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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Research, Writing, and Engineering

The 4th grade students were asked to choose a structure and conduct research about it.  They wrote about their selected structure and were grouped together based on their selections.  Then began the fun.  Replicating the structure together.

I wish I had thought of this but the credit goes to classroom teachers at New Century International Elementary.  Check out the final products.

Saturday, October 25, 2014


This school year has not gone as planned.  Nowhere in my plan did I leave room for thoughts of doing anything other than moving up to 5th grade with the most wonderful group of 4th grade students I had the privilege of teaching last year.  Thing is, my plan wasn't entirely within my power to control.  Sparing everyone the details, let me just say that after 6 wonderful weeks with my students I found myself moving into a new position.  We were having a great year!  The students had matured and we had fallen into step together as 5th graders.  The quality of their work was greatly improved and everything about our year was going great (in our classroom world).  Suddenly, I was faced with a decision that may not make sense based on what I have said about my students. Unfortunately, this decision couldn't be made solely on the basis of how perfect things were going with my classroom.  

The dilemna: to accept or not to accept a position working as the Academically/Intellectually Gifted Teacher at another elementary school in the district - full time.

My decision: I accepted it for a variety of reasons that I won't bore you with.

The result: I miss my students terribly.  They hold a very special place in my heart and always will.  I hope that we will maintain contact from time to time some way, some how.  That said... I absolutely love my new role! This position has renewed my teaching spirit and I am feeling very creative again.  The liberty that I am able to take integrating enrichment opportunities for students beyond the core curriculum is absolutely invigorating.  I have so many ideas that I cannot wait to share.

In the first two weeks, I have already been able to jump in and wrap up an on-going unit with the 4th grade students.  They were studying archeology and had done a number of research mini projects along with some grid work and imaginary archeological finds.  I stretched it a bit and tied it to paleontology (because I happened to have a T-Rex model fossil simulation) using some empty raised beds behind the school.  The pictures convey better than my words, so I will leave you with some photos.  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Summer '14 Camp Digest - Day 2

Today students partnered up to work on communication and engineering design skills during a challenge that required one student to give verbal directions to the other in order to replicate a model made from K'Nex.  The partners really rose to this challenge and by the end they were asking each other questions for clarification and being very specific in their directions which resulted in successful rebuilds.

We also finished the timeline that was started yesterday and played some more Smartboard games.
The morning goes by so quickly!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer '14 Camp Digest - Day 1

Today was the first day of summer camp for my students.  This year I am offering 3 weeks for students who were in my homeroom.  I limited it to that group because I am looping up to 5th grade with them and want to offer extra support as we prepare to tackle another year.

Each day will be a little different from the others, but there will always be a bit of every subject woven throughout the morning.  For instance, today we began with a team work engineering challenge.  The 5 students who attended camp today worked together to try to build a house of cards.  They found this to be a bit trickier than they had expected.  After many attempts, they were able to figure out a few ways that would work for awhile but none of the housed stayed standing for long.  We'll try this again and see if they get better with practice.

Our 2nd challenge today was a red solo cup challenge.  I found this idea on Pinterest and was really pleased with they way that the kids worked together to line up 3 solo cups and then stack 3 more cups on top using just 1 rubberband with 4 strings attached to it.  Check out some of the pictures to see how they did.  There are moments when a bit of their teamwork could have included more positive language toward each other so we will work on that.  By the end, they were communicating really well and had defined a strategy that was successful!

Other highlights of the day included math games, reading a detective LaRue book, and working on a timeline.  One of the main emphases for today was to get the kids talking to each other and learning from each other with as little teacher talk as possible.  All in all, I would have to say it was a success.
Stop by tomorrow to read about the next adventure.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Differentiating Spelling Lists

Returning to a self-contained classroom of 24 fourth graders brought plenty of challenges.  How to differentiate for varying levels of spelling proficiency was one of the first things I needed to tackle.  Locating spelling lists at different levels was the first task.
There are actually a number of resources available.
K12Reader had a list that suited my needs.  This link is for 4th grade but there are lists available for other grade levels as well.  This was great because I had students who needed both easier and more difficult lists.
These lists were easy to download and then add to my class Edmodo library.
Edmodo is an awesome learning platform.  With it, I created 3 groups the spelling sleuths, guru's, and spotlight.  Every week I attach the appropriate list and send a link for students to copy their words.
At first I used a simple voice recorder app with my cell phone to record the words and loaded the files to Edmodo for students to play back.  I was even able to have students complete their spelling test this way.
Later I decided to try Spelling/Vocabulary City.
Using Spelling City, we were completely paperless for our spelling work because there is built in practice activities for students too.

What strategies do you use to differentiate spelling lists?  Leave your ideas in the comments section below.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Edmodo Adds Snapshot Tool

Yesterday I noticed a new message from Edmodo.  Did you see it too?  I am one of those people you might characterize as an early adopter so you can probably figure that I immediately tested it out.  Within minutes and I do mean only a few minutes, I had created 2 snapshots: One for reading and One for math.  I had it assigned to my 4th grade class and this morning we gave it a go.  The tool has earned an initial 4 star rating in my book.

  Pros: quick, easy, aligned to common core, immediate creation of reports that guide instruction by identifying student mastery levels while also offering individualized data screen where you can select a student and review the questions they answered  -- truly impressive sets of questions that are randomized to avoid cheating

Cons: some students got "bumped" out or claimed the screen froze (not sure what user error might have caused that or bug in the system even)  -  even so, easy enough work around... close the tab and reopen the snapshot link then select continue snapshot... not so bad.  Students don't seem to be able to go back to a question after they have moved on.  

All in all a very nice addition to Edmodo as an online learning environment for blendend learning!  Oh and perhaps best of all... this is not part of their App Store... IT IS FREE, built-in, and appears to be fully functional with a sufficient data set!

Thank you Edmodo!!

So... if you use Edmodo and missed this new tool... go get a look at it and try it out for yourself.  You'll be glad you did.
If you've already tried it, or once you try it, I would love to know what pros and cons you discovered and how many stars you would give it.

Released just in time for test prep too.  I'm HAPPY!!  :D