Monday, January 28, 2013

Our Day at the DTC: Getting Started with Research

We had a very busy, educational, and tiring (maybe that's just me, the old, pregnant lady!) day today at the Dublin Technology Center.  Three to four students in each class are preparing to coach everyone through our research process.  The first step of their work will be to share out tomorrow some resources they are developing for the class wiki.

Here's a preview of what they've developed:

An overview of our first research steps --students will work in Study Center Tuesday to develop the two screencasts that they think will be helpful for students to get started

We did a LOT of thinking today about how to determine if a source is reliable.  Our biggest idea is that, no matter what the source looks like or where you found it, you need to THINK CRITICALLY about it.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Flexibility in Readers Notebooks... plus a Preview of Our Back-channeling

Today after a long morning of testing, Mrs. Doyle's and my Language Arts classes read together Chapters 6, 7, and part of 8 in Titanic: Voices from the Disaster.  Students had a lot of flexibility in how they recorded their thinking in their readers notebooks.

Requirements for responses: 
  • When Ms. Reed and I come around to look at notebooks (we listened to the CD today, which gave us some flexibility to work beside students), we should be able to get good insights into what you're thinking and be able to respond to what you've written.
  • When we review tomorrow, you should be able to look back on your notes and remember the important things that happened with today's reading.
Check out the ways our readers recorded their thinking:

 Ms. Reed's sticky notes that show a mix of pictures and interesting/important facts
Erin's list of important events and her reactions 
Troy's pictures to go with important events in the chapter
Miss Reed's KNOW/WONDER chart (her handwriting is way more legible than mine!)
Finally, Mrs. Doyle and I were excited to experiment with using Google Drive as a "back channel" tool for students to engage in interactive readers notebooks.  More to come after we get a chance to reflect with our "guinea pig" group ... but check out the collaborative work that Emily, Kurt, Cailyn, and Cameron did during read aloud:

QUESTIONS: What did your readers notebook look like today?  Which of the notebook methods above do you think might work for you?

The Children Want a Class Pet

By "children," I mean my homebase.  By "want a class pet," I mean, have escalated to pestering asking me daily if I could look into the availability of various animals they've been admiring in a class favorite book, Strange Animals.  I would link Amazon here, but Troy has my copy right now, and I can't find the correct book through my searches; however, during my fruitless search, I have accumulated a new list of "strange animal"-type books I'd like to purchase. Whoops.

The students aren't interested in the class pet logistics, mind you.  ("Who's going to clean up the poop?" "Oh, Mrs. Taylor, don't worry about that.  We can take it outside like a dog.") They're interested in 1. how cute the animal is and 2. if we can get it NOW. 

By the way, I go on maternity leave in late-February/early-March.  Responsibility for a class pet would set any reasonable substitute over the edge. 

Regardless, here's the current front runner:

This is called an Emperor tamarin
Granted, this little guy or gal is pretty darn cute.  The children aptly pointed out that the mustache makes it look thoughtful and intelligent. But here's my practical, boring grown-up question: are people are even ALLOWED to have these cuties as pets?

Here's some information I found:  from the BBC, from a university, from the San Francisco Zoo, and from a news site that reported an Emperor tamarin theft. 

QUESTIONS: Based on all of that information, is this an appropriate class pet?  Tell me what you think (based on knowledge. Ahem), including info from one or more articles to support your thinking.  Then, if you no longer think an Emperor tamarin would be an appropriate pet, tell me what pet would be more appropriate and why.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mr. Kaiser Had a Relative on the Titanic!

Team 6-1 was treated today to a visit from the famous Mr. Kaiser.  It turns out, he had a relative on the Titanic -- what a powerful real-world connection to our whole class novel, Deborah Hopkinson's Titanic: Voices from the Disaster.

Before Mr. Kaiser spoke, we reviewed with each other and for Mr. Kaiser what we KNOW about the Titanic as well as what we wonder, based on what we've read so far.  (We just finished Chapter 5 yesterday, which is when the crew is realizing just how bad the accident was)  This whole-team review was a great opportunity for us to share and build off of each other's knowledge, since we aren't all in Language Arts class together!

