Saturday, April 24, 2010

Impementing cancer lessons in your classroom

The LIVESTRONG resources in Joann’s picks this week shed light on a very important topic in many of our lives and the lives of our students. A cancer diagnosis can bring questions that you, the educator, may be unprepared to answer. The LIVESTRONG resources give you tools to tackle the subject with confidence. The resources are very comprehensive, including student and teacher reproducible materials, extension activities, and videos. They even have a booklet that goes along with an ARTHUR PBS Go episode called “The Great MacGrady” to introduce the topic to younger students. The problem remains that I discussed in the last post, though. How do we integrate this into our standards-based teaching? How will this resource fit in with everything else our students need to be learning this year?

“Getting Sick,” the resource Joann highlighted for grades K-2, is aligned to national McRel Health and Language Arts standards. This alignment is useful for looking at the resource and quickly determining where it will fit in your classroom. Since we are required to meet the particular state standards for the state where we teach, we might need more information. It would be nearly impossible for resources like these ones from LIVESTRONG to include alignments for state standards in all of the states. This is where the standards suggestion tool pilot on The Gateway can come in very handy. I discussed how to use the tool in the last post, so please check there if you need help figuring out how to use it.

“Getting Sick” is aligned to the following national McRel Health standards: 1) knows environmental and external factors that affect individual and community health. 2) knows essential concepts about the prevention and control of disease. Instead of searching through a copy of my state standards to figure out where this resource would fall in my state, I decided to try out the new standards suggestion tool. Let’s say I am a 2nd grade teacher in Mississippi. The standard suggestion tools points me to a life science standard about the characteristics, structures, life cycles, and environments of organisms. This is pretty close match, and it will help me figure out where in my state standards I can find the skills required for this activity. I used the tool for the “Runaway Cells” activity also. The suggested 6th grade Mississippi standards for this resource involve understanding cells and the effects of disease. Perfect! If the tool works for you, we want to hear about it. If it doesn’t seem to help you, we want to know that, too! Please take the short survey and let us know what you think.

The Gateway to 21st Century skills is a huge portal of resources like the ones we are highlighting this week from the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Not only do many of these resources include everything you need to quickly and successfully implement them into your class, they also include extras like extension activities, web resources, and alignment to national standards like McRel. We hope that including a tool like the standards suggestion tool will make this portal even more useful to you. Join in our discussions on Facebook and Twitter to get new resource suggestions every day and to learn more about The Gateway and the importance of 21st century skills for our students.

~Peggy's Corner 4/25/2010~

The Elephant in the Classroom

Over the past several years, my 12 year-old has had to deal with a teacher battling breast cancer (successfully), another teacher whose young husband ultimately lost his battle with cancer during the school year, a friend whose father is dying, and a teammate who is currently in remission. As you can imagine, it’s brought on a lot of discussion in our house. What’s been missing, though, is a discussion of it in the classroom. It’s not been uncommon to hear the kids talk about cancer during a carpool session – “What exactly is cancer? What does it do to your body?” It’s a topic that lurks in the shadows, and one that many adults don’t want to discuss.

Some teachers may feel that topics such as cancer are best discussed at home. Others, however, may want to tackle the issue head on. This week’s featured resources are all from LIVESTRONG, the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Armstrong is the 7-time Tour de France winner and cancer survivor who’s made it his mission to focus international attention on obliterating cancer. Each lesson includes teacher Q&A sheets, extension activities/worksheets, and a supporting video. One of the things that I like about these resources is that they present the information in a straightforward, matter-of-fact manner that is always positive. Lessons are aligned to McREL standards.

We give power to things we fear. Educating our students about topics such as cancer gives them a vocabulary with which to articulate questions, and equips them with information that will ultimately help them to make life choices. Isn’t that what education is all about?

Getting Sick
Subjects: Health
Grade: K-2
In this lesson, students discuss why some people get sick, and the difference between illnesses you can, and cannot, catch from other people. Students also learn that cancer is not contagious, and discuss ways to reduce their risk for both contagious illnesses as well as cancer.

