August 2015

Virtual Electronic Field Trips
by National Hall of Fame teacher Alan Haskvitz

Thing back to your school days and the chances are that besides a lost love it was a field trip that you recall vividly. Whether that class visit was to a museum, park, or historical place the learning and enjoyment standout. Today, with modern electronics, budgeting concerns, lawsuit avoidance, curriculum standards, and high value testing results, field trips are a rarity, if not extinct.

Sad, yes, but what is even more disheartening is the fact that students won’t have the opportunity to go somewhere that they could later in life share with their family. Even when a grant has been secured to help pay for the transportation and entrance costs you need to impose on other teachers to have that student miss their class. A small favor to ask, but nonetheless a day of learning missed for that subject area.

There is also the time consuming of tasks of trolling for parents to supervise, arranging the time for buses to arrive, medications, making sure no child is without an emergency number, and that the students understand the time schedule. There may be need for substitute plans and it is recommended that you take a picture of the group on the day of the trip so that if one is missing he or she is easier to identify by officials. This is a lot to ask from a teacher and certainly not a requirement for their position.

But all the above are practical matters. What is missing is the spontaneous learning opportunity across curriculum areas and the diversity of learning opportunities. For example, before the students get on the bus they must calculate the mileage, make an estimate of the miles per hour, study a map to see what other significant places are along the road, and study a layout of the facility noting where they are to report, restrooms, and other places they need to know. The combines both geography and math and map reading. Add to that mix the directions the bus will travel and estimated time of arrival and you have a great learning experience before the trip begins. Having the students make their own note taking book using inexpensive note pads and self-made marbled paper using printers ink and library or book binding tape and you have an art lesson. Using technology, students can even use global positioning information to track the trip and note the various streets taken to make them more aware of the importance of knowing where they are when traveling.

There is always the value of debriefing once the trip is finished and having the students share a study guide for the trip about such items as types of occupations noted, most unusual fact, names of docents, and a list of items observed and the addresses of those who need thank you notes and, perhaps, art work.

The learning that can be linked to a field trip makes if memorable, but just as importantly, enables them to learn on their own, something that electronic field trips to do not currently offer. It is not that electronic field trips are bad, far from it, what better way to visit places far behind the immediate area. What they lack is the spirit of adventure, the learning with friends on their own, to learn from others and, above all, the excitement to actually tell their family about and share the learning and motivate a future excursion.

Fortunately, when I was attending school legal matters were not the main concern. Learning was. We stood in the back of a truck on the way to a historical park, walked miles across town to visit a museum, went to a zoo and were simply told to report back at a certain time, not to mention trips to airfields, ships, museums, and significant buildings. The fact that I can recall these and don’ t remember the teacher’s name is not an indictment of the school system, but a reflection that perhaps we need to rethink what I call “seated learning” as the only way to inculcate facts.

Due to legal and financial constraints perhaps it is time to take a longer look at electronic or Internet field trips.

First, to make this lesson as real life as possible it would be good to have a map of the location, and, if it is a building or park, a map of that as well. In this way the student has a sense of where the images are coming from. Furthermore, if it is a location, such as a museum, the students can be given math problems on time and distance to help them understand the expenses of such travel. This also ties in with Common Core questions as well.

Before the trip is taken the students should read about the place, be prepared to compare it to others, and be given time to write what they might learn or would like to learn. These can be used at the end of the lesson as the bases for a compare and contrast essay. Obviously, the lesson also ties in with technology and science lessons as well.

The students need to take notes on the field trip including the webpage and what was shown. I would recommend that the trip take place during class time to keep the group on task and eliminate students going off-topic.

The teacher needs to review the site first, make an agenda of what is going to be shown and in what order, and create a list of questions for the students to answer as the lesson progresses.

It should be remembered that field trips may not be the same as once thought. There are now field trips that show how to make bread, ride a horse, and more. So be selective and make sure they meet your objectives.

Virtual Field Trips
Ten of the Best Virtual Field Trips

Huge List of Electronic Field Trips

Apps for field trips from Edutopia
Rather limited, but varied.