Here’s my KNOW/WONDER chart from Mr. Kaiser’s presentation.  The KNOWs are all new pieces of knowledge I now have, thanks to Mr. Kaiser.
Titanic was trying to set a speed record, so it was going at unsafe speedsAre speed records still kept, or is that considered too unsafe? What is the current record?
The rivets on the ship weren’t welded as well as they should be.Who made the decision to use lower quality materials? How much money did it actually even save?
Mr. Kaiser had a great-great uncle on the Titanic.  The uncle -- Mr. William F. Hoyt -- was a first class passenger and a businessman traveling to  New York to familyHow did Mr. Kaiser originally uncover this relative and find that the relative had an interesting story?
Mr. Hoyt’s brother had to travel to New York to find out if Mr. Hoyt survived; information traveled much slower back then than it does now. How did the brother finally find out what happened to Mr. Hoyt? Did a Titanic officer tell him?
Mr. Hoyt survived the sinking, but he was so large that people couldn’t get him into Lifeboat 14, so he either died of hypothermia or internal injuries (he had blood coming out of his nose and mouth).How cold was the water? How fast does hypothermia happen? Was his body recovered?
Mr. Hoyt’s body was recovered but it was buried at sea, so his family never got the body.Did they still have a memorial site for Mr. Hoyt?

Linked here is interesting article I found about the faulty rivets -- Mr. Kaiser made me curious about the topic, so I just had to look it up.

Other things Mr. Kaiser made me think about:

  • My comparison of the messaging service to text messaging wasn't totally correct.  The ships messengers had to have an extra step: decoding the transmissions first!
  • Before the days of websites like, Mr. Kaiser spent months tracking down information about his family.  I think I sometimes need to be more patient with my own research process! 
  • A student brought up the possibility that some workers had died during the construction of the ship, and Mr. Kaiser pointed out that accidents did happen on major building projects throughout history.  I wonder how safety requirements for construction have happened over time.
  • Mr. Kaiser reminded me about the importance of primary sources.  He found a lot of his information through reports taken directly from Titanic officers!

QUESTION: One lingering question many of us have: would the Titanic have been better off hitting the iceberg head on?  Can anyone find a source addressing this question?

Thank you, Mr. Kaiser, for spending your afternoon with us!   You've really enriched our thinking!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wonderings about The Titanic

Here's the awesome interactive diagram Mrs. Doyle gave us to build background knowledge about the Titanic.  Some of the most interesting things we learned:

The poop deck was a popular item to look at.  (Melike, Erin, Luke)
KNOW: Third class has to sleep by it; this is where third class passengers could hang out. You don't actually poop there.
WONDER: Why is it called the poop deck?
KNOW: The diagram shows us that the term comes from the Latin word "puppis," meaning "stern."

We were also interested in the hospital on board.  (Caidyn, Rowa, Emmalee)
KNOW: There were two doctors, but it was still known as a prestigious (well-known/well-respected) on-boat hospitals.  It was possible to have surgery done on board.
WONDER: If someone died in surgery, where would they put the body? In addition to the doctors, how many other people worked there? How often are there usually surgeries on transatlantic voyages?  Why didn't they have more doctors? What kind of illnesses were common on the ship?  Were there any labs for testing sample?

Here's a photo of the Grand Staircase.  We took this from the Britannica site, so we know it is a real picture -- we talked about reliable sites.
In the middle, we looked at the Grand Staircase. (Tatum)
KNOW: It was fancy.  One flight had twelve stairs (nice counting, Troy).
WONDER: What did the other staircases look like?  Why did they need a staircase like that -- a fancy staircase with a glass and iron dome?

Image from National Museums Northern Ireland - we checked the "About Us" tab for credibility 

The Turkish Baths caught our eyes. (Erin, Rowa, Melike)
KNOW: It had a sauna.  It sounds like a spa.  Only first class passengers could go there, but they still had to pay.
WONDER: Were there other spa services? Could you get your nails done there? Why is it called the Turkish Baths, as opposed to another country?  Why did it have to be just first class passengers? If second and third class passengers could pay the small fee, could they come use it? (We speculated that there seemed to be some class bias, so we are guessing maybe not)

We are also curious about the funnels. (Eric, Samia, Jacob, Cailyn)
KNOW: They were 22 feet in diameter.  Three of them were real, and one was fake -- it was added for the appearance.
WONDER: How tall are they?  Why was there a fourth- why bother with a fake one? Did the funnels also act as filters of the smoke, so it didn't pollute as much.  How much dirt, smoke, and dust did the funnels blow out each day?
KNOW: Some people thought that the more funnels you have, the safer the ship.

The boilers are obviously important, too. (Ed)
KNOW: They keep the ship running.  They used 600 tons of coal each day. There were 29 boilers with three or more furnaces each.
WONDER: Where do the workers keep the extra coal?
KNOW: It was kept in bunkers.

Here's a diagram with the crow's nest.  We found it at ... which does not sound reliable, but when we looked at the "About Us" tab, it actually really is.

The crow's nest has an interesting name. (Brigid)
KNOW: It had a telephone and a bell.  The lookout rang the bell three times when he saw the iceberg.
WONDER: Was the only time that they used the phone and the bell when they saw the iceberg? Would they use it for other obstacles or purposes?

We also looked at the mail room.
KNOW: The Titanic was built to be a mail ship -- the RMS Titanic.  There were five mail carriers, and none of them survived; they had been trying to save the mail. There were 3,400 sacks of mail; Joe calculated that there were about 2,000 pieces of mail in each sack.
WONDER: Why did the people care about saving the mail? How had they planned to distribute the mail after landing?  Did they ever recover any of the lost mail?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Article of the Week: I love reading your annotations!

I was so impressed with a lot of the thinking I saw on last week's Article of the Week about Antarctica!
The comments you write on articles are so much richer than they were at the beginning of the year; it's fun for me to read and respond to your reactions.

For example, many of you noted that you were surprised that people in Siberia might leave their cars running all day, just to make sure that the cars will drive when necessary.  I wondered right along with you about how much money people must spend on fuel for their cars, and I also wondered if fuel is extra expensive in that part of the world, due to its isolation.  I did some more reading about this level of cold, and I couldn't believe how well some people have adapted to it.  Check out this related article.

Your annotations open up conversations to me, so thank you!

Practice Giving Feedback
Let's take a look at some of the answers you gave me to the questions.  I purposely left vague feedback on these model papers, because I want you to practice looking at each other's thinking in a thoughtful way and then leaving specific compliments.
Model for Mrs. Taylor to use

Here's what you need to do in the comment section.

Choose one of the three pieces below, read it carefully, leave a specific compliment describing what was strong about the piece, and sign your comment with your first name ONLY, plus your period (3/4, 5/7, or 8/9).  Select "anonymous" to leave your comment.

I will leave a comment below modeling for you a comment about
<------- this example

You may leave a comment about any of these three examples:

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

Sunday, January 6, 2013

What I Didn't Do/What I Did Do Over Winter Break

Over break, I did not go to a tropical paradise.  I didn't dig my toes into warm sand, keeping my eyes peeled for itty bitty sand crabs running over my feet and taking in the salty, fresh air.  I didn't hear the waves crashing on the beach, my daughter laughing with delight, or seagulls shrieking in the distance.  I did not get a sunburn!

What I did do:

Visited the Louisville Slugger Museum - awesome tour!
Spent three hours at Starbucks with my childhood best friend (who has two kids of her own),
while my parents watched Z.  This is a VERY rare occasion -- just ask your own parents!
Get a whole lot bigger!
What else did I do? Got medium sick at the beginning of break and way sick at the end of break (Mr. Taylor and Z did, too - it was ugly). Read three adult books and one young adult book. Looked at pretty awesome Christmas lights synched with music. Joined Instagram. Discovered that Z can recite -- while looking at the book -- the entire text of Pete the Cat and his Four Groovy Buttons. Went to a dinner and a movie with my husband. Ate really tasty teriyaki tofu on New Years Eve... and then fell asleep at 9:45 p.m.  Traveled to Louisville, Dayton, and Cincinnati.  Heard the baby's heartbeat again -- Z heard it too (sounds like a "choo choo train!"). Wrote for another blog a post about running. Saw some videos from our class video shoot.  Brainstormed a list of new articles I need to work on. Booked a flight to New York City to be in a wedding in the fall. Enjoyed, treasured, and was so grateful for extra time with my little family -- eight weeks until the newest member arrives!

Tell me, in pictures or in words (or both): what didn't you do over break?  What did you do?