Archive for October, 2010

Work-at-home: Getting Parents Involved

Learning can and should take place in the home; the problem is how to implement it. You can jump-start the process once a week by sending home a “Work-at-Home” worksheet with each student giving both the student and the parent a job to do.

For example, in class have students estimate how many minutes of a half hour TV show are devoted to commercials. Then send the worksheet to the parents describing how they and their child can list the commercials that occur during a 30 minute show, and time them to get a total for the 30 minute period. The result? Parents and children work together on something that will be an educational process for one, if not both. Have the parents and students sign the sheet and return to school the next day.

Parents as Teachers: Getting Parents Involved

The first step in involving parents in the education process is to remember they are there. We often get focused on our job and forget that parents could be a valuable time-saving resource. Changing your perspective means brainstorming a way to have them help with a lesson at home, share an experience with your class, make a treat for an end-of-the-week party, read to your class, have them enlist the support of their business in donating supplies, make phone calls in the evening, run off papers at school or at work, drive for field trips, donating their old magazines or daily newspapers, or bring the family dog to school. And parental involvement shows their children they care.

Host an evening or after school event in your classroom where parents are encouraged to participate. Asking for help with a task as simple as collating and stapling handouts or organizing an area of the classroom is often all it takes to make them feel more comfortable and to get more involved in the future.

View the news with a parent

Grades 3-12

Students view local television news programs with their parents to analyze content and discuss current issues. Ask students to write with their parents comments on their discussion to be later shared in class.

Teacher Preparation:
You may want to make a discussion or instruction hand-out sheet.

Procedure Ideas:

* Time the duration of news stories, or news segments.
* Time the length and tally the number of commercials during the program.
* Categorize stories into groups, such as sensational, human interest, humorous, etc. For what reason are the stories included in the newscast?
* Have students discuss the targeted demographics of the audience: age, sex, income, residence, occupation.
* Note technical details of the broadcast, including lighting, camera angles and the use of teleprompters.
* Observe the delivery and appearance of the anchorpersons, and discuss the importance placed on them by station owners, including salaries.
* Discuss these topics with parents, including what they would do to change the way the news is presented.

Use a video camera to create your own news program in school, using techniques observed by the students on broadcast TV; take a tour of a television station including the news set; invite a reporter to your class to discuss their perspective of the news business.

My Own Self

Submitted by: Ashley Roberts

Grade level: 2-8

To find out what’s unique about all of your students.

Teacher Preparation:
You will need construction paper, pictures of students, and tape.

Ask students to write a page or paragraph about themselves (what they like, their parents’ names, how old they are, etc.) When their story is complete, have them paste it, along with a picture of themselves, onto a piece of construction paper. Then let them draw a circle on a separate sheet of paper with a pencil and fill it in making sure there’s plenty of lead on the paper, then tell them to put their thumb on the paper where they filled in the circle and make sure it has plenty of lead on it. Then they put their thumb on a small piece of tape and then put the small piece of tape underneath their picture. So now you have a paper about them, their picture, and their fingerprint. With younger students you may want to discuss how fingerprints are unique.

It helps them understand more about themselves and know that they are a individual.

Real World Usage:
Guidance lesson

Career Development For All Students

By Susan Schoket, Career Development Instructor, West High School, Wichita, KS

Why do I need to know this? – The age-old question from students. Most of the time students can and will answer this question for themselves if they have a clue about their future.

* All of the time people spend wandering and wondering “where I am going?” can be decreased or eliminated if students have a clue about their future.
* All the money wasted on college, pursuing majors that don’t match a student’s abilities, interests, and personality can be saved if students have a clue about their future.
* All of the unhappiness that comes from getting up everyday and going to a job one hates can vanish if students have a clue about their future.

Career Development – an integrated systematic approach that provides the clue.

Career development activities in elementary, intermediate, and secondary grades become a crystal ball to the future. Students can have a reason for education and can develop a direction once they see a future, once they have a light at the end of the tunnel. Integrating careers into ALL classrooms is simple but it does mean making a paradigm shift from always educating for education’s sake to educating for employment/careers. We hope all of our students will eventually go to work whether right out of high school or after medical school. As educators we must help our students develop a clear vision for their future.

DIY Kites

Daves' Sled Kite, free step-by-step instructions from Hi Fly Kites

March is also the time to start thinking about kites, and you’re probably thinking they’re something you’d like to make, but don’t know how. In addition to seeing the sites below, remember that kite clubs abound, and that a big business has popped up for high-performance, fairly pricey stunt kites. These clubs or businesses may be willing to put on a demonstration for your school or class.

