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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Put Your Best Foot Forward in 2013

When we return from the winter break I give every student a die cut footprint. This is a tradition that began with my 4th grade classes about ten years ago. I ask each student to set a goal and write a statement that explains very specifically how they will achieve that goal.  These are written on the feet and turned into a great hallway display with the title "Put Your Best Foot Forward in (new year) 2013".

As I encourage my students to put their best foot forward, I thought I would model the practice here.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

See it for yourselves

This is not something I will come even close to doing justice to, but...
a friend shared this website with me. Can I just say -WOW!

If you are working with/teaching according to the "Common Core" and you
don't know about this website, you absolutely must stop what you are
doing and go there NOW!

What is this amazing website? Learnzillion

You seriously just have to see it for yourselves.
There is a feature that allows you to set up your students in a class and assign specific lessons along with quiz features. I am hooked!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

December Currently...

Hi there! Last month I decided to join in the fun with Farley .
The way it works is really simple. Participants respond to the prompts and link up.
Everyone follows the rule of 3 by visiting and commenting on the 2 links before their own and the 1 link after.
It's a great way to build your professional learning network while getting to know each other better. Plus, it offers a quick and easy reflective tool.  I'm thinking there might be some ways to adapt this for my classroom.Until then... here it is I am...

The Nutcracker Suite is the epitome of Christmas events in my book. Some teachers got tired of taking their 4th graders to see that ballet, but not me.  It is one thing I really miss now that I am not a self-contained 4th grade teacher any more.  I get my fix by listening and visualizing.

Every year we have this big debate about where the tree should go and then I have to decide where my village should be displayed. I'm loving that both are right in front of the fireplace this year and that we moved the couch so that I have a nice quiet sitting area that faces the beauty of the lights.

O.K. so December is always a busy month, but I am finishing a doctoral class this week and will start another one near the end of the month, have some new Christmas parties to attend this year, am chasing my 8 yr. old to and from play rehearsal at the community theater; plus have the usual shopping, lesson planning, school concerts, etc. to attend to. Definitely a little busier than usual.

Wishing I had a bit of inspiration to help me wrap up this assignment. The curse of the mental block has definitely set in.

Like I said, December will be busier than usual and I need to pick up the tickets for the performance date that we will be attending as a family. My daughter is in the "Best Christmas Pageant Ever" and will perform a total of about 14 times in the next 2 weeks. Since I wasn't that busy (ha ha!) I volunteered to help with 3 of those performances.

My Random Act of Kindness was to make some homemade fudge and share it with my co-workers. It was very well received!  It's been awhile since I made fudge so this was definitely random. 

I've been busy in the classroom and plan to share some of the newest creations soon.
Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, November 23, 2012

6 Donors Choose Projects Are One Step Closer

If you missed out on this opportunity, don't fret. You'll have another chance the next time I get a big gift card to spend. Don't know what you missed? Read about it in my earlier post.
And now for the lucky recipients...

Sorry... the video isn't great.
This picture shows the results better.  Congratulations!!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Bowling Ball Basics

I have just added a brand new simulation unit that matches NC Essential Standard 5.P.1 Bowling Ball Basics is a 13 page unit with fun characters and scenario cards. It is a hands-on/minds-on simulation that works best when students are given plenty of time to test their theories using some basic supplies as models of a bowling alley. Check out the cute scenario cards.

If you can use it, download it. If you know someone else who can use it share it with them.
Pin it, blog about it, share it on facebook and twitter. In other words, you have my permission to spread the word so that many people can benefit from this fun unit.
It would be greatly appreciated if you would take time to submit the feedback form after you have had a chance to try it out.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

NC Science Essential Questions

I have created some posters with essential questions that can be used in grades K-5. Stop by and download the ones that you need. Please leave me some feedback. What other tools would make it easier for you to teach science and/or math?  What do you wish someone would make so that you don't have to?
Maybe I can make your wish come true.
Get your essential questions posters here....

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thankful for...

