Teaching Practice






Diversity Home
Creating a "Positive Learning Community"

Group ProjectA society can be defined as "a group of humans broadly distinguished from other groups by mutual interests, participation in characteristic relationships, shared institutions, and a common culture." If we are to acknowledge this definition of society as an acceptable means to structure the classroom, then it is essential to establish a community of understanding and positive relationships. What more meaningful "shared institution" or "common culture" can we produce than a classroom community that accepts its responsibilities, recognizes an individual's significance to a group, and the inclusion of all members? A classroom should be an environment in which the students, and teacher alike, do not worry about what to do the next time a behavior problem exists. Every classroom participant should recognize the importance of their actions, and how each person can adversely affect themselves and those around them. How is this achieved? Class discussions of responsibility, exploration of differences, and efforts to reconcile disputes through non-combative means, verbal agreements, and discussion.

Science DemonstrationThe focus of classroom management should be on positive results, repercussions, and responsibilities and not on negative punishments or extrinsic rewards. By eliciting children's prior knowledge and connecting it to classroom lessons and materials it is possible for children to take ownership of their education and push aside unwanted behaviors produced by disengaged or disinterested individuals. Exploring what makes us as individuals feel happy, hurt, sad, lonely, or hopeful and how that in turn will make a community happier, lonelier, or courageous should be the focus of discipline. Creating empathetic individuals and sharing "mutual interests" as well as mutual misgivings will help create a community in which individuals understand how they affect one another, and how feelings generated by their actions will in turn affect actions towards themselves.



In an effort to integrate technology with the subject areas, I have developed several WebQuests which create a cross curricular learning environment. By carefully selecting standards from the Michigan Content Standards & Benchmarks, my WebQuests give learners a chance to acquire and polish mandated computer skills while they utilize the Internet for authentic learning activities. These inquiry-driven experiences also allow for standards from the core content areas to be addressed and explored in ways that would not be possible with pencil and paper.

The following WebQuest presents students with interdisciplinary tasks covering Language Arts, Physical Education, and Technology benchmarks from the state of Michigan's Benchmarks and Standards. The WebQuest takes the students through planning their own "health conscious" meal plan for one day's worth of eating, while exploring some of the healthy and unhealthy choices available at popular fast food restaurants.


Intro | Learners | Standards
Process | Resources | Evaluation | Conclusion


This web quest was designed with later elementary in mind, as they should be encouraged to begin thinking and making choices on their own, especially about their health. The web quest should take 3 to 4 weeks, meeting once a week for 30 minutes each time. It is covered in early Fall as an introduction to navigating the web and using it as a resource, not just a toy. The students should have a good grasp on web navigation as well experience with Thinking Maps or Concept Maps in order to organize their thoughts. Basic understanding of a word processor is also necessary to create the menus.

At Jennings Elementary the web quest is carried out when the classes comes to the Technology Lab for computer time, but the task could easily be adapted for a classroom with larger groups or a longer time frame for completion.

This activity could easily be used at the secondary level as well for health classes. The resources would still be age appropriate, but the task might be tweaked to make it a bit more compelling to older students. A more "in depth" or complicated task, such as creating a weekly menu centered around fat intake, proteins, calories, and general nutrition.



Both critical thinking and creative production skills are addressed in the task for this web quest. Some compromise might be involved if done in groups, but the focus is the creation of use-able knowledge and understanding of healthy eating.

Michigan Standards:

Physical Education: Physical Fitness Standard 9

Describe the effects of....nutrition on body composition.

English Language: Meaning & Communication Standard 3

Employ multiple strategies to construct meaning while reading, listening to, viewing, or creating texts.

English Language: Skills & Processes Standard 7

Develop and use a variety of strategies for planning, drafting, revising, and editing different forms of texts for specific purposes.

Technology: Using Information Technologies Standard 2

Retrieve and communicate information using a technological system.

Evaluate information received through technologies.



This is a copy of the student's exact process with image removed for easier reading. Additional notes provided for the educator are in blue and parenthesis.


What should you eat? Lots of scientists did lots of experimenting and found out that you need different kinds of food to stay healthy. They put them into a Food Guide Pyramid.

Click on the link below and use a brace map to put different foods into the right food groups. (Brace maps are simple thinking maps that break objects, processes, or ideas into smaller parts of a whole. In this case it would be pyramid; 6 food groups; examples of food in each group. Examples of brace maps can be found here.)

Food Guide Pyramid


How much should you eat? Eating different foods is half of eating healthy. The other half is eating the right amount of food. The link below will help you with how much someone your age is supposed to eat. They call how much you need a serving. On the brace map, write down how many servings of each food group you should eat.

How much should you eat?


Make a Shake! Now that you know what you should eat and how much, make a milk shake as a reward! Use the ingredients they give you at the link below to make a healthy fruit shake. Use your brace map to find out how much fruit you should add. You can print out your shake recipe when you're done.

Make A Shake



Something is missing! You know how much to eat, and what to eat, but there's one more thing. Food is energy! Some foods give you more energy than other foods, and scientists have a way of measuring how much energy is in food. They call them calories.

