Using Video to Teach Current Events

BGL’s own Teacher LaCora has experience in front of the camera as a red carpet host here in Los Angeles. She used those skills to create a video about the recent earthquake in Ecuador as part of BGL’s weekly current events unit.

 

To teach current events, BGL selects a handful of stories from the week and shares links to the stories along with discussion questions to all their teachers across grades K-8. Each teacher chooses the story and discussion questions that are best suited for the ability and interest of their classes. Choosing more discussion questions – or turning them into writing assignments – takes the activity from a short one (5-10 minutes) to a longer one (a full period or two).

Here are the discussion questions for the Ecuadorian earthquake story. As you can see, they get progressively more difficult so that teachers in older grades choose from the bottom and vice versa for younger grades.

  • What can people do to help when there is an earthquake?
  • Have you ever felt an earthquake? What does it feel like?
  • What causes earthquakes? Are there different kinds?
  • What is the Richter scale? What does it mean to increase exponentially?

How do you teach current events? Tell us in the comments section.

Kindergarten Field Trip to the Taipei Zoo

With all our virtual field trips it’s sometimes easy to forget the value of a traditional, in-person field trip. The following is an account from BGL‘s Teacher Simon about a great trip to the zoo with his kindergarten classes:

As the sun finally made its way back out after a week full of rain, we found ourselves departing for the Taipei Zoo on a beautifully warm Thursday morning. We had three classes (about 90 students) piled into 6 fun-filled vans for the short ride down Muzha Rd. to the other side of the river. The day was warm, the sun was bright, and the kids were more than excited to share this moment with each other and their teachers.

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The zoo here in Taipei is filled with a variety of animals from tropical environments, dense forest habitats, African Safari, and even the arctic (scores of penguins hang out in their nice, cool, indoor habitat). One of the great things about Taipei, or Taiwan for that matter, is the ease of accessibility to enjoy the simple things in life. From the zoo to flower gardens, the gondola rides to the paddle boats, Taipei has a variety of affordable options that suit all walks of life. Where else can you find yourself spending the day in the presence of a few gorillas, some cuddly pandas, or some rather boisterous Kangaroos for the whopping price of 40 Taiwanese dollars (or roughly $1.25 US)?

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The agenda was rather unscripted as we let the students take the lead. The red class and I found ourselves getting to know the greatest and by far the most popular at the zoo: the panda. I don’t know what it is about those creatures that seem to capture the hearts of all young boys and girls in Asia, but a classful of giggling five year olds interacting with the gentle giants sure was a fun site to see. Granted the pandas just eat and roll around for the most part, those little balls of fluff were quite enjoyable. After the panda, we made our way up to the miniature train station and boarded the zoo’s funnest form of transportation that took us up to the Penguin House and the African Safari.

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Within the African Safari were some more popular animals including the lion, elephant, giraffe, and the kangaroos. The kids were having such a blast watching the penguins, posing for all of their goofy pictures of the animal structures around the habitat area, and complaining about the stinky smell of the elephants. Of course, as is the case when taking care of groups of small groups of kids anywhere in the world, eventually their interests were reduced to a singular goal: eat food. So, we found a nice picnic area at which to reenergize after all the walking. Cookies, crackers, gummies, milk tea, seaweed wraps, and chips of all shapes and sizes were consumed in a way not unlike the little hungry pandas. 5 and 6 year old children are without a doubt some of the most unselfish little angels on Earth. I loved watching them share their snacks with each other and I couldn’t help but accept some of their offers of a cookie here and a cracker there.

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After our snack and our newfound source of energy, we made our way to the koala habitat and finished the day off with some camels, guinea pigs, birds, and these incredibly active creatures called Coali Mondis (Brazilian Weasel). The kids absolutely loved seeing these little guys running around, jumping on each other and climbing through the railway system above our heads.

 

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All in all it was a great afternoon spent at the zoo with the kids. We have been studying animals for months, so the kids were incredibly excited to apply their newfound knowledge with us in the presence of the animals. Opportunities such as this – that afford our students authentic ways to communicate in English outside the classroom – are truly special. It creates a sense of fulfillment to see all of our hard work paying off and to see those beautiful smiles glow even brighter than before.

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Virtual Entrepreneurs – Our 4G Field Trip to Lumosity

To understand more about designing their own companies, our advanced 8th grade Distance Learning class took a virtual field trip to the San Francisco offices of Lumos Labs, the builder of the world-famous brain-training service, Lumosity. Prior to the trip, the students read about other Silicon Valley companies and discussed the importance of innovation when starting a new technology company. They also discussed the competitive hiring processes in the Bay Area and the perks that some companies – like Lumosity – use to attract the most talented employees.
In the video above, we see students being led by their fantastically engaging tour guide, Amanda, as well as their distance learning teacher in Los Angeles, BGL’s Teacher Jackie. This 4-minute highlight reel of the 45-minute trip shows Amanda leading the students through the open working areas, fun spaces, and the many kitchens of Lumosity.
While students were most amazed by the food options in the kitchens (and by the gaming areas), they also found inspiration for their assignment to design their own companies. For that assignment, students created advertisements that captured why their company should be an industry leader, just like Lumosity.
Here is some of their best work:
An 8th grader's idea for a new company - ear rings: combination earrings and headphones.

