Learning Vocabulary with Metaphors

Today I used the following assignment in my science classroom:

The Learning target for today is to demonstrate understanding of vocabulary through the use of Metaphoric representation.

Part 1: Required- Vocab Metaphors

  • Pick 4 of our vocabulary words from our vocab list
  • Find a “non-scientific” picture that represents the word – Like we did yesterday in class
  • Explain why the picture represents the word

Click here to go to Quizlet to review vocabulary.

Go here to write your Vocabulary Metaphors in your  Kidblog.org.

Mentor Text for a 4

An ocean current is a continuous, directed movement of ocean water generated by the forces acting

When I read that definition I began to think about my advisory students who are preparing for the NWEA test.  To help them improve their math scores I am bringing them in the computer lab to review.  I feel like this test is like an ocean current because it is directing the path of education.   The direction of education is currently moving to align more and more with the tests.  Teachers and students are under great ”forces” to be successful.   Ocean currents are controlling the flow of water and tests are controlling education.

Mentor Text for a 3

Title: Vocab Metaphors

Vocabulary word: Front –  the atmospheric phenomenon created at the boundary between two different air masses

This image represents front because the Mickey Mouse character is a boundary between the two different masses of people.  Also the Mickey Mouse looks like he in the atmosphere. This connects to the vocabulary word because “Front” is a boundary between two masses of air.


The mentor texts are present to model for the students the quality of writing that is expected  in their blog posts. The use of Metaphors to connect to vocabulary was modeled in my classroom yesterday with the help of our wonderful, special education teacher, Mrs Hogan.

Many of my students are struggling to meet the criteria for success on this assignment. It is not that they can’t define the words, or use pictures to connect to the words, but because the students are concrete thinkers. My students struggle with the idea of a metaphor. When they want to be literal in the representation with a picture. Look at the following example for the word “Climate”

                  CLIMATE: the climate in the desert  stays the same all the time.

A picture of a desert climate to be a metaphor for climate? The picture does represent a climate but not metaphorically. I need to figure out how to engage the students at a higher level of thinking to create metaphors instead of literal representation.

As I continued to see literal representation after literal representation, I asked the class to reexamine the “mentor” texts. Ask themselves if they were following the model laid out before them. Many were upset. They acknowledge that the model was not being followed accurately. I stated that “It is okay to make a mistake, it is not okay to leave the mistake uncorrected after realizing it is a mistake.”  Student went back to work and created samples that looked more like this:

Ocean Current: The steady flow of surface ocean water in a prevailing direction.

This image of a highway is like an ocean current because the movement is continuous.


Atmosphere – is a mix of gases that surround the Earth. When I think of the atmosphere I think of salad, because salads are always mixed with something, weather it’s salad dressing, fruits and vegetables, etc.

Students need constant reminders of expectations. When expectations are not met teachers need to guide students back to the goal of the learning activity. Teachers need to point the students towards high quality examples of work. Allow the students to assess their own work and give them time to make the necessary changes. Students seem to rush into assignments with the desire of completion. Monitoring needs to occur to make sure learning targets are achieved.

Duck Dynasty Math, Science infused instruction!

It started this morning. Where will it end?

I awoke this morning with childcare duties on my mind. Amy, my wife was off at 8 AM to help coach our 8-year-old son Griffin and his Science Olympiad Team. My duties were to feed and entertain our 4-year old twins Gavin and Grace. Grace awoke as her mom and brother were heading out the door. After a quick breakfast she started playing independently. I headed up stairs to check on Gavin, finding him snoring away, I quickly checked my e-mail and twitter account.

On twitter I noticed the #satchat had started. I joined in a with a few comments and became engaged. As #satchat wound down, I saw a great discussion starting in #rechat. All about metaphors in education. I feel that metaphors are powerful and needed to help connect and engage students in their learning. John Spencer was leading a great conversation about the need to think carefully about metaphors used in education. Their power can be helpful and also harmful if used inappropriately. As I followed the conversation stream, Barbara Madden talked about the metaphors found in the reality show Duck Dynasty. She even shared a math problem created for her class connected to the television show.  We both shared out love for the show. Talked about writing a blog post about how we could connect student learning to the ideas presented in Duck Dynasty. I commented on how I would love to “read” a blog about these lessons.

At this point Math Minds had joined in the conversation on how great Duck Dynasty would be to connect students to their learning. Conversation moved to the creation of duck calls in the classroom. Seemed similar to the “straw” recorders built in my science classroom. To create the correct sound to call in a bird, frequency will have to be taken into account. Math and Science were coming together on Duck Dynasty. Needed to be merged together in our connected lessons. As Gavin walked into the kitchen to be served his breakfast, blog posts about lessons turned into an e-book. I was going to be an author? I, the teacher who tells his students that he is not a strong writer, is going to write a book.

Scares me a bit, but I am not doing this alone. This is going to be a great collaborative project. Three Twitter teachers are starting off with the goal of creating a math and science infused instructional book based upon a reality show. We are focusing on the areas where we have “expertise”.  If any other teachers feel so inspired by Duck Dynasty that they want to join us, welcome aboard. Contact us and share lessons you would like to see used in the classroom. Who knows where this project will lead. Who knows where this project will lead. Great Blog posts for sure, a book will ultimately be pieced together. After that who knows! Maybe even a meeting with the Duck Commander Crew!!

Stay tuned in a see where it goes. At least now I can buy Duck Dynasty DVDs and write them off on my taxes.