It is that time of year when we all pause to think about what we are thankful for. Today my students finished some incredibly thoughtful thank you letters to the generous citizen philanthropists who have funded our Garden Stepping Stone Mosaic project on DonorsChoose. I dropped the envelope in the mail and when I got home I found a gift card waiting for me in my email.
I am thankful for the opportunity to volunteer with DonorsChoose. It is a wonderful charitable organization and I love the fact that through volunteering my time to screen proposals, I am able to earn a gift card each month. I dedicate these gift cards to paying it forward. My class has received some wonderful materials through generous donations over the years. In return, I try to show my appreciation by helping to fund the projects of other teachers.
Do you have a project posted on DonorsChoose right now? Could you use a little help getting it funded? If your answer is yes then please follow the steps below to link up. On Friday, I will choose a few projects  and will share some of my blessings with you and your students!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Edmodo Tip #1

I love using Edmodo with my students. It has many benefits. I am seeing more and more people using it all the time and thought maybe I should share some of my tips and ah-ha moments.
Tip # 1
Using Groups -
The group feature is great for differentiating student assignments. I have a group called 5th grade. Within that group students are re-grouped into groups A, B, and C. This enables me to post assignments specific to the needs of each group of students. I also work with a group of students competing in Science Olympiad. These are 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. I created a Science Olympiad group and gave them each the join code. There are 18 events and only 2 students participate in each one. I use the group feature to create small groups under the Science Olympiad group and am able to send information specifically to each partnership based on their event.
Using the grouping feature allows for a wonderfully customized experience. Especially when combined with other tools like the library, quizzes, calendars, and polls... but I'll share tips for those another time.

How do you use the groups feature in Edmodo? Share your ideas so we can all learn from each other.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Joining the Party... November Currently

I have seen others doing this thing called "Currently".  It is a monthly blog post that sort of updates the followers about things that are going on.  I can't promise my responses are terribly inspiring or even all that meaningful, but it looks like a neat way to connect with other educators. I love collaborating and so I figured... "Hey - why not give this a shot?!" So, here it is ... my 1st ever Currently.
(btw - These seem to be originating over at the Oh' Boy 4th Grade Blog, in case you're interested in checking it out.)
So, I guess the idea now is to expand on my Currently list a bit.
With 6 people in our family, there is always something in the wash - enough said.

I absolutely LOVE the Nabi 2 tablet.  I already had 1 for the classroom thanks to the Burroughs Wellcome funding (getting a whole bunch more with that $$ soon).  The other day, I received one through generous donations on DonorsChoose.  This tablet is perfect for the classroom.  It has a kid and teacher mode that lets me regulate the apps students can access at any given time. (OK so it is called mommy mode, but the concept is the same.)

Tomorrow I am presenting at the NCAEE conference.  You can read about that on my earlier post.

With report cards due, working on my doctorate, running my daughter to play rehearsals (she's a baby angel in the community production of Best Christmas Pageant Ever), preparing for the conference, and all the other things that go along with teaching, learning, and parenting, I obviously need another day in the weekend. An extra hour is just not going to be enough!

I guess raking the yard will have to wait and it won't be long before I'm back to listening to my movie soundtracks playlist on Spotify as I try to finish my next doctoral assignment.

So, what are you "Currently" up to?

Getting Ready for NCAEE Conference

The North Carolina Association of Elementary Educators annual conference begins today.  I will be presenting two sessions tomorrow. Here's the info. if you are going to be at the conference I hope you'll stop by and visit with me in between sessions. Don't forget to tweet about your experiences to! #NCAEE12

Date: Monday November 5 2012
Time: 10:30am-11:45am
Room: Pebble Beach max 64

Your Session Title:
Stimulating Science Simulations

Session Abstract:
Does teaching science scare you? If you don’t absolutely love teaching science but find yourself stuck teaching it anyway, this session is for you. Inquiry based science instruction is a key component to the Essential Science Standards. This session provides resources for the reluctant science teacher.