Standards Based Assessments
by National Hall of Fame Teacher Alan Haskvitz

Literature assessment ideas. Very complete

An overview of various assessments
An explanation of standard based assessments as well as other assessments. This is a must read site as it lists both pros and cons of each type of assessment.

A printable guide to standards-based-assessment
From the NCLB period, but well worth reading,

The National Center on Student Progress Monitoring (NCSPM)
Articles and PowerPoints on student progress monitoring, Curriculum-Based Measurement, applying decision making to IEPs and other researched based topics.

Government Site
Assessment for students with disabilities.

Special Education-assessment-evaluation
Excellent site with a huge array of ideas, including standards-based assessment.

A guide to creating a lesson

Glossary of assessment phrases

A model from Canada
Rather complete

Arizona standards by grade level
A good place to look for the standards-based assessments already done. All you need to do is modify them for your state standards.

Alaska Guides for Districts

Making Standards Work by Reeves
This is from Google, but buying the book is recommended.

Fun, Joy and Flow: The Unloved Words in Education
by National Hall of Fame teacher Alan Haskvitz

There is little doubt that fun and education standards are mutually exclusive terms. The demands for teachers to produce students with higher test standards is universal. Indeed, Common Core is built on that premise. Better marks mean better students. Better students mean a richer nation. All this is well and good for some, but the real keys to student learning are three fold. First, the goal should be to teach the students how to learn. Secondly, to develop questioning skills and thus create citizens not easily swayed by propaganda, false advertising, and the cult of looks or personality. Finally, to promote a joy and love of learning.

Acres of forests land has been denuded to produce research on how students should learn. Everything from the types of learning to testing to insure learning to classifications for those who don’t learn well have been documented. Critical thinking is the common core of Common Core. Despite research that points out that brain growth in children would make critical thinking next to impossible for younger children. Regardless, it is always good to get students to ponder.

What I am rallying for is to retain, promote, and insist upon keeping the fun in education, and I don’t mean having class parties. Fun is the real backbone of learning. It does not have to be formal or take the form of a computer game. What it does have to have is for the ability of the child to be able to learn creatively in a manner that creates a flow or zone learning opportunities.

Brain research has shown that long term memory can be enhanced by fun activities. Many of you readers can’t remember a teacher’s name, but the field trip stays with you. Judy Willis writes that the fun of having students discover the answer encourages enthusiasm for the subject. I have often seen teachers use a “sponge” activity to start a lesson, but not many were imbued with fun. When I teach my students mnemonic devises I stress silly ones. They retain them better and are eager to share ones that they have created with others. Having students apply their learning skills trying to write out a line or two from a short story that would show the character was using propaganda and having them share it makes students more eager to read the story and research the types of propaganda that could be used in the created passage. This type of fun activity makes for a positive emotional state and the personalization of the material wakes up the student. Such fun based learning activities also reduce stress and high levels of stress can actually reduce the size of the hippocampus and thus impair memory. You can easily see that when an unsure student is asked a question and “freezes.”

Fun makes learning relevant to students. It is no longer a meaningless event, but one in which they enjoy putting their personal stamp on and sharing it with others thus building cooperation. By no means does that mean that every lesson must be fun reliant, but it does mean that having fun activities, as almost all teachers know, creates a better atmosphere for learning. Creativity surges during play related activities and makes the lessons more pleasurable and stimulating.
The fun lessons could extend to all classes and to assignments at home. For example, the student could read about a character in history and explain it to his parent or guardian and have them write a note explaining why this historical person was absent from class. Sure, the answers might be simple: I am dead. But the lesson about the person should be long lasting for all involved. And asking the students to share could bring about additional learning possibilities.

Having fun and working do not have to be opposites in the classroom or in life. Someone in charge, or a rich person who thinks being rich qualifies him or her to influence decisions about education, should be given a remedial class on the benefits of play on the human body and mind and learning. Why not have students create their own games for physical education classes? In science class how about having students studying the periodic element table create comic books about their element? In Language Arts class use as a sponge activity to enhance the student’s imagination with real life stories.

