gifted students, ask higher level questions.  There is a chemical reaction when the baking soda and vinegar are mixed.  It produces a carbon dioxide gas (a chemical reaction) which is the same gas that a real volcano produces.

VOLCANO KITS:

  • Kit:  Volcano Island – Discovery Extreme Light and Sound Rumbling Volcano  by  Poof Slinky
  • Our Amazing Volcanoes / Earth Science Kit by Poof Slinky

by Schylling

CHILDREN’S VIDEOS:

CHILDREN’S BOOKS:

  • Dk Readers:  Eruption–The Story of Volcanoes (Level 2) by Anita Ganeri
  • National Geographic Readers Volcanoes! by Anne Schreiber
  • The Magic School Bus Blows Its Top:  A Book About Volcanoes by Gail Herman and Bob Ostrom.  Good for PreK-1.  Not your typical Magic School Bus book.
  • Volcanoes by Jacques Durieux and Philippe Bourseiller.Spectacular photos!
  • Volcanoes (All Aboard Science Reader) by Nicholas Nirgiotis.  Go0d for K-2.  Pictures look like clay.
  • Volcanoes (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2) by Franklyn Mansfield Branley and Megan Lloyd.  Good for PreK-2 and older.
  • Volcanoes!  Mountains of Fire (Step-Into-Reading, Step 4) by Eric Arnold.  Good for 4th grade.



 

How to Teach Gifted Children in a Regular Classroom

When I taught Gifted and Talented students, they were in a regular classroom (first or second grade).  I had a mix of regular students, gifted and talented students, ESL students (sometimes students starting the year speaking no English), and children with learning disabilities or physical handicaps.  How is a teacher able to meet the needs of gifted students?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Stretch every lesson where possible with Higher Level Thinking Skills.
  • Teacher’s manuals will often have suggestions for gifted students.
  • Have the gifted students work on projects they can do by themselves.
  • Just because a student is a gifted student does not mean they are an independent worker or a self-motivator.   Pair these students up with a partner who is an independent worker.
  • Utilize resources.   I had one exceptionally bright first grader who would go to the library and do research on topics of his choosing with minimal supervision from the librarian.   He would either write about it or illustrate and make a poster about his research.
  • Encourage students to enter extra activities offered by your district such as Science Fair, History Fair, Invention Convention, Art Contests, etc.   One year, I had a gifted second grader (an ESL student) who excelled in art and entered a district contest.  He won an award!
  • Have students work on a class newspaper that they publish once a week or once a month.
  • A lot of times, you can see where certain students excel in one or more of the Seven Areas of Giftedness.   Develop centers or projects for these areas.

Bloom’s Taxomony – Higher Level Thinking Skills

These six levels start with the simplest and progress to the most complex level of higher level thinking.  As teachers, we need to make sure we cover all six areas.

1.  KNOWLEDGE

  • Recalling of information such as places, dates, and events (who, what, when, where, how)
  • Knowledge of subject matter, main ideas, basic concepts and principles
  • Memorizing

2.  COMPREHENSION

  • Understanding meaning
  • Applying knowledge in a different context
  • Simple comparing and contrasting
  • Making inferences
  • Predicting outcomes
  • Describing in one’s own words
  • Making interpretations
  • Making summarizations

3.  APPLICATION

  • Problem solving
  • Applying what has been learned through exhibits, demonstrations, graphs, charts, etc.
  • Using information, concepts, and methods in different situations
  • Using facts to answer questions such as “How is ___ related to ___?”

4.  ANALYSIS

  • Dividing a whole into its component parts
  • Outlining and diagramming
  • Identifying literary elements and breaking the story down into different parts
  • Distinguishing between inferences and actual facts
  • Analyzing components of an event in history
  • Identifying motives and hidden meanings
  • Separating the components of the scientific process
  • Seeing patterns
  • Teacher asks questions such as “What is the order of steps in ___?”  or “What are the functions of ___?”  or “How does ___ compare/contrast with —?”

5.  SYNTHESIS

  • Using already existing concepts to create new concepts or ideas
  • Creating and designing something new and original.  This could be a short story, poem, music, plan for an experiment, new way of classifying ideas, etc.
  • Combining information from several sources
  • Finding solutions
  • Teacher asks questions such as “How would you create a new ___?”  or “What ideas can you add?”