A calorie is a way of measuring how much energy is in food. Think of calories like gas in a car. The gas in your mom or dad's car is energy for the car. You need a lot of gas to make the car go, but you can't put in too much gas, or it spills out of the car.

Your body can use a lot of calories, but if you put too many calories in your body, it can't spill. In fact, your body will get bigger, and bigger, and bigger, until you stop putting in calories. If you eat too many calories you might end up getting so big you have trouble running around, breathing, or squeezing into your desk.

The link below will help you figure out how many calories you need each day to keep you going and not get too big. Remember, as your body grows it will need more calories to keep it going. Write down how many calories you need each day to keep you going. (The calorie calculator is quite easy to use, it just requires the individual's height, weight, age, sex, and activity level. I use a simple bathroom scale for weight and a yard or meter stick for height. Activity level is more than likely very active, but remind students that if they only play outside of school less than 4 days a week they might want to choose moderately active.)

Calorie Calculator


Order Your Food You now know what the food groups are. You also know how many servings of each food to eat. You know how many calories you need to have in one day. Now it's time to create your menu for the day. If you can make three meals using as many servings as you are supposed to eat your parents will let you pick your own food from now on. Remember, don't go over the number of calories you should have in one day!

Decide which fast food restaurant you want to eat at. Click on the picture to take you to the nutrition page for each place. You will have to find the food you want to eat and then find out how any calories are in it. Add up all of the calories in your food to make sure you don't go over your limit. Also make sure to get as many servings as you need in each food group. Or you can get a nutrition guide from your teacher for the restaurant you want. (Having printed nutrition kinds will help immensely as the online guides can be confusing at times. Make sure to help them find the calories column at the top ahead of time on one example and then find a food item, say a hamburger, and then determine how many calories are in each one. Also remind them that to meet serving requirements to count burgers as buns, meat, and vegetables if they have tomato or lettuce.)



This web quests requires that the students have already read about the explorers in their social studies texts. One educator can carry out the lesson for an average sized class of 25 students. The help of an aide is recommended for student questions or needs. Beyond that very little is required in terms of computer resources:

  • Internet Access
  • Ruler and scale for measuring students
  • Any word processing software
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader (free download)
  • Nutrition guides from fast food restaurants
  • One computer for each student OR shared computers

Nutrition Exploration
Site dedicated to helping children understand nutrition. Includes activities, food pyramid guide, and a "kid's panel" about eating healthy while young.

Calorie Calculator
Simple calories per day calculator on the Walk About network. Requires height, weight, age, sex, and activity level.

Fast Food Nutrition Guides









Your parents aren't here to give you a grade, but your teacher is! Before you show your menu to your parents it might be a good idea to let your teacher look at it. Your teacher can give you a grade for class, and maybe give you some tips on improving your menu to eat even healthier.

Your teacher will probably use this for grading. 4 points is the best you can do in each category, 1 point means you have a lot of work to do.

Food Groups
All food groups are labeled.
All food groups have the right amount of servings in them.
Most food groups are labeled.
Most food groups have the correct number of servings.
Few food groups are labeled.
Few food groups have the right number of servings.
No food groups are labeled, or mislabeled.
Make A Shake
You used the correct number of servings of fruit. The shake recipe is printed out.
You didn't use the right number of fruit servings. Shake recipe might be printed out.
Your used the wrong number of fruit servings. Your recipe is not printed out.
No shake was made, and no recipe was printed.
Menu Menu has three meals on it.
You didn't go over your calories for the day.
You got as many servings as you needed.
Menu has three meals on it.
You went over your calories for the day.
You got as many servings as you could.
Menu has less than three meals on it.
You went over calories for the day.
You didn't get all the servings you could.
Menu has less than three meals on it.
You went over your calories for the day.
Didn't try to get the right amount of servings.



You've done it! You learned what it takes to eat healthy, you learned how much "energy" you need each day, and you've made menu all by yourself! You've shown Mom and Dad and they love it! They took you to the fast food place and you're order is ready!


While you're eating here's some questions to Think About:

1. Was it easy to make a fast food menu that was healthy?

2. Did you have to give up some of your food in order to stay under your calories for the day?

3. Is there any food you wish you could eat that wasn't on the fast food menus?

4. Go back and take a look at the fat in your food using the nutrition guide. Compare it to how much fat a person is supposed to eat in one day. Does the fast food seem healthy to you?


Character Mapping  

As a smaller unit within my mentor teacher's "Academically Talented" Reading program, I expanded upon the idea of story mapping. By closely examining the main characters' traits, the students were better prepared to predict how well each character would help achieve a resolution to the story's problem. By using the students' prior knowledge of a traditional fairy tale, I was able to make a transition to character mapping a reading selection from "The Hobbit" through a simpler text.


Character Mapping - Part 1 (30 minutes)
5th grade

Michigan English Language Arts Standards and Benchmarks Met:

1.1 [Students] use reading for multiple purposes such as enjoyment, gathering information, learning new procedures, and increasing conceptual understanding.
1.3 [Students] employ multiple strategies to construct meaning including.....mapping, predicting, retelling, and generating questions.
5.1 [Students] select, read, listen to, view, and respond thoughtfully to both classic and contemporary texts recognized for quality and literary merit.