Subjects: Health
Grade: 3-4
Students in this lesson learn about how cancer is treated, and how cancer treatments can affect a person. They learn about the three most common types of treatment – chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery – and how different types of cancer may need different types of treatment. Students also view a video about how students and their families handled their own cancer diagnoses.

Runaway Cells
Subjects: Health
Grade: 3-12
This extension activity teaches students about cell division, and demonstrates in a hands-on exercise how, through cell division, cancer cells can run rampant in the body. The importance of regular annual physical checkups is stressed, as one way to maintain a healthy body.

~Joann's Picks - 4/24/2010~

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Having Fun with Water Conservation, a.k.a. Using the Standards Suggestion Tool on The Gateway!

Do you want to do a water conservation activity in your class for Earth Day, but you are scrambling to make sure you cover all the mandated standards by the end of the school year? With standardized testing taking place in many of our schools right now, it’s the perfect time to introduce activities that break the monotony, especially if those activities are easily aligned to our state standards. Try our new tool on The Gateway this week so you can do both. When you find a resource you want to use in your class, you can get state standard suggestions for this resource using CNLP's Content Assignment Tool (CAT) and JES & Co.'s Achievement Standards Network (ASN). This tool will suggest which of your state standards are aligned to the resource you plan on using in your class.

To illustrate this tool, let’s say I am an eighth grade science teacher in Arizona. I search “water conservation” on The Gateway to find resources I think will work well in my class. I find one I really like, called “Down the Drain,” a collaborative internet project about water usage. It is an inquiry-based activity that allows students to compare their own weekly household water usage to the water usage of students from many different areas. I think the activity sounds wonderful and I hope it will be very effective with my students. I need to figure out how it works into my standards-based teaching, though.

In my search results list on The Gateway, I simply click the “View, Share, Comment” button next to the resource I am interested in to get to the full record. Follow this link to see the full record view of “Down the Drain” and try out the tool for yourself. Once you are viewing the full record of the resource, scroll to the bottom to find the standard suggestion tool. Choose your Jurisdiction, Subject, and Grades to find the standards you will be covering with your chosen resource. It’s that easy!

Two inquiry process standards match for my grade band in Arizona. I need to include more inquiry-based lessons in my class, and this one looks like a great fit for my science classroom. To truly see the scope of how this tool can work for us as teachers, I used the tool with this particular lesson to search a huge variety of subjects and states. This resource can be aligned with many different subjects in many different states. It covers a wide range of standards from reading comprehension in New Hampshire to data analysis in Florida. How do you think it can work for you?

I found many more resources on The Gateway that relate to the theme of water conservation. These are in addition to the resources in Joann’s Picks this week. Check them out to see if one will work for you. Use the suggest standards tool to discover how your chosen resources will work with your standards-based teaching. Please take the short survey at the end to let Gateway administrators know how well it works for you.

The following is a small sample of water conservation resources I found in my search. If you are looking for some Earth Day resources, start with this list and use the tool to see which of your state standards you can cover while you teach your students some important information about the planet.

Primary students will have fun with this Happy Earth Day coloring book from the EPA. It’s a fun way for teachers to introduce the idea of environmental stewardship to their young students. Teachers who are looking for more inquiry-based project learning in their classrooms might really like Flushing Away our Future from project S.W.I.S.H. (Student Water Investigators Showing How). It allows students to investigate real-life issues on their own. Sometimes, we might not comprehend how much water we use in everyday activities. Bucket Brigade gives students a hand’s on way to visualize this use, and I’m Warm Now helps them understand the amount of fresh water that is wasted while we wait for the shower to get warm.

Happy Earth Day. Let’s teach our students to conserve water this week. Have fun with the Standards Suggestion tool on The Gateway, and please let us know how it works for you!

Earth Day: Smart(er) Water

April 22 marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, a day conceived to raise awareness of the Earth’s environment and our ecological health. Much progress has been made during this time: creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act are just a few examples of how the public and government have worked together to institute environmental change. Much work, however, still needs to be done. According to the World Health Organization, over 80% of disease in the developing world is due to water-related illnesses. Currently, about 20% of the world’s population (roughly 1.1 billion people) lack access to safe drinking water. To the overwhelming majority of Americans and others in developed nations, access to clean water is as simple as turning on the tap or reaching for bottled water. It’s important that students know how drinking water is produced, and just how vital clean water is to all living things.

