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iPod Touch & iPad 2 Accessories for the Classroom (Part 1)

When purchasing iPod’s or iPad’s for the classroom, one must consider the accessories that will need to be purchased in order to exploit the power of the devices.  Screen protectors, covers, cases, stands, styluses, keyboards, headphones, adaptors, and connection cables should all be considered as necessary additions when purchasing these devices for the classroom.  Be sure to budget in these items when determining your needs for the classroom when planning to purchase.

ipad

Screen Protectors & Covers/Cases

Screen Protectors are a clear film that is stuck to the front and/or back screen of the device.  This helps to protect the screen from scratches and can even help to protect the screen if the device is dropped.  I have used InvisibleSHIELD from Zaag on both my iPhone and my iPad.  This protective cover has proven very useful in small drops, prevented my screen from shattering on a large drop, and also prevents smudges and scratches.  Another great quality of this protector is that it has a lifetime warranty.  This is great for school use because of the amount of time the devices will be used and it is replaced for free.

In addition to a screen protector, you should also buy a cover or a case.  This provides more protection for the device.  Covers can include rubber or plastic that only protects the backing of the device or one for the front of the case as well.

For example, the Griffin Reveal is a slim-line protector case that slides over the back of the device (iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad 2).  The advantage to this cover is that it doesn’t add bulk to the device, has rubber sides that make it easy to hold, and that it is made out of one piece of polycarbonate which is a strong material that can hold up to frequent use.

The iPad Smart Cover is nice, but doesn’t seem like it will hold up to use by students.  It turns off the iPad automatically when shut and is magnetically attached to the side.  It flips over to become a stand, but it isn’t very sturdy and I can see this breaking easily.   I think it is too early to tell which case will be the best for students that will provide protection along with providing the option to turn it into a stand.   Buying a case for protection and a separate stand is the better option for the classroom.

Stands

Stands are a definite extra that should considered when buying these types of devices.  This is especially useful in the special education classroom.  While buying a separate stand for home use may seem unnecessary, it is very useful in the classroom.  Stands hold the device in a leaning position so that students could use a stylus, read from it, or use in a more ergonomic fashion.  Xtand has some of the top-rated stands for both the iPod Touch and the iPad 2.  These stands are durable and more stable than the stands that fold up or are built into a case.  The one down side is that it is not easily transported as it doesn’t fold up.

The remaining accessories will be included in another post next week.  Accessories are an important component that should definitely be thought out and planned for when building a mobile lab.

Article By Laura Ketcham

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April: Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness Month.  This month is dedicated to spreading awareness about autism through various events that help to raise money for research about this developmental disorder.  The Autism Society began holding Autism Awareness Month in the 1970’s.

autism

Autism impacts social and communication skills.  There are varying degrees of autism including Kanner’s Syndrome (classic autism), Rett Syndrome, Asperger’s Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder.  Autism is measured on the Autism Spectrum Disorders scale and can range from mild to severe.   Autism is typically diagnosed between birth and two years of age.  When the diagnosis happens at a young age, interventions can begin to help the child with social interactions and learning communication skills.

Typically, a form titled ARI’s diagnostic form is used to diagnose autism.  Questions about the pregnancy, birth, developmental growth stages, and behaviors of the child are used to calculate a score.  This score is then utilized in part of the diagnosis process for autism.

There are many organizations and companies that are dedicated to helping individuals with autism.  Many of them provide information on this disorder, raise funds for research, and provide support for families and individuals with autism.

The Autism Society

The Autism Society is a non-profit organization that strives to improve the lives of all individuals with autism.  They are actively involved in pursuing educational initiatives for children with autism as well as holding conferences and providing assistance to families with autistic children.  For Autism Awareness Month, The Autism Society has an article with an annotated list of events that are happening around the United States to build awareness and raise funds for autism research.

Autism Speaks

Autism Speaks is a non-profit advocacy organization for autism research, treatments, and support.  Their website provides information about autism, ways to raise money for autism research, and support for families with autistic children.  The information section is a great resource for teachers to learn what autism is, theories about what contributes to the development of autism, how it is diagnosed, how it is treated, special education services provided for students with autism, and family planning for a child with autism.  These valuable resources can help to lead to the diagnosis and treatment of a student with autism and make the teacher more aware of classroom modifications that will need to be made for students with autism.