Have the students recall the story "Cinderella". Create a short list of some of the characters on the board. Ask the children to list some of the traits the characters possess. Ask them:
" Can you recall the problem from the story? "Cinderella has a terrible life and wants to escape."
" What was the resolution? "Cinderella gets help from her fairy Godmother and meets the prince."
" Are the characters always trying to solve the problem?
" Do the characters always do the right things in order to help solve the problem?


  1. Pass out the character maps to partners. There is room for four characters on the map, but that is not a requirement. Each partnership will be responsible for a different character.
  2. Explain the difference between positive traits and negative traits. The negative traits are not BAD traits, just traits that deter the character from solving the problem.
  3. Introduce the story "Cinder Edna." Create a short list of the four main characters: Cinderella, Cinder Edna, The Prince, and the Prince's younger brother Rupert. Divide up the characters so that each one is covered by about the same number of partnerships.
  4. As you read from the book the students will list the traits (either positive or negative) for their particular character.
  5. After reading the story have the students identify the problem: "Cinderella and Cinder Edna both have hard lives of work for their wicked step families and want to escape."
  6. Now have the students list the traits for the four main characters, giving pieces of evidence for each trait.


Discuss with the class their impression of each character based on the traits. Did they expect for the two heroines to have just positive traits? Was the problem resolved despite some of the characters possessing negative traits? Did any of the characters have more negative than positive traits or vice versa? Ask them if they would feel better prepared to answer questions about the story now that they have examined the characters so closely.


Character mapping - Part 2 (two 90 minute sessions)
5th grade

Michigan English Language Arts Standards and Benchmarks Met:

5.3 [Students] demonstrate awareness that characters and communities in literature and other texts reflect life by portraying both positive and negative images.
9.3 [Students] use conclusions based on their understanding of differing views presented in text to support a position.


Introduce the students to the reading selection from The Hobbit. Briefly describe the plot line for both the selection and the story as a whole: "The Hobbit tells the tale of a rather unadventurous man thrust into the adventure of a lifetime. Bilbo must face his fears and find a way to help a group of dwarves defeat the dragon Smaug." In this particular selection Bilbo finds an endless line of dwarves at his doorstep who present him with the journey. The problem for the story as a whole is the defeat of Smaug.


  1. Pass out a character map for every student. This one will be done individually before discussing. Each student should also be given the questions that they will answer for the reading selection as well.
  2. Go over the questions so they will be aware how the traits they list will be useful for their assignment. They should have Bilbo and Gandalf listed on their character maps, as well as two dwarves.
  3. Taking turns, have the children read the selection out loud, pausing to "Question the Author" through summarizing the text, questioning, clarifying, and then predicting what might occur. Pauses can also be used for the students to catch up on their character maps.
  4. After finishing the selection give the students 20-30 minutes to finish up their character maps. Let the students share and compare to ensure equal understanding.


After discussion of the character maps give the students the rest of the class to finish the four questions provided:

  • Using evidence of their actions, their traits, and manners, how would you describe a typical Dwarf?
  • What does the author mean when he says that Bilbo's "Tookishness" is wearing off?
  • Why does Bilbo seem like an unlikely hero?
  • Do you think Bilbo will make a good hero? Why or why not?
Simple Machine Science Stations  

Using an online reference for creating science stations, I developed these six stations to provide the students with prior knowledge of what simple machines are and how they work. This was an excellent activity for the beginning of the school year as it set the "tone" for both future "hands on" learning opportunities and teacher guided, yet student driven exploration of concepts. Below is a set of the questions posed to each group of students when they arrived at each station.

Lever Station

Hints to explore:
Move the fulcrum closer to the load.
Move the fulcrum away from the load.
Try lifting fewer marbles.
Try lifting more marbles.
How do these hints affect the amount of force you need to lift the load?


Wedge Station

Hints to explore:
How well does the sharp pair of scissors cut compared to the dull pair?
You use the wedge at the end of the screwdriver on screws. How well would the wooden wedges work?
How does the sharpness of a wedge affect how well it works?


Inclined Plane Station

Hints to explore:
Look at the stretch of the rubber bands.
Compare pulling the brick straight up to different inclined planes.
Try covering the surface with the different materials. How does this affect how easy the brick is to move?
How do these hints affect the amount of force you need to move the brick?

Inclined Plane Station

Wheel & Axle Station

Hints to explore:
Try pushing one of the cars on its side.
Try pushing one of the cars upside down.
How do these hints affect the amount of force you need to push the car 12 inches?

Screw Station

Hints to explore:
What is a screw made out of?
Using a triangle of paper and a pencil, how can you make a screw with the given materials?
If you could "unwind" a screw, what would it look like?


Pulley Station

Hints to explore:
Compare using the pulley and not using the pulley to lift the weights.
Compare the difference between lifting fewer marbles are more marbles.
How do these hints affect the amount of force you need to lift the load?

Pulley Station

Return to Top


Thanks for stopping by my professional electronic educational portfolio! Phew, try saying that ten times fast!
If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions feel free to e-mail me.