Monday, February 23, 2015

Teachers are Heroes Sale!

Teachers Pay Teachers sellers are having a Teachers are Heroes sale
{with the promo code HEROES} 

I have been working to add additional pages to some of my old products in time for this big event!
Make sure to come by the store and check out my 45 products to wish-list them before the sale.

Check out my most wish-listed items...

And also make sure to check out the list of sellers below who have their stores on a
28% off SALE on Wednesday 2/25!

Thanks to Study All Knight for the linky and Glitter Meets Glue for the graphic!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Docs Teach: My New Favorite App!

My newest favorite app is Docs Teach. It is an app that allows you to view collections of primary documents. They have many preset activities....but you can also create your own on the website to be used on the iPad!

Just a note on primary documents...According to the PARCCOnline site, primary documents are fair game to be used on the PARCC mid-year exam.  Students may have to use primary documents to write a narrative piece explaining the event or an informative how to.

Below is a picture showing samples of the app in use.

The students choose the assigned content and viewed the documents. They then discussed key text features of the primary documents.  We asked them to record a few notes on each document and spend about 2-3 minutes discussing.

They then complete an activity. For our class, this happened on the second day of the lesson. The students reviewed their notes and the documents and completed the activity. The one pictured here is for the students to weigh the evidence by placing the documents on a scale according to least or most supportive of immigration. After finishing their activity, the app prompts the student to reflect and submit a reflection to the teacher.  Each student typed a short reflection and emailed their answers to us to review. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Day in the Middle Grades

I have loved seeing all the sweet activities elementary teachers are doing in their classrooms on Valentine's Day.  Some people may hate the "Hallmark Holiday", but I think it is a great opportunity to make all students feel appreciated and "loved".

Valentine's Day exchanges look a little different in middle school than in many of the elementary classrooms.  In our school, a number of 8th grade students sell candygrams at lunch.  Students are allowed to purchase Fun Dips at lunch for people and the students running the sales organize the sale and distribution of the candy to students in homeroom.  The students are very sweet about it.

I have also found that math is a great opportunity to incorporate making of Valentine's Day cards.  The students can apply concepts like symmetry, fibonacci, graphing, parallel lines, coordinate graphing, coloring in pictures with math problems, fractions, and equations to the making of the cards. 

How cute is this problem above? My co-teacher friends had the students solve this problem and then use it to decorate a Valentine's Day card.  Their homework over the weekend was to take a picture of them giving the card to someone and posting it to their private Edmodo page.

Here are a few of my favorites:

What other activities do you love in the middle grades classrooms? What other subjects to you find easy application of the holiday into lessons? What Valentine's Day activities are your favorite?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Kid Chef Social Event

It's that time of year....

This social event is a fun opportunity to add fun into a task that requires creativity and problem solving. The students will be given a surprise bag of food ingredients to build a "meal" and present it to a panel of judges. All groups win an award. 

I developed this activity for my grades 3-5 gifted and talented students. One important component of our GT program is allowing students the opportunity to socialize and work with like-minded peers and this activity does just that. I hype up this event starting a month before. I run the event in February because I find it is a fun mid-winter activity. The students will amaze you with their creations. Last year one group made the Eiffel tower out of twizzlers and graham crackers and another student groups' fort collapsed at the end and they gave a dynamic presentation about how a dragon has destroyed their village. 

This Product Includes
*1 page teacher guide
*1 page letter to parents
*6 group signs
*1 page group direction page
*2 page judge worksheet
*6 group awards

The Preparation: I send home the above letter to the parents. In the past, I have grocery shopped for this myself but found that it helps the cost to ask for donations. The ingredients are a secret for the students except for a “mystery ingredient reveal” that I share the week of the event. The mystery ingredient I share is usually something like icing or fluff that the students will use to “glue” their construction (“meal”) together.

Above: Dig in! The kids start the competition.

The Competition:When the students enter the room, I label the classroom and separate the ingredients into grocery bags for the students groups. Labels for the tables and bags (not pictured) add to the excitement for the event.  The students then have one hour to construct their masterpiece and five minutes to prepare a brief presentation for the judges.

Above are pictures of a group who creatively designed a butterfly on a skateboard.  This picture is mid-project but the project was very colorful (thanks to food coloring!) when it was finished. They won the "Most Creative" category. 