The Autism Education Network

The Autism Education Network provides information about special education rights for students with autism.  They also coordinate trainings, programs, and services to help support families with autistic children.   There is a resource center with links, books, downloads of autism reading materials, and connections to find experts or speakers in the field of autism.  This network also helps families make connections with other families with autistic children in their area.

Vizzle

Vizzle is an online learning program for students with autism.  There are pre-made lessons that can be customized to meet the student and classroom needs or teachers can also create their own lessons with the large database of pictures and sounds.  Students learn academic-based curriculum with the use of pictures, sounds, video, and animations.  Lessons can also include teaching students social, communication, and every-day task skills.

Article By Laura Ketcham

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Life Science Apps | Education

The featured learning applications from the Apple App Store this week are life science apps.  Life science lends itself to be hands-on and engaging.  Visual tools including websites, videos, and photos are easily accessible for teaching this topic.  Apps are especially useful to assist in teaching this topic because of this interactive nature.  Life science topics include biology, anatomy, physiology, plants, animals, reference tools, games, and application of life science.  Here are a few of the interesting apps that you can find via the Life Science Learning Apps on Apple.

butterfly

Butterfly Migration Game

National Geographic’s Great Migrations App is a very timely app.  Monarch butterflies begin their migration north around this time of year, depending on the weather.  In this game-style app students have to help guide the monarch butterflies through various weather, geographical, predator-related and physical challenges, similar to what butterflies will encounter on their journey north.  There are several levels and modes (other animals that migrate) that make this app adaptable for students of a variety of levels.  This would be a great way to introduce a unit about butterflies or even to conclude your unit.

This app is based off of a series that National Geographic created called Great Migrations.  There are videos and an extensive website about the various animal migrations that happen each year.   This would also be a great learning resource for the classroom.

Easy Dissection

Easy Dissection is an app for students to learn the biology of a frog.  This tool can be used as a pre-learning resource before students actually dissect the animal or as a dissection alternative.  Pins easily identify the parts of the frog and students can easily zoom in and out on the organs of the animal with a swipe of their finger.  The images are of an actual frog, not an animated image of a frog, so students can see what the actual organs look like, not just a cartoon image.

Another frog dissection app is called Frog Dissection.  This app is more interactive where students get to cut, pin back, and dissect the virtual frog.  Labels include the function of the organ, lifecycle, and classification.

EcoBugs

EcoBugs is a super fun free educational app.   There is setup required both physically and electronically that must be done by the teacher to plan the activity.  Teachers should login and create an account on the Eco Bug website.  Then they have to setup the habitats for the location of the virtual bugs.  There is a teacher’s resource packet available on their website to help in setting up the activity and planting the locations of the bugs.

The app is downloaded to the iPod Touch or iPad and then the students are sent on a journey around the school location that the teacher chose to find virtual bugs based on the habitats that you set up.  Students working in teams will use the iPod Touch to bait, name, and classify the bugs.  The more bugs a group catches the more the points they earn.  There are 13 additional activities for the students can complete after they have located the bugs.  These activities include learning about the compass rose, classifying bugs, food chain, habitats, sorting, and identification.

What other great life science apps have you used in your classroom?  Feel free to share by commenting below.

Article By Laura Ketcham

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Planting a School Garden

Planting a school garden is an engaging and versatile activity for students of all ages.  Many schools have green areas where a school or classroom garden can be planted.  This is not a small undertaking, but the rewards are high.  Many local nurseries, lawn companies, hardware stores, and even parents are helpful resources in starting a school garden.

garden

Students who are actively involved in the planting and maintain of the garden are actively learning many different science topics like plants, weather, soil, and the whole garden ecosystem.  Standards connections can also be made to nutrition, measurement, math, social interaction about science, and a love of nature.  With its practical nature and application this activity provides special needs students with a great outdoor connection that can be applied to real life.

Gardening & Measurement

After the vegetables have been harvested, students can be involved in cooking a delicious meal using the fresh vegetables.  This lesson involving cooking incorporates learning a life skill along with math.  One popular garden based recipe is to make a ratatouille.  This has been popularized by both the “Series of Unfortunate Events books” and the Disney movie about the cooking rat, Ratatouille.  Here is a great kid friendly recipe for ratatouille.

