The Screeching Owl

Archive for October, 2010

221b Baker Street

Posted by David Fisher on 31st October 2010

A mysterious address to title a mysterious post written on Halloween.

The first time I learned about 221b Baker Street was in my junior or senior year of high school.  Living at this location was a gentleman investigator who drank far too much coffee and smoked enough tobacco to create a heavy cloud of smoke thick enough to be cut by a knife.  Deduction was his passion and he often employed his best friend in the its pursuit.  An adventurous man this man was, travelling to many places within the city in which he lived as well as the countryside during his deductive quests.

Murder, mayhem, theft, disguises, hounds, and many other items of possible deceit were his constant companions outside of his residence.  Whether alone or with his trusted companion, this gentleman investigator used the tools of his trade and any other tool to his advantage.  His mind worked like no other.  He is none other than………the creation of this gentleman:

The sepia tone, the chair, the clothes, and hair give away a bit as to who this gentleman investigator may be.  But I won’t.

I will say that I return to 221b Baker Street yearly with my students as their final read for the school year, and in it’s original text.  I tell you this because the book that will take us there is one of my all-time favorites.  It never loses its punch and I always look forward to its spring reading.

As today is a day of mystery, I will leave you with this one to solve: Tell me who’s in the picture, the name of the gentleman investigator, and the adventure we will share in the spring.  If you figure this out now, you’ll stand a fighting chance when we really venture from 221b Bakere Street.

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This Sounds Like New Math, Again

Posted by David Fisher on 26th October 2010

I remember sometime in junior high school (that’s middle school now) a math teacher was instructing us in the fine ways of new math.  We wondered what made it new.  It wasn’t the textbooks, the problems, the tesst, or anytisng else we, the students, could determine to be new.  The teacher, when asked, had difficulty telling us what made this math new math.  By the way, the year was 1977.

Fast forward to today.  Math seems to be new once again.  It’s not that we’re teaching any concepts that have just been developed within the last few years. Numbers still obey mathematical properties as they’ve always done.  Fractions are still fractions, graphs are still graphs, etc.  However, something is stil new.

Now that we’ve almost completed the first trimester with our new math series (the series doesn’t constitute the new math), I think I’ve finally figured out what’s new in math once more.  Here it is: students now have to think.

Yes, I know that sounds bizarre.  Let me explain:  When we learned division, for example, we were taught to find out how many times the divisor went into the dividend.  We often refer to this method of division as the ‘goes into’ method of division.  Today students are asked to figure out how many times a divisor can be subtracted from a dividend, what is the partial quotient that is found from that subtraction, and what is the new dividend.  Then, that process of repeated subtraction continues once again.  Algebra is no different now.  New properties are here.  Have you ever used the subtraction property of equality?  I didn’t think so.  Commutative, associative, distributive absolutely; the other, no way.

That’s what I mean by the students now have to think.  Instead of learning a system to solve math problems, students are now being asked to think about how the numbers relate to each other.  Students are being asked to take problems apart and put them back together in ways that they’ve not done before.  Brains are being retrained to think, not just memorize.  There is new terminology to learn, new steps to follow and use, and new ideas to share.

Where does that leave you, the parents, when it comes to helping your child with his/her math homework?  The same place it left our parents when they tried to help us.  Use what you know about math with your child and let him/her decide if your method makes sense.  There will always be more than one way to solve a math problem, and those ways will most likely involve addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division.

I guess some things really do stay the same.

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To The Polls We Go

Posted by David Fisher on 17th October 2010

Election day is just around the corner.  As this blog is about the happenings in and around my classroom, it would be inappropriate of me to discuss politics here save for the educational side of politics.  That’s where the polls come in.

Polls are a way to calculate and record the decisions that are made on a daily basis.  For example, our school cafeteria could provide the school with the number of students who select pizza every Friday over the course of a semester.  With that data, a class could determine many statistics: mean, range, and others.  Should the cafeteria provide a list of all selections over the course of that same time frame, a class could then determine trends, median, mode, and many other statistical items.

While these activities can prove to be quite educational, sometimes it’s just fun to ask some silly questions and see what answers you receive back.  Or, you could ask some questions related to favorites, hobbies, dreams, anything.  The bottom line here is that once you’ve asked that question to a group of people, a poll has started.  The one who asks can either enjoy the answers or use them for other things.

I choose to enjoy the answers!

Here are some questions that I would like you to answer.  Be honest with your answers, but have fun with them too.  Ready!

