# Blogs on High (9-12)

Ben JohnsonMarch 17, 2014

Like magic, the fish turn into birds and then back into fish. M.C. Escher's tessellations have a way of grabbing your attention and forcing your mind to make sense of the impossible figures on the paper. The Merriam dictionary describes tessellations as, "a covering of an infinite geometric plane without gaps or overlaps by congruent plane figures of one type or a few types." A geometry book I have on hand describes tessellations as geometric forms that make use of all available foreground and background space in two dimensions by repeating one or more different shapes in predictable patterns.

Matt LevinsonMarch 14, 2014

Standardized tests can be a wonderful teaching tool to enrich and deepen classroom learning.

What?! The prevailing wisdom states that standardized testing drains the life out of a classroom and saps students of interest and engagement, brings on unnecessary and at times crippling stress, and limits the view of what students are really learning in school.

José VilsonMarch 13, 2014

A few years ago, Indira Gil, friend and math educator in Miami, Forida, asked me the following:

"Why do we call pi irrational when it's clearly the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter?"

Of course, I agreed. Such a pithy thought has swum around my ear for as long as it has because we've come to no resolution on it. For decades, we were always told to truncate pi to 3.14 or 22/7. The geeks might get a few digits deeper (3.1415926535. . .), but generally, this was a given fact and, like many things math, we didn't have to wonder because all the wondering had been done for us.

Years later, I rebuke all of this.

Terry HeickMarch 11, 2014

Students need a voice.

By voice, I mean the ability to recognize their own beliefs, practice articulating them in a variety of forms, and then find the confidence -- and the platform -- to express them.

The platforms part can go a long way toward serving the confidence part. Introverted students (who may be gifted with self-reflection) might find the openness of a social media channel like Twitter intimidating, but they might also love the idea of long-form blogging, or even communicating indirectly through the creation of mini-documentaries, podcasts or music videos.

Maurice EliasMarch 10, 2014

With National Poetry Month just a few weeks away, you may have already started planning. Exposing our students to the powerful words and images of Maya Angelou's poetry builds their skills in reading, character education, vocabulary, civics, history, and humanity. Deeply exploring the topics and themes found in Angelou's poetry can be inspiring to students, and even life changing.

Gregor NovakMarch 6, 2014

Suppose you are teaching an introductory biology course and your next lesson deals with genetics. You would like to prepare your students for the upcoming class by asking them to think about the topic. You assign some reading and this scenario to pique their interest:

Allison is driving with her parents when they get in a serious car accident. At the emergency room, the doctor tells Allison that her mother is fine, but her father Bob has lost a lot of blood and will need a blood transfusion. Allison volunteers to donate blood, and you tell her that her blood type is AB. Bob is type O.
a) Can Allison donate blood to Bob? Why or why not?
b) Allison, who is a biology student, begins to wonder if she is adopted. What would you tell her and why?
Sarah Wike LoyolaMarch 5, 2014

I am embarrassed -- no, actually I would go as far as to say horrified -- that I spent ten years of my career teaching students about the Spanish language. I actually felt proud when they could fill out grammar worksheets with precision. Now, you may be thinking that, as a Spanish teacher, this is my job, but since my enlightenment, I understand that it decidedly is not. I am now certain that teaching them to communicate well in the language is my job. Honestly, who cares whether students can conjugate verbs correctly if they can't tell someone what they need? Getting to this point has required a colossal teaching philosophy transformation, but I've never been more proud of the work that I'm doing.

At Sammamish High School, we have been involved in a process of culture change that is impacting not only our students but our teachers as well. By giving our teachers the keys to their own curriculum though extended professional learning opportunities and defining core values of PBL instead of a particular method (see my earlier post), we have given teachers their own authentic learning challenge. As teachers have engaged in this real-life, problem-based task, they've drawn on their leadership skills with their peers to create a learning environment that seeks to engage and lift all kids through rigorous, relevant coursework.

Matt LevinsonMarch 4, 2014

After a two-week winter break, one of my eighth grade advisees returned to school and demonstrated his newfound skill of juggling. He was able to juggle with four balls, go behind his back, and under and through his legs. Quite simply, his demonstration was remarkable and earned the praise of his peers and advisor. We were all curious to learn how he had acquired this skill in such a short span of time, because we recalled that before the break, he was struggling to get even three balls going.

He replied, "I found this great guy on YouTube, and I watched a lot of YouTube over break."

In other words, he was self-taught. He had an interest and a passion, and he put in the time and commitment to master a skill.