Gardening & Nutrition

Childhood obesity is a concern our country is facing today.  Many kids do not understand the computation of calories and how food choices affect your weight and health.  Tying in learning about the vegetables of the school garden can be a meaningful hands-on way for students to learn about healthy eating. Here are some lesson ideas to incorporate learning about fruits and vegetables in the classroom.

Other Great Gardening Ideas

One great twist that my school has added to the school garden this year is to make it a living and learning garden.  This is a year-round garden that involves plants, vegetables, and fruits.  As the seasons change, so do the plants.  Even schools located in very cold climates can use potted evergreens and plants with berries to attract wildlife and it will serve as a visual garden for the winter. An outdoor classroom is also being constructed at my school with a blackboard wall and outdoor seating for students to not only learn about the garden, but to learn in the garden.

Resources for Starting a Classroom Garden

Kids Gardening is a non-profit organization that provides online information about grants, fundraising, curriculum, and a how-to guide to getting started with planting a classroom garden.  They also have a specific section that provides tips for gardening with students who have special needs.

School Garden Wizard is a website to help teachers from the beginning planning stages of creating a school garden.  Information is provided on getting administrators on board, planning, creating, learning, and keeping the garden growing throughout the school year.  This site is very informative and easy to follow.

BBC Kids Gardening is a great resource including information about plants, seeds, gardening facts, and activities.  This is a very kid friendly site that explains gardening in kid friendly terms.

Do you have a school garden?  Share your experiences by commenting below.

Article By Laura Ketcham

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April Fool’s Day Activities for Students

This year April Fool’s Day is Friday, April 1st.  While not a traditional holiday of either gift giving or religious importance, it is still a fun day to celebrate.  Today’s traditions of April Fool’s Day revolve around playing harmless jokes on friends and family.  However, the basis of the day actually revolves around topics that are great for the classroom – learning about the calendar, the first day of spring, the change of when New Year’s is celebrated, and the historical significance of a variety of pranks that we play today.

joke

This is an especially sensitive issue as students with emotional or cognitive disabilities may not understand or become upset by the jokes or pranks that other students may be playing throughout the school day.  Making special needs students aware of April Fool’s Day is important so that the students can understand the intentions of why their peers may make jokes or play pranks They could get involved in school-appropriate April Fool’s jokes as well.  This day must be managed with sensitivity and direction to avoid mean or destructive behavior from any student.

History of April Fool’s Day

There are many resources available online geared for students to learn the history behind April Fool’s Day.

Wilstar.com, a website based on exploration of a variety of topics, has a history page devoted to April Fool’s Day.  On this page, students learn that the significance of April’s Fools Day and how it began when the calendar was updated to the Gregorian calendar.  The New Year was changed from the beginning of spring to January 1st.  The people who didn’t accept this change were considered the ‘fools’ and were made fun of for not following the new calendar.  Today, different cultures put their own twist on the day including tricking people for the entire day, holding two days of April Fool’s silliness or celebrating the day on a different day of the year.

The Franklin Institute also has a great page about teaching students about the history of April Fool’s Day.  This includes more information about the different calendar systems and the changes that were made and why they were implemented

April Fool’s Day Activities

Classroom activities for April Fool’s Day should be fun and engaging.   Playing small jokes on your students to get them motivated always works with the middle school students.  Giving the students a silly, impossible worksheet or a fake pop-quiz on pop culture are two examples. For elementary students, you can read them silly books or give them fun worksheets to learn   to learn about simple jokes and April Fool’s related vocabulary.  More activities can be found on this link to April Fool’s activities designed by teachers.

There is one “prank” that sent me into tears from laughing so hard as I was writing this blog.  I was thinking of a classroom joke to play for my students this year and I was thinking of the traditional examples given above when I came across this idea from eHow.  As a computer teacher, I can update the Google homepage, the default on computers, to search in three different ‘fun’ languages Elmer Fudd, Pirate, and Klingon.  I will do a web-related activity having these settings up on the search engine without their knowledge to have a fun time.  For each option, the main choices of searching, settings, feeling lucky, and search are all updated in the fun languages.  For example Elmer Fudd “hunts” instead of searches, and the Pirate “Sails into Port” to login.

What are you plans for April Fool’s Day?

