Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Today my 3rd grade students are creating powerpoints explaining the games they created. This PBL has helped them discover information of certain language topics (meanings of words, punctuation, parts of speech, and literary devices - especially homophones), working together, following directions, and some technology skills (create powerpoint and create picture in paint). Students are engaged and ready to share the knowledge they have constructed. This PBL activity has really allowed me to see all of the things available when using problem-based learning. Even (or especially) the rough start to this project taught me about PBL activities! Examples of their work and thinking can be seen on their blog which is listed below:


Today my 3rd grade students are creating powerpoints explaining the games they created. This PBL has helped them discover information of certain language topics (meanings of words, punctuation, parts of speech, and literary devices - especially homophones), working together, following directions, and some technology skills (create powerpoint and create picture in paint). Students are engaged and ready to share the knowledge they have constructed. This PBL activity has really allowed me to see all of the things available when using problem-based learning. Even (or especially) the rough start to this project taught me about PBL activities! Examples of their work and thinking can be seen on their blog which is listed below:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I found myself thinking about the High Yield Strategies we have discussed as I worked today on my lesson plans for next week. There were some times when I noticed that I had already included them without noticing it, so I went back and marked it HYIS, and then at other times, I purposly tried to figure out a way to include them. I did create a folder in the shared folders at school for Marzano's stuff and told Ms. Frazier about it today. She said she would send me stuff to put in it.


I am starting to see changes in the way I approach teaching a lesson and in the ways students approach learning as a result of doing PBL activities.


I started a new PBL activity with my 3rd grade group yesterday. Students were made network executives in charge of creating a new game show to help students with meanings of words, punctuation, parts of speech, and literary devices. I found myself trying to lead too much. I needed to step back and be a facilitator. I realized this when students were having trouble and suggesting other ways to accomplish the task. I guess that problem statement could be a bit task-oriented. After I tried unsucessfully to organize them into groups to work on various parts, I gave them the job of organizing the groups they felt they needed. Since some of the categories were a bit overwhelming yesterday, I made a chart listing 5 or 6 things under each category for students to focus on. I also included continuing working on this project in my lesson plans for next week. I will let students decide if we (a small group anyway) work on each category together over a period of time or if they want to divide into smaller groups to handle each category and then be responsible for teaching the rest of the group about their topic. I know how I would do it if I were TEACHING (maybe) but since I am FACILITATING, I will present the options and let them decide . . . and they may come up with some other options. The control-oriented teacher side of me is having some difficulty but I am working on it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Story Map

My original thoughts when I asked my AIG students to create a map from the information found in the novel was a creation like a street map. I am very pleased to see the way these student interpreted the instruction and ran with their creative ideas! They have created very descriptive story "maps" based on the details in the story. They have drawn the building, the pathways, some of the characters, and lots of other neat details. They keep telling me about what certain things mean on their maps. I told them that they are going to have to type descriptions of all the things included in these maps. A traditional story map involved listing the characters and what happened in the beginning/middle/end of the story. These creations have really turned into "story maps" formed as we uncovered new information and details from the book. We ha ve a map/illustration of the fictional town where the story takes place. Students are also working well in their multi-grade groups.

Friday, October 10, 2008

AIG Objectives

For my AIG Graduate class, I had to make a table comparing the AIG goals from the county with the NC SCOS goals for one group that I work with. I did 4th grade Communication Skills for the assignment for class. I really like the way creating the table helped me think about and focus my instruction, so I decided to create tables for 3rd and 5th grade Communication Skills also. I have all three of these tables linked to my school website. I have not done the math skills yet. Maybe I will get to that some time? :) I feel like creating these tables will enable me to plan my instruction better and be a better teacher.

Summarizing and Note taking

One of Marzano's High Yield Strategies that we discussed at a meeting yesterday involves teaching students how to summarize and take notes in order to increase their learning. An idea came to for 5th grade ecosystems (that I help with in the afternoon). I created a combination notes template containing a place for a topic, illustration, notes, and summary. Since I did not use any specifics, this template can be adjusted to use for any topic. I shared the idea and template with the 5th grade teachers and Ms. Frazier. I made paper copies of the chart and emailed it. I may look into saving it in the shared folder for any teacher to access.
I also decided that my students could use their planning notebooks to take notes on the things they have learned that day or week. We could also use the online learning logs for this. Today, my 3rd grade group is typing notes about what they have learned about multiplication in both thie group and in their classrooms. They are typing on the blog! :) I like the ideas presented in the book and will try some of those with students. I especially like the one about deleting information.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


The 4th grade girls wrote in the blog yesterday that they were not enjoying the book and thought it was boring. When I told L that as she read tonight, she could look for more details and locations to add to her map, she seemed more excited about having to read tonight (she made a face at first). The LL group scanned and skimmed the next chapter to see if any locations jumped out at them for them to add to their "map". We ended class by discussing what we had learned today and how this activity helped our comprehension of the story. Students talked about not being able to visualize the story last night, so they said that the activity today really helped.

