We just got finished with a unit on decimals, fractions, and percents. Midway through the unit I had the idea to have each of the 4 groups of students in the room choose an NBA team and we would track their wins and losses and then calculate their winning percentage. Definitely not a new idea.
But when the day came to tally up the first round of games put Sportsline up on the projector. Once it was up there my kids started noticing things that I never did.
Just on this screen image alone (from today's sportsline) the students could notice the poll results at the bottom. You can't see that 75,348 had voted, but I would simply ask, "about how many people would 60% of 75,000 people be? That's how many people think the Colts will win. We've also done some work around conversions. There's a countdown to the superbowl - a perfect opportunity to talk about conversions with 5th graders. There's a headline for a hockey game, a player assisted 2 of the teams 4 goals....quick! "what percentage of the teams points did he have a part in?" There's a headline the reads, "13-year old commits to USC". That definitely would get the students' attention, I would ask how many months it would be until he would actually be at USC playing football.
I was loving the discussion but we needed to move on (different day, same basic stuff). Just then one of my boys pointed out a couple of editorials. I couldn't pass up the opportunity - we had just talked about editorials in persuasive writing and the students were so confused by my examples I had been trying to figure out another way to talk about them. Thanks to a student pointing out a great example of persuasive writing on a site I check every day, I now know how to introduce editorials AND engage the students at the same time.
All of this had me thinking - I need to acknowledge the virtual real world when I am developing lessons and word problems. So often I use computers and the internet in the classroom, but I only access educational sites or sites built specifically with school at the focus. But it is important to remember to access the real world on the internet and use that as a launching pad and even assessment tool for the classroom. I wish I had access to facebook and youtube - it couldn't be much more real world, virtually, than that and the students might begin to connect what we're doing in class to something they love.