Article by Laura Ketcham

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Using PVC Piping for Creative Classroom Solutions

Teachers are thrifty individuals who use creative thinking to provide the best learning opportunities for their students in the classroom.  In previous posts, I have written about low-cost and free resources that teachers can take advantage of in the classroom.  Another one of these low-cost tricks is to use PVC piping for a variety of classroom needs.  PVC pipe could be for practical purposes as an assistive technology device or it can be used to create interactive games and activities for students.  Examples include using it to create stands, frames, simulation devices or as a play phone, tee-pee, or marble maze.  PVC pipe can even be used to make instruments!

school

PVC pipe is made of plastic and is typically used for plumbing, sewers, and protecting wiring.  Since it is made out of plastic, it is highly durable and long-lasting.  Many different pipe diameters and joints can be adjoined together to make complex curves and shapes. PVC piping can be purchased from the local hardware stores and is relatively inexpensive.

Below are great resources to help you get started with PVC pipe designs in your classroom.

Florida Diagnostic and Learning Resource System (FDLRS) – PVC Idea & Instruction Booklet

FDLRS provides an entire workbook of resources for PVC pipe assistive technology devices for special needs students.  This resource is very extensive and a great first-timers resource.  They provide a detailed explanation of the tools that will be needed to construct the various assistive devices, provide detailed materials lists and diagrams, along with how the device can be used in the classroom.  They have over twenty different devices including stands, assistive writing tools, frames, easels, and organizers.  Each device has a level associated with the directions to determine the length of time and difficulty it will take to build the device.

If you are not a handy construction-minded teacher, this is one way that you can get fathers involved in volunteering at the school.  Many fathers always want to help, but don’t know how.  This would be a great way to get them involved in the classroom while building such useful devices for the students.

Bright Eyes Learning – PVC Pipe for Activities

Bright Eyes Learning provides ideas, examples, and instructions on how to build PVC pipe toys and activity centers for the classroom.  Some of the activities are definitive, the PVC pipe is used to build a particular toy for a particular purpose, and other activities with the PVC pipes allow the students to explore in free-play activities.

The examples from their site include making play phones, a tee-pee and a marble maze.  These examples have direct instructions including materials needed and models of what the project will look like upon completion.  The abstract examples from the site include using the PVC pipe in activities where students use them as ‘building blocks’, as a sensory device, or as a tube for exploratory games.

To make PVC pipe into an exploratory device,  you can fill a clear PVC pipe tube it with colorful nick-knacks like marbles, feathers, or glitter and then cap off the ends.  Then students can use this during play-time or to learn about colors or textures.  To explore further, the piping could be used to allow students to run various ball objects through the tubes to see what will come out first.  It could also be used as an imaginary telescope.

The ideas and uses of PVC pipe in the classroom are endless.  Have you used PVC pipe as a learning aid or tool in your classroom?  Feel free to share your experiences by commenting below!

Article by Laura Ketcham

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Spring has Sprung: Spring Activities for the Classroom

This past Monday was the official first day of spring.  I know in the Midwest and the Northeast this week there was a hint of spring and spring fever as the snow crocus started to bloom.  Spring represents a time of renewal.  Longer days, the smell of the fresh flowers, cut grass, and April coming in like a lion and out like a lamb.  Spring also represents a time of the year for students to feel refreshed and renewed.

Science Activities Related to Spring Time

There are many science related activities that can be taught during the beginning of spring.  Incorporating activities with plants or flowers is great during these months.  This could include teaching students about the parts of a flower, pollination, and how the plant absorbs water.  A fun activity for the students to do is the carnation color changing experiment.   Another experiment including plants could be the traditional experiments where students can feed the plant different liquids, provide more or less sunlight or changing of other variables.

spring

Spring also marks the vernal equinox. On this day, the amount of day light and night time will be almost the same because of the location of the sun in correlation to the equator.  In the northern hemisphere, this indicates the beginning of spring including the longer days that will head into the summer.  Many countries celebrate this day through a variety of festivals and customs.  Teaching students through interactive lessons like the Scholastic web hunt about the equinox are fun and educational.

Spring Cleaning of the Classroom

One way students can feel like they are getting a ‘fresh’ start to spring is by participating in spring cleaning.  Students can clean out their desks or lockers.  They should throw away the trash, donate used items that are no longer useful to them, but are still in good condition, and keep and organize items that they will need for the remainder of the school year.  This activity may seem very simplistic, but it is definitely necessary.

Students with special needs may become anxious during this process as it is difficult for some students to part with personal belongings or papers.  Care should be taken by the teacher to let the students complete this process over several days and not to just take the students belongings and throw what they feel is not important away.  Teachers and other students should respect the belongings of the other students and ask before touching or throwing something away.  Teachers can take part in this activity by spring cleaning their desk area and closets.

Spring Craft Ideas

There are many spring crafting ideas that connect with standards-based curriculum.  Kaboose has many great ideas of how teachers can incorporate learning about spring in the classroom.  The ideas include printables, crafts, foods, and organization ideas.  Craft ideas include making tissue paper flowers, clip butterflies, rock lady bugs, and baby jar gardens.  All of these crafts can be combined together to make an artificial garden to brighten up the classroom.  They also all use many recycled and reclaimed materials, most of which many teachers already have in the classroom.

Since lions and lambs are popular motifs for the weather during this time of the year, it would be great to tie in a weather lesson with making a craft of lions and lambs.  The lambs can be made of cotton balls and lions out of golden yarn.  The students could then write down facts of how the lion and lamb are used as metaphors for the weather.  The blog Little Fun, Little Learning has a great student example of this project idea.

Feel free to share your spring lessons by commenting!

Article By Laura Ketcham

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Spring Break Activities for Students

Over the next month, many students will be taking a week or more off for “Spring Break”.  Spring b recess is a time for students to relax and unwind and spend time with family.  This is also the time of year that typically comes right before many states administer standardized tests.  Having students relax during their break is important, but teachers could provide fun and interactive activities for students to continue their academic growth without school.

beach

Engaging Reading & Writing Activities

One way to have students to continue learning during “Spring Break” is through reading.  Many schools assign students to read novels and write reports as reading assignments over Spring Break.  Instead of assigning a book that all of the students read, allow the students to choose their own (level appropriate) book will be more engaging over break time.  Also, instead of having the students write traditional book reports, allowing students to make multi-media projects will be more engaging.  Students could summarize the story, complete a literary analysis, or personal reaction of the story by creating video, picture montage, Voki, online comic book, or Wordle.

To get students writing over spring break, you could have them keep an online diary of what they did over spring break.  Students can use a site like Blogger to write their reflective journal.  This journal can then be shared digitally with other students in the classroom.  Students can then comment on other students “Spring Break” activities.  Encourage students to expand their vocabulary and use descriptive words that are not typically used in their writing.

Less formal activities could include providing an annotated list of online learning games that students could complete during “Spring Break”.  Providing parents with a goal for the amount of time the students should spend on the activities would be helpful.

Online Reading & Writing Activities

1.       Primary Games – Language Arts

2.       Between the Lions – PBS Kids Games & Stories

3.       My Monster Poems

4.       Classroom Resources – Reading Write Think

Math & Science Activities

A great science and math based “Spring Break” activity would be to have the students watch an episode of Head Rush from the Science Chanel.  This is a newer TV show hosted by Kari Byron from Mythbusters.  The show provides a variety of science experiments that are explained from beginning to end.  Students are asked multiple choice questions about the experiment to guess what or why questions about the experiment.  If students don’t have the Science Chanel at home, many of the clips and experiments can be found online at the show website or on YouTube.  Students could then either perform experiments, with parent supervision of course, complete a lab write-up about which show they watched that they can then share with the class, or just watch the show for learning pleasure and then be ready to discuss the show in class after the spring recess.

Online Math & Science Activities

1.       Fun Brain Math Arcade

2.       Sheppard Software Interactive Math Games

3.       Cool-Math Games

4.       Math Playground

Article By Laura Ketcham

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National Craft Month – Time to Get Crafty

March is National Craft Month. National Craft Month was started in 1994 by the Craft & Hobby Association. The purpose of the awareness month is to share knowledge and ideas about crafting and encourage creativity.

crafts

While some people might consider this a commercial ploy of craft companies, this truly is the perfect time to implement craft activities into the classroom. Creative craft projects combined with content curriculum help students to build visual connections. Having hands-on projects in the classroom helps students with special needs, visual learners, and ESOL students to connect with the curriculum while be engaged and actively learning. This means that students will be learning on a higher level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Many arts and crafts store and companies are promoting National Craft Month by providing special sales, events, and crafting lessons and ideas. Teachers can take advantage of this opportunity to come up with new creative activities for the classroom.

Early Childhood Crafting Ideas

The Early Childhood News & Resources website compiled a list of online crafting resources for children. One of the resources found on this site is Freckles Crafts. Freckles Crafts provides all of the materials for a particular crafting project in craft kits so that there is no need to find all of the individual pieces.

Another resource is craftbits.com. This website has a plethora of craft ideas, many of which would be great for the classroom including an entire kids crafting section. I really enjoyed their recycled craft ideas because they show that you can be green and save green and still create a meaningful project. Being a computer teacher, I loved all of the creative ways that a CD could be used to make a sun-catcher, candle holder, invitation, and decorations.

Crafting Ideas from Crayola

Crayola has put together special page on their website to promote National Craft Month. This site is great because it provides lesson plans along with the craft idea to make the connections between the curriculum standards and the activity. Many of the resources are free and can be downloaded from their website like coloring pages and ecards. The Craft Ideas and Lesson Plans section contains over 200 classroom crafting ideas. Each idea includes a “why” section (what is the purpose of the craft activity), the steps to creating the craft, safety guidelines, and classroom connections along with a picture of the final craft.

One of the activities I liked was called “Fishing for Friends.” In this activity students learn about the other students in the classroom. Each student designs a fish for the pond and on the back of the fish they write something important about themselves. This would be a great activity for an icebreaker at the beginning of the school year. The fish could then be changed out throughout the school year to incorporate other activities like learning vocabulary words, math problems, historical dates, and events.

Other Kid-Friendly Crafting Websites

1. Craft Place

2. Teacher Place

3. KinderArt

4. Free Kids Crafts

5. Michael’s Arts & Crafts: Kids Crafting

Article By Laura Ketcham

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Connecting Concepts through High-Interest Topics: March Madness

Teaching challenging concepts by using high-interest and timely topics helps students to make connections and increase comprehension.  World and national events like a presidential inauguration, the soccer World Cup, the Olympics, shuttle launches, and large sporting events can be used in teaching lessons including  math, science, social studies, and language arts.

basketball

One event coming up that many students will follow is March Madness.  March Madness refers to the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament of the top 64 Division 1 teams.  March Madness is also called “The Big Dance.”  It is a single elimination tournament.  The winner of each game moves on to the next round until the top team emerges as the winner.

The Bracket:  Conducting Research & Making Predictions

One of the most popular activities associated with March Madness is the filling out of “the bracket.”  The bracket is a tree-graph that is filled-in with predictions of game face-offs based on university regions and expected winners.  This is an activity that students can do that actually has connections in the classroom.  Students can fill out the bracket with the teams that they think will win each game, which teams will face-off against each other, and end with their guess for the final two teams and the ultimate winner.  Students should develop their predictions by researching team statistics, ranks, standings, and divisions using online websites or by reading sports journals or newspapers.  University websites, along with ESPN, are also appropriate student resources for conducting this research.

Getting other teachers, classes, and even the administrators involved in creating and sharing their bracket predictions make the lesson even more meaningful.

The Bracket:  Math & Geography Connections

Teachers can tie in connections with math and geography using this bracket.  Students can be asked questions that involve percentages and fractions.  For example, what is the likelihood that a certain team will make it into the finals?  What percentage of teams a student chose won during a certain bracket?  What is the reduced fraction of number of teams that are in the final 16?  As the games progress, students should make updates to their brackets.  Additional lessons based on this can also include who had the most winning teams.

As students follow the games and find the winners and losers, geography connections can be made by having students take the teams in the bracket and locate the universities on a map.  An extension can be made where students would have to conduct research about one of the universities or the cities in which schools are located.

Incorporating topics that students love while teaching the curriculum is a great way to motivate students.  Highly engaging activities ‘trick’ students into mastering the learning outcomes that are desired.  March Madness is a great way to make math and geography connections based on a high-interest subject.

More lessons based on March Madness:

1.       Creative Parents March Madness Lesson

2.       March Madness Project

3.       Time out for March Madness

Article By Laura Ketcham

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