Wednesday, October 31, 2012

We need to revamp Math Class

Now after all the talk about High Order Thinking Skills, and the program is being used in all the English classes in Israel.  We have been teaching this way for about 2 years, some even three.

How do you feel about this program?  Do you feel that the students are really benefiting?
Can these skills be taught even earlier in the school career?  What about the students learning this when they are in Elementary School, in their native language?  Why do these basic skill have to wait until 15 years old?

There has also been talk in the Math world, at least in the United States and in the UK about problem solving skills.   Dan Meyer gives us some insights about how Math is taught now, and what it could be.

We need to make Math more relevant to each student.  I remember a classic math word problem.

I'm going to bore you a bit:

 1. There are two trains, one is going 50 miles an hour west, the other is going 80 miles an hour east.  At what speed are they going to crash?

Why is this a good math problem at all?  Who said that the trains are on the same track?  Maybe they aren't even in the same state?  One is in Arizona and the other is in New York.

I never saw the relevance of this problem.

Now, my mother is an artist.  She never got math either.  So maybe she would have been more interested in math if it was more real to her.

2. You want to mix paint to get the color turquoise.  You have blue paint and yellow paint.  What proportion of blue and yellow paint do you need?  Do you need any more colors in order to make turquoise?

Now which problem is more real to an artist?  The one with the trains, or the paint?  Dan Meyer has more to say about this subject, a video worth watching:

I welcome your comments!

Rachael Orbach

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Lesson Plan for Harry Chapin

The Cat's in the Cradle by Harry Chapin
  Rachael Orbach

Audio lesson for an 8th grade English speaker's class or 10th grade 5 point.  

Timing for this lesson is two 45 minute periods.

I would start out this lesson by first giving a talk about Harry Chapin, who he was, what he did and the causes he believed in.  I would give the students a copy of his biography.  The timing of Harry's work is very important.  He was not as famous as Bob Dylan, or Pete Seeger, but with his songs he did raise awareness of the vagaries of American life.  At the end of his life he did benefit concerts to end hunger. 
10 minutes.   

Then I would play the song: "Cat's in the Cradle" , two times.

I would have the students read the words, the first time while listening to the song, and then the second time the song would be played, I would hand out the chart and have the students complete the chart while listening.  
I would give 10 minutes for the students to listen to the song, as well as to fill out the chart.

We would then have a feedback session writing on the board all the answers of the students.  10 minutes.

The end of the first period would end with listening to the song again. 

2nd lesson: 45 minutes

I would bring the book "Cat's Cradle" by Kurt Vonnegut to class, and read out loud a short excerpt that explains the title of the book.,  I would also bring some string and show the beginning of the string game. If anyone knows how to do the string game, then I would have the students play the game.
10 minutes

I would give out the sheet with the nursery rhymes and excerpts from Wikipedia.   

Group work:
In groups of 4, each group would pick a  rhyme  to fill out the chart,  and prepare, the rhyme, either by a choral reading, acting out, a jazz chant, or a dramatic reading.   I would try to have at least one person in each group who would be familiar with the poems, either in English or in Hebrew. Each group would also write their chart on the board.
20 minutes.  
Feedback as a class: 10 minutes 

I would go over all the poems, and have the students read the excerpts from Wikipedia, about Cat's Cradle."  

10 minutes
Then I would play the song by Harry Chapin once more.
5 minutes  

For Religious reasons:  ( I as a Jewish religious woman don't sing in front of men and boys)
If the class was a girls' class, then I would bring my guitar and sing and play the song, and hopefully get them to sing along.
5 minutes:  


If the students didn't know any of the allusions, I would point out that the chorus refers to nursery rhymes such as  "Rock a bye baby, on the tree top,"  The silver spoon refers to people who are born into rich families, the children get all the materialistic love , that is the best that money can buy.   

Each of these nursery rhymes convey contradictory messages, the Rock my Baby, talks about a cradle on the top of a tree. (what are we talking about really?)  Little Boy Blue, foreshadows what Chapin's song is about, the shepherd is fast asleep instead of doing his job. The boy with the silver spoon, is envied by other children because he comes to school with the latest electronic gadgets.

The book itself " Cat's Cradle" is rather complicated and hard to follow, because of Kurt Vonnegut's style of writing.  What I wanted to show was that Harry Chapin was probably aware of the book, as it was quite popular from the 1960's to the late 1970's.
But all these poems and songs, when one looks back at childhood, blend into one feeling of a secure childhood, where the family takes care of the children, helps them and gives then not only the financial security they need, but also emotional security.

Harry Chapin is pointing out, in a different media, that is easily accessed, that children need both emotional security and economic security.  When one parent is absent or emotionally uninvolved, it can have repercussions on the children. 

Sources and activities;

Little boy blue, come blow your horn
The sheep's in the meadow, the cow's in the corn
Where is that boy who looks after the sheep?
Under the haystack fast asleep
Will you wake him? Oh no, not I
For if I do he will surely cry
"Rock a bye baby - in the tree top..."
"When the wind blows - the cradle will rock..."
"When the bough breaks - the cradle will fall..."
"And down will come baby - cradle and all!"

The man in the moon
looked out of the moon,
Looked out of the moon and said,
moonman.gif (7570 bytes)
"'Tis time for all the children
on earth
To think about going to bed!"

The title of the song, Cat's Cradle  is a game played with string by two children, in which the string is held in a certain way,  if the teacher knows this game, it could be taught to the students.
"Cat's cradle is a well known series of string figures. The name of the entire game, the specific figures, their order, and the names of the figures vary. Versions of this game have been found in indigenous cultures all over the world--from the Arctic to the Equatorial zones. In some regions of the US, this game is also known as Jack in the Pulpit. "'s_cradle_(string_game)
The title is also from a science fiction book by Kurt Vonnegut, written in 1963 called :Cat's Cradle." The main story line of the book is about an extremely indifferent father who would rather be in the office than be at home with his wife and children. 
Ward, Selena. SparkNote on Cat's Cradle. 28 Dec. 2007 .

"The title of the book derives from the string game "cat's cradle". Early in the book, we learn that Felix Hoenikker was playing cat's cradle when the atom bomb was dropped. The game is later referenced by Newt Hoenikker, Felix's dwarf son.
The character Felix Hoenikker was inspired by Irving Langmuir, a scientist at General Electric in Schenectady, New York, where Vonnegut worked in the 1950s, with the town of Ilium representing Schenectady in many of Vonnegut's works. Langmuir himself came up with the idea of ice-nine as a joke. In terms of characterization, however, Hoenikker is a composite figure assembled from Stanislaw Ulam and Edward Teller, the two scientists who finalized the math for the H-Bomb.
The Hoenikker family also shares some characteristics with Vonnegut's own.[citation needed]
Cat's Cradle was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1964.
A few years after the publication of Cat's Cradle, Soviet scientists announced the discovery of polywater, a substance that seemed eerily similar to ice-nine. The fervor around polywater lasted a few years but subsided when the initial results were shown to have been caused by impurities."
 to the words?
Pick a nursery rhyme to analyze:  ___________________________
Do you know this poem?

Who sung it to you? W

What does it remind you of?

, wait a minute! This is getting serious!)
What exactly is it we are supposed to be teaching our children with this little gem of a song? Doesn't it seem a bit strange to plant such images subconsciously?
(And they wonder why kids have nightmares...)

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