In honor of Earth Day, this week’s picks focus on drinking water, and the energy needed to produce it. All of this week’s resources come from the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), which was chartered by Congress in 1990 to advance environmental knowledge and action. For its 2010 Environmental Education Week program, NEEF has created lesson plans for middle and high school students on the Water-Energy connection. In addition to lesson plans, NEEF also offers a plethora of articles, reports, videos, statistics, and other resources related to the environment.

Understanding the Energy Demand of Bottled Water
Subjects: English/Language Arts, Ecology
Grade: 5-8
Bottled water is so convenient and, well, so easy. Yet the production of bottled water actually uses vast amounts of energy compared to the production of tap water. In this cross-curricular lesson, students review the actions required to produce bottled water, and the relative amounts of energy used in each stage. What’s particularly effective about this lesson is that it includes direct, measurable action that kids can take to reduce their own water-related energy footprints. As they debate the pros and cons of bottled water vs tap water, they can reach their own decisions about the source from which they obtain their drinking water.

Where Does Your Drinking Water Come From?
Subjects: English/Language Arts, Ecology
Grade: 5-8
Most students have only a vague notion of how drinking water is processed. In this lesson, students learn about ground and surface water sources for drinking water, and the role of water treatment plants in making potable water available. Students also learn about the energy requirements needed to treat and transport tap water, as well as what exactly happens when water is treated at a facility.

Hidden Relationships: Energy Sources and Water Usage
Subjects: Math, Ecology
Grade: 9-12
Students are probably unaware that water is nearly always used in the generation of electricity. For example, water is used in the process of extracting fuels such as coal, natural gas, and uranium. In this lesson, students learn that every source of human-based energy requires water during the extraction, production, processing, transportation, and consumption of energy. They participate in an activity that compares energy usage rates, and analyze the amounts of water used by various energy sources.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Ins and Outs of Taxes

Word cloud made with WordItOut
As April arrives and I think about my own taxes, I realize how little I understand about how income taxes work. Benjamin Franklin believed “… in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.” If this is true, a lot of us better brush up on our tax knowledge! I learned a lot just by looking through The Gateway resources Joann highlighted this week. The first lesson uses traditional lecturing with visual aids, partner activities, and whole-class discussions to simplify the concept of how taxes work. This assignment can be a very valuable tool, especially if you use the “What if” activity and the extension activities at the end which introduce some discovery learning to make the students think a little more about the subject. When students research things on the internet, they find out new things for themselves. I feel like they “own” the learning more, which will hopefully make it stick.

The second lesson focuses on the ability-to-pay principle and why the U.S. uses a progressive tax system. This lesson helps compare the taxation in our country with taxes in other countries, and how a person’s income affects their taxation rate. You may want to build upon lessons like this to make them more interesting and memorable for your students. The assessment at the end of the second lesson asks students to choose a tax system they think is best and defend it in an essay. Expand on this and give your students a choice of projects to answer this question. Instead of writing an essay about their chosen tax system, an artistic student might create a display board with the information (or a glog if they want to go even more high tech.). A verbal student might decide to create a live or video presentation of their findings. Some students might be motivated to interview people around them…maybe they can poll people with an online polling tool. Some students really enjoy writing and they may want to do an essay. They can even format their writing as a newspaper or an illustrated short story.

The last Gateway resource we are discussing this week is a 3-lesson series that looks at the big picture of taxes and how they work from an individual perspective. These are multimedia-based lessons that use video, internet, and spreadsheet creation. They include lectures, pre-made worksheets, and a teacher or student-created spreadsheet. The class works together to create a new federal budget and debates it in teams. I was looking around online to find ways to embellish these lessons, and I found a lot of sites that report annual salaries of famous people. Other salaries are publicly available such as teacher salaries and government worker salaries. Wouldn’t it be fun to figure out how much taxes a famous athlete or actor would owe compared to a teacher? The following resource from USA Today does just that. ( The activity was created for high school students and it includes a debate on federal taxes. The last few pages of this resource ( include many ways to present the information and activities you can use along with many of the above activities. Play around with these ideas to combine things from all of these resources. Soon you’ll have a perfect set of lessons to get your students up to speed this tax season.

