Rock Star Productions

I have a "rockstars of the week" wall in my classroom. It's a way of recognizing students for exemplary traits in and outside of the classroom setting. Not merely based on academics, to be recognized as a rock star could mean that a student supported another, exhibited maturity or responsibility or another life skill that is worth preserving and encouraging.

During the 2012-2013 school year, I wanted to take "being a rock star" to the next level. There were many great things happening in my classroom, but as I started blogging about the happenings of what students were doing to parents and my online teacher communities, I realized that much of the "learning" was not being documented. Typically, there as a short video snippet, picture, or culminating project, but I feel that it really missed the "day to day" learning in my classroom which some people find blase or simply uninteresting. Many of my colleagues in my professional learning network were sharing ideas for this or that, but I felt that tangible, visible examples of practices, lessons and projects were sparse. There were a plethora of examples of how to teach this or that, but usually videos were a teacher lecturing into a camera and I was always curious how students would respond to such instruction. Would students be engaged?

I invented "Rock Star Productions" in the effort to document and share such happenings. My audience was primarily parents and fellow teachers, and my goals and objectives were as follows:
  1. To have "student ownership" of each learning experience by giving each student the opportunity to introduce a lesson with their own version of opening credits. The requirement was that it was creative and original and included the title. This is seen as the "schtick" of the segment much like how "The Simpsons" has new opening credits every episode.
  2. I wanted to start with the lesson objectives and share how I was debriefing/following up with homework. Homework has always been a contentious issue-( Do you grade it? How much does it count? What are best homework practices? How much homework should students do? What does flipped homework look like?) and I wanted to have a short snippet on how I was varying up homework. I wanted to integrate some reading and writing strategies into homework and thought that a quick summary of these expectations followed by a debrief over three minutes would highlight what I thought was good homework practices. I wanted to convey that homework has a purpose and can help student construct meaning.
  3. To share "rich tasks". Every teacher has an agenda but there are so many rich tasks that engender deeper understandings. Sometimes, we as educators read an idea but don't see it's applications until is done in front of us. A few years ago, I saw a remarkable video on conjectures of triangles that changed my life. Students made a hypothesis on the minimum amount of information needed to replicate a triangle and it gave me some great ideas on how to use classroom time in meaningful ways. If I had a read a summary of the activity, I wouldn't have given it a second glance.
I was prepared to make these resources only after two years of teaching my current curriculum. By then, I had unpacked my curriculum, developed some high-quality assessments, and woven some opportunities for service learning and entrepreneurialism into my curriculum. It was never my intention to boast that I knew better than anyone else, but rather give parents a glimpse of how students learning math in the classroom and construct their own meaning. I also wanted to open up my pedagogy to fellow teacher in order to get their input in order to refine my craft and share what I thought good learning experiences looked like.

Grade 6 Science

Scientific Method
Introduction to the Scientific Method: Hypothesis, Procedure, and Conclusions

Introduction to the Scientific Method: Variables, Sample Size, Control and Experimental Groups

Life Science
Growing Bread Mold-Part 1, Decoding Words by their Parts
Classification and Taxonomy
Modelling Viral Transmission
Modelling Evolution
Carrying Capacity
Investigating Amphibians
Comparing Plant and Animal Cells

Earth Science
How Fossils Show Change over time
Identifying, Dating and Sequencing Fossils
Measuring Soil Porosity

Conducting Heat

Grade 7 Math
Algebraic Principles
Translating phrases into expressions
Subtracting Integers
Additive Inverses, Ordering Integers
The Balance Scale as a Math Metaphor
The Zin Obelisk 2012

Rational Numbers
Rational Numbers: Student led discussion
Dividing Rational Numbers Jigsaw Activity
Lunch in the Park-Culminating Rational Numbers Project