#MSchat 4-12-13 Cross Curricular “infusion”

Tonight’s chat focused on the need for teachers to infuse all subjects into their teaching to create a connected learning environment. Whether you teach math, science, art, gym. social studies, music or ELA student need to know that the content is connected to ideas in other domains. Skills and knowledge don’t exist in isolation. We should not teach them that way. Towards the end of the chat, teachers noted that sadly the test driven culture that exists in schools is hindering the organic learning environment of an infused classroom.

Click here to go to archive: http://storify.com/ToddBloch/mschat-4-12-13-cross-curricular-infusion

Don’t ignore the questions, they are where learning happens

Last week was spring break here in Michigan. I got to spend the week with my three wonderful children. My oldest son (9), Griffin, loves animals so we spent time at 2 zoos and a The Critter Barn in Zeeland, MI. I began to notice Griffin asking questions. Not one or two but hundreds, to anyone and everyone who would listen. Griffin wanted to know everything about the animals. What they ate, how old, names, how to handle, etc. Griffin has also been inquisitive when it comes to animals. At 2 all he would watch on TV was a 45-minute video tour of the San Diego Zoo. He wants to go to the Detroit Zoo, everyday he doesn’t have school. We have been there in the snow and rain just to appease his interests. I did not think much of the animal questions. When locations changed the questions didn’t stop.

We visited two of my favorite breweries in Michigan, Brewery Vivant in Grand Rapids and New Holland Brewing Company in Holland. Griffin wanted to have me explain all about how beer is brewed and how all the equipment was used. He started quizzing me on the differences in the styles of beer. “Why so many?” “Why do they look different colors?” at Brewery Vivant he wanted to know “Why is it in a church?” I spent time explaining how the brewery was built, in an old funeral home and the owner felt the old chapel would make a great area for the bar and seating area. Why did Griffin need to know about beer? The Brewery? He was curious. Didn’t need to know any of the information. It was assigned to him. He did need to fill out a worksheet. He was curious and asking questions to fill his inner need for knowledge. He was learning. On his own. I was feeling proud.

Why weren’t my middle school students as curious as my nine-year old? Why don’t they come in full of questions? Looking around a restaurant later, I noticed most families aren’t talking while eating. Parents are on smartphones or devouring food. Kids are on their wireless devices or being ignored as they do things kids do. Do adults ignore or dismiss children’s questions and kill the learning spirit of youth?

Sitting watching the NCAA Basketball Tourney, Griffin began bombarding me with questions again. Wanting to know where colleges are located, where games are being played, why teams are in their home uniforms when not playing at home. He noticed details most would not see. “Why is there a 4 in front of Michigan?” I was sort of annoyed at this point wanting to watch the game. “Griffin they are a 4 seed.” Griffin looked puzzled, he had no idea what seeds meant. Amy, my wife, noticing my growing frustration addressed Griffin, “Leave dad alone, just watch the game.” Pulling my mind away from the game, I realized I was ignoring him. I was frustrated by my sons curiosity? Oh NO!! I was killing is ability to question and hindering his learning. Quickly, I smiled at my son, “Good question!” Then I continued to explain seeding and the tournament set-up.

Had I done this before with my son? I hope not but if it happened once, it probably happened before. I now have to be care not to discourage by son’s learning and questioning. This is where his learning happens. Don’t be a fool like me and kill your child’s passion for knowledge. Listen to them carefully. Take time to answer their questions. Help them learn and grow. I hope Griffin’s questioning nature last to middle school and beyond!

I Wanted to watch NCAA Championship with my son!

As I sit here waiting with my nine-year old son to share a ONCE in a great while lifetime experience, I am angry. Our society has been taken over to maximize revenues for large corporations and holds no value for education and our youth.

It has been 20 years since U-M has been to the NCAA championship game (13 since MSU won we root for all teams in the state). Griffin has played basketball for the last two years. This past year his third grade team was dominant, going undefeated, winning all games by double digits, never giving up more than 12 points. He loves the game and has become a huge fan of ALL things basketball. The Detroit Pistons haven’t been much to watch this year, but MSU and UM playing in the Big Ten has been great. He gets so excited for each game. The Tourney has brought him more excitement. He has learned so much about geography and colleges while watching. Michigan making the Final Four made him so excited. Saturday he got mad. He asked WHY is the game on so late? I started thinking about it. Saturday games could have been played during the day or at least at a time where the game doesn’t end after 11 pm EST. (I realize I am using an east coast biased sorry Pacific Time Zone.)

9:23 start for a Final Four game is really late for a nine-year old. He will fall asleep by 10:00. WHY does the game start so late? When I started thinking about it more, Why is it on Monday? It seems like the Superbowl and World Series have similar time issues. Do these sports only want to cater to the late night “bar” crowd or west coast? Sports need fans, if the young are not going to be awake to watch the biggest games, will they remain fans? Heck, many I work with complained about how late the game is on. Maybe we shouldn’t be fans of the game!

America has to work tomorrow, many students will stay up late and waste a day at school sleeping in class. Many workers will call in sick. Sounds like the Super Bowl all over. Starting the games earlier would not mean the west coast could not see the game, they just might miss the beginning. Starting late means many young and old will miss the most exciting and definitive part the end. Relying on a newscaster to report the score in the morning. WHY? As explained to me, all for TV scheduling and ad sales!!

Work production, education and youth give way to the all mighty dollar! Our society has sacrificed so much over the years to the mighty dollar. Now when our schools are reflecting THIS society, government says reform schools. Let’s fix society, make decisions that show education and youth are valued and then schools will improve. “You can’t cut the hair in the mirror by reaching for the glass!”

Look careful at how society constantly places the dollar, ahead of our youth and their education. This is one small example.

Game Time. Enjoy Go Blue, sadly many will hear results in the morning. Griffin will watch it tomorrow afternoon, have to record it.