The point is that having fun in class contributes to the essence of low in learning and can be a positive way to reinforce lessons, encourage learning, and to reduce stress. Every college teaching preparation program should have at least one section on how to make fun lessons. At schools across the country the principal should ask the teachers to share their fun lessons and encourage them to develop new ones. Administration reviews should also include a comment on the flow of the lesson placing the emphasis on the way the students reacted to the lesson and appeared to be motivated by it.

Above all it must be remembered that fun does not mean party time or joke telling. Fun and enjoyment of a lesson must result in learning and offers students intrinsic motivation. It means having some lessons that provide learning in a fun way. University of Chicago professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and found the fun is not easy to define, but he listed some attributes. Among his findings was that there is a difference between pleasure and enjoyment and that the latter is far longer lasting and needs more skill. Enjoyment is relaxing and can result in a situation where time is no longer an element of consideration. Lessons that find the class so involved in a fun learning activity that the end of the period finds them scurrying to find their book bags with some reluctance is something most teachers can relate to and is evidence that a fun lesson need not include laughter.

The bottom line is that learning should provide pleasure regardless of the topic. The motivation must come from within, but the teacher needs to find the lesson that will push this motivation into a product without undue coercion. Preparing for a test by reviewing may result in short term learning, but having the students creating their own questions to give to others makes the learning more enjoyable with a myriad of ways to provide longer lasting retention.
Learn by doing is an excellent way to instill this flow into a lesson. For example, the students read a chapter of a book and teams are chosen to rewrite the chapter from another viewpoint and all of the narration must be written in one syllable words. I have found that the best way to improve flow is to have the students create something tangible to share. It does require higher level thinking skills and thus promotes critical thinking, but for many students the lessons needed to create the item become more ingrained and the experience becomes more pleasurable.

Fun, joy and flow are as related as peanut butter and jam. They go together. Yes, they can be separated, but they aren’t as good. When a student has fun learning it turns to joy and is the best reward of all, intrinsic. That fun and joy result in a flow of pride, enjoyment and appreciation of learning, and long term changes in attitude. Every subject needs to be rethought. Common Core does supply the basics, it is the creative teacher that needs to supply the student centered learning that achieves the goal.

Finally, don’ t reinvent the wheel. There is an abundance of lessons that can be customized to fit your needs after some fine tuning. Sharing what you have done with others also can provide feedback to improve your lesson. Above all, make learning fun even if it figuratively kills your old lessons.

Holiday Lessons
by Hall of Fame Educator Alan Haskvitz

It is difficult at best to keep students on task with the weather, holiday expectations, and even family trips diluting their concentration. As such, it is probably best to use teachable moments to help take those interests and prepare lessons that enable them to relate it to the Common Core expectations. It is also a great time of year to stress cultural differences and to use art and music to add depth to lessons.

A very important message that needs to be respected and that is the fact that public schools must be aware that celebrating a holiday MUST follow certain rules. The very best site for this is

A nice sampling of lessons that cover a variety of subject areas and are of high interest
This includes having students taking part in giving activities, too.

A huge collection of lessons for all holidays and special days. Well worth checking.

ESL holiday lessons

Physical Education Lessons based on holidays

December lessons
Covers major holidays.

Free printables for most holidays

Lesson plans for major December holidays.

Lesson plans by month and it includes weather related links

Cultural awareness lesson plans
For older students

Christmas Around the World
Easy to follow and enables students to get a look at how this holiday is celebrated in various countries. A great art lesson can be developed from these lessons.

Holiday songs
Fun and the students could even be encouraged to make their own

Songs for teaching the holidays
You don’t have to buy the songs, the lyrics are listed.

The story of Saint Nicholas
A high interest, easy to read story that includes links to related sources. Great for Common Core practice. This site has excellent, high interest stories that can motivate students.

