Tag Archives: lesson plans

More Them, Less Us

Have you ever spent a great deal of time researching and crafting the perfect project – paying attention to every last detail, planing for every possible contingency, only to have it flop when you try it with your class? Well, the opposite of that happened to me this week. I threw together something simple at the last minute and it totally rocked!  Jen Wagner would be proud.  :-)  Here’s what happened…

Our 4th grade teacher approached me that morning to let me know that they were going to be studying the Pony Express. She asked if I had any ideas for an activity to get them ready. I told her I would work on it. Did I? No. So as the class walked in the door, there I was scrambling to come up with something. I decided to have the kids log into Discovery Streaming using their student accounts, search for “Pony Express”, and find out whatever they could about it.


While they were working I scrambled on to Wallwisher.com, quickly built a wall, calling it “Facts about the Pony Express”, and dropped a link to it in their class folder. After giving them some time to research I had them open the link and start adding facts to the wall. As they went back and fourth between Discovery and Wallwisher I pointed out interesting facts, facts that were repeated, and encouraged them come up with something that no one else has posted.

“I don’t see anything on the wall explaining why the pony express ended.” I said.

“I’m on it.” Came a response from the student on computer #15.

The kids were engaged, focused on the activity, and excited to see the information on the wall grow as they worked together with their classmates.

After school that day, the teacher came back to me saying that as a result of this activity her students had learned all the material they needed to know about the pony express, and then some. “I don’t know if I need to even bother using the lesson I had planned for class.” she shared.

It’s kind of embarrassing when something this easy goes so well. What was it about this activity that worked? I think maybe it’s because this lesson put the students in charge of their learning. It wasn’t about the amazing lesson or projects I put together. It wasn’t about listening to the teacher share everything students need to know about the pony express. It was about them. They were doing the research. They were working together to share what they know.

Will the success of this last minute lesson encourage me to procrastinate even more? Am I going to give up working, researching, and planning amazing lessons? I hope not. Instead I hope that the lessons and project I do design allow students to have a bigger role and responsibility in their learning, and also allow them to work together and share what they learn with each other. More them, less me.

Hey, you guyyyyys!!

If you were in elementary school in the 70’s, you probably recognize that call as the voice of Rita Moreno yelling to let you know it’s time for another episode of the Electric Company. If you’re like me public television was a big part of your education too – from Sesame Street, Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, and The Electric Company to science shows like Nova. I wonder how many of you in the classroom today use PBS programming and resources with your students?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Okay then, imagine my voice yelling “HEY YOU GUYYYYYS!!” to let you know about some of the great resources available now at www.pbs.org/teachers.

The people at PBS have been busy working to tag, catalog, and make “searchable” their vast online collection of resources. The result is the new PBS Teachers web site.

You can search by keyword, use the advanced search, or start with a subject area and drill down by selecting a grade level and a topic. For example, when I performed a keyword search for “sceintific method” my results included 24 lesson plans, 63 offline activities, 5 interactives, and 115 audio/video clips.

Trying to be more specific, I tried search for the Native American “Lakota” tribe. The results included 4 lesson plans including two from the Lewis and Clark Mini-Series, an interactive web site of Native American Storytellers, and a video clip from Antiques Roadshow telling the history of some Lakota artifacts.

As you start using this site more often, you’ll probably want to register with PBS Teachers Connect and become a PBS Teacher. By signing in you can save and add your own tags to the resources you find for easy retrieval later.

You’ll also become a part of a community of PBS Teachers where you can ask questions and participate in discussions.

For those of you searching for video resources keep in mind that this site is not a single repository, rather it provides links to the various PBS web sites where these resources reside. Depending on the program, videos formats may vary between Flash, RealPlayer, Quicktime, or Windows Media. Some clips, like those from Nova ScienceNow, can be downloaded and even transferred to an iPod, others can only be streamed from their web site.

Also keep in mind that this site is still in “beta”. Look for new features and enhacements as they continue working to improve it.

Oh, and if you’re a fan of the original Electric Company you might be interested to know that a new version of the show be premiering this January. Although I’m told that Morgan Freeman will not be appearing in the new show, it might still be worth checking out.

Have fun exploring the vast resources available at PBS Teachers.