Date: Monday November 5 2012
Time: 4:00pm-5:15pm
Room: Colony A max 60

Your Session Title:
All Teched Out

Session Abstract:
Make technology work for you. This session focuses on taking a variety of technology, both old and new, to engage students more fully in their learning. Ideas will be shared for desktop computers, laptops, mobile devices, digital cameras, document cameras, and much more.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

We're Wireless

Last week it finally happened! The wireless router's were installed throughout our building. "Oh the places we can go and the thinks we can think" now! I am just giddy.  I don't even no where to start.  How about with the wireless laptop cart? First things first, a sign out calendar is a must since we share one cart with the whole school.  As soon as I made the calendar, I signed up. (of course)

Now, how to put this tech to good use? We had already used it with jump drives and Vernier probes prior to going wireless. With wireless, we can make good use of Edmodo to differentiate instruction and increase independent learning.

This really couldn't have come at a better time.  Fifth grade is working on 5.P.3.1 and 5.P.3.2
Since students come to my class in a team blocking schedule, investigations that take longer than 30-45 minutes to observe changes are less than ideal and we're seriously limited in the types of heat sources allowed in our elementary classrooms.  That said, there are plenty of resources online that demonstrate the concepts addressed in these standards.

Edmodo was my solution.  After locating the websites I wanted students to visit, I created an assignment in Edmodo and sent it to the 5th grade students.  This consisted of reading, videos, study jams (from Scholastic), a science glossary, and interactive simulated investigations. As students visited each link, they wrote down information that seemed important and drew pictures to represent their learning. Since everyone had their own computer, they could each work at their own pace and visit the websites in any order that they chose.


The result was a much richer learning experience. Students were responsible for their own learning. They added foldables with vocabulary words, definitions, and pictures to their notebooks. I witnessed a major transformation in their notebooks.  Students moved from writing exactly what I wrote and modeled to determining the value of information for themselves. Amazingly enough, the concepts I wanted them to learn were abundantly present in their notes.  What's more, they were able to explain them more fully.

As part of the 5 E lesson plan, we took this a step further as students chose one concept to elaborate on by creating a poster, comic strip, advertisement, or some other representation to share. This was followed by a quiz that was loaded into Edmodo and automatically graded.

Being wireless enabled the students to take charge of learning with tools they love... technology (laptops)!
Whether you're wireless or not, I would encourage you to tap into the power of Edmodo and technology in general.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Go Motion

One of my favorite classroom tools are the data probes from Vernier Technologies.  During our 5th grade unit study of motion, we used the Go! Motion sensor to detect student motion including speed and velocity.
You can see the level of concentration in my students' faces as they collected their data using laptops and probes.  In addition to collecting the data, students developed an understanding of how speed can be represented on a line graph.


I highly recommend the use of data probes such as these.  Grant sources such as DonorsChoose and Bright Ideas are great places to secure funding.

After completing this investigation, we analyzed various line graphs representing speed. Check out our notebook entries.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Just Can't Get Enough...

of Steve Spangler's Amazing and Captivating Science ideas and workshops.  He has a true knack for engaging learners.  When I heard he was performing (I mean presenting) a workshop in Greensboro, NC, of course I signed up.  As usual, it was time well spent re-energizing and re-building my science repertoire.

Steve shared a cool new toy (I mean chemicals for studying properties of matter) called Vampire Slime.  It isn't your ordinary slime.  This slime appears to be a dark green color until you shine a light on it and then it turns red, but that's not all.  As soon as I got mine home, my kids wanted to check it out. One of the first things they asked was if it was red in a mirror. We all know that "vampires" can't see their reflection in the mirror right? So if this is vampire slime, we shouldn't see the red, should we?

I shared the idea with Steve and he thought the results were just as interesting as my kids did.  In fact, he was so intrigued by it, my idea was featured on his blog yesterday!  Now that is exciting!  If you want to know more, you'll need to check out his blog.

Steve says that if the learning makes it to the dinner table, we've done our job. I'm pretty sure that if we use Vampire slime to teach NC Essential Standard 5.P.2.3 (Summarize properties of original materials, and the new material(s) formed, to demonstrate that a change has occurred.) the learning will make it to the dinner table and stick with our students well beyond the EOG at the end of the year.