* Hi Fly Kites‘ website offers free, well-documented tutorials that help you craft two different kites: Adam’s Paper Fold Kite and Dave’s Sled Kite.
* The classic Paper Bag Kite is a simple process that uses little more than a paper lunch sack and crepe paper streamers.
* Tetrahedral Kite Using Straws is more challenging to make than the other two examples. It is constructed of drinking straws, lightweight multi-filament nylon, hat elastic and shopping bags. (Note from Lee: After seeing examples of this kite constructed by Alexander Graham Bell, as a high school student I built tetrahedral kites using drinking straws, string, and actually stapled newspaper around the straws to cover it. My version was heavy to say the least, but flew very well in strong Kansas winds, and also was a good learning experience about the integrity of the triangle.)

Like Latitudes

Objective: Students will learn how latitude affects weather patterns.
Resources: Teacher: World globe. Students: paper and pencil.
Teacher Preparation: This lesson can follow an introductory lesson on latitude and longitude.

1. Procedure: Have students locate on the globe the latitude for where they live.
2. Using the globe, have them find other countries, either north or south, with the same latitude.
3. Have students research another country’s weather, using encyclopedias.
4. Students write a paper describing similarities and differences between their own weather and the other country’s weather from the same latitude.

Variations/Options: Using the Internet, students could contact other students to discuss weather.

Scientific Method: Consumer Testing in the Classroom

Those whiners who constantly mewl “why do I need to learn this?” can be in charge of this lesson – let them brainstorm ways to use the scientific method in testing consumer products. The following are just samples; have your kids come up with other products to test, and devise ways to test them.

Project Ideas:

* Popcorn: which pops better, fluffier or tastes better? (One brand may not be best in all categories.)
* TV: Which channels have fewer commercials? Which shows have the most interesting commercials?
* Weights & Measures: Devise a way to test accuracy of scales, then have each student check their bathroom scales at home.
* Laundry Soap: test on stains soaking in jars of solutions.
* Dog Food: Students can bring in pieces of dog food from home. Make a blind taste test to send home to try on their pets, giving the pets a choice between different brands, to see which food they eat first.
* Paper Towels: measure how much water will be soaked up for a given size of towel. Also, how accurate are the sizes given on the paper towel packaging?
* Soft Drinks: use a graduated cylinder to measure soft drink volumes from 3 or 4 different brands.

Fossils: Be A Paleontologist

Submitted by: Linda Gipple

Objective: Students will search for fossils and record where they are found on a grid

Flat plastic box of kitty litter or sand for each 4 students
Plastic forks
Shells of various sizes
A grid paper for drawing location of finds

Teacher Preparation:
Ahead of time teacher hides shells in the flat boxes of soil. Also make a grid design for students to draw on.

Introduce students to fossils and how paleontologists mark out a dig. Check your library for good books to read on this subject. Using cooperative learning techniques, students use plastic forks to systematically, probe through the sand, starting at one corner of the box. No stirring allowed, only up and down motion. When a fossil is located, the student names it, and draws it on the proper location on the grid paper. Then it is the next student’s turn.

Students appreciate paleontological efforts. Students learn how to draw on a grid. Students learn to work together.

Real World Usage:
Real fossils may be used, if available. I have used potting soil…and then reused it for plant unit.

Predicting the Future

Overview: Moore’s Law states that computer processor speed doubles every 18 months. Compare that to progress in the early 1900’s and your students can see how things are moving zillions of miles per hour faster than in the past. With the new millennium upon us, what better time to predict the future?
Resources: Teacher: time line of inventions for the last 100 years. Student: pencil, paper.
Teacher Preparation: none.


1. Review time line of inventions for this century. Older students can research this on their own.
2. Brainstorm ideas of what breakthroughs or inventions may happen by the year 2000.
3. Students may be assigned specific areas to focus on, such as medicine, transportation or communication to research in order to better predict what the next five years holds. This could be as simple as third graders reading through their science book index, or as involved as high school seniors doing a research paper with numerous bibliography entries.

Variations/Options: As a resource, Wired Magazine highlights monthly a futuristic topic with predictions by experts for its implementation; research into predictions from 10 to 20 years ago on various topics to share with the class; make a time line of Internet-related events.

Design Your Own Remote

Objective: Students will be exposed to ergonomics and will use critical thinking and drawing skills.
Resources: Teacher: remote controls for TV and other electronic devices. Student: pencil, paper.

1. Procedure: Discuss being aware how our bodies adapt to manufactured objects: chairs, tables, etc.
2. Assign students to examine a remote control at home, drawing a picture of it as well as thinking about how they would change it.
3. The next day in class, discuss several different remote controls, using your own as examples.
4. Have students visualize their own remotes, with the help of their drawings, if necessary, and with their eyes straight ahead, pretend using the remote to raise and lower volume, change channels, and turn TV on and off.
5. Ask if they like the placement of the buttons.
6. Have students redesign the remote to better fit their hands or to be easier to use without looking.

