Into My Classroom

Fourth Year Biology Teacher Sharing My Musings With The World

Archive for June 2010

June PD review

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June has been a very busy month for me.  I’ve attended a PD session every week this month.  Here is my reflection of each.

Developing Science Vertical Teams (June 7-10)  This workshop was conducted by a College Board representative and it was definitely not what I expected it to be.  We only spent around an hour on the last day of the workshop on vertical teaming.  The rest of the workshop was looking at different labs that students could do and sharing of resources.  I liked the workshop because I was able to meet other teachers in my district and share resources with them, but I was very disappointed in the workshop for the missing component of vertical teaming.  It would have been much better if the workshop was conducted by region instead of district.  That way I could have met teachers of our feeder schools and the process of vertical teaming would have been more beneficial.

AP Biology Curriculum (June 11) This workshop was conducted by the same presenter of the previous workshop. It’s not worth mentioning what we learned because the whole session was a summary of what we did in the vertical teaming workshop.  I could have definitely skipped out on this one.

AP Biology Summer Institute (June 14-18)  Again, another huge networking opportunity.  I was under the impression from other teachers that during this workshop we would perform all 12 AP labs.  I was prepared for this to be a very intensive week, but it was actually the opposite.  We only did 3 labs and it was very laid back.  I was really looking for a challenge this week.  I also thought that we would work on our audit, but we didn’t.

Microscope Workshops (June 21)  I attended two workshops in one day regarding microscopes.  The morning session was based on how to clean and care for your microscope, which was very informative.  The second session was on digital microscopes and I wasn’t going to attend at first because I thought it was just for schools with digital labs.  I spoke with our science coordinator and she told me that I could attend.  By attending this workshop, I received a digital microscope to take back to my school.  Very cool!

Vernier Workshop (June 22 and 23)  This was the most boring workshop of the month.  I guess it is because I attended a similar Vernier workshop a while back and some of the activities were the same.  I did get to network though!

Overall, the main benefit I got from the sessions this month was networking because I saw a lot of the same people over and over again.  Even though they were not what I expected, I did gain valuable resources to implement into the classroom.


Written by Ashley Erin

June 30, 2010 at 5:00 am

Identifying Power Standards

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A common complaint I hear among my colleagues is that we are focusing too much to teaching to the test and that we are never able to finish all of the standards in time for the state exam.  A few months ago, I attended a standards based workshop to discuss power standards and unwrapping the standards.

What are power standards? Power standards are a select amount of standards that you will focus on throughout the year.  The power standards are those that you guarantee your students will master by the end of the year.  This moves instruction away from the “mile wide, inch deep” concept.

How do you determine your power standards? It can be very difficult to narrow your instruction for the year down to a few standards.  It is important to focus on three things when determining your power standards:

  1. What will students need to know to be successful in life?
  2. What will students need to know to be successful in school?
  3. What will students need to know to be successful on the state test?

Whatever standard you select to be a power standard should fit all three criteria.  Before I looked at my state standards, I thought that this would be difficult.  Once I started, the process went by very smoothly and it became very obvious which standards were to be my power standards.

Narrowing my standards have given me confidence to the next school year.  I feel good knowing that I can be confident in going deeper in the subject with my students.  To see my biology power standards, click here.

I have not completed my AP Biology power standards as of yet as I am still familiarizing myself with the test setup and standards.  Now that I have my general biology standards narrowed, I can focus on unwrapping the standards.

I really just skimmed the surface on the issue of power standards.  For more information regarding selecting power standards, please read Power Standards: Identifying the Standards that Matter the Most by Larry Ainsworth.

Written by Ashley Erin

June 28, 2010 at 5:00 am

Posted in Curriculum, Standards

Mini-Grant Winner: Inquiries in Science Kit

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I am very excited right now because I won a mini-grant from Carolina for one free Inquiries in Science Kit.  The four biology kits to choose from were:

  1. Discovering Nucleic Acids
  2. Synthesizing Macromolecules
  3. Analyzing Population Growth
  4. Simulating the Darwinian Theory

As part of winning the grant, I have to give my students a pre and post assessment to be provided by Carolina and give Carolina feedback from myself and my students.  I can also submit a video of my students using the kit. 

The grant application process was very simple.  All I had to do was provide some general information and answer four brief questions.  One of my professional goals for the year is to apply for grants, so it’s nice to have my year start off on the right track.

