Teaching to Learn, Learning to Teach

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I mentioned a neat way that my cooperating teacher, Mr. Spence is using music and techology to teach poetry in a March 13th post, but I had no idea how truly comprehensive this project would actually be. Because it has taken a considerable amount of time during my practicum, I wanted to take the time to write about all the hardwork that Mr. Spence and his students put into it.

The finished products are in, and now that I've been able to see the entire unit, I am truly AMAZED at the finished product. As a refresher, Mr. Spence is currently working on a project with his students that involves each of them writing their own song. Never in my life have I seen such an incredible lesson that covers such an expansive array of different learning styles. The theme that sparked this unit is poetry; my teacher puts emphasis on understanding rhyme, rhythm, etc.

The assignment basically states that children can work in groups or individually, pick a popular song or write their own, and create a song that rhymes or follows the rhyme scheme that they already have. Mr. Spence works with the students on the lyric and the tune, they sing and record the song, and he records ALL the instruments. The students then call a Class of 2006 NOW CD that combines all their classmates songs. The students then use Powerpoint to create a music video, incorporating pictures they take with a digital camera, images they googled, custom animation, and so many other neat graphics. It's a great way for students to learn a program like Powerpoint while enabling them to add a personal touch to an assignment.

The coolest thing of the whole project is the JAMMY music awards that concludes the unit. Parents are invited as students dress up like their favorite rock stars. Mr. Spence gets a video camera and prepares questions for the students prior to the meeting. Parents attend the event, and kids play their song, show their music videos, and vote for their favorite video. Many of these songs are played at their fifth grade classroom. Unfortunately, I had class during the awards, but I'm sure it will turn out great.

The reason I love this unit is because it enables students with a variety of different learning styles to use their talents. I also love it because it shows what great things technology can do; who would have thought music videos could have been possible in the classroom before Powerpoint? And the music equipment Mr. Spence has to record all the songs is truly amazing. The neatest thing of all is that the kids have the CD in which to remember the class for years to come. This is truly an INCREDIBLE assignment that is very work intensive for the teacher, but it shows in the end how much that hard work truly pays off!

Friday, April 07, 2006


My technology teacher, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach directed me to the following webpage that has great Jeopardy Templates.

Today was the first day that I used one of these games in my class, and the kids LOVED it. We played boys against girls and used a LCD projector so everyone in the class could see.

I created a Jeopardy game that was a SOL science review, so I looked online at the Virginia Department of Education website and looked for some of the different objectives that could be used. It's great tool for reviewing information and it provides an interactive learning environment because it really increases students' enthusiasm for success.

My cooperating teacher and another student teacher both wanted links to this Jeopardy template so they could use it in the future. So maybe I'm no Alex Trebek, but the kids didn't seem to mind!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Computer games as rewards?

As a kid, I remember zipping through an assignment to get to the end so I could play a computer game. How I loved Oregon trail and the classic number and word munchers. The race would begin from the second my teacher handed out papers. All of the students would scramble to finish so they could play on the computer as their envious classmates only watched.

Part of this problem could be due to computer availability. If there aren't enough computers, there will always be this little race because they are in low supply and high demand.

I think computer games can be great though, especially if you have a student who needs a different type of motivation to encourage them to work. In this respect, a computer game is great because it shows them that education can be fun. It also can reinforce principles you have in your classroom.

So what's the answer? I think 1) the best answer would be to have lots of computers in the classroom. However, I am also practical and realistic, and I recognize that sometimes you have to play the cards you're dealt. Other solutions could invovle 2) designated center times for the computers 3) rotation schedules and 4) partner games.

Obviously, there is a lot more to learning than just fun and games, but I also believe students should not be locked into the rigidty of the day so much that they do not enjoy school.