Learning styles and Differentiated Assignments
by Hall of Fame teacher Alan Haskvitz

There is no shortage of research on how people learn. Indeed, people have become rich just developing theories about this important element of learning. However, in a classroom packed with students it is often difficult to provide enough alternative types of assignments to reach everyone. Thus this feature is best used to help educate the students to learn about themselves and how they learn. An excellent feature to use at the beginning of a learning term. Be advised that some of this material is complex and so a critical eye is needed when selecting that information most appropriate for various grade levels. Of note, the greater use of technology can make it much easier to adjust assignments accordingly.

Once you have reviewed the various aspects of differentiated learning you may want to sample Awesome Stories where can find a variety of ways to teach a lesson using the resources there. For example, take a look at the variety listed here: These ideas can be used to reach every level of student and motivate them while meeting Common Core goals.

Printout identifying eight learning styles
This could be printed out and placed in the classroom to help students learn how to learn.

Howard Gardner’s Types of Intelligences
Gives examples of how to relate to different styles of learning

This site is designed for students to explore their own learning style

Sideshow providing information on how to apply differentiated learning and various styles

Learning Styles, Multiple Intelligences, and Differentiated Instruction
Links to these topics and self-tests.

Homework tips for different learning styles
The information is at the bottom of this site.

Knowledge of Student Characteristics
The first part of this article provides information that provides some interesting data that can help teachers with assignments including what time of day and right and left brain differences.
Using Felder’s Index of Learning Styles
A sideshow explaining this theory. An excellent overview that provides teachers with insights into various methods to reach students.

A Moodle about Moodle
This is a tool that teachers can use to individualize lessons and provide more direct feedback. It fits into the various types of learning styles feature by making it easier for teachers to provide differentiated learning opportunities.

by National Hall of Fame teacher Alan Haskvitz

Flipping a classroom has come to mean a method in which a teacher assigns technology related assignments for homework so that more depth can be added to the lesson when the student returns to the classroom. This can be done in several ways, but the most common appears to be an online video. In that way less classroom time is taken with lecture and more with using the data to extend learning opportunities. It is also called blended learning and reverse instruction. I have used a version of this since the late 1990s using bookmark sites. Indeed, one of my lessons revolved around having the students created their own lessons using videos for other students to use in a structured format.

It has proven to be of value, but many problems must be solved first such as what to do with students without access to technology, students who don’t do the work and students who have done the homework, but did not take adequate notes. The sites below can provide good examples of how it is done and the good and needs improvement of the method.

I also strongly recommend Awesome Stories as it provides exceptional lesson plans, videos, and stories that students can use at home. The material is high interest. It is your best bet when starting to use a flipped format.

A variety of links are provided.

An excellent visual presentation from a teacher about the benefits.

A professional learning community for teachers using screencasting in education.

Pros and Cons

A series of videos of classrooms using the flipped method

Flipping must be done right
Some warnings and suggestions

An article dealing with the use of the flipped classroom methods.
Provides some insights into some techniques that can be done with the videos.

A visual explanation of what the flipped classroom is about
Some statistics are provided on its value, but no source is given as well as the level of students involved. This resource is best used as an easy to follow example of how to set one up.

You Tube Videos about Flipped Classrooms

Popular Educational Social Networking Sites
by National Hall of Fame Teacher Alan Haskvitz

One of the realities of the expansion of media devises is social networking. This is both a curse and a blessing for many educators as it provides a way to share ideas with others and also as a time sink where countless meaningless mesaages are being receieved with little of value to the teachers. As such, I have made a list of the more useful sites.

A variety of slideshows that explain the history of social networking as well as the how they are used. A good starting point.

The pros and cons
This site also has some excellent examples

One of the best, and quite comprehensive is Educational Networking. Take your time to explore this site to locate those groups that have interests that align with yours.

Another large link site by subject

Edmodo is for teachers and students and has a great many facets. You need to create an account, but after that there is a plethora of content. Well worth spending time learning how to use this site.

Classroom 2.0
This site requires you to create an account, but once this process is completely there are thousands of others wishing to share ideas and events. Another first-rate site even for novices.

Educator’s PLN
Another comprehensive ning site dedicated to the support of a Personal Learning Network for Educators. Again, well worth a visit.

Large Pinterest Section
Shows links to many sites.

« Previous PageNext Page »