AH HA Moment for me

I created somewhat of a problem-based learning activity today. I didn't really present it as a problem statement, but I guess I could. We made a list of the locations mentioned in the book so far, and then students were to make maps of the fictional setting using what they had read so far. I was not expecting the thoughts and creativity that came from this activity. Normally the 3rd grade girls work together and the 4th grade girls work together, but not today: there are two groups of one 3rd and one 4th each. The BL group is planning in the notebooks before starting on their large page. One is working on the train stations while the other is working on the symbols for them to use. B is drawing pictures of the characters in her planning notebook based on the author's descriptions. The LL group planned for a few minutes and then moved right to the large sheet. L talked about how they should make one house on the map far away since that was what it said in the book. The idea of this project was to focus on the setting, but I am seeing how it is also making students focus on details, refer back to the book to support their ideas, and use the map background knowledge they have. This project is turning out better than I had originally thought . . . and much better than my plan. Students now have a purpose for reading each night too (beside the comprehension quiz possibility) -- they need to look for more details/locations to add to their maps. Students decided that they should leave room on the maps they created today to add new locations when they read about them in the book. Students are constructing knowledge, using individual skills and learning styles to display their understanding. I am able to get much more infromation from listening to them plan for and work on this project than I could from a pencil and paper comprehension quiz. I guess this could be considered a form of authentic assessment?
The BL group was having a disagreement about which house to do next on their "map" and I overheard them settle the conflict by rolling the die (odd number = one house, even number = other house).

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

2nd Grade

We got our last clue today as to Pat Flowers's location. The students were able to solve the puzzle. I really enjoyed working with this PBL Kit. I think the students did also. They were so excited about finding the missing person. Tomorrow I will have them type about what they did and what they learned on the 2nd grade thinking log (blog). A girl in that group made a comment today when we were deciding which resources today that I thought was really on target. When we were trying to decided which books to look at, she said that since we had already decided that we needed to look at the book at Kenya, we needed to look at the book on Africa, because if we throw out Africa, that is just like throwing out Kenya. :) Working with that group, especially on this kit, makes me smile!

PBL Lessons

Here is an email I received following an observation of a CERTL PBL lesson with 2nd grade (she also checks my lesson plans each week):

Ms. Edwards,

I really enjoyed your work with the 2nd graders last week. Ganelle's thinking was just awesome! Your plans reflect the use of CERTL's problem based learning.
Keep up the good work!

Cheryl J. Frazier
Assistant Principal
Jefferson D. Diggs Visual and Performing Arts Magnet School

Monday, October 6, 2008

New Kits!

As I left school today, I stopped by the office to check and there were 2 more CERTL PBL kits waiting for me. I can't wait to see what is in them! I know it might be silly to get this excited about getting these kits, but they are such a great resource.


My AIG girls started a new novel today (A Year Down Yonder). I have a CERTL kit to go along with the novel. We worked on one of the cases today. Students became literary critics who had to write a review of the book but would not have time to read it before it was due. We discussed strategies they could use and elements of the book that could help them. Students ended up typing a prediction paragraph on the blog. At the end of the book, we will go back and check these predictions to see what was correct. We will also write a real book review after we finish the book. I also showed the students a student-made powerpoint as a introduction to the book. We might have to make one after finishing the book focusing on certain literary elements.

3rd grade

My third graders presented their multiplication games and songs today. The boys appeared to put a lot of thought into the game, the rules, and how it should be played, as well as the multplication facts. I guess creating puzzles taps into some thinking and problem solving skills that are not accessed much in school. Their game was very complicated, but they understood how it went. I need to do more things like this to stretch out those thinking skills in both the boys and the girls.