1. If you had all the money that you needed, what would you do?

2. If you weren’t in the career you’re in now, what would you be doing?

3. Who in the world of music would you like to spend a day with?  Why?

4. If you had the power to write a law, what would that law be?

5. What would you invent to make the world a healthier place to live?

I never said that the questions would be easy.  Select the one question that appeals to you the most.  Leave a comment with the answer to that question.  After I get the answers in, I’ll assemble them into some sort of easy to read post and let you know what the answers were.

So, it’s off to the polls we go!

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Read What You Love, Love What You Read

Posted by David Fisher on 10th October 2010

Over the course of the years that I’ve been teaching, students often ask if I read.  Yes, I tell them.  My answer is usually followed by one of a couple of other questions.  The first one is generally why; the second one has most recently been what.  What, as in, what do you read and not the sarcastic what?  What’s your favorite book, genre, author, story, etc?  Inquiring minds…

Let’s start with the why.  Well, why not?  Reading is a skill, and like any other skill that one has acquired over many years of education and training, it too needs to be continually practiced in order for it to stay sharp and fresh.  In addition to all of the reasons that we, teachers, give our students about the importance of being life-long readers, I choose to read instead of doing other things.  Life isn’t always a planned event, so finding a few extra minutes to read, wherever those minutes come from and wherever the reading location (I’m not going to say anymore about that one…) reading is a stress-relieving event for me.  I do have to admit, though, that I really do like to read on the couch knowing that Zorro, our greyhound, will always climb up next to me, drop his head on my leg, and stay there for as long I am reading.  I also read to show Zoe, my daughter, that even adults find time to enjoy the written word.  Family reading time has now become part of our weekend time together, and will shortly be part of our nightly routine.

Why I read is directly connected to the title of this post.  How so?  I read what I love and I love what I read.  The time that I find to read has to be filled with any text that will keep me engaged for whatever time that is.  I’ll catch up on the news by reading the paper online.  I’ll keep up with the world of business with any one of the several business magazines we get at home.  Mindless reading, that is reading that doesn’t require me to have to piece anything together, always goes to something like People; after all, everyone wants to know about the latest celebrity divorce, reality show cast, and new movie releases.

What I really love to read is political thrillers.  Give me a book by David Baldacci or Brad Thor and I’m a happy camper!  Why (here I go again)?  Simple answer: Because I can.  I can get hooked on the plot, get angry at the characters, get excited or nervous depending what is happening in the plot, and I can forget about the rest of the world for as long I have to turn the pages.  This is what I love to read!

Now it’s your turn.  Do you read what you love?  Do you love what you read?

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I Accept Your Challenge and now Challenge You

Posted by David Fisher on 7th October 2010

Recently a friend of mine, and a member of my Professional Learning Network (PLN), Melanie Holtsman, posted a challenge on Twitter.  The challenge, for those who accepted, is to blog once a week from now until the end of the year.  As Melanie put it in her blog post, and I’m paraphrasing here, the challenge is a way for me to keep my blogging organized and keep fresh topics in mind.  Melanie, if you’re reading this and I’ve mispoken, I apologize.  By the way, thanks for the challenge and for letting me borrow your image.  If you’d like to read some of Melanie’s posts, she can be found at Once Upon A Teacher.

After much thought, about a minute after reading Melanie’s blog post on this and her spreadsheet with the topics, I’ve decided that I need another challenge in my life and this seemed like a good one.  After all, I too am a blogger and will need topics to write about.  And, it was ready made.  There is something to be said about that.

Now the challenge is on, the Fall Blog Challenge 2010, that is.  My goal is simple: write at least a blog post a week following the topics included in this challenge and gear them to what is happening in the classroom.  Through these posts I can continue to provide you with insight into what your children are working on, as well as links to interesting projects or sites that we’ve investigated in class.  That is my challenge, but it is not the only challenge being discussed here.

I challenge you, students and parents, as well.  I challenge you to engage with this blog on a regular basis.  Read the posts, make comments, and reply to comments made by others.

I challenge you, parents, to let go of your child just a little bit more this year.  Let your child go and explore his/her interests.  Let your child experience something new and exciting to him/her even if it is something that you would not consider doing yourself.  Let your child take that first bike ride without training wheels, so to speak, with you there ready to catch him/her if needed.  Don’t be surprised if you’re left standing there while your child rolls down the street.

I challenge you, students, to step out on your own.  I challenge you to show the world what you’re really made of, what you’re really capable of doing, and what you can really contribute to your community.  I challenge you to be superstars in your own way that will truly show your true gifts.

I hope you’re all ready.  I challenge you!

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