Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Long Term Memory

It's been a while since my last post (first month of school = constantly busy) so I wanted to write a quick post about the importance of long-term memory learning.

From the beginning of the year, I teach my students the difference between short-term and long-term memory.

Here's how I explain it to my students:

Short-term memory-You'll remember it for your test tomorrow, but a week from now, it might be gone.  It is almost certain it'll be gone a month from now.

Long-term memory-You've been talking/learning about it each day this week, you'll talk about it next week, then next month, and bring it up a few more times over the next few months.  By the end of the school year, you will most likely retain the information from the beginning of the year.

What do I do to help them create long-term memories of the content?
  • At the start of the school year, I go through the standards and pull out the most basic facts and details from each standard (including any enduring understandings).  I compile this into a list and create Unit 1.
  • I teach like my hair is on fire for the first 3-4 weeks of school.  I usually use powerpoints, graphic organizers, real-world connections and videos for these lessons.
  • I greatly encourage my students to study the concepts at least 20 minutes a night, along with sending home many emails (to parents) with back up info for home learning/questioning.
  • At some point, I give a pop quiz (with some warning that it may be coming) to check & see if kids are really studying.  They really sweat this one!!
  • I give the Unit 1 study guide a week in advance and spend a week solid reviewing. 
  • After we take the test, we loop the information for the rest of the year.  Students are exposed to the information again once per month until the end-of-year assessments.
Even if this kind of plan won't work for your subject, you can use looping throughout the year to reassess the concepts.  Put several questions from a previous test onto the next test in a "looping" section.  Or have a looping quiz once every few weeks.  Any way you do it, long-term memory is key for student achievement.

What study skill do you reinforce all year long?  Comment below to share!

Just keep swimming!!  :)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Latitude & Longitude Lines

Each year, my students wrestle with the concept of map projections.  "Which direction is north?" I ask.  Inevitably, several students point toward the ceiling.  Face palm!

Our brains are trained to think of the world with England at the center, Antarctica at the bottom, and (seemingly) two Pacific Oceans separated by the Americas, Africa, Europe, Asia, & Australia.  From the first week, I try to break them of this habit.  I show a brief powerpoint of as many map projections as I can find.  I pull the globe off it's mount and flip it upside down. 

I've done something a little different this year.  With a roll of masking tape and a sharpie, I've given Obertopia our own Equator and Prime Meridian!

A simple idea, but it made a big impact during open house and the first days of school.  Just make sure to remove it if you're giving a map quiz!  :)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Door Decor

About a week ago, I discovered an article on BuzzFeed titled This Classroom Is The Doorway To Adventure.  The article features a series of classroom doors that have been decorated in awesome ways!  Since my classroom is the magical land of Obertopia, and I am the Queen, I was inspired to create a castle door!

Step 1: Cover the door with your paper of choice.  My original choice was pink, but we didn't have pink.  Dark blue it is!

To find the castle I wanted, I did a google image search for "Cinderella Castle coloring page".  After I found my favorite, I created a transparency.  My ink-jet printer doesn't create very good transparencies, so I traced the coloring page onto the transparency sheet with a sharpie.

This reminds me of my middle school days in math class.
I projected the castle onto the door and moved it around until I was happy.  I also got the opinion of the other teachers on my team.  Thanks, Mr. Stanley and Mrs. Knauff!

My original idea was to create a castle around the door frame with the door being the actual door to the castle, but I didn't quite know how to do that with the scale I wanted.

I traced the castle onto the door with a silver sharpie (more specifically-2 silver sharpies).
I used green construction paper for the trees at the bottom.

I colored in more windows to add contrast.
I love how it turned out, but it still needed something...

An Obertopia banner, perhaps?

The finished product (for now).

So what are your thoughts?  Should I add something more?  Do you decorate your door?  Let us know about it in the comments below or by emailing us

Have a magical day!