Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The School Year Commences

Blueberry season, indeed.

Keep a critical eye on the election:

Climate change: what do you think?
Should we make a film about it?
Check out this video:

Friday, August 8, 2008

Our Community Gardens: Thematic Unit

Hello, Welcome Students of Tompkins Square MS!

Fall is approaching. The harvest season. A great time to see what is being reaped in our community gardens. Check out some photos taken this summer in the gardens. How have things changed?

So yes, we are going to do a thematic unit focusing on the community gardens in our school's neighborhood. The community gardens in our school’s neighborhood (see the map to the right, click on it to see it clearly) are some of the most beautiful in New York City. Delicious fruits and vegetables grow, beautiful flowers blossom, and the residents of the neighborhood collectively work together to make their gardens amazing. Mural paintings, sculptures, and other pieces of art stand in the gardens as symbols of the struggles and celebrations that people have lived through in the neighborhood. By learning about how the gardens function – how plants grow, how people work together to manage the land, how art is made – we can prepare to sustain and improve our community gardens as beautiful public places for generations to come.
Can you recognize any of these places on the map?


In this thematic unit, students will investigate what is being created in their local community gardens. Students will make a field visit to at least one community garden, and conduct research (in the garden, on the internet, in books, through interviews) that focuses on how one specific plant is grown or on one piece of art in a community garden and its significance. Ultimately, each student will make a website which details their own research and experience, following the guidelines on the rubric. The websites will be linked together to form a more comprehensive resource, on this blog.

To sum up and reiterate: Students, you are going to make a website using Google Pages. You can access Google Pages through your Gmail Account. You may choose to focus on one plant in the community gardens, or on one piece of art in the community gardens. The website should be an attractive presentation of what you have learned about your subject (one plant or piece of art found in a local community garden). You may use text, images, videos, sound clips, any kind of media found online (with proper citations), or create your own text, audio, or video clips. We will use whatever resources we have to make media.

Hear what the sun has to say about the rubric, then click the link below:

Get a Voki now!


Here are some links that students should check out as we begin our project. There are three sections: On Community Gardens, On Gardening and Plant Care, and On Art in Community Gardens.

On Community Gardens:

Garden across the street from our school:

NYC Community Gardens Association:

Red Hook Community Gardens

School Gardens Network for NYC Schools:

On Gardening and Plant Care

Gardening Calendar for New York City environs:

Plants for a Future (specific information about plants!)

On Art in Community Gardens

History of Murals in LES Community Gardens:

See this slideshow of images from murals in our local Community Gardens:

Learning Objectives:

*Students will reflect on the biodiversity of the community gardens to understand how the micro-ecosystem of the community garden functions.
*Students will create and personally customize their own web page, using Google Pages, which focuses on the one plant or one piece of art in the community garden of the student’s choice. Students must answer a set of essential questions about their plant or piece of art, located in the handout.
*Students will reflect on the history of the political struggle involved in maintaining the community gardens, and how this struggle manifests today in our school’s neighborhood.

Learning Standards

NYS ESL Standards:

Standard 1: Students will read, write, listen, and speak in English for information and understanding.

Standard 3: Students will read, write, listen, and speak in English for critical analysis and evaluation.

Standard 4: Students will read, write, listen, and speak in English for classroom and social interaction.

NYS Math, Science, and Technology Standards:

Standard 4: Students will understand and apply scientific concepts, principles, and theories pertaining to the physical setting and living environment and recognize the historical development of ideas in science.

NETS Standards:

Standard 1. Creativity and Innovation:
Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.

Standard 3.Research and Information Fluency:
Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information.

Standard 4.Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.