Variations/Options: Examine other items like appliances, automobiles or ball point pens for design flaws and redesign.

Trash to Treasure

Before you toss out that old floppy disk or wristwatch, think about how your kids, with minimal tools, could disassemble it and use it for something else. Not only will they get some experience in seeing the inner workings of stuff our society considers valuable, they’ll also have access to various gadgets and materials that could be used in constructing something else; a little more interesting than construction paper and glue. Some common sense is in order, though. Electrically powered items can have hidden dangers like parts still holding an electrical charge long after they have been unplugged, or electrical power cords that could find their way back into an outlet (always cut them off first). If you’re unsure, ask a professional who knows what’s inside.


Photograms are contact prints made by exposing light-sensitive photographic paper to a light source while objects cover part of the paper, then developing. Here’s a variation using heat instead of light.

Just the fax: You will need heat sensitive paper. To get it look no further than a fax machine. Newer-generation fax machines use ink cartridges and plain paper. Skip those, and find an older model which uses the standard roll paper.

These thermal fax machines create images by subjecting the paper to heat, one tiny point at a time. For this project, wherever heat is applied, the paper turns black.

Heat sources: Part of this learning process is figuring out how different heat sources react differently with the paper. Some possibilities are hair dryers, irons, electric griddles, cups of hot water, soldering irons, curling irons and heat lamps.

Objet d’art: Heat sources alone can be used to create visually interesting pictures. But, you can go a step further by using miscellaneous objects placed on the paper while heating in various way. Variations include heating the paper while an object rests on the paper, or heating the object itself, then placing on the paper.

Instant gratification: The results of heating fax paper are nearly instantaneous, depending on the temperature of the heat source, meaning there’s no time spent baking or developing. Remember fax paper will fade over time, and the process is accelerated by exposure to bright light.

Altering Climate in the Classroom

If it rains in, you close the window. But what if your room is too hot or cold? Get students involved in trying to moderate temperature extremes based on their level of competence and how you can integrate the project into existing weather or science lessons.

Project Ideas:

* Styrofoam packing sheet material can be found free inside shipping boxes. This thin material has a good R-value and is thin enough to let light through. Good for covering windows to block heat or cold.
* Insulation can be used both to keep heat in a room in winter, or keep heat out in summer.
* Aluminum foil or reflective mylar will reflect radiant heat back toward its source, either inside or out. What are other ways to keep heat out?
* How can cracks be filled to keep air from going in or out? Rags or fiberglass insulation can be stuffed into large cracks, and long, narrow bags of sand block air coming in from under doors.
* Getting to school early in the morning to open windows and run exhaust fans will let you replace yesterday’s trapped warm air with today’s cooler morning air. Then students can monitor both inside and outside air temperatures to know when to turn off exhaust fans and shut windows to “trap the cool inside”. Can you leave an exhaust fan running all night?
* Discuss how warm air rises. How can that phenomenon be used to your advantage in winter? In summer? Students may find sitting on the floor comfortable in warm weather, and blowing a fan toward the ceiling in winter may help circulate the warmer air near the ceiling.
* Experiment with how one or two fans should be placed for maximum air flow in your room. Tape thin tissue paper streamers to bottoms of desks or hang from the ceiling to observe the airflow in your room.
* Can clear plastic be used to cover your windows in winter? Discuss the role of a “dead air space”.
* What effect does humidity have on classroom comfort? Evaporative cooling does not work well in our moderately humid climate, but in drier regions of our country, “water coolers” are the main source of air conditioning. Can evaporating water be used to make your room more comfortable?
* Brainstorm futuristic ways to affect the climate of your room (erecting a huge tent over the school; storing snow in an underground cave to cool the school with during warmer months.) Have students draw pictures of their ideas.

Speed of Sound

Overview: Parents can help their students with this exercise using readily available items to figure the rough speed of sound. Incorporate this into your regular lessons on sound.
Teacher Preparation: Optional hand-out sheet describing the procedure below.
Procedure Ideas:

* Discuss the phenomenon of sound traveling much slower than light, hence seeing distant actions before hearing their accompanying sounds.
* Explain how knowing the distance from an action and timing the length of time a sound takes to reach us enables us to calculate the speed the sound is traveling at.
* Brainstorm with students situations where the time delay can be confusing, such as at sporting events or public concerts.
* Brainstorm with students ways they can estimate the speed with their parents. Hint: An automobile is an easy way. Drive from point A to B, using the odometer to go a fixed distance such as a quarter mile or half kilometer. Using a stopwatch (many digital wristwatches have one) clock the time delay of slamming a door.
* Remember to have students do the experiment several times to obtain consistency.

Options/Variations: Discuss the variable of temperature as it affects the speed of sound; at 32F/0C the speed is 1085 feet per second. At 212F/100C the speed is 1268 feet per second.