An 8th grader’s idea for a new company – ear rings: combination earrings and headphones.

An example of ear rings, Minions-style.

An example of ear rings, Minions-style.

Another 8th grader's business idea: wifi cards.

Another 8th grader’s business idea: wifi cards.

Another 8th grader's business idea: an app that allows you to rent products before you buy them.

Another 8th grader’s business idea: an app that allows you to rent products before you buy them.

Which companies would your class like to visit? Leave your ideas in the comments section.

Dinosaurs! Another Great 4G Field Trip to NHM

Our 6th grade class at Tsai Hsing School recently read an adapted version of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. They discussed and analyzed the myriad cultural and historical issues raised by the story, which has a time traveler go hundreds of thousands of years into the future to find that the human race has evolved into two separate species.

Students listen to NHM's Teacher Jessie introduce specific dinosaur bones.

Students listen to NHM’s Teacher Jessie introduce specific dinosaur bones.

 

Admittedly, it was a loose connection that brought us back for yet another virtual field trip to the outstanding Natural History Museum during this unit. In a way, we became the time travelers as we learned about these amazing creatures, but really we just wanted to see NHM’s awesome specimen collection.

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As usual, the excellent Jessie Daniel led the trip and engaged the students through his combination of knowledge and enthusiasm. Students were rapt as he took them through the halls showing full-scale models and skeletons of these ancient creatures.

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Some of the braver students stood up to participate in a compelling Q & A that the students would never had had access to without modern technology.

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In the end, it was another great time had by all. We look forward to our next visit!

 

 

The BigDayta Project: Worldwide Collaboration, Instant Student Data, a Powerful Classroom Tool

If you are a teacher of any grade level and any subject, I have two questions for you:

  1. Are you looking for ways to incorporate technology into your classroom?
  2. Do you want to ask meaningful real-life questions that involve students from around the world?

If you answered ‘yes’ to both those questions, then the BigDayta Project is for you. BigDayta is our attempt to connect classrooms around the world by asking a simple question to every student: what do you do, every hour, on a normal school day?

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Turns out you can learn some really interesting things with that one simple question. If you know the country students are in, you can compare sleep times in different nations. You can see when students begin to do homework, or what is the most common thing they do outside school. If you know the town students live in, you can compare big city students to those that live in small towns. How different is their day?

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Three students, two very different days. What valuable information can we learn from their day-to-day schedule?

Our project is simple. Students record what they do on one day, and then they fill out a simple Google form. The results are accessible to everyone and are constantly updated. As a teacher, if you want to download the results and do the rest on your own, you can! But the website allows you to do much more:

  1. Collaborate—Did your students find the data about kids in Taiwan interesting? Do you want your classes to interact, share stories or go deeper with the information? There is a forum section on the website where you can reach out to others.
  2. Find lesson plans—There are already lesson plans created by the BigDayta crew, but teachers can add theirs as well.
  3. Post Blogs—Do your students want to write more about their day? Maybe they want to share their experience with this project. Email us at bigdayta@gmail.com and we will post your students’ blog on our blog page.

How can you use this in your classroom?

The questions you can ask with this data are diverse. Here are some sample ideas for different subjects:

  • Math:
    • What fraction of students are asleep at 9pm?
    • What is the average start time of homework?
    • Create a graph that shows the average wake up time for students in three countries.
  • Social Studies:
    • Why are after school activities so different between American and Asian students?
    • How does living in a city larger than 1 million people change the way a student’s day looks compared to a student in a city smaller than 1 million?
    • Do you think ‘nap time’ in Taiwan increases student achievement?
  • Computer Science—Practice manipulating spreadsheet data
  • Statistics:
    • Mean, median and mode
    • Create frequency tables
  • English
    • Find pen pals for your students
    • Write persuasive essays on why your day’s schedule is better than another
    • Use the timeline from students in another state/country to create a short story

…And many, many more!

This is the Google form that students complete. It is quick and easy!

This is the Google form that students complete. It is quick and easy!

As classrooms around the world add their data, this project will become more and more powerful. We already have data from students in Taiwan, so you can start exploring immediately. Let’s make this thing go global. Tell your students to write down what they do. Take five minutes to fill out the the form. Be part of something big.

And lastly, share it with your fellow teachers! Even the data within a single school can reveal some surprising results.

#BigDayta is here!