Session 1: Community Gardens: How the magic happens

1. Class begins with a conversation about community gardens. The teacher gauges student's prior experience and the students are invited to share their perspectives and experiences in their neighborhoods. Then the teacher shares an anecdote about his experience working in a community garden in Brooklyn.
2. Then the teacher introduces scope of project by demonstrating the blog to the class. The class reads over the Background and the Introduction of the project, the teacher takes any questions. The teacher presents the rubric (http://rubistar.4teachers.org/index.php?screen=PrintRubricDownloadFile&rubric_id=1600320&) with an introduction by a VOKI.
3. The class watches the video about community gardens by the Parks Department (streamed above). Students are instructed to take notes. After the video, students are assigned to write a one to two paragraph response to the video, including what they learned in the video about the history of community gardens in New York City, and how they see the struggles people have dealt with in the past being handled in the present and future.
4. The teacher provides a handout with a list of different things that grow in the local Community Gardens. Students are told that they will be going for a walk to a local community garden in the next session, and that they will be choosing their favorite plant or piece of art in the garden to make a web site about.

Session 2: Community Garden Field Trip

1. Class reviews handout including a list of the different plants that grow in the community garden and pieces of art there.
2. Class reads over the essential/guiding questions for research that must be answered on the student’s website about the plant or piece of art they choose. For the plant, this includes the name and scientific name, how to start the seeds, when the plant is harvested, origins and history, if it is edible – how it is consumed, and so forth. If the student chose a piece of art, the student must reflect on the significance of the piece in their eyes – what they think it stands for, include research on the origin of the artist, other perspectives that the student may have found online or through conversation with peers or adults, and so forth. The complete list of requirements is in the handout. All of the questions can be answered by following the links online, but students are encouraged to keep the questions in mind while in the garden.
3. Class takes a field trip to the community garden! If possible, students are given cameras to take pictures and videos. Students are encouraged to bring a notepad to take notes and make drawings of the plant or art they choose. Students are encouraged to ask questions to gardeners if they are present.
4. Students are reminded that they must come into the next session’s class having decided on the plant or piece of art they will be making a website for. Students are directed to explore the links on the blog/handout with resources about the different plants and art in the community gardens for the content on their website.

Session 3: Making the Web site

1. Class begins at computers. Students are given a mini-lesson on how to use Google Pages, how to import pictures and videos, copying and pasting, whatever needs to be looked at technically.
2. The teacher presents the links to the sites in which the students should be researching the information about their plants or the art piece they chose. Students are reminded of proper Internet research techniques.
3. Students put their information into Google Pages and design their website. As it becomes clear what each student has chosen to make a website about, collaborative groups of students who chose the same topic are made to share ideas.
4. Students e-mail the address of their site to the teacher. The teacher updates his blog with links to all the student's sites, as a comprehensive resource. The class reviews all the sites in the next session.

Monday, August 4, 2008

ESL Podcast Reviews

Reviews of ESL PODCAST: Assignment #2 Part 2 for TechED/Gura

Olympic Games

This ESL Podcast is about the upcoming Olympic Games. ESL Pod offers free audio files and streams of their podcast, with a short transcript. A complete transcript, with definitions, sample sentences, comprehension question, cultural notes, extra tips, and so forth is available if you pay 10$ a month. The podcast discusses various facets of the Olympic games, including the prestige of being an Olympian, the significance of the Olympic village, and the opening ceremony. The vocabulary level targets intermediate to advanced students, though there are many scaffolding opportunities, as the pace is generally slow. A monologue at the beginning and end is broken up by a dialog in the middle.

From: http://www.eslpod.com/website/show_podcast.php?issue_id=5650484#

The Presidential Campaign Heats Up with Less Than One Hundred Days to the Election

This podcast covers different issues surrounding the upcoming Presidential elections, comparing and contrasting Obama and McCain's experience. The enunciation, voice, and tempo of this podcast is very well done. The podcast covers the candidates stances on taxes, the War in Iraq, and the different kinds of events they have been attending. The vocabulary is not especially dificult, with many words reiterated in different sentences.

From: http://a4esl.org/podcasts/

Global Warming and Automobilies: ESL Aloud

I like the structure of this lesson. The narrator offers many details amidst a structure of sentences which outline the topic. The student listens to the whole narrative in the first part, then the student has a chance to repeat after the narrator, hopefully using the rich amount of content provided in the first monologue to enrich their own sentences as they repeat in the second part.

From: http://esl.libsyn.com/