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!

International Student Collaborations – The Cubic Foot Project

Banyan Global Learning just facilitated another fantastic international student collaboration for Tsai Hsing School.  This month’s project was with the Menlo School in California, with whom we’ve planned several international student collaborations this year.

The first of these is the Cubic Foot Project, an idea that was hatched on an illuminating Menlo campus visit in September ’12.  There we found Menlo students to be thoughtful and caring, the staff to be motivated and innovative, the philosophy to be tangibly progressive, and the tech department to be well-funded and filled with supremely capable teacher geeks.  We feel truly honored to work with them.

This report is from BGL’s Teacher Steve:

Teacher Steve teaching via Distance Learning.

Teacher Steve teaching via Distance Learning.

The goal of the collaboration project was to have two classes on opposite sides of the globe answer the same scientific essential question: What kind of life can we find in a cubic foot of earth from our campus?

Each class was split into seven groups and each group was assigned to a partner group from the other school.  Each group then made a short introductory video and posted it to the project’s Edmodo page.  Edmodo has a format that is similar to FaceBook and is therefore a comfortable setting for students to have organic conversations.  This method of introduction was both easy to accomplish and a great way to break the ice.

Menlo & Tsai Hsing's Edmodo Page

Menlo & Tsai Hsing’s Edmodo Page after the experiment.

On to the experiment.  This being science, the students needed to follow the same procedures and control as many variables as possible.  The Tsai Hsing students first came up with a list of procedures that they thought could be used to answer the essential question.  These procedures were posted on Edmodo, at which point the Menlo students discussed the proposals, edited them, and sent them back to Tsai Hsing for final approval.

The final procedures were as follows:
1 – Find a place on campus.
2 – Record characteristics of place including the soil temperature, air temperature, moisture level of the soil, air humidity and the distribution of the trees. Use the following tools: shovel, plastic bag, cut plastic bottle, aluminum foil, wire net, light bulb, water pipe, microscope, and iPad.
3 – Measure one square foot with a ruler and dig down one foot with a shovel to get a full cubic foot of dirt.
4 – Transport the cubic foot of dirt in a plastic bucket to Biology classroom.
5 – Insert the dirt into a Burlese funnel to separate the organisms from the dirt. Run the funnel for 2 days before collecting the samples.

Burlese funnel

Burlese funnel

6 – Post a video of steps 1 through 6.
7 – With the help of teachers, classify the organisms. Post pictures and information on Edmodo as we go.
8 – Post a video of Step 7 once it is complete.

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As students followed the procedure at their respective campuses they also posted results on Edmodo.  Each post consisted of a picture of the insect, the scientific name of the insect, one comment and one question for the partner group to answer.  Students on both ends then went through the posts, answered questions and commented about the similarities and differences between their findings.

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Each small group then did a final reflection video answering the following four questions:
What was exciting about the collaboration?  What was difficult about it?  How did it feel knowing that students in another country were doing the same project with you?  What would you do differently next time?

Then, finally, they met.  The two schools got together for a town-hall style meeting via video teleconferencing (FaceTime). Each class asked and answered five prepared questions.  The students were nervously excited to share their conclusions about the experiment and even more so to ask more get-to-know-you questions of their new friends.  When they discovered a shared interest in dub step pop music, an impromptu dance party broke out at the end of the meeting.  It was truly an amazing thing to watch!

One student summed it up best when she said, “I felt amazed that we could learn about each other’s countries without searching the Internet or leaving the classroom. It was so cool to see people from across the world work on the same project with us.”

We look forward to continuing to facilitate these collaborations with Menlo and other schools.  If you are interested in a collaboration with Tsai Hsing or another school, please visit our international student collaboration LinkedIn group or CILC.org.