Friday, October 3, 2008


My AIG girls asked me this morning when we were going to do another problem like the multiplication one we did last week. I told them we would start one on Monday along with a new novel (A Year Down Yonder). I guess they enjoyed doing the first one we did. In math yesterday, we talked about place value and they asked if we could do a problem (PBL) on place value like we did on multiplication. :)

2nd grade

My 2nd grade group is really enjoying working on the "Where in the World is Pat Flowers?" PBL Kit from CERTL. We had to wait a while to get this kit, since it was being refurbished, but it was worth the wait. Students are so involved and can't wait to come to class and find out what we are going to do next. Students are on a game show and can win a free trip if they can find Pat Flowers (a news reporter). She "sends" us clues each day. I put the clue on PowerPoint. We review the clues we have gotten already and the information we have disovered (discovery chart) each day before opening the new clue. After reading the clue, we pick out key words and ideas to help us with the search that day. We then go to the resources (books, maps, globe . . . ). We do a short lesson on which resources to look at and why (ex. don't look in the food book if the clue says nothing about food). Then we start reading and thinking. I do somewhat of a think-aloud to get students engaged. They are coming up with some of the best ideas and statements. One girl told me yesterday that we should not waste out time listing the places that she could not be because that would be way too many, so we should list the places she could be. We are listing possible locations each day. We looked at the globe and talked a lot about the equator the first day since the clue dealt with the equator. On the second day, the clue talked about a country that was once part of the British Empire. We looked at the map and listed possible countries on the Equator (combining clue one and two). Then we looked at some books on some of those countries and found one that used to be part of the British Empire. The clue on day 3 talked about being on the plains and seeing elephants, leopards, and giraffes. So the lesson that day focused on looking for countries that had plains and those animals. The country we listed from the day before did have all those things. The students enter class asking if we got a new clue yet. They are really engaged. I also think they are learning a lot about geography. We watched several videos on maps and the globe (included in the kit) before starting on this problem to build some background knowledge. I think I made a wise choice in requesting this kit. I have not even finished it and can't wait to do it again next year. Maybe I could do an expanded version with another group this year . . .

3rd grade

My 3rd grade group is still working on a multiplication PBL project involving figuring out how to teach others multiplication fact families. Students are now making posters to demonstrate their games, songs, or activities. While students are working on ways to help others learn these facts, they are reviewing the facts to make sure they put down the correct information. I just overheard one student say that he enjoyed studying the facts this way. The two boys in this group are really involved in making up the game and the directions for playing. The branched out and are working on more than just one fact family on their gigantic board game. Yesterday, I worked with a girl in this group to review the facts she chose to review with a song. We worked in her planning notebook. She has now completed her song poster and is reading a multiplication book. Even though we are focusing on basic multiplication facts, one of the girls keeps asking me math problems like 11 x 44 and 5,000 x 20. Some students are really focused on being able to explain the rules for their games and activities. I just showed students some of the "tricks" I use to remember certain facts, like 7 x 8 and 8 x 9. All students are engaged in active learning.

At the end of class, I talked with the students about how they felt about what we worked on this week. Students said that it was fun and that it helped them review so that maybe they will do better on their multiplication tests today. We voted and decided to do more multiplication projects/problems next week to continue to learn and review multiplication facts.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

1st Grade

My 1st grade group is working a PBL kit to plan a new playground for a school. They are finishing up their playground designs and then writing about them. Yesterday, some of them wrote some sentences in their plan notebooks (since the computers did not work right then). Today, these students typed sentences on the computer about what they included in their new playgrounds. I am using this kit to work on increasing creativity and supporting evidence. Although one can't figure out why students included certain things in their playgrounds from their sentences on the thinking log. I have had many conversations with students concerning why those chose to include or not include certain things. I have also overheard conversations among students about why they chose certain parts of the playground. These conversations reveal more about student learning and thinking that the writing they are able to produce, which shows that various forms of authentic assessment as wel as rubrics and observation checklists are needed for this type of instruction.

3rd grade

I presented 3rd grade with another multiplication PBL case from CERTL. This time they are in charge of developing a way to teach their train car a certain fact family. We brainstormed a list of ways to memorize facts, and then students got started. They worked in their plan notebooks to develop a way to accomplish the task.. All students were engaged and looked through the resources available from the CERTL kit (books, tapes, . . .). Today, students were given large sheets of chart paper to plan their presentations. Tomorrow, students will present their plans for helping the train car remember a certain multiplication fact (if they finish their presentations today).