The Tax Man Cometh

Americans have long had strong opinions about taxes. Occasionally in our history there have been tax revolts, such as the Boston Tea Party, the Whiskey Rebellion, and more recently, California’s Proposition 13 in the late 1970s. Once a year – every April 15 – an elderly man in my neighborhood flies the Jolly Roger from his flag pole in protest. On the flip side, Oliver Wendell Holmes said that taxes are the price that we pay for civilization, and many concur. Taxes pay for our roads, our schools, social services, national security, and many other things. Due to hearing dissenting opinions about taxes, students often have many questions about them, and the role that taxes play in our society.
This week’s picks include resources on taxes from two organizations. Two lessons are from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, which offers free educational materials on a host of economic and personal finance topics. Users can search for materials by topic, grade level, subject, and educational standards. All lessons are reviewed and rated by teachers. The third lesson is by Thirteen Ed Online, the educational Web component of WNET, PBS’s leading station in New York. Thirteen Ed Online offers free standards-based lesson plans and classroom activities, online mentors, workshops, and online reviews of curriculum-based Web sites in addition to instructional television. All lessons are aligned to McREL and NCTM standards.

Income Taxes: Who Pays and How Much?
Subjects: Economics, Financial literacy, Civics, Taxes
Grade: 9-12

In this lesson, students learn about individual federal income taxes, and why we have them. The lesson addresses specific questions, such as: What is individual federal income tax? How and when is it paid? How is the individual income tax structured? What is a perfect tax structure? What are the different categories of taxes? What is the correlation between tax burden and income groups? What if the tax structure were changed? What effects would a different tax structure have on taxpayers? What effect would a different tax structure have on the government?

U.S. Income Inequality: It’s Not so Bad
Subjects: Economics, Financial literacy, Civics, Taxes
Grade: 9-12

Did you know that Americans pay lower income taxes than many other countries? In this lesson, students learn about the redistribution of wealth through taxation. They use various household scenarios to examine the ability-to-pay principle of taxation, and then analyze and compare two tax systems on the household scenario using the progressive tax system and a flat tax.

Taxes: Where Does Your Money Go?
Subjects: Economics, Financial literacy, Civics, Taxes
Grade: 9-12

This lesson presents information on why we have taxes, what taxes are used for, and how different income brackets pay different taxes. Students also learn about their individual responsibility to pay taxes, and that their gross salary does not always reflect the amount of money that they will actually take home. Students also examine ways to lower taxes through deductions, retirement accounts, and other activities.

~Joann's Picks - 4/10/10~

Saturday, April 3, 2010

T.C.B.A.* (This Can't Be Algebra)

Math: you either love it or hate it. Some people get it and some people feel kind of like Scottish comedian Billy Connolly when he said, “I don't know why I should have to learn Algebra... I'm never likely to go there.” If your students are asking where they will ever use math in the future and you are wondering how to show them what an important tool math is, maybe it’s time to try some new activities. There are some really neat resources online for struggling students and for those who just need a little change of pace in the math classroom. Let’s not treat math like a required class that we just have to push our students through so they can pass the test. Math can be fun, too!

In this weeks post, Joann introduced some great pre-algebra resources from Algebra2Go. I thought these resources were neat because they use tools like YouTube and TeacherTube to get math concepts across to your media-savvy students. These multimedia resources cover many pre-algebra topics. Most topics have class notes, videos with accompanying worksheets, homework sheets, and quizzes. Many middle-school students will be delighted to connect with Charlie in the YouTube video in class, even if they have to follow along on their worksheet.

