Effective Utilization of the Activboard “Ruler Tool”

As I prepped my “into” for the “Titanic” story in our reader, I had an idea of how to demonstrate to my fourth graders the properties of icebergs. Specifically that nine-tenths of an iceberg is underwater. I had noted that my students knew very little about measurement – and I was dying to use the cool “ruler tool” on my new Activboard whiteboard.

Monday I handed out a plastic cup of water and an ice cube to each group. Next I had them measure the length and width of their ice cube (per my whiteboard demonstration). Then I had them drop their ice cube in the cup and measure how much of the cube was above water (am I good or what?).

Now, here is where you have to understand my thinking. You see, the ice cubes had only been out of the freezer for about 5 minutes, and they only needed to be in the water for about 30 seconds, and ice cubes in a drink last for minutes … so no problem. I did warn the students that they would have to measure quickly, so I wandered around watching students line their rulers up with the surface of the water – “to get a good accurate measurement.”

Not 20 seconds went by before the first defeatist comment was uttered. “Mr. Crosby, it’s hard to see to measure,” a quitter exclaimed. “I know, I know, but you can do it,” I encouraged (Plus, come on, I demo-ed this with the “ruler tool” on the Activboard – you can’t do better than that! … Can you?)

My first clue that there was a problem was when a student fished out a sliver of ice the size of a fingernail clipping and tried to measure it while he held it between his fingers – and it disappeared! The next clue was the group that exclaimed, “We can’t find our ice anymore!” as they scanned the iceberg free water in their cup. (Did I mention I used the “ruler tool” to demonstrate this?)

At this point I busted up. I busted up laughing because not only did I miscalculate how long the ice would last, but the kids were trying so hard to do a good job, and some seemed afraid they had done something wrong – the forlorn looks on their faces told the story.

Fortunately, I had several extra pieces of ice (Hey, I’m not a total screw up!) and we successfully measured one and used it as “The class measurement.” We did the math and came out with the fraction 2/20 which reduces to 1/10 of the cube that stuck above the surface – which is just what part of an iceberg floats above the surface of the water.

So, when the picture of the iceberg came up during the story, the kids were able to imagine how much was underwater.

Learning is messy!

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4 thoughts on “Effective Utilization of the Activboard “Ruler Tool”

  1. Very good, Mr. Crosby. The kids have a hard time knowing when we are trying out something never-before-attempted, and they do trust us to have it all worked out. Until they understand about the messy learning. And the value of the Activboard ruler tool.

    If you lived in Fairbanks, you would wait until January to do this lesson, since the raw material is so much more abundant. I’ll try to remember this for a few months so I can give it a try after we have some real ice. Too bad I won’t have the ruler tool, but only the ruler. At least I’ll be able to make some decent icebergs 😉

  2. Doug – I can’t wait until winter like you – the story came up this week in the reader – and I always follow the program “as written” like I’m supposed to (I put that in just in case someone from the school district was checking). Can you imagine what would happen if teachers timed lessons to coincide with seasonal events, historical events, etc. ? Making connections is just not that important. The fact that my wife’s class is taking a field trip to where the Donner Party got stuck in the mountains near here on the same date that they really got stuck – right after they finish reading Patty Read’s Doll is just coincidence and has no educational value whatsoever (and the book is not part of our “reading program” so it’s probably evil too).

  3. Mark may be surprised to learn that we have kept some anemic cactus plants alive in our kitchen for over 2 years now, with no special help from technology or a curriculum guide.

    Winter here is actually a very educational season. For one thing, it lasts for seven months, and in that amount of time a person is bound to learn something.

    I look forward to more entertaining and instructive seasonal tales from both Brian and Mark. I’ll do my share to make a contribution, as well. Until whenever…