Authentic Learning – Measuring Snowfall

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Not everything needs to be a big project to be authentic.  Tracking snowfall can be a great authentic way to learn measurement and graphing.

Use a ruler to go out and measure how much snow is on the ground after a snow fall.  Track measurements through one storm, or through the entire winter season. Create a graph with your results. Discuss different types of graphs and what graph would make the most sense to use and why.  If you are in the US, have your students measure using both inches and centimeters.  (If you don’t have snow where you live – count yourself fortunate – you can measure rainfall.)

Working with a group of fifth graders, I had them measure paper to cover bulletin boards.  These kids had completed hundreds of worksheets on measurement, yet none of them were comfortable using a ruler. Not one of them knew how to approach measuring a bulletin board – after completing hundreds of worksheets!  Basically, these worksheets had been a total waste of time.  Using a ruler to measure something meaningful and real – authentic –  internalizes the skill for a child.

Teaching Authentically – Allowing Students to Follow Their Passions

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I have blogged about this before, but felt it was important to revisit again.  When working on authentic projects, it is only authentic if the students are allowed to follow their own path with the project.  This can be a bit of a balancing act if the adult is trying to accomplish specific objectives and goals (as they should be).

This balance can be achieved through adult discourse and guidance.  For example, you introduce the topic of clouds, and you have a science goal of learning about cloud formation.  Your students may chose to continue to do an in depth and authentic project about cloud formation, or they may choose to follow a different path after they have learned the basics about how clouds form.  What happens when an airplane flies through a cloud?  What are the different types of clouds?  Do we have more clouds in warm or cold weather?  Do some areas of the Earth have more clouds?  Where are the best beaches with the fewest cloudy days? (Please let me know the answer to this one – I am a certified sun worshiper!)

NFL Football – is it more difficult to see the football in the air on cloudy days?  How do these clouds form?  And why do football players put black paint under their eyes? Do they need this paint on cloudy days?

Space – are there clouds on other planets?  How do they form – do we even know for sure how they form?

It can take some creative thinking, but the challenge can actually be fun, and rewarding, when you figure out the “tie in.”  And if you are stumped, ask the kids!  Their ideas might not always be an obvious path to follow, but if it makes sense to them, and accomplishes your goals, that is even more authentic. Mission accomplished, and engagement has occurred.  And when students are engaged – they learn!

 

Authentic Ways to Present Projects

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There are infinite ways to present projects authentically.  When Peggy and I were writing One School’s Journey we tried to remember all of the ways projects had been presented in our school.  I am sure we missed some, and two years later there are probably many more we could add to our book (hence, we are starting a second edition). I have copied the list we came up with, from the back of One School’s Journey, below.  Just some ideas to see if anything clicks for your students.

Student Created:

Animation, Art, Bulletin Board, Commercial, Competition, Dance, Diorama, Film, Gallery, Geography Fair, Hall of Fame, Letter, Model, Museum, Newscast, Newspaper, Open House, Photography, Play, Poetry, Poster, Power Point Presentation, Puppet Show, Recital, Reenactment, Scrapbook, Science Fair, Simulation, Slideshow, Story Board, Story Book, Time Line, Tri-Board, Virtual Science Fair…

If you have used other ways to have students present their work, and would be ok with me adding these to my list, and next book, please contact me through this blog.  I would love to hear your authentic ideas!

Authentic Project Ideas – Reindeer

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How did the story of Santa’s reindeer start?  Are there real reindeer?  Where do you find reindeer?  Did Santa’s reindeer always include Rudolph?  Do any of the other reindeer have special stories?

Write a new story about Santa’s reindeer.  Write a poem.  Draw a picture…

Create a new authentic way (make-believe qualifies) for Santa to pull his sleigh…

 

Authentic Project Ideas – The Nutcracker

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The Nutcracker. What is the history of the Nutcracker?  What country did the Nutcracker originate in?  How did the Nutcracker become associated with the holidays?

Design a Nutcracker.  Start a photo journal of unique Nutcrackers.  Make an authentic Nutcracker…

Most Nutcrackers are carved from wood.  What are other wooden toys?  How did toys of the past differ from toys of the present?  (Authentic projects start with one topic and frequently evolve to another topic.)

Authentic Project Ideas – Major Cities

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Major cities provide tons of authentic topics for teaching, learning, and exploration.  Why did a city end up where it did?  Boston definitely developed as a major sea port.  Were there other factors that influenced the growth of Boston?  New York City?  London?  Beijing?

What are the reasons that a city developed in a certain spot?  Water access, train lines, topography, climate, tourism, historical events…

Are those reasons changing today?  What determined the growth/decline of cities of the past?  What determines the growth/decline of cities today?  What might determine the growth/decline of cities in the future?

It would be interesting to chart/graph the growth/decline of cities in the past and present.  Maybe even adding into the chart/graph the reasons for the growth/decline…

And how about designing an authentic city for the future…

Authentic Project Ideas – Clouds versus Fog

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What a gorgeous fall morning!  Couldn’t resist this picture. So, are these clouds?  Fog?  What is the difference between clouds and fog?  We had had a ton of rain the day before.  Did the wet conditions contribute to this?  Also, we live up in the mountains.  Did altitude contribute to this?

What causes clouds?  What causes fog?  Can this effect be reproduced in an experiment inside a controlled environment?  Is the composition of my photo any good?  How could I take a better photo? What makes a photo interesting. (Feedback appreciated.  I enter my photos in our county fair every summer and I love ribbons!)  Authentic jumping off point for several projects…