The kit that I chose is the Discovering Nucleic Acids Kit.  I plan on covering macromolecules in August, so I won’t need that kit right away.  The other two topics are covered in the Spring and I really don’t wait that long before I use the kit.  I’ll have to make sure I post once I use the kit to let you know how it goes.

Written by Ashley Erin

June 16, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Posted in Grants

Book Review: A Handbook for Teachers of African American Children

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While in grad school, my mentor suggested that I read a book entitled A Handbook for Teachers of African American Children by Baruti K. Kafele.  The suggestion came about after me revealing the many frustrations I had with teaching my students.  I purchased the book a while back, but never got a chance to really read it until now.  In this post, I will highlight some of the main points of each chapter along with my reflections.

I. The Missing Component – In this section, Kafele emphasizes that in order to properly teach African American children, one must throughoughly understand the culture and history in order to relate to the students.  By knowing this and also educating your students about their culture as well, students will gain a sense of purpose.  African history is the missing component of the education of our children.  I really like how Kafele points out that during slavery, one was not only stripped of physical freedom, but also enslaved the mind.  Majority of our students remain to be enslaved.  As a teacher of African American children, I can help my students succeed by freeing their mind to discover various possibilities.

While reading this chapter, I thought it would be a great idea to present an African American scientist or history in science to the students.  Facts learned throughout the week could be offered as extra credit.  I would also love to begin building a classroom library of books regarding African American history and scientists.  I saw a book in Barnes & Noble last month documenting the history of black people in Memphis.  I’m going to have to go and purchase it to be my first library addition.

II.  A Mindset for Teaching – This chapter begins with information regarding your purpose, mission, and vision for teaching.  Every school has such information so why not incorporate it into your classroom.  By determining your purpose, mission, and vision, you are setting the direction for your classroom.  Your purpose is a comprehensive statement of what you want your students to be able to achieve.  Your mission is to be aligned with your purpose and controls your reasoning for everything you do in the classroom.  Having a vision allows you to see where your students will be at the end of the year and also where you plan to be as a professional teacher.

This chapter also reviews the process of setting goals, and suggests that you even post them in your classroom in order to be accountable to your colleagues and students.  Finally, there is mention of modeling proper behavior as a professional, such as attire and using proper english.  The chapter ends with stating that one should perform daily reflection in order to grow and learn as a teacher.  Once the school year begins, I hope to use this blog to record my daily reflections.

After reading the first two chapters, the book got really boring to me.  The remaining chapters mentioned various topics that I feel every pre-service teacher experiences in a degree program.  For example, there is a chapter regarding differentiating your instruction, but not many tips are listed.  It just lists various methods of things such as cooperative grouping, brain-based learning, and so on. 

Overall I feel that this is a book that can be applied to all students and not just those of African-American students in particular.  I do not see any one factor of this book, besides that of relating to the culture of African-American students, that is a magic key to unlock the mysteries of the low achievement of my students. 

Written by Ashley Erin

June 16, 2010 at 11:54 am

Posted in Book Reviews

Weekly To Do

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  • Create goals for my students for next year.
  • Create syllabus for biology class.
  • Make a decision on student notebooks.
  • Create student assignment sheet.
  • Start reading Baruti book.
  • Contact students and parents for Costa Rica meeting.
  • Have a successful parent meeting!
  • Attend Vertical Teaming PD.

Written by Ashley Erin

June 6, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Summer Vacay? Think Again.

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Caribbean Blue

Some of my friends are under the impression that teachers have it good because we get a whole three months off.  I am here to dispel that myth for the entire world.  As a teacher, summer is a time for planning, organizing, and reflection.  True we may have at least one good week off, sometimes even two.  The rest is work, work, and work.

I will use my summer schedule as an example.  Next week I will be attending professional development on vertical teaming.  After that, a week-long AP Biology workshop.  I will finish up this month with problem-based learning workshops and summer camp assistance.  When July comes, I will still be plugging away at the problem-based learning workshops and summer camp.  I will also be in attendance at a week-long biodiversity workshop at the Smithsonian and another week-long AP Environmental Science Institute.

In between the many events I will be attending, I will also be in the process of planning for the next school year, reading professional journals and blogs, and working on my own professional blog that you see here.

You see, I do not view summer as a time to rest or play.  I see summer as a time to reflect on the previous year and act in order to better myself professionally.  With the world we live in, there is never enough information to learn.  We are in a world that is changing by the second, and I want to be sure that I am ready for the world at all times.

So those palm tress up there are simply a dream of where I will be able to habitat, only after my mission is done.

Written by Ashley Erin

June 1, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized