Sunday, April 25, 2010

State Research: Learning to Use Keywords in a Search Engine

In third grade, the students complete a state research fact sheet. Usually, I take the students directly to a web page to work on the research. This year, I began laying the groundwork for successful search strategies.

My Resource on Promethean Planet
I've uploaded a set of flipchart pages to Promethean Planet. I was worried that teachers who do not have an ActivBoard would be excluded from using the resource. There are two ways you can use this file on your computer - even without a board.

First, you can download a personal edition of ActivInspire. Go to the Promethean Planet web site. Sign up for a free Promethean Planet account by clicking Register. Go to the download page.

Second, you can dowload the free flipchart viewer. I am not sure if this is just for old ActivPrimary and ActivStudio files or the old flipcharts and the new ActivInspire charts.

Once you have an account, you can download my resource file.

Working Through Search Engine Concepts
First, I introduced the students to the facts that they would be finding on the worksheet. We used the state of New Jersey as the example. Some students already knew the state capital. Most know the state bird after our work earlier in the year.

Next, I asked them how a third grade student could learn the details about their state such as the land area or three largest cities. The students knew they could look in a book or go to the Internet. Page two of the flipchart allows the students to drag those hidden images from behind a U.S. flag.

With that information in mind, students took turns dragging six search engine names from behind an image of a computer. The list includes Google, Bing, Ask Kids, Yahoo Kids, Fact Monster, and Kids Click! As each image was dragged from behind the computer, I had the students who have used that web site stand up. Getting students moving during a lesson is always helpful. It's an easy way to build some movement into a lesson.

Part of the lesson is learning about key words. Before starting to get this idea across, I wanted the students to focus on how they use a search engine. I have noticed over the years that some students tend to type in questions or long sentences. The fourth slide shows the
question: What is the population of Iowa? We used the ActiVotes to find out how many students type a whole sentences, short words, or sometimes both.

With that information in mind, we begin discussing key words that could be used to find the information on a search engine. I kept reminding the students of the individual items they needed to find and the state name. For example, "Remember we are looking for the population, land area, three largest cities, governor, and state flower of New Jersey." Once we had many keywords listed, I pointed out that they would have to complete the search nine times to find out all the details. If their teacher gave them two states, it would take about 18 searches.

On flipchart page six, I asked the student if they thought the words state research would be helpful keywords. They used the ActiVotes to agree or disagree.

We looked at some top results for the key words. We found that there are several web si
tes that would allow us to type in a state name and locate many facts.

But I Don't Have ActiVotes...
I think the ActiVotes are a great way to involve the students in a lesson. If you do not have them, there are a number of ways you can have the students respond. You could give them a red, yellow, and blue index card to represent A, B, and C. You could use dry erase boards. There are a number of options electronically including PollEverywhere with a web link.

Resources I've Located

The students are going to have a choice of six web sites to complete the research. I think the Fact Monster web page will be the quickest for my students, based on what their teacher wants the students to learn. As I was setting up the ActivInspire flipchart lesson, I came across a few other sites that looked interesting. These include Stately Knowledge, State Facts for Students via the US Census Bureau, Enchanted Learning's State Page, and 50 States.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Scratch - Take Three

I continue to enjoy working with student using Scratch. This year, I upgraded all the computers to the newest version 1.4. I will begin working with grades five through eight after Easter break. I started with sixth grade this past week, and found that we hadn't used it last year. I'm starting over with the sixth in a different way.

Laying the Foundation - Lesson One
I introduced the program as I usually do: we gave the cat a move 10 steps block and double clicked the block. Next we added a goto x: 0 y: 0 block to the screen and double clicked it to bring the cat back to the center of the screen. We added the when green flag is clicked icon to the move 10 steps block and saw its effect and added a turn 15 degrees right. I asked them what forever means and showed them how to include a forever block with the commands. Then they took some time to play with the two numbers seeing what happened if they made the number larger and smaller. They double clicked the goto x: 0 y: 0 block when they lost their cat.

The Sprites and the Stage
We brought on another sprite of their choice with the Choose new sprite from file option. This year, I made sure to tell the students *not* to select a sprite with a script attached. This kept me out of the problems I ran into in the past with unexpected scripts. They tested out the Costumes tab above the script area and used the Edit button to customize their character. The students have no end of fun customizing. I kept the time very short - just two minutes - so that we could test out a couple of extra options.

I had the next sprite react to a click. Sprite two was given a when sprite2 is clicked control block with a look of think Hmm... for 2 seconds. While they worked on those commands, I explained how to create a stage of their choice. They are very familiar with drawing tools from their work in Kid Pix and Gimp, so I simply had them click on the stage. I pointed out that the Costume tab changes to a Backgrounds tab and they went to work. Immediately, they wanted to test importing a stage and enjoyed looking at the possibilities.

One of the students found the point towards mouse-po
inter motion block, so we did that as a group as well.

Continuing the Process - Lesson Two
In our second 42 minute period, I wanted to teach the students some commands that would allow the sprites to interact. We started a new file with the cat.

This time, we started with the concept of repeating a certain number of times versus doing something forever. I asked them what they thought would happen if we told the computer that when the green flag was clicked the program would have the cat move to x:0 y:0 10 times. We teste
d their opinion and saw that the cat didn't appear to do anything, but it was told to move to 0,0 ten times.

I asked a few students to pick a number from 0 to 100. We discussed that I had no idea what they would say. They could have picked the same number or different ones, but it would be from 0 to 100.

We dragged a pick random 0 to 10 operator blo
ck into the x slot of the goto command. We tried to predict what would happen and then the students tested it. The cat randomly moves left and right. I asked them to follow that by placing a random operator in the y slot of the goto command. Now the cat jumped all over the stage. I wanted the students to understand that they could slow down the operation, so we added a wait 1 secs control block beneath the goto block.

Copying and Adjusting Commands
Next, I wanted the cat to be chased, so we added another sprite and dragged our cat's script to the second sprite. A few students needed help recognizing the light white line around the second sprite that signaled the script would be copied.

I wanted the students to become aware of the sensing feature. I asked Student A if they were sitting next to Student B and they said yes. I asked Student C on the other side of the room if they were sitting next to Student B. They said no. I told student A that if they were sitting next to Student B to please clap. I did the same for Student C. We moved on to the if touching block.

We added an if block to the repeat loop. I pointed out the hexagon shape in the if block. We moved to the sensing commands, dragged in a touching block, and set it to Sprite2. We added a command from the previous class to think Hmm for 2 seconds. If Sprite1 sensed Sprite2, we would see the message.

Closing the Lesson and Testing Sprite Changes
I wanted to make another very visual change to the sprites if they touched. For this, we used Sprite2. We added an if block with a touching option just as we did to the cat, but instead of using the think block, we went to the Looks commands and dragged in a change color effect by 25. We tested the new option and found that every time Sprite2 sensed Sprite one, the color changed by 25. If we wanted Sprite2 to go back to the original color, we would have to tell it to clear the graphic effect. When those commands are placed one after another, the change happens too fast for us to recognize it, so we needed a wait 1 secs block between the two commands.

They finished the lesson by testing the other change options: fisheye, whirl, pixelate, mosaic, brightness, and ghost. Some students tried random numbers in the effect by 25 portion of the block. Many customized the stage and sprites.

Overall, I felt that this was an effective way start to Scratch with the sixth graders. A number of them told me that they had already downloaded the program at home.