Above are pictures of a group whose castle collapsed in the last five minutes before presenting. They quickly problem-solved and gave a compelling speech about how a feared dragon has attacked their castle.  They won "Best Presentation".

Above are pictures of a group who won "Best Overall" by intricately building famous world structures with their food supplies.  They also could have won "Best Engineering" because they really problem solved the materials by stuffing the insides of the twizzlers with toothpicks to make them sturdier.

The Judging: 
I usually invite the parents for this section of the event, inviting parents and “guest judges” (principals, other teachers, etc.) to view the presentations and interact with the students. The judges then deliberate and award prizes to the students.  The judges are given a two page judging sheet that adds to making the event seem more "official" for the students.

Above is a blurry picture of three judges (2 parents and 1 administrator) who volunteered to judge the competition.  This portion was very interactive and the judges had a lot of fun analyzing the "meals" like they were Iron Chef judges.  We also had a crowd of parents there to watch.

Overall the kids have an awesome time with this project.  I love to use this event in January/February because it feels like the mid-winter slump after Christmas is over and Spring Break isn't for a few months.  

I would love to find more social event activities.
Any ideas out there? What do your schools do? 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

State of the Union Bingo

I was excited to find and use this State of the Union Bingo!

It is free from the Constitution Center.  Students just fill out the card with words they think the President will use in his State of the Union Address.  Then as they watch it, they cross out the words they hear! 

They can, of course, watch it on TV.  OR there are multiple sites (and youtube) that have the coverage available online.  We then asked the students to write a reflection and had some great conversations today in class!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Independent Study

This weekend I spent a lot of time writing this packet....

Admittedly, it has been a while since I implemented a true passion-based independent study
(my experiences is with requiring a general topics in independent studies rather than limitless passion-based)
so most of my weekend was spent brushing up on best practice on independent studies before creating this 15 page packet of prompts and graphic organizers to support our students.  

The difficulty with an independent study is that people often misunderstand the level of teacher guidance and assistance that is required in helping the student(s) to make decisions regarding the content and final product of the project.  My experience has been that gifted students will amaze you with their abilities and creativity with an independents study... once they receive the guidance for choosing an appropriate and meaningful topic!  If their topic is meaningful (and their audience for their end product feels authentic to them) they will meet success with this! 

Because of this, I tried to keep the focus on this with requiring teacher check-ins throughout the independent study process with "STOP and conference with your teacher" signs on the necessary pages:

The Packet Includes: 
Page 1: Student Packet Cover Page
Page 2: About this Project
Page 3-6: Selecting A Topic of Study
Page 7-8: Planning Your Study/Asking Questions
Page 9-10: Independent Learning Contract
Page 11-14: Map Out Your Work Calendars
Page 15: Gather Information and Develop Product 

Selecting A Topic of Study:
Here is an example of page 3...
It provides questions and prompts to get them thinking about a topic.  
Then from there, it guides them in Planning Study/Asking Questions: narrowing their focus, identifying big ideas, and asking essential questions.

 After that they complete the Independent Learning Contract
 Here is an example of page 7:

The students write their goal for the study and their tentative final project (thing may change with the project as they move forward with their research), the teacher writes a goal for the student for the study program, and the teacher/parent/and student sign off on the goals.  
Note: I included the parent signature because I think that this is an important step because the parents must be well informed in the project is going to impact the student at home either with the amount of time they are committing to the project or any financial impact the project could pose.

Map Out Your Work: 
Next up comes mapping out their "game plan" for completing the project in the given time period.  
I have set our time period for the independent study to be 4 months.
The students complete four pages similar to above and move forward to 
Gathering Information and Developing Product.

Resources & Audience:
Once I set all my students up with this packet, a key role I will play will be supporting them with resources and facilitating an authentic audience for them to present their material.  The audience may not be just the other students, but may become more relevant to the topic chosen.  

Blogging & Collaboration:
I am also looking into an authentic and 21st century way to have the students share their progress and collaborate without physically meeting as a group (since their independent study will be occurring at different times of the day/week).  I am playing around with the idea of using or (private accounts) to have my students create a digital journal of their work.  Then in true grad-school-style, have the students make weekly meaningful comments on their peers' posts. 

 I would love to hear from anyone who has used blogging with their students or has any tips from their favorite way to do independent study!
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