Students in middle school have access to a variety of technology tools for learning. 7th and 8th graders have their own laptops while 5th and 6th grade students share carts of MacBooks and Chromebooks. During flag ceremony on April 22, we watched this video by technology teacher Devin Wolfe to remind students and teachers about tips to keep their devices safe.
We reported on Fantasy Geopolitics in 8th grade earlier this year describing how it works to choose countries for a team and how scores are determined related to the amount of news for that country. Choosing a Fantasy Geopolitics team has been a tremendous success in all the civics classes with student engagement through the roof. Students are actively trading countries amongst each other or dropping and adding countries. To do this they must fill out a form and turn it in to their teacher. The form must describe why they want to drop a country, “there has been no news coming out of South Sudan for three days,” and why they want to add a certain country, “I want to add Chile because I read on the news last night that there was an earthquake off the coast of the country.”
Every Friday students complete an internet current events assignment. They find one major news story from each of the countries they drafted and complete a questionnaire that asks them to summarize, analyze, and reflect on each article. Finally, they have to look at the leader board (which countries are getting the most points via news articles) and explain why this is the case. They also have to look at their least performing country and assess why they think it is not being mentioned much in the news. For extra credit they can look at the Trends Map (a map on the site that shows where news is happening) and pick a country with no (zero) points, and find a recent news article about that country. Then they do the same thing as above- summarize, analyze, and reflect.
Participating, and succeeding, in the game requires students to be constantly reviewing news websites. They are looking for trends, looking for news that will give them points if they grab that country. The competition and constant change engage and motivate students to stay current in worldwide news.
Students in 7th grade social studies taught each other about the dynasties of China recently. Students collaborated in small groups to become experts in a specific dynasty. Then they created a Google Slide presentation and taught the rest of the class important aspects of that dynasty including social, political and technological characteristics.
Throughout this project, 7th graders practiced their information literacy skills by locating reliable websites and citing the sources of their information and images properly. They also practiced good presentation design using short statements and lots of images.
Students were motivated to learn from their peers because after all the presentations were over, students created timelines about all of the dynasties using their notes. With an online tool, each student demonstrated what they learned by creating a timeline with information and images about each dynasty. This unique way of assessing learning required students to process what they learned and summarize it in their own words.
Middle School students had a variety of opportunities to experience an Hour of Code this year. Students in Middle School got an introduction to computer programming during “The Hour of Code” week from December 7-13. Sponsored by code.org and occurring during Computer Science Education Week, “The Hour of Code” is meant to promote computer science and teach people the basics of coding.
Mr. Wicks’ 6th grade science students used the Scratch programming platform to create animated versions of their names, and, in the process, learned about concepts such as loops, movement using a coordinate system, and conditional commands. See some name Animation examples by Diego, Olivia and Daniel
Later in December, the students in Ms. Diana Boyle’s 7th grade math classes created programs in Scratch that would draw different geometric shapes at different scales. In addition to better understanding the mathematical concept of scale, students learned about many programming concepts, including operators and variables. They also designed programs that require user input to function. See scale factor examples by Jeong, Ana Luisa, Ricardo and Renata.
In addition to these in-class experiences, students also had the opportunity to explore independently in the library during lunch. The new Little Bits kit was a favorite, but students also engaged in learning with Makey Makey, Arduino and online coding options. It was wonderful seeing middle school students so engrossed in learning and coding, and many of them discovered a talent for programming, circuit creation or debugging that they didn’t know they had!
In addition to learning how to create attractive websites, the 7th graders learned the importance of making their sites easy-to-navigate and read. Students were motivated to create attractive sites that reflected their personality and style. Background images were required to have citations, reinforcing the information literacy lessons that have been a key component of the Middle School curriculum this year.
strengths and weaknesses in the information-seeking skills of their students. Earlier this year, students in 8th grade completed the assessment. Half of the students took the 6th grade assessment and the other half completed the 9th grade assessment. The results indicated that our 8th grade students are more knowledgeable than their US peers in 6th grade, but less knowledgeable than their peers in 9th grade. You can see the TRAILS results summary and learn more about the categories in which our students are strong and weak.
Since 8th grade students completed the assessment, teachers, librarians and specialists have been working together to develop a consistent, spiraling curriculum to develop these important skills. Using the data from the assessment, we know that proper MLA citations are an area in which we want to improve so we designed a poster with guidelines about in-text citations and works cited. This poster will be available for teachers in grades 5-12. Research websites are under development for students and teachers to use in class. The 5th and 6th grade Research Stop provides a common set of practices to be used whenever students engage in inquiry/research. Another Research Stop is being developed for grades 7-12. Keep an eye out for posts about how our students are using their research skills to be critical and creative thinkers, purposeful learners, and effective communicators at every level at ASFG.
information from the internet so students used a research outline to help them find sources and organize their thoughts. The outline required students to define their search terms, provided links to possible sources, a structure for determining the validity of resources and guidance for creating citations. See a student example of the completed research guide.
After finishing their research, students used Pages to create a magazine format and then uploaded their finished document to Joomag, an online magazine platform. Using Pages allowed students more flexibility on the formatting of pictures and text than Google Documents. Uploading the final product to Joomag makes it much easier to share the magazines with the public. Learn more about renewable energy options from Yizel's magazine or water issues related to Lake Chapala from Jaime.
Students gave speeches about the topic of their research in class. Then, on May 12, students presented in the 5th Concurso de Oratoria in the auditorium. Four 7th and four 8th grade students spoke passionately about their topic in order to help their peers understand the environmental issues we face in México today. These eight students demonstrated great speaking skills and impressed their peers and the judges. First place 8th grade student, Andrea Arriaga, encouraged us to support the protection of Bosque Primavera. Mariana Aguilar, the 7th grade winner, spoke about water pollution and water access.
Throughout this project, students used a wide variety of technology to research, plan and produce high quality magazines and inspiring speeches. The structure of the research outline helped them formulate their thoughts and find reliable information. The flexibility to pursue their personal interests and design a visually pleasing magazine engaged and motivated students to learn about the environmental issues facing México and share with the world.
The main focus of this research project was for students to understand the true meaning of La Catrina, and the history behind this iconic Mexican image. Also, students learned about the impact of Halloween, and how certain communities in Mexico have been adversely affected by this American tradition.
To demonstrate their learning, students were given three options to create a short two-minute video: an enhanced podcast with images and audio, a Newscast video using a green screen, or a StopMotion video. All photos and audio that students used for their video must have been published under a Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution Share-Alike licensure. Each video that was uploaded to YouTube, was also published under the same licensure. Feel free to view an example from Ms. Rosana's 2nd period class.
If you have any questions about this project, contact Mr. Nelson.
On November21st, students in the 5th Grade Animal Rights Service Learning group participated in two Skype calls. Students are reaching out to organizations across the world to make a difference for animals and learn about the work that is happening around the world. Students Skyped with an animal shelter in Sayulita called Sayulitanimals and the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) in Washington DC.
Reaching out globally and using Skype as a way to connect with these organizations across the world, engages students. The video shows a student concerned about shark fishing and the endangerment and mistreatment of sharks. During this call with AWI, she was able to converse with experts, ask good questions, and learn more so she can start creating her action plan for her project.
Students are taking the initiative on their service learning projects. One student created a blog and another created a website to reach out and collaborate with others. Realizing that with new literacy practices, we can co-construct, publish and collaborate, this project reinforces core curriculum learning. Soon the group will be opening a SL twitter account to do some research and connect cross culturally with other people micro blogging about animal rights.