Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bones of Contention

We all know the old adage “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” From now until the end of time, there will always be issues that are likely to cause disagreements between adults and kids. Proper nutrition, curfews, and studying are just a few examples of topics most likely to act as proverbial burrs under kids’ saddles. Here are some resources that can help students tackle those subjects that they are sometimes less-than enthusiastic about.

Granny Prix
Subjects: Addition
Grade: K- 6

On some days, my 7 year-old would prefer to poke her eye out with a hot stick rather than practice her math facts. On those days, I set her up with a math game such as Granny Prix. This hilarious online game features jaunty music and four grannies racing down a hallway in tricked-out wheelchairs. Granny Prix is a free product produced by Exuberant Games, a company founded by multimedia programmer and illustrator Natasha Oliver.

What’s not to like about Granny Prix? The game allows students to practice/review addition math facts 1-12 by looking at an equation, and then selecting the correct answer from five possible choices. The faster the student answers, the faster his/her granny goes. At game’s end, any missed equations are displayed in a “Problems You Missed” section, and the student’s overall time to answer all the questions is given. Students can customize their grannies (rainbow Mohawk, anyone?) and their wheelchairs for added fun. What’s that you say? Your Nana can beat my Nana? BRING IT ON! The game is also available for subtraction facts 1-12 as well.

Eat Five a Day
Subjects: Nutrition
Grade: K-2

I was standing behind a family in the grocery store line the other day, and overheard this conversation between two boys:

Boy 1: I hate lima beans
Boy 2: Why does she get them? Everyone HATES them.
Boy 1: They make me gag.
Boy 2: Yeah, they’re diabolical.
Boy 1: They’re green. Anything green is gross.
Boy 2: Food shouldn’t be green.

Sound familiar? Can you recall the last time your students didn’t groan when the daily vegetable from that day’s lunch menu was read aloud? This lesson discusses the importance of eating at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day. The lesson is designed for students with moderate disabilities.

Teaching the food pyramid and the role of fruits and vegetables can be uninspiring, for both teachers and students. This lesson livens things up by including a field trip to a local grocery store to purchase fruit and vegetables that students select. Students get to sample more uncommon items (kiwi, perhaps, or mangoes), and create a newsletter with pictures about what they have learned. This lesson is produced by ALEX, the Alabama Learning Exchange and is aligned to Alabama Content Standards.

Teen Curfew
Subjects: Civics
Grade: 10-12

While teachers don’t really have to worry about their students’ curfews, it’s an important topic to teens and therefore good fodder for discussion. The subject of curfews can be worked into many areas of the curriculum, especially in lessons where personal responsibility or legal issues are emphasized. In this activity, students consider a proposed teen curfew law in a mock city council session.

One of the things that I like about this activity is that it examines citizens’ roles in policy debate. Teens can be ambivalent about politics, but the mock city council format offers them the chance to advocate for and against a topic they know intimately. The activity is offered by the American Bar Association (ABA), the largest voluntary legal professional association in the world. The ABA offers lesson plans and activities for all ages that focus on how our laws and the legal system protect individuals’ freedoms.

Studying More Productively
Subjects: Study skills, Family life
Grade: 7-12

The transition from elementary or intermediate school to middle school can be rocky for many students. Along with changing classes and sometimes even buildings, homework loads also usually increase substantially. Many students experience difficulty managing the volume of homework, and need to learn how to study. This resource provides tips for students on how to study more productively.

I like that this handy guide is comprehensive, yet brief enough to retain students’ interest. Topics include studying, test preparation, note-taking, and tips on taking tests. It’s very readable, and the sections are broken into chunks so that students can refer to just the sections that pertain to them at that time. The guide was written by the New Jersey Education Association, which sponsors events, lobbies for public education and offers publications and educational materials.

~Joann's Picks~

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