Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Flat Stanley Throughout Colorado with Incoming 4th Graders

     Schools have many traditions, and one of my favorites is the documentation of Flat Stanley's travels. Recently, I was on Twitter and noticed a series of posts for #preserveCOstanley. It got me thinking...

Students exiting 3rd grade, preparing to start 4th grade know that the coming year will be significantly focused on state studies. I asked myself, "How might we use social media to help students SEE the sites, famous landmarks, monuments, government buildings, and physical geography of the state?"
Flat Stanley at Bent's Fort      

What if every student colored a Flat Stanley on the last day of 3rd grade and then took pictures with Flat Stanley during summer travels in the state? Simply use your state's abbreviation and Stanley as a hashtag, and post the pictures to Twitter.

Colorado - #COStanley
New Mexico - #NMStanley
California - #CAStanley

You get the picture! Go here for any Flat Stanley materials you might want.

Since all state studies have some similar components to student learning, here are some suggested places to take pictures.

  1. Physical Geography - Take a picture of Flat Stanley with major aspects of physical geography in the background.  In Colorado, we have beautiful locations throughout the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains, and the plateaus. Sometimes it's difficult for students to understand physical regions and physical geography unless they have a picture.
  2. Significant People, Cultures, and Events - Take a picture of Flat Stanley somewhere that might be connected to significant people, cultures, or events. In Colorado, why not take a picture at Mesa Verde to help others see where early Native Cultures lived. As you tour a Gold Mine, take a picture of Flat Stanley with a minecart. When you walk through Denver, take a picture near monuments and statues that were created to honor the state's past. Someone will have relatives in Eastern Colorado...take a picture so students can know what life is like on a ranch. 
  3. Government Buildings and People - If you visit the state capital or the Denver Mint, take a picture! If you happen to get inside and see people debating issues within the state legislature, capture the moment. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Interdependence in the Economic Community

Understanding interdependence is a foundational idea to economics. As adults, we are somewhat comfortable talking about interdependence, but we might find it difficult to show.  

As part of third grade unit in our school district, students engage in learning where they explore how members of the economic community are interdependent.  Through embracing a creative approach based on the guided release of responsibility, one teacher managed to create an experience where students were able to understand and then demonstrate a rich understanding of interdependence.

"In the end, I want students to show their understanding of interdependence using a map. The map will include arrows and written ideas to show how different members of the economic community might need another."  To make this assessment successful, the teacher asked, "How will I provide experiences that will enable students to do this type of assessment?"

First, students learned who and what was in the economic community (producers/consumers, goods/services, government/services provided through taxes).  Once this foundation was established, the teacher scaffolded learning to talk about how members of the economic community depend on each other. "We spent a few days talking about businesses depending on each other... & then added in the government... & then households."  These conversations were perfect scaffolds to help students move their thinking towards interdependence

Next, the teacher demonstrated how they might drew a map of the community. It was a perfect visual representation, something that we know kids need as part of their learning.  She described how she was including businesses that offered goods and services, things that would be paid for by taxes, and households.  When her community was drawn, it was time to model how she would show her thinking on the map. Modeling the thinking was massive because it demonstrated to students that there was not one way to do the assessment.  Modeling the thinking empowered students to demonstrate the thinking on their own.  The teacher drew arrows between different items on the map and wrote phrases to describe how money was moving throughout the community.  

Once this modeling was complete, "I then had kids draw maps of an economic community (I gave them a few items which had to be on their maps) and they drew their community.  Then, they added arrows to show money going back & forth." When she saw the work of her students, the teacher was THRILLED! "Pretty cool! Today as a final assessment I gave them the two big essential questions - How are households, businesses & government connected? Why do they need each other?  The kids used their maps to help describe and answer these questions."  In the end, she said, "Hopefully maps will help others think about different ways for kids to demonstrate their thinking!"  

Take a gander at the student assessments...collaboration, creativity and critical-thinking at its best!