Inside the Tuscaloosa Twisters

As the nation mourns the many lives lost and altered by the recent supercell tornadoes, the NYT Learning Network and NOAA’s National Several Storms Laboratory are two excellent resources to help your students gain a better understanding of this deadly weather phenomenon.

The NYT Learning Network offers this comprehensive lesson plan entitled Inside Twisters that includes information on tornado basics, a warm-up slideshow for students to watch, discussion questions and a set of group activities. The lesson is correlated to McREL (and can be correlated to the new Common Core).  NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory also provides a wealth of resources and teaching aids including information on weather safety and weather careers.

Don’t forget to check out the MSP2 Resource Guide on Oceans, Climate and Weather, and the corresponding Weather student virtual learning experience on the SMARTR student site that includes videos, games and simulations on the topic.

Project Earth – Making the World a Smaller Place

Project Earth is a global networking website for K–12 educators and the public designed to connect people around the world to help solve environmental problems. Its mission is to generate ongoing conversation and collaboration across national boundaries that collectively lead to positive environmental change. Registration is required and member teachers/schools/classrooms are able to showcase their innovative environmental projects, connect and interact with ecologically-minded people around the world (from Minnesota, to Los Lagos, Chile, to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia!).  Teachers and students also have the opportunity to participate in environmental contests and earn recognition for efforts.

Last year, Project Earth’s World Environment Day Contest drew winners involved with environmentally conscious projects such as studying how plastic bags affect our environment, and growing food for a school kitchen and composting the waste. Submissions to the 2011 contest are due May 15th. A great project idea for your classroom!

A few  other resources to tap into on this topic include the MSP2 resource guides on Technology and the Environment, Populations and Ecosystems, and Oceans, Climates and Weather.

New Book – Learning to Love Math

Author Judy Willis is a middle and elementary school teacher and a former neurologist who has written a number of books on the brain and learning.  Her latest book, Learning to Love Math, examines strategies for building math “positivity” in students (published by ASCD, http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/108073.aspx).  She states, “Before children can become interested in math, they have to be comfortable with it.  Students build resilience and coping strategies when they learn how to use their academic strengths to build math skills and strategies. Your intervention helps them strengthen the networks that carry information through their brains’ emotional filters to the area where higher-order thinking skills are concentrated, the prefrontal cortex (PFC). With practice, they will be able to use the highest-level analytical networks in the PFC to evaluate incoming information and discover creative solutions to math problems (in addition to problems in all subject areas). ”

Willis examines three primary strategies – family conferences, re-testing students, and demonstrating the value of math.

Family conferences can help parents learn some of the scientific evidence linking the effects of stress, that they may inadvertently place on their children with high expectations, to their children’s academic success. Conferences allow educators to help families understand that “the first step to math success is a positive attitude toward the subject matter, not just to the grades associated with it.”

Willis urges educators to reassure all students that they will have opportunities to achieve highe grades through re-testing. She allows all students who score less than 85 to re-test.  Her reasoning is that “because progress in math is so strongly based on foundational knowledge, students need to achieve mastery in each topic—which forms the basis from which students can extend their neural networks of patterns and concepts—before they move to the next level. Retests provide opportunities to reevaluate answers and make corrections, as necessary.”

Finally, according to Willis, “key to developing students’ interest in math is to capture their imaginations. Instead of allowing them to think of math as an isolated subject, show the extended values of math in ways they find inspiring.”

What are your strategies for build “positivity” in students in math or science?


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We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 4/18/2012.