I searched The Gateway for a simple and fun example of how your students can use their Pre-Algebra skills to impress their friends today. Give your students this challenge at the beginning of a Pre-Algebra class: . The basic idea of the challenge is this: Look at any calendar. Have a student choose 4 days that form a square (2 dates next to each other, and the two directly below them). The student must figure out the sum of the four days and report that sum to you. In moments, you can tell your students what the four days are. Voila! You are magic…or at least an algebraic genius. The link above will take you to the directions for this simple algebra trick. In explaining the trick to your students, you can show them how to set up a problem, simplify an equation, and solve for a variable. It’s enjoyable enough; they might even leave class and do the trick for a friend or their parents.

Another activity on The Gateway that intrigued me is People Patterns on Teacher’s Lab from the Annenberg/CPB partnership. .  Studying patterns is important for understanding the underlying concepts in algebra. In the Beginner mode, this website shows you the first four people in a pattern and allows you to try to guess which person should come next. You only get the first two people in Intermediate, and I haven’t graduated to the Advanced level yet! The patterns can have to do with many different variables like age, color, height, type of clothes, etc. If you don’t get the pattern in a certain amount of time, it will tell you the answer and start a new pattern. It sounds easier than it is, though…you should try it! It would be a great way to start a discussion about patterns, and it would work well in small groups or individually.

There are lots of other algebra resources on The Gateway that can help you bring math concepts to life. One final resource that caught my eye was in Mrs. Glosser’s Math Goodies. .  I particularly liked the WebQuests on the site that were good examples of real-world math. If you click on the Teachers link on the main page, you’ll find lots of other lessons and interactive activities that grade as you go.

All of these resources are tools for you to share your love of math with your students. I have to admit that I had a little bit of a hard time writing this post because I got stuck playing with the people patterns and trying out the calendar trick. I really liked algebra in school and I hope lots of your students do too. If you aren’t a math teacher, you can still have fun with some of these activities. Please browse The Gateway for more great resources in your subject and let us know what you like.

~Peggy's Corner 4/3/2010~

Death By Algebra

What is algebra exactly; is it those three-cornered things? - J.M. Barrie

J.M. Barrie, beloved playwright and author of Peter Pan, was obviously not particularly enraptured by algebra. In fact, many students, at one time or another, will probably hate algebra. Shocker, I know. There’s even an “I hate algebra” group on Facebook. Some students will mutter about how learning algebra is a waste of time – when will they ever use it?? – but the fact is, they will indeed use it throughout their lives. Calculating costs, profits, interest rates, and distance are just a few examples of how algebra is applied in the real world.

There are some good free Web-based resources available for students who need extra support or practice in math. This week, I highlight three pre-algebra resources by Algebra2Go, a collection of math resources by Larry Perez, a mathematics professor at Saddleback College in California. The pre-algebra portion of the site (he also offers beginning algebra and other resources) is broken into units, which are further subdivided into lessons. Each lesson offers a video tutorial where Prof. Perez and his “student” Charlie work through algebraic concepts step-by-step. Each lesson is supplemented by video worksheets, online quizzes, homework sets, and class notes (which are available in both English and Spanish formats). While Algebra2Go was initially created to help support Saddleback College students, many of the materials are appropriate for middle and high school students. With help like this, your students may revive enough to actually enjoy algebra.

Pre-Algebra: Addition and Subtraction
Subjects: Algebra
Grade: 7-12, College

This unit is divided into 3 sections: Digits and Place Value, Addition (which includes rounding numbers and finding perimeter), and Subtraction, for a total of 13 individual lessons. Students learn to add and subtract negative and positive integers. Some class notes are also available in MP3 and WMA formats – good for loading onto an iPod.

Pre-Algebra: Integers
Subjects: Algebra
Grade: 7-12, College

This unit offers 6 separate lessons, all with video tutorials and supporting materials on inequalities, absolute value, addition and subtraction with negative numbers, and multiplication and division with negative numbers. Students can click on icons to produce number lines to help them solve problems.

Pre-Algebra: Variables, Expressions and Equations
Subjects: Algebra
Grade: 7-12, College

This unit offers 4 lessons on combining like terms, the distributive property, and solving equations. I can personally vouch for the tutorials on the distributive property and combining like terms: my middle schooler used these to catch up in class after being out sick for a few days. The interactive online quizzes for each lesson are also a nice touch, with usually 3 different quizzes available per lesson.

~Joann's Picks 4/3/10~