6.  EVALUATION

  • Comparing ideas
  • Developing opinions and judgments
  • Judging the value of something for a given purpose, based on definite criteria
  • Resolving differences of opinion
  • Making value decisions about issues
  • Teacher asks questions such as “Do you agree?”  or “What do you think is most important?”

School Project: Hanging Gardens of Babylon

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MATERIALS NEEDED:

  • Large piece of heavy cardboard or plastic foam for the base
  • Assortment of cardboard boxes to form the levels of the garden
  • Heavy-duty tape to tape the boxes together
  • Modeling clay – white
  • Acrylic paint – blue & green
  • Piece of plastic greenery that has many small removable pieces on it
  • Coat hanger
  • Wire cutter to cut the coat hanger

PROCEDURE:

  • Make the basic shape of the varying levels with the assorment of boxes that you have.
  • Tape them together securely with heavy-duty tape
  • Tape the boxes securely to the base
  • Cover the entire area of the boxes with white modeling clay
  • Remove many small pieces of greenery from the large piece.  Shorten if necessary.  Place in rows in the modeling clay while the clay is still soft, securing with a small mound of clay at the base of each piece of greenery (tree).
  • Paint the green grass in rows.
  • Paint the blue waterfall, stream, and pond of water.
  • Cut the coat hanger to make the irrigation line to take water to the top level.  Bend the coat hanger two inches from the end at a 90 angle to make the coat hanger not touch the ground.  Do this on both ends of the coat hanger.  Secure both ends of the coat hanger to the project with a mound of modeling clay.
  • Touch up with paint where necessary.

Examples of Word Webs

Word webs are great to use with kids.  I have used them in the regular classroom, with ESL students, and with Gifted & Talented students.  Here are some examples of different word webs that you can print.  Just click on the highlighted words:

Science Kits

Science kits are a wonderful way to let students experience hands-on science activities and experiments.  There are many from which to choose.

We had several science kits when our children were growing up that included the following:

  • Smithsonian Mega Science Lab
  • Bill Nye’s Learn About Magnet Power Kit
  • Junior Electricity Lab
  • Microscope Set

These are examples of great science materials to help science come alive for students and make learning fun!

Teach Math Concepts Through Educational Video Games

Big Brain Acadamy and Brain Age are two of the best video games out there that can teach or strengthen several cognitive skills including math concepts.   Here are some of the math skills children (and adults) can learn through these games:

  • Basic computation
  • Estimation
  • Value of coins
  • Spatial relations
  • Patterns

These games cover many different cognitive areas.  If you are not familiar with them, I highly recommend them.   They are good brain stretchers!  We own both games, and they are great for young and old alike.

Seven Areas of Giftedness

Howard Gardner’s Theory of the Seven Areas of Giftedness are as listed below:

  1. Bodily-Kinesthetic Giftedness has to do with physical intelligence which includes acting, sports, dance, or some type of physical activity.
  2. Interpersonal Giftedness has to do with sensitivity or empathy when interacting with people.  It also can involve discussing ideas.
  3. Verbal-Linguistic Giftedness has to do with language, both spoken and written.   It involves learning foreign languages easily.
  4. Logical-Mathematical Giftedness has to do with performing complex calculations, understanding abstract patterns, logic, reasoning, and scientific thinking.
  5. Intrapersonal Giftedness has to do with a high degree of self-awareness and self-reflection.
  6. Spatial Giftedness has to do with great sense of direction and visual memory, spatial reasoning, and visualizing of things.
  7. Musical Giftedness has to do with a high level of musical ability and rhythm plus a sensitivity to sounds and tones.

According to The Marland Report, there are Six Areas of Giftedness:

  1. General Intellectual Ability has to do with high scores on IQ tests.
  2. Specific Academic Aptitude has to do with scoring at the 97th percentile or higher in at least one subject.
  3. Creative/Productive Thinking has to do with coming up with creative and new ideas.
  4. Leadership Abilities has to do with strong social skills.
  5. Visual/Performing Arts has to do with music, art, drama, etc.
  6. Psychomotor Abilities has to do with exceptional mechanical, spacial, and physical skills.