Saturday, September 29, 2012

Consent Form / Research

As I may have shared earlier this week, I said I would send out more specific information on some research I will be conducting in our classroom within the next few weeks. I am about to begin the second phase of my dissertation research. The first part took place during a trip to Oregon in which teachers from CFI conducted climate change research alongside Dr. Brian Helmuth, former CFI parent and leading researcher in climate studies. While working alongside Dr. Helmuth, I identified a model of learning that seemed to take place naturally as we worked in the field collecting data, conducting experiments, and learning about climate change.

This model of learning, an apprenticeship model, is when a more experienced person(s) guides the participation of less experienced persons in a variety of learning experiences such as problem solving or the use of culturally appropriate tools. This model is used much in the real world such as pairing mentor teachers with student teachers, when a parent shows their child how to cook a recipe, a new worker working alongside a more experienced worker in order to learn a trade, or a coach working alongside their players showing them drills, how to hit a ball, etc.

While teachers at CFI incorporate this model of learning into their everyday activities, I will deliberately be collecting data on how I incorporate this model of learning during a unit of study on climate change. What this means is I'll be using video and audio recordings as my primary way of documenting the apprenticeship model and student understanding. I will also be collecting samples of student work when appropriate. I am asking you, the parents, for permission to use video and audio samples your child may be in, as a part of my data collection. I also ask that I may use samples of their classroom work when appropriate.

In no way will this research interfere with your child's classroom learning. The types of learning experiences you have come to expect at CFI will continue. In fact, I'm hoping that by reflecting on this work, I will actually improve the kinds of learning experiences in order to make them more meaningful and reflect more real world experiences.

I also understand that the issue of climate change can be somewhat delicate since there are many opinions on the matter. The goal of my unit of study on climate change reflects the life of an inquirer - to take the knowledge one has gained and come to a conclusion. So during this study of climate change we will look at a variety of opinions on the matter. Some students may come to believe climate change is taking place and some may not. But as time passes they will continue altering their view. More important, do they know why they believe the way they do and can they articulate their understanding.

While I will be sending you a consent form with Monday's homework, I am also attaching a link to a pdf version of the consent form. On this form, you can type your name on the parent signature line giving me consent. There is also a line for your child's signature. Your child's signature lets me know your child understands their right as a participant in the study. Upon completion of the consent form, you may email it back or send it back to school with your child. The copy I send home can be signed and returned to school with your child. Here is the link to the pdf version.

I thank you in advance your help. My family thanks you as well since this is my last step in the process of obtaining my doctorate. I have been looking forward to this study for some time. Thanks again for all your help.

Scott Johnson

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mustang Presentation by Andrew

As a part of explorations, students are allowed to explore those things they are interested in or passionate about. Andrew was interested in finding more information on Ford Mustangs. He spent some time at home finding pictures for his presentation and time during explorations discovering how to use Google docs to present his understanding.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Observations / Writing (Part 6)

By the way, this plant is also called the "Resurrection Plant." It can lay dormant for over 50 years and return back to life. They can be found on live oaks near Charleston, Edisto, and Beaufort). 

Observations / Writing (Part 5)

Observations / Writing (Part 4)

Observations / Writing (Part 3)

Observations / Writing (Part 2)

Observation / Writing in Class

Today I am posting some pictures from class. Students are writing down their observations of this unique plant. We are writing about what we notice, writing specific observations, inferring what we think the object might be, and discussing where the object may have originated from.


I have had some questions this week about homework. I was not able to get homework out this week and with the somewhat shorter week (half-day, Zoo trip) I will not send out homework at this point.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

This Week's Update

I hate to do this but this week's update will have to be a quick one. Normally when I update the blog, I tend not to do one big blog post at the end of the week. I try to do what I believe most bloggers do and post as things come up. Now that we have finished gathering, I will go back to that format. But I do have some reminders and updates.

  • Don't forget that Thursday night at 6:30 is Opening Picnic. We will eat outside before coming into the classroom the last hour or so. This part of the evening is not a Curriculum Night. Feel free to stop by, visit, and have your child give a tour of the class.
  • This Friday (Sept. 21) we are walking to the Sandhills library. I believe I have everyone's card from last year. If not, I will try to get a reminder home.
  • Tuesday, September 25 is a half-day for the district. This is our Parent-Teacher conference day. This day is reserved for parents and students who did not score well on their Spring 2012 MAP test or did not pass a part of their PASS testing in the Spring 2012. I will contact you if your child fell into one of these categories.
  • I have also extended the Scholastic Book Order due date to Saturday, September 22th. I extended the due date because I didn't get your the Scholastic order forms and I wanted to make sure you had time to look at those. You can still order books without the order form because there is an electronic copy online. Also remember, you can still order books the traditional way using the order forms I send home. To order books, click on the Scholastic banner on the right.
  • And last, Friday, September 28th is CFI's annual school trip to the Riverbanks Zoo. Mrs. Angie would like all permission slips turned in by the end of the week (Friday, Sept. 15).
As the week progresses, I will send updates as to what we are working on in class. I always try to post pictures and video when appropriate. Thanks for all you support!

