Curriculum Update

Curriculum Update

Tying Math into the Real World

What do guitars, fantasy football and a television show about a crime-solving Los Angeles FBI agent have in common? They're all part of the latest movement among math teachers to bring reality into the classroom. "We've always seen individual teachers use real-world elements to motivate students, but we're seeing more and more teachers highlighting these kinds of applications," says Cathy Seeley, president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Teachers who are using these methods agree that their students are more engaged and enjoy learning the subject.

Across the country, hundreds of teachers have learned to play the guitar and incorporate it into their lessons through an organization called Guitars in the Classroom. It offers free weekly group guitar classes to pre-K through 8th-grade teachers in different regions. The classes include basic music education and group songwriting techniques. "Rhythm is math," says Judy Ginsburgh, a music specialist in Alexandria, La., who does professional development to show teachers how to weave music into their lessons. "Music is all about counting, learning notes and their values."

Gloria Brown, an elementary learning specialist for math in the Horry County Schools in Conway, S.C., rewrites familiar songs and jingles to teach about angles and other math concepts. She says when instructors combine music and movement, students' retention increases. "If your body learns it, you learn it," she says. "If you could see the children singing 'penny, nickel, dime and quarter,'" laughs Brown. When she monitors tests, she overhears kids singing tunes written by her or her co-workers.

For Dan Flockhart, bringing football into the classroom was the way to excite his students. "The traditional pedagogy of teaching math doesn't work for millions of kids, especially those in urban areas," says Flockhart, who taught for 11 years.

Flockhart piloted the material to have students learn math by playing fantasy football for six years and says it was his most successful curriculum. When they draft fantasy football teams,students track statistics, use fractions and decimals to compute points each week and construct graphs. His new book, Fantasy Football and Mathematics, contains 46 lessons, all tied to NCTM standards.

A third way math teachers are enticing students is by tying in lessons with the CBS show NUMB3RS, which is about using math to solve crimes. Lois Coles, an eighth-grade algebra teacher at Brentwood Middle School in Brentwood, Tenn., downloaded activities from the show's web site (Texas Instruments and NCTM developed supplemental activities) and encouraged parents to watch the show with their children in her weekly parent e-newsletter. "Even if the math on the show is more advanced than what we've covered, they'll often know a part of it, which excites them," says Coles, a 26-year teaching veteran."

www.guitarsintheclassroom.com

www.fantasysportsmath.com

www.cbs.com/numb3rs

Teaching Boxes Help Streamline Science Lessons

Ask a teacher about teaching boxes and you'll hear tales of containers stuffed with lesson plans, assignments, overheads and more. Recently, the National Science Foundation decided to replace all that paper and take advantage of digital libraries. It created the Teaching Box Pilot Project and put together a partnership between the Digital Library for Earth System Education, the University of California Museum of Paleontology, the U.S. Geological Survey, San Francisco State University and several San Francisco Bay Area school districts. "Teachers were frustrated with wading through the millions of online resources so we put scientifi c animations, activities and interactive exercises into a format that's useful," says Judy Scotchmoor, assistant director of education and public programs for the University of California Museum of Paleontology. The fi ve boxes, which cover everything from earthquakes to marine life, are standards-based and include assessment information alongside the lessons and activities. Even someone who's never taught a course on, for example, the essentials of weather could do so with one of these boxes, says Peg Dabel, who teaches sixth- and seventh-grade science at Adams Middle School in Richmond, Calif. When she used the evidence for plate tectonics teaching box, her students "learned without being aware they were learning." www.teachingboxes.org

How to Improve Your Social Studies Curriculum

Chris Johnson is the editorial director of social studies at McDougal Littell, a division of Houghton Miffl in Company. Although he is pleased states have been passing new social studies curriculum mandates, he is concerned that they add to an already crowded curriculum. He offers the following suggestions to help teachers cover all of the standards.

--Use big ideas and essential questions to help students form a coherent whole out of all the facts, events, dates and people that form the rich pageantry of history. New York State, for example, identifi es four key ideas for each subject, and these key ideas extend from elementary to high school.

-- Encourage students to bring in photographs, memorabilia and other primary sources that refl ect local or state history. There may even be opportunities for students to share appropriate oral histories that can help bring history alive.

--Take a little extra time at the beginning of the school year to review the resources that textbook publishers provide to plan effi cient coverage of state standards. Most publishers correlate their materials to state standards and provide pacing guides that can help plan out the entire year.

New Curriculum Shows Remarkable Results

Bright IDEA 1, a new curriculum that involved more than 900 kindergarten, first and second graders in regular classrooms in fi ve Title 1 schools in North Carolina from 2001 through 2004, was recently awarded a $2.5 million grant from the U.S.

Department of Education to expand to other districts. It's not too surprising, since all kindergarten Bright IDEA classrooms scored in the 99th percentile on the state literacy assessment and achievement among African-American and Hispanic students was raised close to the level of white and Asian students. Also, one school's Bright IDEA secondgrade

students scored in the 80th percentile on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills Reading exam compared with scores in the 39th percentile for non-Bright IDEA children. Bright IDEA is revolutionary for several reasons: It was built on advanced research and it trains teachers

how to design concept-based curriculum and to change the classroom environment to meet the learning styles of all children. DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION spoke with Margaret Gayle, one of the Bright IDEA principal designers, to get more insight into the programs.

How were the teachers trained?

It's not an add-on program; we paid for substitutes and trained about 130 teachers and principals at the same time. We worked with them for about 20 days and then they practiced what they learned. During the summer, they spend about fi ve days with us to

develop curriculum units.

What is concept-based curriculum?

Most state standards include concepts and topics. We train our teachers to unpack the big ideas in the standards- the concepts that need to be studied-and focus on them in-depth,

rather than on the hundreds of facts.

I've read that the Bright IDEA teachers' job satisfaction has skyrocketed. Why do you think that is?

They have more control over what they're doing. A lot of these teachers have creative ideas but had no format in which to practice them. We teach them how to integrate all that they've

learned. Our staff development is a comprehensive approach to integrating all of the best practices into one process. The teachers get excited about watching children respond to what they're doing.

I also read that the children's social and attention problems were reduced.

Several teachers in the program say the curriculum pretty much takes away any discipline problems. I think it's because the kids are on task, move around a lot and are involved in things that are exciting to learn about.


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