Scott Johnson

Gathering Video

You may have heard that our class put together a brief video demonstrating our understanding of early natives from Asia, about 25,000 to 14,000 years ago, traveling across a land bridge (Beringia) between what is now Russia (Asia) and Alaska (North America). These early natives were following large animals such as the mammoths. About 10,000 years ago, waters from the ocean began to rise and covered up this land bridge. These early natives could no longer travel between Russia (Asia) and Alaska (North America).  Enjoy our video!

More "Me-Brick" Picts

Each day during explorations we have time to work on putting our "Me-Bricks" together. I am almost finished with several others. I have included two pictures of finished "Me-Bricks."



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Helen's Me-Brick

This is Helen's "Me-Brick." We should be able to finish a few more in the next few weeks. Please help nudge your child to bring in things that are meaningful to them to be placed on their "brick."

Breize's Me-Brick

I wanted to begin posting a couple of the "Me-Bricks" we have been able to finish. This one was finished by Breize this morning.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Example of "Me-Brick"

While it still seems funny to say "Me-Brick," here is my example of one. I have placed some items within the confines of a brick located in our classroom. I have included my name which we are doing in class. I brought in some items that represented me such as pictures of my family, a card a former student wrote, coins from foreign countries, etc. 

Hopefully seeing an example will help you help your child think about what they can bring in. I think our classroom will look awesome when 23 bricks will be painted with memorable items from these students' lives.

Thanks again,
Scott Johnson

Scholastic Book Orders

Hi Everyone -
I have set up Scholastic Book orders for the month of September. Here is the link for ordering books:

When I do Scholastic Book orders, I usually use two different catalogs unless the book selection in one catalog is not so good. Arrow book catalog tends to be geared towards 4th - 6th grade.
Tab tends to be geared towards 7th grade and up. I choose these two catalogs because they seem to have a selection of books students are interested in at this age.

Students at CFI love to read and write! I often have readers who read well beyond what might be typical for 4th or 5th graders. Often placing a level on a child's reading stifles the reading process for a particular child because they often lack access to books that might challenge them as readers. This is why I do not believe in choosing books based on a grade level or reading level. When students are interested, really interested in a particular text, they will want to read it. This is the most powerful kind of incentive we can provide for children.

So when choosing books, allow your child to chose books they seem to be truly interested in (of course within a reasonable price). At school I'll provide support to help them read and navigate the text. Also remember, when ordering, our class receives points. I use these points to purchase more books for our classroom library. I will chose books based on what we as a class is interested in so there is always a new selection of reading material to choose from.

Thanks for all your help,
Scott Johnson

A Lot Going On . . .

Usually I don't have a lot to post but it seems this week is the exception. So I'm going to get right to it.

Our Special Areas schedule seems to be finally set in stone. The most important part of this schedule to remember is PE since your child is asked to bring their tennis shoes in order to participate.
Monday (12:30-1:20) - Art
Tuesday (12:30-1:20) - Library
Wednesday (12:30-1:20) - Music
Thursday (12:30-1:20) - PE (please bring tennis shoes)
Friday (12:30-1:20) - Technology

We should be heading out to the Richland County Library in the next few weeks. I would like students to begin bringing their library cards. The library provides a great variety of books. It also offers me a great opportunity to make book recommendations from a larger variety of literature.

Our first 4th grade gathering will be next week (Friday, September 14 @ 2:20 pm). For our parents who are new to CFI, during their week, each class comes up with a thought for the week which is usually related to what students are learning in class. On the Monday of the week that class is in charge, that class leads the rest of the school in Monday gathering, a time when the school comes together to celebrate learning. During the week, that class shares morning announcements as well as bits of their learning. On Friday, the school comes together for a final learning celebration in which that class shares what they have been learning about.

Our thought for the week is "Coming to the New World." For our classroom, this had two meanings. One, we have begun learning about how during the Ice Age, natives to Asia followed the mammoths and other large animals across Beringia (a land bridge from Asia that connected Alaska) and into North America. Over time, these natives migrated to other parts of the North American and South America continent. Second, our class felt they had migrated from 3rd grade to the last leg of their elementary journey called 4th / 5th grade. Some could call this thinking a stretch but I think it's brilliant!

I am also trying something new that I need your help. Traditionally, we have done "Me-Boxes" which is when a child brings in a box, about the size of a shoe box, and places items into it that are significant to them. This year, we are creating what I call "Me-Bricks" (when I come up with a different name I'll call is something different). Instead of placing items into a box, significant items to your child will be placed on the walls of the classroom within the confines of one of the bricks on the wall. It turns the walls of the classroom into an art installation of items we find significant.

For these "Me-Bricks," I would like students to bring in a picture of their family but small enough to fit within the size of a shoe box. If you do not have a picture of everyone in the family, several pictures is fine. In our family, we have not had time since our twins were born to have a whole family pictures so on my "Me-Brick" I have a picture of my wife and I have another picture of my kids (I'll post a picture of my "Me-Brick soon). Either send pictures to school with your child or email them to me and I can print out some small versions. Your child will also need to bring in items they find significant to them but light enough to be stuck to the wall (things they collect, a bracelet, picture, a rock). I will try to use rubber cement or double-sided 3M sticky stuff (not sure what they're called) to stick items to the wall. I can also use a glue gun for larger items. The bad thing about glue guns is the glue can sometimes be difficult to take off.

I have a few other things to share but will post those things in the next few days. Please be on the lookout for a few more update emails.

Scott Johnson